More Reflections on Spirit Lake
I just read your essay on where you stood 30 years ago on
the eve of the eruption of Mt. Helens. I recall visits to Spirit
Lake circa 1960-66 when I, too was a reporter at the Longview
You have described the tranquility and beauty of the lake at
the foot of the mountain. Let me relate a few of my own
experiences. I first visited that area in the early 1950s when
we lived in Tacoma and our oldest daughter was an infant.
Although my wife and I were overwhelmed by the natural
beauty, I strolled about the campground on the lake shore
and spied the holes in ground which appeared to have no
bottom. I asked a group of campers about them. They told
me they were the casts of a forest destroyed by a massive
eruption of the mountain centuries earlier and where the
wood had rotted away with the passage of time.
I had no way of knowing then that we would move with our
three daughters in a few short years to Longview, buy our
first home and make many friendships that endure to this
day. And my newspaper work was fulfilling and enjoyable.
I was sent once to interview Harry Truman, owner and operator
of the tourist lodge on the south lake shore. Harry was a flawed
character who reeked of booze, frequently invoked the deities and
was addicted to inventive scatological outbursts. Today he, the lodge
he built, and a legion cats who dwelt in it with him lie beneath
200+ feet of volcanic ash.
But I digress. Although my family and I enjoyed the alpine beauty, I
was never able to visit the site without a sense of eeriness and
impending doom. Two of our girls attended the youth camp on
the north shore. But whenever I walked through the campground,
the hair would rise on the back of my neck when I inspected those
ancient tree casts. And I always managed to find some reason why
some other peak, say Mt. Rainier, would be a more suitable site
for our mountain camping excursions.
We have visited the volcano several times since. We are impressed
at the rapidity of recovery of the flora and fauna and look forward
to new OPB TV coverage of what 30 years can do to restore vegetation
and wildlife. I hope the infirmities of age will permit us to make
one more visit to what is left of that magnificent mountain, doubtless
resting for its next uncontrollable and catastrophic spasm.