Tuesday, April 28, 2009


When I developed the Web pages for waterfalls in Mt. Rainier NP I chose to go with only those with establised names approved by the Board of Geographic Names which are included on USGS topographic maps. This was a decision to find waterfalls with just a map and without the necessity of having prints of Web pages or one of the books on waterfalls in the NP and surrounding area.

This clearly then the waterfall guide does not have all the waterfalls in the NP, even though many are worthy of names or have accepted names over time, and many more worthy of anyone's photographic effort. The unofficially unnamed or unnamed waterfalls outnumber the officially recognized and named ones by several times. But I would add a word of caution about the unofficial names.

When you display photographs of waterfalls which don't have official names, I would advise you to ensure you provide sufficient information for others to locate the waterfall. The last thing another photographer needs is to see your images to discover they can't find the waterfall. It's why I provide the links to other Websites on watefalls in Mt. Rainier, many of which don't have official names and are in my guide.

This means the waterfall guide doesn't even have many of the waterfalls you see along the roads and trails. Many of them don't have names, let alone having a traditional or unofficial name. I've seen books and Websites where people simply attach their own name. While that's maybe cool to you, it's not useful for anyone else as the name has no relevance to anything else. And simply creating a name doesn't make it real or official.

That's where the Board of Geographic Names comes in. While it's for names recognized and used by the Federal government agencies, it's generally accepted by the States' agencies and most local government agencies. Some states and locals governments, however, do have additional names or alternate names.

In Washington State, the Department of Natural Resources has its own Board of Geographic Names. In either case, there are standard proceedures for proposing names to geographic features. This applies to waterfalls. If you like and want a name for a waterfall, go through the hoops. Don't create one thinking we should use it.

Anyway, that's my view of things.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SW area photo guide

I've developed the first (draft) version of the photo guide for the southwest area. It's available there or from the overview guide. You're welcome to send me your comments, suggestions, questions or whatever, preferably positively.

I'm using this area guide as the format for the other four areas (see overview). I still want to produce better maps, but am struggling finding good on-line topographic maps. Right now I'm using National Geographic's Topo software of USGS topographic maps and available NPS maps. They may have to do for now while I work on the other areas, which are more important to get the first draft by Memorial Day weekend.

While working on this area photo guide I thought of another map Web page, one with the different places for the different types of photos you can get, such as vistas, landscape, river, forest, etc. It's just a thought for now which I'll explore, and if you would like to see that too with the photo guide, please let me know.

Well, that's it for this round. The next area will be the Paradise (center) area of the NP. After that the northwest (Carbon River and Mowich Lake) area. Then the two eastern areas since I'm less familar with those areas. And maybe I'll find some better maps.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Still no guns in NP

The Obama administration is reviewing the rules allowing guns in National Parks, a change implemented last year by the Bush administration under pressure fron the NRA and some Senators in Congress. A judge set aside the rule pending a full environment review, restoring the previous 26-year rule of no guns allowed in NP's except unloaded and stored in a locked place in the vehicle.

This is good news, as I wrote about last summer, see essay. I'm still against guns in NP's for the safety of visitors and the NPS employees and seasonal rangers. No one wants to hike well off the road in fear of encountering someone who has and may decide to use a gun. Yeah, that's a rarity, but the rule prevents the potential. And there are some NP's where gun owners would love to go into the backcountry to use their weapons.

That's the last thing our NP needs, people shooting at the wilderness, wildlife and even maybe people in the backcountry. And no backcountry ranger wants to consider the reality of a confrontation with any of these folks or a hiker who has a gun. Freedom and safety in NP's reside in a no-gun policy, especially for large number of foreign visitors. They need a place to experience America's wilderness in safety.

The NRA cites the wrong reasons the Bush rule was fair and proper. It's not about safety for people to have guns. NP's have the lowest rates of assaults and murders of any place in the US. And NP's has a near-zero rate of backountry hikers being injured or killed by wildlife. Injuries from weather and accidents have a far higher rate. So guns won't make hikers safer, common sense always is the better choice.

And it's not about the right to bear arms. There are already too many places people can take and use weapons, including the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. And there are more than enough federal and state lands for hunters. Adding NP's to the lands isn't necessary.

I suspect the announcement to review the rule is a political decision to write a decision where it's not feasible to change the longstanding rule of no-guns. Last summer a teen killed two hikers on a trail in the foothills east of Seattle. We don't need the possibility of this situation in NP's. I hope the Presidents stands up to the gun-rights advocates for the rights of all Americans and foreigners visiting the NP's. That's the right decision.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I'm looking for suggestions for some Web pages with the photo guide for Mt. Rainier NP. Specifically the individual areas, see introduction to the fives areas.

I've broken the NP into five areas, the four quadrants defined by the access to them, namely the highways and entrances, and the Paradise area, which is the most popular and visited area. The goal is to present both current conditions and information and specific photography tips and ideas for that area, along with resources for additional information.

In addition, I'd like to present and provide better maps. I'm currently using available NPS maps. Many of the on-line maps aren't of sufficient quality or information to be useful. I use Google maps because it's convenient and has lots of neat user tools, but its view of the NP from the map providers, isn't very good.

The commercial map software packages have some issues with output formats for the Web. Either they don't provide them or they require a plug-in to view them, the former useless for developers and the latter useless for users. And even the USGS uses a proprietary viewer to convert 7 1/2 minute topographic maps to PDF's.

And none of those output formats are scalable, meaning interactive with the user to adjust the size and scale. And the on-line maps which have both scalability and topographic features require subscriptions. It's a no-win situation for someone like me want to develop a map-based photography guide.

So I'll use the public domain NPS maps and try to develop better Web versions so users have a better idea of what they can do in the NP. And here is where you can help by sending me your interests, ideas, suggestions, questions, comments, whatever for the individual areas. In short, what would you like to have before and when you go to the NP?

And you're welcome to let others know about this work. While I have ideas of what I want to do, it won't work if people don't use it. I won't argue my goal eventually is a general guide book and a detailed Website, the former either an on-line version or publish version (my goal) and the latter free. Right now I'm looking at two format for the print, either like this one with foldout maps or this one with a map folder and take out maps. Both books would have six maps, the five sections and an overview map.

But I'm getting ahead of myself by a few years here. The immediate goal is to develop the individual areas into working sections. And that's where you can help. So, it's your opportunity to get some work and information for free. Not a bad price I'd say.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Daily Changes

For those folks who don't understand the changing weather at Mt. Rainier, you're always welcome to follow the changes through the day and over days with the NPS Webcams. But for those who don't here is a sequence of morning snapshots from mid-March to early April.

That's why you have to be prepared and be flexible when you visit Mt. Rainier NP most months.

Friday, April 10, 2009

1896 USGS Expedition

I updated (April 10, 2009) the Web pages for the 1896 expedition by a team of USGS geologists. I translated the narrative in the 1898 report into a time line for dates and places, including a map with camps, stays, waypoints and trips on the expedition July 15-31, 1896.

The expedition started from Carbonado and travelled the Bailey Willis trail established in the early 1880's for miners and Mr. Willis in this exploration of Mt. Rainier for the railroad. The team did the first traverse of the northern side of Mt. Rainier above treeline, establishing base camps at Philo Falls and Winthrop Glacier. While there they did several day trips to areas and a summit climb up Emmons Glacier, not a common climbing route then.

The team included four geologists, four assistants and the 10-year old daughter of one of the geologist who was scheduled to do the summit climb but was scratched by the lead climber the day before the climb. He later said she could have easily done the climb, even better than some of the five on the climbing team. The youngest successful summit climber under 18 wasn't done until the 1960's and not until the 1990's when someone under 10 did a successful climb.

She did the whole two week expedition, all on foot, and all but a few days in the now Mt. Rainier NP. That's the time now hikers spend doing the Wonderland trail (usually 10-14 days). And that was in 1896 when supplies and equipment weren't near as good as today.

Anyway, that's the first set of Web pages on the 1896 expedition. The map above is an 1880's map by Bailey Willis from the original print edition of the 1898 report I found last year. It's cool to read original print material. Gives you a sense of history and value about our national parks.

Version history:
Initial version April 5, 2009.
Updated April 10, 2009, for additional description and corrected dates.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thompson's Peak

While locating the rock sample in George Smith's field notes (see blog post, I've located all but two. I've located numbers 201-216 and 219-223 with samples 214 and 215 missing from the notes. I can't find the locations of samples 217 and 218.

The field book describes the locations of these samples as:

"Along the east slope of (Mount) Rainier in the Parks and on the gentle slopes there are accumulations of light brown pumice, #217, seemingly rather red in compound. This was first noted in Moraine Park, and in the interior of Little Tahoma “V” was especially abundant, long slopes being wholly covered the fragments of pumice even reaching 8-10 inches in diameter. The quesation of the source of the pumice was not answered definitively by an facts observed.

A dark purple compact rock, #218, with the texture of a porphyrite rather than of an andesite was collected on Thompsonʼs Peak."

I can't find a Thompson's Peak or the "Parks". The samples were taken after their return from Paradise across the east side of the mountain July 26-27th and before sample 219 taken on the east side of Carbon Glacier July 29th. This means the samples were taken somewhere and sometime in between and in the area of their camp at the Winthrop Glacier.

I've searched through old documents and the maps I have from 1880 to 1935 along with the newer edition of USGS 1:24,000 (7 1/2 minute) topographic maps. So if anyone has any suggestions or knowledge, please send an e-mail.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Public Input

The National Park service routinely opens work and planning proposals about Mount Rainier National Park for public review and comments. it's the requirement for many of the planning activites for the NP, some of which I have written about on this blog. You can view the on-going proposals at the NPS public comment Web page.

The list of plans available for comment vary from the small, like buildings, to the large, like public transit and access in whole river valleys (eg. Carbon River road and trail). It's the way the work and because it's your national park. The money the NPS gets is public tax dollars and they need to show the management and operation of the NP is worth your money and interest. In short, you have a say.

One example of this is the work the NPS did with the public about the Carbon River road and trail. It's clearly an issue that isn't easily resoveable with engineering. The road which has existed there for most of the 20th century has frequently been damaged by floods, and now in places either is the river or is lower than the adjacent river. It's the nature of the geology and hydrology of the mountain.

So sadly the road can't be repaired and maintained any longer past the NP entrance. But the NPS offered several alternatives to the public to consider, comment and choose. After all denying the public road access, which has long been the area's advantage for access to the northwest corner of the NP, would add 5+ miles (one way) to people's hike and restrict access to less able people.

Anyone who's hiked the Carbon River trail would know and see this. But the NPS leadership was willing to keep the road if the public expressed the desire and understood the costs. We did and decided the road wasn't cost-effective, and later this year and into coming years, the NPS will be revising the route of the trail and improving the existing trail to ensure future hikers have year-around hiking access to Ipsut campground and beyond.

This is just one issue and decision that was available to the public through the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment Process. You can get other documents about the management and operation of the NP and related information about Mt. Rainier itself from the NPS Web page.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Schedule Openings

The NPS at Mt. Rainier NP has released the initial schedule for openings for facilities, campgrounds and roads, as well as additional news on road closures and other possible delays see their press release (PDF). Note this is the initial schedule and as always, subject to change with the spring weather, as we've all known over the years.

The other news is that snow activites are closed Sunday April 5th. This is to ensure the snowmelt and people don't damage areas underneath the snow. As such they write:


State Route 410/Cayuse Pass April 24 (tentative)
State Route 123 @ park boundary April 24 (tentative)

Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center (7 days/week) May 4
Paradise Inn May 15
White River Road to Campground parking lot May 20
State Route 410/Chinook Pass May 22
Cougar Rock Campground & Picnic Area (noon) May 22
Wilderness Information Center – Longmire May 22
Ohanapecosh Campground (noon) May 22
Paradise Valley Road May 22
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center May 23

Paradise Picnic Area June 19
White River Campground (noon) June 26
Sunrise Road June 26

Mowich Lake Road July 3
Sunrise Lodge July 3
Sunrise Visitor Center July 3

The June-July schedule follows the normal dates for these areas and may change if the snow melts sooner or last longer than normal. We had a surge of snowfall which increased the snowpack significantly, but everything changes once the area gets into snowmelt in late April and especially May. A warm spring could bring the openings earlier as well as the opposite.

The NPS will keep us posted, as I will here.

Photo public domain by the NPS, the general store at Longmire, April 2, 2009

April Update

I have update the current conditions and the NP map along with the April report. In addition I have moved all the past reports to its own Web page.

So what is and what will April be like this year?

Well, it's a continuation of March, like obviously, but really this year because of a late spring snowfall which raised the snowpack from about 80% of normal to about 110-120% of normal. And snow is deeper at the lower elevations, meaning it's thorughout the NP, including the normally cleared lower Carbon River valley. Longmire has 3+ feet of snow as does the Mowich Lake entrance. All of these areas are usually clear by now with snow starting above 3,000 feet.

This means the same ideas and rules applies, it's winter and it's snow, so be prepared and be flexible for both snow, melting snow and cool to cold weather. The daytime temperatures should start warming up during the month, so many lower elevation scenes should interesting photographically, such as waterfalls.

In other matters, I'm still working on the 1896 expedition. I have the initial route determined and the Web pages for the narrative and map ready (on-line sometime later this coming week). It's been interesting as you can see from the recent blog entries. Without decent or accurate maps, they didn't have a lot to go by on the expedition, so deciphering their description has proven difficult.

Anyway, that's about it for now. You're always welcome to send me e-mail with any comments, corrections, suggestion or questions.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Translating III

Ok,, I'm still working on the expedition for specific dates and places, and I'm almost done with the narrative and map Web pages for the expedition. Even then it will still be the first draft of the pages so I can get feedback or suggestions to improve or correct the pages and information. There still are some segments in their travel which are confusing at best.

When the team which did the summit climb they descended down the standard "tourist" route by way of Cowlitz Cleaver and Gibraltar Rock, where Camp Muir is located at the 10,000 foot elevation. They simply followed the obvious trail down to Paradise Park and the people camping there. They spent the night there before getting some rations and starting back to the Winthrop Glacier base camp with the rest of the team.

Their narrative is what I haven't grasped yet. This is what I.C. Russell wrote:

"Bidding our friends in Paradise Park good-by, we resumed our journey early on the morning of July 26. Ascending toward Gibraltar until an elevation of about 10,000 feet was reached, we turned eastward for the purpose of traversing the eastern slope of the mountain and regaining our camp at Winthrop Glacier. After crossing the upper portion of Paradise Glacier, we traversed broad and but little broken snow fields to the brink of the valley down which Cowlitz Glacier flows. Beyond Cowlitz Glacier, at about the same level that we had reached, we could see the bold, cathedral-like crags of Little Tahoma, the upward-pointing angle of a secondary mountain mass which divides Cowlitz and Emmons glaciers. Not wishing to descend into the deep valley before us and climb out again on the farther side, we chose to cross the névé fields to our left and endeavor to pass over a rugged and much broken region where the main current of Cowlitz Glacier descends a rocky slope about a thousand feet high. In following the route chosen we became involved in a succession of crevasses and ice precipices, which caused much delay. Slowly working our way upward, we reached the base of the highest ice wall, but a vertical cliff of ice about 50 feet high barred all further progress in that direction. Reluctantly we turned back and, losing all the advantage we had gained by three or four hours of excessively hard climbing, went down the central portion of the Cowlitz Glacier until we reached the level of the highest grove of trees on its left bank, and crossing to the land chose a delightful and well-sheltered spot beneath low pine trees at which to rest for the night."

As much as I try I can't follow this on any map. If they went up to the 10,000 foot elevation that would put them at Camp Muir, but there isn't anything in the report about Camp Muir. So I'm thinking the only got as far as Anvil Rock, which is only a few hundred feet above 9,000 feet. I think this because Russell talks about "... brink of the valley down which Cowlitz Glacier flows.", which fits the Anvil Rock location.

In addition I'm lost on their traverse across upper Cowlitz Glacier between Cowlitz Cleaver and Cathedral Rock. I don't have a real idea where they ended up on the Cathedral Rock side to face the ice wall, and then turn back.

And the last thing I don't understand is their next decision, to go down nearly 4,000 feet to the east side of Cowlitz Glacier below Ingraham Glacier for the night when Camp Muir was just a few hundred feet above them. on the west side of Cowlitz Glacier. It was then what it is today, the overnight camp for sumitt climbs. I would have thought they knew about this camp and it's closeness to where they were on the Cowlitz Glacier.

Anyway, any help appreciated by climbers. I'm rolling on with the Web pages.