Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Volunteer Newsletter 3.4

A new version of our volunteer newsletter is available! If you didn't get it by e-mail, or if your e-mail service didn't preserve the embedded links, you can check it out at If you'd like to be added to our mailing list, just send me an e-mail.

Volunteer Picnic scheduled for August 16

Please join us for our annual Volunteer Picnic on August 16!

When: Saturday August 16, 2008, 5:00-7:00 pm

Where: Longmire Community Building, Mount Rainier National Park

View Larger Map

What: A celebration of volunteers at Mount Rainier! Many of our summer seasonal employees and interns begin leaving in late August to return to school. This event will recognize and honor their contributions, while providing a mid-summer update and social for those who will be staying into September or October.

Come meet your fellow volunteers, hear updates from the park's volunteer managers and supervisors, and help recognize some of the members of our program who have passed milestones of service.

Following the picnic, stay for the annual Shadows of the Past interpretive program. Attend as a member of the audience, or help out as a volunteer lantern bearer... and even consider returning in two weeks (on August 30) for an encore performance presented entirely by volunteers!

Who: All volunteers... former volunteers... future volunteers... potential volunteers... supervisors of volunteers... and co-workers, family and friends of volunteers are welcome to attend!

Provided: We will provide the main course, courtesy of SCA's extraordinary Mount Rainier Recovery Corps cook, Michael Lee, along with table service and a selection of drinks.

Bring: Bring a salad or desert to share!

RSVP: Please RSVP on our Eventbrite page so we have some idea of how many people to expect. (But if you find you can attend at the last minute, feel free to just show up!)

Questions? Contact Volunteer Program Manager Kevin Bacher.

See you there!

Volunteer Science opportunities!

You'll notice yet another exciting new volunteer opportunity on our calendar as of today: Backcountry amphibian surveys at Golden Lakes! Here's the complete description from project leader Dan Rowlands:

Mount Rainier’s moist landscapes harbor many interesting amphibian species. Species of interest are highly impacted by the changing environment as global climate change is felt throughout our region. The western toad was formerly common to Mount Rainier but is now known to persist in relatively few locations within our boundaries. The park is interested in expanding the search for western toad and we need to form a volunteer-based effort to locate more breeding sites. Work will include hiking to ponds and lakes that were formerly known breeding sites to survey possible populations. Volunteers will walk around the circumference of the water if possible while investigating the water, moss, rock and moist habitat for toads. Hip-waders and nets, provided by the park, will occasionally be useful for shoreline surveys. Although some lakes contain non-native fish species, most water bodies have a variety of local amphibians to observe. Reports of toads and other species of concern will aid the park biologists in focusing their studies and tracking population changes over the next few years. Key sites for the volunteer effort include Three Lakes, Mystic Lake and the Golden Lakes. However, since there are so many water bodies in the park, there will be ongoing survey work all summer. Further questions can be forwarded to
The amphibian survey at Golden Lakes--which, by the way, is a magnificent location--will run from August 20 through 23. The park will provide research equipment and even cook for you (for which we charge a nominal fee of $25); all you have to provide is your own backpacking equipment and leg power. Sounds a lot more fun than what I'll be doing in my office those four days!

We're working on other formal projects as well, including Mystic Lake from August 13-17 and Three Lakes from August 30-September 1. These are still unconfirmed, so watch for details. Update: No sooner said than done! They're now posted on the calendar! And as Dan says in his note, survey work will continue all summer, so if you're available at other times, let him know and he'll work you into the schedule.

Meanwhile, the Soundscape Monitoring program has begun, and data are beginning to come in. Check out our fancy new Soundscape Monitoring webpage, with an interactive map of sites we're surveying around the park!

Another Update: As of this afternoon, here's yet another scientific opportunity in the park, in the area of social science: Every year, we conduct surveys of park visitors to measure our customer service and the visitors' understanding of the primary themes of Mount Rainier National Park. Conducting the surveys involves standing in a predetermined location at a specified time and handing out survey cards for four hours, or when you've given out 50 cards, whichever comes first (usually the latter). We need individuals to help at the following dates and times, any one of which you can sign up for individually; follow the links for more details:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coming next

Here's a quick preview of coming attractions:

  • Our new soundscape monitoring program is off and running! I'll soon have a page posted with details about this exciting project and what it's accomplishing.
  • The time for our annual Volunteer Recognition Picnic is fast approaching. We'll settle on a date within the next few days and then make an announcement.
  • Our annual visit by the Japan Volunteers in Parks Association (JVIPA) is coming together. I'll have a complete report for you soon, along with ways that you can help, and a great opportunity to attend a Seattle Mariners game with the Japanese volunteers!
  • The new "Volunteering in America" report has just been released. As soon as I have time to read through it, I'll post highlights here.
  • And finally, it's been far too long since I've sent out a newsletter! That will be coming shortly.

Still more volunteer opportunities!

Updated 7/29/08 with Washington Trails Association opportunities and more detailed descriptions of projects

We've posted lots of new volunteer opportunities today! Here's a quick rundown of your choices for helping out at Mount Rainier over the next few weeks:

  • July 29: Soundscape sherpa to Van Trump Park
    Carry supplies for future projects in to one of the most beautiful locations in Mount Rainier National Park!
  • August 1, 2, and/or 3: White River Entrance trail repair with WTA
    Join the Washington Trails Association for trail repairs in the northeast quadrant of the park.
  • August 3: Wildlife Rover training
    Help keep wildlife wild! We're looking for folks to stroll the campgrounds, picnic areas and pull-outs to inform visitors about the importance of not feeding wildlife. This issue has reached a critical stage at Mount Rainier, especially with this winter's snow pack that has forced wildlife down to lower elevations than usual. This training is presented by wildlife biologist Alyssa Herr.
  • August 3: Discover Your Mount Rainier with NPCA
    Join the Northwest Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association for a closer look at Mount Rainier National Park. We’ll enjoy a ranger-led hike and discussion. This trip is open to NPCA members and potential members, but pre-registration is required.
  • August 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and/or 10: Kautz Creek trail maintenance
    Join us as we work on the approaches to the new footlog over what used to be Kautz Creek. These steep banks are in the process of being stabilized and reworked to incorporate rock stairs. Learn the art of working with rock and hauling fill. Other projects include building check steps, replacing water bars, and improving tread and drainage.
  • August 8: Advanced Meadow Rover training
    Join us for a session on wildflower ID, now that they're starting to show! We'll also discuss options for roving lower elevation trails and campgrounds, wildlife issues, and ongoing snow considerations.
  • August 8, 9, or 10: White River Entrance trail repair with WTA
    Join the Washington Trails Association for trail repairs in the northeast quadrant of the park.
  • August 9: Trail Work with MRNPA
    Each year Mount Rainier National Park Associates is proud to sponsor monthly work projects. The August project will be trail work. Visit the MRNPA website for more information.
  • August 13-17: Backcountry! Dick Creek exotic plant control
    Come spend a few days in the backcounty helping to preserve native habitat. This 5-day project will be based at the Dick Creek backcountry campsite in the Carbon River area. Our work will consist of removing exotic plant species that threaten the native ground cover.
  • August 15, 16, or 17: Glacier Basin Trail repair with WTA
    Help the Washington Trails Association rebuild the Glacier Basin Trail, which was destroyed by flooding in November 2006.
  • August 16 and 30: Shadows of the Past historical interpretation
    Make history come alive! Shadows of the Past is an interactive performance that takes place along the Trail of Shadows in Longmire after nightfall. Park staff dress up in full costume as John Muir, James and Virinda Longmire, P.B. Van Trump, and other historical characters and address each tour group as they pass by, bringing park history to life. We need lantern carriers for this year's performance on August 16th. Better yet, if enough volunteers are interested, we'd like to be able to offer a repeat performance later in the season, perhaps the night of August 30. Due to limited budget, park staff are unable to offer the program more than once, but with your help we're hoping that we can do it again, with volunteers acting out the characters!
  • August 19, 20, 21, and/or 22: Kelly Butte Trail repair with WTA
    Join the Washington Trails Association at Kelly Butte. Halfway between a "Volunteer Vacation" and a "Back Country Response," WTA will work and stay 4 days at Kelly Butte, establishing a switchback route up to the blueberry meadows. Volunteers can opt to spend the week, or join the team for a day or two.
  • August 23: Revegetation Team drop-in project
    Come join the revegetation efforts in the park! This is a drop-in project, so come whenever you can and stay for however long you're able. The project is likely to be seed collection at a location yet to be determined.
  • August 23 or 24: Glacier Basin Trail repair with WTA
    Help the Washington Trails Association rebuild the Glacier Basin Trail, which was destroyed by flooding in November 2006.
  • August 26-30: Backcountry! Stevens Canyon Wonderland Trail reroute
    Spend a week in the backcounty building a new section of the Wonderland Trail. This 5-day project will be based near Maple Creek. Our work will consist of rerouting the section of the Wonderland Trail that washed away in the November 2006 flood. Projects will include corridor opening and tread construction, as well as building erosion control and slope stabilization structures.
  • September 3: The Way In: The Future of Access to Northwest National Parks (presented by NPCA)
    The National Parks Conservation Association will co-host a panel discussion at the University of Washington with Congressman Jay Inslee on global climate change and how it will affect access to our national parks, especially Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades.
  • September 6: Saturday planting at Paradise
    Come join the revegetation efforts at Paradise! Saturdays in September are devoted to native seedling planting at the Paradise construction sites and trampled meadow areas.
  • September 6: Revegetation with MRNPA
    Each year Mount Rainier National Park Associates is proud to sponsor monthly work projects. The September project will be a revegetation project. Visit the MRNPA website for more information.
  • September 7: Wilderness First Responder training
    Aerie's 72 hour Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course is designed for outdoor professionals and outdoor enthusiasts, preparing them to care for injuries and illness in remote, challenging environments. The course will be offered at a steep discount thanks to sponsorship by the Student Conservation Association and Boeing Corporation. Only a few more registrants are needed to guarantee this course will occur!
  • September 13: More Saturday planting at Paradise
    Come join the revegetation efforts at Paradise! Saturdays in September are devoted to native seedling planting at the Paradise construction sites and trampled meadow areas.
  • September 18-21: Backcountry! Stevens Canyon Wonderland Trail reroute
    A 4-day project similar to the one at the end of August.
  • September 20: Reveg Team drop-in project
    Come join the revegetation efforts in the park! This is a drop-in project, so come whenever you can and stay for however long you're able. The project is likely to be native seedling planting at a location yet to be determined (possibly Paradise).
  • September 27: National Trails Day National Public Lands Day
    Our annual volunteer project extravaganza, co-sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association. Put it on your calendar, and watch for details coming soon!
  • Seed Collectors needed!
    Read details at The News Tribune; see our formal project announcement; or contact park horticulturist Anine Smith to express your interest.
  • Even more area activities
    The News Tribune now has a great map marking local volunteer opportunities, including ours! Check it out here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cougar Rock Campground group site will be full August 9-10


Due to scheduled volunteer groups, Cougar Rock Campground's ranger group site--the one normally reserved for drop-in volunteers like Meadow Rovers--will be completely full the weekend of August 9-10, and possibly the weekend of August 23-24 as well. Please make a note of this if you're planning to come up to volunteer, and contact us to make other arrangements.

Thanks for your understanding--we're all looking forward to the Longmire Campground being available for volunteers next year!

Weekend Report: First aid training and CLCs

This past weekend's Wilderness First Aid course went well, with another large group of volunteers in attendance for coursework offered by Aerie Backcountry Medicine and sponsored by the Student Conservation Association and Boeing Corporation. Here's a couple of pictures from the training. The makeup looks very real, doesn't it?!

By the way, Wilderness First Responder, from September 7-14, is right on the verge of having enough registrants to proceed. If you're thinking about participating, or know a fellow volunteer who might want to, sign up now so we can confirm with Aerie. With funding assistance from Boeing, this intensive course will likely be offered at less than half its usual cost.

Our Mount Rainier Recovery Corps has also been busy working with the second group of Conservation Leadership Corps students [corrected], an SCA program that recruits young people from local urban communities to gain experience working on volunteer teams in national parks. Here's a picture from this weekend of the crew working on trail construction in the washed-out section of the Westside Road.

Romance at Rainier

O.K., I debated whether to post this, because our volunteer program is about you, not me, but the article and photo do feature three of Mount Rainier's dedicated volunteers, even if they are my wife and kids! For what it's worth, enjoy the photo, and the accompanying article, which features not only my own family but several others for whom Mount Rainier has long played a major supporting role.

Or consider this another plug for the volunteer program. "Find meaning and romance volunteering at Mount Rainier!"

The article is by Jeff Mayor and the photos by Dean Koepfler.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Volunteer work still going strong

For your reading pleasure, today's News Tribune has a nice article about this year's volunteer program.

“We’re finding opportunities for volunteers to come and help with the core management of the park. It’s not all coming out and picking up trash.”

Nice quote!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A little knol-edge

Google blogs went live today with a brand new tool called "knols," which allows you to create a basic information webpage on a topic of your choice and then get input from other people to refine it. It's essentially the same idea as Wikipedia, but you have a little more control over your own personal entries rather than having them published into the whole Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The timing is perfect, because I've been thinking about creating information pages for each of our main volunteer programs, so that people who are interested in volunteering can browse through them for ideas about what they'd like to do.

So, as a trial run, I created a "knol" for our Meadow Rover program. You can review it here, and contribute any comments you'd like. Let me know how well it works and I'll incorporate your suggestions into future versions. If you'd like to contribute content, for either this entry or entries on other volunteer opportunities, I think we can do that, too. Eventually, I envision a whole list of common volunteer opportunities in the righthand column of this page.

Today's mail bag

In today's (e-)mail bag, a note from Justin Wood at REI Adventures:

Dear Jill,

Thank you for all your work helping REI Adventures to complete our recent service project and camping weekend at Mt. Rainier. Our team is still talking about how much fun they had, and more interestingly, how significant they felt the impact of their work was. Many of our staff commented that they were surprised at how much they felt they were able to contribute and that they accomplished things they'd not have imagined they could do without the leadership and supervision of the outstanding SCA volunteers that led our efforts at the work site.

The campsite was wonderful as well and on Sunday, we hiked together to Panorama Point and it was really a magical day. Thank you, Jill. You were truly a pleasure to work with, as were all the SCA volunteers. We truly appreciate you welcoming REI Adventures into the park and helping us to bond and give a bit back to Mt. Rainier.

Also, here's a note from John and Dottie, new Meadow Rovers at Paradise:

Our first day of meadow roving, Sat. 7/19 - very official looking with our shirts, hats, and radio. We hiked around and over Alta Vista above Paradise and helped 44 people in 3 hours on a perfect day at the mountain. We can hardly wait to do more, and we're coming up again today.

Most people just don't realize how fragile the growth is or that they are even required to stay on the trails, especially foreigners whose English is not good. The most flagrant case we dealt with however were three American guys, who were sliding down a steep hillside of heather on the back side of Alta Vista to the trail on which we were standing, waiting for them. They were headed for Camp Muir, but didn't know where it was and only one of them had a pack. They had no map and didn't know where they were on the Paradise trails network. And it was 2:30 in the afternoon as they began a strenuous, 4.5 mile climb of about 4800 feet. We politely helped them get their bearings and explained the need to stay on the trails, but I wonder where they slept that night.

The most rewarding case was when I probably saved a woman's life in the first 10 minutes of my meadow roving! She was behind the JVC about to try to walk down a slippery snow slope in tennis shoes carrying a 2-foot long shard of broken tree as a "walking stick" that was tapered to a sharp point, the tip of which she was holding in her hand so it was pointed upward toward her! I told her that if she fell on it, she would have a life-threatening puncture wound. When she realized the danger she tossed it away. I probably saved her life as most people were slipping and falling
on that slope.

What a great program!

We love it when our volunteer projects work out this well!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lots of Meadow Rover news

If you've been up to Paradise recently, then you already know: right now, there are far more people than there are trails! Meadow Roving has been challenging, and I've heard many stories from many rovers about the issues they've encountered on the trail.

First: here's a great article in the Seattle Times about snow conditions in the park, which includes a nice picture by Times photographer Chris Joseph Taylor of new meadow rover Faith Young out on the snow above Sunrise. Faith writes, "I was thinking of hiking up to 2nd Burroughs on Monday to see what the snow conditions are like for myself as I got many questions about it while I was up at Frozen Lake yesterday and had to rely on reports/pictures I had seen on I also had many people asking me about the snow on the Wonderland Trail below Frozen Lake on the way to the service road. So I decided to go back to the visitor center that way to see for myself. On the way down, there was a Seattle Times reporter working on an article about hiking, so he was snapping away with his camera as I was helping a family negotiate the snowfield there. As a result, I made it in today's Seattle Times!"

From the Paradise Side, a note from Rover John Walsh:

Pretty awesome at Paradise Saturday ... very busy as is the case fro the summer. The trails and area are as you know in that difficult transition phase from late snow to "summer" conditions. Many, many visitors still meandering around as if there is still enough snow so spent time requesting folks stay on existing trails, many folks "cutting" trails using thawed, snow free areas for traversing rather than snow trails, etc. There were a few "interesting" areas along the lower Alta trail that could cause some concern ... snow trail traverses over a stream with the outcome that folks had "post holed" ...good potential area for ankle injuries. There was nothing available to block off the area to redirect snow trail and it was late in the day but I reported so that someone else might see it and "wand it off". I did try to redirect trail by making an obvious alternative to the trail ... but effort went unrewarded unfortunately ... I
watched a person behind me just start over the stream ... oh well tried anyway ... I am sure you have heard, seen it all. Starting to see some evidence of flowers trying to emerge in various areas ... along Pan Point area and other spots that had become snow free ... probably still a few weeks out at this point. Spent considerable time (more than usual) chatting on this particular "rove" ... seems like there are many novice visitors to the Park with numerous questions about area ... always have to keep in the forefront that while we are "roving" we are ambassadors for the Park Service ... I honestly need to review available info about the Park again ...had many questions about many topics ... anyway great day up at Paradise as usual.
I heard from another Meadow Rover who had made plans to meet a new Rover on Sunday to "teach them the ropes," but the new person never showed up. Please, if you've made an appointment with someone and have to back out or change plans, give us a call and let us know. (Make sure you talk to a live person rather than leaving a message, as many of us don't work on the weekends.) Our experienced Rover hung around for three hours and had some nice chats with park visitors, but with the current cost of gas, it's an expensive trip to Paradise if your appointment never shows up.

Hank and Judy Bernard forwarded me these photos of problem areas at Paradise right now:

The first picture is a trail bridge above Sluiskin Falls on the east side of the Skyline Trail. It's pretty precarious, and people are crossing elsewhere--which puts them at risk of falling through the snow into the stream. This spot could use some shoveling to make it safe. I'm not certain about the location of the second and third photos, but I think at least one of them is right behind the guide house above the upper parking lot at Paradise. It shows just how quickly a social trail can "burn" into the meadows when the snow hides the true trail. In fact, visitors can be forgiven for thinking these are the trail, when they're so well-trodden. Shoveling, roping, and flagging are all necessary in these areas to direct visitors to the correct places.

Next, a note from our Superintendent's office about Mowich Lake, which finally opened (the road, that is) this weekend: "A lot of snow remains in the parking and camp areas. Most camping will be on snow. Porta potties have been placed and the garbage cans are being dug out of the snow. Lake is still snow covered." Mowich is usually open the first of July, so we're still running about three weeks late getting shoveled out.

And finally, don't miss the vigorous discussion going on at, initiated by an unidentified Meadow Rover who attempted to explain why skiing can create problems on the lower elevation trails at Paradise this time of year (due to thin snow, large crowds, and the need to establish routes where the trails will be as they melt out). The discussion is lively and wide-ranging; hopefully, it will lead to a better understanding of why we have regulations in place to protect the meadows, and ideas about how we can better convey that message to people visiting the park.

Clearly, our Meadow Rovers are playing a vital role right now--not always an easy one, or even a universally popular one. But you have only to look at Hank and Judy's pictures above to see why it's so important. Thank you all for your hard work on behalf of our Mountain!

Secretary Dirk Kempthorne honors 2008 National Take Pride in America Award Winners

Our own Superintendent, Dave Uberuaga, was honored last Friday for his support of our volunteer program (which, according to one of our staff members, makes this a "trifecta," along with our Cooperative Conservation Award for partnerships and our George B. Hartzog Jr. Award for outstanding volunteer program service):

Washington, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne recognized the 2008 Take Pride in America National Award recipients at a ceremony Friday, July 18 in Washington, D.C. Individuals and groups from across the country were recognized for their outstanding contributions to local, state, and federal public lands. This year, there were fifteen National Award winners representing twelve states and the District of Columbia.

"This is a remarkable group of volunteers," Secretary Kempthorne said. "These men and women have left lasting legacies of service on our public lands, and truly show the impact that a committed group of volunteers can make on the environment and lands around them."

Take Pride in America Executive Director Katie Loovis joined Secretary Kempthorne in presenting the awards, and Clint Eastwood, Take Pride spokesman, addressed the audience via a recorded message.

"Take Pride in America takes great pleasure in honoring this year’s award winners," said Loovis. "These volunteers have answered the President’s Call to Service; it is on behalf of a grateful nation that we honor them today."

The annual Take Pride in America national awards recognize specific volunteer projects and efforts in a variety of categories, including: youth organization, corporation, public/private partnership, individual, and several others. These awards recognize efforts targeted at maintaining or enhancing public lands such as parks, rivers, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, local playgrounds and other recreation areas.

Federal land managers were also honored for their innovative approaches to recruiting volunteers and cultivating their volunteer programs. This year’s awardees represent the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

In addition, First Lady Laura Bush was granted the Spirit of Take Pride award. This award recognizes Mrs. Bush’s sustained commitment to promoting the appreciation and stewardship of America’s public lands. Through her dedication to the Junior Ranger program, First Bloom, and Preserve America, she has fostered a greater ethic of stewardship throughout our country, and for that, Take Pride is proud to recognize her contributions and service.

Take Pride in America is a national service initiative authorized by Congress to promote the appreciation and stewardship of public lands. Take Pride in America is active in all fifty states, has partnerships with public, private, and nonprofit organizations, and features Clint Eastwood as its national spokesman. Take Pride in America encourages citizen stewardship through an innovative public awareness campaign and an interactive website that showcases volunteer opportunities at natural and cultural sites. In addition, Take Pride in America is a leader in the field of Voluntourism, and uses its website and partnerships to offer opportunities across the country.

For more information, visit

2008 Take Pride in America National Award Winners

Charles Holbrook
Federal Land Manager
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Austwell, TX

Dorie Murphy
Federal Land Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Fort Worth, TX

Lynda Roush
Federal Land Manager
Bureau of Land Management; Arcata, CA

Warren Sedlacek
Federal Land Manager
Bureau of Reclamation; Cascade, ID

David V. Uberuaga
Federal Land Manager
National Park Service; Mount Rainier, WA

John V. Webb
Outstanding Individual Volunteer
Folkston, GA

Will Schoenhals
Outstanding Youth Volunteer
Broken Arrow, OK

The Young Men of the Yuma, Arizona Stake
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Outstanding Faith Based Group
Yuma, AZ

Holy Trinity Episcopal School
Outstanding Schools Program
Houston, TX

National Public Lands Day
Outstanding Non-Profit Organization
Washington, D.C.

The Trash Dogs
Outstanding Public Private Partnership
Brookings, OR

Sabre Holdings Travelocity Division and The City of Grapevine Parks & Recreation Department
Outstanding Public Private Partnership
Grapevine, TX

Take Pride in America in Southern Nevada
Outstanding State Volunteer Program
Las Vegas, NV

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Outstanding Federal Volunteer Program
Vienna, VA

The Charles C. Hart Seed Company
Outstanding Corporation
Wethersfield, CT

Bear sighting

A note and photo from volunteers Kay and Dave on the east side of the park:

My husband Dave and I hiked from White River Campground to Frozen Lake and back last Saturday, and look who met us by the Wonderland trail right before the junction to the Sunrise trail (attached.) He was a small fellow; bigger than a cub but not a full grown adult. We reported it to the ranger at Sunrise who wrote down "black" bear, but he certainly looks quite brown. Perhaps cubs/adolescents are lighter in color than adults? Anyway, it was really neat. Fortunately, he was digging by a part of trail that was not as populated, so hopefully he went off in peace.
For the record, black bears may be black, brown, cinnamon, or blond in color; they're all considered "black bears." Just as our "red foxes" may be either red or silver in color. If you encounter one of these guys along the trail--and people have been seeing a lot of them this year--keep calm and keep your distance, and the bear will most likely ignore you. In the unlikely event that it acts aggressive, make yourself as large and as noisy as possible. If you encounter a bear in the campground or other populated area, let a ranger know right away, as we've had some problems with bears becoming "habituated" to human food or garbage. And, of course, always stow your food in the new bear lockers in the campgrounds!

Volunteers contribute to Nisqually River research

The News Tribune, on Sunday and Monday, had a pair of articles about the Nisqually River and the research that's being done on it, both here in the park and further downstream. The articles feature work by several current and former volunteers. Scott Beason began working with us as a Geologist-in-Parks volunteer sponsored by the Geological Society of America, a position we try to fill every year at either Paradise or Sunrise or, budget permitting, both. Scott has since done a lot of work with us as a volunteer researcher while completing his master's thesis. This summer, Beth Copeland is also filling that role, as a student researcher from Oregon State University. Their research is contributing to our understanding of the geologic processes underway on the Nisqually River, how those processes might be being influenced by climate change, and the implications for those of us who live along the river.

The first article, from the July 20th News Tribune, is called "Revolution on the Nisqually River." The second, from July 21st, is called "Scientists study impact of glacial melt on rivers."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First CLC crew rocks the Wonderland Trail

Conservation Leadership Corps members rock! Specifically, when I found them on the Wonderland trail this morning half a mile above Longmire, they were collecting river rocks and soil to rebuild a turnpike on a section of trail rerouted by the floods of November '06. The crew of 8 students and 2 crew leaders has been here for a week and a half already, and will be wrapping up their term of service on Saturday.

CLC is a youth program of the Student Conservation Association that recruits high school students mostly from local urban areas, including the greater Seattle region. Members spend two weeks (or sometimes four) working on projects and camping in the park. CLC crews, as well as shorter-term crews of public volunteers organized by SCA and the Washington Trails Association, made a big difference on our trail reconstruction last year, accomplishing more than half of the park's trail work.

A second CLC crew will arrive on Wednesday (July 23) of next week, and a third will be here in August. We are extremely grateful for their hard work and service!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More upcoming projects!

My, how the summer is flying by! There are still many opportunities to get involved, however. Here's a quick summary of what our calendar looks like for the coming month:

It's a nice mix of trail work, science, restoration, and training. Now that the snow is finally beginning to melt at the higher elevations, watch for even more projects to be posted soon!

WSTC Report on Wilderness First Aid

Hi everyone,

This is a trip report of sorts about the Wilderness First Aid (aka WooFA) course that was held this past weekend at Longmire.

First of all, I'd like to thank Lynn for coordinating with SCA (Student Conservations Assoc) to make this possible for WSTC (Washington Ski Touring Club) members. [Eight of us] from the club joined about 20 others over the weekend and went through a 16-hour course on the basics of "what-to-do-in-the-backcountry" when there is a situation. So it's basically learning how to administer first aid and comfort correctly without having the luxury of resources available in the "frontcountry" such as shelter, clean water and immediate aid. It also brings home the fact that one should do the best in not becoming a victim in the backcountry himself.

For those who've had previous training - WFA, MOFA, etc. - this is an excellent refresher, plus a lot more.

In a span of just 16-hours, the instructors covered everything from how to stabilize the c-spine, how to recognize and treat head trauma/spinal injury/etc., how to splint, how to handle bites, ABCs, LOR, rating A&O, etc. etc. and lots of TLAs (you'll find out about these in the class.) It's a HUGE amount of material to cover in such a short time, but our instructors Joe, Mike and Travis did an excellent job.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who access the backcountry (or any remote locations) often. There is a sense of security knowing what to do if things go south.

I believe Joe is coming back to instruct the next WFA course there in 2 weeks - July 26th/27th. He is an excellent and most enthusiastic presenter.

Please contact Jill at if you have not signed up but are interested. I think the class is full, but she may have a spot or two available. [Note: See also Wilderness First Responder training in September.]

Longmire campground is presently used by the SCA corps (and others?) but it's a very nice and quiet campground with bathroom and shower facilities. Meals provided are 4-star quality, however, I highly recommend that you bring your own coffee. Hot water is available.

Soundscapes, High School crews, and First Aid, oh my!

My own camera has been in the shop this past week, so I haven't posted any pictures or updates for a few days. This afternoon, SCA Program Manager Jill Baum rescued me with a set of photos from three of our active volunteer programs. Thanks, Jill!
First, Soundscape Monitoring. We had a nice turnout for our first information session on July 11. Soundscape Monitors will go out to 30 different locations around the park, with GPS-enabled handheld computers, to note whatever natural and human-caused sounds they can hear. This will provide us with useful information about the degree to which natural sounds are being overwhelmed--or not--by the sounds of cars, planes, and people. If it sounds interesting to you, there's another information session this Saturday.

Next, our first Conservation Leadership Corps crew is here! This team of high school students hired by the Student Conservation Association has been working on finishing up the repairs on the Wonderland Trail between Longmire and Cougar Rock, so if you're in the park between now and Friday, hike up and say hi and see how they're doing. A second crew will join us later in the season.

Last but not least, here was the view along the Nisqually River last Saturday:

It looks like a scene from an M. Night Shyamalan movie, but it's actually our first Wilderness First Aid class, taught by Aerie Medicine and subsidized by a generous grant from Boeing Corporation. A large group of volunteers learned all about first aid in the backcountry. And who can beat the classroom setting?

A repeat of the Wilderness First Aid class, to be taught July 26-27, still has room for more class members.

If anyone else has pictures from your experiences in the field at Mount Rainier, please share them with me and I'll post the best ones here on the blog for everyone to enjoy!

More WFA photos:

Volunteer Jean Millan works on a volunteer "patient" (a patient patient?) along the Nisqually River in front of the park's Community Building at Longmire.

Class members learn to work together to lift a patient properly.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Volunteers in the News

Here's a roundup of recent news articles relating to volunteers and Mount Rainier National Park:

  • If you're looking for information about where to find a lack of snow on the trails, then the Washington Trails Association is here to help!
  • For those of you who remember Tonia Burns, our restoration ecologist who moved on from Mount Rainier last year, here's a short article about what she's up to now. All of her great experience working with volunteers has paid off!
  • Former NPS Director George Hartzog, Jr. has passed away. Hartzog was the director when the Volunteer-in-Parks program formally became part of the National Park Service. My, how his vision has grown! A press release about his passing is here, and a short biography here.
  • As most of you are aware, Mount Rainier is mulling over the future of our Carbon River Road. Here's an article and some discussion about the issue on the National Parks Conservation Association website. (The photo, by the way, is by Mount Rainier volunteer Tyler Chilman.) The Washington Trails Association has an article about the issue as well on their Signposts blog--and a second article here. More information, and instructions for how you can volunteer your own opinion, can be found here.
  • UPDATE: Thanks to park employees Larry Miranda and Michael Harris we now have the Mount Rainier Public home page website and Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) websites linked and populated with information on the Carbon River Public Scoping process. Public comments will be accepted through July 31.
  • An Environmental Assessment is also underway for the reconstruction of the Glacier Basin Trail, which was pretty much wiped out by flooding in November 2006. Volunteers will play a huge role in rebuilding the trail, as soon as all of the administrative T's are crossed and I's are dotted.
  • The comment period for the proposed rule change regarding possession of guns in national parks has been extended for an additional 30 days. If you haven't volunteered your opinion yet, you can still do so here.

Thanks for the training!

From John Walsh:

Just wanted to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to you, the Park and Boeing for the outstanding training opportunity provided to us this past weekend. I appreciate and encourage the Park Service's efforts to provide this type of quality training to Park Volunteers. It provides an opportunity to the volunteers to increase their own skills while providing the Park a better trained volunteer pool. Thank you sincerely for the opportunity.

The training was excellent and fun. The trainers were very knowledgeable, friendly and worked well with the group. The material and content of the training while challenging but appropriate to the group. The facility was first-rate and the food was great. Please thank the folks who prepared the meals. And of course thank you Jill for all your efforts coordinating and managing the event. You efforts to ensure a positive training experience were evident. I appreciate the time you put into the successful training.

So as not to be out of character ... I have a question ... no not really ... well I guess I do, I can not help myself ... when are we going to do it again?

Thanks for the training!

From John Walsh:

Just wanted to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to you, the Park and Boeing for the outstanding training opportunity provided to us this past weekend. I appreciate and encourage the Park Service's efforts to provide this type of quality training to Park Volunteers. It provides an opportunity to the volunteers to increase their own skills while providing the Park a better trained volunteer pool. Thank you sincerely for the opportunity.

The training was excellent and fun. The trainers were very knowledgeable, friendly and worked well with the group. The material and content of the training while challenging but appropriate to the group. The facility was first-rate and the food was great. Please thank the folks who prepared the meals. And of course thank you Jill for all your efforts coordinating and managing the event. You efforts to ensure a positive training experience were evident. I appreciate the time you put into the successful training.

So as not to be out of character ... I have a question ... no not really ... well I guess I do, I can not help myself ... when are we going to do it again?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rock Work

I found a great poem by Paul Bindel on the SCA's Conservation Nation blog, which begins:

We did not roll up our sleeves.
We proofed ourselves in plastic and
into the rain, to slough in rocks,

to upturn stones. We set them so they
would not wiggle. We imagined
what lay
below a mossy corner, a foot of dirt,


It's a great poem for anyone who's ever hauled rock on a volunteer trail project. Read the whole poem here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Longmire Campground re-emerges

In the late 1960s, the Longmire Campground, behind the Community Building across the Nisqually River from Longmire proper, was closed and replaced by the Cougar Rock Campground. Forty years later, the historic campground is re-emerging from its shroud of moss. It's already home for a dozen seasonal park employees and full-time volunteers, in addition to this summer's SCA Mount Rainier Recovery Corps. By next summer our goal is to make the campground available for use by individuals and groups while they're volunteering in the park.

A major milestone toward that goal was reached this week with the partial completion of a new bath house, renovated from one of the old historic comfort stations. The new bath house will have three showers and toilets, one of them fully accessible. Two are now operational.

Here's a quick tour of the once and future Longmire Campground.

Volunteers Larry and Joella Graves mark a campsite and clear away layers of moss.

SCA Program Manager Jill Baum follows one of the restored trails through the campground.

The completed side of the bath house, with two showers and toilets.

A newly restored pathway leads to the showers. Propane? Hot water!

Maintenance ranger Jeri Mierkey works on grading a pathway to the accessible side of the bath house.

Deteriorated concrete-and-wood picnic tables like this one will be replaced.

Some of the sites in the back of the campground are along a beautiful moss-lined stream.

Watch for more projects throughout the summer to continue restoring this classic campground for use by volunteers. Come out and give us a hand, and then come back next year to enjoy the benefits of your labor!

Lightning over Mount Rainier

1:11 a.m. July 3, 2008
Eatonville, Washington
© Kevin Bacher

Seminars of interest to volunteers

Along with volunteer projects, there are many opportunities coming up for volunteers (or anyone else interested in issues relating to national parks) to learn or participate in seminars, discussions, or classes. Here's a sampling from my e-mail in-box:

July 10: Climate Change in National Parks Web-seminar SeriesThe National Park Service is pleased to present a series of web-based seminars on climate change offered bi-monthly starting July 10th, 2008. These web seminars will be facilitated by Dr. Leigh Welling, NPS Climate Change Coordinator. This series is intended to help connect NPS employees, volunteers, and partners with scientists and experts in the field of climate change research. Our goal is to provide a Service-wide forum where researchers can share credible, up-to-date information and research materials about the impacts of changing climate in national parks and where NPS employees, volunteers, and partners can participate in a discussion with the researcher about climate change in National Parks. Presentations will begin at 2pm EDT and last about 60 minutes (20-30 minute presentation and 20-30 minutes for questions). To participate, register at the web seminar website using the link provided below:

Presentations and other related materials should be available prior to each event on the climate change forum web-site http://nrpcsharepoint/climatechange/default.aspx, enabling anybody to access and download them in advance and follow along by phone if internet connectivity isn’t available or reliable. This site will also contain an archive and recordings of previous presentations. [Note: I believe this is an internal National Park Service website and not accessible outside our intranet. I think the presentation itself will be accessible outside our network, but if not, volunteers will be welcome to join us at Mount Rainier to participate.]

Dr. Lisa Graumlich's, Director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona, will open the webinar series on July 10th at 2pm EDT with her talk on The Impacts of Climate Change on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Dr. Graumlich's position as Director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona allows her to combine her career-long interest in mountain regions with her concerns for sustainability. As a researcher, she uses tree-ring records to investigate how climate variation affects forests. The focus of her work is treeline, the boundary between forest and tundra on high mountains. Documenting and understanding changes at treeline is particularly interesting because, if projections of future global warming are correct, treeline is likely to be one of the first natural ecosystems to register the change in climate. Her work in the Sierra Nevada documented how climate events of the past 3500 years caused rapid change in the structure of treeline forests.

Future presentations are planned for Thursday, September 11th, with Dr. Max Boykoff, Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, and on Thursday, November 13th with Dr. Nathan Stephenson, Director of USGS's Sierra Nevada Global Change Research Program.

For more information about this webinar series contact: or Thanks for your interest; we look forward to having you join us.

July 12: Northwest Science Writers Summer Event--Research in Olympic National ParkNSWA is excited to announce a summer NSWA Event: A day in the Olympics. More information to come soon, but mark the day on your calendar. More info and photos on the NSWA website:

* Spend Saturday July 12 in the Olympics with wildlife experts and scientists
* Learn about ongoing research in Olympic National Park, including research related to the slated Elwha River dam removal
* Hike Hurricane Hill
* Enjoy a barbecue dinner in the foothills of the Olympics
* NSWA Members: $25, Nonmembers: $30—NSWA van from Seattle available, or drive yourself
* Seating for for the talks is limited; guests and families welcome on the hike and barbecue
* RSVP ASAP to NSWA Treasurer Deanna Frost (Subject: ONP Event)
* Questions? Event Organizer Stephen Hart (Subject: ONP Event)

We’re still nailing down specifics—and plans could change depending on weather—but here’s the tentative schedule (appropriate breaks not listed):
7:30 am—NSWA van leaves Seattle for Port Angeles
10:30 am—van arrives in Port Angeles
11:00 am—Meet at Olympic National Park headquarters to hear about research in the park. Jerry Freilich, Ph.D., Research Coordinator, Olympic National Park and Coordinator, North Coast & Cascades Research Learning Network, will give us an overview of research going on in the park—some 60 projects—and introduce specific projects and researchers. Jerry can also help with contacts on other projects going on in the park. Speakers to be announced. Examples include:
* The All Taxa Biotic Inventory in the Elwha River valley, part of the preparation for the removal to two dams on the river to restore salmon runs
* Research on the Olympic Marmot, an endemic species
* Reintroduction of the fisher, a large weasel that disappeared from Washington in the late 1800s/early 1900s because of overtrapping and habitat loss
* The Plate Boundary Observatory, a large, NSF-funded and nationwide (but mostly Western) project using specialized GPS monitors--capable of accuracies as close as 1-2 millimeters--to measure the movement of the earth's tectonic plates
12:30 pm—Eat (bring your own sack) lunch while driving to Glines Canyon dam, one of two to be removed.
1:30-4 pm—Drive to Hurricane Ridge for a casual guided hike to Hurricane Hill. Expect great views of mountains and wildlife.
5:00 pm—Drive down the hill for a BBQ dinner at Stephen Hart's home in the foothills of the Olympics.
5:30 - 8:30 pm—Feast on local salmon, burgers, hot dogs, local organic veggies and fruit and delicious homemade desserts.
8:30 pm—Leave barbecue for the ferry and Seattle.

September 3: The Way In: The Future of Access to Northwest National ParksWednesday, September 3rd
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
University of Washington
Kane Hall, Room 110
Filmed by WTV

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is planning to host a panel discussion on global climate change and how it will affect our national parks, especially Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks. This panel will focus on the effect of climate change on these parks and the future of access to them.

The floods and windstorms of 2006 were just the latest storm events to ravage Washington’s public lands. Given the high likelihood that future storms will cause similar damage, NPCA is facilitating a discussion on how the federal government can best sustain long term access to places such as Mount Rainier that make sense from an economic and ecological standpoint. We propose a panel discussion open to the public that would include experts in climate change, outdoor recreation, economics, wildlife and roads and trail construction, among others.
Led by Congressman Jay Inslee, we plan to hold this panel discussion at the University of Washington on September 3rd.

This event is co-hosted by other organizations from the Washington Parks and Forest Coalition, including Washington Trails Association, the Student Conservation Association, The Mountaineers, and Washington's National Park Fund.

Confirmed Participants:
Moderator – Professor Michael Robinson-Dorn, Director Berman Environmental Law Clinic, University of Washington Law School –
Representative Jay Inslee - Kiersten Hutchins, Scheduler - (invited, but not completely confirmed)
Dr. David Louter – History Program Manager, Pacific West Region, National Park Service -
Jonathan B. Jarvis – Regional Director, Pacific West Region, Nation Park Service -
Dr. Clifford F. Mass – Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington -
Michael Case – Research Scientist, WWF Global Climate Change Programme -
Paula Swedeen, Ph.D. – Ecological Economist, Swedeen Consulting –
Clara Conner - Division Engineer, Western Federal Lands Division, Federal Highway Administration -

More photos from Sunrise shoveling

Jill Baum contributed these photos from the snow shoveling day at Sunrise on June 21--part of the efforts that allowed us to reopen today!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Upcoming projects

As you can see by our packed calendar at the top of this page, there are many, many opportunities to volunteer in the month of July! When it's 97 degrees in the lowlands, come up where it's cool. When it's dry in Tacoma, come up and help us out at Paradise or Sunrise where they still have 9 feet of snow on the ground! When it's cloudy in Seattle, come on up into the sunshine in the land above the clouds!

Enough advertising. Here's a quick summary of the volunteer opportunities coming up in the next few weeks:

As you can see, there's a project for every interest!

Want to get a good workout? Join one of the Washington Trails Association projects.

Something more appropriate for families? Help maintain the Trail of the Shadows, or contribute toward our Longmire Campground restoration. With your help, we'll be ready to use this site for camping by volunteers next year. Have you ever wanted to walk in a parade? Show up to walk with us in Eatonville for the 4th of July! We'll be featuring our "Green" efforts this year.

Want to work with people? Help us out over the busy 4th of July weekend at Ohanapecosh or Sunrise!

Want to meet other volunteers? Join the Mount Rainier National Park Associates for their July project!

Do you like science? Learn more about an exciting program we're starting to monitor natural and human-influenced soundscapes in the park.

Only have a little bit of time? Join us for all or part of the day to remove exotic plant species along the Westside Road.

Want to get away from it all? Come along for a full week in the backcountry with the Mount Rainier Recovery Corps!

Looking for personal development? Sign up for one of our wilderness medicine training courses, sponsored by Boeing Corporation and the Student Conservation Association!