Thursday, December 27, 2007

Outdoors All-Stars!

From The News Tribune (photo from their site, by photographer Janet Jensen):

"As we like to remind you at this time each year, the best adventures are your own adventures. With that in mind, we are honoring 1,727 of you as our 2007 Adventurers of the Year. That’s one high-altitude Mount Everest rescuer, one blind mountain climber, one man who bagged Rainier for the 300th time, and 1,724 volunteers who helped put Mount Rainier National Park back together after the flood of 2006."

Check out the complete story on the TNT website... and congratulations, all of you!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

More SAR photos

Members of Tacoma, Seattle, Olympic, Everett, and Central Mountain Rescue wait for their morning briefing at the Emergency Operations Center:

Volunteer search personnel listen to a briefing from park ranger Steve Klump:

Members of Seattle Mountain Rescue prepare for a day of searching:

In all, 32 volunteers from Mountain Rescue units around the state are helping with the search this morning, including 7 from Tacoma, 6 from Seattle, 5 from Olympic, 7 from Everett, and 7 from Central Mountain Rescue. They are assisting 6 national park rangers, and 2 employees and a search dog from Crystal Mountain Ski Area.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

SAR Photos

Here are some images from the search for Kirk Reiser yesterday at Paradise, with the help of volunteers from Tacoma, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue. All photos are courtesy of Mike Gauthier, who has been serving as Incident Commander for this search.

NPS Rangers, assisted by Tacoma and Olympic Mountain Rescue volunteers, employees from Crystal Mountain Ski Area, and avalanche search dogs prepare to go out in the field:

Ranger Stefan Lofgren evaluates a test pit to assess avalanche danger:

Remember, the most up to date information about the status of the search, including our plans for tomorrow, are available by calling the main park number and dialing "9." Keep an eye, also, on the weather and avalanche forecasts for tomorrow. We'll be gathering for tomorrow's search starting at 6 a.m.

Mountain Rescue Volunteers

If you've been watching the local news over the past 24 hours, you might have seen me wearing one of my other park service hats: that of Public Information Officer. Two days ago, a young man from Lynnwood was caught in a snow avalanche while snowshoeing with a friend about a mile above Paradise. The search for him reached a peak at mid-day yesterday, when a total of 17 people were out looking for him in the midst of a vigorous winter storm. Eight of those people were dedicated volunteers from Tacoma, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue, three of our most important partner organizations. (Uncharacteristically, these are volunteers that we'd prefer not to have to call!) They started showing up at 7am yesterday morning and worked hard until dark, in 20 degree weather plus high winds and sometimes whiteout conditions, finally heading for home about 5:00. (The Seattle Post Intelligencer has a great picture of the Olympic volunteers coming in from the field, thumbnailed and linked above, along with a detailed article about the search.)

The weather, unfortunately, did not cooperate for us to search further today. We got 15.5 inches of snow at Paradise last night, and the visibility and avalanche danger never improved enough to accomplish, safely, more than what we were already able to do yesterday. Tomorrow's weather looks better, and so we hope to be back out in the field searching, again with the help of our friends from Mountain Rescue. It's just another example of what we wouldn't be able to accomplish without the help of our volunteers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 was quite the year for trails

Today's Washington Trail News, an e-mail newsletter from the Washington Trails Association, has lots of great information about hiking and snowshoeing during the winter. A lot of it is also available on their website, including a feature on snowshoeing at Mount Rainier, trip reports from Rainier and elsewhere, and a summary of WTA's most productive year ever, thanks to the thousands of you who volunteered to help with trail maintenance and storm repair at places like Mount Rainier and our surrounding forests!

Conservation Internships and Recovery Posters

A couple of quick news items:

We will soon be posting advertisements on the Student Conservation Association's website for next summer's Conservation Internships. I'll keep you posted as we decide which positions to advertise, but you'll already find next year's interpretive internship at Sunrise advertised. These are great opportunities for short-term positions with loads of job experience, ideal for college students. Check our website for a list of the kinds of positions we filled last year.

I spoke yesterday with Jay Satz at SCA, who said that he had the proof of our Mount Rainier Recovery posters on his desk, which are, in his words, "drop-dead gorgeous." We've asked for one minor tweak to the design, and should have the posters in hand in about a week or so. Watch for an announcement shortly asking for help with a mailing party after the holidays to get the posters out to all of our volunteers

Also pending: announcement in the next day or two of a major donation by a prominent local corporation in support of our volunteer program and its partners...

I've gotten lots of volunteer applications in the past few weeks. Thank you to all who are interested in joining us or returning next year! Remember, there isn't much going on during the winter, but volunteer opportunities will expand exponentially as soon as the snow starts melting in May and June. Make your plans now, and we'll look forward to working with you come summer, if not before.

And finally: in the Fall/Winter issue of the National Parks Conservation Association's Northwest Regional Office Field Report (it's probably been out for ages but I just discovered it), a great article called "Helping Rainier Recovery: A Volunteer's Perspective," by NPCA volunteer Sylvia Williamson. "As one of 115 volunteers at Mount Rainier on Public Lands Day, I was delighted to volunteer for the Pyramid Creek Sherpa Project..." Thanks, Sylvia!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our roads need a fix

From the blog of the Northwest Interpretive Association:

"....Olympic National Park faired no better. The popular Hurricane Ridge road is closed due to shoulder damage - from lessons learned from last year's storm and Mt Rainier, a road may appear drivable but the shoulder may be undercut. Also closed because of the storm are the Heart o' the Hills campground, the Sol Duc road, the Hoh road and the Quinault roads.

"Again, the call for volunteers goes out to the northwest. Such a great response was made last year to get Mt Rainier re-opened, that we hope this year will also see people pitching in for public lands."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hunter fined for killing park elk

This from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"An Arlington man sentenced Thursday in federal court for killing an elk in Mount Rainier National Park was ordered to pay $3,000 in fines and serve a year of probation, a federal official said Friday.... A park volunteer found an adult elk's remains Nov. 6, 2004."

Rangers used DNA analysis to link the elk to the poacher. Good work, rangers and volunteers!

Surveying the damage

The Washington Trails Association's blog, "The Signpost," has a good roundup of the flood damage reports from, as writer Andrew Engelson says, "our annual 100-year storm." A short exerpt:

"In terms of mountain roads and trails, the Olympics were perhaps hardest hit. The latest from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest is that the Quinault area has suffered extensive damage. Most of the roads in the area are closed due to washouts and numerous blowdowns, including Graves Creek, the North Shore Quinault Road, and much of the South Shore Quinault Road. According to Pete Urban, with Olympic National Forest, just about every trail in the vicinity of Lake Quinault Lodge has many, many blown-down trees."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Field Notes

Here's a random assortment of current news and links related to volunteering:

Flood Recovery: Here's a great story in The Olympian about volunteer efforts in response to the flooding around Chehalis, including information about how you can help through the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties. See also this report, from The Oregonian.

Olympic Flooding: Olympic National Park now has a page for reporting the current status of roads and trails in the park, which also includes some impressive photos of their flood damage. It's all eerily familiar to those of us at Rainier who went through this last winter. I spoke with Maggie Tyler, the volunteer coordinator there, a couple of days ago. They have many roads washed out or undermined, a lot of their trails are buried by snow and so we won't know until spring how much they were affected, hundreds of trees came down, the entrance station at Hoh Rainforest was flooded, and at the peak of the flood, the Elwah River came just barely short of overflowing its dam. Current details are in the December 13 edition of the National Park Service's Morning Report.

Flood Science: Last winter, volunteer Scott Beason and others surveyed the effects of the flooding on Mount Rainier National Park. Along with park geomorphologist Paul Kennard, he has now published his final report on what he learned, and it's fascinating reading. Right-click this link to download a copy of "Environmental and ecological implications of aggradation in braided rivers at Mount Rainier National Park."

Next Summer at Rainier: In other news, planning for next summer's volunteer program continues well. Jill Baum and I have met with several park supervisors, and we're all excited about next year's program, which will be similar to this year's but with volunteer coordinators "embedded" in some of the park's key programs. We've gotten good feedback, suggestions, and questions, and are fine-tuning plans, even as we begin hiring for next summer's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps! If you know of anyone who might be interested in applying, send them our way! We're also working hard on putting together an exciting schedule of volunteer training opportunities in May and June, including NPS volunteer management, Leave No Trace, Risk Management, CPR, Wilderness First Aid, work skills, and NPS Orientation. Should be a fun summer!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Notes from San Diego

As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent two days last week near San Diego, attending and presenting at the Pacific West and Alaska Regional Superintendent's Conference. I want to share some of my notes from the conference, which was insightful and interesting on a long list of topics, including volunteerism, outreach, and partnerships.

The panel I was part of presented on Wednesday morning, for an audience of about two dozen superintendents from Alaska, Washington, and California. My co-presenters were Mandy Vance, Program Manager of Wildlink Yosemite; Michael Richardson, Program Director of the James P. Beckwourth Mountain Club in Denver; and Saul Weisberg, Executive Director of the North Cascades Institute. Together, they represented about thirty years of experience working in partnership with the National Park Service and other public agencies. We each introduced ourselves and our programs, then opened it up for discussion of issues, challenges, and ideas. Many of the superintendents had excellent questions or stories to share from their own experiences. It seems that the two most important issues we need to address, to make such partnerships more common, are 1) the culture of the National Park Service, and 2) funding. NPS culture is an issue because, historically, we haven't done much with partners. We're traditionally a very independent agency, one that has a singular mission, and populated by very independent individuals. Yet experiences such as ours this summer at Rainier have demonstrated how productive and rewarding partnerships can be. Our culture is changing to be more accepting of partnerships, but slowly and cautiously. One of the panelists, who works with multiple government agencies, says that the BLM is currently more open to working with educational non-profits than any other agency. Successful programs have both an agency champion and a non-agency champion. Without both, the partnership tends to fail. But the most successful programs transcend individuals by becoming "owned" and embedded in the culture of the park. "Find a common mission," said the superintendent of Golden Gate. Get together, find out what the barriers are, and work to overcome them. Don't give up before you start.

Funding, of course, is always an issue, and will be here at Rainier, too, as flood-related funding dwindles. Our groups draw on endowments, grants, earned income, and other sources to fund their programs, and invest significant resources into pursuing the funding necessary to keep them going. They lament that it's often easier to get funding for new programs than to sustain existing ones, though individual and corporate donors help. There are some existing sources of funding that we can draw on creatively, like cyclic maintenance funds.

Mr. Richardson commented that one of the major challenges he has faced as an African-American is building relationships between diverse cultural communities and national parks, especially when those cultures are underrepresented in the staff of those parks, or when "traditional" national park activities like hiking and camping are not common activities within those cultures. Yet programs like the Mountain Club, or the education program at Golden Gate, can provide opportunities for youth to engage in natural areas in new ways; and, in turn, national parks can reach out to diverse communities through non-profits and other groups that already serve those communities. "You have to reach out," he said, and once you do, the relationship will continue as long as you continue to provide a positive experience.

It takes time and commitment to cultivate partnership relationships, but they pay off. Youth programs, like the three non-profits on our panel, thrive on working with people who are passionate about their jobs. And ultimately, we have to cultivate the stewardship that created our parks in the first place--it's critical to the future health of our parks.

Other sessions included Lynn Scarlet, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, who stressed that the issues we face in the national parks transcend our borders, making partnerships and collaboration increasingly necessary. Technology is also changing rapidly, and we need to adapt the ways that we use it in order to keep up with our audience. Sustainable solutions, she said, will spring from collaboration and adaptive management, and agency managers are working on new policies to make partnerships easier--for example, giving superintendents more discretion and local authority for managing donation money, and relaxing some of the rules for competetion in cases where the goals of a partnership are not competitive--for example, when the goal is youth involvement rather than profit.

Dr. Robert W. Corell spoke about "Our Changing Climate: Issues for the NPS." I wish I could find a copy of his PowerPoint presentation to link to for you, because it was incredibly persuasive. He spoke in depth about the science of climate change--how the information is gathered, how it's analyzed, how it's tested. He made a very persuasive argument that the past 10,000 years of climate history have been unusually stable, which may have been a major factor in the development of modern civilization. After ten millenia, though, the levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane in our atmosphere are all up sharply.

Oceans are a major factor in shaping our climate. They account for 87% of the world's evaporation and, therefore, heat exchange. 90% of the energy from the sun goes into the ocean. We can model the affects of natural influences on ocean temperatures, and we can model those affects as supplemented by human influences--and the actual data measured around the world tracks with the latter models to a confidence greater than 95%. Oceans are also significant because the phytoplanktons living in them form the foundation of many of our planet's ecosystems. Increasing carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans increases its acidity, and that in turn impedes the phytoplankton's ability to form cellular structures. Based on measurements in the field, we're already seeing the trend moving in that direction.

Arctic ice is another harbinger of change, and incredibly, we're now seeing arctic ice melting significantly faster than computer models predicted. The extent of ice in September of this year was only half as great as it was in 1950, and the models now say that by 2040, give or take a decade, there will be no Arctic ice in September. The melt area on Greenland increased 20% from 1979 to 2005--and the decline is accellerating. This isn't seen as entirely negative by everyone--for instance, Russia is now building ships designed to take advantage of shorter routes through the arctic than are currently available through the Suez Canal. Furthermore, 25% of the world's petroleum reserves are estimated to be in the Arctic. The problem is, the Arctic is full of boundary disputes, and there are few mechanisms in place for resolving them.

Climate change usually has multiple effects. Warmer temperatures mean higher oceans, not just due to melting ice but also due to thermal expansion. Melting permafrost and longer summer storm seasons have increase erosion along the coast of Alaska. The longer, warmer seasons have also contributed to an infestation of bark beetles, whose larvae survive better in the warmer soil and now complete three larvae cycles per year instead of two.

Sobering stuff.

Wednesday morning's plenary session by Dayton Duncan, partner of Ken Burns, was more upbeat. He's working on a 12-hour, 6-episode documentary about the national parks, currently titled "Our Common Treasure: The Story of the National Parks." Three random quotes from his presentation: The story of national parks is "a story as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence, and, I would say, just as radical," especially in its intention of preserving parks for everyone, not just a particular class of people. The story of national parks, he says, "is not about places--it's about people who became passionate about places." And finally, his greatest concern is that Americans have become complacent, thinking that the parks have always been there and that they are "self-perpetuating," when in reality, they require passionate advocacy today as much as ever. He ended by showing us about ten minutes of rough footage from the documentary, which, of course, was awesome.

The last session I attended was presented by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. He's been working for years on the issue of what he calls "nature deficit disorder." Kids today are demonstrably less connected to natural places than any other previous generation. If this disconnect continues, he says, where will future stewards and political support come from? Kids today increasingly think of nature as something intellectual (a National Geographic special or magazine feature on global warming), or a commodity (an otter on a t-shirt), rather than as an experience. Schools teach great things about the big ecological picture, but provide few opportunities for personal experience in nature. The human child in nature, he says, may be more of an "indicator species" than spotted owls.

Studies show--and this matches my own personal experience--that most of us who work in the field of conservation have special places we remember from childhood. They may not be great national parks, but just a vacant lot or woods near our home (for me, it was the local mill race, the railroad right-of-way, and the field edges behind our church). Studies also show significant connections between experience in nature and overall health--in areas like stress, obesity, and attention deficit disorders. Schools with outdoor programs score better on tests. Finland has the most outdoor education in the world--and the best test scores. Kids with natural play areas tend to play more creatively and collaboratively--even when compared to kids who participate in organized sports.

But this is an intrinsically hopeful issue. There's lots we can do, and broad support for doing something. And in comparison with the negative messages we're bombarded with constantly--for instance, how bleak the future looks due to global warming--this is a positive message. Based on the science, preservation of land is now a public health issue. While some may worry about the "risks" of nature, the risks from a lack of nature are even greater. And there are all kinds of things we can do, from local land management decisions to the landscaping of yards and businesses, to thinking about natural areas within urban areas as connected to one another than than as isolated pockets--a "Decentral Park," if you will.

A lot of this has nothing--directly--to do with volunteerism. And yet, it's all part of why we do what we do, isn't it? And it's tremendous food for thought as we shape volunteer programs that engage both adults and children with natural places.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Floods roundup

I'm back from San Diego, which is an odd place to be, in sunny 70 degree weather, when your home state is drowning under floods. It's strange to turn on CNN and see the lead story covering places just an hour from your home. Lots of folks have called or e-mailed me asking about the status of Mount Rainier National Park, so I apologize for being out of touch at this critical time. Here's a roundup of what's happened and where we stand.

Mount Rainier National Park seems to be fine. That could still change, as many wilder parts of the park are inaccessible at the moment due to winter snow, and we could find pockets of devastation when the snow melts in the spring. But so far, so good: all of our road and levee repairs held up well through the storm, with only minor erosion and some trees down. This storm was not nearly as bad as the one a year ago... for us at Mount Rainier. It was, of course, devastating for people in Chehalis, Tillamook, and other areas where the storm hit more directly, including Olympic National Park.

Storm stats: Acting Superintendent Roger Andrascik wrote on Tuesday morning: "The Nisqually River at National appears to have crested at 2200 hours Monday 12/3/07 at 11.37', below the predicted 11.8' and well below the historic 12.8' in 2006." Flood stage is 10 feet. Here's a link to the current streamflow data for the Nisqually River, and to the left you'll see a chart for the period of the storm. We got about 6 inches of rain in a little over 24 hours, far less than the 18 inches we got in 36 hours last year. Looks like maximum stream flow was about 9,480 cubic feet per second, compared with an average discharge of around 12,000 cfs on November 6, 2006. At 2pm on December 2nd (and for several hours before and after), Camp Muir was getting 95 mph sustained winds with gusts to 111 mph, before the wind station gave out that night.

Storm reports: Here's a summary report from the NPS Morning Report for December 5:

Mount Rainier – The park received 3.7 inches of rain in a 24-hour period on December 3rd. Despite continuous heavy rainfall throughout the park during the day and throughout the night, no significant damage was reported. Some flooding, mudslides, and runoff overtopping roadways occurred in local areas outside the park, causing hazardous driving conditions getting to and from Mount Rainier. An interdivisional planning team put contingency plans into effect in the event that the heavy rainfall began to affect the safety of visitors or employees. Non-essential employees were provided several hours of administrative leave in the afternoon to assist them in getting home to their families safely during daylight hours. The Nisqually River reached flood stage around 10 a.m. and continued to rise until it crested at 11.37 feet later that evening. As a comparison, the devastating flooding that occurred in the park a year earlier (November 6, 2006) crested at 12.8 ft. Roadway repairs, culvert improvements, and stream reinforcements constructed following the 2006 flood all survived this most recent event and performed as designed. The park returned to normal operations on the morning of December 4th.

Olympic fared worse (see also a similar report on their website):

Olympic NP – High winds and heavy rains dropped trees throughout the park and caused a record-breaking rise in the Elwha River. The river reached a record high level on Monday when it peaked at 24.65 feet, 4.65 feet above flood stage. The previous high stage was recorded in November 1949, when the river peaked at 24.2 feet at the McDonald Bridge gage. The river rose 14 feet in the 24 hours that preceded its record-setting stage. At the river’s peak stage, 32,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was flowing past the McDonald Bridge gage; 24 hours earlier, the flow was only 658 cfs. The river level began dropping yesterday, and was predicted to drop below flood stage by late afternoon.

On Tuesday, park crews began cutting their way through numerous downed trees in an effort to access park entrance roads, make damage assessments, and begin repairs to damage caused by the storm. Only Kalaloch was open yesterday, and the park was not recommending travel to that area. With Highway 101 closed at Lake Crescent and Highway 112 only recently reopened, staff have been challenged in reaching the park’s west side destinations. Yesterday morning, maintenance and ranger staff were ferried across Lake Crescent by boat in order to reach the area. The summary of known damage follows:

  • Elwha Dam – Shortly after the river hit its peak, floodwater began entering the Elwha Dam powerhouse. Bureau of Reclamation employees put Emergency Response Level 1 into effect, which is primarily a notification and preparation phase. All appropriate emergency contacts were notified. The next step would have been to evacuate the powerhouse, but this didn’t happen because the waters began to drop. Assessments on Tuesday revealed only minor damage to one of the log booms at the dam, which can easily be repaired. At the height of the flood, the operators were holding back some water behind the Glines Canyon Dam further up river, while all ten spill gates were open at the Elwha Dam.
  • Hurricane Ridge Road – Crews have cleared two rockslides from the road and are assessing possible damage to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Wind speeds of up to 86 miles an hour were recorded on the ridge on Monday. The Heart O’ the Hills campground remains closed due to earlier damage from a November 12th windstorm.
  • Elwha – The Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed at the park boundary as crews continue to assess flood damage. Rangers report that many sites in the Altair campground have been washed away by the high flows.
  • Lake Crescent – Highway 101 is closed around Lake Crescent between mileposts 222 and 232. The westbound lane of Highway 101 was severely damaged when a debris flow blocked a culvert and diverted water over the road about four miles west of Barnes Point.
  • Sol Duc Road – A mudslide 5 feet deep and 60 feet wide is covering the Sol Duc Road about a half-mile south of Salmon Cascades. Damage beyond that point has not yet been assessed.
  • Hoh Rain Forest – The Hoh Road is closed, with water flowing over the road at Snyder Creek within the park as well as outside the park boundary. Just over 14 inches of rain were recorded at the Hoh Visitor Center in the past 48 hours.
  • Mora – The Mora area remains closed pending damage assessments.
  • Quinault Rain Forest – Over seven inches of rain fell in the Quinault Valley between December 2nd and 3rd and high winds toppled many trees. The North Shore Quinault Road is closed by downed trees and electrical lines and crews are working today to reopen the road. The North Fork and Graves Creek Roads remain closed.
  • Ozette – The Hoko-Ozette is closed with downed trees and power lines.
    Dosewallips, Staircase and Queets Roads – The roads remain closed due to previous damage and unsafe conditions. The Deer Park Road is closed for the season.
Here's an update on Olympic from December 6 (and, again, you can see a similar report, with a picture, on their website):

The park continues to recover from the severe storm that struck the region earlier this week. As park crews gain access to roads and facilities, additional damage has been discovered in some areas, while other roads have reopened. Phone and electrical service are still out in the park’s western areas. A summary of known damage follows:
  • Hurricane Ridge Road – A major slide near the Switchback Trail brought mud, debris and water over the road. Once the slide was cleared, workers were able to spot several areas of extensive damage to the road shoulder along the downhill lane. The road will remain closed this weekend to allow crews to fully assess the damage and begin repairs. The Heart O’ the Hills campground is closed due to earlier damage from the November 12th windstorm.
  • Quinault Valley – The North Shore and South Shore Quinault Roads are closed due to downed trees and electrical lines. Crews are continuing to cut their way through the trees to reopen the roads. There is no electrical or phone service at Quinault. The North Fork and Graves Creek Roads remain closed and have not been assessed yet.
    Hoh Road – The Hoh Road is closed at its intersection with Highway 101. One lane of the road was washed out within Jefferson County; minor damage has also occurred within the park.
  • Elwha – The Olympic Hot Springs Road, the Whiskey Bend Road and Elwha campground have all reopened. Elwha Valley’s Altair campground was not as severely damaged as initially thought; receding floodwaters have revealed many sites to be damaged by the flooding, but no sites or structures were lost. The Altair campground is closed throughout the winter season.
  • Lake Crescent area – Highway 101 has reopened in the Lake Crescent area. Both the East Beach and Camp David Junior roads are open and cleared.
    Sol Duc Road – The Sol Duc Road remains closed due to a mudslide about a half-mile south of Salmon Cascades.
  • Mora – The Mora area has reopened, including the Mora campground.
  • Ozette – The Ozette area is closed with downed trees and power lines.
  • Dosewallips, Staircase and Queets Roads – The roads remain closed due to previous damage and unsafe conditions.
  • Deer Park Road – The road is closed for the season.

More sources of news: Lots of other websites have good sources of up to date information. Start with the Northwest Parks and Public Lands Storm Recovery Coalition, set up after last year's floods, whose most recent posting is titled "Winter storms rip through Northwest: Parks hit again." The National Parks Conservation Association's National Parks Traveler blog reports "Pacific storm shuts down most of Olympic National Park," and comments, "If this keeps up, we're going to have to redefine the '100-year storm.'" (That's global climate change for you.) The Washington Trails Association's Signposts blog has on top of the news, with an initial report titled "Another mountain flood" that begins "I'm starting to feel like Chicken Little," and a follow-up report called "Two hikers dead, storm hits hard." The hikers died in an avalanche near Snoqualmie Pass. While you're at it, by the way, you can also check out "One year later, much storm damage awaits repair," an article that will now need to be updated, and "One year after the storm," which also remains very relevant. Finally, check this out: Ironically, tomorrow is the Washington Trails Association's volunteer appreciation party on the Olympic Penninsula. They'll need volunteers more than ever this next year. Which brings us to:

How you can help: Contact Maggie Tyler, the volunteer program manager at Olympic National Park, to offer assistance with their flood recovery. And don't forget that volunteers are needed in a lot of other areas as well! We don't have much going on at Rainier this time of year, so go help where you're needed! Then come back here next summer, as we'll have plenty to keep you busy continuing to clean up last year's flood!