Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Update.-- The latest reports are that the Spray Park and Sunrise areas are considered the best for early August in the face of the late snowmelt. The Sunrise area may last longer as the higher elevation meadows become snow free. The rest of the NP should still have some wildflower into early and maybe mid-August at higher elevations.

Previous post.-- Well, the wildflowers are here, in the NP. To that end, the 15th of this month Jeff Mayor of the Tacoma News Tribune posted this story. You can get additional information about wildflowers, with a map of areas.

Stay on the trail and protect fragile wildflowers


With the snowpack at Paradise quickly melting, folks are going to want to head there to see the wildflowers.

But as the snow melts, it tends to run down the trails, creating a muddy track. That combined with spots where snow still covers the trails is creates a problem because some hikers opt to walk alongside the trail on the fragile vegetation.

This already is a problem at Sunrise, said Julia Pinnix, the lead ranger for that part of Mount Rainier National Park.

The area already has fields of glacier lily and pasqueflower blooms, with other flowers on the way.

Pinnix said the combination of mud and snow on the trail makes visitors choose to walk on the vegetation.

"At high elevation, plants are exceedingly fragile. It takes only a single season of careless feet to cause damage that lasts for many years," she wrote me in an e-mail.

"In particular, Burroughs Trail at Sunrise is being extraordinarily impacted. For some reason, there has been a large amount of traffic directed at that trail the past couple of years, and people are just determined to hike it even if they can't see it. People are trampling all over the exposed vegetation in that area and causing a great deal of damage. Our small staff, and even our dedicated volunteers, are just overwhelmed. We cannot protect this exceptionally fragile area."

If you are traveling to either Sunrise or Paradise, please be careful where you step.

This applies now and through this summer and wildflower season throughout the NP. All I can add for meadows and open and alpine area is the following, except where noted in the NP rules and guides.

Stay on the designated trails, especially on snow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Well the snow at Paradise, both the visitors center area and the SNOTEL site in Mt. Rainier NP (southeast of Paradise), is, for most areas, gone for the season and you should only encounter snow near and above 6,000 feet for July and higher in elevations now into August.

You can get some basic information about snow data and above is the graph through today (7/24/10) of the snow water equivalent (SWE), and looking at the data, you would see the amount of remaining snow today is about 4-6 inches and should be gone by tomorrow.

When I looked at both this year's and the longterm average data this May trying to determine when the peak snowpack would occur and the snowmelt will begin and then end. I predicted the snow melt would conclude (at the Paradise site) by August 31st, plus or minus a day, which would be about two weeks later than the longterm normal. It wasn't a scientific conclusion but an observational one based on the graph of the snowmelt.

This means most of the the trails should be snowfree by early August, the exception being the Sunrise area, at just over 7,000 feet, where the snowpack will persist into early-mid August and the more remote alpine and high elevations areas. The NPS or other agencies don't operate a snow site there to report the snowpack, but you can get the most recent conditions from the NPS trail conditions.

So, snow is a memory for this year and your visit. And you can see the beauty of the NP awaking from the last depths of winter snow to bloom anew. All just waiting for you. So go and enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July Updates

Photo looking southeast from Paradise July 21, 2010

I have, belatedly - sorry, life got in the way, updated the July news, conditions and reports for the Mt. Rainier photo guide. I plan to get the August update out within a week, hopefully, unless life gets back in my way and I succomb to it. I'm not planning it.

Ok, that said, what is July like and going to be like into August? Well, how does great sound to you. Well, it's the best time, which is really through September, except for one thing, bugs. Mid-July is when the bugs arise and amass in numbers through mid-late August, or until the first few sub-40 degree nights, when they almost completely disappear for the season. So, if you plan to go, be prepared for them following you everywhere.

July is the month the snow finally melts at and above the 5,000 ft elevation, and especially 5-6,000 feet where most of the trails are at Paradise. Sunrise is still another 1,000 feet higher and will have snow into early-mid August (no real-time snow data site there), so you have to plan accordingly when going there.

Otherwise, it's great to be there, so go and enjoy, and remember it's everyone National Park, so please leave no trace and share it with others.