Mt. St. Fuji? It’s EAsy to Get Them Mixed Up


For as long as I can remember, I have had a fixation on Mt. St. Fuji…

I know. It is actually 2 different mountains. But, as  a kid growing up in Portland in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens, I had heard repeatedly that Mt. Fuji in Japan was Helen’s sister.  It’s easy to understand why…if you take a look at pictures of the two mountains before May, 1980.


Only the cherry blossoms tip off the viewer that one is in Japan, and the other in the PNW.

That is util May 18th, 1980 when my entire life changed forever…


Not only was I alive the day she blew…but I was with the young lady who would become my wife of 35 years (and counting) while saying goodbye to one of the most beloved places from my childhood (and no…the two events don’t really mix, except in my mind, which is a fairly mixed-up place to be).

Mt. St. Helens was beautiful. Some would say it still is, even since it lost 1/3 of its majestic height. But what made it more beautiful than ever to me, especially during the summers, was Spirit Lake and the Boy Scout camp where I worked and played for several summers in my youth. It was breathtaking, life-altering, and the kind of thing that changes a young boy into a man (or at least one who thinks he is a man). And, although the mountain had been “active” with steam and minor rumbles for decades, nobody ever thought that it would roar back to life the way it did. But, it did…leaving not a single trace of any of the youth camps that lined its waters.


When it did get wiped out, in an eruption that was heard more than a thousand miles away, covering the land around it with ash for hundreds of miles to the south, those of us within view, simply stood in wonder, holding hands. The landscape for miles around was altered beyond description. Nothing would ever look the same.

It was on that day, that I was first introducing Debbie, my wife to be, to my extended family at a huge reunion at a park just south of Portland. We heard the explosion, and then saw the plumes of ash heading our way. It is a day I will never forget…as it was marked by the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another.

But…so far, this entire post has been ONE HUGE DIGRESSIONbecause we didn’t really get Mt. St. Helens...we got Mt. Fuji…which hasn’t erupted since 1770. But……there are rumblings, and some minor earthquakes as recent as 2011. So, if I was a betting man, I’d say that they shouldn’t build a Boy Scout camp anywhere near it, anytime soon.

As for what I did with my Mt. Fuji?  I turned it into an homage to Mt. St. Helens…complete with a small version of Spirit Lake.


But, if I really want a tangible memory…there is a “treasure box” I keep tucked under my socks and tee shirts…right next to an Indian scraping tool, a Boy Scout neckerchief tie off, and a couple of my old pocket knives, sits a leather Spirit Lake “hat” that I won for a campfire “talent” competition one night in 1967.  Priceless…


For those waiting for me to turn this into some sort of political metaphor for our current climate…keep waiting. Not gonna happen. In fact, to the contrary, it may be more of a story of surviving cataclysmic change, and then watching new life spring from the ashes (did I mention that I had just come through a horrible divorce and was a single father of two when I met Deb?). But, I am digressing from my digression…

What is more important in our games, it the ability to construct our own memories…little reminders of a life well lived. I have tons of them in my Springfield. My TSTO town has become another “treasure box” laden with little trinkets that remind me of what is important in life.

What did YOU do with your Mt. Fuji? Do you remember when Mt. St. Helens blew her top? Have you ever seen a live volcano?  Let us know…you know we LOVE to hear from you!

PS...I’ve had a number of my old fans bugging me to remind you about some of the “other sides” of Cranky Old Guy. For those who want to follow along… – if you want to be part of our work in Buyijja – if you miss my “cranky” side.

46 responses to “Mt. St. Fuji? It’s EAsy to Get Them Mixed Up

  1. I also spent some time at Spirit Lake as a child. As a father my wife and kids were able to go up Thiesen Hill near our house to watch the ash explosions. I’m sorry that I never climbed it before 1980. I have climbed Mt Hood and i also went to the summit of Mt. Fuji with my daughter so both mountains are special to our family. (Also a note to people the sound of the explosion jumped over the Portland area. )

  2. St Helens is a lava dome, not a stratovolcano. It’s unlike it will go back Fuji.

  3. The only volcano I saw is Mt. Vesuvius. Is a scary volcano because is surrounded by a massive city and is potentially as violent as Pinatubo and Kratatoa, though at the moment is calm. I walked on the top of the volcano. It still has fumarolas coming from the center of the caldera (filled by detritis).

  4. I remember very well. It changed me although I didn’t realize at the time. I lived in southern California and the ashes made their way down to us. I was only a young girl, but I think it sparked something in me that lead to my eventually getting a degree in Geology.

  5. I remember it vaguely – I was 11 at the time, and halfway around the world, but the ashes did travel a long way. The closest I came to an active volcano was in Iceland. A very cool place to visit if you are interested in this kind of stuff. Volcanoes, loads of sulphuric hot springs that seem to bubble up from the centre of the earth (which can be reached, as we all know, by climbing down Snaefellsjökull ;-)) and very alien looking landscapes. Plus, two tectonic plates meet there, and you can see the “seam” between them. Fascinating place, even for non-Geologists.

    • I have visited Iceland 🇮🇸 on my holiday in 2001. There was a heatwave. It was 21.5 Celsius. It was almost an all time high 🙂
      Loved all those warm baths and rivers. All you had to do is checking the temperature and find your Goldylocks zone 😀

  6. Yes, I remember the eruption vividly as well. I was in my early twenties, and living in southeastern Washington. The sky turned black as night, and it started snowing ash everywhere. I had loaned my car to a friend who was out driving around in the ash, oblivious to the engine damage she was doing! The ash was like 6 inches deep everywhere here, and like nothing I’d ever seen before, or since. Sad about Harry Truman, but you can’t make people move if they don’t want to. I just don’t think anyone truly understood the danger, and what could happen. Still see ash being used in different crafts sold at craft shows to this day!

  7. I was lucky enough to live on the Big Island of Hawaii leading up to the 1983 eruption at Kilauea Caldera. At that time, things were a little more relaxed, and we could pretty much walk right up to the calderas edge. I got spectacular pictures of lava fountains and walked over sections of lava tubes where you could see the lava moving beneath you. I was young and stupid, and remember thinking we should probably move back since our shoes were starting to melt (did I say young and stupid?) As things got more active in 1982, the park was more restrictive and visitors were kept at a distance. I visited the black sand beach many times and was a frequent visitor to Queen’s Bath, a geo-thermally heated natural saltwater bath at Kaimu, all are gone now. My friends living in Royal Gardens near Kalapana lost their home to the lava flow the next year, after I returned to the mainland. The pictures they sent were both amazing and horrific at the same time. The power of a volcano is so alien to watch, it’s something I will never forget.

  8. I remember it clearly. Even though maps that show the path of fallen ash do not show as far east as Ohio, one mornings a couple days later,my car was covered in a very fine ash. I remember it because I had just recently purchased my new Mustang and was upset for all the “dust” on it.
    From what I remember, ash was see on things all around the globe.
    I also saw the volcano you mentioned in Hawaii from a ship a few years back. Slow flow, yes, but impressive.

    • Do. Much. Dust.

    • I remember too, there was ash/dust and an odd color to the sky & sunset a day or three later here in NE New York as well. BTW, I’ve got some fond memories of my days in the Cub/Boy Scouts as well, lots of outdoor & survival activities! A friend had been telling his son about our time in Scouting so he was excited to join, thier first activity was baking cookies for homeless…Baking…Indoors…No fire involved…His son was very disappointed. ;o)

  9. I was young, pretty sure I was in 5th grade. For some reason what I remember the most about it was the old guy that lived by the lake that refused to leave, he died of course. I just remember the teacher talking about him in class.

  10. Thanks for sharing. I have family that lives in Eugene, Oregon. Would love to have visited before she blew.

  11. 4kidsandacatdog

    I remember the eruption but lucky for me I had moved to the absolute opposite side of the country by then. Saw it on tv.

    I was born in Hawaii. Volcanos have been kind of a thing in my life. Being as my mom is also from an island nation.

  12. Where did you get the stone tool? If it was taken off federal land that is a felony, if off state land that’s illegal too.

  13. Did anyone know that there are volcanoes in Saskatchewan? Two dormant ones, to be exact.

    • I live in Alberta and I didn’t know that! Thought you were joshing until I looked it up lol…who knew…

  14. What is the waterfall in the bottom left hand corner, below the wildlife sanctuary called? What was it from? Also, is anyone else scared about the Yellowstone Caldera (the supervolcano)?

  15. A married couple, good friends of the family, who lived nearby us in the San Francisco Bay Area, were traveling home from Seattle. They stopped, watched the mountain, then started driving south again. They drove south a short ways, pulled in for gas and the attendant asked if they saw the 🌋 eruption.
    Missed it by that much.

  16. I remember very clearly when Mt St Helens erupted, even though I was living in NYC at the time. I visited it in 1986, when new green growth was fighting it’s way through the scorched landscape around Spirit Lake. I have a blown glass globe infused with Mt St Helens ash that I bought at a crafts fair in Portland. It’s a constant reminder to me of the unpredictability and power of Mother Nature.

  17. Great write up thanks for sharing.
    I never have had the chance to see mt St. Helens but I have seen mt Fuji a few times from
    The air. I used to fly a lot from Haneda to Nagasaki and Osaka and would see her.

    My mt Fuji in tsto is up against my Great Wall. Not geographically correct but goes well.

  18. mydadlookslikeFlanders

    Great post and beautiful homage creation 🙂 I’m a lifelong Oregonian and my parents would talk about that volcanic eruption and how Harry Randall Truman rather stubbornly refused to leave his home for safety and for a few months before the eruption was warned about it heavily and even wouldn’t leave after precursor quakes. He just moved his mattress to the basement and said the mountain a mile away wouldn’t hurt him. He died in the eruption and become sort of a legend in Oregon. It happened just a couple of years before I was born. Now that I am in Central Oregon relatively near an active volcano it can be a bit scary/foreboding sometimes. Gotta have an exit plan, plenty of food and water and everything ready to go in a hurry or possibly hunker down and be stuck inside for days. Extra gasoline around and a generator is definitely worth having as well. Don’t forget pet food, matches/Zippo, first aid, good books and batteries too!

  19. Nice post. As an 11 year old I remember people selling packets of “Volcanic Mt. St.Helens ash” at fairs and flea markets. Even at a young age I figured it was BS.
    Early lesson in raw nature. A reminder of the razor we walk everyday.

  20. I wasn’t alive when Mt St. Helens erupted, but my dad, who was 20 at the time, was in Oregon, I think Corvallis or Portland, and he remembers seeing the ash cloud, and by the time he got out of church, his car was covered. I remember he had a container of the ash and would tell us about it.

    • Yep! Loads of ash bottles are still around. My Dad actually used the ash in some of the pottery he was making at the time.

    • Those ashes will ruin your car. During my holiday on Sicily Mount Etna erupted violently, with lots of ash. Car owners rushed out of their homes to move their vehicles to their garages to avoid damage to the paint. Those ashes were very sharp glassy and about half a centimeter in diameter.

  21. Definitely one of those “do you remember where you were when……” moments. Obviously sounds like something you will never forget and I’m glad that you are using your Springfield to hold on to those memories creatively. As for me, I was at the tender age of eleven and not world weary. Living in the Midwest at the time of the eruption , the only real memory I have is that it was possible to purchase a novelty bag of “Mt St. Helens ash”.

  22. I have seen Mount Etna during an eruption. It must have been a BIG one. The local newspaper screamed ERUZIONE from the front page.
    Walked on the edge of Mount Vulcano. It took almost two hours to come full circle.
    Stromboli was very active.

    • Very cool! I flew over St. Helens a few days after it happened in a small private plane. It looked like the moon…

      I have seen one other in Hawaii on the big island…but that is more of a slow oooooze.

  23. wordsleadmeon

    I wouldn’t be alive for another 11 months but I do remember stories of my parents’ friends talking about ash from Mt. St. Helens covering cars up here on Central Vancouver Island. I had no idea the shape was once so similar to Mt. Fuji so thanks for the post. Always fun learning random things like that.

  24. Yes, I remember the day St. Helen’s blew. We were living about 20 miles southeast of Seattle. Could see the plume from our apartment. Luckily, we did not get much of the ash. But people in eastern WA will tell how the sky turned black in mid-day, and lots of ash everywhere.

    And, thank you for the restraint in not going all political. So much of that everywhere, it is nice to have a reprieve.

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