Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nordic Patrol Volunteers Help Open Mount Rainier National Park Winter Operations

by volunteer Phil Hertzog
Nordic Patrol volunteers helped to open up winter operations at Mount Rainier National Park on December 18 and 19. The Washington Ski Touring Club (WSTC) provides the Park with volunteers to help with winter backcountry operations. Seven WSTC members joined Ranger Dan Camiccia to set poles on the trails on Saturday. The Patrollers met at Dan’s office and loaded a pick-up truck with poles and trail signs. Under the Park’s administrative travel rules, Patrollers travelled up to Narada Falls where they waited a short time until the road to Paradise opened up after debris had been cleaned up from the previous evening’s wind storm.

The Patrollers broke into four groups. Mace White, Lee Wilcoxson, Ron Steingold, and Steve Burger poled the Narada Falls to Canyon Wye trail through the trees and up the steep hillside to the summer road. Mace and Lee then set poles from the Valley Road up to Inspiration Saddle while Ron and Steve skied to Reflection Lakes and then worked their way up to the Saddle from the other direction.

Phil Hertzog and Randy Nikolai joined Dan and made fresh tracks from Paradise down to Canyon Wye through Devil’s Dip and Barn Flats. They then retraced their steps and planted poles back up to Paradise. In the meantime, Lisa Hertzog joined an Interpretive Volunteer and added poles to the Nisqually Loop Trail. By the end of the day, all of the winter trails were well marked and ready to guide visitors around the Park thanks to our Nordic Patrol Volunteers.

Skiing back down to Canyon Wye, Steve encountered a fox running along the packed trail. Steve gave chase and nearly caught up it before the fox veered off the trail into deep snow. Steve’s efforts to discourage this fox from having human contact proved futile as the fox was later seen at Canyon Wye sitting on a snow bank along the road begging for food. The Patrol also saw foxes begging for food at the Paradise Parking Lot and Lower Miller overlook. One of the Patrol’s duties includes educating the public and overnight campers not to feed the wildlife.

After spending the night at one of the historic Longmire Ranger Cabins, the five remaining Patrollers went out for a well-rewarded ski on Sunday to make contact with park visitors. One group went with Dan into the Tatoosh Range while a second group did a tour of the marked trails on a partly sunny day with views of Rainier and Pan Point. Overall the Patrol had a great day and had a good start to the Mount Rainier winter operations. If you are interested in learning more about the Nordic Patrol go to the WSTC website at or contact Ranger Dan Camiccia at

Editor's note: If you're a volunteer and would like to contribute to this blog, send me your words and/or pictures at We'd love to hear about volunteering through your own eyes!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nordic Patrol 2010-2011 Season Training Kickoff

Here's another treat left in my in box over the holidays: a pair of contributions to the volunteer blog! For the record, I love it when volunteers send me things to publish, because I love having another voice other than mine on these pages. So without further ado, here's the first of the two articles, both by Ski Patrol member Phil Hertzog. The other will be published tomorrow:

Nordic Patrol 2010-2011 Season Training Kickoff

Twenty Washington Ski Touring Club (WSTC) members braved potential torrential rainfall and flooding to attend Nordic Patrol Training at Mount Rainier National Park on December 11. The WSTC provides the Park with volunteers to assist in winter backcountry operations. WSTC Nordic Patrol Coordinator Mace White greeted the volunteers with freshly baked, warm sweet rolls as they entered the Patrol House at the historic Longmire Complex. The Patrollers crowded into the living room of the former Ranger residence and settled into chairs and open spots on the floor. Mace introduced our members to Backcountry National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Dan Camiccia, who serves as NPS’s Nordic Patrol lead.

The training started off with WSTC Board Member Deborah Dickstein reviewing the history of the Nordic Patrol and WSTC’s close relationship with the Mt. Rainier rangers. Dan Camiccia then went through standard operations and expectations for the Patrol and explained what happens during a typical day. Nordic Patrollers reviewed NPS radio operations, volunteer reporting forms, search and rescue procedures, wildlife encounter protocols, and communications with park visitors. Dan provided detail on issues the Patrol will need to educate Park visitors on including feeding of the Paradise foxes and birds, avalanche safety, hypothermia, dogs on the trail, and trail directions.

In the late morning, the training session moved from Longmire uphill to the Jackson Visitor Center (JVC) where Patrollers met in the Interpreters Office for lunch and orientation on JVC operations. After lunch, the Nordic Patrollers bundled up and went outside to the old ranger station where Dan and Park Ranger Jordan Mammal taught us how to package up an injured person. WSTC members learned how to snap pieces of the Cascade litters into place and to properly wrap and tie victims safely for transport.

Despite the sleet turning into rain at temperatures just above freezing on an overcast day, NPS staff and Nordic Patrollers practiced hauling two litters with each carrying a “victim” over the Paradise Snow Play Area through knee deep snow. The patrollers moved the litters around trees, crossed side slopes, and wore skis/snowshoes to simulate actually rescue conditions. The patrollers gained an appreciation for the difficulty of using the litters and insight on how to help out NPS Rangers during rescue operations.

After the outdoor session, the training returned to the JVC to finish the day with a review of avalanche transceiver use and protocols for finding buried victims. Overall WSTC Nordic Patrol Coordinators Mace White and Phil Hertzog were pleased with the large turnout for training and the time NPS staff spent preparing Nordic Patrol for the 2010-2011 Winter Season. If you have any interest in the Nordic Patrol, contact Phil or Mace through the WSTC website at or Ranger Dan Camiccia at

SCA releases 2010 Mount Rainier report

Just as I departed for the holidays last month, the Student Conservation Association released its 2010 report on its partnership at Mount Rainier National Park. The full report, in PDF format, is available here, and is good reading for anyone interested in understanding what a vital role this partnership plays at our park.

A few statistics:

  • Three conservation crews, 21 members, 2 crew leaders, 3,240 hours served.
  • Ten interns, 7,120 hours served.
  • Dollar value of volunteer work completed: $216,006
It's worth expanding on that last figure. SCA interns aren't free, but they don't cost $216K, either, and in addition to the work, we also made an excellent investment in a diverse sampling of the next generation of youth leaders and conservationists--some of them, hopefully, in the National Park Service.

I particularly like this clip, the "participant profile" of Conservation Crew member Mohib Kohi:
Mohib spent the first half of his summer working on one of SCA's Community Conservation Crews in Seattle. For 5 weeks, he performed invasive species removal and trail restoration at Thornton Creek park. Mohib enjoyed his experience so much that when a spot opened up on the Mount Rainier National Conservation Crew, he agreed to fill the space. One of the highlights of Mohib's time on the crew was the visit from Congressman Reichert. The Congressman had recently traveled near Mohib's birthplace in Afghanistan, and the two were able to connect over the state of the country there.
Follow the link above to download and read the whole report.