Thursday, July 28, 2005

Washington State

We are impressed with the Washington State Rest Areas - their signs weren’t kidding when they said “Free Coffee”. Non-profit groups serve up cups of java and cookies to motorists as a service and a fundraiser. We spotted tiny, attractive birds at the Toutle River Safety Rest Area which, with the aid of my sister Jeanie’s guidebook, we later identified as Dark Eyed Juncos.

Driving north towards Seattle, we decided to take a detour to visit Mount St. Helens. This mighty volcano caused serious destruction when it erupted on May 18, 1980. The event has been called, “a disaster with no end” and ravaged 600 square kilometres. Within the first 9 hours 540 million tones of ash were spewed over 23,000 square miles. (Like a true Canadian I can speak both metric and imperial.) The explosion - equivalent to 1,000 atom bombs going off triggered massive landslides and mud flows as 70% of the mountain’s glaciers and snow melted. Acres of heat dried trees were a fire hazard and through a massive, round the clock effort they were removed. The reforestation process is equally as impressive. It took 1,000 men seven years to plant 18.4 million douglas fir, noble fir, cedar and hemlock trees. The Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Centre is one of several spots where amazing views and informative displays help you get a feel for the scale of things.

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