Most people who visit Mount St. Helens visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory on the west side of the mountain. The highway is very nice and there is a great interpretive centre for visitors.
I am planning to visit Johnston Ridge on Sunday. Today, though I planned on visiting the east side of Mount St. Helens at the lesser visited Windy Ridge Viewpoint.
The reason I planned to visit Windy Ridge is that I was intrigued by seeing Spirit Lake. Also the terrain on east side is supposed to be more spectacular. And it was!
The trip there was challenging. After driving about 4 hours form Pendleton, OR I turned south on Highway 25 at Randle, WA. Then it was 18 miles of twists and turns to Highway 99 and then another 19 miles on a very narrow mountain road that was most fogged in. There are no guardrails and the road is very narrow in places. Travelling between 20-40MPH, it was a lot of work.
As you drive up highway 99 there are many viewpoints. Once of the stops is to see what is called the “Miner’s Car”. You are still nine miles away from the mountain, but this car was hurled 60 feet into the air and then flattened during the eruption. The car’s owner and two family members tragically perished in a miner’s cabin nearby.
One of the places I wanted to witness was Spirit Lake, and when I got to the lookout for the lake the clouds had parted.
Spirit Lake is interesting as the lake that lies beneath the shadow of the volcano. When the eruption happened all the water in Spirit lake was blown up and out onto the surrounding mountains. The water came back down and carried all the trees back down into the lake.
While I was at the Spirit Lake lookout a young Park Ranger came by and told me the story of how Harry Truman lived at Spirit Lake and how he refused to leave when warned that the mountain will soon erupt. She pointed out the approximate location where Truman had lives as owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge. Sadly, he did not survive the event.
After seeing Spirit Lake I continued on to Windy Ridge. It was partially fogged in, but you could only see the bottom skirt of Mount St. Helens.
A Park Ranger gave a 25 minute interpretive talk at the summit. She did a great job as the talk was very good, funny and interesting. She gave us all postcards of the Mountain, since we couldn’t actually see it.
I spend about 45 minutes on Windy Ridge before I left. The drive back down was very long. I left Windy Ridge at about 3:00PM and I never made it to Cougar, WA until about 4:30PM. A distance of 40 miles.
All in all it was a great side trip. It was hard driving. If you plan to go make sure you plan for a lot of time.