Photo Story: Mt. St. Helens Ground Squirrel

This is perhaps my favorite photo from our trip to Mt. St. Helens in June.  This surprises me because it is not exactly a big beautiful sweeping panorama (though I do have some of those too, here).  What I like about this photo, other than the cooperative ground squirrel, is the nature story that goes far beyond the squirrel.

Mt. St. Helens is a volcanic peak in western Washington that blew its stack in 1980.  The main blast resulted in the largest landslide in recorded history, causing the entire north face to slide away following an earthquake, and removing 1300 feet off the top of the mountain.  The debris avalanche that ensued traveled more than 13 miles at the speed of 110 to 155 miles per hour. The blast was followed by a volcanic eruption that spread ashes over a dozen states and sent a plume of ashes 15 miles into the atmosphere.  

The aerial photos I have seen taken afterward show denuded forests looking like boxes of matchsticks all stacked together, lying side by side in one direction.  No vegetation. No color. Just de-barked tree trucks.

I think with that information as a backdrop, this photo becomes very interesting.  From what I read at the visitor center, it was the burrowing animals, like the golden mantled ground squirrel, that were among the first to come back.  It was said that some did survive by the fact that they were underground. 

In the background of this photo you will see lots of colors.  These are wildflowers.  At the time of our visit wildflowers were everywhere.  Many of course are not species originally found in this area, but now that there is a different soil chemistry and there are no forests to block the sunlight, wildflowers are able to thrive.

I recently entered this image in a “contest” at my photo club.  The judge did not like the bleached wood in the foreground. He did not explain, but I suppose he found it a bit distracting. I guess I understand that. But I like it, as it is an important part of the story. This log was a standing live tree in 1980.  Huge swaths of the region are still covered with tree trunks lying in a direction leading away from the blast.  Old denuded and sun-bleached logs are part of the Mt. St. Helens story. Neither the judge nor the squirrel likely understand this.

Mount Saint Helens Ground Squirrel

1 comment:

Manohar and Kim said...

i like the photo with your explaination and story. well done, my friend. Manohar