Thursday, August 4, 2011

Paradise Melt-Out Starts, Meadow Rovers Take Action

The snow has started to melt off the meadows of Paradise and that means it is time for the Meadow Rovers to get out and educate Mount Rainier National Park visitors on how to protect the fragile flowering plants that will soon appear. I arrived at Paradise for my first meadow roving experience of the season on Thursday July 28, after slowly driving my way up from the Nisqually entrance and weaving through some of the 800 bicyclists participating in the Ride Around Mount Rainier (RAMROD) event.

In the Paradise parking lot, I could clearly see the Mountain surrounded by crystal clear blue skies and temperatures in the upper sixties as hundreds of visitors milled about and ventured out onto the snow that starts a few yards from the parking lot.

I headed out on the Skyline Trail for an aerobic workout up to Glacier Vista. The trail, marked with bamboo wands, is snow covered the entire way except for the steep stone steps located a quarter mile above Alta Vista. Along the way I stopped and talked to several groups of visitors that asked for advice on how far they could safely go up the trail. Near Glacier Vista, several large rocks have melted out and made a great location to sit and talk to climbers making their way down from Camp Muir or day hikers debating a further climb up to Panorama Point.

Heading back down to the Jackson Visitor Center, I encountered Meadow Rovers Judy and John Bernard rerouting the Skyline Trail on the steep section just above the Snow Play area. Judy was busily moving wands away from a section of trail where hikers had stomped through the snow and exposed the vegetation below, while John stood several yards below her directing a long line of visitors onto the new route away from the sensitive plants.

In the parking lot, I ran into Bill Marsh, the new Volunteer Meadow Rover Coordinator. Bill works four days a week in the Park and lives in his RV down at the Longmire Volunteer Campground. Bill told me that the Park could really use the Meadow Rovers now and that he has been primarily focused on protecting the plants right by the parking lot at Paradise as the snow melts back away from the pavement. Bill and others have used metal fence posts and rope to mark off areas to keep visitors off the plants. With the warm mid- summer temperatures, Bill expects more rapid melt out and a need for even more Meadow Rovers to come up to the meadows. Any help you can provide during melt-out would be much appreciated in the next few weeks.

After lunch, I drove down the valley road past Reflection and Louise Lakes to the Bench Lake trail head at the request of one of the Park’s Rangers. I hiked the 1.2 mile trail up to the upper end of Snow Lake located below Unicorn Peak. Adjacent to the first few 100 yards of trail, a carpet of white avalanche lilies line both sides of the trail. The trail is snow free except for the last 500 yards long the creek that leads to the upper lake basin.

I met several families with small children along the trail and handed out “Don’t Be a Meadow Stomper, Stay on Trails” buttons. Everyone I encountered was well behaved and I had no issues with people wandering off the trails. The Bench/Snow Lake trail is a much more relaxed and less hectic place to Meadow Rove than the area just above the Paradise Parking Lot and I was glad a Ranger had asked me to check out this trail.

The Melt-Out has started, so don’t hesitate and come on up to the Park to help out with Meadow Roving.

Phil Hertzog, Meadow Rover

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