In April of 1993, my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I took a trip to the Seattle, Washington area where our sister, Caryl Reed and her family were living at the time. I had not been there before, and so was excited at the prospect. We planned to have dinner at the Space Needle, do some shopping, visit Friday Harbor, and the one I was most looking forward to, Mount Saint Helens. Since the mountain had blown up on May 18, 1980, I had been intrigued. My parents had gone there, but I was married and so didn’t go along. On that trip, because the roads there didn’t open until May, and this was April, the viewing of Mount Saint Helens was not to be, unfortunately. I was disappointed.
I will never forget hearing about the coming eruption in the news, on March 15, 1980. When we first heard about it, people were riveted to their televisions, but as time went on, I suspect that people got bored with it. After two months, it got to the point where we all wondered if it was just a false alarm. Then, at 8:32am Pacific Time on May 18, 1980, the mountain blew up…literally. Suddenly, everyone was riveted to the television again. It was just shocking, and since 9-11 had not happened yet, it seemed like the most shocking thing we had ever experienced…in my lifetime anyway. I remember going out to my car and finding ash all over it. I had a hard time believing that a volcano that was over a thousand miles away in Washington state, could dump ash on my car in Casper, Wyoming. The ash went completely around the globe within a matter of days. Of course, it was nothing like what they had in the area surrounding the mountain.
When my daughter, Amy Royce and her husband Travis and son, Caalab moved to the Seattle area, and then decided to renew their vows, we decided to make the trip up for the ceremony. I wanted another chance to get to see Mount Saint Helens. My first attempt was thirteen years after the eruption, and that attempt was twenty two years ago. It was time. We had a rather small window of time to go see the mountain, with everything that has been planned at Amy’s house. So, Thursday was the day. Unfortunately, we seem to have picked the worst day of the days we would be here. Nevertheless, we went in the hope of a view of the…for me anyway…elusive Mount Saint Helens. Our grandchildren, Shai and Caalab Royce went with us. They were born well after Mount Saint Helens blew, and really knew very little about it…until today, that is.
Our first stop was to the visitors center, where we looked at the exhibits displayed there and watched a really good movie that told of the events leading up to and including May 18, 1980 and beyond. After we left, I think they had a much better idea about the magnitude of the whole event. We drove up to the area where we could finally view the mountain itself, only to find it sitting right there in front of us…completely shrouded in clouds and mist. We could see where the ash had landed and where the water and mud had carved out deep crevasses. We could see where erosion had taken its toll on the area, and where trees had been wiped out, and now rather small ones have grown up in their place. We could see the base of the mountain, and really, almost half way up it, but the now famous space left when the top that is no longer there blew, was still not visible to me. Sadly, I guess some things are simply not meant to be.
Yesterday, while Bob and I were on a walk, I heard a small plane overhead. Both Bob and I looked up and searched the sky until we found it. It occurred to me that it doesn’t matter if it is a bird, a small plane, a jet, or especially a hot air balloon, we always look up. It’s funny, because we hear cars, kids, dogs, trains, and even music around us all the time, but we don’t always look. We might look if the car or motorcycle is really loud, but just as often, it makes no difference to us. We aren’t really very interested.
I don’t think that it is because the things we see and hear on the ground are any more common than the things we see and hear in the sky are. Maybe we just feel the freedom of the air, when we watch something soaring across the sky. I personally love to fly, and I would love to ride in a hot air balloon too. Birds fascinate me …especially the pigeons that circle the downtown Casper area. When I feel like I am tied down with responsibility, all it takes it to sit and watch the birds awhile, and I feel better. The birds lift some of the weight of responsibility and I feel lighter. Now I can’t say for sure that feeling free is the reason that we look up when we hear a noise in the sky, but it could be one reason.
I suppose that if we lived in a big city, I would not think so much about planes in the air, since there are probably far more of them than we get in Casper, Wyoming. Still, I have to wonder if they would get excited about seeing a bunch of hot air balloons over their city, the way we do here. Or maybe it’s just me. I suppose that it is entirely possible that other people don’t look up when a plane, balloon, or bird fly over. I have been known to think a little bit differently about things, so maybe other people don’t give it a second thought. Nevertheless, I love to watch the planes fly overhead, look with wonder when a hot air balloon goes over, and even wonder where the birds are headed when I see them flying above me.
And just in case I didn’t look enough like I live in a dream world, I will tell you that I also look at the clouds. I love to see what pictures God might have painted in the sky with them. The moon and stars are also attention grabbers, because of the beauty they have been given. I like to look for satellites at night, or shooting stars, when the sky isn’t to light. The blood moon that is coming in a couple of days will be the second one this year and I am making plans to be up and watching the sky. Maybe it is just me, but I have a tendency to think that it’s not. I think a lot of people are curious about the things that happen in the sky and in space. I have a feeling that we are a bit like little kids in that way. When we hear a sound in the sky, we always look up.
Sometimes, I get a goofy thought running around in my head, and it just doesn’t go away, until you finally let your mind go ahead and explore it. One of those thoughts that have done that for me is whether or not clouds look the same looking down as they do looking up. I’ve flown many times, but I never really gave much thought to that possible difference, until I was looking at a picture taken from a plane. When you look down on the clouds, the ground looks dark and it makes the clouds look very white. Looking at the same kind of cloud from the ground it takes on a totally different look. I suppose this is an odd thought, but if you look at the clouds, you will see what I mean.
Sometimes the clouds are so fluffy, they look like mountain tops from the air. You could almost feel like you could step out of the plane and stand on them. In fact, when my boss, Jim, Bob and I went for a trip from Casper to Custer, South Dakota, in a plane that Jim used to have, he let me fly the plane for a short time, and the clouds looked so much like mountains, that the plane was climbing, because I was lining the plane up with the clouds in the distance. It was very surprising to me that the clouds to take on that look to the extent that I had the plane climbing.
Sometimes, the clouds can be so transparent that you can almost see through them…from the ground or the air. They look like lace across the sky. Transparent enough to see through, and yet if you fly through them, they are like smoke. If you go through a rain cloud in a plane, the rain might come at you sideways, because you are going at such a speed that you go through the clouds from the side. It really is amazing. So, have you ever wondered…
Friday was our last full day in the Black Hills, and while the hike for the day was the longest we did this trip, at 7 miles, we felt the best of all the hikes. I’m sure there are a couple of reasons for that. First, our muscles finally got used to being worked like they used to. Second and possibly the most important, it was cloudy and cool. While I prefer warm weather, most of the time, when hiking, cool weather is much better. The clouds kept the sun off, and while it was cool, it did not rain. Don’t get me wrong, I was tired when we were done, and truth be told…before we were done, but we made it. I have found something out about myself during this time…it isn’t just about finishing a hike…it’s about that something inside me that…that sense of accomplishment. I made it, even though it hurt, and made me tired, and many people would think I was crazy for walking 7 miles just to say I did.
The hike of Friday moved us to the 51.9 mark one way on the Mickelson Trail, which for us is 103.8 since we do each section twice. That is something I can feel good about. My hope for next years is that we will continue to stay in the necessary shape for the tougher hikes. We lost Harney Peak for this year, because we just weren’t in shape for it. That saddens me because Harney Peak is my favorite hike, but it also makes me more determined to be able to take that hike next year. Still, every hike is an accomplishment, and I am happy that we got to go.
The afternoon brought another of our favorite things to do in the Black Hills…riding the 1880 Train. Now I suppose many people would think that is kind of a little kid thing to do, but since I get sick on merry-go-rounds, and the carnival rides have the same effect, I’ll stick to the 1880 Train, thank you. It always allows me to imagine what it would be like to travel in the Old West…or even when my Dad was a kid riding the trains his dad worked on. I don’t think I’ll every outgrow the train rides. And riding the train in the beauty of the Black Hills is the perfect end to a lovely vacation.
As summer approaches, my thoughts drift back to summers gone by. Once school was out for the summer, the neighborhood kids had three months of wonderful, carefree days. We would run and play, or lay around in the shade reading a book or watching the clouds float by. Three months of freedom!! It was so relaxing, and looking back now, I’m sorry I took those days or granted. All too soon, they would be gone…just a memory.
We went swimming and sun bathing. And since I love the sunshine, this was the perfect time of year for me. I have always been a “Popsicle Person” so the heat and sun were my best chance of thawing out from the too long and too cold Winter. I relished the time I could spend outside. Then as now, the summer months are my rejuvenation time. I feel so dragged out during the winter, and when summer comes, I start to feel alive again. So…bring it on!!
At some point, every summer, our family took a vacation. It didn’t matter if money was tight, we always went somewhere. We camped out under the stars. The smell of the campfire was everywhere. Roasting marshmallows was a nightly event. The air was warm and the scent of flowers and pine trees was everywhere. We would sit around for hours…far into the night, just enjoying the beauty of the night. Our family loves a good camp fire so much, in fact, that we often have fire pits going during the summer evenings at home, just to be able to sit around and watch the fire, and smell the wonder scent of the burning wood. The days on vacation were filled with sight seeing, shopping for souveniers, fishing, or just relaxing. We were so blessed to have traveled to so many places.
As summer approaches, I begin planning our annual trip to the Black Hills, where Bob and I spend a week hiking in the hills. We will end up at Harney Peak at some point in the trip, and as usual, we will be sorry when our time there is over, because it is one of our favorite places on Earth. I am so ready for the summer months, that it is hard to wait. I’m thankful that April was, and May is starting out nice and warm, because a rainy Spring can put a big damper on my thoughts of Summer.