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!

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