If you're on a Roadtrip that takes you to the state of Washington, you likely will want to get as close as you can to Mount Saint Helens.
For years after the volcano erupted it was not easy to get close to the volcano.
But now, in 2010, it is easy to see Mt. St. Helens.
If you are driving south or north on Interstate 5, get off the freeway in Cowlitz and head east on Spirit Lake Highway 504 and drive for 52 miles to Johnston Ridge Observatory.
There are several Visitor Centers along the way. Each is worth a stop, with the final one, on Johnston Ridge, being the best, giving you a direct view of the crater and growing lava dome, a mere 5 miles in the distance.
To enter the Visitor Centers you'll need a Monument Pass. A Monument Pass cost $8 for adults. Kids 15 and younger are free.
On the east side of the entry to Johnston Ridge Observatory find your way to the trailhead of Eruption Trail.
This is an easy, 1 mile loop trail, paved and wheel chair accessible, with only 100 feet of elevation gain.
Walking the trail will give you a good luck at the destruction that occurred that fateful day in May, over 30 years ago. You'll see blast destroyed trees still littering the ground.
Interpretive signs explain various aspects of the cataclysmic event. At one point you'll come to the remains of a tree, with the tree leaving you a message in the first person, basically, a talking dead tree that says, “Within a minute, I was struck and scoured by the stone-filled wind. My bark and branches were stripped and scattered toward the edge of the blast zone, 17 miles away. As trees that had stood for hundreds of years crashed around me, my upper trunk stained, then shattered in the nearly 700 mph winds. Only a small part of me remains as evidence of the blast’s power.”
When you reach the top of Johnston Ridge you'll come to an overlook with points of interest pointed out to you.
From the overlook you begin your descent back to the observatory. You'll come to a memorial to the 57 who died that May 18 of 1980, including David Johnston, who's famous last words, uttered nearby, were "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!"
You'll find other trails to explore, not paved, if you are feeling adventurous and want to see some more views of Mt. St. Helens and the damage done when the mountain blew. You'll also see many signs of Mother Nature recovering from the devastation.