Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Summer?

 
I thought that I would just take this time to remind everyone that it is still summer.  Although this rain is very welcome to the parched ground, we will see the sun again very soon (hopefully).
 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Volunteer Picnics Recap

The volunteer picnics have come and gone, and we would like to extend a big THANK YOU to all who participated in these events.  We saw something falling from the sky for the Longmire Volunteer Picnic (our best guess is that it was...rain) and we were able to shift everything inside next to the roaring fire within the Community Building.  As for the Sunrise Volunteer Picnic, we were much dryer, though it was much colder, with temperatures in the mid 40's for most of the day.  We had great turn-outs at both events, and we thank all of the volunteers that could make it and those of you who could not.
 
 
 
Thank you!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

MRNPA's Trails Project in August


The weather in Paradise was stellar for the Mount Rainier National Park Associates' trail party on August 15th.  The morning started off with temperatures climbing just above freezing, and by the time the group reached their project site high on the Skyline Trail, everyone found themselves in a cloud.  But this did not deter this batch of volunteers from getting the job done.

The project they were tasked with was to straighten out some of the large boulders along this rocky portion of the Skyline Trail, as well as creating some new steps along the path to make it much easier for the thousands of visitors who hike that trail every year. 

Following the day of trail work, the volunteers of the MRNPA retired to the Longmire Stewardship Campground for their annual potluck dinner, with a cornucopia of food and drinks. 

The next MRNPA work party will be their "Reveg" event on September 12.  For more information or to register for the event, visit www.mrnpa.org .

Washington Trail Association's Back Country Response Teams

Continuing the amazing partnership Mount Rainier National Park and the Washington Trails Association share, the WTA had two Back Country Response Teams share their trails maintenance experiencefor a week at a time while hiking deep into the wilderness of Mount Rainier and setting up camp in a cross-country zone on Emerald Ridge.  In addition to having some pretty amazing views of Mount Rainier and some grand sunsets in the western sky, both crews completed a much needed reroute of the Wonderland Trail that will be used for years to come. 






For more information on the Washington Trails Association's projects and how you can participate, visit www.wta.org
 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Washington Trails Association's Youth Volunteer Vacations

Throughout the month of August, the Washington Trails Association has hosted two Volunteer Vacations for youth from all around the West Coast. 
 


The group, before a game following their lunch break.
 

Through this program, the WTA provides an amazing experience for high school students aged 14-18 including camping and trails projects.  This year, both groups have been based out of the White River Campground and have been primarily focused on the Glacier Basin Trail, with other projects mixed in. 
For some, this was their first time ever stepping foot in Mount Rainier National Park, while for others, they grew up under the gaze of the mountain.  But, for all, they now have a special connection to the park through their hard work and determination while volunteering through the WTA.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Meadow Rovers Hard at Work

 
 
The group of volunteers that don the volunteer patch and their radios, known as the Meadow Rovers, have been hard at work throughout this elongated Summer season.  A big thank you goes out to all of you who have donated your time and your talents at protecting the resources around Paradise and Sunrise through Meadow Roving, and another thank you to those of you who are still planning on coming out deep into the late summer months.
 
 
 

Photo credit for both of the pictures featured here goes to our Meadow Rover, Ed Hunds, and were taken while on patrol in mid-July.  If you have pictures you have taken while Meadow Roving, we'd love to see them!  Send them to ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov and you may see them posted on the Volunteer Blog!

 

Friday, August 21, 2015

MRNPA Revegetation Project September 12

The annual Mount Rainier National Park Associates meadow revegetation work party will be Saturday, September 12th.  MRNPA volunteers will again be assisting the Mount Rainier ecological restoration crew in planting wildflower seedlings, working to convert a historic campground area near Sunrise back into alpine meadows.

Be prepared for almost any fall weather.  In the past we have experienced everything from warm and sunny days to a driving blizzard.  In addition to your sun hat, sunscreen, and your rain gear, bring a lunch, plenty of fluids to drink, gardening gloves, and a hand digging tool you like to use.  If you have no gardening tools, the NPS will provide small hand tools.  Most of the day you will be working on your hands and knees to do the planting, so you should bring some kind of protection for your knees. The pads available at your local gardening retailer work for most people.  The work site is about a mile hike from the Sunrise parking lot, so plan on carrying everything you need to and from the work site.

If you plan to join the MRNPA volunteers on Saturday, September 12th, for this meadow revegetation work party, please reply to volunteer(at)mrnpa.org confirming that you are coming and indicating the number of volunteers that you will bringing with you.

Free camping for volunteers is available in the White River Campground on the evenings of Friday, September 11th, and/or Saturday, September 12th. To reserve a site, contact ian_harvey(at)partner.nps.gov  NO LATER THAN September 5th, and indicate that you will be participating in the MRNPA Reveg work party, which nights you want to camp, and how many tents sites you will need.

(Condensed from an email from John Titland)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not just another day at the office

One of the things I love about working in a National Park is that every day is different, and our dynamic landscape is always changing. Thus, when one of my summer interns, Yonit Yogev, a graduate student at The Evergreen State College, turned out to be the first ranger on scene when a debris flow came down Tahoma Creek last week, my first thought was to have her write down her experience for this blog. I hear from volunteers every week about the interesting things that happen to them and the wonderful things they encounter along the trail. But it will take a while to top this one. - Kevin Bacher, Volunteer Program Manager

Mount Rainier is a geologically active area.  Signs of rock fall, past debris flows, braided rivers full of glacial flour, and even the occasional sound of distant rock falling are all clear reminders of just how active the mountain really is.  Volunteering here over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of hearing lectures by and going on guided walks with park scientists and geologists, heard their stories and about their research.  They always emphasize (and so I placed firmly on the back-burner of my mind) the warnings about quickly finding higher ground if I were ever to hear loud rumbling that sounds like an oncoming train.

On August 13, late in the morning I headed out to do an ‘attended listening’ session on the Tahoma Creek Trail for the park’s Soundscape Project.  This research records and confirms background noise levels at strategic places in the park. As I drove up the Westside Road—thought to be the most geologically active and dangerous area of the park at present—I brought the warnings of rumbling trains to the forefront of my thoughts. I was awed and humbled by the signs of recent geologic activity which landed truck-sized boulders onto the road and left many others in precarious positions on the remaining landslide.  Thinking I should not stay in that area for long—though it’s so fascinating one may be compelled to just stare at it for a long while—I continued the drive up the road to the trailhead.  On the way, I ran into and briefly talked with two hiking parties—one of about 5 adults, and the other a couple. 

I arrived at the trailhead, turned the truck around and parked it.  As I got out and prepared to get onto the trail, I heard what sounded like very loud helicopters overhead.  The noise continued for some time.  I had read an email about helicopter traffic, so at first didn’t worry too much, though I thought it sounded awfully loud.  Of course, in the back of my head, the warning signs were waving red flags.  I decided to wait out the noise before beginning the hike.  (That decision turned out to be key to keeping me out of harm’s way!)  After a couple of minutes or so, it became louder and louder and clearly turned into rumbling, accompanied by the sounds of trees being knocked over and the roaring of the river getting louder as well.  At this point, I finally was quite sure we were dealing with a debris flow, so previously having backed the truck further uphill, I got myself to higher ground and watched and waited, heart thumping, and head shaking in disbelief at my mixed luck!

As I watched, a large flash flood of water, mixed with mud, rock and debris washed over the road.  It looked to be about a foot or foot and a half high, and washed away part of the road on the far side where it flowed over into a shallow ravine.  After a few minutes it subsided and I felt safe enough to come back down to the road; I called dispatch on the radio, and took pictures with my phone.  Then I saw the couple coming up (they had been on the way to the trail as well).  I turned them around, explaining what had just happened.  They reported witnessing lots of large trees being washed down-river.  I then realized I should report all the visitors I had seen to dispatch. 

Eventually, two rangers and Scott, the park geologist, came up and there was discussion about closing roads and trails and making sure all the hikers were accounted for.

On the one hand, this was an incredibly rare thing to get to see, and it was unbelievably exciting.  On the other hand, of course it was rather nerve-wracking, though I would have loved to have been allowed to go up in the helicopter to scope out the source—the Tahoma Glacier, where an event of this sort was expected to occur at some point this summer.  I learned that when it happens, there are usually several waves, and indeed we heard another two while we were standing there, though the subsequent ones were not high enough to wash over the road again.  At some point earlier, another volunteer who was higher up the mountain was able to get to the suspension bridge and provided ongoing, real-time information about what the river was doing, and at least twice he mentioned further rumbling and rises in the water level.  Indeed a couple of times we heard increasing noise from the river, up to the level of rumbling, but not as severe as when I initially heard it. 

We never knowingly put ourselves in harm’s way, but with a mountain as geologically active as this one, this was a heart-thumping reminder that these things really do occur, really can be dangerous, and that you can never be too careful when you’re out hiking the trails or wilderness.  The beauty is jaw-dropping, but it is rugged and unstable, and it pays to always keep those warnings on the front-burner when venturing out in this region.

- Yonit Yogev, Volunteer and Outreach Intern, The Evergreen State College

Post-script:  As my mind processed this event over the course of the evening, I remembered that the evening before, I had been to see a screening of the documentary “Chasing Ice,” about James Balog’s incredible Extreme Ice Survey.  In this decade-long project, they have set up cameras on over 20 sites on glaciers around the world.  The resulting footage documents in a jaw-dropping, ‘in your face’ manner, the degree and speed of glacier recession around the world.  If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely MUST.  This is a powerful film about the urgency of climate change.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Walk-Up Trails Projects at Paradise

 
Every Friday and Saturday for the remainder of the summer, Kevin Watson of the Paradise Trails Crew will be accepting volunteers to work for a few hours on the trails in the Paradise area.  Trail work may include heavy lifting and strenuous work, so be aware of this before signing up.  You can meet Kevin at the steps behind the Jackson Visitor's Center at 9:00am on Fridays or Saturdays, and he will supply the tools and training needed to make a great impact.  Make sure to bring a lunch with you, as well as plenty of water.  If you have any questions or you want to bring a group out for a days worth of trail work, please contact Kevin_J_Watson@nps.gov for more information.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lantern Bearers Needed!



We are still looking to sign-up volunteers to carry lanterns for the "Shadows of the Past" living history presentation on Saturday, August 22 at Longmire.  Contact Anne_Spillane(at)nps.gov if you want to help with the 8:30 PM, 8:50 PM, 9:10 PM, or 9:30 PM walk (please specify your preference).

Volunteers and staff in costumes will portray important individuals from the park’s past.  The early story of Mount Rainier and the National Park service from 1883 through 1916 will be told. Lead Rangers will guide groups along the Trail of the Shadows in Longmire. Historical figures will emerge from the darkness while volunteers with lanterns illuminate the scenes! Each program lasts about 80 minutes.