I've been busy getting caught up from my trip to Washington D.C., so I have quite a bit to share with you that has come in to my "in" box over the past week:
Meadow Rovers Breakfast
Forty-two people showed up for the Meadow Rovers Breakfast at the Tacoma Mountaineers Club, including several people who had never volunteered before and were drawn to the brunch by an article in The News Tribune. We shared good food, brought everyone up to date on the goings-on of the volunteer program and the status of snow at the park, showed off our new award, and answered a lot of questions. Everyone is looking forward to the summer season! And speaking of looking forward, we already have the clubhouse reserved for next year's breakfast: Saturday, May 9, 2009. Mark your calendars!
The National Park Service issued a very nice press release about the national award we received last week. It was also featured on the NPS news digest. Another perspective can be found in the Pennsylvania Daily American, which has a nice article about the group award winners, the Flight 93 Ambassadors. Meanwhile, volunteer Greg Carstens writes, "Thank you for accepting the George B. Hartzog Jr. award for me and many of my fellow volunteers. It means a lot to me that I spent some time in a very critical year for Mount Rainier National Park. My only regret is that I didn't get to spend more time in 2007 helping out but I think ... I can go out and break my own record for hours spent in the Paradise Meadows this coming summer. I think 2008 will be an exciting year with not only the reopening of Paradise Inn but also the opening of the all-new visitor center."
By the way, remember my reference a while back to a Valor Award someone was rumored to be winning? It's actually a Citizen's Award for Bravery, it was presented to Phill Michael, and you can read all about it on Mike Gauthier's climbing blog. It was presented yesterday in Washington D.C. (another trip east for Mount Rainier personnel!) for the efforts of an individual who saved the life of a couple of people on the Muir Snowfield. That's some impressive spontaneous volunteer service.
As the snow melts, the number of ways you can get involved at Mount Rainier are beginning to grow exponentially! Here are a few new resources:
Trail Talk: With the Washington Trails Association: Find out all about WTA's schedule of activities this spring, including National Trails Day on June 7th.
Photography Classes: Brooke Childrey says "Last chance to sign up for the Photo class on May 16th. Class will be from 9 am to noon at the education center. This is the first class and will focus on photography basics. 2nd class is a field class out in the park sometime this summer. There will be a repeat of the first class on June 27th for those who can't make the May 16th class. It will also be followed by a field class out in the park sometime this summer (you and the instructors set a date and time for the field class)."
Other things to watch for: Our spring Conservation Corps will be arriving on Monday. These are the guys who will be coordinating and leading volunteer projects throughout the summer, so I'll introduce them to you here next week. Some of the projects we're already working on include greenhouse planting, snow removal, campground opening, trail marking, trail repair, National Trails Day on June 7, interpretive wayside installation, guided walks, viewpoint interpretation, and meadow roving. Watch our calendar for project postings by the end of the month.
Finally, don't forget the upcoming Paradise Inn reopening on Friday. Check out the park's press release, and plan to join us for tours of the newly renovated inn and the visitor center under construction at 1:00 and 4:00, as well as a ribbon-cutting and grand reopening ceremony at 3:00. Parking will be limited, so carpooling is recommended!
For those of us who struggle to identify wildflowers at Mount Rainier, there's now a website to help out, created by Tracy Donovan. Now all you need is satellite internet access from the trailside at Paradise! Meanwhile, volunteer Kathy Sharman sends a link to her personal blog, which has a definite Mount Rainier slant to it! She's also participating in a breast cancer walk. You can find out how to support her effort on her blog. Finally, NPS Director Mary Bomar has just released a thorough and colorful report called "A Salute to Service," which celebrates the efforts of NPS employees, volunteers, and citizens in support of our national treasures. Our flood recovery efforts here at Rainier are featured at one point in the report!
Spring at Mount Rainier
Prospective volunteer Kyle Miller shares pictures from a hike to Mowich Lake in mid-March. I've created a separate blog entry for him dated 5/2, which is when he sent the photos to me. Send me your own pictures and stories and I'll post them here!
Meanwhile, our wildlife biologist, Jim Schaberl, sent out this e-mail a few days ago:
Heads-up on potential bear activities this spring:
There are a number of reports this season of bear tracks and observations in snow (for several weeks now). Bears are exceptionally hungry this time of year and the snowpack is still overwhelming. Natural foods are scarce and will be for a while. Please take extra precautions in the next month or two with food (and garbage) storage and opening up areas to visitor camping and picnicking. All food and garbage products need to be secured in bear resistant (bear-"proof") areas and receptacles.
The three biggest new items up here on the mountain, of course, are snow, snow, and more snow! While it is finally melting, and in fact the National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Alert for unseasonably hot weather this weekend, there's still a long way to go in many places. Plus, the hot weather will contribute to high avalanche danger leading into the weekend. Be careful out there!
Because of the lingering snow, many of our opening dates have been pushed back. As of this writing, Cougar Rock Campground will not open until June 6th rather than Memorial Day weekend. (The snow plow guys said they were hampered by snow "over the box" of their plows last week.) Ohanapecosh Campground will open as scheduled, but the visitor center will not open until June 13th because of winter snow damage to the housing units over there. (We can't even commute from Longmire because Stevens Canyon is a long way from reopening and Skate Creek Road remains closed by two major landslides.) Sunrise opening is delayed as well; our staff is working overtime to get it open by July 3rd--though it will probably be at least another week beyond that date before the utilities get de-winterized. (We'll probably have some volunteer projects related to shoveling out facilities at Sunrise.)
The snow in the Longmire Campground is creating problems for our Conservation Corps, as well, who will not be able to set up their platform tents until they have bare ground. They'll spend their first week or two camped out at the Lion's Hall in Ashford, which has generously provided us with space and the use of their kitchen for a very inexpensive rate.
The Washington Trails Association has helpfully compiled a list of places that you can go to enjoy this weekend's warm weather, in spite of the heavy snowpack. Enjoy!