I love that quote by Dante Alighieri. The world around us is a masterpiece, from gentle waves on a tropical beach to rugged mountains, from lush forests to colorful deserts. And while I'm not a camper (and prefer that "icky critters" aren't involved), I love getting out and exploring nature. Nature is my inspiration to create art. My nature photos may not always be fabulous, but I just can't resist sharing them!
I remember when Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. About six years later, we were studying ecosystems in school and went on a field trip to the blast zone around Spirit Lake. This is where the trees had been blown over like toothpicks and the landscape was still very gray from ash. We walked among the fallen trees, and noticed emerging new life. While that was interesting, it was not a place I wished to return. When I was in college, I took a basic geology class and we had a field trip to Mt. St. Helens. It was then I discovered the wonders of the south side of the mountain.
This summer, I figured our boys (ages 7 and 9), might be ready for such an adventure. They like getting out and exploring nature, too. So in late August, we took a day and went. First, we hiked the trails around Lava Canyon. This is where an old lava flow was uncovered when a small (relatively speaking) mud flow came down the south side of the mountain and wiped out a swath of the forest. A creek rushes wildly over and through the lava, and the view changes with each step. I would love to paint a picture of it, but no single view really captures its essence. When I'm there, I feel surrounded by something that cannot be taken in from a single viewpoint, but rather from the whole experience of it. As you wander down the trail, the scene feels both small and giant, as you are tucked down in the canyon, yet perched on the side of a dangerously powerful mountain.
Second, we stopped by the mud flow above the canyon, where lots of pumice-like stones and other volcanic rocks are left behind and create what looks like a wide, dried-up riverbed. My boys love rocks, so this was a good stop. As I recall, the summit of Mt. St. Helens can be seen from the mud flow, but it was hidden in clouds, so maybe next time we'll have clear skies!
Before leaving the mountain, we walked the lower portion of the Ape Cave. The cave is an old lava tube from an eruption about 2000 years ago. Caves aren't my favorite thing, but I thought the boys would like it, and they did.