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.