Upper Toutle Valley
From here eastward, Spirit Lake Memorial Highway climbs steadily uphill, with wide shoulders for bikes and numerous turnouts to take in the scenery. RVers should park at Hoffstadt Bluffs and those towing trailers should leave them there, since the road has some 7 percent grades ahead.
Next stop is the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, one of 14 bridges that had to be reconstructed on Highway 504 after the eruption. The new bridge rises 370 feet above the canyon and stands near the edge of the blast zone—an incredible 14.8 miles from the crater. Everything from here on was killed by the heat of the explosion.
Also, from here on you can see a sharp contrast between what private companies did after the eruption and what took place on Forest Service land. Weyerhaeuser salvage-logged its lands and immediately replanted millions of trees. With fertilization, the new stands are coming back surprisingly fast; some trees are already 40 feet tall!
As a public agency, the Forest Service had a rather different mandate, and no logging or replanting took place within the national volcanic monument. Instead, the area has become a natural laboratory where scientists can study the recovery process, and where visitors can marvel at the power of nature. (Salvage logging and replanting were, however, done on Forest Service lands outside the monument boundaries.)
Today the upper Toutle River Valley is home to over 500 Roosevelt elk, many of which are visible by hiking two miles down Road 3100 near the Hoffstadt Creek Bridge. Despite harsh conditions, the elk survive on the nutritious grasses and clover that were planted in the mudflow following the eruption.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition