It's an interesting turn of events when you select a random campsite based on reserve-ability at the last minute, think you'll just have a quiet weekend in the forest, and find yourself at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
The first time I learned about the 1980 eruption was while going through a dresser drawer my dad kept filled with newspapers of significant events. After a couple of geology classes, including one just on natural disasters, followed by a career in that very field - it was quite the experience to actually see the scope of the devastation done to the area in person.
There are so many effects of the eruption laid out to see more than 30 years later - from the edge of the blast wave which blew trees flat down, to the piles of trees in spirit lake, to the cascade of material and earth cascading down into the valley. It's simply fascinating to look at and I would highly recommend it as a place you must see in person at least once in your life. We visited the highest viewpoint in the Monument, Windy Ridge, which you can get to through the town of Randle along Forest Road 99. There are a couple of other options - but this post will cover the Windy Ridge area.
- Buy a Northwest Forest Pass before you go or bring cash to purchase a $5.00 day pass.
- There is very little shade or shelter throughout this part of the park, so bring plenty of water, sunblock, and a hat.
- Most all the trails and areas of the park off the road are not dog friendly - with the exception of the view points like Windy Ridge and the Harmony Trail (at least according to the dog friendly signage).