Friday, January 30, 2009

WTA's Volunteer Vacations will include Mount Rainier

This summer's Volunteer Vacations have been posted on the Washington Trails Association's website, and they include three trips to Mount Rainier! Volunteer Vacations are a fantastic way to spend a week in the wilderness making a positive difference for public lands. They are highly popular and competition to sign up for them can be intense. Along with many other choice projects, this year's roster includes work weeks at Glacier Basin in Mount Rainier National Park on three dates: June 13-20; August 2-9; and September 19-26. You can signup beginning this Monday, February 2nd.
In case you're looking for a great summer job, WTA is also looking for summer trail crew leaders and trail interns.

Our Mountain, Our Park

On Monday evening, January 26, Acting Superintendent Randy King and I joined SCA's vice president Jay Satz and president Dale Penny in a presentation at the REI Flagship Store in Seattle. The meeting was attended by members of the public as well as park volunteers, but for every person who could attend, there were a hundred who could not for one reason or another.

But never fear! This is far too important a story to leave untold but to a few people on a Monday evening. The story of our partnerships and our volunteers, and the role they continue to play in strengthening the stewardship of Mount Rainier National Park, is one of the most important stories to come out of recent park history. You can still read about it:

...on the blog of the Washington Parks and Forests Coalition...
...on the website of the Student Conservation Association...
...or, best of all, by downloading a copy of the evening's presentation and enjoying it yourself! (PowerPoint, 13.4 megabytes)

The proliferation of government volunteer websites

A topic for discussion: there seems to be an over-proliferation of "official" government volunteer websites. I just did a quick tabulation, and came up with the following list:

That's just the ones I could find quickly with .GOV in their name.

Add to that and, and then throw in the site started by the Obama campaign,, which you could say is now at least affiliated with the government, not to mention, and you see my concern. If someone wants to participate as a volunteer in their government, where do they go for information and guidance? At present, there are too many options. And if we want to thoroughly advertise an opportunity at our parks, we need to post an announcement on half a dozen GOVERNMENT websites, not to mention the private ones like

In some ways, we shouldn't complain, I suppose--all of the websites surely reflect a renewed interest in volunteerism, including citizen participation in government, and that's a good thing. But I'm concerned that our message is beginning to get diffused and fractured. Wouldn't a unified and centralized government volunteer program help?

Several years ago, was established in an attempt to do this. But it quickly transformed into, which is why you now have to go to the submenu to get to the original site. And hasn't been universally popular, either, because of some of its technological limitations.

A plaintive plea, then, cast into the ether of the internet: could someone develop one single unified government volunteer website? would be the simplest name for it--no confusing sub-folders, no high-minded phrases including "freedom" and "pride," just simply:, the government volunteer website. Like the current, it should allow individuals to find volunteer opportunities across government agencies and throughout the United States. But unlike the current website, it should have greater flexibility in the way positions are advertised and in the way people apply for them. It should permit advertising short-term or recurring volunteer positions (for example, every Tuesday in June and July), and should have the capacity for people to sign up for them without submitting a full resume or filling out a long government form, in much the way that the Washington Trails Association signs up volunteers. You should be able to register for updates to be sent to you when new opportunities are posted at a particular site, in your area of interest, or within 20 miles of your home--or with a combination of these factors.

While we're at it, and while we're dreaming, the website should have the capacity for interactivity. It should include discussion boards for volunteers, resources for volunteers to share carpooling opportunities, and places for volunteers to share their stories and photos of their experiences.

Like the current, it should interface seamlessly with the National Park Service website, so that volunteer opportunities posted on would automatically appear on the volunteer pages at

It would also be nice if included capabilities for real-time blogging (this one is on purely because no similar capacity exists on a federal server) and social networking (we can't even access sites like from our government computers). But now I'm really dreaming, right? Even the Obama administration ran headlong into the limitations of government computer systems when they took office. Bring the government into the 21st century? That's a huge challenge that would take a radical change of culture in the management of government computer systems.

Yes we can? Someday, I hope.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Volunteer Newsletter 4.1

Happy Inauguration Day! As our nation ushers in a new administration in Washington, D.C., those of us out here "in the field" are quietly planning and preparing for another year of the ongoing work of caring for our nation's natural and cultural treasures. We've learned emphatically over the past two years that you, our volunteers, are indispensible partners in this work of stewardship. More than 1,800 of you came out in 2008 to build trails, plant seedlings, rove meadows, and host campground visitors, up almost a hundred people over 2007's record numbers. It's fitting, on this day of all days, to remember that a democracy works best when its citizens are actively involved; and that is true even more than ever when we face challenges as great as those we face today.

Over the coming months, our plans for the summer will take shape with greater and greater clarity. Still, there are things going on even now, in the cold heart of winter, that present opportunities for you to get involved.

Our Mountain, Our Park
Monday, January 26, 7:00 p.m.
REI Flagship Store, Seattle

Join us at REI in Seattle for a very special presentation by Acting Superintendent Randy King about the role of community and volunteer partnerships in our national parks! I will be there, too, along with SCA President Dale Penny. We'll bring you up to date with the exciting things that are happening in our park with the help of volunteers, and answer any questions you might have about how to participate yourself.

Volunteer Groups
If you're a member of an organized group--an employee organization, for example, or a civic group, church youth group, or hiking club--give us a call and get on our list for a summer volunteer project. We don't have a lot of specific projects on the calendar yet, of course, and won't until we have a better sense for when the snow will melt. But if you're willing to be patient and a little flexible, we can guarantee a fun day of service in your national park! For those of you who have already signed up, watch for an e-mail in the next week or two to check in with you about plans for the summer.

Winter Opportunities
There isn't a lot going on for volunteers during the winter, but there are a few options you can consider, including work with our curatorial library, greenhouse, Nordic Patrol team, or curriculum-based education program. Read more about these options here.

Summer Opportunities
Lots of summer volunteer opportunities are already posted on our website. Check out our recruitment notices for a Curation Assistant; CPR and First Aid Trainier; Education Program Volunteer; Greenhouse Assistant; Library Assistant; and Meadow Rover. Note that all of our Campground Host positions are alreay filled, but applications are being accepted for 2010. Two of the most exciting opportunities are in our volunteer program itself: consider signing up through the Student Conservation Association for a six-month Volunteer Coordinator internship, or consider becoming our Longmire Campground Manager for all or part of a five-month season.

Summer Internships
In addition to the volunteer positions listed above, special opportunities are available through the Student Conservation Association and Geologic Society of America. Most of these positions last 12 weeks during the summer months, but a few, like the Volunteer Coordinator position mentioned above, are much longer. Apply now to be a Backcountry Intern; Climate Change Intern; Geoscientist; Restoration Intern; Visitor Services Intern at Ohanapecosh or Paradise; or a member of our Conservation Leadership Corps.

Other News and Opportunies
If you haven't been keeping up with our volunteer blog, there's a lot of other news you've been missing out on as well. Just in the last four months, we've seen the departure of Jill Baum after the successful conclusion of the Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps. Jill left for a new job in the Boise office of SCA after leading a highly successful National Public Lands Day event attended by more than a hundred volunteers. Soon after, East District Interpreter Sandi Kinzer received a promotion to the position of Chief of Interpretation at Niobrara National River; Lead Climbing Ranger Mike Gauthier left for an internship in Washington, D.C.; and Superintendent Dave Uberuaga was tapped for a temporary position as acting Superintendent of Yosemite. (He assured me he has every intention of returning!) We dedicated our new visitor center in October, and demolished the old one in November--even as our annual "100-year floods" returned and caused minor damage throughout the park. (We should be safe this November: we've already had our flood for 2009, right?)

For even more photos of volunteer in action, check out our Picasa web page, newly updated with photos from 2008. Meanwhile, here's a few other ways to participate: Join one of our community partners in their efforts to support public lands throughout the state through volunteerism, community action, and fundraising. Start close to home by committing your own household to reducing your carbon footprint. And, join our volunteer discussion group, for even more news and discussion about the inner workings of Mount Rainier National Park. Thanks for your continued support!

Summer Volunteer Assistant positions posted

While it may seem odd to be thinking about summer staffing while there's still four feet of snow on the ground at Longmire, it's nevertheless time to start recruiting! I've posted two new positions today, for individuals who will help manage and operate our volunteer program this summer:

SCA Volunteer Coordinator
A six-month position hired through the Student Conservation Association. This individual will be my right-hand man or woman from April to October. We have a special challenge this year: After two years with the assistance of the Mount Rainier Recovery Corps, led by the tireless Jill Baum, this year we're on our own, the way we were before the great flood of November 2006. Nevertheless, we want to keep the momentum going. We've almost doubled the number of volunteers we work with, and we've created volunteer opportunities in exciting new areas. I'm meeting with program managers all over the park this month and next to begin planning for the coming summer, and so far, the theme is "we could do more, if we just had a little help." I'm encouraging supervisors to consider hiring an intern or volunteer to fill this role, with assistance and coordination from my office. That's the SCA Volunteer Coordinator will come in: that will be the person who helps me network both with park supervisors and with individual and group volunteers, to orchestrate the free-ranging logistics of our summer volunteer program. I'm hoping this individual will also be able to help with recruitment, outreach, publicity, partnerships, training, and strategic planning. In other words, this will be a demanding job, one that will take a lot of skill, but one that will provide invaluable experience and a great deal of job satisfaction. The Volunteer Coordinator will also work closely with the:

Longmire Campground Manager
The Longmire Campground Manager will be in charge of day to day operations in the historic, newly-restored Longmire Campground, which has been set aside for the use of volunteers. He or she--or he and she--or a succession of hes and shes over the course of the summer from May to October--will set up the campground in the spring and prepare it for winter in the fall, including building platform tents and returning them to storage. They will coordinate use of the campground by volunteers, and serve as hosts for volunteer guests. They will help with general maintenance and cleaning, especially of the new shower building. They will continue the process of renovating the campground and making it more usable by volunteers, including, hopefully, removal of deteriorating picnic tables and installation of new ones. They will work with groups of public volunteers to accomplish many of these projects, and will help out with general office work and event coordination as time permits. We will provide an RV site with hookups, as well as a reimbursement of general living expenses.

To apply for the Volunteer Coordinator position, visit the website of the Student Conservation Association. (Note: As of this writing, the position is still in the process of being added to the SCA database. If not all of the details show up yet, please check back later.) To apply for the Longmire Campground Manager position, fill out an application on, or submit a resume directly to me at Call me with any questions at 360-569-2211 ext. 3385. Both positions will be open until filled.

Some thoughts on the future of volunteers in the division of Interpretation

Over the next month or so, I will be meeting with program managers all over the park to discuss their plans for working with volunteers in the coming year, and to discuss ways that volunteers can improve their programs in the long term. I meet with representatives from our division of Interpretation last week, who had some really good ideas.

The primary volunteer program in the division of interpretation, of course, is our Meadow Rover program. This will continue to be a major focus, as it has proved to be a tremendously successful way of educating visitors about the importance of staying on trails in the fragile subalpine environments. There's a lot of interest in increasing the visibility of Rovers, ideally in a way that positively identifies them as members of this very special program. We're looking into options for a special Meadow Rover patch, and are open to other suggestions as well.

We also discussed ways of better coordinating where the Rovers rove and what they do. One excellent idea is to plan a 10:00 a.m. meeting every Saturday at both Paradise and Sunrise, hosted by an experience meadow rover in cooperation with park staff. Programmed intentionally into the staff schedule, this would help us to make sure that the latest and best information about current conditions is passed on to our volunteers, and it would provide a reliable time and place for new rovers to meet with mentors who could help them learn the trails and procedures of the program.

One perennial need of the program, especially at Sunrise, is for additional hand-held radios. I have $1,000 in a donation account, left over from last year, and look into using it to purchase an additional radio for the Sunrise program. They run about $1200 apiece.

The "Meadow" Rover program has been expanding in recent years to include viewpoint, campground, and forest roving as well, and that will continue this summer. Julia Pinnix has been very welcoming to volunteers at Ohanapecosh, and has lots of ideas for using them to provide a better Park Service presence at the Grove of the Patriarchs and Tipsoo Lake. She also has some great long-term ideas for expanding Junior Ranger program opportunities, perhaps in combination with youth service projects.

Finally, the "Shadows of the Past" living history program remains a key opportunity for enhanced volunteer involvement. I've applied for grants from a couple of different sources (some of which wouldn't come through till future years) to expand this very popular program with the help of a troupe of volunteers: the Longmire Players, if you will. Currently, we offer Shadows of the Past only about once per season, because of the logistical challenges and overtime costs involved in doing it with park staff. Yet it's always one of the most well-attended programs we do, and everyone involved has a great time doing it. With volunteers, we could offer the program at least once a month if not more often. Our grant proposals seek funding for a staff person to coordinate a pilot program, purchase additional costumes and supplies, and provide travel reimbursements for the volunteers. But even if the grants don't come through, or not till future years, we would still like to include volunteers whenever we do the program next. I'll be posting a volunteer recruitment announcement to this effect soon.

I meet with the staff of our Natural and Cultural Resources division tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Join us at REI in Seattle on Monday, January 26

I've been busy this week working on a presentation to be given by our Acting Superintendent, Randy King, at the REI Flagship Store in Seattle on the evening of Monday, January 26. The presentation is sponsored by the Student Conservation Association and will tell the story of our extraordinary volunteer flood recovery effort at Mount Rainier over the past two years, a story that many of you have been intimately involved with.

Randy will present an update on conditions in the park, SCA President Dale Penny will talk about their partnership with the National Park Service, and I will answer questions about the future of our volunteer program and opportunities for the public to get involved. But the central part of the program will be the story of the Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative: 1800 people per year working in partnership with the National Park Service, the Student Conservation Association, the Washington Trails Association, and the National Parks Conservation Association to rebuild trails, campgrounds, and other facilities damaged by the floods of November 2006. Along the way, we've built a partnership with the public that is enduring and that will support our efforts to protect Mount Rainier and serve its visitors for generations.

Here's the official program announcement from SCA:

Putting Paradise Back Together
Get up close and personal with the devastation wrought by the floods and storms of 2006 and hear about the back-breaking work it took to put our Mountain back together again. Join Mount Rainier National Park acting Superintendent Randy King and Jay Satz, SCA's VP for Western Initiatives, in a presentation and discussion about how 3,254 volunteers contributed 154,168 hours of service to help rebuild the roads, trails, historic structures and campsites that Mother Nature devoured.

When: Monday, January 26, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Where: REI Flagship Store, 222 Yale Ave N. Seattle, WA 98109

For more info, please email Kristin at or call 206-324-4649.

Winter volunteer opportunities

I had an inquiry recently about winter volunteer opportunities, so this is probably a good time to address again that very common question. As you might guess, there aren't many volunteer opportunities in the winter, simply because everything's buried in snow. However, there are a few. Here's a quick summary:

- Nordic Patrol. We work in partnership with the Washington Ski Touring Club to provide ski patrol services at Paradise, including marking trail routes and assisting visitors. People interested in this opportunity should contact WSTC directly at

- Visitor center and snowshoe walks. Most of the work in our visitor centers, and on the trails leading snowshoe walks, is done by our permanent and seasonal staff. However, there are always busy times like the Christmas holidays when we're short staffed and welcome the help of volunteers. Anyone interested in these opportunities should contact us well in advance of the winter season so that they can participate in our winter seasonal training in early December. In other words, it's too late for this year, but it's not too soon to make contact to express interest for next year. Working as a Meadow Rover during the summer is a great way to get some experience toward helping out in the winter.

- Greenhouse assistance. Our greenhouse is active throughout the winter, and we're always open to working with volunteers who are willing to commit to coming out on a regular basis through the winter to help us weed, pot, and care for our plants, most of which will be used on revegetation projects during the summer.

- Curatorial library. Brooke Childrey, our museum curator, works with many volunteers to sort and store our archives, photos, and historic artifacts collections. Our full-time curator positions are filled for this winter already, but there are still possibilities for the right person to help with special projects on an intermittent basis through the winter.

- Education program. Our curriculum-based education program works with many school groups in the spring and fall, and also has a number of curriculum-development projects underway. We're always looking for individuals who have educational background and experience to help out.

All of these opportunities, as well as the summer positions we're already recruiting for, are posted on our NPS website at

Paradise road update

As of Thursday of this week, here's the official word on the road to Paradise:

"1/15/09 Update -- Open weekends and holidays only until road damage can be repaired in late spring or early summer. Expect traffic delays at Glacier Hill. Carry tire chains."

Now, for those of you who have been following this story, here's the back-story. Park staff and representatives from the Federal Highways program visited the damaged road section Monday and determined that the remaining lane is safe for use. That's good news! On Wednesday a group of park staff met to develop a plan for providing safe access to Paradise through the rest of the winter. The group decided on the following:

By this weekend we will have Jersey barriers in place at the damaged area. Our rangers will station flaggers well above and below to stop vehicles and control traffic flow through the area whenever the road is open.

We hope to have the snow play area back open at Paradise by this weekend. However, overnight camping groups and individuals will have to adjust their plans to match our road open/close days. The road to Paradise will be open weekends and holidays only. During the week people will only be able to go as far as Longmire.

Road repairs can't begin until there is no longer a likelihood of snow falling or ice on the road--probably in May. The work will take a few weeks to complete, and we should be able to continue to allow controlled public access during the construction.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Storm damage update

Our rangers were able to do some more exploring over the weekend, and so far, it continues to look like the damage from last week's storm was far less than it could have been. There are a LOT of trees down, and some minor damage in developed areas like Ohanapecosh from fallen trees, but the roads seem to have survived intact, at least between Highway 12 and the Grove of the Patriarchs, and from the park boundary to the White River Ranger Station on Highway 410. Stephen Lofgren checked out the Ohanapecosh corner, while Geoff Walker had this to say about White River on Sunday:

Hwy 410 from Enumclaw to Crystal Blvd. opened last night to the general public after being closed on the 7th due to flood-related issues. Standing water, running water, undercut pavement, falling trees, and numerous large land slides had combined to make the road impassable. Crystal Mountain Ski Area is opening today after several days of closure. In the Park, there is now a "path through the carnage" of downed trees along Hwy 410, just wide enough to get a snowmobile through. We made it in to the White River campground, all roads seem to be in good shape up to that point. Buildings in the area also seemed to weather the storm well; no damage found. We did not get above the White River turn-off on Hwy 410, so no word on the upper highway or Hwy 123. There is about 2.5 feet of snow at the north boundary gate. The Silver Creek snowpark at the base of Crystal Mountain Blvd. is inaccessible. No word yet on whether it will be rotored clear for use the rest of the season or not. Public parking is not allowed in front of the north boundary gate.

Sounds like the Carbon River road flooded in the same places it did in November. The Nisqually Road from Longmire to Paradise, meanwhile, remains closed because of the washout on Glacier Hill. With better weather this week, the Federal Highways Administration will evaluate the road. We also anticipate a helicopter flight sometime mid-week to evaluate Stevens Canyon, Highway 123, and some of the backcountry trails and cabins.

P.M. Update: Here's a report from volunteer Flash Parlini, sent this morning:

I drove as far as I could on Saturday: SR165 is one lane leaving Wilkeson, and has more issues in Carbonado and just below the Mowich wye. The Carbon road (Fairfax Forest Reserve Rd E) is officially closed at Fairfax, with a barricade that lets the residents and 'official business' go through. Several slides across the road that had been partly cleared up to Poch Ck, then lots of debris and a no-nonsense slide around the curve 200m ahead. I parked at Carbon River Ranch and walked.

As far as I could see, there was no pavement damage - there's just a lot of stuff on top of it. Mostly it's because the ditches and culverts (not maintained since November's flood) were overwhelmed, plus a couple of hillside blow-outs. The big slide beyond Poch Creek is maybe 30m wide and easy enough to cross; there's another one near Tolmie Creek that's smaller but still quicksand in the middle. Two small spots where the bank below the road is gone and the pavement is exposed to undercutting, shouldn't be an issue. The construction site and heavy equipment from November's flood are intact, as is the FS7810 bridge. The road is snow-free up to the gate.

Looks like the ranger station views have improved a bit more. We lost another chunk of the maintenance yard, and the slumping is within one pace of the washer/dryer "trails condo" building. Looked like about ten inches of rain in the last week, per the gage. The road to Ipsut has a little more scouring in the same places as last time, still looks drivable to the '96 washout when we clear a few trees. The snow is basically continuous from there on up. No change to the bypass trail, some more erosion and deposition in the washout itself. Looks like a lot of water came in via the channel from the Green Lake curves - the shoulder above Falls Creek picnic area is significantly channeled. There's a chunk of road (~2m wide going ~1m into a lane) that's fallen into the river at the GL curves, exactly as we've been warning for years. Ranger Creek went over the road a bit, but mostly a lot of water came down the road from farther east and emptied into the creek through the parking lot. No harm done at the trailhead area; the road is heavily scoured but effectively no worse than after 2006.

All in all, only the slump at the Green Lake curve is significant. As far as hikers are concerned, there's really no difference at all from November - even the trees are simple to go around or under.

Friday, January 9, 2009

We're still here

I woke up yesterday morning fully expecting to find half of Mount Rainier National Park washed away. So far, those fears have, thankfully, been unrealized. Seven inches of rain fell at Longmire in 48 hours, and the Nisqually River crested at 12.6 feet, below the record of 13.1 feet and slightly lower than had been predicted. We had a lot of water along the Nisqually Road, with snowmelt, rain, and tributary streams flowing down the pavement in many places. However, the only place we've so far found significant damage is on "glacier hill," the stretch of road just above the Nisqually River bridge on the way to Paradise (see photo), where a chunk of pavement fell away to just beyond the fog line. That's a precarious spot and an avalanche chute besides.

At Carbon River, Jim Hull made it in to the park facilities yesterday and reports minimal damage. We lost a little more ground along the river but not as much as expected. A team is hoping to explore further up the Carbon River Road today. At White River, Matt Knowles tried to get into the park yesterday, but was turned back by the flooding and mudslides on Highway 410 well before the park boundary. He'll try again today. No reports yet from Ohanapecosh, either. When the weather improves, we'd also like to do a fly-over to assess Highway 123 and the backcountry. I'll keep you posted.

P.M. Update: Geoff Walker was able to get up to the park boundary on Highway 410 today, but it took most of the day due to washouts and fallen trees outside the park. With a path now cleared to the park boundary, they'll try to get further into the park over the weekend.

4:00 p.m.: From Acting Superintendent Randy King, word that the road above Longmire will not be open this weekend due to the damage on the road above Glacier Bridge. Federal Highway Administration engineers will assess the stability of the road next week and consider options for repair. Sounds like it's a pretty significant break, well beyond the fog line, affecting a 100-foot stretch of road, and at the base of an active avalanche slope.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Snow and water

It's certainly getting exciting to work at Mount Rainier in the winter time! We've had so many major storms this winter that I've lost count. Most recently, of course, we had heavy snow last week, followed by high winds on Sunday night. I came in to work on Monday morning but didn't get past the gate, having been blocked by 40 trees that came down across the road in the storm. Power, telephones, Internet, and network services were out until Tuesday afternoon. I'm back at work today, but now we have warm rain on top of four and a half feet of snow, and everything at Longmire is liquifying before our eyes, with rivers of snowmelt running down the roads and streaming off the stumps of the icecicles still clinging to the rafters outside my office window. The rivers aren't even supposed to crest until tonight, at near-record levels, so we're all watching the flow monitors carefully and keeping one ear tuned to the park radio.

(12:30pm update: The hydrograph now projects a peak river level of 13.3 feet at 4am tomorrow morning, which is almost a foot higher than the graph above from 10:30 this morning, and 0.2 feet higher than the record level recorded during the flood of November 2006.)

But meanwhile, work goes on. It's not a busy time of year for volunteers, but it's a busy time for program management. In the next week, I'll be meeting with program managers in our interpretation and natural and cultural resources programs, and setting up meetings with visitor protection and maintenance. We'll be setting strategies for the coming year, and hoping to expand further our volunteer opportunities. I just got off the phone from talking with Rick Zamore at the Student Conservation Association, who will be helping us to recruit and hire several internship positions in the coming year, five of which are already advertised. I'll be posting a recruitment notice, myself, for a six-month volunteer coordinator internship, as well as for a four-month volunteer campground manager. Special project funding requests are due next week for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, so I'll be writing grant proposals for the next generation of our volunteer program.

The rain continues to fall, the rivers continue to rise, and the world continues to turn. The gray jays are hopping around on the snow, looking for tidbits to eat, oblivious to the rain. Summer will soon come, and it's time to get ready!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and I hope everyone has had a nice set of holidays! I'm back at Longmire this New Year's Day, and it's an amazing scene. We have 44 inches of snow on the ground here, including 11 inches fresh overnight, and probably several feet more than that at Paradise, though who knows, almost no one's been up there in the past week other than snow plow operators! Today we have extreme avalanche danger, and the snow level is supposed to rise from 1,000 feet to 5,500 feet over the course of the day. The National Weather Service predicts 8 to 16 inches of snow, with as much as 3 or 4 feet on the highest slopes. The road to Paradise will not open, and even the road from the entrance to Longmire may close, if trees start falling from the combined weight of rain and snow on their branches. We've already had at least two trees down over the road this morning. It's still snowing at the Longmire elevation of 2,700 feet.

The rest of the week doesn't look much more promising. Snow level is supposed to drop again tomorrow--perhaps as low as 500 feet this weekend--but it's a continual stream of rain/snow and wind for the next week in the forecast.

Despite the rugged conditions, we've had some rugged volunteers here to help us out over the holidays! Our gratitude goes to Judy Kennedy, Allan Dreyer, Duffy and Pam Rader, and any others I haven't heard about yet who've braved the conditions to come up and patrol trails and lead snowshoe walks. We've been leading them at Longmire on the Trail of the Shadows, in lieu of Paradise.

And you have to admit, even though the roads have been a mess, the trees heavily blanketed with snow are gorgeous. There are animal tracks everywhere along the meadow. It's a blustery but beautiful new year!