Monday, December 14, 2009

Area guides

I have updated the area guides for the three currently online (SW, NW and Paradise, SE and NE coming in the spring) for the winter season (December through April). I've updated the overview guide (above link) also for the season. I won't update these monthly because you can get that information from the other news, access, conditions and monthly report Web pages.

The winter is probably the most consistent and the most dynamic of the seasons on and around Mt. Rainier, and it's the longest, usually from early-mid November through mid-late April. All the rest fit into the remaining months with the only exceptions for years where the spring is early from a low snowpack or the fall is later into November. And in some years winter will last into June at higher elevations.

The winter is the most consistent because of snow. Once into winter (late November to early December) the seasonal snow is almost present throughout the NP, the only excpetions will be at the lower elevations, about 2,000-2,400 feet near the entrances. But even snow will be there when major snowstorms drop the snow level to 1,500 feet elevation throughout the Puget Sound region.

The winter is also the most dynamic for weather, from clear, sunny days for a few days to a week to major rain-on-snow storms and flood events and major snowstorms. This is why you have to be prepared, meaning your vehicle, your photography and hiking gear and yourself. You also have to be flexible with your plans and schedule and always be prepared to change them during your visit.

Winter is also the time the NP is in winter operation mode where everything is closed save one entrance and two visitors areas. The only entrance open is the southwest, Nisqually, entrance along with the facilities at Longmire. The road from Longmire to Paradise is controlled at a gate east of Longmire. The road to Paradise is checked and cleared of snow before the gate is opened, usually about 9 am, meaning snowstorms will force the closure until after the storm and clearing. It closes at 4 pm.

And even then only the Jackson Visitors Center at Paradise is open, and only on weekends and holiday (10 am to 5 pm). Everything else there is closed. And all that is available are winter activities, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding and the snow play area for kids, the last two after at least 5 feet of snow is present.

That said, winter is a good time if you love winter, and especially snow. And you still have two entrance, southweste and Carbon River ones, where snow isn't always present and you can get some winter hiking in, at least to the snow where you can snowshoe from there if you want. These areas with the Mowich Lake entrance offer excellent snowshoe routes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Update

Updated December 10th.--I've updated the news, the access and conditions, and the monthly report Web pages for the photo guide to Mt. Rainier NP. It's easy to describe the NP in December, and that is winter and more winter to come. The snow level is 3-4,000 feet elevation present throughout the NP above 4,000 feet, with 3-4 feet at 5,000+ feet elevation.

This mean the NP is in full winter operation mode, with all entrances closed at the NP except the Nisqually (southwest) entrance, open to Longmire and daily cleared to Paradise (weather permitting), and the Carbon River (northwest) entrance which is open to hikers. This entrance is open almost year around due to the lower elevation (~2,000 ft) at the entrance. All the facilities are closed except at Longmire (all open weather permitting) and Paradise (visitors center open weekends and holidays).

Paradise is currently open to winter activities for skiers and snowshoers. Snowboarders will have to wait until there is the minimum 5 feet of snow in the snowplay areas at Paradise. That should happen later in December, hopefully for the Christmas and New Years weekends. You can also snowshoe or ski into the Mowich Lake area when sufficient snow exists on the road.

Otherwise, for photographers, plan for all weather, be flexible with your plans and schedule, and be prepared with the clothes for the weather. And make sure you're familar with the winter driving rules in the NP. They control the road to Paradise just east of Longmire but also operate a chain-up area at the Nisqually Bridge parking if the road from the bridge to Paradise restricts access to vehicles or chains.

In addition I have updated the winter photography guide, with a map of places, activities and conditions. That's it for now. It's a simple word now, snow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2010 Photo Guide plans

Over the month of December I'll be working on the 2010 plans for the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide. At this juncture I'd like to ask folks to send in or add comments with their ideas and suggestions. Topic, activities, information, resources, etc. you'd like to see with the photo guide. I still have some unincluded topics on the to-think-about list, so you can add to that or improvements to ones already there.

That said, the 2010 plans have several directions with the Website (version 3.0 for a new overall design) but more importantly for new Webpages and products or services for the photo guide. These are as follows.

The first is to finish the existing sections, as noted in the photo guide table of contents. These include guides for trees and forest, the two remaining quadrants (NE and SE), and a short history of the effort for NP designation, 1890-1899. New sections for wildlife, climbing and whatever else I find or is suggested will be added. In addition, the history projects have a lot of work left with the pre-NP history, the 1896 expedition and the first maps.

These are the highest priority for 2010, to complete the basic photo guide. Next is the always on-going updates, once or twice a month. And after that is the expansion, improvement and enhancement of the existing sections for more information, more resources or new applications for the Web pages. This will more than likely continue into the next few years after the basic guide is done.

Following that I want to focus on two other topics. One is the early photographers, 1890-1900, after the introduction of nitrate-based sheet film for large format (4x5 and 5x7 known to date but likely 8x10 too) by Kodak. The number of photographers exploded after 1890. The other is the early history of changes in the NP through the maps and available documents. The roads and trails changed over the years, and the maps are interesting to see those changes.

Second is to develop better interactive maps and better descriptive downloadable maps. The goal with the book (next) is to have folding maps of the NP and each of the five areas with locations and notes for photo opportunities. Right now I haven't found the right base map or learned the application to produce them. Yeah, the learning curve there.

In additon, I working to find more early maps and make the maps available. Right now, all the digital files are large, 200-500 Mbytes for each one, useful for work but not the Web. And reducing them loses a lot in translation of the details and the sheer beauty of them, such as the first USGS topographic map in1915.

Third, is the production of a draft book. The goal was to find a publisher, but considering the times and demand for print books, I'll still try it, as several produce similar books for the NP's, but I will look to produce the first draft as an on-line version for public comment. Yeah, yikes. But it's part of the process to develop a useable book for photograhers visiting the NP.

Right now, the book is planned to be a general guide with the maps, maybe 80-100 pages. The Website will still have the same information but it will enchance the book with more and updated information. The two will be overlapping and linked so the photographer can use either or both. That will, hopefully, interest a publisher for a print version, at which time the on-line book will be dropped or modified.

Fourth is the newest idea I saw. That's an Apple iPhone/iTouch app for the photo guide. This idea is just that so far, an idea. I saw one for Arches NP and talked with the photographer/developer of the app, and it really sounds like a cool and neat idea for the device. But that means more learning to see the work and process to develop the Web pages for the app.

So far, that's the 2010 plan. You're welcome to e-mail me your suggestions and ideas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Webcam

I've updated the Webcam Web page for the latest Webcam at the Mountain Climb Center at Paradise. It is east of the Jackson Visitor Center between the center and Paradise Inn, image above. This is now six they operate at Paradise for their work and the public. Kudos to the NP staff for their work to provide and especially maintain them year around.

So, you still want to go?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Website problems

Update.-- It's back and current. Please let me know if you encounter any problems with Web pages. The short version of the long story is my Website host moved all the Websites to a third-party mega-server in Florida over the weekend and things got screwed up and lost when they reloaded the old version after I updated it with their ok.

Orignal post.-- Please see my photo blog for information about my Website which is experiencing serious problems caused the host/isp. All was supposed to be done by Monday, which I uploaded an update of the entire Website, only to find by Tuesday it was gone, back to the old version. And now (Wednesday 4 pm) it's back to February 2009. I can't access the server to fix it and I can't access the new server to upload the Website.

In short, my host/isp just screwed my Website and my work. And if it doesn't improve, they'll get a very angry face at the front desk.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Photo Guide

Click on photo for Photo Guide

My goal is to provide a photography guide to Mount Rainier National Park. This guide is in the initial stages of development and it will expand and updated as I add my own hiking and photography experience, the experience of better photographers on their Website and in their books, and from the current and best available Website for background, travel and photography information.

Below are the list of topics in the photography guide. Those sections noted as "in progress" mean the Web page is basically there but the content is still in progress as I research and assemble the existing data and do my own in the field. Those sections noted as "forthcoming" are place holders for future sections, meaning they're simply ideas I plan to add to the guide.

Latest News
Current Access
Monthly Report
NP Overview - forthcoming
Background to Guide
Chronological Blog List
Web Cameras
Help & Services

Area Overview
Travel and Places
Weather Overview and Map
Weather and Snow Resources
Forests & Trees - forthcoming
Wildflowers and Map
Geology - Guide - Map
Viewing Glaciers - Map
Sun & Moon

Trail Overview and Hiking Tips
Day Hikes - Map
Backcountry Hikes - Map
Photo road trips - Map
Bike roads & trails - Map
Lakes - Map and List
Waterfalls - Map and List
Lookouts - Map
Winter Photography - Map

Photo Overview
Photo Tips
NPS Photo Permits
Area Overview
Paradise Area - Map
White River - In progress
Ohanapecosh - In progress
Nisqually River - Map
Carbon River & Mowich Lake - Map

Early history - 1880-1920
Early Photographers
1896 Expedition
1915 USGS Map
1893-97 Forest Reserve
National Park Effort - forthcoming
1899 Designation
Laws governing NP

Photo Gallery
Other Photographers
On-line Trail/Hike Guides
Maps - USGS and Resouces
Topo Maps DRG's or PDF's
Books on Mt. Rainier NP
Information & Resources
information copyrights
Photo Guide Suggestions

Another version is found on my Website.


The Webcams at Paradise are back on-line. I'll keep monitoring them and report any changes. Kudos to the NPS staff for adding and maintaining the Webcams for the public. It's a great assest and tool for both them and us. It's greatly appreciated.

I will work on the last item, the new Webcam for inside the Jackson Visitors center. I'll have to find a place on the Web page for it which will take some time. I'll update this blog when it's there.

Original post
I have updated the Web page for the Webcams at Paradise in Mt. Rainier NP with a notice, which reads as follows.

Late last week (November 3rd) the four Webcams at the Jackson Vistor Center (below) stopped updating. I don't know where the problems are as the NPS staff sort out and fix the problem, but for now the images are from November 3rd around noon. I will update the Web pages when I see new images.

In addition, I discovered they've added another Webcam at the visitors center, and when they come back on-line, I'll add this one to the Web page for people to see all of them and to download any of the current images. The new one is of the inside of the visitor center.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MPG V 2.7

I've updated the photo guide with minor tweaks, sufficient to sequence it to version 2.7 and put it and the Website version and date on the same sequence. I'll continue to tweak both the Website and photo guide into January 2010, hence the date of it as then and not now. The tweaks are minor and cosmetic, so nothing significant to discuss at length.

In addition, I've did a review of the Web pages on the todo list, which is significant, and I don't expect these to get started on them until after the new year. I'll keep you posted, and until then, you can find the everything on the photo guide. You can always send me e-mail with your problems, questions, suggestions, etc.

November Update

I have updated the news, conditions, and report Web pages for the NP. This includes that latest information about the roads and activites to Novemer 15th. The NP is now in full winter mode under winter recreation rules.

This includes the snowpark at Paradise which is open for skiers and snowshoers. Snowboarders will have to wait until the snow is at least 5 feet deep there, which should be in 1-2 weeks, but only if the temperature drop for snow at that elevation. We're in the period where this is dependent on the warm or cold storm fronts for rain or snow. I will be adding some links to Web pages with current information.

Otherwise, all the roads are closed at the NP boundary except two. One is highway 706, southwest (Nisqually) entrance and the road to Longmire and Paradise. It's managed daily at the gate just east of Longmire. The other one is highway 123, the southeast (Ohanopecosh) entrance, where the highway is open from the NP boundary to the junction of Stevens Canyon Road. All the other roads are only open to winter hikers.

That's it for now. This should be correct through the Thanksgiving Day Holiday and into early December, but I'll update everything for December 1st. Until then you're always welcome to send e-mail.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eastside highway

The Washington State Department of Transportation has closed highwy 410 over Cayuse Pass at Crystal Mountain Boulevard tol the summit and closed highway 123 at Stevens Canyon Road to the summit. This means the only access to the NP on the east side is highway 123 from the Ohanopecosh entrance to Stevens Canyon Road, which itself is closed all the way to the intersection with highway 706 to Paradise and Longmire.

This along with the closure of all the facilities means you can drive in the Ohanopecosh (southeast) entrance for a few miles before everything is closed. And this section will close later in November or Decemer when the significant seasonal snow accumulates. This will close the entire east half of the NP to cars and only open to hikers, snowshoers or cross-country skiers. After that, you're on your own for anything.

This pretty much completes the seasonal closures for winter. The only closures now will be the daily one on the highway from Longmire to Paradise and opened after clearing each day from the gate at Longmire to Paradise, if it is reasonable to do so. Remember the only facilities open at Paradise are the Jackson Vistors center on weekends (10 am to 5 pm) and holidays. Paradise needs another foot of snow before snowboarders will be allowed. Skiers and snowshoers are already allowed in the defined areas for these activities.

That's it for now. It's winter and snow. If you like it, enjoy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Highway 410

The Washington Department of Transportation (WADOT) has closed highway 410 over Chinook Pass for the season. The statement on their Web page is

"Elevation: 5430 ft / 1655 m
Temperature: Not Available
Chinook Pass is closed for the season at Morse Creek, five miles east of the summit, and at Crystal Mountain Boulevard, eight miles west of the summit, for safety from avalanches due to current and forecasted snow levels."

Original post dated 11/1/09.--The Washington Department of Transportation (WADOT) has reopened highway 410 from Naches to Chinook Pass with an emergency detour from milepost 104 to milepost 108 about 12 miles west of Naches. This will allow travellers to use the highway to Chinook Pass to the intersection with highway 123 at Cayuse Pass just inside the eastern boundary of Mt. Rainier NP.

The WADOT states the detour is a temporary gravel road, mostly for local traffic. The highway will be closed per the usual seasonal closure in the near future as the snow on the passes accumulates sufficiently, which is usually sometime in late November to mid-December with the normal seasonal snow and temperatures.

You can get updated information from their Website.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Winter Photography

I have updated the winter photography Web page and map with the photo guide. With winter coming to the NP and the NP in winter operation mode, it's time to plan and prepare accordingly. This will last until late spring of next year when the snowpack is mostly gone and the areas below 5-6,000 feet elevation are clear of snow.

Winter in Mt. Rainier NP is a whole different world from the main tourist season of Memorial Day through Labor Day, and in some year, into October. It starts in the late fall of November and last until the late spring of April, even May in some years. It's separated by three overlapping but distinct periods, the pre-winter fall, the winter and the spring snowmelt.

If you're a winter person, and I've found outside of the mountain climbers who themselves are a whole unique group of people because they value Mt. Rainier for a different purpose, there seems to be three distinct types of Mt. Rainier folks. The first are the summer people (hikers) who love it from late spring at the end of the snowmelt to early fall with the first major storms and later snowstorms.

The second are the winter people (skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, etal) who tolerate the summer period (some don't even go) and can't wait for the first snows and really the start of the permanent snow. And the third are those who enjoy both, namely Mt. Rainier anytime throughout the year. It's simply one giant playground to value and enjoy, the season only determines how they get there and what they do.

There is a smaller last group who can't be labelled because they have their own periods they like Mt. Rainier NP, which doesn't fit any distinct group. I'm one of those, more a summer person but my favorite times are early spring, before Memorial Day and late fall, after Labor Day and into October. I love the cooler but not cold weather, the lack of people, and the occasional snow.

Winter is more a time I hibernate due having Raynaud's Syndrome with hurts more in cold weather every year. And last winter it found my toes, because I go barefoot all the time, with resulted in frostbite-like symptoms and damage to the toes. So winter is mixed blessing. I love it but I can't stay out in it very long. Sucks for photography.

Anyway, the updated winter guide is on-line and will be updated throughout the winter with the other news, access, conditions and prospectives Web pages.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Highway 706

The National Park Service is beginning the work on the enviornmental assessment for the $32.7 million improvement of the highway from the Nisqually entrance to Paradise, see TNT story. When the report is finished in draft form for public review and comment, the NPS will put it on the NPS park plannng Website.

The NPS wants to improve the entire length of the 17.6 mile highway along with the Ricksecker loop road, the Paradise Valley road and the Narda Falls parking area. The initial report is expected to be ready by late spring of 2010 when it will go through the internal and public review process before finalization and requests for appropriattions for the work to begin in 2012.

The improvements on the highway are necessary in many areas, where the road is settling, at the Kautz Creek bridge and new bridge for the new creek channel east of the old channel and bridge, along the areas current restranted by the terrain along the slopes with the orignal stone walls, and other areas along the whole length of highway. It's safe to say it's long overdue. The highway is ok, but it's had problems where it's time to upgrade and improve it.

This is especially true with the Kautz Creek channels and bridge. The November 2006 floods created two problems with Kautz Creek. One, the channel above and through the section with the bridge filled in where there is little channel capacity left. Two, several miles upstream the creek diverted through a new channel created throught the forest east of the old channel. There the channle simply went over the road until the NPS could build culverts underneath for much of the flow but not flood flows.

When I find new information, I will post it here with links.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Snow and snowpack

This is an updated version of the May 2008 post, correcting location information and adding new information.

It's coming to the time folks like to think about visiting Mt. Rainier, but there is still one thing that inhibits or even prohibits the trip. Snow. So it's important to know where you can find the recent snow and snowpack reports, which are done by the NRCS-NWCC in their SNOTEL network, where you can locate sites for Washington.

The SNOTEL sites in and around Mt. Rainier NP can help determine the snow and weather conditions you'll encounter. The best sites for this information are:

Mowich Lake is on the south side of the Mowich Lake road just west of the NP Mowich Lake entrance, and reporting the weather, snow and snowpack in the northwest corner.

Cayuse Pass is almost directly east of Paradise, and at about the same elevation, reporing weather, snow and snowpack at the Cayuse and Chinook Passes. This is a former USGS snow site (1975-2005) recently taken over by the NRCS, which explains the lack of any lengthy historical data. But the NRCS should significantly improve both the reliability and quality of the data from this site.

Paradise is southeast the Paradise area on the Pinnacle Peak Trail, about 0.4 miles in from the trailhead at Reflection Lake.

These will provide a good overview of the snow in the NP, and you can the NPS Website for current trail and camping and weather information and sources.

A note about the data from these sites. Snow and snowpack is measured several ways, so it helps to understand the data. Snow is measured in current depth and new snow and snowpack is translated to snow-water-equivalent (SWE) where the snow is reduced (melted) to the equivalent amount of water or precitpitation used for water resources and watershed models and forecasts. The key for visitors in the spring is to watch the recession of the SWE graph for the snowmelt.

The two pieces of information usually lacking is the snow on the ground elsewhere and the elevation of snow. The former is reported for these sites but not for other areas around the park, except from field (trail and camp) inspections. The latter is important to know when the snow season begins in the fall and when the snowmelt season is underway in the spring. It is the elevation where you will first encounter snow. This rises later in the snowmelt season except in protected areas, such as shade and north slopes.

Additional description and information on snowpack data using the 2009 water years snow data is found here. This post will be updated for the 2010 water year snow data once there is significant seasonal snow, which is usually sometime in mid-late November, and the NRCS begins reporting the stations on the Website.

Photo of Jackson Visitors Center winter 2007 from NPS Website, which is now gone and converted to landscape and additional parking.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Crossing streams

The Washington Trails Associattion (Website) included an article about how to Ford a river in the September-October 2009 magazine to members (found on newsstands). Well, after 14 years of field experience wading and measuring rivers and another 14 as a hydrologist and even more as a fly-fisherman, I found the advice has some flaws, some serious ones in fact. So I wrote the editor (Laura Lunney) a letter, which was subsequently published in the Novembe-December magazine.

And so folks don't necessary have to buy the issue to read the letters, here is what I wrote.

Dear Ms. Lunney,

I read the monthly issue of the WTA religiously and this month was no different. But I have to take issue with the article, "Ford a River", about fording a creek or river. For reasons I don't understand, myths about fording a river persists in the recreation and hiking community, and was repeated in this article.

And my complaints?

Well, for one, any hiker will never encounter "laminar" flow in any creek or river. It's almost always turbulent flow. The information about the cross-section and vertical differences in the velocity are correct, kudos to the author, but I wouldn't consider it a univeral rule. You have to understand the creek or river.

I will provide the practice as used by the USGS with their streamgaging technique measuring rivers.

You should pick the widest place with the most consistent depth that you can see, which are usually found in reaches between curves or bends in creeks or rivers. Never wade across a cut bank, the opposite bank is where the deepest and fastest will be and together too (see factor below).

Always face the opposite bank keeping your body parallel to the flow. This puts all the water against your upstream leg. It's harder but you have both your other leg and your wading rod to make yourself a tripod.

This is where the myth of facing the flow is wrong and doesn't give you an out if you lose your balance except falling over. Being parallel provides the balance in the back leg/foot and stick.

Keep the weight of the pack over your hips which means leaning forward a little. It's about being centered over your feet.

Always put the wading stick ahead of you and about the same level as your downstream foot. Make sure it's secure against the bottom and can hold your weight.

Then you can shift the upstream foot and then the downstream foot, and then the rod again. Always secure your foot with each move so it can, if necessary, hold you against the flow.

You want to always maintain balance with your feet, the wading rod is extra for stability and let's you move each foot.

The John Muir rule (for me), rest going across if necessay. Standing in the middle of a river is nice and you can catch your breath, balance, energy and focus.

Keep you eyes on the opposite bank and upstream ahead of you. You're looking for changes in the flow conditions, both depth and velocity.

Personally, I would never recommend loosening the pack. It's part of your weight distribution. I would release chest clip between the shoulder straps and know how to release the belt quickly. My view is that you don't want anything shifting on your back and changing your balance.

The rule of thumb is that most people can wade a stream factor of 6-8 depending on your size, weight and fitness. This factor is the deepest depth times the fastest velocity (eg. 2 foot depth times 4 feet per second is 8). This would be the upper margin for a normal person with a pack. The USGS used a factor 10 but we didn't wade with backpacks.

The velocity can be determined with the obvious object floating in the river in several places in the cross section. Sticks do nicely. Depths are harder but you can estimate it reasonably well in many cases. The point is that if the number is too high, find another place.

Another rule of thumb is don't wade when it's too far above your knees unless it's slow (3 feet per second or slower) or you have experience wading. This is important if you find the depth increasing near the middle of the stream.

If your feet begin to move underneath you, common with moving bedload, don't lift your feet, slide or waddle to find a secure place or across the stream. If you must, start moving downstream.

Don't wade around boulders, the flow around them is usually faster and deeper above and below the boulder. If you have to wade across a boulder stream, always wade above the boulder. The flow around over and below often scours holes below.

Whatever you do, if you get stuck, just backup like you went forward. Do not turn around, period. Always keep your body parallel.

If it's a high elevation (snowfed) stream, remember if the streamflow was low in the morning, it's likely to be higher later in the day from the diurnal (upstream snowmelt).

If you plan to cross a number of streams, consider wading cleats (simliar to crampons but for rivers) or lightweight fishing boots with non-slip soles. You can always stash them when across and pick them up on the way back.

Otherwise the article was typically excellent. And for what's it worth, all my experience was from 28 years as a hydrologist with the USGS, half in the field measuring a lot of streams and rivers (OR, AZ and WA) and fly-fishing more streams (CO, AZ, OR and WA). And we had chest waders or hip boots and cleats.

Take care and keep up the great work.


To this letter I can add that over those 14 years I never lost my balance or fell in a stream or river. There were some critical moments and times wading rivers, even a few what I call John Muir moments, where I couldn't go forward and definitely couldn't go backward.

The river had either pinned me in the spot and flowing around me with a good velocity, like a boulder, or the bed was moving under my feet and either moving me downstream or causing me to sink. And if you have ever stepped in a deep pothole in a river, like I've done more than once, you realize just how stupid you are when you can't get out of it.

Anyway, I don't know if my experience will help. I wrote the letter to address the serious errors in the article, any of which would cause you to fall in the river. And since it wasn't mentioned, if you do fall in and are carried downstream, follow the advice of river rats, which is move to sitting position with your feet pointed downstream and look for a place to swin to the shore. And above all, hope and/or pray.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Updates

I've updated the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide for November for the news, access and conditions and the monthly prospects.

I've also updated the areas guides, see overview, for the southwest, northwest and Paradise areas. All of the roads, except highway 410 and 123, and the facilities in the Ohanopecosh and White River areas are closed for the season. Those guides will be ready by the spring of 2010.

November is the transistion month from fall to winter, from the early fall weather and conditions of October to the winter snow weather and conditions of December through March. It's the month which sees some of the most severe, dynamic and quickly changing weather, from beautiful late fall with sunny days to severe rainstorms and floods or sudden severe snow storms. It's the month you have to plan well, be prepared, bring emergency stuff and be flexible.

It's also the month only the southwest area is maintained through the winter. The eastside of the NP is closed and the highway maintained by the Washington Department of Transportation. The northwest side is split. The Carbon River area has been closed to vehicles at the NP entrance. The Mowich Lake area is closed to vehicle at the NP boundary, but is open to winter hikers.

The Paradise area is converted to winter recreation rules. If you love snow, as you already know, it's great, and if you just want to visit, find a nice day and you'll love it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some days

It just doesn't pay to even think to go to Mt. Rainier NP unless you're ok with clouds. Not clouds of the normal sort, but being inside clouds. With Paradise at 5,400 feet elevation and the Puget Sound blanketed with a low cloud layer, like today, the mountain is simply draped in clouds, as seen below about 10 am today.

But then it's also the days I sometimes enjoy to realize you're standing inside a cloud. You know it will be different. Driving in on the last section of road to Paradise you really know something is different.

Arriving at Paradise and looking south the trees are barely visible, let alone the Tatoosh Mountains.

You park and find Mt. Rainier to the north isn't there.

And getting out of your car you discover everything closed and no one is really there. Only critters and the diehard hiker/climber who likes these days.

And if you decide to hike and don't know to follow maps or have a GPS unit with you, make sure you remember which way you came as the route will be quickly lost behind you. And it's the old rule for hikers like me, stay on the trail.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Carbon River Road

An article in the Tacoma News Tribune story, reports that the NPS hasn't made the final decision on the future of the Carbon River Road. I've written some posts here, about the flood damage, plans and my choice. Now the NPS will release their choice sometime on or after January, after finishing the environmental assessments and impacts.

After that, there will likely be some more public presentations and meetings about their choice, then the long involved work of getting the money, planning the work, and then get their boots dirtly geting it done. There was no indication which the NPS prefers, but I'll bet they'll go with the one which reduces the longer terms cost for maintenance and minimizes the damage from future floods.

And that, to me, will likely be abandoning the road as a trail in the sections where the river has reclaimed it and building a trail on the slopes around those sections. This is mostly the first mile or two from the entrance. Then the trail can reconnect with the existing trail to Ipsut Campround and all the trails beyond.

This seems the best choice to me because trying to maintain a trail in a river channel, especially one which is constantly depositing material along the channel and will reroute itself during and after floods, like the Carbon River, is a never ending task. Every year of moderate or more severe floods will see the road and trail closed, and every summer the NPS will be repairing it from the damage.

Rerouting the trail and leaving the river to its own devices is the best alternative. But we'll know for sure in January when everyone can chime in again with their view.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parking at Paradise

It's now a parking lot.

The NPS at Mt. Rainier NP announced the lower parking at Pardise at the old and now demolited visitors center (the 1966 spaceship building, above) is finished and open. It's a little late for this year and won't help through the fall and winter and into spring because there rarely are days where the upper lot even begins to fill, and that's only on weekends or holiday with good weather, but it's there now. And it's uncertain how much will be plowed once the seasonal snow starts. The announcement said there still is some landscaping to finish around the parking lot.

The benefit of this additional parking won't be seen until the summer of 2010. It still won't accommodate all the visitors, and the shuttle service will likely be operated through the main visitors season June through Labor Day weekend. But if you go early in the day, you'll have a better chance of finding parking which is key for many staying at the Paradise Inn or hiking the trails. The summit climb services usually operate vans to reduce the number of vehicles for their trips.

I really like the new visitors center, but still kinda miss the old one. It had a walk-around outer main floor and a 360-degree open top floor. But it was always cold and showed its age by the 1990's when I restarted hiking in the NP, and as the song goes, "The times they are achangin'"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Report on NP

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and Natural Resources Defense Coucil (NRDC) has released a report, "National Parks in Peril", see press release. The report covers a number of national parks in the western U.S., including Mt. Rainier NP. While it's hard to argue against the finding and recommendations, and I don't have access to the full suite of data, information, people and resources they had for their conclusions and report, I have to fault a number of issues in it for Mt. Rainier NP.

The report gives a general overview of the potential effect Global Climate Change will have on the NP's with some specific examples from many of the NP's. The report, however, seems to be more a political statement than anything, as the conclusions and recommendations aren't well supported in the report, and some of the references and resouces aren't what might qualify under scientific journalistic standards.

That said, however, I can't argue with most of their recommendations. I can ague some of them aren't environmentally, socially or politically realistic since they're global or national in nature requiring signficant changes in our way of life, and as we've seen in the recent international climate meetings, more talk than show as countries really don't want to address the issues beyond what's commercially successful and profitable.

In short, nice ideas and great hope, but not in my lifetime, or what's left of it. Sadly, my experiece is that we've been hearing this since the mid-1970's and little has been done which really changes things and directions, so advocating greater change now is after the significant damage has already started, and best that can be done is dampen and impacts and effects. And hope that works to level things off when and where change is realistically possible.

As for Mt. Rainier NP in the report? Well, thats' where the report lacks substances and evidence, or at least in the report. And I'll address my opinion here.

First, they mention the November 2006 floods in Washington and specifically Mt. Rainier NP which closed the NP for 6 months. Those floods were significant, but not necessarily unusual for western Washington, including 100-year or large floods. They're more often in recent decades, but for now it's hard to determine the cause beyond just normal changes in the longer term hydrology.

And this flood, along with the floods of the winters of 2007 and 2008, did a lot of damage, namely the Carbon River valley and road, and the Nisqually river valley, road and NPS facilities. But the damage was the result of a major flood on top of decades of channel changes (bed and sediment buildup in the channel) which has raised the channels where any moderate or greater flood would more severly damage the area.

It's wasn't the flood so much as the flood on top of decades of channel aggredation in the lower slopes of the Carbon and Nisqually Rivers in the NP. It was the proverbial disaster waiting to happen and it did with a major flood. But any moderate flood would have also done similar damage. This report doesn't address this fact.

The report lists the following recommendation, "The Congress and the Administration should reestablish within the NPS the cientific and research capacity it had prior to 1993, by returning to NPS the programs and staff transferred that year to the U.S. Geological Survey."

I can't agree, not just because I'm a former USGS scientist, but because the USGS does a better job and has more resources with these research programs, and they write from an unbiased view, something NPS researcher couldn't necessarily accomplish with their research and reports. It is true the NPS would be better focused on the NP's than the USGS, but I would keep the NP research programs where they're currently working.

In the recommendations of the report, they use a graph which indicates what risks effect which NP. With respect to Mt. Rainier, the reports indicates seven risks, which are loss of snow and ice, loss of water, more downpours and floods, loss of plant communities, loss of wildlife, more overcrowding, and loss of fishing.

Well, it's fair to say the conclusions are out on some of these risks because they cite loss than change. What will happen as the NP biologists are finding, is that things are changing. These include changes in forests and forest communities in terms of tree and plant species and distribution of species. There is a discernible invasion of forest into the alpine open areas and meadows.

There will be changes in wildlife species, especially on those who live and need the higher elevations and whos habitat and enviornment requires the current tree and plant communities. There's no question there will be losses, but we can't establish that what know today is the best and is what should continue. We know the past wasn't near what it is today and the whole Mt. Rainier area is in a perpetual state of change.

Let's not forget the whole area of the Puget Sound and western Washington only came out of the Vashon glaciation just 10-12,000 years ago. So what's here now is just phase of change from the past. No doubt it's what we want, but it's not our doing to prevent change, only the type of change.

I agree with the loss of snow and ice. That's long been established for most of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier. Most but not all, and each goes through their own cycle of advance and retreat. If anything, this is probably the greatest risk of Mt. Rainier and the NP, but we have keep in mind the difference between natural and global climate cycles going on. The report doesn't cite any of the on-going research of the USGS on the glaciers of Mt. Rainier.

I don't know if this was an oversight, but much of their research is included in the Masters Degree thresis cited in the report. Either way, this is the greatest risk to the mountain. But that doesn't change the risk they cite of downpours and floods. While the climate model predict a generally warmer climate for Mt. Rainier and the NP, they don't predict a drier climage, and some suggest a wetter climate, more as rain than snow.

This will in turn change the annual hydrologic cycle of the Mountain and the rivers, which could create more frequent floods and drier summer flows from smaller glaciers and less meltwater during the summer. This would in turn effect both the fish and tree/plant species, but we don't know which and how they will adapt over time.

As for overcrowing, that risk been there for the better part of two decades. The NPS is well aware of it and are addressing it in the longterm management programs for the NP. This includes current changes in operation, such as a seasonal shuttle service at Paradise and campground reservation system, and the longer term visitor impacts on those areas, such as Sunrise and Paradise.

But the overcrowding isn't a result of climate change but population growth in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area and the increase in out of state and out of country tourism to the NP. There simply are more people coming to the NP, no matter the cliimate. The problem in the NP is that the increase are predominately in the visitor areas and far less in the backcountry areas. People are visiting, some camping, but fewer hiking.

In the end, I applaud their effort and this report, flaws and all. They raise the issue that we as a nation need to address saving our national parks from ourselves and the global community. This reports adds to the call and the voice. The rest is what takes the hard decisions and work, and the determination, not just to try, but succeed.

Highway 410 landslide

Photo property of Seattle Times

A section of highway 410 about 12 miles west of Naches on the east side of the Cascade Mountain, northwest of Yakima was blocked by a landslide this weekend, see Seattle Times story. This is the highway to and over Chinook Pass to the junction of highways 123, south from the Ohanopecosh entrance, and 410, north from the White River entrance and NP boundary.

This doesn't effect any of the NP entrances or the highway from Seatle, Tacoma or Portland, only the access east from Yakima and the Tri-cities area. The highway closes seasonally for winter snow, so it's likely this road will remain closed from the slide to the pass until late spring when it can be repaired and the pass is open. They're working on a temporary highway for local traffic.

This only changes the plans of any travellers and visitors who wanted the scenic route from the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, who will have to take highway 12 to White Pass, and the junction of highway 12 southwest to Interstate 5 and Portland and highway 123 north to the Ohanopecosh entrance. White Pass also closes seasonally for snow and the Ohanopecosh entrance will close in October-November ahead of the annual snow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Google Maps

I'm not sure who develops the map layers at Google, but their quality assurance leaves something to be desired, and insufficient when a new version was released this week. If folks use the map Web pages with my Mt. Rainier photo guide, you will notice a change. Google released new map data which recolored the land on part or all of the three of the sides around Mt. Rainier NP. The problem is the NP boundary is now lost on the map.

I don't know how long it will take them to fix the maps. I've put some notices on forums about this. And I'll research if there are interim fixes, but I'm not hopefully because of the application of Google map especially when it has to rescale when you zoom in or out, but I'm open to suggestions. For now, it's confusing to the user if they can't clearly see the NP boundary to know where everything is and relative to the surrounding areas.

I'll keep you posted, but for now I've add a popup advisory to the map Web pages.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Updates

I have updated the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide for the October news, access and information, and the monthly prospective Web pages. October is the transistion month between the last of the September visitors and the work of the NPS getting ready for winter in the NP closing campgrounds and roads, and closing or reducing hours at facilities. By the end of the month, only a few facilities will be open weekends and holidays.

But there still are some great hiking and photography locations and opportunities, and there are far fewer people. But you have to be prepared with your clothes, supplies and equipment and be flexibile with your plans, as the weather is unpredictable as we've already seen with some snow at Paradise. The seasonal snow at the lower to middle elevations won't be in the NP until November and really December, but there are usually a few snow storms in the NP in October.

In addition to the October reports I've added a new Web page for an overview of the NP. It's an introduction and overview of the background, history, environment and photography locations and opportunities of the NP. It will get you familar with Mt. Rainier and the NP. As always, you're free to send me suggestions, questions, comments or corrections.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 16 at 9 am

A morning in the life of Mt. Rainier NP at 9:09 am off the NPS webcams at the Jackson Visitors Center at Paradise. First looking east over the parking lot to Mazama Ridge to Stevens Van Trump Monument and the trail south to the lakes and north to Paradise Glacier.

And then north to the mountain itself with the morning wind over the top creating a cloud cap.

And then south to the Tatoosh Range.

And finally west looking southwest to the road up the Nisqually River and the Longmire entrance.

You could spend a worse day there in person too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wandering and workshops

I was wandering around the Internet, like we don't. Ok, bad joke, but I like to just think out loud and wander using search engine and other Websites, and occasionally links from reading. Really, reading. Some columnist write in periodicals. Anyway, I was reading the latest issue of LensWork, my favorite periodical and the editor referred to a Website which tracks Website popularity.

Well, I discovered my Website is only about 4,450,000th in the world. Ok, not great but good enough for me. I use Google Analytics to track which Web pages people access. It's a cool tool for see what your visitors are reading, or just peeping and surfing on. Ok, I got a lot of work to do to improve my standing. Or not. I'm not in this for popularity, but longer term to develop my Mt. Rainier NP photo guide, first as a Website and then as a book.

Well, looking at the stats on the Website I found two other Websites I wasn't aware of focused on Mt. Rainier and the NP. The first is Visit Rainier. It's a general NP and area tourist guide with lots of good stuff, and ok, one link I found to my Website. This isn't a recommendation but just a "Hmmm..., how did they find me." thought.

It could be useful to you and for your visit, and worth looking at if you're planning a trip. The second one is a photography one, Mt. Rainier Photography Institute, which is another name for photography workshop with field trips to the NP.

I can't argue with the photographer's credentials, clearly excellent and his images are good. I'm not an advocate for overly colorful or saturated calendar images, but hey, they sell and they look pretty, but then I'm an ordinary photographer who prefers realism more pretty. I like this looks like what I saw standing there images.

I know there are other professional photographers working around the Puget Sound region and southwest area (this guy works out of Morton southwest of the NP) on the way to Portland (Oregon for non-northwestern folks), and this guy's prices seem within the ballpark for what the photographers offer with their workshops.

To me, it's a matter of if you want the instructor and guide or like to venture out yourself. I like the latter, and why I work on the photo guide, for other like minded photographers. But some like the former, so it's woth the consideration for a top-notch professionals to provide the expertise and services, but you really have to look at the details of their workshop and their experience, especially in Mt. Rainier NP.

For example. Someone with lots of experience in photography and Mt. Rainier NP is Scott Bourne. I've listened to his presentations and talked with him years ago. He's spent much of his life around Mt. Rainier and exploring and photographing the NP. It's ironic because he also shows you can learn what he does by doing your homework about the places and working at your photography.

Another is the famous Art Wolfe who offers workshops in Mt. Rainier NP. While no one can doubt his photography, personally I would wonder about his workshops. I watched one of them in my excursions in Mt. Rainier in 2008. I got the impression people took the workshop for his persona than his teaching. But that's just my impresson and opinion.

And just doing a Google search, I found an upcoming workshops by Jon Conforth. I don't know about him but his images are very good and his reputation equally good.

In the end, though, the question is if you really need a workshop, especially since they run $300 and up per day, loding not included. Some workshops on specific subjects, such as waterfalls, wildflowers, etc. by local photographers run about half, because they're focused and aren't providing the full services of the others, namely they're the guide and all the rest is up to you.

But this is why I'm developing the photo guide, for the motivated, self-learning photographer, along with, for now free, some help with research and information. I won't guide you or tell you where to go specifically, but provide the background and resources for your interests and goals.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Update to maps

I have updated the two map retrieval Web pages for USGS 7 1/2 topographic quadrangles, the older DRG files and the latest PDF files. I added the eastern set of maps which covers the eastern extent of the NP, which I overlooked before. This set now covers the entire NP, 15 maps in all.

The PDF versions are from the USGS map Map Locator Web page. If you don't see a map displayed in the window, follow the instructions to the right of the space to set the preferences correctly. For some reason, the USGS uses a third party source with their cookies.

And you can download a tool provided by map2pdf, in the pop up window embedded with each map, if you have a PC (no Mac's). I've contacted the company which provided the software and service at public expense to offer Mac version and the USGS to update the requirements for Mac users with the maps. Like that will happen.

Anyway, sorry for the oversight with the maps. And now you can get all the topographic maps for the NP.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

Some news and notes for those planning visits to Mt. Rainier NP over the Labor Day weekend. I'm not persuading you not to go, please go and enjoy. I only want to let you know about some things you will encounter, beside the obvious beautiful Mt. Rainier, magnificant scenery and great weather. Like?

Ok, first, people. Outside of the other holiday weekends, it's often the busiest time and families get in one last quick, short visit before school takes over their lives. It's really the old adage there about going early if you plan to park and hike, or take the shuttle service from Ashford if you're just visiting Longmire and/or Paradise.

But if that's your goal but want to stop along the way, great, go for it, but likely as not you'll not find parking available at Paradise or along Paradise Valley road, and the NPS enforces parking restricts. And while driving, remember Washington's laws still apply, like cellphones, texting, etc. while driving. You're in the NP but it's still a highway. Besides the road is narrow and windy in places. Worry about getting to where you going, then stop and call or text.

Second, this weekend, the NPS is installing paw print signs and providing brochures with information to keep wildlife wild (PDF). Please don't feed the wildlife, even birds and squirrels. Don't leave food. Don't try to be cute and photograph them for food. Just leave them alone and photograph them as they are in the wild, or near it.

Third, if you plan hikes about the established trails at Paradise, namely the Panorama Point trail, to McClure Rock, or higher, like Camp Muir, please stop by the Mountain Guide Center for the latest information. There are rules now for hikes to Camp Muir (PDF) since the usual warming and the snowfield.

You can get the latest Tahoma Newspaper (PDF) with news and information (the one they hand out at the entrances). Not much after that, except enjoy, be courteous of other, only take home experiences and photos, and leave no trace (short for stay on the trails and don't litter).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Updates to Resources

I've updated the Web page of information and resources for the phot guide. It was mostly reorganized groups of links and updating links to new Web pages and I've updated the book resources Web page with some new material I've found. You can also get a list of some older documents and publications I've found and acquired recently. This are pretty cool to see the history of things in Mt. Rainier NP.

Well, that's it for now.

Monday, August 31, 2009

September Updates

I have updated the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide news and information, the access and conditions, and September prospects Web pages.

This year the snowpack is long gone from all but a few places near or below 6,000 feet, and those will remaining snow are in the backcountry areas of the Wonderland trail. This makes all the areas great for photo locations and opportunities where the first signs of fall are appearing, especially the meadows and alpine areas. In addition, the days pass the equinox to shorten the day and makes sunrise and sunset photo ops easier during your visit. You can get information on the sun and moon, but remember the terrain in Mt. Rainier NP adds time to the sunrise and subtracts time from the sunset.

September is also the last month all the facilities are open every day and all the roads areas are open to visitors. This doesn't mean that access will always be clear and easy, early storms can bring road closures or snow and make hike and photography challenging. On the other hand, it's the month when an indian summer days can extend the summer. In this way, you should be prepared for the extremes with your clothes and equipment and be flexible with your plans, and always check the latest road and trail conditions.

Overall, September is probably the best month for visiting and photographing the NP. Most of the visitors are gone, everything is still open, the weather, although unpredictable, is generally moderate, the bugs are gone and the trails are snow-free. And while the wildflowers are gone, everything else there and starting to change for the fall and winter. What's not to like?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Northwest Guide

I have added the Carbon River and Mowich Lake (northwest) area photo guide along with updating the southwest and Paradise area guides (minor edits). You can get an overview of all the area photo guides.

The northwest area comprises of two rather distinct and somewhat separated areas, the Carbon River valley and trail and the Mowich Lake area. They're connected by two trails, the Wonderland trail, which circumnavigates Mt. Rainier, east of Ipsut campground and the Spray Park to Carbon River/Glacier trail. There's also the West Boundary trail which is mostly outside the western boundary of the NP but it's not a novice hiker's trail.

Each of the two areas in the northwest area have unique features and photo locations and opportunities which are described in the photo guide. In addition, I've added a short history section to give some basic background and things of interest, to me anyway. The last two area guides are due to be done sometime later this fall. Each one takes 2-3 weeks to research and produce with the description and map Web pages.

In addition, working on each one produces new ideas which I have to go back and upate the previous one to match the organization and structure for consistency between each area guide, as noted when I added the short history section. When all five are done, I'll go back to review and update them with additional and current information.

Anyway, that's it. I hope it helps.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Updated area guides

I have updated the southwest and Paradise area guides with short history section, more to get you a feel that visitors, hikers and climbers have been coming to Mt. Rainier of about 130 years and longer if you count the first explorers into the area and first mountain climbers.

But that pales in comparison that tribes have been visiting Mt. Rainier for thousands of years, and some areas, like Paradise, were long known and used as a seasonal recreation destination for relaxing from the heat of the lowlands and for the plentiful foods (plants and animals) and supplies along with ceremonies. It's a place the many tribes just shared and enjoyed.

We weren't the first to see and enjoy the pleasures and beauty of Mt. Rainier, we're just the most recent. So, enjoy your visit and remember you're one of many over all these years, centuries and millenia to take in the sights and reveal in the beauty.

Camp Muir

If you plan to hike/climb to Camp Muir, the NPS has issued a press release about the conditions on the snowfield to Camp Muir, see news release (PDF) and cited below along with the Get Your Bearings (PDF) release.

The NPS press read as follows:

"The annual snowpack on the Muir Snowfield has melted out unusually early this year. This has exposed bare glacier ice and crevasses on the route from Paradise to Camp Muir. From about 8,200 feet and up on this route, which is popular for climbers and day hikers to Camp Muir, the terrain often exceeds a 25-30 degree slope. The steepness, coupled with the exposed glacier ice, make for extremely slippery and hazardous walking. The glacier ice is not kind to exposed skin if you should fall and slide on it. There have been numerous cases this year of slips that have caused fairly severe abrasions. Also this year, the exposed ice from 9,500 feet to 10,100 feet has opened up crevasses that require skill and care in safely picking out circuitous routes which avoid the open cracks in the ice. Over the years, people have found themselves injured by falling in the crevasses or left dangling above them.

The trek to Camp Muir can be an enjoyable hike in these conditions if good judgment and proper precautions are taken. Please follow these helpful hints for safe hiking up to Camp Muir:

• Get the latest route conditions at the Climbing Information Center in Paradise (360-569-6009) or the Wilderness Information Center in Longmire (360-569-HIKE, 360-569-4453)

• Carry and use crampons and an ice axe

• Cover all skin with durable full-length pants and long-sleeve shirts

• Download the Muir Route Bearing Sheet (Get Your Bearings - PDF)

• Carry a map, GPS, and compass, and know how to use them. Track your route on the way up, trackback on the descent

• Travel to Camp Muir with someone. If you should fall in a crevasse, there will be someone to help you or go for help

• The only anchors that work in the glacier ice are ice screws, should you choose to belay over the crevasses with a short section of rope

• Weather can deteriorate at any time. Get up-to-date forecasts and prepare for cold, wet weather"

You can check the NPS News Web page for the latest information and reports.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August Update

Photo courtesy of NP Webcam

Just a note in passing about the work on the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and conditions at the NP. August is the transistion month in the NP, from the end of spring in June and July to the late summer into fall of September. It's when the wildflowers are going or gone, the NP is the most snow-free for trails, the weather is the most accommodating for hiking, and, unfortunately, when the number of visitors peak before school starts.

I didn't update any of the news, conditions or information Web pages, as everything there pretty much still applies. September is when updates will happen more frequently during the month as the NP ventures into fall and the NPS starts the fall shut down of facilities and areas. For now, it's all there and all worth the visit. And later in August, when the first freeze occurs overnight (usually Paradise is the guide), the bugs disappear for the season and hiking is really bug-free.

As for the photo guide, the northwest area guide is coming along and should be on-line later in August. I'm also working on updates to the southwest and Paradise are photo guides for information and a new section with a brief history (a synopsis of interesting information). These also will be on-line later in August.

I've also added a blog entry on thepublications I've found about Mt. Rainier and about the National Park, from maps, to trail guides and various publications on the history, trees, geology, etc., from 1911 to 1966. All pretty cool stuff to think about the NP then.

Otherwise, that's it for now. Enjoy the NP.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


While researching the history of Mt. Rainier NP, I've managed to find some really cool, or is cool to me, historic publications about the NP or related to the NP. And with the Internet these days, the search for research and information material has become easier but often more challenging. Easier because so many sources and resources have on-line bibliographies or catalogs. And challenging because they're all different and you have to wade and filter at the same time.

This really isn't much different than the old fashioned card catalogs for books and indexes of journals I went through during my graduate school days. Those you waded through pages and pages of lists and drawers and drawers of titles and authors by subject. Now you have to learn the Website's search criteria and then wade and filter through pages and pages of lists. Same lists, different format.

Like the research for my MS degree thesis I like to get original prints, preferable, or copies, acceptable, of the article, book, report, whatever. I like to have it available anytime. I'm a researcher reader. I don't often read anything through, I read chapters or use the index to search and read pages. But I digress. In the research it's what I've found that's interesting, to read the perspective of Mt. Rainier and the NP then.

So that to end here's what I've found outside of those listed on the books and resources Web page and all are original prints unless noted, along with some notes about it.

First I have copies of the three USGS topographic maps of Mt. Rainier NP, the 1915 map (digital copy of the orignal print), the 1938 map (1943 reprint), and the 1971 map. These are cool to compare if not just look at for the information.

"Motorist's Guide to Mount Rainier National Park", 1933 and 1937 editions. These are the ones visitors got at the entrances with maps of the NP.

"Mount Rainier National Park", no name or date but between 1940-1951 (Director's name), visitors phamphlet with map.

"Map of Mount Rainier National Park", NPS 1918 from the the second annual report of the NPS (established 1916), showing roads, trails and facilities.

As you can tell, being a geographer, I'm a map freak. I love them. I don't treat them as treasures, god knows if you see my hiking and road/city maps, I just like to look at them for the information and then compare them with earlier or later maps of the same area.

"Our Greatest Mountain", A. H. Barnes, National Park Art Series, 1911, pre-publication copy.

"Mount Rainier, It's Human History Associations", H.E. Rensch, 1935, NPS Field Division of Education publication.

"The Geology of Mount Rainier National Park", Howard A. Coombs, 1936, University of Washington Publication. This publication was written from his PhD dissertation.

"Trees of Mount Rainier National Park", C. Frank Brockman, 1949, University of Washington Press.

"Forests of Mount Rainier National Park", G.F. Allen (US Forest Service), 1922, National Park Service.

"The Story of Mount Rainier National Park", C. Frank Brockman, 1940 (second revision 1952), National Park Service.

"A Guide to the Trails of Mount Rainier National Park", Robert Weldon and Merlin Potts, 1950 and 1966 editions (both), Mount Rainier Natural History Association.

"Behind the Scenery of Mount Rainier National Park", Howard R. Stagner, 1952 and 1966 editions (both), Mount Rainier Natural History Association.

These are interesting publications, both for the history and information, and for wondering what the NP was like then. I keep looking for historical material, mostly pre-1920 stuff, but the 1920-1970 stuff is also good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wildflowers still abloom

As of mid-August, they're alive and well in Mt. Rainier NP. The above photo was taken by Rick Wong just above Edith Creek on the Skyline trail,about the 5,600 foot elevation. So the wildflowers are still in bloom in some meadows in the NP this late in August. You can get more information about wildflowers and a map of meadows.

Another hiker has her photos from a hike over the weekend of the wildflowers and Mt. Rainier on the same Skyline trail. So, the opportunities are there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paradise Area Photo Guide

Alas, the Paradise area photo guide is now on-line with a description, and a map of photo locations and opportunities in the Paradise area. This is the second in the series of the five area photo guides, the southwest the first.

The Paradise with the Jackson Visitors Center, Paradise Inn and Mountain Guide Center is the most popular and visited area of the NP, the Sunrise area the second most visited with a visitors center. The Paradise area is accessed from three of the four entrances, so it's easily accessible despite its central location just south of the summit of Mt. Rainier.

The Paradise area also has the closest most diverse photography locations and opportunities, most within a short day hike (3-5 miles) or shorter (1 mile or less), especially being at the 5,400 foot elevation at the edge of the forest and transistioning into the open meadows and alpine areas. There is something for every photographer.

Anyway, this is the first public version, and it will be updated with news on the conditions and new information I can find to add or improve the Web pages and information. And you're welcome to send e-mail with your suggestions, information, problems or questions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August Updates II

I've updated the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide news and information, the conditions and access, and the August prospects Web pages for corrections from the late July information. There wasn't much new, just a small updates.

The NP is almost snow free below 6,000 feet, and snow only persists 5-6,000 feet on north facing slopes, in shaded areas and on some sections of the Wonderland Trail (latest NP information). All the facilities are open and busy. All trails are good except some in the extreme backcountry areas where they haven't been repaired yet from the winter's snowpack and spring snowmelt.

Outside of that, it's just a good time to be there. Early August is good for the higher elevations meadow and alpine areas. But expect lots of bugs as it's the peak season for them until the first freezing nights, after which hiking and camping is excellent during the good weather days. And this usually last into early-mid September, later with Indian summers.

For photo opportunities, there's everything you want, and nothing to stop you except researvations at campground and backcounty camp sites. You can check the NP Website for researvations or hope to get there early for the daily openings. Otherwise, enjoy and photograph to your heart's content.

Monday, August 3, 2009

MPG V2.6.1

I have updated the Mt. Rainier NP photography guide, found here, with new Web page links and new information on future work. You can also use the blog version, found here or listed in August 2009 entries. The news Web pages are for the backcountry hikes with a map, the first USGS topographic map of the NP published in 1915, and the new help and services for photographers and their plans and preparations for visits and work in the NP.

What hasn't been done, and I've apologized for the delays, are the area photography guides. To date only the southwest area, Nisqually entrance, has been completed. The Paradise area is scheduled for release in mid-August and the Carbon R & Mowich Lake area in late August. No timeframe has been established for the last two (northeast and southeast) quadrants, but it's now estimated for early October.

As you can see from the table of contents, there still are some sections left to do as well as sections in some of the existing sections, namely the history and 1896 expedition projects. The work on these will continue as I can find time to focus on the research and information. The reasons for the delays are the old adage about being a small personal business with yourself as the only employee. Things take time, and life keeps interferring with plans.

Other than that, the photo guide and history projects are there, and I hope they're helpful and informative, but then I only know if you say so or have comments, suggestions, questions or problems.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Updates

I've updated the various Web pages, listed on the photo guide, which includes the news, access and conditions Web pages, the blog list (of entries here in chronological order), the day hikes and map Web pages and the southwest (Nisqually entrance) area information and map Web pages. For the most part, what applied in July applies in August with some exception.

The first exception is the snowpack is quickly disappearing between 5-6,000 foot elevations, expect in shaded areas, north facing slopes and some areas of the Wonderland Trail.

The second is wildflowers, which are in bloom now at Paradise and Sunrise (reported) and likely in the other areas, such as Indian Henry Hunting Grounds, Van Trump Park and Spray Park among others (see Web page.

The third is bugs. Bugs usually start about mid-July, not long after the last snowmelt, starting at the lower elevations and working up the elevations as temperatures rise and snow melts. The bugs usually last until mid-to-late August, until the first near-freezing night. After that only the tough survive but not long.

The weather in August is very similar to July, see blog post (scroll to weather tables at Longmire and Paradise). August and usually through the Labor Day holiday weekend is the best hiking season for the higher elevations where the nights are cool and the days warm.

That's it for now. On the horizon for August are some more of the area guides, probably the Paradise (central) and Carbon River & Mowich Lake (northwest) areas, and some more on the history project, probably the National Park designation effort. That's a lot for a month, so no promises, but I'll see what I can get done. Until then, enjoy your visit, leave no trace and take only photos.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


They're here, wildflowers that is, at Sunrise, peaking now, Paradise, peaking now through next week, and Spray Park, now through next week. It's the time to be there if that's your photography. And it's the time to be there if only to see them. But I have to say one thing if you go.

Stay on the designated paths and trails in the meadows.

You may not leave a trace, but others may not be so cautious and careful about their footprint in environmentally sensitive areas. This is especially important in the late snowmelt season where hiking on the thin snowpack can damage the fragile meadows underneath. In addition you will run the risk of being given a ticket by a Park Ranger for violating the rules (which all visitors accept when entering the NP).

And you can get more information and locations from the photo guide wildflowers Web page. Enjoy them and take care to let others enjoy them too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Help & Services

Since the Mt. Rainier photo guide I was discovered a lot of cool information about Mt. Rainier, the NP and photographing in the NP, and have decided to start offering research help and services to photographers planning and visiting Mt. Rainier NP, kinda' explained here.

The goal is to assist visiting serious or professional photographers with information about Mt. Rainier and the NP as part of their photography work. There are a lot of on-line resources for photographers planning and preparing for a visit, and there are a lot of resources within the NPS and Mt. Rainier NP to provide much of that information. And many local professionals and organizations are available for additional information.

So what help can I offer? Honestly, I'm not sure, except I have a MS degree in Geography (WWU Bellingham), was a hydrologist for the USGS (1978-2005), and have been an photographer since 1969 and a hiker in Mt. Rainier NP since 1977. And with the photo guide and history projects, I've managed to find a lot of information and material.

The idea I have is to explore the possibilities for help and information service for visiting photographers about Mt. Rainier NP as part of developing my personal photography business. For now the help or services will be free, but it still has to fit into both your information needs and timeframe and my work and schedule.

In short, I'll can pretty much tell you immediately how much help I can provide if you can provide specific information and time needs. The one caveat is that it has to pertain specifically to Mt. Rainier NP and not anything outside or only basically related, such as travel and accomodations to the NP. That information is already available through commercial services.

What I can do is shorten your reseach work and time with information, resources or links to information or resources. The photo guide has a lot of them, but not all of them. I focus those on main or home pages and not specific ones which might provide the help or information you want or need.

Anyway, it's a thought and offer on my part. You're welcome the visit the Web page for more information and contact me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Updated SW Area Guide

I have updated the southwest area (Nisqually River entrance) for the Mt. Rainier photo guide. It's the first of the five areas to have more detailed information and a map for locations and photo opportunities. This one was updated from the May 20, 2009 initial version.

I apologize for the lateness with the area guides, but I totally misjudged the time necessary to research the information and prepare the maps and Web pages each area, which turned out to be 2-3 weeks instead of the expected one week. I hope to shrink the time to 1-2 weeks for the other guides, to be the Paradise area next followed by the northwest (Carbon River/Mowich Lake), northeast (White River/Sunrise) and southeast (Ohanapecosh) areas.

Anyway, I hope the area guide helps and you're always welcome to send me you comments, suggestions, questions and problems with the photo guide.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Updated July Reports

I have updated the July news and information report and access and conditions map. I've also added the August prospective report and moved July to the list of monthy reports.

This is early, especially for me since I'm usually late, but August is a lot of the same of July into mid-to-late August and changing into early fall mode late in the month through the Labor Day holiday. This is the general trend, and easily things could change either way, but not really until late August and into September. Until then mid-to-late July blends into mid-to-late August as the snowpack continues to melt in the upper elevations and trails begin to clear, including the Wonderland Trail.

So, what's different so far? Well, for one snow is almost completely gone below 5,000 feet and melting quickly up to 6,000 feet. This means the alpine meadows are snow-free and blooming, so wildflowers abound. But then so are the BUGS. Their peak season is mid-July to mid-August. They're gone after the first freezing night (check temperatures at the Paradise snow course) in August.

And people equally abound. It's common for the parking lots at Paradise and Sunrise to fill by late morning during the week and mid-morning weekends. The NPS has a free shuttle from Ashford to Longmire and Paradise, so if those are your destinations, it's a good choice. Otherwise, the same applies to the many trailheads along the highways through the NP.

So the word is simply "Go Early" and be prepared for crowds at the visitors centers and the first mile or so of trails. All of this tails of during August as family vacations ends but spikes during the Labor Day holiday weekend. The best time for wildflowers and waterfalls is now through early August and the best time for hikes, is mid-to-late August when the days are shorter, temperatures cooler, and more importantly, the bugs almost gone.

Anyway, that's the update for now.