Thursday, July 19, 2007

Field Notes

Things are now humming along smoothly with Mount Rainier's volunteer program. Our long-term summer volunteers are comfortably trained and working wonders alongside their counterparts in green-and-grey; and our partnership with the Student Conservation Association is paying off with large numbers of public volunteers and volunteer hours. Many of the trails are being repaired, and the flood recovery map maintained by the Washington Trails Association has more and more blue markers on it every day.

In fact, we're hearing from visitors, more and more, that they don't see what the problem is, because so little of last winter's storm damage is still obvious to the casual eye. Our road crews patched up mileposts 5 and 9 to the point where you can't tell the road was undermined a few months ago. The Kautz Creek bridge looks a little odd with barely a trickle of water flowing under it, but the new 12-foot culverts a quarter mile to the east look like they've always handled the full flow of the river. Major damage remains on Highway 123, but a long stretch of the road remains closed entirely to public traffic while an estimated 1600 loads of rock are delivered by massive trucks to fill the gaping holes in the road. The West Side Road and Carbon River Road are also off limits to cars, and no one knows yet when that will change, if ever.

You can't hike up Highway 123 for safety reasons, but a short walk up the West Side Road, Carbon River Road, or any of a dozen trails in the park would remind any visitor of the serious damage that still remains. Trail crews and volunteers are hard at work rebuilding major sections of the Wonderland Trail below Cougar Rock, in Stevens Canyon, and both east and south from Carbon River. The Glacier Basin and East Side Trails remain heavily damaged despite more than a month of work.

Our calendar remains full of vital projects that need help from volunteers. The same thing is true at Olympic and North Cascades National Parks, Mount St. Helens, and on all of our local National Forests. It's important to keep the momentum going, so that as much repair can be done as possible before the next winter's storms move in, starting just a few short months from now.
And so, thank you to all of the great volunteers who have helped so far. (I've posted several dozen new pictures on our photo page of flood recovery volunteers in action--high quality, suitable for publication--so check them out!) A big thanks especially to those volunteers who keep coming back. Jean Millan, you're awesome--eight volunteer projects so far this summer, and counting! Mary Jane Wiley, you and your garden club are such an inspiration to our interpreters at the Jackson Visitor Center, who all want to grow up to be just like you and spend their retirement years roving the meadows at Paradise! Jack Leicester, I heard from someone yesterday who'd seen you on the trail at Sunrise, and was inspired by your dedication to give me a call and offer to volunteer. Flash Parlini, I know you're out there at Carbon River, helping visitors almost every week on the trails, in your quiet and unassuming way. John Titland, your Mount Rainier Associates group has been such a help to our trail crews this year, and Washington Trails Associates, the same goes for you too! And, of course, to our Student Conservation Association volunteers, including our dedicated Rainier Recovery Corps, you are truly amazing. You're breaking new ground, both literally and figuratively, for our volunteer program, and giving more and more people all the time a chance to have a great experience participating in making Mount Rainier a great National Park.
There are others too, of course, but if I listed everyone, it would be too long to read! I even saw a "Flat Stanley" here at Longmire today, and I'm sure I saw him pick up a rake and do a little trail maintenance as he hiked the Trail of the Shadows... Next time one shows up, I'm going to try to get a photograph for the blog. There's plenty of room for you out there, too, and we have lots of new projects on our calendar, including some family-oriented projects restoring the historic Longmire Campground, which we hope to turn into a great place for volunteers to camp while they're here serving in the park.

Plan now for the stories you'll be telling your grandkids: that you were here when it all happened!

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