Volcanoes and a river gorge

Vineyards at Maryhill Winery overlook the Columbia River with the more rocky south side of the river in the background. Lewis and Clark and their expedition camped right in this area in 1805.  (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
Vineyards at Maryhill Winery overlook the Columbia River with the more rocky south side of the river in the background. Lewis and Clark and their expedition camped right in this area in 1805. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
A volcanic-twisted dead white pine sits on the edge of the caldera overlooking Crater Lake on Mount Mazama. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
A volcanic-twisted dead white pine sits on the edge of the caldera overlooking Crater Lake on Mount Mazama. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
Dead white trees on the mountainside of Mount St. Helens are interspersed with pine trees, showing how the area slowly comes back after the volcanic eruption. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
Dead white trees on the mountainside of Mount St. Helens are interspersed with pine trees, showing how the area slowly comes back after the volcanic eruption. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
Horsetail Falls is an easy stop right on the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon. Visitors can walk right up to it. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
Horsetail Falls is an easy stop right on the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon. Visitors can walk right up to it. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
New bushes have grown up on the lower slope of Mount St. Helens, which is in the background and still nearly bare after the volcanic eruption in 1980.  (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
New bushes have grown up on the lower slope of Mount St. Helens, which is in the background and still nearly bare after the volcanic eruption in 1980. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)

Exploring Oregon’s ring of fire — Mount St. Helens & Crater Lake

When Mount St. Helens in Washington exploded in 1980, the world watched on TV and saw lava and steam pouring out from the northern slope of the mountain. Viewers also saw devastation - the majestic peak in the Cascades was partially collapsed and covered with charred remains of trees and volcanic ash.

Do you wonder how it looks now? I did. So recently I visited Mount St. Helens to see how this still-active volcano is faring.

There are many bare trees resembling soldiers standing at attention and swaths of dead tree trunks looking like telephone poles on the slopes, but we also saw a recovering ecosystem with green shrub growth as we drove through Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, stopping to take photos.

The visitor’s center has displays that explain the eruption, the effects and the recovery, and the monument offers many scenic hiking trails.

Rainforest, cliffs and waterfalls

Then we headed south to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, formed by ancient volcanoes and floods. This stunning area is popular for hiking, biking and water sports, and is one of the top kite surfing and wind surfing spots in the country, due to the wind that sweeps down through the canyon.

Many colorful flying kites were swooping over the water as we drove by that evening.

We stayed in The Dalles where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped in 1805 on their Journey of Discovery. The next morning we went to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum to learn more about their trip along the river.  

On the south side of the river, the Historic Columbia River Highway features many dramatic waterfalls. We were disappointed to find such heavy visitor traffic and no empty parking spaces near the famous 620-foot high Multnomah Falls, forcing us to miss it.

But we did see the impressive Horsetail Falls, which is long and narrow like a horse’s tail and plunges 176 feet.

Deepest lake in the USA

The next day we headed south from The Dalles, steadily gaining altitude, following along the Cascades, until we entered Crater Lake National Park and then reached Crater Lake.

The lake is about 7,000 feet above sea level and five miles across at the collapsed top of Mount Mazama. I was awed by my first glimpse of the almost round, deep blue lake ringed by the cliffs of the caldera and surrounded by hemlock, fir and volcano-stunted white pine.

This lake in south-central Oregon is nearly 2,000 feet deep at the lowest point and the deepest lake in the U.S.

The eruption that formed it was 100 times as powerful as Mount St. Helens and spewed 50 times more ash — so much ash that it eventually caused the summit to collapse. Then it took a few hundred years for snowmelt and rain to fill in the caldera basin.

While it was the biggest known volcanic explosion there, it wasn’t the last. Inside the caldera, Wizard Island was formed after a smaller eruption, and the small Merriam Cone formed under the water.

The lake itself is such a spectacular deep blue that I could hardly take my eyes off of it.  Like me, many visitors stopped at the numerous lookouts on the 33-mile rim road to take it all in and shoot photos.

It is believed the Klamath tribes actually witnessed the long-ago explosion. The tribes considered the mountain a sacred place and passed down stories about its creation. A sandal woven from sagebrush bark was found in the ashes, according to the National Park Service. The tribes kept the lake a secret from white explorers until 1853. Then in 1902 after it was explored and received considerable publicity, President Teddy Roosevelt made it a national park.

As we drove from Mount St. Helens at the northeastern end of the Cascades to Crater Lake in the southwest end, with the Columbia River gorge in between, I became more aware of the amazing ways our living earth changes over time, sometimes slowly and sometimes in an instant. The results of these changes produced the stunning Crater Lake, the stark beauty of the burned-out trees interspersed with new green growth at Mount St. Helens, and the mountains, waterfalls and rivers.

Pamela O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7818.


Jewel on the Columbia River

Do you like wine, history and art?

Consider taking a tour of the wineries on the sunny slopes on the north side of the Columbia River in The Dalles area.

After a quick stop for a tasting at the Maryhill Winery, we came upon an absolute jewel — the nearby Maryhill Museum of Art — nestled in among rows of grapevines.  

We ate lunch on the windswept patio overlooking the river and thought of Lewis and Clark traveling through the area in 1805.

Then we browsed around a gallery that featured many works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, including a plaster version of “The Thinker” and a stunning life-size plaster of Eve from “The Gates of Hell.”

We wandered through the museum’s rooms of Native American baskets, colorful beaded clothing, a display dedicated to a woman who danced in the Follies in Paris, international chess sets and a room full of gilded furniture that belonged to a Romanian princess who once visited the area. Who would have thought these unique works of art would be found in a small museum in a quiet area along the river where Lewis and Clark camped out?

 

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