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Mount St. Helens Reel

Mount St. Saint Helens Day

May 18

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“I started to climb through fallen trees. But it got extremely hot. I’m a baker who works with huge ovens. This was five or six hundred degrees Fahrenheit.”

~ Bruce Nelson, survivor of the blast from an encampment, 1980

On May 18, 1980, Bruce Nelson and Sue Ruff were camped 13 miles north of Mount St. Helens with some friends. At 8:30 in the morning, Nelson was fishing on the Green River when he saw a black cloud looming over the ridge to the south. In seconds, everything around them was black, and their mouths filled with ash. On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens, Skamania County, in the U.S. state of Washington, became the largest and most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. An earthquake caused the entire weakened north face to slide away, creating the largest landslide ever recorded. This allowed the partly molten, high-pressure gas- and steam-rich rock in the volcano to suddenly explode northwards toward Spirit Lake in a hot mix of lava and pulverized older rock, overtaking the avalanching face. The volcano remains active, with smaller, dome-building eruptions continuing into 2008. 🌋

Mount St. Helens Reel

Mount St. Helens is one of the most well monitored volcanoes on the planet since its most recent eruption of May 18, 1980.  Recent seismic swarms under Mount St Helens indicate a recharging magma chamber.  

American Indian lore contains numerous legends to explain the eruptions of Mount St. Helens and other Cascade volcanoes. The most famous of these is the Bridge of the Gods legend told by the Klickitat people.


In this tale, the chief of all the gods and his two sons, Pahto and Wy'east, traveled down the Columbia River from the Far North in search for a suitable area to settle.  They came upon a beautiful area called The Dalles, but the sons quarreled over the land.  So to solve the dispute their father shot two arrows from his mighty bow — one to the north and the other to the south. Pahto followed the arrow to the north and settled there while Wy'east did the same for the arrow to the south. The chief of the gods then built the Bridge of the Gods, so his family could meet periodically.

When the two sons of the chief of the gods fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Loowit, she could not choose between them. The two young chiefs fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. The area was devastated and the earth shook so violently that the huge bridge fell into the river, creating the cascades of the Columbia River Gorge.

For punishment, the chief of the gods struck down each of the lovers and transformed them into great mountains where they fell. Wy'east, with his head lifted in pride, became the volcano known today as Mount Hood. Pahto, with his head bent toward his fallen love, was turned into Mount Adams. The fair Loowit became Mount St. Helens, known to the Klickitats as Louwala-Clough, which means "smoking or fire mountain."


For a fascinating explanation and recreation of the actual eruption created from chance still photographs, click a current photo of Mount St. Helens showing the purple and red penstemon in bloom near the base of the mountain.

Mount St. Helens Reel
Mount St. Helens Reel

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