Sunday, November 28, 2010

December Update

I have updated the news, conditions and access, and monthly prospects Web pages for December. In short, December is the first month of full winter operations and snow is present almost everywhere in the NP. All the entrances are closed at the boundary except for the southwest (Nisqually) entrance where snow is present at Longmire and the road to Paradise is controlled at the gate just east of Longmire and at the Nisqually bridge if snow chains are required.

In addition I have updated the four blog entries on snow, in list just before this post. There is some overlap with each of them but they also each focus on a different part of winter weather in Mt. Rainier NP. I also wanted to consolidate them from the last three years of these posts, and can then add new future versions of these which better present the information.

And lastly, the suite of (8) Web pages on the laws governing the NPS and Mt. Rainier NP is almost done with only two of the eight to go. I'm not sure why I researched and produced them except for my own information and knowledge and found they might be of interest to readers here to understand the history of laws, regulations and policies relating to the NP.

I've also added recent entries on snowmobiles and my todo list of Web pages for the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide. I don't have a schedule with the items and often several are always in production so I can have a variety of things to do. Otherwise, that's it, and you're always welcome to send me e-mail with your questions, suggestions or comments.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Photo Fri. Nov. 19th. 1+ ft of snow on road Tuesday 23rd.

Update Tuesday November 23rd.--The weather changed significantly cold and snow over the last weekend and cold subfreezing weather is prevalent throughout the Puget Sound and expected to last through Wednesday before warming Thanksgiving Day and into the weekend. But the cold and snow will continue at Mt. Rainier where snow is almost everywhere in the NP, with over a foot at Longmire and over 4 feet at Paradise.

This means while the NPS will make every effort to clear the road from Longmire to Paradise and the parking lot, it may well be later in the morning early in the week and providing no new snow by Thanksgiving, near normal Thanksgiving Day and into the weekend. You can still enjoy the snow and place, just be ready for really cold (subfreezing) weather and snow.

Original post.--So, you live in the Puget Sound area or are travelling here for the holidays, and you have the time or want to take the time to visit Mt. Rainier NP. The first and obvious question is, how do I get there? Locals already know and visitors guide or information service at hotels can provide the information. You can also get the latest information on everything Cascade or Olympic Mountains for the USFS lands and NPS national parks at the USFS-NPS ORIC.

This is important because once winter settles in, which it has already with an early snow in late October that didn't melt and more snow this week (Nov. 18-21) leaving 3-4 feet of snow above the 5,000 feet elevation and less down to about a foot at 3,000 feet elevation. In short, expect snow and enjoy it. With only one entrance open to inside the NP (Nisqually entrance to Longmire and Paradise), you're very limited to that road and activities along it.

There are two other entrances, the Mowich Lake and Carbon River entrances in the northwest quadrant. Both of these entrances are closed at the NP boundary and entrance, respectively. The Mowich Lake road from the boundary to the lake and campground have snow and the Carbon River doesn't but expect to encounter snow quickly once off the valley trail to Ipsut Creek campground.

That said, you can get an overview of the area to and around Mt. Rainier NP as well as a description of the roads, access, conditions and activities, for which the latest is also available via a map. The road to the Nisqually entrance has quite a few lodges and motels from Elbe to the entrance and mostly near Ashford.

So, you've decided and you're on the road, what's next? Well, expect a wait and maybe a cancellation of access to Paradise. The former is normal during winter and the latter is rare on weekends and holidays as the NPS tries to clear the road to Paradise. You can get more extensive information on winter in the NP with a map of the general information.

The road between Longmire and Paradise is controlled at a gate just east of Longmire. It opens to uphill traffic after the snow is cleared from the parking lot at Paradise and the road down to the gate and Longmire. This usually happens about 10 am. The gate closes to uphill traffic at 4-5 pm during the winter. In addition all people without an overnight winter camping permit at Paradise (specific parking area) are required to leave nightly.

You can not camp in vehicles overnight at Paradise

So, you're there, or at least waiting in line with the other going to Paradise (always loved those words, "road to Paradise"), what's there to do? Well, easy, winter. Ok, more please. The only facilities are the visitors center which is open 10 am to 5 pm (all four days of this holiday. The snowplay area does not open until there is at least 5 feet of snow at Paradise (not usually during Thanksgiving Day holiday). Otherwise, there is just the beauty of the mountain and NP.

In the end, it's a great road trip if you want snow and Mt. Rainier. Well worth the experience and memory if you don't get there or to snow very often. I can only add to drive carefully, especially if you don't have much experience driving in snow, and go prepared for the trip, the wait at the gate and the trip up to and down from Paradise.

Have a good and safe trip and enjoy the mountain and NP.

Friday, November 19, 2010


As much as some would not like to see and more so hear snowmobiles in Mt. Rainier NP, there are places where they are allowed to share the road with other winter travellers. As noted on the NPS Web page (near bottom), you can use a snowmobile as follows.

"In the southwest corner of the park, snowmobiles are permitted for 6.5 miles along the Westside Road from its junction with the main park road as far as Round Pass. Beyond Round Pass, the Westside Road is closed to snowmobile use. Snowmobiles are also permitted on all the road loops of Cougar Rock Campground. The campground is closed to overnight use during winter and the roadway is left unplowed. Contact a park ranger at the Longmire Museum for maps and additional snowmobile information."

A word of note.--The Westside Road is blocked at the Fish Creek trailhead just past Dry Creek. It is not advisable to travel beyond the barriers across Fish Creek at the trailhead and on to the second crossing of Fish Creek if the conditions aren't reasonable for snowmobiles. The trail/road between the crossing is often damaged by floods and not maintained beyond a basic 4WD road at best.

"On the north side of the park, no ranger station is open in the winter. The US Forest Service District Office in Enumclaw provides information and maps for White River, Carbon River, and Mowich Lake areas. For more information, call the USFS District Office in Enumclaw at (360)825-6585. Highway 410 is closed near its junction with Crystal Mountain Ski Area road, at the North Park Boundary.

Snowmobiles are permitted on the 12-mile section of unplowed road from the North Park Boundary on Highway 410 to the White River Campground. Snowmobiles may not continue on Hwy 410 south of the White River Road turnoff. They are also prohibited from proceeding beyond the closure at the White River Campground road junction towards Sunrise. Snowmobiles must stay on the road corridor; they are not allowed to proceed beyond the campground towards Glacier Basin. Be aware of avalanche danger and the Mount Rainier weather forecast.

In the southeast corner of the park snowmobiling is allowed on the Stevens Canyon Road from the Stevens Canyon Entrance to the road tunnel at Box Canyon.

Wilderness permits, required for all backcountry camping, and climbing registration cards are available at the north boundary arch on Highway 410 or by self registration at the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station.

Personally I could do without them but there are places there are useful and helpful. I only remind snowmobilers, as they already know, to follow the rules, stay on the allowed roads and share the road appropriately especially in areas of limited view or in adverse weather. Those of use on foot, snowshoes or skies aren't as quick or fast.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The To Do List

Well, this weekend I did my usual list of things to do with the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide, and I realized over time this list never shrinks, whether it's just small things or bigger project things, and it's only grown to three-plus pages of items and notes. These things fall into several catagories. The on-going items, often the routine (eg. monthly updates and reports), the Web page(s) work in progress, the bigger projects, eg. history projects, and the more longer term things, producing the on-line book.

As visitors to the photo guide have seen, and keep seeing, some of the things are clearly labelled as "Forthcoming" or "In Preparation" which are usually on the first page of the list but often will take a few weeks or longer to finish. But there is a long list of items behind those or within current Web pages as I do my walk-through to update or add to Web pages or add whole new Web pages.

That said, you can read the list of photo guide plans and send me your comments, ideas, interests, needs, etc. for the photo guide. I'll have my crack staff of one review them at a cafe with a nice coffee beverage (not necessary to include a gift card to offset the work, but one for a local cafe or Starbucks if you don't know any wouldn't hurt the taste buds and mind).

And like the NPS worker who drives the snowplow every day in the winter, plans are consistent, the stuff is always there and plowing ahead is always the order of the day. But at least I don't have to bring my thermos of coffee with me anymore (kinda' been there with winter field work).

Friday, November 12, 2010

MPG V2.8

I've updated the table of contents for the Mt. Rainier photo guide for some recent and some upcoming changes. I've been working on some new Web pages, specifically the placenames, the glaciers (the current ones are for viewing trails and places of glaciers), and early (1890-1900) photography for a description of what the early photographers used to photograph in the pre- and post NP.

These new pages are still in production. The glacier will describe and locate the existing glaciers and snowfields in the NP. The placenames will initially list all the placenames in the NP for the features. The early photography will briefly describe what photography was like in the last decade before the NP with the introduction of 4x5" sheet film by Kodak.

After that the December updates will be on-line and the two missing area guides some time next spring. These take about a month to research and produce, so it's not quick or easy, and since those areas are closed for the season except for winter travellers in some close areas, it's not critical for visitors.

That's it for now. Back to plowing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November Reports

I have update the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide with the November news, access and conditions, and prospects Web pages. November is the first full month of winter operations with all the seasonal closures and the first really cold temperatures, and as we saw from late October, snow. It's unsure if this snow will last, although the predictions are for a colder and wetter winter. Many early snow storms melt in the first above freezing weather.

In short, it's winter when and where the weather and conditions are dynamic, so come prepared and be flexible with your plans. This is important on the trip to the NP. Snow changes everything as roads close or require traction tires or chains. Also bring extra clothes, food and hot drinks along with blankets for emergencies or periods of wating. Remember the Jackson visitiors center is only open weekends and holidays so the Paradise area has no available facilities weekdays.

On another note, I've updated the winter photography Web page with new information and expanded resources. I hope this guide helps your winter visit and you're always welcome to send me your comments, questions, suggestions, etc. via e-mail.