Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Geoscience Teacher In The Park Internships

A Park geologist leans against
a massive boulder left behind
in the Kautz Creek mudflow.
NPS photo

Mount Rainier National Park is pleased to announce an opportunity for classroom teachers to intern at the park during the summer season. In partnership with the National Association of GeoScience Teachers, two teachers will work alongside the Park Geologist and Regional Geomorphologist on a variety of research projects examining the park's landscape response to climate change.

For a link to the application, please go to the Park's page at

For questions, please contact Scott Beason, Park Geologist at

Notes from Nordic Patrol

Ever wonder what it's like to patrol one of the snowiest places on earth? Here's a great summary of what it was like last weekend, shared by a member of our Nordic Patrol, that captures both the highs and lows faced by some of our most intrepid volunteers.

Hello All Nordic Patrollers,

We had a great weekend of fun with 5 Patrollers showing up over our three days. A special thanks to Mindy Nichols, Tom Eckhout, Lisa Hertzog, and George Whyel.

On Saturday, we faced torrential rain and freezing levels rising to 7,000 feet. We broke into two teams: Mindy and Tom covered Zone B (Paradise, Glacier Vista, Edith Basin, Bundy's Run and 4th Crossing) while Lisa and I hit Zone A (Paradise, Devils Dip, Inspiration Saddle, Reflection and Canyon Wye).  During our morning GAR (General Assessment of Risk) briefing, we put in contingency plans to bail out if any of us got soaked.

As I climbed up Inspiration Saddle in the rain and wrung out water from my gloves every 5 minutes, I was thinking; how embarrassing, all of my gear has failed and I'm going to be the only one who needs to trigger our bailout plan. Time to go spend a few hundred at REI for some new Gortex.

Just as I was about to call the other team, Tom called and asked, "where's your location?" "I'm at Reflection Lake, do you want us to head up to Paradise?"  Tom replied, "No, we are at the JVC and are soaked!"  I replied, "Us too, see you at Canyon Wye in 40 minutes."

As Mindy and Tom pulled into Canyon Wye 40 minutes later, I raised my hands high above my head and wrung out a stream of water from my gloves. We all laughed.

We got back to the Longmire House at 2:30 pm and immediately pulled out the food. Lisa got chips and dip out while Mindy heated up a large pan of enchiladas made with verde sauce, black beans,and a hint of lime.  I found out that Mindy is a nutritionist and a great chef. I encourage you to sign up for any trips she leads. We had a great time eating, telling stories, and drying out.

The next day Lisa and I went up to the Paradise area and covered Edith Basin and the Skyline Trail while Ranger Jeff Gardner hit the lower marked trails at Reflection Lake and Inspiration Saddle. Above Paradise winds gusted up to 47 mph and low visibility. Lisa and I spent the day making visitor contacts to warn back country users of adverse conditions.

At Myrtle Falls, Lisa and I skied down to the bridge crossing the Paradise River and saw how the River was open and flowing fast.  On the bridge deck was a pile of snow at least three feet tall with a narrow track about 18-24 inches wide with a drop of 12-15 feet to the river bed below.

Two young women in their early 20's with no packs skied up to us and said, "Uh..., Do we need to ski over that?"  "Is that the way to get to the Nisqually Loop Trail?"  Lisa and I said "No," and gave them directions for how to get back to the JVC and find the Loop Trail.

Today, George and I drove up the road and broke out into sunshine at the "Oh My" curve with beautiful views of the Tatoosh Range.  In the Narada Falls Parking lot, we met a group of 12 headed up to the Tatoosh to carve some turns.  We had 20-30 cm of fresh powder on top of hard pack. As we skied toward Reflection Lake, we keep passing the groups. One of the young women, in her thirties, keep asking George questions. Though George was being helpful and fulling his Nordic Patrol duties, I suspect he was being "hit on" by this skier.

George and I spent over an hour having lunch at Reflection Lake in the sunshine before heading back out.

Come out and join the fun and help keep the public safe at Mount Rainier National Park. We have three openings next weekend with Ginnie Miller as the Lead Patroller and Dennis Dubois the following weekend also is looking for Patrollers.

Phil Hertzog

Update February 5, 2015:

Just for fun, I'm going to add a second report to the bottom of this one (rather than creating a new blog entry). Here's the report from Superbowl Sunday:

We had a very productive and fun weekend of Nordic Patrol on Super Bowl weekend. Patrollers came prepared to patrol the best snow cover in the state by day, and socialize by night.

Saturday – Eight patrollers arrived at the already overflowing Paradise parking lot under clear blue skies. After a beacon and radio check, our three patrol teams headed out and contacted over 150 visitors in the backcountry around Paradise.

Teams were selected and assigned to routes based on their pace, skill, and individual objectives. Three first-time patrollers were paired with veteran patrollers. Ranger Kraig Snure had no special assignments for us. Avalanche danger was low, temperatures were around freezing, skies were clear and visibility was perfect. Yes, perfect.

Team 1 patrolled Mazama Ridge from Fourth Crossing to Reflection Lakes. Team 2 patrolled Paradise Valley Road to Inspiration Saddle and continued to Reflection Lakes. Team 3 patrolled Alta Vista, Skyline and Edith Creek, and made the most visitor contacts of any team that day.

Team 2 spent some time on Paradise Valley Road helping visitors find the correct trailhead at Fourth Crossing. Several were turning uphill too soon, on the wrong side of the creek, which is still open and flowing. Team 1 contacted some large groups of snowshoers, including overnighters, who were vague about their destinations “up the ridge;” they may have been headed for the Paradise Snow Caves but did not want to say that to us.

Teams 1 and 2 observed snowshoers traversing the frozen surface of Reflection Lake without incident; there is open water near the inlet surrounded by thin ice. On the Inspiration Saddle route we encountered a couple in wet street shoes who weren’t positive about where they were parked, and a trio of overnight campers who seemed not to have received much guidance about where they should camp.

Sunday – Five patrollers arrived at Paradise to find only two other vehicles in the snowy parking lot. The NWS forecast for the day was rain at Paradise; however another forecast calling for heavy snowfall turned out to be correct! Ranger Jeff Gardner was not on duty Sunday. Avalanche danger was moderate, temperatures were just above freezing, winds were increasing and visibility was poor.

Team 1 and team 2 patrolled together to Glacier Vista. Conditions went from bad to worse. The skiing, however, had greatly improved over the previous day. About half of our visitor contacts were people who were hiking or skiing alone.

Meanwhile a chain requirement went into effect on the road. We returned to the JVC in the early afternoon as the snowfall was turning to rain. With Super Bowl kickoff time approaching, there were very few visitors left at Paradise.

The report concludes with an extensive description of various routes and their status, ranked by priority; a summary of snow conditions and the status of facilities; and a list of recommended action items, concluding with the following:

There is about 1 quart each of chocolate and vanilla ice cream in the freezer drawer. Recommendation: enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mount Rainier National Park Associates sets 2015 schedule

During 2015 Mount Rainier National Park  Associates will be conducting six volunteer work parties at Mount Rainier: four Saturdays of doing trail maintenance and two Saturdays doing "alpine gardening".   We invite you to join us for a day or two of volunteer work, donating your time and effort, but also enjoying the amazing place that is Mount Rainier National Park and the company of people who love that place.
Please mark your calendars to join us on any, or all, of the following dates [subject to change!].  The locations will be determined by park staff about two weeks before the volunteer work party.
April 25th  trail maintenance (a great day to get that first spring outing at Mount Rainier)
May 16th   trail maintenance
June 13th  trail maintenance
July 11th   The Deveg  (exotic plant removal, also known as weeding, but a surprisingly fun Saturday
August 15th  trail maintenance during the day, followed by a pot luck dinner, and an overnight camp for the volunteers who have worked that day
September 12th  The Reveg  (planting wildflower seedlings to re-establish alpine meadows)
I hope to see you on one, or more, of these MRNPA volunteer work parties.
John Titland
Volunteer Coordinator
Mount Rainier National Park Associates

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Volunteers invited to contribute to Centennial Story Book - Deadline January 15

Calling all volunteer storytellers! I believe I saw this last month in the run-up to the holidays, but was so busy at the time that I brushed past it without paying much attention. This reminder comes with the deadline just a week away, but it's too good an opportunity not to pass along. Rather than rewriting it, I'll just insert, here, the original message. Get out your quills!

We are publishing a Centennial Story Book of 100 stories by people who are, or have been, intimately connected to a National Park Service unit as an employee or volunteer. The deadline to submit stories has been extended to January 15. We are still looking for a couple inspiring stories.  It would be great to get one from your staff.

We are inviting all current and past NPS employees and volunteers to participate by sharing their own stories that, at their heart, seek to inspire the next generation. Will you please share this information with your staff and volunteers?

The proposed book and companion e-book, Inspiring Generations: 100 Stories from the National Park Service, will include written pieces that aim to inspire future preservation as well as youth involvement and stewardship. The format will be paperback, approximately 350 pages, printed in black and white, with a full-color cover plus archival or contemporary photographs.
Guidelines can be found, and submissions made online at, the Centennial Story Book web portal.  All stories will be reviewed for possible publication and, if selected, the author will be contacted for permission and background information. Each published author will receive a complimentary copy of the book.

Publication is currently scheduled for Holiday 2015. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2015.

Inspire others! Get your story published! Celebrate with your fellow employees and volunteers the joy and passion of working for the NPS. Submit TODAY!

With my sincere thanks,

Mike Tollefson
Yosemite Conservancy

Does your employer have a matching grant program for your volunteer service?

Make your volunteer service grow through
your company's matching grant program!
Back in November, one of our Meadow Rover volunteers, Rob Gronewald, contacted me to inquire about the number of hours he had worked over the summer, as his employer had just implemented a new program to donate ten dollars per hour, up to a maximum of $500, for every hour he had volunteered for a government agency under Section 170(c)(1) of the federal tax code. As it turns out, purely by coincidence he had volunteered precisely 50 hours in 2014. We checked into the process and learned that such donations are easy received by our non-profit partner, Washington's National Park Fund, on behalf of Mount Rainier National Park, and late last month I received an e-mail confirming that his company would be sending $500 to the Fund on our behalf. Hooray!

Donations made through Washington's National Park Fund, by both corporations and individuals, are vital to the success of our volunteer program. Yes, volunteers work without salary, but like all employees, they also incur costs. Their jobs require supervisors, supplies, tools, uniforms, personal protective equipment like hard hats and safety vests, vehicles and fuel to take them to work locations, housing and associated utilities, and occasionally a small per diem for long-term volunteers to help with basic living expenses. Funding for these costs comes from a variety of sources, including our general park budget, project grants, and donations through the Fund. In 2014, for example, in addition to my own salary, we received about $17,000 from the National Park Service to cover basic operations, in addition to $50,000 in general donation money from the Fund and another grant from the National Park Foundation to cover costs associated with a Student Conservation Association Community Crew. In return, we logged 57,336 hours of volunteer service, equivalent to $1.3 million worth of work by paid staff. It's a pretty good return on investment.

So an extra $500 may not sound like much, but with volunteers, it goes a long way. That'll pay for a couple of months of housing, vehicle costs, or per diem for a long-term volunteer. It'll buy a few dozen volunteer shirts and caps, or enough field supplies to outfit a full season of Citizen Science volunteers. We are tremendously grateful to Rob, and to Tesoro Corporation, for their financial support, in addition, of course, to the 50 hours Rob spent out on the trail!

Tesoro's matching grant is managed by YourCause, LLC through a program called Dollars for Doers. A quick Google search reveals many companies who participate in similar programs: Capital One, Chevron, Verizon, State Farm, Microsoft, AMD, IBM, Xcel Energy, Kohl's, ExxonMobil, Coinstar, Redbox, ConocoPhillips, Aetna, Dell, RealNetworks, Allstate, Time Warner, Prudential, Alliant Energy, and many more. Other companies operate similar matching grant programs independently or through other organizations.

This year, consider making your volunteer service go even further! Check with your company and see if they participate in a matching grant program. If so, contact me at Kevin_Bacher [at], and Laurie Ward at Washington's National Park Fund at Laurie [at], to make the arrangements, and start tracking your time!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Citizen Scientists in Action

Following up on yesterday's post about volunteers helping to understand the effects of climate change, here are some photos of our Citizen Science Amphibian Survey program from over the years. This intrepid group of volunteers, under the leadership of an intern hired through the Student Conservation Association, head out into the backcountry to census populations of frogs and salamanders in wilderness lakes and ponds all over the park. We know that amphibians are especially sensitive to environmental conditions including pollution and climate change, so it's helpful to park managers to know their baseline populations and how they change over time. These are data we simply wouldn't have without volunteers, and our ability to protect Mount Rainier would suffer greatly as a consequence.

In 2014, 25 volunteers contributed 873 hours of service exploring 31 wetland, ponds, and lakes, gathering amphibian, dragonfly, and bathymetric data.

If this sounds like a way you'd like to help, pop over to page on and fill out an application. Keep in mind that this is a job that doesn't begin until the snow melts at high elevations, usually in July, and our coordinator doesn't come on duty until late June. Don't be alarmed if May rolls around and you haven't heard from anyone yet. Be aware, too, that this is job for the physically fit, as you may find yourself trekking cross-country to camp at research sites for a day or two. The rewards, on the other hand, are tremendous. Just check out these photos of your new "office."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Aiding Paradise: Volunteers are helping us understand and prepare for climate change

Volunteers make survey measurements
on the Nisqually Glacier
Many of you have already read the excellent 16-page special section in The News Tribune that came out last month called "Losing Paradise: Climate Change is Changing Mount Rainier." If you haven't done so, it's an excellent read, covering everything from the science behind climate change (both what we know and what's still uncertain) to its effects on the mountain's glaciers, rivers, plants, animals, visitors, and caretakers.

The one tiny flaw in this exceptional and comprehensive story is that nowhere are volunteers mentioned -- at least, by that title. But anyone who knows anything about Mount Rainier knows that volunteers are intimately involved in everything we do, and that is certainly true of our efforts to understand and prepare for climate change.

This mountain is one of the best places on the planet to study the local effects of changing climate, and as the article suggests, it has attracted a swarm of graduate students. Many are independent researchers, working with their universities under research permits. Others are hired as volunteers or interns by the National Park Service through programs like the Geoscientists-in-Parks program, a partnership with the Geologic Society of America (whose interns have contributed greatly to Mount Rainier over the years, and whose 2015 positions are accepting applications until February 3rd). Scott Beason, a park geologist, began his career as a "GIP" intern. John Beyeler and Rebecca Rossi, who spent the summer of 2013 gathering stream data in the Carbon River channel, and who are featured on the cover the special section in the News Tribune, sitting on an island surrounded by the rushing river, were two more such interns. Emily Knoth and John Russell, 2014 interns, are photographed conducting surveys at Longmire. Mitch Haynes, pictured mapping the Nisqually Glacier, was a 2014 summer volunteer working with park geomorphologist Paul Kennard.

MeadoWatch volunteer Karen Murante
surveys wildflowers on Mazama Ridge
Volunteers help in other ways, too. They survey sensitive animal species on our wildlife crews, and serve as Citizen Scientists, documenting the changing populations of amphibian surveys in wilderness lakes and ponds. "MeadoWatch" volunteers monitor the timing of when flowers bloom and set seed, and its Park Service and University of Washington facilitators are working with NASA satellite imagery to develop predictive snow melt models. The volunteer Cascade Butterfly Survey tracks fluctuations in butterfly populations over the years. Even casual park visitors can get involved, by submitting their geotagged photos for researchers to analyze. The deployment of volunteers gives us hundreds of data points where, if we relied solely on paid staff, we would have only dozens.

And, of course, when the rivers rise, causing damage like that of the November 2006 floods that wiped out roads, bridges, trails, and campgrounds, volunteers respond to make repairs. Miles of trail were rebuilt almost entirely by volunteers; it's no exaggeration to say that large swaths of the park would still be closed off without the help of partners like the Washington Trails Association and Student Conservation Association who helped organize work crews. Community groups representing REI, Boeing, Starbucks, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, church groups, military units, geocaching clubs, and dozens of others joined hundreds of individuals to grade and build and brush and plant.

You can make a difference! Volunteer with our MeadoWatch, Butterfly Survey, or Citizen Science programs to help gather data for researchers. Share your photos of flowering plants (how simple is that)! Work with our Trail Crews, and with our partners at the Washington Trails Association, to continue repairing and maintaining damaged trails. Support the work of other partners like Washington's National Park Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association. Join other volunteer efforts throughout the year, and encourage your employee associations, church groups, civic groups, and community organizations to contribute. Together, we can make a real difference. See you on the Mountain!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Post-holiday updates

Happy New Year from Mount Rainier National Park!

Your humble Volunteer Program Manager was on vacation over the holidays, but of course life on The Mountain continued without a break. Here's a sampling of what's in my in box on my return to the office:

Climate Friendly Parks Internship Posted

(December 22) I have sent the announcement out to a few of my contacts to get the word out. It is a fairly quick turnaround, so if anyone knows of a good spot to post.... 

Margaret Anderson Remembered:

Webcam capture, January 1, 2015, 10:44 a.m.
(December 28) As we approach January 1, 2015, we will mark three years since the murder of US Park Ranger Margaret Anderson.  On January 1, 2015, all Mount Rainier National Park employees are authorized to wear black mourning bands across their badges in honor of Ranger Anderson's sacrifice. 

At 10:42AM, Mount Rainier National Park Communications Center will request a moment of silence in honor of Ranger Anderson.  Additionally, rangers will lower the flags at the Jackson Visitor Center and Old Station to half mast at this time.  If the road to Paradise is closed due to weather or other issues, the flag at the Longmire Admin building will be alternative location.

Dave Keltner, West District Ranger

Tragic Conclusion to Search Efforts:

(December 29) Search crews located an unresponsive male fitting the description of an overdue snowshoer at 11:57 this morning. The Pierce County Medical Examiner will make the final determination and identification. The body was found by ground searchers next to Edith Creek in the Paradise area.

The missing snowshoer, a 37 year old male from Puyallup, Washington, disappeared during Saturday evening’s winter storm that dropped 20 inches of snow in 48 hours. He intended to overnight at Camp Muir, but was forced to descend due to formidable winter storm conditions. A second party took him into their shelter at Panorama Point, but when the shelter was destroyed by the extreme conditions they attempted to complete their descent to Paradise together. During the descent the individual separated from the party in the vicinity of Edith Creek.

Members of the Nordic Patrol, and Tacoma, Everett, Seattle, and Olympic Mountain Rescues [all volunteers] conducted the ground search. The US Army Reserve 214th Air Division out of Joint Base Lewis McChord and park climbing rangers aboard searched the avalanche prone areas by air. Approximately 30 personnel were assigned to the incident.

The Paradise River in Winter:

NPS Photo by Steve Olson
(December 31) Photography volunteer Steve Olson sent several photos for our official NPS collection, taken along the Paradise River after the Winter Operations Training on December 13. Here's a sample to enjoy!

Update on Drone Policy:

(January 1) Below is the latest statement from the FAA regarding the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, aka drones).  Please steer those looking for guidance (employees, volunteers, cooperators and public) to the website.

“Last week, drone industry trade groups teamed up with the FAA and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign aimed at amateur drone operations. The campaign includes a website, , where operators can find FAA regulations and advice on how to fly safely. The trade groups said they also plan to distribute safety pamphlets at industry events and are working with manufacturers to see that safety information is enclosed inside the package of new drones.”

Glenn Kessler, Park Aviation Manager

Calling All Snow Rover Volunteers!

(January 2) Now that everyone has had time to recover from holiday festivities (which for some was volunteering!), it is time to take a look at our schedules and set up dates to be a snow rover.

Don't forget that you are asked to volunteer once a month (8 hrs) to be considered an active volunteer!

Email me back at to set up your volunteering dates; I'm looking forward to hearing from you all.


Taryn O'Connell, Snow Rover Coordinator

Thanks again, Nordic Patrol:

(January 3) The volunteer Nordic Ski Patrol has finished marking all the Paradise winter ski trails, the Nisqually Vista snowshoe trail was completed yesterday. Thanks for everyone's patience this year with the late start due to the marginal snow pack. The Nordic Patrol will maintain the trails through the last weekend in March, conditions permitting.

Please bring any deficiencies or needs with the marked winter trail system to myself and/or Jeff Gardner's attention. Jeff is supervising the Nordic Patrol operation again this winter.

Kraig Snure, Wilderness District Ranger

Winter Trail Report:
(January 4) Please note the date for reports and recognize changes may have occurred since report. If a trail or area does not have a specific report, conditions are unknown as of the date of this summary. Check the Northwest Avalanche Center Report and the Mount Rainier Recreational Weather Report before heading out. Avalanche assessment and route-finding skills are needed for many winter activities in the park this time of year. Call the Longmire Information Center between 9:00 AM and 4:30 PM if you have questions (360-569-6575).

Weather Report Link:

Avalanche Report Link:

Southwest Summary Report, 01/04/15: There are only a few more inches of snow in the park at all elevations since the last report. The snow from the previous storm has consolidated and a high freeze level with rain will likely consolidate the snow further. Watch for icy roads.

Longmire Area Trails, 01/04/15: There are only a few inches of snow on the ground in Longmire, expect less once you get under the canopy of the old growth forests. Multiple downed trees persist on the trails in the Longmire area. All trails can be hiked with good boots with not quite enough snow for snowshoes. The foot bridge over the Nisqually to Carter Falls (near Cougar Rock campground) is washed out, no report on the trail beyond that point. Remember everyone is responsible for their own navigation when snow covers the trails.

Longmire Winter Trails PDF:

Paradise Area Trails, 01/04/15: Paradise 5400’ the snow is a compact 4‘. Please use extreme caution around the Pan Point area; it is very icy and experienced back-country users have reported the most heavily travelled tracks going through the avalanche terrain. Three of our winter routes have been marked with orange and black poles. Please refer to the Paradise Winter Recreation PDF for marked routes and suggested routes to avoid avalanche terrain in the Paradise area. Remember navigation is your responsibility and tracks in the snow is not a trail.

East Side Area Update, 12/3/14: SR 123 and 410 are closed at the park boundary. Silver Creek sno-park is not up and running yet, but parking lot is accessible. No report on trail conditions, use the southwest area conditions as an estimate. There is self-registration set up at the north boundary arch bulletin board for wilderness backpacking. There is also self-registration set up at the White River Ranger Station for backpacking and climbing. (Climbers are directed to fill out a climbing card and to pay the fee utilizing a pre-addressed envelope when they return from their climb).

Carbon/Mowich Area Update 12/3/14:

Call (360) 829-9639 for the Carbon River Ranch Ranger Station hours. There is self-registration for climbing and backpacking set up outside when the Carbon River Ranch Ranger Station is not staffed. There is light snow on the ground near the Carbon River entrance, the warming trend and rain will likely melt this snow. There is snow and ice on the road to Mowich outside of the park boundary with approximately 1.5’ of snow at Mowich Lake itself. The lower elevation trails can be quite icy, traction devices recommended but without enough depth for snowshoes yet. The old road bed to Isput Creek campground has sections washed out with the remainder being very muddy. Recent flooding has created numerous hazards and difficulties in the Carbon River/Mowich area. Bridges are washed out to Chenius Falls, over the Mowich Rivers on the Wonderland and on the approach to Carbon Glacier on the Wonderland. The trail to Carbon Glacier also had sections wash out and other areas blocked by landslides. With bridges and sections of trail washed out, sections of trail blocked by landslides, and icy conditions elsewhere, this trip would be very hazardous. For any experienced back-country user who still is considering this hike please use extreme caution.

Casey Overturf, Park Guide