Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trail and hiking guides

Besides my initial Web pages in Mt. Rainier National Park for day hikes and backcountry hikes guides - there are several other Websites with trail and hike guides, some with user reports, for western Washington (Cascade and Olympic Mountains). These can be expanded to focus specifically on Mt. Rainier NP.

The first is the newest, the Washington Trail Association (WTA) with access, trail information and user reports. It's an excellent resource.

The second is the Tacoma Tribune (newspaper) . It has excellent descriptions and information on the trails with Google map interface.

The third is Hiker (.org). This one is quite complete for information and maps.

The fourth is the Visit Rainier (.com) with excellent trail descriptions.

The last is the NPS guide to the trails in Mt. Rainier NP, along with the latest trail conditions.

Personal notes:

Some of the trail and hike guides may not have the additional mileage of the Carbon River road which has been closed to vehicles at the NP boundary since November 2006. You have the check the information for the specific trail or hike. They either will have the mileage as noted after the November 2006 storm and flood damage, or they won't, which is an indicator it isn't included.

There are other on-line guides, and I welcome suggestions to add to this list. I haven't included commercial ones which require you to register and provide additional information. As this information is public knowledge and available in books and on Websites, I don't feel any Website should have prerequistes for obtaining information and descriptions or view maps, and therefore won't be included.

In addition these Websites are reasonably inclusive of many of the dayhikes in Mt. Rainier with considerable detailed information about the trail or hike or about their experience. These are excellent sources, but you have to use judge as to when they were there to assess the current condition of the trail and hike.

Other photographers

Being just an ordinary photographer, albeit after nearly 40 years of practice I should be better than I am, but, as they say, that's life. Anyway, I admire the work of professional photographer who have a history of working in and publishing work about Mt. Rainier NP. And to that end, I thought I would list a few I admire, some of whom I've met to add to the admiration and respect.

First is Pat O'Hara who with Tim McNulty has published several books on Mt. Rainier NP, including the official Centennial Celebration book published by Moutaineers Books.

Second is Don Geyer, who's gallery of Mt. Rainier is excellent. If you have the chance to attend one of his presentations, do so. A mountain climbers turned photographer wouldn't be far behind the late Galen Rowell in my book, save for Galen's international reputation. But then I've always like Galen's work, especially his essays.

Third is Charles Gurche and his work in Mt. Rainier NP.

Fourth is James Martin. His book with John Harlin on Mt. Rainier NP opens your mind to different views when you visit.

Fifth is Alan Kearney who's book provides photography ideas from just being there.

Some of the above have books listed on the books Web pages. And some who haven't published books but have on-line galleries also provide magnificent photos and ideas.

First is Alan Bauer and his gallery of Mt. Rainier images.

Second is Patrick Holleran and his gallery of Mt. Rainier NP images.

There are lots of other photographers working in and publishing either on-line or in print images of Mt. Rainier and the NP, and as I find more I'll update this list. And if these don't rattle your photo synpases and invite you to go there and photograph, well, I don't know what or who will.

Even another ordinary photographer like myself always yearns and then goes to look, see and capture. What else is there?

Update 8/21/12 for broken links

Pre-1900 Photographers

Since I've been researching the material behind the 1896 expedition I've discovered the real possibility and most likely probability the photos published with the 1898 report were not taken on the expedition but were taken by other photographers around that time, likely 1894-1898.

Since then I've been researching photographers who were working in and around Mount Rainier before 1900, before it became a National Park in 1899, and so far I have found the following ones.

The photos in the 1898 report were attributed to Bailey Willis, the USGS and lead geologist for the expedition. In addition the USGS archives has 40-50 negatives of Mt. Rainier contributed to Bailey Willis.

Researching photographers working in and around Mt. Rainier 1894-98, some of the images in the report at identical to those taken by Alvin Waite who lived and worked around Tacoma, WA during the period. It's not clear how the USGS obtained copies of the photos and permission to use them since it would have required duplicates of the 4x5 negatives.

I have found references to Cyrus A. Mosier, appointed Public Lands Director for Washington in 1989, serving intermittent periods until he retired in 1900. The references cite a report on the forests of Mt. Rainier along with 100 of the 200 phootographs he took around Mt. Rainier in the early 1890's. To date I haven't found any references to this report or archives of his photographs.

In addition Henry Sarvant worked in the area for a brief period on this adventures around the world.

Some photographers with studios in Seattle occasionally worked around Mt. Rainier. George H. Braas of Boyd and Braas photographed visitors and climbers in Mt. Rainier, Mountaineers Collection.

Some of George Braas' photo were incorporated into an article by Isreal C. Russell, "Impressions of Mt. Rainier", published in Scribner's Magazine, Volume 22, page 169-176, 1897.

Just outside that period, Arthur Churchill photographed an 1888 summit expedition.

After that period Albert Barnes worked in and around Mt. Rainier NP, 1905-10.

I haven't fully explored the photographers from that period, lots of work left, and I haven't checked out the NPS archives yet. So, this post will be updated as I find more collections.

Blog updated 3/18/09, 11/4/09 and 8/21/12

Photography in the NP

I doubt this is an issue to the vast majority of photographers coming to Mt. Rainier NP, but each photographer who's focus of their visit is photography should understand the rules for photographing in NP and if there is a need to get a permit. I will summarize the informtion here, but you can get a complete information from the NPS Website.

First, as stated by the NPS:

"It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to allow filming and photography when it is consistent with the protection and public enjoyment of park resources and does not interfere with the public’s normal use and enjoyment of the park. Permits are required if the filming, videotaping, sound recording, or still photography:
• Involves the use of a model (or any on-camera talent), set, or prop,
• Involves taking photographs of vehicles or other articles of commerce for the purpose of commercial advertising,
• Could result in damage to park resources,
• Could result in significant disruption of normal visitor use,
• Requires access to areas normally closed to the visiting public.

Generally, permits are NOT required for:
•Visitors using cameras and/or recording devices for their own personal use,
•Sound technicians, and film or video news crews at breaking news events,
•NPS filming or photography, Department of the Interior Audiovisual Center filming, or filming/photography done pursuant to a cooperative agreement or contract."

This is common for almost all the NP's as an agency policy, exceptions where noted with the individual NP.

If you think you need a permit, it's best to call and talk with the NPS staff and consider getting one. This is important if you want to photograph in areas that are closed or restricted to the public or requires the interruption of visitors' experience, meaning you'll be in the way with your work or equipment.

In addition, larger groups of photographers, especially part of workshops, large photo tour groups or other situations, will have to apply for a permit through the annual process, see the Special Use Permits. These are separate from individual permits due to the larger group and possible disruption in the NP.

In the end, though, 99+% of photographers are free to pursue their photography. After that it's a matter of the photographer exercising common sense in their work not to damage anything in the NP or disrupt other visitors. Remember, you're one of many, and you don't want your experienced effected by someone else.

Photo Guide Overview

After getting my Photography Guide for Mount Rainier National Park started in 2006, it has reached a point I needed to organize it into something easier to use and update. I have done this and it's available at the link above. This guide is still incomplete, as some of the Park area quadrants are currently just shells for information as I find the time to research information, which will eventually lead to even more detailed information on photography in the National Park.

It is my goal over the next few years to work on those Web pages so in the future photographers will have the complete basic information for their trip. This guide is a long term project, which I estimate will take another 2-3 years before I have sufficient information for a book. In the meantime I will be converting some of the Web pages into PDF files so they can be downloaded and printed for trips to Mt. Rainier National Park.

I'll also be looking at iPhone/iPad apps for the guide. The current ones available seem to be just overview guides with commonly known or available information, as part of the array of National Parks, or next to useless for anyone beyond the casual visitor. Developing an app, however, is beyond my skills at present, so it will be something entirely new.

That said, I've tested the Web version of the photo guide on an iPad and it works and displays as well as on any computer, so having wifi or 3G/4G Internet access will still work for photo guide. This is due to the original design to display within a 900x1024 frame without flash or similar presentation modes besides javascript with does work on smart phones and tablets.

In addition to the guide, I update the Latest News once a month, and sooner when I find news worth adding before the routine update. This includes an updated Access Guide (map interface) and monthly prospects reports.

So please enjoy the guide, and please feel free to contact me if you have some experience in Mt. Rainier National Park you with to share on this Website, have suggestions or questions.

Photo Guide Review

I have reviewed the suite of 400+ Web pages with the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and my Website, and using some software applications and some traditional walking through Web pages I discoverd over a hundred broken links to other Websites and files.

I also reviewed the very long to do list for the photo guide and Website, which is lengthy for items and time, like 1-2 years of full-time work. Yeah, some items long overdue and some time intensive, all of which I had planned to be done by none until the health issues over this last year and espeically of late derailed the plans and work.

Well, I'm slowly getting past the health issues. Not that they're solved or I'm well, just enugh to feel better and work again, and so I will be reviewing and fixing the problems with the Web pages first and then focusing on the most important Web pages before looking at those for 2012-14. I don't have a timeline let alone a date for any of this work anymore, it's just work and see what gets done.

So, the work you will be seeing will be more transparent, nothing obvious except the links to other Websites and files will be working, either removed, moved or fixed. I have moved files on now defunct Apple's iDisk to my Website for easier access and downloading. And I'll plug away on the todo list.

Anyway, that's the news for now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wildflowers & News

Folks are reporting the mid and especially upper elevation wildflowers are in bloom for the next two weeks or so, see article in Tacoma News Tribune's Mt. Rainier Guide. I caution the reader that Soo-Too-Lick Hunting Grounds, which is named for the indian guide Satulick, is the officially Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds on maps and in NP Guides. The writer doesn't note that.

Other news is that from now through the Labor Day holiday weekend, the NP will be very busy and full, especially the parking lots, so if you're going to Longmire or Paradise, consider the shuttle service from Ashford to locations in the NP. It will also be hot this weekend (August 18-19th) so more reasons for more visitors.

The Comet Falls trail is still closed 1.5 miles from the trailhead at the highway. This is due to the avalanche in July which took out much of the trail and maintenance crews, both NPS staff and many volunteers, are still building a new one through the landslide from the snow. No word when it will reopen.

All but the upper elevation trails are snow-free now (last snow late July to early August), only some in backcountry areas above 6-7,000+ feet but nothing significant this time of year this year, unlike last year where there was significant snow above 5-6,000 feet until late August.

That's it for now. Go and enjoy the visit and take care of it so we all can and will enjoy it too.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Old Fire Lookouts

I have updated the Web pages on the description and map of fire lookouts in and around Mt. Rainier NP with the old lookouts and camps which have been removed. There were four lookouts and one camp.

The four, with the years they were built, operated and removed, are Anvil Rock (1920-1947), Colonnade (1930-41) move to Sunset Park (1947-1960's) and Crystal Mountain, now in the ski resort, (1934-71). Windy Knoll was a camp and fire lookout post (1934-41). There is very little, if anything, left of these sites anymore.

The goal here was to simply let you know that once folks built and operated remote fire lookouts in the NP. They and the sites have come and gone, but let's not forget. I want to thank Leslie of the Forest Fire Lookout Association for asking and doing some homework with the NPS archivist in Mt. Rainier NP.

It was because of their work I've updated these Web pages.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wonderland Trail

Well, short breaks have interruptions, and so it happened while at the REI store in Tacoma (been member since early 1980's). While not finding what I wanted, which isn't that unusual for me with REI in the last decade or so. They've become more a retail store like the others but more so promoting and selling the REI brand products and only a few other brands for products they don't make.

But that's another story about who REI has gained a lot of members catering to more suburban actitivies and lifestyle and less so on their traditional core values I knew them for the first 20 years or so of my membership when they were in the old store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. You could actually find products a range of products then.

Anyway, for the last twenty years the one and only book on the Wonderland Trail has been Bette Filley's book, "Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail", Dumanis Press, 1992 and 2006, which was and still is the definitive book on the trail, the 92+ miles trail which circumnavigates Mount Rainier in the NP.

There are two new books on the Wonderland Trail. The first is Douglas Lorain's book, "One Best Hike, Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail", Wilderness Press, 2012. It's in the same vein as Bette Filley's book, the first half on information, planning and preparation and the second half on the trail.

While Bette's book is more informative on the trail with mileage and information, Douglas' book is more descriptive on the trail. Both are still good sources and it's a personal choice which you think is better as they're both good. The second new book is Tami Asars' book, "Hiking the Wonderland Trail", Mountaineers Books, 2012.

This book is about 50 pages longer than either of the other two, Filley's is about 210 pages and Lorain's about 190 pages, and more colorful with photographs and interesting maps. Tami spends fewer pages while covering more information than the other two which again, is personal choice on reading style than anything.

That's because the basic information about the Wonderland trail from your first thoughts to consider hiking it to the day you hit the trailhead to start is pretty much the same and known. Tami's book seems more for the overall idea and mental and physical preparation for the hike, which is important since it's 92+ miles taking 12-14 days depending on your hiking spend and stops.

Bette and Douglas' books start their descriptions of the Wonderland Trail at Longmire, which is the most common starting place as it's the easiest to get to via highways and has generous parking in the visitors' area. It, with several other places, is a cache location you can store provisions (clothes, food, replacement gear) if you start your hike elsewhere in the NP.

Tami also starts the description at Longmire but also offers information on alternatives hikes in both directions. The issue anyone hiking the Wonderland trail is that you are restricted to established campgrounds which require permits, either by reservation which opens in March or first come each day.

Camping outside these and other established campgrounds is restricted by the rules, and mostly in off-trail or scramble areas of the NP. They do allow camping for emergencies, but not part of any planned hike when and where you could have gotten permits at campgrounds. In short, you're not free to camp anywhere anytime.

I've only hiked portions of the Wonderland Trail. I've long lost the interest for backcountry camping and stay mostly to short to long dayhikes anymore. It's easier carrying more than a few pounds of photography gear with the normal hiking and emergency gear. And my body likes to sleep in a bed at night.

In conclusion, any of these books are great resources for interest in the Wonderland Trail, from just wanting to know, to hiking portions like me, or to wanting to do the whole trail in 3-4 days sections or in one shot. Personally if your interest is just casual, then Tami's book is the best of the three. If it's actual technical information, then Bette's book is still the best. Douglas' book is in between the two.

The one shortcoming of these books, while being great for hikers, as you would expect, falls short for photographers. That's because few serious to professional photographers venture more than a few miles off the road in Mt. Rainier NP, even me where the longest hike was 12 miles round trip.

It's why almost all the published photographs of the NP are either roadside or short hikes, the roads in the NP were designed that way, to enchance the visitor's experience. Few photographers venture past the those first few miles, Pat O'Hara is one of the most noted for his backcountry photographs in the NP.

Many of the rest of the photographers are primarily climbers or hikers who incorporated photography in their travels and books, which is where Tami's book is excellent for its images and ideas for photographic places, which is the best reason to hike the Wonderland Trail if only in sections, you'll never run out of places to photograph away from the crowds.

And for that alone, all of these are a great resource for photographers. Hmmm..., me thinks I see another set of Web pages with maps, the Wonderland Trail for photographers. Well, I'll add it to the list of things to do for the photo guide.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Short Break

Just a short note to let folks know I'm working on some new Web pages on placenames and other information about Mt. Rainier NP, but mostly I'll be working on selling my older photography equipment (photo above), which you can get more information and the latest information from the photo gear blog.

I'm working on photos and descriptions of the equipment and then getting them ready for shipping (cleaning and wrapping). I have had a number of inquiries since I announced the sale and got sidelined by the photo guide, the business and health issues. Those issues have not been fully resolved but recently I got an offer to buy most of the collection.

I'm talking with the individual about what and how much, but if it doesn't work out, there's about a dozen people who have interest in some of the equipment, mostly lenses. Anyway, I'll mostly be working on that while still working on the photo guide and other Web stuff.

And if you know someone who uses or collect Minolta manual focus equipment, check out the sale. Great stuff, good prices. And if you're wondering, yes, it's a circa 1969 AR-XA turntable, bought new then and still spinning records through the stereo and to the Mac via a NAD digital phone app with USB output. Cool from vinyl to iTunes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Snowpack and Snowmelt

Above is the graph of the snow water equivalent (SWE) for the snowpack and snowmelt at the Paradise NRCS SNOTEL site, about 2 miles southeast of Paradise.

The SWE is the depth of snow on the ground each day converted to water, or the snow to water ratio. This ratio varies with the location and during the snow season, but normally for Mt. Rainier and many locations in the western side of the Cascade Mountains the ratio is about 2 1/2 inches of snow per inch of water.

This compares with general ratios of dry snow found in the Rockies of about 4-6 to 1 and something in between in the Sierra Mountains. The SWE is not the amount of snowfall, that's the snow in inches which falls on the ground. The SWE is the snowpack once the snow has fallen and added to the existing snow on the ground.

The snow, once on the ground, becomes part of the snowpack and melts during the season from rain on snow or ablation, or snow evaporation from exposure. These processes change the ratio during the season and requires routine calibration of the snow to water ratio to ensure the calculation of the total water in the snowpack is accurate to detrmine the quantity of water in the snowmelt.

This is done with field work at the data collection sites where the snow to water ratio is deterined to calibration the real-time data and at specific locations called snow courses which are a line of points in the mountains where the snow to water ratio is determined and then averaged to determine an area snow to water ratio. These data are used to determine the total available water in the snow over larger areas, such as the Cascade Mountains.

As you can see, this year the snowmelt ended July 29th, a month earlier than last year, and about two week later than normal. The "normal" curve on the graph is inaccurate from the calcuation of the longterm average. The more accurate averate end of the snowmelt is around July 14th, plus or minus a day or two.

The NRCS is aware of this and is in the process of updating their database and calculations for the snowmelt. The current calculation does not correctly account for anomalous years which skews the data to the few rare long snowmelts, like last year. The new calculations and graph were supposed to be on-line this year but doing the work for all of their sites takes time.

Anyway, this means for the most part, the snow is gone except at the higher elevations, about 6,000 feet or in pockets below 6,000 feet depending on the location, exposure (direction of slope face), and other factors. So the color in the NP now is green with just snow in the usual places.