"A Weekend at Mount St. Helens" by Mercy (guest author)
Although Creation Encounter's family camp to Mount St. Helens was cancelled only days before the event due to new COVID-19 restrictions, most of our participants were able to visit the area in smaller groups using Creation Encounter's teaching materials. Below is an essay relating one such experience.
By Mercy (guest author)
There is probably nothing better than a weekend camping trip at one of the Pacific Northwest’s most mind-bogglingly amazing natural sites, Mt. St. Helens. And there is nothing more devastatingly horrendous as a world pandemic that seems bent on destroying every possibility of fun in 2020. So you can imagine my dismay when the tidings reached me that COVID-19 had canceled the camping trip, St. Helens, and worst of all, s’mores. Ah, gentle reader, unless you have ever been denied your full summer ration of ooey-gooey, perfectly toasted, insanely unhealthy s’mores, you cannot comprehend the full import of despair I felt for five minutes.
But, as is so often quoted, “Fun will find a way!” It so happened that a family had flown all the way from the East Coast for the express purpose of attending said canceled camping trip. In a mighty stroke of defiance to COVID-19, and with a battle cry of “Not today, 2020!”, the camping trip turned into two days of hiking and learning, at the height of the wildflower’s bloom, and (by a miracle only God can bring about,) on a weekend forecasted to have no rain in Washington State.
So when Friday arrived, there we were with two other families, ready to slay the day and whatever hills we would have to contend with.
Unless you have ever made the acquaintance of someone you are certain must be your double, you cannot comprehend my surprise at meeting a young lady who shared my first name, also had a leg injury as I had on the last camping trip, was interested in the sciences, and even had a similar shade of hair. It turned out to be quite interesting whenever somebody called out for one of us.
We began our exploration on the south side of the mountain, at Pine Creek boulder, a chunk of the mountain that had been carried up by a mudflow (lahar) to rest next to Pine Creek. It is easy to forget how very large the boulder is until you’re standing right beside it. Then it is very easy to believe that the force of the eruption was equivalent to one atomic bomb per second for nine hours.
Next up was Cedar Flats, an old-growth forest that had survived the eruption. There we met a friendly millipede named Fred, identified dozens of plants, and vanquished castles of fallen logs. A story about campers who lived through the eruption in hot ash and winds so strong it felled the trees made me reconsider my disappointment about no camping.
We stopped and had lunch at Lava Canyon, where we met several overweight chipmunks, who proceeded to beg for us to have mercy on them and not be so stingy with our food, a futile effort because we were quite conscientious that they required a diet. We hiked over a lava flow over which a river ran. The dark basalt rocks and bright skies turned the water a stunning aquamarine blue, while the turbulence of the flow made us wary of dropping phones and cameras and ourselves. An amazing layered rock formation made me hungry for baklava and croissants at the sight of scaly pieces of rock piled like volcanic pastry dough. Large patches of stone crop, with fiery yellow flowers and succulent leaves that taste like cucumber, brightened the rocks and gravel along the path.
After a viewpoint that offered a majestic picture of the Queen of the Cascades, we concluded our adventure with a walk at the Trail of Two forests. Lava tubes, tree casts set in stone, and a bit of snake wrangling of a cantankerous red racer added an epic touch to the day.
The next morning, we proceeded with a stop at the Mt. St. Helen’s Creation Center, where the new director was beginning his first day of, well, being the new director. After a look around and hearing the vision for the next stage of growth for the center, an exciting development in the creation ministry, we continued to the Sunken A-frame, a holiday home that had been half buried in volcanic sediment. We also reunited with our favorite friend at the mountain, the benevolent Sasquatch statue who greets visitors with an equally benevolent grin.
After several viewpoints, we hiked the Hummocks Trail, where pieces of the mountain were hurled over the landscape. We were surprised to find that the tent caterpillars and rising water levels had killed off many of the alder trees, allowing more sun-loving plants to grow and continue recovery.
Our adventure concluded at the Loo-Wit Viewpoint, which made a lovely scene to part with our new friends.
Like the mountain, 2020 has erupted into what seems irreparable damage. Recovery will be slow, and the old days may not return in full, but we have learned more respect for others, appreciation for what we have, and how to work together against whatever the world throws at us, whether it be a pandemic or a s’more shortage. And, also not unlike the mountain, your worldview affects greatly how you interpret the hard times, and how you heal. Fortunately, we have the greatest Epidemiologist and Volcanologist to help us along the way.