left field foul line
This walk probably rates as one of the most enjoyable I’ve done in all my years exploring the Cascades, so mesmerized did I find myself at the northern reach of Loowit’s blast zone. Being the hopeless shutterbug that I am, in the middle of the day I found myself passing views and features of terrain which I longed for (at least) marginally better light to photograph and so I made the decision to pace myself, stretch my wandering, and “catch things on the way back”. Usually I’ll bed down in a meadow for a long nap on a journey like this, for the purposes of restoration and letting the sun get down in the sky. This was a unique day of exploring, there was a solemnity about the walk: An abundance of life has returned to the blast zone yet the aftermath of the powerful eruption stands out in stark relief after all these years and that heaviness with regard to the fifty-seven lives lost, remains. On the walk I also found myself pondering just how much the state of mind about this mountain must have changed after May 1980. Before it erupted, Loowit was arguably one of the most beautiful stratovolcanoes in the world. Certainly, I never knew her in that way for I was a kindergartener back in the Rust Belt on that fateful day. On the other hand, a good friend of mine grew up in a little town south of the mountain and she watched it erupt from the bleachers of a little league field (Loowit was behind left field). Ash covered her family’s yard for more than a year!
Looking at pictures from this walk has gotten me to thinking more about the other volcanoes up and down the Cascade Range, imagining them less as static, unchanging features of the landscape. It would be so strange to look out the window tomorrow morning and see that a thousand feet of Mt. Rainier’s top had been completely obliterated. “The Mountain”, as Rainier (or, Tahoma) is often hushingly referred to by locals (though I’ve always had trouble accepting what I found a rather corny, disappointingly generic nickname), has an indelible psychological influence on everyone who admires it from Seattle. What would happen to the collective psyche of the entire city if part of it just vanished?
This image is a little on the redundant side but it seemed worth sharing for a fuller appreciation of the ripped-open north side of Loowit. The slowly-building dome inside the crater is hazy from windblown ash. These trees gave me the uneasy feeling of being in the cross-hairs of that unimaginable pyroclastic force. I suppose it’s a little one-sided of me to share just these monochrome landscapes from the end of summer, when so much of the snow has melted from the mountain. After all, some years even Mt. Rainier can appear shockingly brown and bare after several months of warm weather.