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.