Mt. St. Helens Eruption, Oct. 1, 2004

In late September 2004, a swarm of small earthquakes rumbled beneath Mt. St. Helens, one of the most prominent volcanoes in the Washington Cascades. On the morning of October 1, 2004, I drove to Windy Ridge to photograph the mountain and the area.

Mt. St. Helens appeared beneath the vast clear, blue sky as I drove on Forest Road 99 towards Cascades Peaks Viewpoint before noon. I passed the viewpoint then the mountain disappeared behind a ridge. The windy road went on for about a mile before the mountain reappeared from behind a ridge with a small plume emitting from the volcano. The time: 12:03 p.m. Pacific Time. I stopped to snap a couple of photos then drove on towards Windy Ridge.

I arrived at Windy Ridge Viewpoint. There was not many cars or people at Windy Ridge. I shot more photos as the mountain belched out ash and then I ran up the trail to get a better perspective.

After 20 minutes, the mountain stopped erupting. The ash cloud dissipated into the blue sky. I photographed into the caldera, focusing on the lava dome. It was steaming.

I headed back down to the trailhead where I was greeted by the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement. Windy Ridge was being evacuated. I packed up and moved down to the Cascade Peaks Viewpoint.

Cascade Peaks Viewpoint was quiet until around 3:00 p.m. when more spectators arrived. Forest Service barricaded the road to Windy Ridge past Cascade Peaks Viewpoint. The mountain did not erupt for the remainder of the day.

That day was a fascinating surprise for my photography experience and one that I will never forget.

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