A crowd recently gathered at the new Coldwater Science and Learning Center to admire the refurbished facility and celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption.
Amid the general excitement and hubbub of the anniversary, outdoor reporter Grant McOmie found a quiet “first” on the nearby Coldwater Lake.
The lake was formed when the mountain erupted and sits far below the center and inside the mountain’s historic blast zone.
A visit to the lake is something anyone can do and discover a new and unique guided trip where all you need is a paddle, a life vest and a spirit of adventure when you join a lake tour with “Northwest Eco Excursions.”
Tracie Drive is the company’s owner and Linda Osborne one of the tour guides.
The women share a common dream on the small lake inside the gigantic Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument.
They want folks to see the drama and re-birth of the area from the water’s point of view. Their company is the first to receive a US Forest Service permit to operate as commercial guides in the monument.
The company will be the first to take folks on kayak tours across Coldwater Lake since the eruption on May 18, 1980. Osborne called the paddling experience “serene, beautiful and tranquil.”
Driver offered that the trip is “so easy anyone can try and you’ll see the lake from a different point of view.”
Driver’s personal connection with Mt St Helens runs deep. She grew up in nearby Longview, Washington and her family played and worked in the nearby Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
She said that despite a lifetime of memories of “very good times” near Mt St Helens, it’s the memories of that particular day in May, 32 years ago, that stay with her most.
She was just 9-years-old and she had joined her Grandfather on a day of work as he checked on logging equipment in the shadow of the mountain. On the morning of May 18, 1980, “we didn’t hear a sound,” she offered.
“We were so close to the mountain and yet all we could see was the top of the mountain as it disappeared.”
When Mt St Helens blew its top that morning, it sent ash across the countryside and killed 58 people.
Yet Tracie said that she and her Grandfather must have had “dumb luck” on their sides, for they got out without a scratch on a different route. Tracie Driver always wanted to go back to Mt St Helens and this year she has realized her three-decades-old-dream to do that.
As she paddled the “sit on top” style kayak, she pointed to a landscape that is still raw from ruin; a place where trees fell like scattered toothpicks and mountain cliffs tower above the lake without a hint of green.
She teaches as she guides on the daily two-hour trips across the three-mile length of Coldwater Lake.
“This is my passion,” said Driver. “I love combining environmental education with outdoor recreation. I followed my passion and now I want others to learn to love this place too.”