Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Photo courtesy of Jon Epstein
Can you say "S-N-O-W?" Nordic Patrol's Jon Epstein trekked out to reset poles at Paradise. He's shown here at the Deadhorse Creek bridge. In Jon's words, "If you look to the far right of the photo you can see a small group of poles barely sticking out where they identify the bridge.  Had we not reset them this weekend they would have been lost for most of the winter."

The forecast is for snow to continue throughout the week, becoming heavy at times. If you go out, be prepared for winter conditions.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Seasonal -and Permanent- Greetings!

Photo by Kevin Bacher

The highly capable and eminently professional staff of the Volunteer Program would like to wish you and your families the best of the season. Now, let it snow!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Every Kid in a Park - Seattle Kick Off Event

Did you know that every single fourth grader can get a pass for free entry to any National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Education, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  That is millions of acres of federal land, just waiting to be explored by the fourth graders of this country (and their families, of course), for free! 

In the first year of this inititive, President Barack Obama has said:

"Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters - these places are your birthright as Americans."

But maybe you aren't a fourth grader, reading this blog.  Parents can help their children get this pass by completing a short task together at www.everykidinapark.gov, printing out a temporary pass, and then exchanging it at any fee station of federal lands, including here at Mount Rainier National Park.

Are you a teacher of fourth graders?  Do you work at a camp or outdoor education center for fourth graders?  Sunday school?  Boy Scouts?  Girl Scouts?  A home-school leader?  Do you lead an after school program?  If you are an educator of fourth graders, then you can also create a lesson that touches on a few outlined topics, and you can hand out passes to any fourth graders that complete the lesson!  More information for educators can be found at www.everykidinapark.gov/get-your-pass/educator .

In September, Mount Rainier National Park, Klondike Goldrush National Park, Olympic National Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Islandwood and Washington Trails Association all held activities for a number of fourth graders from around the Seattle Area, issuing over 50 passes to very eager fourth graders!

You can get YOUR pass here (assuming that you are in fourth grade): www.everykidinapark.gov

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Calling All Volunteers with a Name Tag!

Do you have a bronze name tag from your time volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park?  Have you put in over 100 hours of volunteer time?  Do you volunteer on the front lines, behind a visitor's center desk, in a wilderness information center, out meadow roving or patrolling the back country, or many other jobs where a name tag is a crucial part of your uniform?  Were you an active volunteer in 2015 and will you be an active volunteer in 2016?  If so, then this post is for you!

Just imagine this, shinier, and in pin form.

As you may already (hopefully) know, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.  To help spread the news, we have ordered a limited number of 2016 Centennial pins to share with those volunteers who interact with the public on a regular basis.  You may have seen these pins on NPS Staff, centered just above their name tags, and they are an official part of the 2016 uniform for staff and volunteers. 

These pins do look best centered above the official NPS name tag, but if you don't have a name tag, don't you fret!  They are available for purchase at http://www.arrowheadstore.com/.  Since the volunteer program has a limited number of these pins, we only have enough for one pin per volunteer who meets the above criteria. 

So, if you have been an active volunteer in the past year and you are looking to continue volunteering throughout the winter or even next summer, with a name tag, please contact Ian at ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov and he will get your pin out to you as soon as possible!  In your email, please include your mailing address, if you would like to have your pin shipped to you!

Friday, November 27, 2015

N2P Road Construction Update, 11/30-12/6

Work in the new conduit and vaults in the Nisqually Road continues through December 18 with the installation of fiber optic cable between the Nisqually Entrance and Longmire.

Work will take place during daylight hours, Mondays through Fridays, with the exception of holidays.

Flaggers will direct traffic through one lane as necessary. There may be more than one location where this will happen.

Traffic delays will be no more than 30 minutes total one-way.

Please drive slowly in work areas.

OptOutside for Green Friday!

I got up extra early today to come up with a witty post, but instead I decided to #OptOutside and celebrate #GreenFriday. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, and instead of getting in line for Black Friday deals, go celebrate YOUR National Parks today. Entrance fees for Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks have been waived, which may be the biggest deal of all. Get out there and #FindYourPark.

Rampart Ridge, November 24, 2015


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Green Friday or Black Friday?

Either way, #OptOutside with us tomorrow and enjoy your National Park, free of charge!

This Thanksgiving, We are Thankful for YOU.

This Thanksgiving, we want to thank you. Yes, you, the Mount Rainier VIP. Without you, who knows what the park would even be like today. From maintaining the trails, to removing invasive species, to replanting our meadows, to educating visitors, to search and rescue operations, to assisting in the park collections, to answering countless questions in the Visitor's Centers, to collecting vital information from citizen science surveys, to seemingly infinite other responsibilities, the volunteers are really what makes Mount Rainier such a special place for nearly 2,000,000 visitors each and every year. We really cannot say it enough. Thank you, Mount Rainier volunteers!
Click to Enlarge

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Sooty Grouse: Mount Rainier's "Turkey?"

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, much of the nation is looking to the turkey to be the centerpiece in their festive feast.  Mount Rainier has over 230,000 acres of beautiful wilderness, but you would be very hard pressed to find a Wild Turkey grazing in the park.  But surely there has to be a similar bird somewhere out there, right?

Sketch of the "turkey" of Mount Rainier
 by C. Frank Brockman

In the November 1, 1928 Mount Rainier Nature News Notes, the second full-time Park Naturalist, C. Frank Brockman, wrote an article giving that honor to the sooty grouse.  An excerpt from Mr. Brockman's writing:

"Perhaps you know the Sooty Grouse as the "hooter" for one of his chief characteristics is the throaty hooting that is often kept up for long periods. To some this continued vocal effort is a sign of rain--like the continued call of the dove--but this theory is not borne out by fact. The Sooty Grouse is a handsome bird, about the size of the domestic hen and its dark slate or "sooty" color is finely mottled with grey and brown. Thus, like many other of Nature's children, it finds its chief protection in the fact that it looks like the region in which it lives. We find it in meadows between 4000 and 6000 feet, strutting about in the huckleberry patches or perched on a gnarled limb of a Mountain Hemlock surveying the passer-by with a calm deliberation that bespeaks of a total absence of fear."

C. Frank Brockman with park visitors and Charlie, circa 1941
 During his tenure at Mount Rainier, C. Frank Brockman helped to shape many of the programs that we still see in the park to this day.  When he was first hired as the Park Naturalist in 1928, one of his first tasks was to convert the Old Longmire Administration Building to a public museum, the Longmire Museum, which is still in use today.  He also oversaw the creation of a visitor's center at both Paradise and Sunrise throughout the early 1930's.  After leaving the National Park Service, Brockman became a Professor of Forest Recreation at the University of Washington, retiring in the late 1960's.  C. Frank Brockman passed away on March 20, 1985, but his legacy can still be seen throughout Mount Rainier National Park today.

Monday, November 23, 2015

BEHIND THE SCENES: A Look at the Meadow Rover Office at Paradise

In today's volunteer photo submission, we are featuring a picture taken by Ed Hunds.  Throughout the summer, Ed was roving the many miles of trails at Paradise.  Before heading out on the trials in the morning, or after a long day in the subalpine sun, the Meadow Rover office was the place to share stories, warn of problem areas, and to rehydrate.  It wasn't uncommon to see five, six, seven, or even more people around the office on any given summer day.  Thanks to this photo from Ed, we are able to get a little sneak peak into the life of a Meadow Rover. 

Photo by Ed Hunds

Even with the ever increasing snow totals at Paradise, try to remember that not too long ago the trails were clear and the sun was hot.  If you aren't one for that cold stuff, then enjoy this picture, also submitted by Ed, of the packed trails in Paradise.

Photo by Ed Hunds

Do you have any pictures that you took while you were volunteering this year?  How about a cool story of something you did out on the trails?  Do you love knowing that your pictures and stories could be viewed by MILLIONS (maybe a slight exaggeration) of visitors to this blog, every day?!  If so, send them along to Ian at ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov and you may be featured on this blog and our Volunteer Facebook page.
Thank you Ed for your submissions to us!  Keep an eye out in the future for more photos shared by Ed and our many other volunteers!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Snow Roving and Winter Operations Training

It seems as though we have skipped right over autumn and jumped headfirst into winter.  The nights are getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and snow is starting to accumulate at Paradise.  Every morning when I come into my office at Longmire, I am walking across frosted sidewalks and white grass.  With winter comes the announcement of the Winter Operations Training for volunteers and interpretation staff. 

The Winter Operations training will be DECEMBER 19th FROM 9:00am TO 5:00pm, and we will be meeting in the Community Building at Longmire, adjacent to the Longmire Stewardship Campground, for the first portion of the training.  This training will cover the paperwork necessary to become a Snow Rover (the position description and responsibilities are different from Meadow Roving and modified from last year's Snow Rovers, so anyone wanting to Snow Rove this year will NEED to fill out a new volunteer agreement), an introduction to the roles of different divisions in the park, general safety, the art of informal interpretation, and the operations of both Longmire and Paradise programs throughout the winter.  We will cap off the day with an example Ranger led snowshoe walk out of Paradise introduce you to "a day in the life" of a snow rover.

It is important to stress that Nordic Patrol, Winter Interpreters, Snow Rovers, and Meadow Rovers are each different volunteer positions, and each requires a separate volunteer agreement.  If you are already signed up as a Meadow Rover, for example, you are not automatically also a Snow Rover.  The duties and priorities are different, and if you have registered as a Meadow Rover or were a Snow Rover last year but haven't yet signed paperwork as a Snow Rover this year, you are notauthorized to do the work.  If you are interested in participating and cannot make it to the training on DECEMBER 19th, contact Ian (ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov) and make arrangements to sign up. 

5-Minute Presentations Are Needed!
We will begin the Winter Operations Training with a series of BRIEF presentations on winter safety topics, such as the 10 Essentials, preventing falls, snow shoveling, hypothermia, dehydration, frostbite, winter driving, cold and flu prevention, etc.  If you would like to put together  a 5 minute presentation on one of these topics, or something similar, please let us know when you RSVP, and we will add you to the schedule!

Please RSVP to ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov in advance to make sure we have enough materials and space available in the Community Building before December 19th.  If you have any questions about registering or that should be brought up in the training, please also send them to Ian in advance so we can better prepare!

Take a look at this list if you are interested in Snow Roving this year:

Please click the image to enlarge.

We look forward to a fantastic winter!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Like Us On Facebook!

Remember to like our Mount Rainier National Park Volunteers page on Facebook!  We are looking to stay in touch with all of our volunteers during the slower winter season, and what a better way than liking us on Facebook?  Stay up to date with the latest information, get a behind the scenes look at the volunteer program, and meet other volunteers, all at www.facebook.com/RainierVolunteers!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Storm damage in the Longmire Stewardship Campground

Tuesday's wind and rain storm played havoc with the Longmire Stewardship Campground, blowing down 65 -- yes, 65 -- trees. Rangers spent Wednesday assessing the damage and Thursday beginning the long process of cleaning it up, starting with simply removing fallen trees from access roads, including the road to our water treatment plant and back gate. A lot more work remains to be done with the help of volunteers, probably next spring.

Here are some photos of the damage as it's being sorted out on Thursday afternoon. I'm extremely grateful to the maintenance rangers for their hard work on behalf of our volunteers and partners! As you can see, we have much to do, but we were also extremely lucky. It could have been a lot worse.

The middle bathroom is being renovated, and thankfully
was not damaged.

The southern end of the employee hookup sites sustained a lot
of damage. Fortunately no one was staying here at the time.

Our carpenters are in the process of building a picnic shelter
for volunteers and partners to use. It was undamaged.

A closer view of the picnic shelter in progress.

A panoramic view of fallen trees mid-campground.
Click for a larger view.

Maintenance worker Tom Moore works on clearing fallen
trees from the platform tent loop.

The southern end of the platform tent loop sustained more
damage than anywhere else.

Fallen trees at the southwest end of
the campground.

Jackstraws, with one to three foot diameter straws.

Tom Moore wrestles with fallen trees.

Group site A, at the southern end of the campground.
Amazingly, our beautiful new picnic tables sustained
only the most minor of damage. None were hit directly.

Mid-campground, just north of the shower building.

Some places are a real mess...

At the southern end of the employee area, as viewed from
the east side of the campground.

Immediately behind the Community Building.

This photo perfectly illustrates how lucky we were. This
tree missed the fire box (with its brand new roof installed
by volunteers this August) and fire hydrant by six inches.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Peculiar Sight and an All Too Common Sight at Sunrise

Today we are featuring photos from VIP Meadow Rover Mike Mauch.  Throughout October, Mike was hiking the trails at Sunrise, educating visitors about the area and being one of the few on patrol in the area after the Visitor's Center and Ranger Station both closed.  While roving, Mike had a few encounters and was lucky enough to have his camera with him.

Photograph by Michael Mauch, 2015
While hiking towards Shadow Lake in the early afternoon in the first weeks of October, Mike felt as though something was following him.  Having much experience hiking in grizzly country, Mike was constantly glancing over his shoulder.  Just a short ways down the trail, when he looked over his shoulder, he was being stalked.  Only twenty yards behind him was a Cascade Red Fox, tracing Mike's steps.  Since his camera was handy, Mike stopped to snap a few pictures.  As he was doing this, the fox calmly trotted the opposite direction, back up the trail.  Mike, cautiously and stealthly, followed.  Around the next corner, the fox had walked uphill offtrail and bedded itself only about 20 feet away from the footpath.  With great patience came great photographs.  While the fox was basking in the sun just offtrail, two visitors were able to share this experience with Mike as we was sharing his knowledge of the fox with them.

Later in the month, Mike had experienced something that is far too common in the subalpine meadows of Paradise and Sunrise, and something that nearly every Meadow Rover has had to deal with while out on the trails.  While in the area of First Burroughs, Mike had seen a family of mountain goats in the middle of the meadow.  Close behind that family was a visitor, well off trail, trying to snap some pictures of the family (possibly without bothering using his zoom?).  Mike had began to approach him about this, but the rule breaking photographer quickly packed up and was off, before Mike was able to get to him.  This continued to happen again and again, when finally Mike was able to set up his camera on an established and marked trail, and get this beautiful picture of some of the mountain goats grazng with the photographer in the image as well.  It just goes to show that you can capture some really amazing moments happening in the meadows, from right on the trail.

Photograph by Michael Mauch, 2015

Thank you, Mike, for sharing these pictures with us and for your Roving this year!  Do you have any pictures or stories to share from your time volunteering?  If so, send them to Ian at ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov and you may be featured on our blog!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Storm Damage In Longmire Campground

Click to enlarge

Yesterday's storm resulted in a temporary closure of the Park, and while most of us were home watching the gauges on the Nisqually, Cowlitz and Carbon Rivers, havoc was being wreaked by high winds in the forests. Longmire Stewardship Campground was hit hard, dozens of trees snapped off or toppled across the loop road. Campsites are filled with the debris of broken branches.

As shown in the second image, Park personnel were out assessing the damage this afternoon. Crews were already at work removing the trees obstructing the campground roads.

Campground cleanup is an issue we deal with every spring, but seldom is it of this magnitude. This year, the call for volunteers will be "all hands on deck!"
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mount Rainier National Park Associates: Jacks and Jills of All Trades

The volunteers at Mount Rainier National Park Associates have many talents: trail work in any and all weather conditions, invasive species removal (or conquering alien invaders), revegetation of once destroyed meadows, and advocating for Mount Rainier National Park.  MRNPA has been a longtime partner of Mount Rainier, and over the years have played a crucial role in preservation of the beautiful resources that we all share in the park.  This year, MRNPA has volunteered 468 hours doing trails projects, 84 hours participating in the annual "deveg" day, removing exotic species, and 170 hours replanting native species in the former Sunrise Camp.  This totals to 720 hours of volunteering, equating to a value of $16,610.40!!
A huge thank you is in order to the Mount Rainier National Park Associates for all of their hard work and their longstanding dedication to the park over the past 30 years! 

Interested in learning more about MRNPA?  Seeing some of the projects they have participated in over the years?  Learning how to sign up for the next projects?  Visit www.mrnpa.org today!

Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 Annual Activity and Expense Report

Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Volunteers In Parks
Annual Activity and Expense Report
Mount Rainier National Park
Report Date: Nov 13, 2015
Fiscal Year: 2015

Volunteer Coordinator and Park Information
Total Volunteers: 1,767
Alpha Code: MORA
VIP Coordinator: Kevin Bacher
VIP Coordinator Phone: 360-569-2211
Coordinator Email: kevin_bacher@nps.gov

Volunteer hours by category:
Administration: 129.00
Campground Host: 2,331.00
Cultural Resource Management: 6,694.00
General Management: 0.00
Interpretation: 12,760.00
Maintenance: 16,238.00
Natural Resource Management: 14,061.00
Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 8,388.00
Training: 1,966.00

TOTAL: 62,367
SCA Hours after 6/1/2015: 3,171
GRAND TOTAL (comparable to previous years): 65,538

Program costs by category:
Housing: $ 14,081.00
Meals: $ 6,353.00
Recognition/Award: $ 0.00
Supplies: $ 1,819.00
Training: $ 0.00
Transportation: $ 2,924.00
Uniforms: $ 4,131.00

Volunteer Program Highlight
Although the record low snowpack on the mountain this past winter had many negative qualities, the volunteer program saw a boost in volunteer hours in the extended summer season. Partnerships in the park continue to be one of the largest contributors to the volunteer program. In mid-August, the Longmire Stewardship Campground was filled to capacity with 137 people from REI locations across the state engaging in three days of stewardship and education. The trails program hosted an additional 30 individuals from REI on separate occasions. The Washington Trails Association coordinated 100 more volunteers than last year, totaling almost 5,000 hours. Improvements continue in the Longmire Stewardship Campground, while Citizen Science programs, including the Cascades Butterfly Survey, MeadoWatch, and amphibian surveys, continue to be some of the most popular for volunteers. The Meadow Rover program had its most popular year to date, bringing in more volunteers and hours than any year to date. Looking toward the next 100 years of the National Park Service, the volunteer program has engaged youth through the Student Conservation Association’s Community Crews, The Washington Trails Association’s Youth Volunteer Vacations, and the Washington Conservation Corps. In addition to the numbers reported here, six individual SCA interns contributed 3,171 hours of service after June 1, 2015.

How many people at the park require VIP Program Mgmt Training: 20

Optional Information Regarding Housing VIPS and Campground Hosts
Number of Campground Hosts: 11
Number of VIPs housed in Permanent Structures: 41
Number of VIPs housed in Trailers: 10

Trailer Pads for Volunteers: 12

Other Information
Number of SCAs: 35
SCA Hours: 6779
Number of Artists in Parks: 0
Artist in Parks Hours: 0
Number of International VIPs: 4
International VIPS Hours: 240
Number of Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps: 0
Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps Hours: 0
Number of Boy Scouts: 38
Boy Scout Hours: 208
Number of Girl Scouts: 11
Girl Scout Hours: 66

Wait, There is a Trail Here?

Even though it may be raining in your neck of the woods, those visiting Paradise recently have been seeing lots of that beautiful snow falling from the sky.  With the first snowfall of the year comes some of the first skiers, snowshoers, and sledders.  Personally, I cannot wait to get out there and start rolling around in the snow (I may have already made my first snowball of the year...hint: I did), but we need to remember that just a few inches under that frozen surface are thousands upon thousands of fragile plants.  Many visitors to Paradise may not realize it, but by walking off of the paved trails and sledding thorugh the meadows, they could be wiping out scores of vegetation.  With this amount of snow on the ground, the trails can still be recognized by the way they are smoother than the vegetated areas around them.
Image from webcam facing the road to Paradise, 3:16pm, November 12.
In order to protect the stunning resources we have under all of that fluffy stuff, we need to have a solid five feet of snowpack, especially before we start to leave the trails or showshoe, ski, etc.  If any of you are interested in making your first snowball of the season in the upcoming weeks and helping out to protect the fragile meadows, please contact me (Ian) directly, and I will help you get everything set up!   
We are planning our Winter Operations training in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for more information, both on this blog and on our Volunteer Facebook page!  If you have any questions or you want to come out and play volunteer in the snow, contact Ian at ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov !


Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Snowy September Morning at Sunrise

Photo by VictorDallons
Today we are featuring a volunteer photo submission made by Victor Dallons of the snow covered bunk houses surrounding the Sunrise Visitor's Center.  During the beginning of his Roving, Victor found the bunk houses in their new coats on this early September morning. 

During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt's New Deal program strove to put Americans back to work, all while beautifying public lands.  One program, the Civilian Conservation Corps, was very prevalent in the park, creating many of the trails and buildings that can still be seen today.  The CCC Camp that was based out of the White River area began work on the block houses at Sunrise in 1939. 
Photo from Park Archives

This photo was found in the Mount Rainier Archives of a CCC member working on construction of one of the block houses seen overlooking the Sunrise parking lot today. 

Do you have any pictures from your volunteering this year?  Share them with us and you may be featured on the Volunteer Blog in the near future!  Send your pictures and stories to Ian at ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov

Thank you for your submission, Victor!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Free Entrance Day on Veteran's Day

For the last Fee Free Day of the year, all admission fees to Mount Rainier will be waived on Veteran's Day, November 11th.  Even if you aren't coming out to volunteer, come on out to the park to visit The Mountain before the snow really starts to stick!

Photo from Park Archives of Military training exercises on The Mountain during WWII.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Urban Wilderness Works May Have Found A New Home

With much North Cascades National Park burning throughout the summer, the leaders from the Urban Wilderness Works needed to find a place to share their love and passion for the outdoors, and very quickly.  Luckily, Mount Rainier was their next choice, as we were host to a crew of young adults from the greater Seattle area.  While they were here, the group, totaling only seven people, completed an astonishing 504 hours of trails work and educational projects.  That 504 hours translates into over an $11,000 value.  They were only here for two weeks, with nearly half of that time spent on a backpacking trip.  This just goes to show what dedicated and like minded individuals  can accomplish when trying new things.  And, with our fingers crossed, we hope that the people from the Urban Wilderness Works have found a new home at Mount Rainier National Park.