Thursday, December 4, 2008


It was the summer of 1978, just out of college, with the opportunity to apply what I had spent four years studying in school, including my budding interest in volcanology. I had a summer job working for the USGS mapping an ore body in the Cascade Mountains just north of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. This was a dream come true in that we were mapping volcanic rocks in the shadow of a beautiful, ice clad cone that was to vanish in the near future. Days were spent trudging up vegetation-choked mountainsides in search of visible rock to map, describe and sample. Lush old growth forests of Douglas fir and cedar, dripping with moisture. Pulling oneself up the slippery creek bottoms by grabbing hold of the plants in front of me, avoiding the tall, thorn studded devils club that had the nasty habit catching and hitting one from above or behind. Finding shortcuts through the thicket by climbing atop giant downed tress and using them as walkways. Getting disoriented in the old growth wilderness on the valley floor, spending the night huddled amidst giant roots wearing everything I had to keep out the chill. Quiet introspective moments sitting atop mountain ridges, looking out above cloud filled valleys at the nearby towering peaks of St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt, Rainier, their jackets of ice glowing pink in the light of a setting sun. I couldn't believe they were paying me money to do this!

Pre eruption Mount Saint Helens, 1978

This was the summer I drove an old military issue jeep along a multitude of logging roads, through canyons of green, learning how to drive a stick shift for the first time. Back in the small town of Randle I’d spend the early evening hanging out at the nearby bridge over Silver Creek where the local kids would gather to court one another. One blond haired kid had a black Trans Am, he and his girlfriend hanging out at the bridge making out. His car had an 8-track player in which he'd play Van Halen's first album, released a few months earlier. I distinctly remember hanging out by the bridge on warm summer evenings listening to Runnin' With The Devil and Jamie's Cryin', drinking a little beer. It was the best summer EVER in my life. That's why good feelings well up and fill my heart everytime I listen to Van Halen, fond memories of my fun times during the summer of '78.

Silver Brook Road, Silver Brook WA

Short minutes are squandered
Carefree seasons become years
Forgot that it ends
Silver Creek, Silver Brook, WA

Happens so quickly
Life plays out before his wide eyes
If he only knew
Green River valley north of Mt. St. Helens, WA: the trees were all flattened in the 1980 eruption.

Somewhere on the north flank of Mt. Venus. This forest was flattened in the 1980 eruption.

No explanation necessay.

I flew into Portland on the evening of December 3rd, renting a car and spending a little time with a friend before I turned the wheel and headed north into Washington, back to the town of Randle to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of that distant summer, the beginning of Van Halen. Took winding Highway 12 east, driving through the damp foggy night, white frost having coated the grass and trees alongside the road. I tried looking for a campsite along the Cowlitz River south of Randle but no good turnouts were available. Drove higher into the hills and down dark logging roads, finding a nice parking spot amidst towering douglas fir trees at about 1:30 a.m. This was the moment I was waiting for! Out came the tequila, CD player and headphones.

Red strobe lights flashing
Glimpse the wing through the darkness
Engines ceaseless drone

A plane ride away
To nineteen seventy eight
Visits for one hour

The two lane highway
Blindly passing in the dark
Cold fog rolling in

Brown leaves that glisten
Wet from the recent shower
Inhales cold night air

Wet autumn fir trees
Like black columns rise up
Bright stars shine above

On this momentous occasion I chose Van Halen's May 29, 1978 concert in Ipswich, England, identified as a "second source". An excellent soundboard recording. You can't get any better than this from that time period! Van Halen opens for Black Sabbath, stoking the crowd with their perfect performance and Dave's jive talk between songs. It is clear the audience really enjoys them, hoping for more after their eleventh song. I was hoping it would go on too.

The combination of an excellent recording and being in the right location pushed me far over the top. This was one of the most high flying evenings I've ever had when it comes to my virtual concerts (even some of the real ones!). I was soaring to their music for the short time it lasted. I'm not sure what I played after it came to an end, hoping to keep the momentum going for a short time longer. Eventually exhaustion engulfed me and I crawled in the back of the rental vehicle (Ford Escape) to my sleeping bag. I was in "bed" sometime shortly before 4.a.m.

Lost all track of time
Leaps into the vortex, falling
Bottle rolls from hand

Times edges are blurred
Was it then or is it now?
Lost in the moment

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