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St. Helens 8 years later, asleep and approachable.

St. Helens 8 years later, asleep and approachable An outing to Spirit Lake, at the heart of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, not far from Interstate 5 in Washington, seems about as difficult and dangerous as a trip to the zoo. A brand-new 1-mile hiking trail leads down to the lake, where blue-green waves lap at a pumice beach scattered with driftwood. Beyond it, the gray volcano rises, its crater yawning benignly. Eight years ago, it was a different scene. The earthquake-triggered avalanche that ripped down the volcano on May 18, 1980, and the subsequent volcanic eruption left the lake doubled in size and mired with mud and timber, the surrounding forest flattened and blanketed in a thick layer of mud and ash. Today, the lake appears to have regained most of its clarity; there's even talk of restocking it with trout. And only at a distance do the hills in the blast zone now look barren; up close you can see fireweed, alder, even young Douglas fir emerging through the ash between downed logs. Most significantly, the volcano itself seems to have fallen back to sleep (what looks like thick steam in our picture is actually dust blowing off the snowless summit). More than a year has passed with no rumblings save a few small earthquakes. While experts don't consider St. Helens dormant, they're confident enough to let climbers go clear to the summit and hikers to Spirit Lake, both off-limits until last year. Part of the monument is still restricted, mostly to protect the ecologically fragile "new" terrain in the Spirit Lake basin. With the volcano's cooperation, the "red zone" should disappear by 1991, the same year Spirit Lake Memorial Highway up the Toutle River is due to be completed. If all goes as planned, in only 11 years a natural disaster will have become a fully accessible national monument.
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Title Annotation:Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington
Date:Jun 1, 1988
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