What it lacks in height (it's now 8366ft), Mt St Helens makes up for in fiery infamy: 57 people perished on the mountain when it erupted on May 18, 1980, in an explosion bigger than 1500 atomic bombs. The cataclysm began with an earthquake of 5.1 on the Richter scale that sparked the biggest landslide in recorded history and buried 230 sq miles of forest under millions of tons of volcanic rock and ash.
When the smoke finally lifted, Mt St Helens sported a new mile-wide crater on its northern side and had lost 1300ft in height. Resolving to leave nature to its own devices, the Reagan administration created the 172-sq-mile Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument in 1982. A visit here today will demonstrate how, over three decades on, nature has restored much life to the mountain, although the devastation wreaked by the explosion is still hauntingly evident.