Reporting from the Seattle area, here’s the final “catch up” chapter of Wags Wild Adventures in Portland…..
“Vancouver! Vancouver! This is It! This is It!” That chilling warning from 30 year old David A. Johnston, an American volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey, marked the beginning of Mount St. Helens horrific eruption on Sunday morning, May 18, 1980. Sadly, it was his final radio call from his post 6 miles from the volcano. His heroism and commitment to help others will always be remembered.
We watched the news coverage so many years ago (yes, we are that old!) but standing at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, seeing the crater that replaced the once towering mountain peak gave us a new perspective. Barren gray lava fields covered the land of bygone forests and rivers. And yet, life is returning to the scarred landscape. New growth forests and vegetation are emerging. Rivers are cutting new paths through the debris field. My takeaway: hope and life in the face of destruction. It is definitely worth the visit. The observatory provides a wealth of information including an excellent film documenting the event and ranger presentations about the still active volcano. One reported that rock falls are common in the crater. These create huge plumes of ash and a rash of calls from airline pilots advising that “your volcano is erupting again”.
“Brrrrr, it IS cold!” I remarked as we descended into the black, damp cave with headlamps and flashlights ablaze. Yep, 42 degrees F! We stood at the mouth of the Ape Cave, the third largest lava tube in North America. Slowly we picked our way over the rough, uneven ground. We followed the twisting and turning tube for 1-1/4 miles through low tunnels and huge cavernous rooms to the wall at the end. The only way out was to go back the way we came. Whew! We completed Level 1, a unique adventure. The second level is filled with rock piles, some as high as a one story building. The only way through is to climb up and belly crawl over the top while rocks slide beneath you to the next pile. At the end, you scramble out through a hole in the top and hike back through the forest. So, it is reported. We did not attempt Level 2. The Ape Cave is at the south side of Mount St. Helens.
Our travels brought us to another fort, Fort Vancouver, a National Historic Site in Vancouver, WA. Unlike the military forts, this one was built by the Hudson Bay Company to foster and protect its fur trading business. The structures are reconstructions built on the excavated fort site and it is still an active archeological site. The audio tour is a great way to learn about the history and lifestyle of the fort as you wander the grounds.
So, farewell to Portland! The city of bridges…. bridges over the river, bridges over freeways, bridges over bridges….bridges over troubled waters (sorry, couldn’t stop myself!). Bridges are streets in Portland. Farewell to the fun, thriving downtown full of residential and business towers, shopping with NO sales tax, grocery stores, upscale boutiques, gourmet restaurants, Camera World (hurray!), live music mid-day in the plaza, bustling trolley system, confusing bike and bus lanes (really, a bike lane in the center of the street?), and too many one-way streets (how many blocks and right turns do we take to get to the next street over?).