Monday, January 7, 2008

Current events and planning

It's been a busy couple of weeks here on the Mountain over the holidays, with heavy snowfall and high visitation on many days. We now have 40 inches of snow on the ground outside my window at Longmire, though the monstrous seven foot icicle has fallen. The depth at Paradise is 130 inches, 28 inches above average, though still 46 inches below the record for this date set in 1997. Two to three feet more are forecast for tomorrow!

Remember: Rapidly accumulating snow leads to high avalanche danger! The danger has been "extreme" several days already, the highest it can get. Under those conditions we can't even open the road to Paradise due to the risk of cars being pushed over the cliffs by falling snow. This has already been the deadliest winter for snow avalanches on record (details in the Seattle Times). If you go out, check the conditions first--here at Rainier, you can do so at the Longmire Museum, open seven days a week from 9 to 4, phone number 360-569-2211 ext. 3314. You can get general forecasts online from the Northwest Avalanche Center, but we supplement with our own testing to provide a more detailed local report. Know what the reports mean and how to adjust your plans accordingly. If the risk of avalanches is elevated, avoid any kind of steep terrain. Wear an avalanche beacon under your clothes, carry probe poles and collapsable shovels, and know how to use them if a buddy gets buried. If you don't know, don't go.

This is a good time to mention that we have a very active partner at Mount Rainier in the Washington Ski Touring Club, which patrols and marks winter trails and assists visitors. Thanks for all your help, guys!!

In addition to the ski patrol, we've had lots of volunteer help at Paradise this winter, for which our interpretive staff are extremely grateful. Deep snow means we need a lot of help breaking trails and keeping them marked; and large groups such as we've had in the past weeks are better served when we have volunteers helping to keep the groups together and tend to any needs.

Here are a couple of other links to recent news stories:

In The News Tribune: "Mount Rainier revives after a year of recovery." "To have all that behind us will be a real big accomplishment. To be able to concentrate on visitor services will be nice,” said park superintendent Dave Uberuaga. "But we need to help re-engage people," he said. "When you break a habit, people maybe move on to other things. I really want to re-energize people about the incredible opportunities here and experience the grand place that it is."

And in the Penninsula Daily News, "Olympic National Park taps temporary chief," which notes that Acting Superintendent Sue McGill began her career in 1976 as--you guessed it--a volunteer at Mount Rainier!

While all you great volunteers are out there snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, serving visitors, and running national parks, behind the scenes planning are continues for the upcoming summer season. I met on Friday with the members of the Northwest Parks and Public Lands Storm Recovery Coalition, which will continue into the coming years with an expanded mission (and a new name yet to be determined) of supporting public lands throughout the state. Those efforts will include supporting flood recovery at Olympic National Park this year, and continuing volunteer recruitment and coordination at Rainier, and will be funded in part by a $93,000 grant from ______ (major NW company to be announced later this week or next!).

Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be meeting in Seattle with SCA and the volunteer program managers from Olympic and North Cascades National Parks. We'll be talking about strategies for coordinating our efforts for recruiting volunteers and interns in the Puget Sound area, as well as training, communicating, and fundraising more effectively. Then next week SCA's representative and I will sit down with Superintendent Uberuaga to formalize our partnership for the 2008 season.

The most exciting thing coming up is that our Mount Rainier Recovery posters are finally finished and in the mail to us from the printers! Woohoo! And they look great, too. We're polishing up our mailing lists and will be putting out a call in the near future for a grand poster-tube-stuffing party, details yet to be determined, but it'll definitely be a lot of fun. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, enjoy the snow... safely!

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