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Posts Tagged ‘Johnston Ridge Observatory’

 “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.” — Zachary Scott. 

Mount St. Helens … Photo by Pat Bean 

Travels With Maggie
Looking out at the gaping mouth of Mount St. Helens from a point once known as Coldwater Ridge triggered goose pimples on my arms. I knew that David Johnston – the first to report the volcano’s eruption with the words “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is It!” — had been standing on this same ridge that deadly May 18, 1980, morning when the mountain exploded.

 I also knew from the many reports I’ve read about that day that those had been Johnston’s last words. Although six miles away from the volcano, he had still been directly in its blast zone. Johnston was one of 57 people who lost their lives to the angry mountain. 

 Johnston’s body was never found, and the ridge I was standing atop had been renamed in his honor, as had been the visitor center, the Johnston Ridge Observatory, that was built on the ridge so people like me could gaze on the mountain. 

Scarlet paintbrush colors the ground in front of a tree stump near the top of Johnston Ridge ... Photo by Pat Bean

 

It was a solemn moment for me as I pondered if the 30-year-old Johnston, a trained and enthusiastic volcanologist who knew the risks, would have thought his brief moment in destiny’s grasp was worth his life. I wasn’t sure. Could anybody ever be. 

Daisies once again flourish in the volcano's blast zone ... Photo by Pat Bean

 

I do know, however, the great respect I have for Johnston and others who are unwilling to hold back living their lives to the fullest. And as I look at nature’s beauty surrounding me, and the verdant life that has returned to Mount St. Helens, I’m also grateful that the fears I’ve overcome in my life have been less life threatening. 

 Travel has as much to do with internal discovery as it has with seeing the world. New places, new sights, new experiences wash away stereotypes. Standing here on top of this ridge, surrounded by tree stumps whose tops were swept away with the mountain’s roar and where a life was blinked out, touched my soul. 

 I know that for a long time to come I will think of this moment when I looked out on Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge. It will remind me both of how precious life is and how important it is to savor every moment because tomorrow may not come. 

 “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” — Braveheart

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