After much debate (not really debate, more indecision), we decided to drive to the South Side of Mount St. Helens to see the old-growth forests that were not damaged by the eruption in May 1980. We drove south on I-5 to Woodland and then on Route 503, then Route 90, for thirty miles up the Lewis River Valley to Cougar, WA.
The scenery was beautiful and really different than the drive on the west side of the mountain. The trees are much larger and taller, and the undergrowth much denser. The whole area has a more mature look. There are two dams across the Lewis River which makes for two beautiful reservoirs, Yale Reservoir and Swift Reservoir. Both have day areas maintained by the state of Washington with picnic sites, boat ramps and beaches. Since both reservoirs are surrounded by mountains covered by forest, the water is VERY clear. No cultivated field run-off or pollution from chemicals.
We also visited an area called the Trail of Two Forests, which is about 10 miles from Cougar. A boardwalk path meanders through what looks like a very lush, green forest. But there is a story to this forest. The visible forest and the trail are on top of an old forest that was orverrun by lava flows from Mount St. Helens almost 2,000 years ago. Mount St. Helens is an explosive volcano and typically does not expel lava. But 2,000 years ago, lava poured down the south slope of the mountain and covered the trees. Most of the trees were felled and all were killed. The lava hardened, the trees burned away, leaving molds of them behind with the imprint of bark still showing. The current forest has grown on the thin soil on top of the hard lava flow. You can actually look down into some of the tree molds. We saw snow in the bottom of one of the molds.
After leaving the Trail of Two Forests, we drove on up the road until we reached a barricade across the road. The road is closed due to some unstable edges and some rock slides. But we did see the south side of the mountain and a little stream rippling down the mountain.
A beautiful sunny day appreciating all of Nature's glory and in awe of how powerful Nature can be.