Thursday, October 28, 2010

RIP Damian, 1993-2010

Allan and Damian, 2007
photo by John Chao
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of our most faithful volunteers this afternoon. Many of you know Damian as the golden retriever service dog of volunteer Allan Dreyer. But Damian was a friend and volunteer in his own right, one dedicated to a lifetime of service who spread good will wherever he went. He died peacefully at his home this afternoon at 2:45pm.

Few people know that Damian, in fact, had his own volunteer agreement, signed with his paw print, documenting his important role on our staff. According to this agreement, Damian's duties were to assist Mount Rainier National Park volunteer Allan Dreyer, as well as "spreading good will and good cheer among park visitors and employees; inspiring his coworkers with  his dedication, enthusiasm, and positive demeanor; helping to bring positive attention to the volunteer program at Mount Rainier; and increasing the species diversity of our volunteer staff." While there was certainly a tongue-in-cheek element to Damian's paperwork, his service was beyond question, and he admirably accomplished all of the things listed in his position description and more.

Above all, Damian loved the outdoors, and Allan consistently reported that Damian would perk up when they drove up the road into Mount Rainier National Park. Even when old age led to creaky joints at lower elevations, he would happily bound through the mountain snow like a puppy, accompanying Allan on snowshoe walks or, in the summer, along the trails as a meadow rover. He loved people just as much, and was infinitely patient with visitors who wanted to pet his long, soft, orange fur.

Allan and Damian became volunteers together in August of 2003. Like so many volunteers, Allan had hiked the trails of the park for years before a chance encounter with another volunteer convinced him to ask about joining our program himself. It quickly became apparent that Damian was an equally valuable addition to our crew. Allan wrote a note to the newsletter of Dogs for the Deaf, from whom Damian was adopted in 1994, proudly announcing the news:

"I wanted you to know that Damian has officially been made a VIP -- that is a 'Volunteer in the Park,' at Mount Rainier. The US Park Service used Damian's paw print in lieu of a signature. Damian is a true greeter when we work at the park. When people enter the lodge to sign up for our park-led snowshoe hikes, he greets each of them. Our snowshoe hikes have about twenty people per hike. One of the rangers was complaining to me that the people were raving over Damian and thanking us for having Damian on the hike. The ranger said, 'What about me? I was leading the hike.' So they thanked him for coming along, too.

"Damian is one LOVED dog. People always come up and ask questions about him. He, in turn, loves everyone. The rangers at Mount Rainier love him to pieces. There are few people who are on our hikes who haven't at least one photo of Damian to take home with them."

Our friend died October 28, 2010, at the age of 17, after a long span of declining health. He is survived by his companion and friend, Allan Dreyer, and Allan's wife Lisa, who live in Tacoma. They plan to spread Damian's ashes in the national park he loved so much.

2,016 volunteers!

I've just completed our annual volunteer report for fiscal year 2010 (October 2009 through September 2010), and am pleased to report that, once again, our numbers are up overall over last year. This year we had a total of 2,016 volunteers, up from 1,865 last year. That includes 1,491 people who participated as part of 51 organized groups, and another 525 who participated as individuals, up from 1,406 and 459, respectively, last year. Total hours: 73,990, up from 72,231 last year, a number unprecedented in the history of Mount Rainier National Park except for 2007, the year after the big flood.

Groups contributed a total of 29,546 hours of time, while individuals contributed 44,444. How great a number is that?!

We're excited about the growth of new programs at the park, including citizen science, emergency roadside assistance, and living history. We're also very grateful for the help we've received from numerous community partners, including Washington Trails Association, Student Conservation Association, Mount Rainier National Park Associates, the Tacoma Mountaineers, Evergreen State College, the Boy Scouts of America, and many, many others.

Of course, every little bit adds up, and the success of our program has as much to do with those dedicated individuals who came up half a dozen times to rove the trails at Paradise, or who were only able to squeeze one visit into their busy schedules but contributed half a dozen hours to our grand total. Whatever you contributed, you can claim part of the success of Mount Rainier National Park as your own, and that's a very good thing!

By the way, the non-partisan Independent Sector currently values an hour of volunteer time at $20.85 (the equivalent of a typical employee including benefits), so that 73,990 hours is worth $1.54 million. That's something to be very proud of!

Annual Activity and Expense Report, 2010

Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Volunteers In Parks

Annual Activity and Expense Report
Mount Rainier National Park
Report Date: Oct 28, 2010
Fiscal Year: 2010
Volunteer Coordinator and Park Information

Total Volunteers: 1,971
Alpha Code: MORA
VIP Coordinator: Kevin Bacher
VIP Coordinator Phone: 360-569-2211
Coordinator Email:
Volunteer hours by category:

Administration: 6.00
Campground Host: 3,342.75
Cultural Resource Management: 3,199.00
General Management: 0.00
Interpretation: 18,377.00
Maintenance: 1,782.00
Natural Resource Management: 11,639.25
Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 34,870.00
Training: 773.50

[Total: 73,989.75]
Program costs by category:

Housing: $ 3,412.00
Meals: $ 3,434.00
Recognition/Award: $ 59.00
Supplies: $ 12,461.00
Training: $ 404.00
Transportation: $ 3,246.00
Uniforms: $ 3,802.00
Volunteer Program Highlight

Mount Rainier's volunteer program continued to benefit from numerous partnerships. The Washington Trails Association coordinated volunteer efforts on rebuilding the Glacier Basin Trail, with 529 volunteer participating in 53 projects for a total of 5,652 hours of service. The Mount Rainier National Park Associates led monthly projects from April to October. Several Boy Scout troops came to the park as part of an effort coordinated by the Pacific Harbor Council. Evergreen State College brought 40 students for ten days of service-learning. The Student Conservation Association supplied 12 interns and three community crews, and the Washington Conservation Corps supplied a trail team. The National Parks Conservation Association helped organize National Public Lands Day. Seattle and Tacoma's departments of parks and recreation partnered with us to recruit participants and volunteers for our second Camping Adventures with My Parents program. Meanwhile, with the help of Special Project Funding, our living history program quadrupled in size, with help from the drama department at the University of Washington. Our Citizen Science Team grew to 14 people, and our Meadow Rover program involved 156. 36 community groups contributed 29,546 hours, mostly building trail and planting native plants. Other volunteer jobs included emergency roadside assistance, curatorial assistance, mountaineering, archeology, education, interpretation, historic restoration, trail patrol, and public outreach.

How many people at the park require VIP Program Mgmt Training: 8
Optional Information Regarding Housing VIPS and Campground Hosts

Number of Campground Hosts: 6 
Number of VIPs housed in Permanent Structures: 39
Number of VIPs housed in Trailers: 8
Trailer Pads for Volunteers: 6
Other Information

Number of SCAs: 46
SCA Hours: 9924
Number of Artists in Parks: 0
Artist in Parks Hours: 0
Number of International VIPs: 11
International VIPS Hours: 1120
Number of Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps: 0
Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps Hours: 0
Number of Boy Scouts: 80
Boy Scout Hours: 730
Number of Girl Scouts: 0
Girl Scout Hours: 0

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Final Report of 2010 Conservation Crew

Student Conservation Association Partnership with
Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Crew Leaders – Michelle Hessey, Max Gordon

Mt. Rainier National Park hosted three Student Conservation Association (SCA) Conservation Crews during the 2010 summer season.  These crews of eight high school student volunteers and two trained leaders worked in the following locations:

Project Location
Session I
June 28 – July 12, 2010
Glacier Basin Trail Re-Route, White River Campground
Session II
July 19 – Aug 2, 2010
South Puyallup River Trail, Round Pass, West Side Rd
Session III
Aug 9 – Aug 23, 2010
Glacier Basin Trail Re-Route, White River Campground


The Crews
The 2010 Mt. Rainier crew members included: 
Session I
1.     Lena Easton-Calabria – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
2.     Ariana Dionisio – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
3.     Camilla Senter – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
4.     Colleen Cirilo – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
5.     Victoria Yuen – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
6.     Emily Chan – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
7.     Yvonne Chan –N. Cascades Climate Challenge Alum from Shoreline, WA
8.     Sarah Salvador –N. Cascades Climate Challenge Alum from Shoreline, WA
Session II
1.     Emily Ostrove – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
2.     Desiree Silapaxay – NCWild Alumni and SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
3.     Laura Humes –N. Cascades Climate Challenge Alum from Shoreline, WA
4.     Neema Rostami – Bellevue, WA
5.     Martin Horst – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
6.     Bill Lau – SCA School Year Alum from Seattle, WA
Session III
1.     Elise Greiner – Seattle, WA
2.     Thalia Chhan – Seattle, WA
3.     Jennifer Chhan – Seattle, WA
4.     Yulo Leake – Seattle, WA
5.     Jared Johnson – Seattle, WA
6.     Mohib Kohi – SCA Community Crew Alum, Seattle, WA
7.     Christina Jarmick – Two year SCA Alum and MORA Alum from Seattle, WA

These students were led and supervised by SCA Crew Leaders Michelle Hessey of Washington, DC and Max Gordon of Seattle, WA.  Returning Crew Leader, Michelle Hessey, came to this crew with a diverse background in youth and trail work from Washigton, DC as well as a Wilderness First Aid medical certification.  After spending two years living abroad to complete service with the Peace Corps, Max came to this crew as a first time SCA Crew Leader with experience in restoration work and a passion for northwest ecosystems.  He also brought with him a Wilderness First Aid medical certification.


Session I
We focused on the first 100 feet of the Glacier Basin Trail. The trail had been completely washed away during the floods of 2006 when it rained 18 inches in 36 hours. Starting in 2008, Mt. Rainier National Park started to build a reroute of the trail. This summer was the third summer that the park had been working on the trail, and they wanted to open the first 5000 feet of the trail this summer. The beginning of the trail had not been touched because the park did not want hikers to use the new trail until it was finished. We were responsible for breaking new trail at the very beginning of the Glacier Basin trail so that it could be open to the public.

We started by grubbing and digging duff. We had to cut roots, remove trees, fill in holes with rocks, and cover the trail with mineral soil. We spent many days digging and bucket brigading mineral soil and rocks. We also worked on constructing water bars with rocks at tricky drainage points on the trail.

Session II
We built a turnpike over a very wet section of trail. At first, the park had built a boardwalk, but the boardwalk was rotting and had become covered with slippery moss. Our project was to rip up the old boardwalk and replace it with a turnpike.

We ripped up an 80-foot boardwalk and replaced it with a turnpike. In order to complete this task, we had to fill in the muddy areas with rocks to raise the level of the trail so the turnpike would not sink. We had to haul small boulders from a nearby river bed to form the border of the turnpike. Then we placed geofabric along the inside of borders and covered it with fist-sized rocks. Once we made a layer of fist-sized rocks in the geofabric, we folded the geofabric over like a burrito wrap and covered it with more fist-sized rocks and gravel. The geofabric was placed there to prevent the gravel from filling in the gaps between the rocks and preventing the water from passing through.

Session III
The crew was working on the second section of the Glacier Basin reroute, a project started by the Park Service during the summer of 2008 to rebuild a trail that had been washed out by flooding. We were primarily responsible for breaking new trail that included moving large boulders, grubbing duff, and carrying large amounts of rocks and dirt.

Most of the trail work was evening and raising the grade of the trail. We worked on clearing big boulders out of the trail with rock bars. The rocks that were too big were blasted to pieces by the park staff. We also grubbed areas that were not so rocky, and spent a lot of time collecting and stockpiling rocks to use to fill up holes left by huge boulders.

Description of Project
# of Structures
Total Length in Feet
Person Hours
New trail Construction

Reroutes - Glacier Basin Trail Re-Route

300 ft
Tread and Drainage Work

Maintenance  (blowdowns, widening/ sidehill, brushing, clearing drainage structures, etc)

20 ft
Waterbars, Drainage ditches, dips, culverts  (Rock, Timber, Prefab)
7 water bars



Youth Development
      Most of these students joined the SCA Mt. Rainier crews after completing the SCA School Year program in Seattle, WA, which introduced them to the basics of outdoor living and trail work.  However, for some of the crewmembers, this was their first time doing this type of work or even visiting Mt. Rainier National Park.         

For many of these students this was their introduction to sleeping outside under the stars (and rain clouds!), cooking dinner, positive role models, Leave-No-Trace ethics and the rewards of working hard outside.  These students had this amazing experience and will remember Mt. Rainier National Park, your supporting staff and the experience for years to come.  They developed a bond to a natural place close to their home that may lead them towards becoming politically active, into an environmental field or the Park Service.  This SCA – Mt. Rainier partnership enabled all this to happen.  

      All three crews focused on environmental education components such as reducing food wastes, watershed connections, local flora and fauna, etc as well as participated in teambuilding games and activities. They also learned a lot from the rangers that guided the work projects at the different sites.  All three crews participated in the Shadows of the Past tour at Longmire and spoke with Jim Ross about future job opportunities at Mt. Rainier National Park.

Crew Highlights

-       Jim Ross welcoming each crew to the park and talking about future job opportunities
-       White River Campground ranger talks about glaciers, wildlife, and the geology of Mt. Rainier.
-       Shadows of the Past tour at Longmire.
-       Solo walks along the Wonderland Trail to get connected to the natural phenomenon of the park.
-       Plant identification through an activity called "Each one, teach one" in which each member taught all the other crew members about a specific plant.
-       Visits to Sunrise to learn about glaciers, and to the grove of the patriarchs
-       MORA II hiked 5 miles round trip after work one day to the look-out at Gobblers Knob to see the sunset over Mt. Rainier. For one rec day, we took an 11-mile hike to see Emerald Ridge and the South Tacoma River.
-       MORA III was visited by by Congressman Dave Reichert
-       Glacier Basin Ranger James Montgomery talked about job opportunities at the park
-       SCA intern Kenton Curtis taught the crew about ways to get involved with SCA that were different than trail work.
-       They learned about plants and trees in the park, how to work together as members of a team, how to cook outside, and how to handle tools and build trails.
-       Each crew member was the leader for the day. This person decided who would work on what task during the day, decided what time we would take lunch and breaks, and decided how long the breaks would be. The leader of the day was also responsible for talking to the agency partners (along with crew leaders) to figure out what our goals and tasks for the day would be.

Thank you
Much appreciation goes to Mt. Rainier National Park for having three SCA crews join you this year!  Special acknowledgement goes to Carl Fabiani and Kevin Bacher for all the preprogram work, logistics and projects preparation.  Thanks again!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Winter 2010 Newsletter

Paradise this afternoon. Let it snow,
let it snow, let it snow!
Thank you to everyone in our volunteer community at Mount Rainier who contributed their time and effort this season. The season's official numbers will be posted right here on Thursday (so check back!); we are anticipating reporting that the volunteer program continues to grow, with more than 1,800 volunteers contributing nearly 75,000 hours of service.

If you volunteered this past year, but have not reported your volunteer hours yet, you have just three more days to be included, so send me an e-mail with your stats right away!

Some highlights from this season include the opening of the Glacier Basin Trail, a National Public Lands Day with over 100 volunteers, and the retirement of Trail Foreman Carl Fabiani after more than 40 years at Mount Rainier. Our Citizen Science program continues to grow; we quadrupled our costumed interpretation program; Emergency Roadside Assistance volunteers returned to Paradise; and individuals and groups planted tens of thousands of native plants at Paradise. Meanwhile, volunteers continued patroling trails, serving visitors in the visitor centers, curating the park's historical collections, cultivating plants in the greenhouse, assisting climbers, building rock walls and rehabilitating campgrounds, surveying wildlife, and doing all of the dozens of other jobs that keep this park running, many of them behind the scenes.

Although most of our volunteer programs will be inactive until the snow melts next summer, there are still a few ways you can stay active in the park during this special, snow covered time of year.

  • 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 Services. Most of the work in our visitor centers, and on the trails leading snowshoe walks, is done by our permanent and seasonal staff. However, we can always use help! Volunteers help staff the information desk during busy times, especially during the school holidays around Christmas, and assist with snowshoe walks. 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, let us know now if you're interested in helping this winter. 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.
  • 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.
Keep up with current volunteer opportunities, and positions we're recruiting for next summer, by clicking the "current volunteer opportunities" link at the top of this blog, or by visiting our page on the Mount Rainier National Park website. You can also look for positions throughout the National Park Service on the website And watch this blog for the latest news! Volunteer projects surface all the time, both short-term and long-term. We even offer internships through partners like the Student Conservation Association. We're also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and have an active online discussion group.

Keep in touch, stay involved, and we'll see you out on the trails!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Carl Fabiani's retirement party

IMG_3570-3578 Panorama_1
This past Thursday, October 21, more than a hundred people gathered to celebrate Carl Fabiani's retirement after more than 40 years as a member of the park's trail crew, most recently as the Trail Foreman. The event was attended by park employees, former park employees, volunteers, former volunteers, even a representative of Congressman Dave Reichert's office, who presented Carl with a flag flown over the US Capitol in his honor.

Carl worked with thousands of volunteers and volunteer groups during his career, and has always turned in more volunteer hours than any other park program or supervisor. His volunteers completed more than half of the trail work in 2007, the summer after our big floods, and have continued to make an enormous difference in the reconstruction of the Wonderland and Glacier Basin Trails. With any luck, Carl will no go far, but simply become one of those volunteers himself!

I've posted photos from the event on my Flickr website. You may follow this link to see them all:

Click the link in the upper right corner of the page to watch a slide show version of the pictures (or watch a smaller version at the end of this post). To download any picture for your own use, you may do either of two things: either right-click the picture and choose "original" size; or, click the "actions" drop-down above the picture and choose "view all sizes," then choose "original." Then, click the "download original size" link and save it to your computer.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Mount Rainier National Park Does the Puyallup

by Jim Ross

Retired park ranger and current park
volunteer Cleve Pinnix helps young
fair goers with the tracks and scat game.
Mount Rainier National Park made its presence known at the Puyallup Fair. The Puyallup Fair, which claims to be the 8th largest fair in the world, runs for 17 days each September. In one corner of the fairgrounds is a small building called the Northwest Outdoors Building which is dominated by a 60-foot long relief model of Mount Rainier and the Puyallup River drainage.

Mount Rainier's exhibits and activities occupied another 25 feet of space along one of the "trails" through the building. This area included two 10-foot exhibits. The exhibit “National Park Service in Washington” featured 10 park service sites found throughout Washington State. The second exhibit, “What can you see at Mount Rainier, when you can’t see Mount Rainier”, contained a collection of photos illustrating the idea that sometimes the lack of a broad view forces you to focus on the beautiful details. The highlight of the space was the tracks and scat game where kids of all ages could match the imitation tracks and scat with pictures of common mammals of Mount Rainier. They could then use track stamps to make their own bookmarks.

Staffing the booth for 11 hours each day were 43 park staff and volunteers from Mount Rainier and Klondike Gold Rush in Seattle. They greeted fair goers and answered questions about the parks and the park service. In addition, education rangers had three sessions in the building's Hands-on Arena where they made fox puppets and raven masks with the kids while teaching them about the problems of approaching and feeding wildlife.

Although fair attendance was down 10% this year, probably because of wet weather and the economy, it was one of the best years for the park exhibit. It is estimated that at least 10,700 people interacted in a meaningful way with the exhibits and staff members.