Friday, October 29, 2010

Recent Updates

I've updated some of the Web pages for information with the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide for a number of reasons. While researching the placenames in the NP, I found a waterfall and lake I missed before, and have updated both the set of Web pages (description, map and list) for lakes and waterfalls. Both of these are not easily accessible so they don't offer much for photographers unless you're an experienced backpacker and backcountry scrambler.

The other update was for the USGS 7 1/2 minute topographic maps for the Mt. Rainier NP. The older or current DRG versions served by the University of Washington Geomorphological Research Group were moved to another server and I had to find them to update the links. This is now fixed where you can download the maps. In many cases they're the same version as those available from the USGS as PDF's.

The monthly November reports are under review and will be available next week if not sooner. In addition, I'm working on the Web pages for the placenames in the NP, all (about) 430 of them for 15 catagories. I trying to determine the best way to present them to be useful and interesting. In addition I'm reviewing them for changes over the years from the 1915 and 1938 version of the map for the NP that I have.

Along with that I'm working on a new map Web page for the glaciers in Mt. Rainier NP. I currently have a map for viewing trails and locations but not the location and information about all of the glaciers including several not on Mt. Rainier and one which disappeared enough to be removed from maps. Nothing like gettig a feature named for you and it disappears in real and on maps.

That's it for the update.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's not about guns

I've been reading the stories, blogs and commentaries about the hiker killed by the mountain goat in the Olympic National Park (NP), and understanding the circumstances of his death, which was tragic, it doesn't give credence to the gun rights advocates to argue for the use of guns in a NP. This was the first death in the NP from an agressive goat.

And while gun rights advocates argue someone with a gun could have killed the goat and possibly saving the hiker, note the injury was so severe it was remote at best any chance of saving him, it is still illegal to withdraw and display a gun and more so it is still illegal to discharge one in a NP. And it is still illegal to shoot or kill wildlife in a NP. Both of these violations would result in fines and possible imprisonment.

The open carry law only allows that and only where appropriate under state laws. The problem I have with the gun righs advocates over this event is that it misses the point that we (hikers) are the visitors and the wildlife are the ones living there. We are invading their territory, their home if you like, and they will react accordingly. We would do no less with our home and for our loved ones.

So why are we blaming a goat for a hiker's misjudgement? We would not have argued if it was bear or mountain lion. It was goat and the NPS had issued advisories and warning in the past about agressive goats going after backpacks and threatening people, and on rare occasions, attacking people. We invaded their space. What's not to understand?

Personally I'm against guns in NP and Wilderness Areas (WA's) unless it's a clear and obvious persistent threat, as in the case of Alaska where you can get a permit or hire an armed guide for hiking there. In many places the USFS and NPS requires it for the protection of the hikers and the preservation of wildlife. Both are important to these areas.

I have no doubt there will be attacks in NP, and even Mt. Rainier NP, but they are rare enough to keep guns out of the NP and rely on hikers being aware and exercising protection measures to ensure their safety. Wildlife don't like people and will avoid us in almost every situation, until we threaten them in their territory or with their familes (eg. bear cubs).

Sometimes it's unavoidable and sometimes it's accidental. And yes a gun to ward off the wildlife might help, but that's all and there are other measure equally workable, such as noise, size, pepper spray, etc. Those are far less dangerous than guns. And to that end I will always advocate for the ban on guns in NP's and especially Mt. Rainier NP. They're unnecessary for the experience and enjoyment of being, hiking and photographing there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Snow advisory

The NWS in Seattle is predicting snow starting early next week, see Web page, probably down to 3,500 foot elevation, which is much of Mt. Rainier NP. All the entrances are at 2,000-2,400 feet elevation and while the river valleys continue to be below the snow prediction, all the rest of the higher elevations will have snow.

If this happens, the NPS will be ready to implement winter snow rules for the NP, such as closing the White River road, Mowich Lake road and the Stevens Canyon road at the entrances earlier than normally scheduled on November 1st. If this happens, it's unlikely the entrance will reopen as the NPS will just leave them closed until the spring.

This also means the NPS may implement the road closure for the road from Longmire to Paradise nightly at the gate just east of Longmire. The road won't open in the in the morning until after the parking lot and road to Longmire from Paradise is checked and cleared of snow, which is usually 8-9 am. And there is no overnight parking at Paradise without a camping permit (available at Longmire) or camping in vehicles of any type (cars, trucks, RV's, etc.).

The good news is that this is common as the first snow storms, and is usually short-lived. Warmer weather usually follows these storms and the snow melts below 5-6,000 feet until the normal seasonal snow in November-December period.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just a Reminder

Just a quick reminder that several updates will be available over the next week or so. I'm rewriting the winter photography Web pages, both the description, which will be expanded, and the map, with new resources from the description page. Second the November news, conditions and reports Web pages will be on-line replacing the October ones. And third, many Web pages will have cosmetic changes to correct for errors, update seasonal information and other things from the recent review.

The winter pages will have more specific information about rules and locations in Mt. Rainier NP during the winter as there are several areas open to winter visitors, most of whom go to Paradise, some to the Carbon River and Mowich Lake area and a few who access the White River and Steven Canyon areas. November 1st is the date the NP closes many entrances no matter the weather and access is by hiking, snowshoeiing or cross-country skiiling.

Highway 123 and 410 on the eastside of the NP will remain open until the Washington State Department of Transportation closes both for the season usually in December or the first major snow storm which will last until the spring snowmelt in the April-May timeframe. Highway 167 is generally kept open due to local traffic but it's not always cleared quickly after winter snowstorms. Highway 706 (Ashford to the NP entrance) is generally kept open year around and only rare snowstorms closes it for short periods.

And lastly, I will be adding a place names Web page for those interested in the history behind the names of the places. This will be an evolving Web pages, from the obvious to the obscure and over months adding and researching the placenames. Right now it's just an idea as I work on the outline and start the list of initial placenames.

That's it for now. More to come.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I wrote on another blog I bought an iPad to help when I'm away from my computer. I never liked, wanted or needed a laptop. When I'm out of the office I focus on other things, and if I work on Web stuff, I work from print copies to review and edit. That's the way I work, a copy of the pages, a pad of paper and a pencil, and ok, a big erasure. Traditional but it works.

Anyway, I've been testing the various PDF readers available for the iPad, and while I only tested a handful - I'll leave it to the testing bloggers and Websites for the complete reviews, I found two which I find good, and one very useful namely because it handles big files, upwards of 300+ Mbytes and maps, especially USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps. But even that said, there are caveats to the PDF readers on the iPad.

For one, they're not full fledge versions of the PDF applications, like Acrobat, but then even Apple's iWorks suite, Pages, Keynote and Numbers are trimmed versions of the Mac versions. This reduces the size of files you can work with and the tools, functions and features available to the user. But still they're quite useful with the sheer number of PDF documents on-line.

For another one, they have issues, or more so problems with newer publications of PDF's where the photos, images, maps, graphs, etc, are sliced. They simply display as white space. But there is a work around, explained here. It's simply a matter of opening and resaving the PDF which compsites them back into single file in the PDF, after which the PDF readers are fine rendering the document.

But the point here is that the iPad is cool for carrying these along instead of the paper copies. Ok, so do other readers, lots of books. But the iPad has the rest of the tools, which those readers don't have or can do. I use it to research Websites, minus the flash-based ones and others with display issues. I can displapy portfolios of my work. And among the other tools, it has Google maps with a location (built-in GPS) finder.

This last feature is what I tell people now. Now I can prove I'm lost, "See, it's right here on the map. I'm lost right here." How cool is that to know where you're lost? I haven't taken it to Mt. Rainier NP yet, but it's on the plan, and I'll keep you posted all the neat place I got lost.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Carbon River

The National Park Service conducted public meetings for the last version of the Environmental Assessment report for the Carbon River corridor Tuesday through Thursday in Buckley, Tacoma and Seattle, respectively. You can get a copy of the report from the NPS Park Planning Website. The meeting in Tacoma lasted for over two and a half hours, half the NPS staff presentation and half the public comment.

The NPS is offering five alternatives for the Carbon River corridor from the entrance to the Ipsut Campground. All of this stems from a series of floods in the 1990's (1990 and 1996) and the last decade (2006 and 2008). The alternatives range from the do nothing to the reconstruction of the vehicle road to Chenius (Falls/Creek) and to constructing a new trail from the entrance to Ipsut Creek campground. The NPS has selected one which they propose as the optimium.

Ok, after the presentation and public discussion at the Tacoma meeting, what does it mean? Well, for one the Carbon River can't be maintained over the entire ~5 mile length. There are several places where the road and river occupy the same space, and there are several places the river is higher than the adjacent river. In short, it's very expensive, and will be after each major flood, to keep the road it's length.

The problem is that the road is part of the National Historic Landmark District (NHLD) for the NP, and every effort is supposed to be made to maintain the road. But it's just not cost effective. The NPS has selected the alternative that maintains the road for 1.2 miles into the NP, to the Old Mine trail, after which the road will be a hiking trail. It's not the cheapest nor necessary the best, but the optimum for everyone for the available money.

I leave it to the NPS and reporters who will present the objective view of the alternatives, the public comments and the preferred alternative. Personally I liked the new wilderness trail, moving the facilities near the entrance and at Ipsut Creek campground and constructing a new trail south of the river at higher ground off the river valley out of the way of the river and floods. This would make it a really year around trail out of range from floods.

The problem is that the trail-only alternatives which many hikers prefer doesn't help the disabled or people who can't hike, or people wanting to drive into the NP. The second problem is the distance from the entrance to the Ipsut campground, long the destination of car trips for a picnic or dayhike until the winter 2006 floods. It was the shortest distance to the Carbon Glacier. Now it's a ~5 mile one way hike/bike trip just to get to the Ipsut Creek campground, clearly out of reach for many people.

There were several older people, remembering I'm 61 and a day hiker, wanted the NPS to rebuild and maintain the road to the Ipsut Creek campground at any cost, and all because it's what they have always done, or did until 2006, and now miss it. All the reality, some in the presentation by the NPS staff geologist and landscape architect and some in the comments by the attending public, including a civil engineer and myself (retired hydrologist), couldn't convince them it's not realistic let alone practicable.

In the end it was a excellent presentation and interesting discussion. I'll take the alternative they've chosen, although I favor a trail-only one (alternative 1, do nothing, and really alternative 5, new trail). But the NPS' alternative is the best compromise where a road can be maintained with the least work for the least cost. Any more road will encounter problems with the river where there will always be a risk of being destroyed by floods.

Even the road in the alternative the NPS proposes still has problems with the river if any significant flood changes the hydrology, hydraulics and geomorphology of the river and river valley over that section. Then they face the other alternatives of abandoning the road altogether, which will likely be the eventual result and solution. Rivers are like that, sorting their own route in their river valley, regardless of what we want to build.

Anyway, there will be some news stories on it as well as the NP's public comment period (above Website) for the 45 days before either the preferred one is chosen by senior NP managers or they go back to the drawing board to one of the other ones or a new one. Then the NP will need to get the money for the work in the next few fiscal years. We hope Congress actually does something.

I wish them the best, especially in the current political environment of Congress. The Carbon River corridor needs a solution.

October Updates

I've had updated the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide with the news, access and prospects Web pages. October is a continuation of September for most of the NP for weather, only colder with more rain, It's the beginning of the seasonal closures, starting October 4th to October 12th for some roads, facilities and campgrounds. The rest of the seasonal closures are scheduled for November 1st.

After that, the only open road are the eastside highway, 410 from the northeast (White River) entrance to Cayuse and Chinook passes, and 123 from the southeast (Ohanapecosh) entrance to Cayuse and Chinook passes, and the highway from Longmire entrance to Paradise. The eastside highways will close for snowstorms and then seasonal for the winter. The highway to Longmire is open year around, but the road from there to Paradise will close nightly and open each morning weather permitted.

The Mowich Lake entrance and road also closes November 1st but is open to hikers and the campground converts to a winter backcountry camp with permits. The Carbon River entrance is still and will be closed at the entrance to vehicles. The NPS is evaluating the future of the entrance and road to Ipsut Creek campground and have released the Environmental Assessment with alternatives, see their Web page for more information.

The Longmire facilities are open year around, but everything else closes except the Jackson Visitors Center which will be open weekends and holidays through the winter into spring. This means if you visit during the week bring everything with you or plan a stop at the Longmire area.