Mount St. Helens at the Johnston Ridge Observatory

The valley between the Johnston Ridge Observatory and the mountain is remarkable
The valley between the Johnston Ridge Observatory and the mountain is remarkable

Today I drove from Vancouver, Washington to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, overlooking Mount St. Helens.

It was overcast, so the chance of seeing the mountain in all its glory was slim, but the opportunity to visit the blast zone and take some amazing photos was still there.

The drive up was great. It was Sunday morning, so the traffic was light. Still, It took two hours to reach the mountain.

The highway that leads all the way to Johnston Ridge is excellent. It approaches Mount St. Helen’s from the west. It includes many spectacular viewpoints and a few serious bridges that span rivers and canyons. There is a lot to look at on the way up the mountain.

The sun was shining when I arrived, and the valley below the mountain could be seen. It was beautiful. However the top one-third of the mountain was mostly obscured by clouds.

Every now and then a hole in the clouds would give a peek at a portion of the summit. As another visitor pointed out, it was like looking through a puzzle piece.

The summit features an interpretive centre with viewing windows, plus outdoor patios with benches, both for viewing the mountain or for interpretive talks given by the National Parks Staff.

Also at the summit, there is a great little walking trail that takes you up higher and away from the building, to even more spectacular viewpoints. The trail loops back to the parking lot, or at one point you can tackle other hiking trails that will lead you to Spirit Lake or even Windy Ridge, where I was two days before.

There were many sights to see other than the mountain. In the valley far, far below elk could be spotted. As well, wildflowers shared the landscape with gnarled stumps and snapped-off tree trunks that remain in the same state as they did following the eruption in 1980.

On the walking trail you will also see a memorial monument that shows the names of all the people that perished in the disaster. The monument is placed so that it faces Mount St. Helens.

After being on the summit for three hours, I decided that I had seen enough and headed down the mountain. It was wonderful to see so much, and to witness how nature is reclaiming this beautiful spot on our earth. It was definitely worth the trip.

Johnston Ridge Photo Gallery

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

The Spruce Goose!

Today I made a leisurely drive from Beaverton, Oregon to McMinnville, just to visit the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.

The drive down was only 40 miles, but the route went through several populated areas.? Due to traffic,?it took about an hour.

The draw of the Evergreen Museum is the one and only Spruce Goose. Though the museum campus is huge. As well as an Air Museum, there is an Aerospace Museum, IMAX Theatre and a waterside complex.

Built by Howard Hughes for the war department, the Spruce Goose?is the largest wooden airplane ever constructed, and it was only?flown once.? The project to build this aircraft was born out of a need to move troops and material across the Atlantic Ocean during WWII.? Due to the US government?s restrictions on materials critical to the war effort the plane was constructed of wood.

The Spruce Goose was originally designated HK-1, but it was later?re-designated as the H-4 “Hercules”.? In fact, Howard Hughes did not like the name ?Spruce Goose?? as the press invented that nickname and they insisted on using it.? In fact, the plane is made almost entirely of birch.

By the time the plane was complete it was clouded in controversy.?Hughes was under investigation for how he handled the government contract, however Hughes wanted to prove that the plane was functional, so he took the flying boat out into Long Beach harbour to perform a taxiing and maneuvering test. After these initial tests, and to the surpise of reporters that were on hand,?Hughes actually took the plane up to speed and flew it a distance. Mind you, he only flew a few feet off the water but he proved that his plane could fly.

In fact, that day in Long Beach was the only time it ever flew.? After the war, Hughes kept the plane locked up in a hangar in Long Beach, CA. After his death the plane was put on display. It remained in Long Beach until about 10 years ago when it was barged up to Portland and trucked into the new museum in McMinnville.

The Spruce Goose is the centerpiece of the museum. It is so large it fills the space, with other planes residing around it and under its wings like a mother goose to her ducklings.

You can go inside the Spruce Goose, however visitors only get to go inside the planes cargo area.? To ?go up the spiral staircase to the cockpit cost $25 extra. An interesting feature of the cargo area is that it contains a pile of beach balls. As the story goes, Hughes had the cargo area filled with beach balls as special flotation in case the plane started to sink.

Among the Spruce Goose there are many other planes which were remarkable such as a Mig 29, Mig 23, F15 Eagle, WWII Corsair, P38 Lightning and a B17 Bomber.

In a separate building there is also an Aerospace museum featuring an actual?Mercury Capsule and replicas of the Gemini and Apollo mission equipment. There is also a SR71 Blackbird and a Israeli drone to gawk at.

McMinnville is a beautiful area. There are many vineyards in the area to see and visit. In fact, the museum itself sports a very large vineyard in the area between the buildings and the highway. The Museum also bottles wine and sells it in a special wine store within the museum.

Photo Gallery