Aug 022010

In July I had the honor and good fortune of accompanying 11 other writers, and about 100 scientists, to the Mount St. Helens Science Pulse, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project, to study and discuss the post-eruption landscape 30 years after its last major eruption. I’ve got some writing deliverables still due — including my editorial in the forthcoming issue of — but part of my proposal was also photography, and I left the mountain with more than 1,600 photos.

I’ve winnowed those photos down to two gallery sets, including some highlights below. View either the limited gallery of 72 photos, or the full gallery of 347 photos. I recommend the latter if you have time because there are a couple aerial shots plus a lot more wildlife, people, and volcano photos. Both sets have captions. In either case, enjoy!

Fantastic lupine bloom on the Pumice Plain at the north face of Mount St. Helens.

Scorched conifer in the blast zone, with the Lady, as Mount St. Helens is called, behind.

Meta Lake has completely recovered, though you can see the “blowdown” area on the mountain behind this small lake. Even in the blowdown, though, renewal is vibrant.

Spirit Lake, some 80 feet higher after the eruption, is also now home to a vast mat of trees blown into the lake during the Mary 18, 1980 eruption.

Early morning Mount St. Helens viewed from Windy Point.

Great swaths of lupine, Indian paintbrush, and other wildflowers greeted us on the Pumice Plain, in the pyroclastic (super hot flow of pumice, ash, magma, and gas) flow area.

Loowit Falls, at the edge of the Pumice Plain and north side of Mount St. Helens. Loowit is a native name for the mountain. What looks like steam or smoke here is actually ashen dust from rockfall. The ground is still very unstable on the mountain.

Afternoon clouds form along the eastern crater peak.

In the scorch zone, silver fir and other conifers are growing back more robustly than originally expected. Within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, nature is left to take its course.

A curling fern is just one of many detailed photos of plants, moss, lichen, and wildflowers I was happy to take.

Indian paintbrush blooming along the Harmony trail down to Spirit Lake, with Mount St. Helens in the background.

The log mat at Spirit Lake: massive, bewildering, breathtaking.

Writer John Daniel contemplates the lake atop a floating log.

Writers were encouraged to participate in the scientific studies. Here, botanist Mark Swanson details the process for inventorying plants in the blowdown/scorch zone outside Meta Lake.

Back on the Pumice Plain, a horned lark carries a grasshopper for his nestlings. We inventoried bird nests in the region on our last afternoon.

Flowering grasses on the Pumice Plain, with a large dust plume beside Loowit Falls.

Not quite erupting: ash and steam (and/or smoke?) escapes from the lava dome within the crater of Mount St. Helens. The volcano is the Cascades’ most active, erupting on average every 150 years.

The writers and guides of the 2010 Mount St. Helens Science Pulse: (back row, l to r) Simmons Buntin, Derek Sheffield, USFS research geologist Fred Swanson, Spring Creek Project director Charles Goodrich, Bill Johnson, (middle row, l to r) Tony Vogt, Christine Colasurdo, SueEllen Campbell, Cheryl Fish, Elizabeth Dodd, John Calderazzo, (front row, l to r) Jolie Kaytes, and Tung-Hui Hu. Not pictured: John Daniel.

View these photos and plenty more at:

  4 Responses to “2010 Mount St. Helens Science Pulse”

Comments (4)
  1. Simply amazing.

    I never fail to wonder at how fast nature heals herself. Thirty years less than an eyeblink in geological time, and the mountain looks fascinating.

    Is Spirit Lake biologically stable? Is it supporting plant and animal life beneath that carpet of logs? Or is nature working on decomposing the logs at this moment? I curious as to what that area / the lake smelled like? Water? Rot? Woodland bottom?

    Your pictures, as usual, are beautiful. So glad you could share them with us!

  2. Thanks Jenn. The lake is biologically rich and stable now, with supersized brook trout, though they were (illegally) introduced, from what I understand. One by one the logs take on enough water to just sink to the bottom of the lake. It’s fascinating to me not just because of massive log mat, but because the lake is 80 feet higher and so much wider than it was before — the original lake filled in with mud, ash, and pumice from the eruption.

  3. Great pictures. I borrowed one for a presentation I have on the Silver Fir. Gonna mention effects of St. Helens Blast. I cited you/this site in the Bibliography. Hope you don’t mind.


  4. I don’t mind at all Tommy, thanks.

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