Twenty-eight years ago, I stood at the edge of the Toutle River, overwhelmed by the destruction.
I was on my honeymoon, looking at Mt. St. Helens just five months after it erupted on May 16, 1980.
My new husband and I were taking the train from California to Seattle and had stopped in Longview, Wash., just across the Oregon state line, to visit friends before catching the train for Seattle late the next afternoon.
Our friends drove us to Castle Rock, about five miles from the volcano. All around us was devastation. Mt. St. Helens' top had been blown off and its flanks were gray and barren. The Toutle River had carried massive amounts of mudflow and was still partly clogged by it. We stood on a deep layer of ash and silt; the remains of cabins were probably right under us. Trees has been snapped in two or toppled, the greenery seared off. Everything was ghostly gray or beige.
Fifty-seven people died in the eruption and its aftermath. The most famous was Harry Truman, who had owned a resort on Spirit Lake on the northern flank of Mt. St. Helens. Truman, 83, refused to leave his home despite the tremors and emissions of steam and ash that had gone on for two month, and a growing bulge, filled with hot magma. When the big blast finally came, the ash and superheated air shot out at 200 to 300 mph; scientists said Truman would have died instantly.
We had stayed there by the Toutle River too long and were in danger of missing our train, so we raced back to town. Our friends handed us a bottle of champagne to toast our marriage. A few hours later in Seattle, we opened the bottle and drank a toast to Harry Truman and the 56 other people who died on Mt. St. Helens.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.