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.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Thought in passing

It's probably clear with the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and early history of the NP, I've managed to find and collect a fair amount of material. Granted my research hasn't begun to approach the level of research Aubrey Haines did with his extensive research on the history of mountaineering in the NP, and the later work of historians on mountaineering and summit climbs, but I have their books to reference and some of the materials they used with my research.

And so from the beginning of the project looking at the early (1880-1900) pre-NP history of Mt. Rainier (designated a NP in 1899) I saw an interesting view about the 1896 expedition. Since I started the research last year with the recent history materials I was curious why the 1896 expedition wasn't mentioned in history materials with and after Dee Molenaar's 1971 book, "The challenge of Mount Rainier", which describes the history of summit climbs.

It's like it vanished from history, but everyone I know both in the mountaineering and scientific communities with Mt. Rainier and the NP knows about the expedition. It's given it's due in Aubrey Haines' 1962 book, "Mountain Fever, Historic Conquest of Mount Rainier", but that's the last time it's mentioned in mountaineering history book, articles and other materials. Or at least that I've found to date.

So while collecting early stuff on Mt. Rainier and the NP, anything pre-WW II, and especially pre-WW I, I've found the expedition is often mentioned as members of the team have had landmarks named after them, eg. Willis Wall and Russell Glacier, and they named some landmarks. There doesn't seem to be a lack of effort to not only recognize but also acknowledge their work as both a scientific achievement of the time and instrumental in the effort for the NP designation.

What's lost in history seems to have been the effort of the scientific community in the work to get the law passed designating Mt. Rainier NP. They were the third leg and the most important leg of the trio of efforts, the other two being the mountaineering and recreation community and the local commerce and citizen groups, and it was the weight of the National Academy of Science and the US Geological Survey that carried the day to convince Congress to pass the law in 1899 after almost a decade of trying by other groups.

And key in the scientific effort was the 1896 expedition, described in the 1898 report of it along with the scientific importance of Mt. Rainier to the nation and science. And the expedition the team has severa accomplishments of the period which have been lost in the recent history.

They were the first to do a traverse of the northern side of Mt. Rainier about treeline. They did the summit climb up Emmons Glacier, a rarely used route by climbers, camping overnight at Steamboat Prow. And they repeated the northern traverse from the camp along Winthrop Glacier back to the camp on the Carbon Glacier after their descent to Paradise and return to the base camp along the eastern side of Mt. Rainier.

And they did the whole two-week expedition with Bailey Willis' 10-year old daughter Hope, except she didn't do the summit climb. She was scheduled to do the climb but Israel Russell, the climb leader, scratched her the morning of the climb. He later admitted to Bailey she should have gone and could have easily done the climb, even better than two of the team itself, seasoned scientist and camp helper. Hope stayed at the camp at the 7-8,000 foot level along Winthrop Glacier.

What I suspect, and it's just a guess, is that more recent mountaineers and mountaineering historians have decided their climb was incidental to their expedition and wasn't done in the spirit of climbs then and even now. Their climbing route wasn't documented. They didn't relish in their accomplishment of the climb and the summit - although those historians have overlooked the team members' personal notes on this last point.

And they didn't look to the mountaineering community for support or recognition. You see, Israel Russell, Bailey Willis and George Otis Smith had spent several summers exploring the Washiington Cascade Mountains on geologic expeditions, including summers in and around Mt. Rainier. To them the climb was part of the work and the job. They did personally see how important it was in their life, but not the way climbers do.

After all they didn't spend days staying at Paradise for recreation and then for a summit climb. They spent two weeks exploring the geology and glaciers for science. They didn't do the summit climb for the privilege of standing on the summit. They went there to see what was there and collect rocks (yes, they took rock sample from around the crater rim). It wasn't a personal achievement so much as a scientific one.

And so I think recent mountaineering historians, begining with Dee Molenaar, have simply decided it wasn't part of mountaineering history of Mt. Rainier. Or at least it seems such since it's absent from their histories of mountaineering on Mt. Rainier. And it's why I though it worthy to refresh history and renew their importance. And being a retired USGS person too, I feel slighted by their oversight of the USGS's work and achievements.

But it's just an observation and thought in passing.

Backcountry Guide

I've developed a basic (first draft) backcountry trail and hiking guide with a map of camps, trailheads and cache locations. I won't push the limits of my experience here as it's all from the many day hikes (some 10-12 miles) I done in Mt. Rainier NP. I'm not a backcountry hiker (long done before and really hated, but that's another story), but I can use my experience and translate with the information I find to provide some good basic information.

After all the difference between a good day hiker and a good backcountry hiker is being comfortable being overnight in the wilderness, and the truth is that the numbers of backcountry hikers these days hasn't significantly changed over the last few decades and most of them are the dedicated ones who do many backcountry hikes than than the occasional backcountry hikers.

This doesn't mean day and backcountry hikers aren't photographers, most carry cameras to document their trip and experience. And many of those produce excellent images. Hopefully, the photo guide can help them produce even better images, but my goal is providing the serious amateur to professional photographers more information for their visit and hikes in the NP. Their time is limited and this is the focus, and hopefully they'll add some hikes, both day and backcountry hikes during their visit.

Both the hikers and visiting photographers can also learn from the many photographers who have spent many days over years in Mt. Rainier NP, listed here, who are experienced and dedicated photographers and hikers. They long realized the sheer magnitude of photo locations and opportunities in the backcountry of Mt. Rainier NP.

Anyway, I hope the guide, like the day hike guide, helps. and remember it's just the first version and you're always welcome to send me your comments, suggestion, problems or questions.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Updated Day Hikes

I've updated the Mt. Rainier NP day hikes Web pages with the corresponding map of hikes. It's been expanded with more information and resources about day hiking for photography.

It's hard to do hiking and photography at the same time, you can't carry enough of both and have to make compromise, optimizing your photography gear without sacrificing the essential and emergency hiking gear. I've done enough solo hiking in the NP to see too many people miles from the trailhead without any hiking gear and the worst clothes and footwear. You're lucky if you don't get tired and sore, and regret wearing tennis shoes or flip-flops - and yes I've seen that.

For the most part, photographers are fairly experienced hikers and they carry both the proper hiking gear with the photo gear, but I've seen some with great photo backpacks full of photo gear and just the minimal hiking gear trying to stretch their water and food for the day and hope the weather doesn't change or they get hurt.

As for the trails, if you want to find locations and opportunities for good photos, you have to do some homework on the trails and your photography work and interests. There's the whole array of photos of Mt. Rainier and all the different environments in the NP. You won't run out of places and subjects.

The problem you'll find is too many places and too little time. Furthermore, compromising your photo gear on the day hikes means leaving some types of photos behind or find the time to go back. But the best advice any photographer who's worked in the NP any amount of time is simple, "Go at least a mile from the trailhead." You'll find tons of photo ops rarely photographed.

And that's the cool thing, lots of new stuff different than the routine stuff. It's all there for you, just grab the backpack and go.

Related News

President Obama announced today the appointment of the new Director of the National Park Service, former Superintendent of Mt. Rainier NP, Jonathon Jarvis, currently the Director of the Pacific West Region. The announcement is as follows:

"Jonathan B. Jarvis, Nominee for Director, National Park Service, Department of the Interior Jon Jarvis has been an employee for the National Park Service for over 30 years. Most recently he has served as the Regional Director for the Pacific West Region. Mr. Jarvis is responsible for all National Park System units (54) and programs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands of Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. Additionally Mr. Jarvis oversees 3,000 employees with a $350 million annual budget. Prior to this, Mr. Jarvis was the Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park in Ashford, Washington. He has also been the Superintendent of Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho where his position required close coordination with local ranchers, the BLM, rural communities surrounding the National Monument and the Department of Energy. He also served as the Superintendent of Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve in Copper Center, Alaska which involved mining, aircraft, subsistence hunting & fishing rights, native villages as well as rural communities. Mr. Jarvis was the Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources: North Cascades National Park for over five years where he was the chief biologist of the 684,000 acre complex of two recreation areas and one national park."

This doesn't really relate to the current status and work at Mt. Rainier NP, but it shows, as I experienced in the US Geological Survey, that sometimes good guys do get promoted to top leadership positions. There are many good leaders and managers in government agencies, but most, however, prefer to find the level they're comfortable at and do their best work. All too often leaders are those who want and do climb the career ladder. They're often inept or worse, incompetent, only political savy and know who's ass to kiss.

And yes, I've saw those in my career, and even worked for a few. They suck. Straight and simple, and never liked or respected, only tolerated until they move on. A few eventually learn, but most don't. Fortunately, most of them eventually find the level of their incompetence because most of the real senior managers and leaders see through them to let them know the reality of things. But that's a whole other story best told over a good brew and food at a tavern.

For now, let's congratulate Mr. Jarvis for a job well done and a future to do well too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

No Guns

For those guns rights advocates who cheered when Congress passed and President Obama signed the Credit Card legislation into law with the amendment rewriting the regulations governing guns in National Parks where you can, supposedly, carry a loaded weapon in the National Parks and wildlife refuges, you'll be disappointed to realize the law doesn't go into effect until February 2010, and until then guns are not allowed in National Parks except as already defined, unloaded and secured in vehicles.

Congress decided this will give the opponents time challenge the law in court or give Congress the right to introduce legislation this fall to, hopefully, rescind it. Considering the backlash the change has created from the National Park Service itself, the organization of retired park rangers, and the many people who visit the National Parks, it's likely amendments will be introduced to attach to larger bills to do just that, return things to normal.

And already people carrying weapons in the National Parks have been stopped and informed to follow the regulations. And it is important to remember the law does not apply to buildings in national parks. You can't carry them into visitors centers, museums, restaurants, lodges, etc. That's a different federal law that applies to all federal buildings. The new law only applies to the land.

I've made my view obvious. Guns aren't necessary in National Parks. The facts of history are there. They're not necessary for personal security or safety. That's why park rangers are there. And in National Parks where it's essential to carry a loaded weapon, meaning Alaska, it's obvious and some of those places also require guides. I've been hiking Mt. Rainier National Park on and off since the late 1970's and every spring-to-fall since the early 1990's, and have never needed a gun.

It's that simple. All the milliions of visitors have proven guns aren't necessary or even needed or wanted. And the change in the law wasn't necessary, and hopefully will over rescinded. Until then remember to follow the rules for guns in Mt. Rainier National Park. That's your civic duty to all of us.

July News and Report

I've updated the news, conditions and information on Mt. Rainier NP for July 2009 with the news, the latest weather, road, facilities, etc. conditions and the monthly prospective. I apologize for the lateness if you had planned a trip and were only your way. I got lost working on the topographic map Web pages and took a break, and then forget the day, like late June.

It snuck up on me. Anyway, July is where everything really begins. The snow if gone below 4,000, except on north-facing slopes and in shaded areas, and melting between 4,000 and 6,000 feet (Paradise is at 5,400). This means all the low-to-mid elevation trails are clear except in patches. The problem for photographers is that all the alpine meadows are still under snow, some still with 3-5 feet of snow, such as the two most visited at Spray Park and Paradise.

All that should change during July as the meadows clear and bloom later in July and maybe into August. The other photo op are the many waterfalls, which almost all are clear and accessible with signifcant flows from the snowmelt in the basin above the waterfall. Besides the light you should consider the diurnal flow in the creeks to get your photos.

As for other news. The shuttle is in effect weekends and holidays between Ashford, east of the NP on highway 7, and Longmire and Paradise. Consider using it as parking is still limited at Paradise if you arrive in the afternoon. You can't just park anywhere there. Also, the Stevens Canyon road is closed in sections for repairs which may take to the Labor Day holiday. Plan your driving trip accordingly as this prevent the circumnavigation drive to Paradise from the east side highways.

That's it for July. Enjoy your visit, and you're always welcome to post comments or send me suggestions, questions or whatever else you think helps the photo guide.