MOUNT ST. HELENS, Wash. (AP) – Konrad Hegner has found himself with a minor addiction.

Last Friday, the 34-year-old Swiss tourist decided to visit Mount St. Helens, hoping to witness an eruption before heading to Mount Rainier and continuing on his travels. He has been here every day since – even when clouds obscured the crater – and is not sure when he’ll leave.

“It’s like a magnet,” Hegner said. “There’s always a question: Will it erupt today? The first eruption last Friday was so huge, so powerful, and I felt so close to it.”

The recent reawakening of the 8,634-foot mountain has similarly affected many people. They are afraid to miss the big eruption scientists have anticipated but now warn may not happen for weeks or months, if at all.

“I gotta be here,” said Ken Marshall, who left his wife at home in Valley Springs, Calif. “Back in ‘80, I kept talking about coming up but never did. I wouldn’t miss it this time.”

Dave Brown, a 62-year-old novelist from Providence, R.I., looked from an observation deck toward a thicket of clouds in the volcano’s direction Wednesday. Binoculars and a camera dangled uselessly from his neck.

“It’s close – it’s so close,” said Brown, who had been visiting in Seattle and arrived at the mountain over the weekend. “It’s all about nature. This is natural history.”

Not everyone who made the trip has been so impressed. After detouring about 60 miles on a road trip from Ballwin, Mo., to Seattle, Sharon Mackie looked at the clouds Wednesday and had little to say beyond, “This stinks.”

At the other end of the spectrum was Mathias Van Hesemans, who pulled into the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center parking lot Sunday in a station wagon bearing California plates: VOL K NO.

A landscape photography professor at West Valley College near San Jose, he asked his colleagues to cover his classes for the week. Van Hesemans, 58, has long been a volcano nut.

“It’s the beauty, the power, the energy of the Earth. It has that macabre mystery to it – the birth of land and also the destruction of it. For me, volcanoes are just very magnetic.”

In the 1970s, he moved to Hawaii to be near the volcanoes there.

In 1983, he had a helicopter drop him off in the crater of Mount St. Helens. As he photographed the moonscape around him, the lava dome in the crater erupted – twice. They were minor blasts but enough to cover him with ash and force him to take cover in a snow cave.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.