Journal Entry 03.30.2014
Michael, who comments often on various posts, asked me about living on the West Coast, which is well-known for its active earthquake zones and volcanoes, being situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Apparently I’ve been lucky all my life, not being personally affected by these potential power keg / disasters. As I wrote earlier, I lived for nearly twenty years within miles of one of the longest and most active fault lines in California, the San Andreas. This fault extends from Southern California north, finally going out to sea near Point Reyes. The most active portions of it are in the south, closer to Los Angeles, but I saw evidence of its movement in the buildings of one of the old missions, San Juan Batista, located south of the Bay Area.
We also lived in Alaska, another area pock-marked with volcanoes and an area of active earth faults, although we only experienced a few minor temblors (3.5) while in the area.
The Puget Sound Region is crisscrossed with active faults and located very near the looming Cascade volcanoes. While living there in various parts of the area, the strongest earthquake that I experienced was the 2001 Nisqually. It affected nearby Olympia and some in Pioneer Square, Seattle (built on old fill), but not Tacoma where I was living, high on solid ground.
I’ve also “survived” the 1981 blast of Mt. St. Helens. I was co-leading a beginning backpack to the North Fork Sauk River, which is located not far from Darrington, a town affected by the recent landslide at Oso. The ash cloud went northeast, towards Yakima, Ellensburg and Spokane. Those cities and all surrounding towns were buried in a foot or more of gritty ash. Mountaineering friends of mine were scrambling (non-technical climbing) in the Teanaway that day and got caught in the cloud, which effectively blocked their car’s carburetors and stranded them temporarily miles away from home. Me, I didn’t know about the blast until I arrived home and received a panicked phone call from my mother. Actually, we had heard the blast, at exactly 8:31 a.m. that same day, even though we were standing next to a lively snow-melt filled creek. I had thought it to be a sonic boom attributable to the nearby Naval Air Station at Oak Bay, Whidbey Island. Still, it was a Sunday when the jets didn’t usually fly…
I also survived another natural disaster, the Yellowstone Fire, in the late 1980’s. Although I lived next to Yellowstone and breathed smoke for over a month, the fires never ventured far enough north to endanger where I was living, although we were on alert to evacuate at any moment. It was breathtaking (literally) to watch an active fire run up a ridge nearby, sending clouds into the sky like a huge explosion.
As a hiker, I have walked or camped near four major volcanoes, Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Baker. I admire them for their great beauty and grandeur, but also respect them for the great damage they can do if awakened. Even though these are all dormant volcanoes, except for St. Helens, any seismic activity on their slopes could send mudflows into the rivers fed by their eternal snows and glaciers. And the Yellowstone Caldera, which I also lived nearby, is well known for its geothermal activity, as well as earthquake swarms. These western regions are big, bold and painted with broad strokes by Nature. Disaster is potential at any time and so those who live close to the earth keep tuned to her rhythms accordingly.
So you see, I’ve been very lucky indeed, protected or otherwise, during my sojourn in the West. I love the land and for many years have been quite aware that I was anchoring the light in whatever region I have been situated. And so mote it be!
Hugs and kisses,
Photo: Mt. Rainier from Mazama Ridge, the highest volcano in the Lower 48 states, it looms over nearby Puget Sound.