Monday, November 24, 2008

Mike's Hikes

This last weekend I stood in line at our local Starbucks behind someone I learned in a short conversation was going to Snoqualmie Pass and hike to Guye Peak and Snoqualmie Mountain. Anyway, in our conversation he told me about his blog and videos about hikes, and in visiting the Website there are several about the trails and hikes in and around Mt. Rainier NP. You can visit his Blog with video links.

For example, his recent visit to Paradise has an excellent description, information and photos. Clearly far better hiker than I could imagine to be (hey, I'm considerably older too), and clearly an excellent resource to see when he been there and what he has said. He easily adds a lot to anyone's resource for hiking in the NP, especially the books.

Thanks Mike for the few minutes of conversation. And I hope you had a good hike.

Road closures

Update.--The road Nisqually Road is now open to Paradise, but may close depending on the weather for snow clearing in the mornings. Everything else for roads and trails, below, still apply.

The Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park has closed the Nisqually Road in the southwest corner of the NP, which leads to the Longmire and Paradise Visitors centers. This decision was made when flows in Kautz Creek flowed over the highway and flooding over highway 706 between Ashford and the Nisqually entrance.

Kautz Creek, along with other creeks and rivers in NP had significant channel changes from the storms and floods of November 2006, but none more dramatic than Kautz Creek, which split into two distinct channels, one creating a whole new channel through the forest east of the old channel and alongside the highway before passing under the highway through twin culverts. Flow excess of the new channel and the culvert overflows over the highway near the Kautz Creek bridge and rest stop.

It's not sure how long the closure will last, it's dependent on the storms in the immediate future but it could very easily be a seasonal situation until the NPS can find a way to allow the flow in the new channel to be containted in the channel and under the road. This, however, is unlikely this winter, so visitors should consider calling ahead if their plans include a trip to the NP through the Nisqually entrance.

In addition hikers wanting to access the Carbon River Trail should use caution as parts of the trail from the NP boundary to the Ipsut campground could be damaged or destroyed by floods as happened in the November 2006 and previous floods. Hikers should be prepared for this possibility along the trail. In addition, they should consider taking digital photos and contacting the NPS staff to show what you experienced. It's likely they are already aware of it but it doesn't hurt to inform and help.

On the east side of the NP highway 410 is open to the passes with some slower areas. Highway 123 at the Highway 706 intersection (Ohanopecosh entrance) is closed to the passes. Highway 706 from the intersection, Stevens Canyon entrance and highway, is closed to the intersection of the Longmire-Nisqually road to Paradise.

I will update this Web page as events change or I see a time when this isn't a problem for visitors. As always, you're welcome to add comments or send e-mail.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MPG V2.5

Click on photo for Photo Guide

I have updated and upgraded the photo guide with a whole new section about the history of the National Park, the 1896 expedition, and various other information about the National Park, such as the laws, early photographers, and topographic maps.

You can get a more complete description of the status of the projects along with immediate and longterm plans for new Web pages. When there is sufficient material, the photo guide will be redesigned to accommodate all of the work, which at this time is just an idea in the back of my mind.

I hope you find the Web pages and material helpful and useful, and as always, you're always welcome to send e-mail with your questions, suggestions or problems.

History of Laws

It might be surprising that the designation, operation and management of Mount Rainier Naitonal Park is governed by laws, some of which in turn define the National Park Service policies, rules and regulations used in the actual work by the NPS in the administration, management and operation by the staff.

Mount Rainier was first designating as a Forest Reserve in 1897 and then officially designated as National Park in 1899, and over the years since various laws were passed governing a variety of measures associated with the NP. You can get the complete text of the 1899 law designating Mount Rainier National Park here, along with a listing and links to the full text of all the applicable past and current laws since here.

As can be seen in the list, there's a lot to cover with the NP, from the mundane operation and maintanence to the expansion of the boundary. I present it so people can see the work it takes to create and keep a Natonal Park of this size and beauty. On top of that add all the work by the various special interest groups expressing their issues with the many issues that happen either by nature, eg. November 2006 floods, or people, eg. guns in NP's, and you can see it gets complex.

In addition I will be adding Web pages, hopefully soon, about the predecessor to the NP, the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve, which for most of the area around the NP became the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with smaller areas for other national forest and wilderness areas, and about the effort to establish the NP from 1893, when the first bill was introduced to 1899 and the law designating it.

In the meantime, I hope you find this informative.

Project update

As I have written I'm working on the 1896 expedition and related projects about Mount Rainier, such as the field work associated with the first USGS topographic map 1915, early photographers (1890-1900) working in and around Mount Rainier, and other historic subjects to expand the knowledge and understanding of the visitor's or photographer's experience.

In addition to this I'm working on additional information Web pages about the NP, such as forests, glaciers, backcountry hikes, snowshoing, winter activities, etc. In short, there's not a loss of ideas for new Web pages for the variety of interests of photographers and visitors to the NP, including detailled help pages on the five different areas, four quadrants and Paradise, and routine news and reports on conditions and photo opportunities.

On top of all that, all of the work requires the Website with all its work, not just the routine operation and maintenance, but the ever on-going learning about my computer, software applications, and so on. We know that cycle. I've added so much stuff to the Website, considering designing and developing version 3.0 is in the future, almost way in the future, or until I find a design or an idea to do the work sooner.

If you add all this up, it's the adage about finding time when I also want to focus on my photography work, especially with the 4x5 camera which I don't get enough time with. Add life itself, you know those errands, problems and issues that find you no matter where you are or what you're doing, and always instantly change your life.

This isn't new to almost everyone (exceptions to those who sit there and say, "I'm bored.", like my father who wasted a retirement into severe health problems, but that's another story), so I'm preaching to the choir. I'm just glad I have found and enjoy interests where the only real problem is time. Everything else is about balance and focus to do the work.

Ok, enough about the effort, what's the result so far?

Well, I've managed to find most the maps, either in their original form or later variants, of Mt. Rainier NP from the first in 1880 to the 1920's and the second generation USGS topographic map in 1935, after the boundary changes. This includes NPS maps and maps published in books or pamphlets. I have all in digital image format, and printed, except the 1935 topo map which is an original edition print.

I've located most of the photographers working in and around Mt. Rainier NP from 1890 to the early 1900's. I haven't researched those before 1890 as there were only a fewl. I used 1890 cutoff as it was the date of the first negative emulsion film made by Kodak and other companies and because the photos in the 1898 report were taken from about 1894 to 1898 by those who worked from about 1890 to after 1900.

I've found original edition books and reports of the pre-NP and early post-NP years. I'm still working on pamphlets for the period 1900-1930 with only a few to date, but it includes visitors guides by the NPS. Some of these had the maps of the NP and various access, trails and facilities. The reports include the 1898 Expedition Report with the Geology chapger and the 1900 report about the Mt. Rainier Forest Reserve, an assessment of the timber resources of the reserve before the designation of the NP, both with photos and maps.

I'm still searching for archives and through archives for material specifically relating to or about the expedition. Found to date are copies of the original field notes by G.O. Smith noting rock samples and geology during the summers of 1895 and 1896. I've managed to find the material by Bailey Willis with letters and unpublished manuscripts. Missing in the search so far are the archives of Israel Russell.

Ok, that said, what's in the future?

Well, for one the table of contents lists a number of "forthcoming" or "in progress" chapters which will be new or updated Web pages of information with maps and on-line material. This includes a number of topics of interest to photographers and visitors and some of interest to me to present (do you think I'd do the homework and not show it?). And some topics on the always full todo list are Web pages for air quality, historic mines (little seeable today), and early photography (1880-1900).

As they said, "If anything changes, I'll keep you posted."

Clean Air

One reason we visit national parks is for the vista, as many have views of extraordinary beauty. I remember visiting Chaco Canyon one December about twenty years ago, and after climbing out of the canyon to one of the remaining building on the top of the canyon, I had a breath-taking 360-degree view of the area, including seeing the distant moutains of southern Colorado.

In that brief period I understood why the building was there, wondering what the native people thought and how they lived more than 500 years ago. I shared their view, unimpeded to the horizon, undeveloped by man, and only changed by time. Because we value clean air.

And now focusing my retirement on Mt. Rainier NP, clean air is of the utmost importance because of proximity of the Puget Sound development and pollutants from the west and southwest, even from over the ocean carried across by the Jet Stream. Our climate is global now and pollution anywhere in each hemisphere disperses and diffuses throughout the hemisphere. No one is immune from the effects, especially the accumulation of pollution.

And so the national parks deserve special consideration. So why is the Environmental Protection Agency trying to loosen the rules on air quality in and around national parks? Only because the political allies in the coal and energy industry have lobbied the Bush administration to loosen the rules to build up to 186 new coal-fired power plants near national parks.

Why is it that political appointees who sell the new rules spin the rhetoric without addressing what they're really doing? Like that's new? Ok, not, but you have to read between and behind their rhetoric before you believe they're working to ensure we have clean air, and our national park are further degraded by pollution.

And how does the new standards work? Simple. Instead of taking air samples during intensive studies, such as every 3-4 hours over several days, noting the extremes and average, they propose to average all the data into an annual sample, and only if that exceeds the limits will penalites be considered. This effectively means the limit will never be exceeded all the while the pollution gets worse.

We and our national parks deserve better, and the Bush administration has shown where they loyalties lie, with the polluters and not the people. Why else would someone from west Texas not undetsand clean air?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Seasonal Changes

Folks visiting Mt. Rainier National Park now through the fall and winter should consider the NPS uses September and October as the transistion months for seasonal operations at visitors centers and roads. In additon, the NPS has scheduled changes to accommodate the new visitors center at Paradise. These will be described below.

Visitors Centers: The Longmire center remains open all year, closing only for extreme weather. The new Jackson center is now open weekends and holiday only (and mostly daylight hours). The Sunrise center is closed for the season. The Ohanopecosh center is also closed for the season.

Lodging: The Paradise Inn closed October 6th and National Park (Longmire) Inn is open year around.

Campgrounds: The White River, Ohanopecosh and Cougar Rock campgrounds are closed. The Sunshine campground is permanently closed. And the Ipsut Creek campground is now a hike-in backcountry campground now (permit required).

Roads: All highways are currently open except the Sunrise road which is closed from the highway and the Stevens Canyon road which is closed at the Paradise and Ohanopecosh entrances. The Westside Road is open to Dry Creek with some section still under construction, and will close at the highway turnoff sometime later this fall, depending on snowfall.

Trails: All trails are open at this time. You can get the latest status from the NPS Web page.

That's it for now. You can get additional information from the current conditions Web page.