Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Day In The Life Of A Visitor Center...

Here's what a park visitor center might think on an average busy day...

8:00 a.m. "Wow! I feel clean! Who needs a shower when you have maintenance folks to vaccuum my floors?"

9:00 a.m. "Ah, it's going to be a beautiful day on the mountain! Fresh snow, light breezes and the sun is shining! Everything I need!"

9:45 a.m. "The rangers are here! My old friends! They all seem to be in great moods. It will be a great day!"

10:00 a.m. "Oh, how nice. Someone came to visit me! [pause] And another person! I'm so happy that people are coming up to the mountain. More people need to get outside."

11:30 a.m. "Wow. What a mob. Those rangers must be popular... Everyone is mobbing the front desk to sign up for a snowshoe walk."

12:30 p.m. "Whew that big group of snowshoers just left. I feel like I'm not so stuffed any more. Now more visitors can come inside to warm up and get more information. I just hope they don't dump more snow on my leather couches."

1:30 p.m. "OMG. Exactly HOW many people just mobbed my front desk? I thought the rangers were only taking 25 people on each snowshoe walk. But I swear there were like 50 people just now elbowing their way through the line to sign up for the 2:30 p.m. walk."

1:45 p.m. "I just heard on the radio: only ONE law enforcement ranger is on duty? And they just set travel restrictions to 4-wheel-drive or chains only to get down the hill. This afternoon is going to be messy."

1:50 p.m. "LE 840 just said a car slid off into a ditch on the way down from Paradise. Let the fun begin!"

2:15 p.m. "Folks are starting to gather for the afternoon snowshoe walk. And the ranger already looks tired! But I can tell that the cafeteria folks still have the coffee pots full, so hopefully the ranger will stay awake through her walk."

3:00 p.m. "Ok, exactly HOW did that girl sneak the snowballs inside me? Really? Dropping snowballs from the second floor balcony onto my front desk causes a mess! As if the rangers don't have enough to keep them occupied."

3:30 p.m. "The count is officially: Mountain 3, folks-with-4wheel-drive-that-think-they-can-drive-on-snow 0. It's a great day! My home mountain is winning the battle!"

4:30 p.m. "The ranger came back! Boy, she looked tired. I hope she got some coffee. Those visitors really can wear you out. The only reason I'm not sagging myself is because I'm made of concrete and steel. If I hear one more person complain that they need to sleep on my couches overnight, because they don't have chains for their vehicles (which, by the way, is a STATE LAW), I'm going to blow a fuse! Come on people, prepare for mountain driving if you're coming up to the mountain in the wintertime! Weather changes quickly and chain restrictions are meant to keep YOU safe!"

5:00 p.m. "I made it to 5:00 p.m.! I don't know how the rangers do it. I decided not to blow any of my fuses, because if I did, the rangers would have to go into the bathrooms with flashlights and get people out safely. And the rangers have enough to do - and are plenty tired already."

5:30 p.m. "Everyone is gone! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas on the Mountain

The holidays this year were stunning. Crisp air, lots of snow and blue skies make for a spectacular day at Paradise! Every morning, the interp rangers pile into the park van and drive up the road together. Our main hope is have a great day and help connect park visitors to the resources around them. As we drive, we get a chance to see the early morning scenes, before many folks ever reach the park. (Thanks to Ranger Mike who drove so that I could take some pictures!)

I had the afternoon (2:30 p.m.) snowshoe walk on Christmas Eve. It meant that I got to see the skies turning pink, the light fading, and the world getting ready for a peaceful night.

As we were leaving the JVC in the evening, this unique cloud was moving across the sky. Ranger Rebecca and I thought it looked like the Northern Lights. I wish I'd had a better camera - hopefully you can get an idea of what this looked like.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

Today's view of the mountain from the JVC webcam. It's a beautiful Christmas Eve day here at Mount Rainier!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Importance of Coffee

Pictured above is what the parking lot at Paradise looks like right now. It's a webcam picture; the road is still closed and I'm at the Longmire office, waiting for directions from dispatch/LE rangers about VC operations today (if the road will ever open). Sorry if the picture is a bit fuzzy; my brain is equally fuzzy right now. I'm in need of coffee.

Some of you may not even need to read my comments today; you already know the special place that coffee holds in your life.

But if you're not a coffee fanatic (or you're really bored this morning), here's what might happen to you if you don't get enough warm coffee goodness in the morning:

1) You might forget the sugar when baking goodies to take to the office. Yes, I got up extra early this morning to make some yummy applebutter bars to share at the VC this morning. I've made this recipe countless times. And many of you know that I can generally follow a recipe; my baked goods usually come out fairly well (no reported deaths since that unfortunate pizza & TP incident in Coldfoot in 2007).

But this morning was different. I attempted putting together the crust ingredients BEFORE having my morning vanilla-espresso concoction. And after the beautiful recipe was in the oven, what did I discover? My measuring cup full of sugar just sitting on the counter.

So my applebutter bars taste like I spread applebutter between two saltine crackers.

I did NOT bring that to the office. I was too embarrassed. I downed my vanilla-espresso in about one gulp after that.

2) If you don't have enough of the wake-up juice inside you, you might just see a peacock walking down the side of the road.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

After my unfortunate baking incident this morning, I was running late (of course) for work. And thanks to the storm last night, the roads were full of black ice. It took all I possessed to keep my mind on the road and my GSA vehicle from sliding into a ditch.

Most of you know that I live at park HQ, which is a few miles to the west of the park proper. So on days like this, where I have interp duties, I have to drive in to Longmire for work (my regular office is in a building in the HQ complex). So I turned on my park two-way radio, checked the van's tires, brushed the ice and snow off the windshield and set off.

Little did I know that the park's snowplow drivers and their radio conversations would NOT be my morning entertainment. About a mile east of Ashford, I saw this black thing on the road ahead of me. The car in front of me must have seen it as well, slammed on their brakes and slid off onto the shoulder. I was able to slow down and had no problems, but I still thought my eyes were deceiving me. Clearly, one double espresso just wasn't enough.

So what was this black thing on the road? It stood up and the head and shoulders turned a magnificent shade of blue. Yes, it was a peacock. So I'm a park ranger and I'm supposed to know about the wildlife of the area. But a peacock? Really? This isn't the subtropics, people. It's the Pacific Northwest. Or it was last night, when it snowed for hours and hours. Clearly, someone's pet escaped and had now caused a traffic incident. I wish I'd had time to stop for a picture. I'm still not sure I believe my eyes. A peacock in the middle of rural Washington state. Wonders never cease.

No park visitor, they are not native! And no, we won't be discussing them on our snowshoe walk this afternoon.

I'm going to invent a solar-powered espresso machine that fits in a daypack. Rangers everywhere will love me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Avalanches and Snow Pits

The picture above is of our current snow pack, as it sits at Alta Vista on the Skyline Trail above Paradise. The letters along the bottom of the graph designate the density or hardness, with the hardest layers being indicated by the longest bars (or ratings of K or I). The depth of the snowpack is shown along the right-hand vertical axis. The temperature of the layers is shown by the scale across the top and the corresponding red line going down through the layers. You can see the crystal form in one of the columns to the right, but I don't have a key (graphic) to post here. Just know that the weak layer of our snowpack is around the 85+ cm depth. This is where we are likely to see failure and breakage resulting in avalanches.

Just thought you'd like to know. ;)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Distraction is coming...

Sometimes, we get sidelined by pressing issues like health concerns. They draw our attention away from daily routines, work assignments, social engagements and the like. I just went through this last month.

But as I sit here now, I foresee another potential distraction coming on. This time I know 'it' could be a distraction. It could draw my mind away from things that need to be done.

And I suppose that some distractions can be good, especially when you're mired in a tough situation and you need a break. Whether it be fate, or karma, or whatever, sometimes you just kind of look at life's happenings and think to yourself, "Huh. What is THIS about?"

Thankfully, I think I'm healthy at the moment. Tomorrow afternoon will be my first 'big' snowshoe hike since October (before the surgery). And we're getting a lot of snow (finally!) out here at Mount Rainier. So the snowshoeing should be good. I'm ready to see how my body feels after a couple of miles on the trails.

And I have a couple of weeks of JVC desk & programming duties coming up over the holidays. I'm looking forward to these! Last night at our division's Christmas party, Ranger Rebecca and I planned the food to bring for Christmas dinner at the JVC. Ranger Curt brought Thanksgiving dinner for us, so this holiday, we're bringing dinner for him. I really enjoy working with the two of them. We all make a good team.

But still, there is a distraction hanging over me.

My family should be glad I finished most of the gift knitting and mailed off their Christmas presents yesterday. I fear that nothing else will get done in the near future.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What Comes To Your Mind?



Gates of the Arctic.

Death Valley.


When you hear those words, what's the first thing that comes into your mind about each? Open landscapes? Interesting plants? Furry critters? Extreme temperatures?

Each place is unique, to be sure. And each of these places were set aside for a specific set of reasons. The other day, I posted a link to some little facts about Yellowstone. Today, the notes are about Yosemite. Check out some of their natural resources statistics. And here's some general statistics about use and logistics. Check out the trail use, park visitation numbers, etc.


And then compare the operating budget of park like Yosemite - an icon of America - to the salary of a corporate CEO.

Enough said.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yellowstone: A Few Little Facts

Another reading assignment:

By The Numbers: Yellowstone National Park

Interesting tidbita from the Traveler. I like it when lots of stats are put into one article. ;) Check out that maintenance backlog!!

If you love our parks, help us out. Write your congressmen. Volunteer. Donate to the parks' non-profit friends organizations. Every little bit counts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Core Operations Rant, Part 1

***Before I begin today's topic, I will pause. Please. PLEASE don't get into a debate over the good and evil of our government. This is not my main point.***

For those of us who are fans of our country's amazing parks, there is a website that often gives interesting information - and sometimes debates - on park issues. The National Parks Traveler offers all sorts of information, opinions, and feedback about the parks from both insider and visitor perspectives.

Last Friday, an article was posted:

Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System ("Core Operations Issue" my title)

The whole debate bothers me, for many reasons. Some of these reasons I haven't even sorted out inside my head yet. Here's just a beginner:

We are facing a time where, especially our youth, are terribly disconnected from the natural resources and raw materials that make their very lives possible. To say that Mount Rainier is a store of drinking water for Pugetropolis is a foreign notion. Drinking water comes from the faucet, right?!

There are numerous facets to this arguement, many of which can't be effective. Trees encroaching on subalpine meadows? Pikas facing warming temperatures? Future flooding and lahars? Who cares?! But tell people they might not have clean fresh water to drink and bathe? God forbid.

Everything is related, we just have to understand the relationships.

We have millions of visitors to our parks every year. We need to help them enjoy, appreciate, understand and relate to our parks and resources. We will have a much easier time managing our parks and the crowds of visitors - and gaining their help and support for our park - if these visitors are connected.

But if all we do is clear the roads and monitor frogs, how will the visitors get connected?

We need a bridge of sorts. That's where the interpretive rangers come into play. If we can answer one question (other than "Where's the bathroom?"), suggest one fabulous trail, explain one animal behavior, or identify one plant, then maybe we'll make a park fan out of an average visitor.

I love our parks. I have very fond memories and multitudes of positive experiences outdoors in the mountains. You all know how much I love wildflowers. ;) It is my hope that I can spark just a few more folks to be parkies like me. I want to see our parks preserved so that we can continue to enjoy them into the future.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I'd started a different entry for today, but that one will have to wait until I can get my thoughts more sorted out. (If you want a preview, do some homework, read ahead and check out the National Parks Traveler website, especially the article about Jon Jarvis nixing the Core Operations program.)

I've been making lists of things to get done for Christmas presents, cookies to bake, etc. etc.

But you know what I've neglected since the week before my surgery? Keeping my daily notes on my 101 Things To Do in 1001 Days goals. It's been a year since I started that program, and I know that I have indeed completed some of the goals. Tonight, when I need a break from knitting gifts, I'm going to go through, update my spreadsheets and figure out where I stand. No, this won't necessarily lead to more goals for the future, but I started off strong and I've fallen behind the past month. We'll see where I stand...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cold Day

I'm not sure of the outside temperature, but my apartment's heater couldn't keep up. It won't get above 69F inside. Not bad inside, but I was still a bit chilled.

I'm such a wimpy ranger!

I love being out on snowshoes and on a trail in the mountains. But if I'm going to sit at home, I'm not working up a sweat or doing much to keep myself warm. We've had building heating issues, hot water heater issues and pipes freezing. Oh, and a 5-hour power outage on Thanksgiving. Time to light the candles and let the faucets drip a bit.

I think this is my cue to get on with the sweaters I've planned on knitting for myself.

I've made progress with the Christmas presents the past few days. I'm happy about that. I figure I have about a week left to work on them before I need to get everything in the mail. I need to get pictures taken of my projects and post them here and on Ravelry.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Just another day...

No matter how the so-called "Nice Jen" of the RMNP Forums crew puts it, I'm not THAT old. :P Just another day older than yesterday.

Tomorrow I'll resume my thoughts on rangering; I'm headed home to see if my latest package has arrived. ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Not Your Average Ranger Duties

There was a time in America's past where people had to be able to do for themselves. They had to know how to grow their own food, or be able to forage for what they needed when they were hungry. They had to be able to make things, fix things, and all with whatever materials were in their close vicinity.

Park rangers used to have to be able to function as biologists, teachers, police officers, plumbers and handymen on any given day. My friend Cleve, now a retired ranger (he worked here at Mount Rainier in the late 1960's) was one such ranger. His stories of this park and his duties would probably freak out some of our current staff.

Sadly, the days of a ranger being a Jack-(or Jill)-of-all-trades are long past. We have people that specialize in one or two things. We must work as a team. And teamwork is good, but what happens when one member of that team is sick or injured? Does work come to a grinding halt?

It's just my opinion, but I would like to see the Jack-of-all-trades attitude (lifestyle?) come back into fashion. I think we've lost something as a culture - throughout the so-called 'modern' world. We've given up our independence, almost willingly, by focusing solely on one or two main skills. We must rely upon others for too much.

I like knitting my own socks, baking my own bread and canning my wild-picked blueberries in the fall. ;)

Why am I thinking of these things right now? It's a slow week here at the Ed center, and one of the tasks that I've - willingly - taken on is fixing all of the curtains in this building. My former boss just let things go, even though these curtains don't fit the windows/curtain rods they are on, because she couldn't sew. As they hang now, the curtains don't really close, so blocking out light to show movies or Powerpoint slide shows (or have telnet classes, as is often the case), is hard, unless you want to do this all after dark - not really normal business hours around here.

I've started on the first of 16 curtain panels. It's a simple task really, just rip out a couple of seams and sew a new one in the correct place. I even have a sewing machine at my disposal, so I don't have to do this by hand.

Not exactly the job I was hired for, but it needs to be done. And my way is a whole lot cheaper and more efficient than waiting for someone else - or sending these off to a professional tailor for alterations.

Good thing I know dozens of plant species AND how to use a sewing machine, eh?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Procrastination has caught up with me

Ok, so my boss was just teasing me that I'm a workaholic.

So why do I always feel as though I get nothing done?

I have about 10 knitting projects that I WANT to do right now. And *most* of them I want to get done in time to give them as Christmas gifts. I have a lovely pair of socks for a friend - the first sock is nearly done (I can get that done tonight). But the other sock? And a doggie sweater? And I have this great idea for some Christmas-themed dish cloth / potholders that I want to try. And I really need to finish my blue cabled sweater/hoodie. It'll be a hoodie if I have enough yarn...



Can I call in for a day of knitting leave? (Or is this much knitting considered, by some, a sickness?!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The last month of the year.

My birthday. No I will not admit to my age.

My mom's birthday. I won't admit to her age either.

Christmas. Cookies, music and decorations. I have decided that I want to decorate my little NPS apartment for Christmas. I don't have much in the way of decorations out here (it's all back in CO in storage with the rest of my furniture and stuff), but I'm going to try. And the cookies.

(I believe I mentioned them already here.)


By the way, if you're still counting, I've had the orchid for almost THREE whole weeks - and it's still alive! Woohoo!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Greetings from Paradise!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we were given (more) rain and snow for Thanksgiving! I'm working at the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise today. The picture above was captured through the Mountain Cam, which looks up to Mount Rainier herself on a good weather day. It's been a relatively quiet day here at the VC, and it has gone quick. Right now, it's getting darker outside and the snow is starting to fall again.
It's cute to watch the kids come in here, sopping wet after playing in the snow outside. We have about 6 feet on the ground right now; we're bound for much more before the winter is over. Snowshoe season is here! I can't wait to get back up to speed (after my recent sick leave) and get outside again. Every season in the mountains is different. The season of diamond dust and icicles is upon us!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I got a tin of cookies from my Mom yesterday. Some of you have had my Mom's Christmas cookies before. I look forward to these boxes every year. :) YUM!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Student Letters...

One of my favorite jobs is answering the letters we receive from students, requesting park information to help them with their school research projects. Below is a snipet from a letter received this week.


Question #8: Is there precipitation on Mount Rainier?
Question #9: How's the climate on Mount Rainier?

Well I think that's enough questions! I hope you write back soon! Oh, by the way, my Dad climbed Mount Rainier and signed the big book at the top of the mountain! Do you know him? My Dad's name is Ben Smith.

Thanks in Advance,
Lauren Smith

[names changed to protect the sweet and innocent]


I just about cracked up laughing at that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Challenge: An Orchid

My future sister-in-law picked out an orchid for me this week. I got a beautiful little plant to cheer me up after the surgery. (And my UPS man now thinks I'm WAY popular. Three deliveries this week.)

I love houseplants; most people know that. I've had spider plants that took over my apartment. My current plants are small and well-behaved. But I've never had luck keeping orchids alive. And I love them. And I've tried before.

So, Amber, thanks! This is going to be my new plant challenge: Keeping the orchid alive. I must go do my homework on this...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Little Distraction

True to life, just when things start picking up speed, a twist is thrown in.

Last Saturday, I had horrible stomach pains. I wasn't sure it was my stomach, but it hurt pretty badly. Anyway, I got better, but on Monday, my boss and division chief ordered me to the emergency room. As it turns out, I have gallstones. And the doctor thinks they are bad enough to just have my gall bladder taken out.

This afternoon, I meet the surgeon who will do the work. Next Tuesday is when my surgery is scheduled.

I hate being sick. But hopefully, I'll feel better afterwards. I'll have most of next week off.

Between sleeping and eating a no-fat diet for a while, maybe I can get some knitting accomplished. ;)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cleaning Up Someone Else's Mess...

After the all-park safety meeting and baked potato lunch (the L.E. rangers and staff DID come through!), I went with a couple of willing (er... "we feel sorry for Jen") coworkers and looked at the crap left behind by my old boss. Then we loaded the office van that I drove up to Longmire, and schlepped as much of this garbage back to the Ed center as possible.

Now, I can be sentimental too, but save everything? Not a chance. Anne went beyond being a packrat. Her office was so scary that no one ever went in it or crossed her about it. And she guarded that office like it was a top-secret laboratory. She was successful at keeping all park leadership away. She was so nasty to people that everyone just steered clear of her. Here's a tiny glimpse of what I found:

  1. Stacks of flyers from 2004, from a local organization that we used to partner with, announcing their programs and workshops for that summer. All completely out of date and useless. (went directly into recycling bin). There were four other such BOXES full to their tops of equally useless flyers, handouts and miscellaneous paperwork.
  2. A check the office received in July 2008. Never been deposited or cashed. We found this check with its order form. Apparently, the materials ordered by this teacher were actually sent to her. In the next folder below it, we found the "account procedures" for this curriculum product/sales. And people wonder why my former boss had budgeting issues. Maybe if she'd deposited the checks she received...
  3. A brand new digital video camera. This piece, I recognized. Back in April, our Division Chief and I tried to make this camera work in order to record a program that we did for the local elementary school. Neither of us could make it work - even after reading the manual. Another coworker's teenaged son couldn't make it work - he declared it broken. So my boss said she'd find the receipt from the purchase and deal with it. (We need a working video camera.) Guess what? I found the camera and parts, just as I had left them, shoved into the very back of a file cabinet drawer, behind lots of other out-of-date paperwork. Nothing had been done about it. Go figure.
  4. Books from the park's library that were never returned. I'm sure the Curatorial staff will love that.
  5. 2 boxes of 'camping supplies' - including canned goods that have now been damagesd (cans are rusting/leaking - why were these bought in the first place??) - that Anne paid for. Hand trowels, avalanche beacons, space blankets, etc. Of course, none of the packaging was ever opened at all. Anne was a shopper, but she rarely gave programs - and because we work with SCHOOL CLASSES on field trips, we never house kids over night here nor do we camp with them. In fact, the overnight programs in the summertime are handled through the volunteer office and NOT the education program.

And yet, no one ever held her accountable. They let her go her own way and do her own thing. Because she was mean and nasty. Within the first month of my arrival, two of the men I work with in the park warned me: Anne was abusive to her former interns and that I was just the next victim in a long string of people to move through this office. The intern before me quit after only 2 weeks. I was told to get my game face on or just leave. Life wasn't worth putting up with her.

I have survived. I look at the mess she left behind. Both the physical piles of crap, and the years of hurt employees, disgruntled community partners and a budget that is really screwed up.

And now, she is someone else's problem. She got a promotion of sorts. Not through this park, mind you. But some poor, desperate sap ('superintendent') in another park didn't do his homework. She was hired to be the Division Chief for Interpretation and Education elsewhere in the country, but no one at that park contacted this park for a reference. The reference that was called was honest about Anne (I have a coworker/friend who did some digging on her own time to figure this out), but she was still hired anyway.

God help them.

I feel stuck and frustrated - as an intern, I have very little power here. I hear "It's not your job," more often than I can stand. And there are some folks who are so concerned about seeming "nice" to everyone (politicians!) that they will find a way to sweep most of this under the rug and just be thankful that she's not their problem any more. But we have so many opportunities here. I'm just afraid that we still won't be living up to our program's potential.

A few of you know that I spent lots of time visiting various National Parks as a kid. My family did a lot of road-tripping during the summers. These places mean something to me. We need to protect, care for, and enjoy these amazing places.

Last week, it was mentioned in a meeting by our Acting Superintendent that Mount Rainier National Park cares for roughly $700 million dollars' worth of resources, artifacts and public assets. Things all owned jointly by all U.S. citizens. We carry forward each year a maintenance backlog of about $150 million dollars. Work that we can't get done. Most of the iconic National Parks are in a similar situation.

Recently, Ken Burns did the NPS a huge publicity favor. But we can't let it stop there. The NPS is one of the more sought-after agencies to work for in the entire United States. Recently, in this park, we advertised for 2 entry-level permanent interpretation staff positions that are currently vacant. Guess how many applications we received? 560. Yes, FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY. For two openings at the GS-5 level.

Please, if you've had a great time in one of our amazing parks, please help us. Get involved and volunteer. Every year, the National Park Service RELIES on volunteers. Measured only in hours of labor, we get nearly as much work done by volunteers as we do by park staff. We have a lot of people in the Park Service who love our parks, love what they do, and do their best with the extremely limited financial resources we are given. But these are our parks; we all need to pitch in to support the places we love.

I could go down a rabbit hole and discuss the problems faced by the National Park Service - both internal problems and external factors that cause us problems (some of which we obviously have no control over). We need to expect more from our public leaders and from ourselves.

There's a lot of talk recently about the relevance of our National Parks. Read the Second Century Commission's reports about our parks (organized by one of the non-profit organizations that support us) and find a way to help. If you've enjoyed the parks, consider giving back. Or paying it forward.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To-Do List

I make lists endlessly. Sometimes I actually get through half of the things I note that I must do. That's a good day. But I'm going to try to be better. Will someone please hold me accountable?! The following are not in priority order, as about half of them will get done tomorrow either way.

  1. get up early enough to not rush around in the morning
  2. breakfast AT HOME, including vitamins
  3. clean off desk in office
  4. pick up boxes of junk (“paperwork”) from former supervisor’s office at Longmire (there is someone waiting to move into that office)
  5. pick up office supplies at park warehouse
  6. park-wide safety meeting
  7. Spudfest lunch (I’m going to enjoy watching the Law Enforcement Rangers make me a baked potato for lunch)
  8. highlight the important parts of the paperwork I’ve sorted so far for Division Chief
  9. walk after work with coworker for exercise
  10. look for more chanterelles on the way home from the office
  11. use up excess sourdough starter: bread and pancakes
  12. bake bagels*
  13. Knitting projects that need progress:

  • doggie sweaters

  • brown socks

  • Christmas dishcloths

  • silk lace scarf

*At some point next week, I get to contribute to snacks at HQ. Mini bagels and cream cheese are my choice, as I don't have to go to the store between now and then. I've got the ingredients at home and the weather is supposed to be lousy this weekend.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Realization

Anyone who knows me knows that I love botany, environmental sciences, and even a bit of math now and then.

I'm convinced that I didn't learn anything (or at least retain anything) in those Western Civ. classes forced on me in high school and college. Did I hate social studies? Hate might be too strong of a word, but I rarely found anything to hold my attention. Seriously, Western Civ. was just an expensive form of Benedryl for me - it really did nothing but put me to sleep. And it never helped with sinus-related headaches.

But I have found something to help me overcome my apathy towards history: vintage textiles. No, I'm not talking about poodle skirts and saddle shoes. My interest lies in the handmade lace and garments from the 1700s and 1800s. I think I'm just seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg on this topic; it's lead me to so many related topics: womens' issues, science of the day, international relations, class and social hierarchies, etc. etc.

Of course, for me, this involves actually making the lace too. I just received the latest copy of Interweave's Piecework magazine. I've now started on a piece of broomstick lace. Not the oldest of techniques, but intriguing and something I've never tried.

I blame it on Jane Austen. I hated literature classes too. But I could never put her books down. The stories and characters were just too good.


ETA: If you're googling "Broomstick Lace", ignore the modern versions made with worsted weight yarn. They seem like something tacky from the 1970's. (Sorry, just my opinion.) Look at Piecework for the traditional techniques and materials that interest me. The bag on the cover is my inspiration.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


As I write this, I'm sitting on the porch at Whittaker's Bunkhouse in Ashford. This is the home of the coffee shop that I usually steal WIFI from, while drinking a coffee (not stolen). However, it is closed right now. But they told me I could just sit on the porch and use the WIFI, since the hotel part is actually open.

So I've got this great view today. Big-leaf maples that are bright yellow, dropping leaves on the lawn while the sun pokes between high, patchy clouds. There actually is some blue sky today too. A perfect fall afternoon. It's beautiful. I wish my camera could capture this scene. (Is the skill in the camera or the photographer? In my case, the former.)

I've been reading blogs during my down times at work (this is our slow season). Between The Twisted Road of Life, MountainMama, and Throwback at Trapper Creek, I've been inspired by people's stories and actions.

Here at a National Park, I'm often surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery. Within the National Park Service, we care for America's stories. All inspiring in different ways. I have so many thoughts on this. Hopefully, this week, I'll get a chance to put pen to paper and write out some of my thoughts.

True to what Mountain Mama said in her blog on Friday, if she is planning on 'paying it forward', if anyone wants to post a little story (in the comments section of this post) about how they've been inspired by an experience in a National Park, I'll get them a little goodie from the park. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Landslides, Power Outages, and Being Prepared

Today about 1 p.m., we lost power here at the park. Longmire and TWoods (park HQ) were affected, but interestingly, the Nisqually entrance station (about halfway between Longmire and TWoods) had power.

Since most of my office work today and tomorrow requires a computer, I was stuck for a while. So I finished up putting together some of the mail - mostly requests from individual students, wanting park info. for their research projects. I have a standard set of brochures that we mail out, unless we get a unique request.

So anyway, I got the mail together and walked over to the HQ building to drop it off. Of course, they were without power, and many of them were in the same boat as me: budget and HR folks need computers too. So I was talking to my friend Mika. It occurred to me that my entire kitchen is electric. I couldn't cook dinner if the power didn't come back up. Raw veggies for dinner. Ok, so I like raw veggies, but on a cold, stormy night like we're going to have, I prefer hot soup or something. Anyway, Mika and I decided to pool our food and do steaks on their grill. Her husband will be happy with that decision!

This lead me to think about another disaster that happened this weekend: a landslide east of here near Naches. A few people were evacuated, a road closed, etc. The pictures are cool, but really, this was a relatively small slide for our area. The POTENTIAL for the area around Mount Rainier is tremendous as this mountain holds more snow and glaciers (and thus, more water) than just about any other mountain in the Lower 48 states. Warm temperatures plus 30+ square miles of melting ice and snow = flooding like you wouldn't believe.

I really should have more canned tuna in my apartment. And candles. And gas for the ol' Coleman stove.

Obviously, we have the power back on...

Saturday, October 10, 2009


The colors of the leaves are changing. Fall is just stunning the mountains. In the picture above, blueberries cover the subalpine slopes of Paradise with red and yellow leaves. Still plenty of berries to pick! The Vine Maples out here in Mount Rainier National Park are also absolutely bright red. I haven't lived in an area with so many maples for several years now. I'd forgotten how red those trees can get.

The chills in the area speak of winter and snow - but we've already had several snows up in the high country. Now if we can just get the snow to stick around a bit...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Busy Week; Weekend with the "Kids"

We've had some very full days this week here in the Ed office. Monday was an office day, 54 8th graders on Tuesday (+parents and teachers), and 52 8th graders on Wednesday (+parents and teachers). Yesterday afternoon/evening was spent driving to Tacoma, talking to teachers at Educators' Night At The Museum [of Glass, which is cool - I love watching glass-blowing!], and driving back to Rainier. We are awaiting 2 classes of 8th-9th graders right now; we'll be discussing the subalpine ecosystems with them at Paradise and then (I think) helping them collect water samples from the Nisqually River near Longmire.

Tomorrow, I'm sleeping all day.

Not quite.

This weekend I'm house- and dog-sitting again for the Wysong Kids. 9 Alaskan Huskies. Beautiful animals! Last night, fairly late, an elk budgled for maybe 3-4 seconds, and that sent the dogs to howling. It was quite the concert.

The clouds are hanging low over the Nisqually River and valley this morning, but driving in I saw signs that it's clear and sunny up higher. I'm hoping for nice weather today!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It snowed!

I didn't get pictures today; we had 54 8th graders from Pugetropolis. I was otherwise occupied. But hey, two of the visiting teachers were Don and Everett, TRTs from the summer who worked with us on the curriculum project.

Don owes me dinner for sticking me with all of his middle school football players.

It's supposed to be the same weather through Thursday, so I'll try to get snow pictures from Paradise tomorrow.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Snow is on the way!

From the NOAA forecast for Paradise tomorrow:





Winter is on its way!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Autumn in the Cascades

During the past couple of weeks, the fall colors have really developed. The Blueberries are just beautiful!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Update for the Week...

The last half of this week has flown by! Last night, my roommate moved out. Heather was only seasonally here, working for the Natural & Cultural Resources Division. Her last day of work was yesterday, and now she has a week off. Then she's headed to Yosemite for a 5-month project.

Yosemite is one park that I haven't been to yet. Yet. Someday I'll get to see those monoliths.

Meanwhile, I was out hiking the Skyline trail from Paradise with a couple of classes of fourth and fifth graders the past two days. It's almost nice to sit here in the quiet office for a few minutes! Today will be a short day in the office; tomorrow morning I'm going to a workshop all about the mushrooms and fungi found in the park. It should be interesting; I'm hoping to come home with something yummy to eat, too. :)

Next week I have a few programs to give and then next weekend I'm house- and dog-sitting for the sled dog team again. I love those dogs!

It seems like I have very little of any substance to write about lately. I think my mind is in 1000 directions at once and I can't really focus on any one thing.

But maybe now that I have my apartment all to my quiet self again, I'll get back to reading and thinking more. ;)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I have this problem on my work (read: 'government') computer. Some of the blogs I follow don't load properly when I open the site to read them. For instance, MountainMama's blog rarely opens for me. I get the title bar graphic, and the info boxes on the left column. But the content rarely shows. This happens occasionally to other blogs as well. But it does not happen all of the time! When I'm really lucky, the entire front page of a blog will load and I'll be able to read to my heart's content.

Does anyone else have this problem? I bet this is just the silly servers here at the office. Inconsistent problems at random times. Go figure.

New Sweater

So today's post is not going to be about work. Unless you consider knitting as work. Which I don't. ;)
I'm working on a new cabled raglan pullover for myself. I got the yarn a year ago, and I've been charting out various cables in Excel since. I never could find one that I was 100% happy with, but I think this is turning out ok. I'm hoping that the 5 balls of yarn will be enough for a hood. I'd love to make this into a hoodie. Maybe I'll get this done in time for the fall winter.

What do you think? I know the pictures are small, but does the cable set work?

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Week... The boss is back

Other than that, I'm out of words.
Oh! I found out today that the interp division will be showing the new Ken Burns documentary series about the National Parks at the VC at Paradise. So I will get to see it!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good-bye Mary

I saw in the CNN headlines this morning that Mary Travers has died. Sad. I really like folk music like Peter, Paul and Mary produced. Music with a message.

Maybe I'm just not in tune with today's music. But whatever happened to artists that could actually sing? There seems to be fewer and fewer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

End-of-the-Year Reports

This week, one of my tasks is to write up what I've done thus far during my internship here at Mount Rainier. I thought it would be hard. So I started an outline.


It's going to have chapters. God help the people who actually read this thing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Busy, Busy

I have found things to do at the office between programs. This is a very good thing. I'm hoping to stay busy!

Meanwhile, there are suddenly several blogs that I need to read and/or catch up on.

Hmmm... What to do first??

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Gift Certificate!!!

Oh! Those lovely Smith Girls in Estes Park, CO, sent me a $30 gift certificate to KnitPicks!!! Oh my. What choices I have. I don't even know where to begin! I have this notion that I want some City Tweed, perhaps either in the Plum Wine or Enchanted colorways...

Or maybe some more sock yarn.

Maybe some lace?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to the Blazing Metropolis...

...that is Ashford, Washington.

My detail to the East (a.k.a. "Sunny") Side of the Park is over. No more waking up to Alpenglow at 6:30 a.m. Sigh.

I'm sitting here at Whittaker's in Ashford, attempting to catch up on things that have happened during the past month while I was out of touch. (Am I ever really in touch?!) Yet all that's on my mind is food.

For those of you who are curious, the wild berry-picking total for the season thus far is:

1 qt, 1 c. Blackcap raspberries
2 c. Thimbleberries
1 c. Salmonberries (Hannah and I ate most of what we picked in July!)
1 qt, 2 c. Blackberries
4+ qts. mixed Blueberries and Black Huckleberries

Needless to say, it's jamming season here. I also picked up a couple of pickle recipes from Ranger Julia last week. Very interesting; I'll have to try them. Makes me hungry just to think about it. Oh, and a small jar of peach ketchup was shared around the south blockhouse at Sunrise, thanks to Ranger Julia as well. I REALLY want to try to recreate that recipe. Seriously yummy.

I have a 3-day weekend this weekend, as I only had 1 day off during the past two weeks. I have a huge to-do list, including laundry, groceries, banking, etc. etc. etc.

Or maybe I'll just sleep the weekend away.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Long time, no writing...

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I've been working out of the Sunrise Visitor Center. Internet is via a satellite, connected to the park's servers, and we only have one networked computer for the whole area's staff...

There is lots to tell, but sadly, I don't have much time at the present. I've been doing lots of hiking, finding end of the season wildflowers, watching mountain goats, and eating lots of wild blueberries. It's been a good couple of weeks. I sort of wish I was assigned to this station permanently - except for the fact that it is only open 3 months of the year. ;)

I promise I'll be more faithful with posting pictures and updates when I get back to park HQ and my normal duty station... September 12.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Berrying on the West Side

After the berrying expedition with Amy on Wednesday, I decided that I didn't have enough. So, I headed back to the same area. I found two new species of berries that I previously didn't have in storage for the winter. Black raspberries and blueberries!!!

The mark of a successful berry-picking exercise: purple stains on the hands!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Berry Picking in the Rain

All day yesterday it had poured down rain. So we vetoed the idea of hiking up to Panorama Point from Paradise. Cold, windy and no view, so we opted for berry picking. My current roommate (Heather) suggested the West Side Road near the old landslide for raspberries. So after work, Amy and I drove over to the old West Side Road, most of which is closed because of recurring flood damage in the park. Previously, I'd only explored the first maybe quarter mile of this road. Most of the winter it was closed completely, and I had other more accessible places to visit. We drove as far as we could and walked up another mile or so. (You can't drive past a certain point, but you can walk in.)

Let me first say WOW. It was stunning. We couldn't really determine what landslide Heather had mentioned; the damage caused by Tahoma Creek during the 2006 and 2008 floods was overwhelming. But beautiful. I mean breath-taking. The clouds were very low, hanging over the creek and surrounding the peaks, barely above our heads. We walked along in the mist. Drops of water clung tightly to every leaf and flower. The Mertensia were beautiful:

About a mile up the road, we came to this area that was clearly shaped (damaged?) by floods. But the clouds were amazing. The creek was babbling happily, oblivious as it should be to our presence, as it traveled over the old roadbed. I commented to Amy that it reminded me of Alaska: the dirt road strewn with boulders, twining along the valley floor next to a creek, with trees shrouded in clouds, just us against the world. Except this 'road' doesn't have huge trucks trying to make time between Prudhoe and Fairbanks.

I don't know how any of you feel about natural disasters. This park deals with flooding, avalanches, landslides, etc. on a yearly basis. And yes, they can cost us money. But they give me some something too. Yesterday, there was this huge rock perched precariously on top of other rocks in one of the landslide areas. It was easily big enough to make Amy's rental car into a pancake should the rock decide to continue its roll down the hill. There were trees washed down the creekbed, victims of the force of water and time. It's a relief to just sit back and watch Mother Nature work her miracles. She knows what she's doing. Too often, we try to make this world into our own. We try to control things that we were not meant to control. Rather, we should watch in awe. Be amazed, inspired and satisfied.

It wasn't a strenuous walk at all. Rather the opposite. But satisfying. By the time we left, we were both soaked. My shoes squished like sponges. It was fabulous. Seriously fabulous. Here's my haul from the hike:

My future homestead must have berry patches.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Old Friends

Last night, a former roommate showed up for a visit. Amy was one of the girls that I shared a cabin with in Fairbanks during the summer of 2007. We hadn't seen each other since leaving Fairbanks. She's now a PhD student at Duke University, and I've gone elsewhere in life too.

It was so nice to see her smiling face again. Have 2 years really passed? We seemed to pick up just where we left off. Including the berry picking. ~wink~ Lots of laughs and silliness while playing Phase 10 (a card game), just like old times. :)

You know, I didn't have the best of supervisors when I worked up there. In fact, he was rather lazy and co-dependent in some ways. But the time in Alaska was still amazing. I saw some country that I wouldn't have gotten to visit any other way. I saw how mountains really can be larger than life. Wildnerness is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming at the same time. Wild blueberries are better than any fruit you can buy on the market. And I made some good friends. Amy and Whitney among the best of them.

But I have felt like I left something unfinished in Fairbanks. Something unrelated to my job, or my roommates, or.... whatever. Even though this 'unfinished business' had nothing to do with Amy, last night she made a comment that showed her thoughts on the subject in question. It sort of confirmed what I'd thought and felt; it was nice to know I was thinking the right thing all along. It all revolves around the last morning in Fairbanks, the ride to the train station and the train trip back to Anchorage. A sad day, indeed. I don't know who knows that story; maybe some day I'll get the nerve to write it all down.

--- Yeah, I know. I should be up there. Why did I get on that stupid train?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ranger, Get Your Nerd On

I'm attempting to learn Java and a few other web geek-ish type things, in order to help me construct a larger website for a project here in the park. My brain is swimming right now. The only good thing is that I know HTML/XML fairly well. But some of this is new to me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tatoosh Pano

Ok, so the above pano is really too small to see the details. I must put the larger version on Photobucket at some point. When I have time. Or when I remember.

This series of pictures was taken back on Wednesday night as the sun was setting. The weather changed earlier this week. Thank goodness the heat wave broke; the clouds and fog this week have been spectacular!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life Is Getting Away From Me...

I just need more time. And maybe like 3 extra weeks.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Recipe: Sourdough Doughnuts

First, a little background.

My Dad has an amazing variety of skills. In many accounts, he's the typical OCD computer nerd. But he can also fix cars, tile a kitchen, hike up a mountain and cook. Yes, Dad is actually pretty good in the kitchen! One thing he made a lot when I was growing up was sourdough doughnuts. I remember watching Dad feed the sourdough starter for a few days (I always wanted to stir it up), and then clean off the counter - as only an OCD engineer could - in preparation for making doughnuts. We'd roll out the dough and use a glass to cut out the doughnuts. A little cup from the top of a bottle of cough syrup was used to cut out the doughnut holes. Then he'd fry them and roll them in sugar and cinnamon. YUM!

Ok, now that you're drooling, here's the recipe:


2 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or nutmeg (I usually put in a bit of both!)
1 egg
1/2 c. sourdough starter
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. oil (+ additional oil for frying)

Resift flour with baking powder, soda, salt and spice. Beat egg, beat in sugar. Combine with starter, milk and oil. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix to moderately stiff dough. On floured surface, knead to smooth out and round up dough. (I usually knead less than 5 minutes or so.) Roll out to 3/8" thickness. Cut with doughnut cutter. Place on a cookie sheet and let rise for about 30-45 minutes. Drop in heated oil (~370F). Fry til golden brown. Let drip onto paper towel and then roll in cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

Best when they are straight out of the fryer! But they will last a day or two (if you can resist your urges) in a sealed container.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ethnobotany 101: Yellow Dye

I sent a note to Julia the Ethnobotanist asking what local plant around here I could use for a yellow dye for wool or cotton. Just to see what she said. Mind you, I don't actually have anything to dye at the moment.


She said that I should pick some off the ground and soak them. Several species around here make good yellow dyes. But of course, she didn't have her dye notebook at hand to give me more specifics.

This woman is a walking encyclopedia of plant uses. I might just have to build an extra cabin on the homestead so as to house her and her husband while I pick their brains about wild mushrooms.

The Homestead Frame of Mind…

This is going to be a long entry. Feel free to grab a cup of coffee now so as to help keep those eyelids open...

My friend Kristin of Reclaiming the Home (and the group by that name on Ravelry) posed a question to the group this morning: "Just curious if anyone here homesteads or has plans to try to?"

I'm sure most of you know my answer to that question. I don't need to bring up Alaska again, do I?

I was listening to a podcast the other night from the folks at Self-sufficient Homestead. While I found some of the content to be a bit rambling, some of what was said prompted me to think:

Is my dwelling purely a consumer or does it also produce? What can I do to produce more of what I need? The show I was listening to discussed the fruit trees and berry bushes on a homestead and how they produce for the homesteaders. My nearby berry brambles will hopefully produce quarts and pints of berries for me to both can and freeze this year. If I’m lucky enough to catch the Yakima valley farmers’ markets at the right time in August, I’m hoping to pick up cucumbers for pickling as well. I just love spicy bread and butter pickles!!

On a side note, I’m hoping my friend Julia, a local master of ethnobotany, will help me learn to forage for the best wild mushrooms of the Cascades this fall. I remember the cabin in Fairbanks and how many mushrooms grew around there after a good rain that August. My friend David tried, at the time, to show me exactly how much was edible. I gave him the good ones, letting a bit of fear of poisonous mushrooms take over. But now, two years later, David’s still alive and I’m just a bit jealous if his knowledge. This fall, I’m hoping to not let another such opportunity pass me by.

Getting back to the basics: Getting back to doing stuff yourself…

Most of you know that one of my other loves in life is baking. I have been stocking my freezer the past few months with - and eating! - homemade bagels and loaves of sourdough bread. Everyone (including the current roommate) seems to eat up everything I leave on the kitchen counter or bring to the office. I recently was made aware of a recipe by Gale Gand for Milan Cookies (thanks MountainMama!). This is my next sweets experiment – but I think I might make the ganache a mint chocolate or white chocolate ganache. Of course, chocolate in any form is always *ahem* welcome.

On the trail to the office today, I saw the wierdest orange mushroom coming up. I'm really curious to see what it is. I'll have to take a picture and send it to Julia for ID...

More about doing things for myself in future entries. For now, anyone have any comments?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ethnobotany 101: Bear Grass

Xerophyllum tenax

Bear grass is unmistakeable in the Cascades. Clumps of grass-like leaves arching outward with tall flower stalks holding the showy white flowers (shown above) can be seen everywhere along roads and trails in Mt. Rainier National Park. It is generally found in the upper montane and lower sub-alpine ecosystems, where drier soils exist. Although some horticulturalists have tried to cultivate it for the nursery trade, it is better left alone in the wild where it can grow naturally.

For centuries, Native Americans have used the leaves, weaving them together, to form baskets and mats. Bears eat the fleshy bases of the leaves (thus the name).


Ethnobotany: The study of the interaction between plants and people, with a particular emphasis on traditional tribal cultures. Ethnobotany is a branch of botany, the study of plants, and is closely related to cultural anthropology, the study of human societies.
[Source: Encarta Encyclopedia]

Most of you know that I'm a big fan of wildflowers. Plant taxonomy and Ethnobotany are both related fields that draw me in. Perhaps some day, I'll write the perfect field guide for those around me who love flowers but don't have the scientific background that (sometimes) is required to read many modern field guides.

Anyone know a good publisher?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where did the week go??

I spent much of the past 7 days with Hannah, exploring flowers and rocks around Mount Rainier National Park - with a side trip to Mt. St. Helens. It was refreshing to see how the littlest detail could capture a child's imagination.
Folks, get your kids outside!!!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hannah Arrives Tonight!

Yes, one of the Infamous Smith Girls is flying from Denver to Seattle tonight to visit MissSilly. This next week will be fun. Sadly, I have some work obligations to attend to during her visit. However, I should get a few hours of hiking and wildflower hunting in as well. Woohoo!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Slippers

Just in time for the fall, I FINALLY finished my new pair of felted wool slippers on Saturday. It really was a productive weekend this weekend, even if I didn't get my blog updated. ;) (Sorry BethanyG!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Little Bit of Everything...

Let's see... Yet another week has escaped my grip.

1) We have been hosting a workshop this week, teaching middle and high school teachers about volcanoes, geology and the USGS/NPS sites around here dealing with volcanoes and geology. I haven't been keeping up with email, mail or anything else because of this.

2) I'm house- and dog-sitting again this weekend for those adorable 75-lb. huskies. I love those dogs. I'm hoping to get a bit of quiet time away from the park just to knit, sleep, do (free) laundry and play with the doggies.

3) Next week, my young friend Hannah flies in for a visit. No visiting grandparents this summer. She's visiting me. :)

4) My truck officially has a problem... We think an oxygen sensor is dead. Thankfully, the truck doesn't need to get inspected to renew the tags this year. Therefore, this doesn't need to get fixed in the immediate future. And I don't have to drive it every day. Not every day, that is, except for the next two weeks - in which case, I'll need it every day. Argh. I have such great timing!

5) I got an email today from my former roommate from the cabin in Fairbanks. She'll be in WA next month and wants to get together. How fun! Hopefully, I'll still have a vehicle by then...\


I have like 3 other blog posts that I'd like to get up. We'll see if I can get them up this weekend. I'm hopeful (but don't hold me to it).

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Limits of Time and Space

I have begun several projects the past few weeks. And like my friend MountainMama often jokes, I seem to suffer at the moment from startitis. A new pair of socks. A nice lace scarf. I still haven't felted the lunch sack I finished knitting last weekend.

And don't ask about the sweater I wanted to get finished in time for last Christmas' dinner with the family.

My most recent UFO? The flower beds around the Ed. center where I work.

When I make sufficient progress, I'll post the before and after pictures. You'll see how this project fights the limits of time and space.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Another Volcano

On Saturday, I drove down to Mt. St. Helens. It's amazing to see both the destruction and the plant communities moving back in. It's taken almost 30 years for this much plant growth. The view from the trail at the observatory:

Paintbrush and Penstemon:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A few new pictures...

A view of the Niqually Glacier and resulting river

Avalanche lillies are blooming at Paradise!

Cameron, me, Mark, Don and Everett at one of the nearly-melted-out overlooks on the Nisqually Vista trail. This looks so different than it has looked the past few months!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To The Dogs

That's my new friend, Ritz. Gouda (in her house) and Argus (on top of his) watch in the background. Feeding nine energetic dogs is entertaining! Ritz was the most calm; she followed me around and ate when I was done with my work. She is a beautiful animal!

All nine of them had more energy in one leg than I have in my whole body. Jeff told me that he and Mary had these dogs on a trail most of the winter season every year. In Alaska, before moving south, Jeff's teams ran more than 9000 miles. Not much by Alaska standards. ;)

Makes me want my little cabin in Alaska just a tad bit more....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sled Dogs

This weekend, I'll be house-sitting for some co-workers. Jeff and Mary spent many years working up in Denali NP before moving down here. Their 'kids' are a team of nine Alaskan Huskies. Yes, they are a working sled dog team. 3 of the dogs are old enough and are technically 'retired' - many of their dogs have logged more than 8,000 miles pulling sleds. For Alaskans, that's really not a huge amount of miles.

But Jeff and Mary are going out of town this weekend and can't take the kids. So I get to play with them all weekend. I'll take pictures!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dumb Question

If someone gives you a blog award, and you can't seem to find where it is on-line and therefore have no knowledge of what you've won, are you still a winner?

Or do I just need group therapy?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Time for a Little Road Trip

I got to play the tourist (touron?) role. When I figured out a few places to visit in the region, I had to add Roslyn, WA, to the list. Why? Because Northern Exposure was a cool show. Enough said.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hikes out of Ohanapecosh

Two big fir snags in Grove of the Patriarchs. This little ~1 mile hike takes you to a nice old-growth stand in the southeast corner of the park. Don't ask if it's really "old growth" or "ancient" - we interpreters debated the names for like 15 minutes the other day. Either way, the area is worth seeing! The trees are HUGE.

These little Calypso orchids were about 100 yards from the Ohanapecosh visitor center. Beauty is everywhere! These little flowers are only about 1" tall, on a 3" stalk: you need to look close to see them!

Silver Falls. Round trip, you'll probably hike about 2.5 miles. The forests are nice, the bridge over the river is interesting. Can you hike I-beams in a log? Our trail crew did!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spring is FINALLY in control!

This was taken at an overlook, just downhill from Paradise on the way to Longmire yesterday. The western end of the Tatoosh Range is on the left-hand side of the picture. There is still a lot of snow on the mountain. The trail we use for school groups at Paradise still has 12 feet of snow.

The road is clear, many of the park roads are open now or will be open in the next two weeks. But the lenticular clouds are still hanging over the summit; we might be getting some weather. ;)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Funky Tree

I found this tree growing along the Kautz Creek trail last weekend. This area has been subject to flooding, mudslides, erosion, etc. for decades (probably centuries, but I haven't seen records for before 1947's flood).

What do you think caused this tree to grow like this???

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's Been A While...

I'm a bit punchy this morning; 6 out of the past 7 days have been trail days for me; 5 of which, I've had no less than 26 people trailing me behind me. I am exhausted!

Today is supposed to be an office day for me; I'm trying to put together a couple of programs that I'll be giving in the coming weeks/months. But so far, I can barely keep my eyes open. YAWN!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What to write about?

I haven't had much motivation to write anything lately. We work in a beautiful area, and spring is finally taking hold. The tulips were blooming in the garden next to the post office in Elbe this morning. Cherry trees and dogwoods are blooming as I sit here in Seattle, taking a lunch break while doing my grocery/shopping trip for the month.

I love snow and cold weather, but I'm so happy to see the 'little flower things'. And warmer weather is very welcome!

The next 4 weeks or so will be very busy for our office, we have a minimum of 3-5 classes visiting us each week and we'll be hosting two school groups of about 120 students in early June. Then the summer hits and, unlike with the rest of the programs in the park, our slow season hits. I'm hoping to pick up some training and hours with the rest of the interp staff at the various visitor centers and other areas of the park.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rubus spectabilis

It's getting close to Salmonberry time! The brambles are blooming here at park HQ!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Little RAK

Some people tell me how lucky I am to be living on the doorstep of a great National Park. The scenery is stunning (when clouds aren't obscuring the peaks ;) ), but in some ways, I am a bit cut off from the main world. I won't go into the details; some of it I've already mentioned elsewhere.

But last night, I got a little care package from one of my fellow Ravelers ( Through one of the groups I belong to on that site, I particpate in a Random Acts of Kindness movement. Yeah, I like to think of it as a movement - cheering friends near and far, spreading kindness and generosity. A couple of weeks ago, I sent out postcards to everyone that had listed "real mail instead of bills!" on their wish lists. Postcards from a National Park always do the trick. ;)

Back to last night. I got home from work, opened the mail box, and found stuffed inside a bulging envelope. A new skein of yarn - a wool that I use for everything! - and my favorite brand of tea - in flavors I'd not tried. It made my whole night. :) Thanks Mary!!!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meet Mr. Slug

Pacific Banana Slug
Ariolimax columbianus

I found this little creature on the road as I walked to work this morning. You can't tell it from the picture, but he is about 3.5" long and about .5" tall. Biggest slug I've ever seen. I looked up the species, these apparently are the second largest slugs in the world, the largest in North America. These eat lots of dead plant material and some mushrooms.

They coat their body with a slime that both keeps them hydrated and helps them slide along easier. It is said that the slime might actually make a good glue. And yes, they dehydrate easily. Don't pour salt on slugs!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Back on Snowshoes

After almost three weeks of meetings, office work and a bit of office tension, I got back out on the ol' MSRs and hit the trail from Paradise. Friday, since the last trek had been a while ago, I went out to check snowpack and trail conditions. At this time of year, this is important! We check to see if there are any unstable areas (i.e. around tree wells or previously solid cornices) and mark the path that is most stable and easy to travel on. We hadn't had much snow lately; the snowpack was measured at about 13.5 feet on Friday, down from 16.5 feet that I saw the last time. Most of it was fairly solid and very easy to travel on! I made the whole trail, with some side trail testing (to see about shortcuts and alternate trailheads) in about 2 hours. I was set for my group on Saturday.

Yesterday, I was joined by a group of teachers from the Bellevue area. None of them had ever been on snowshoes before. We had a great hike! The weather wasn't nearly as cooperative as on Friday - which was a beautiful day on the mountain! - but everyone was set for cold weather and light snow. I was tired at the end, but energized at the same time, since it was a fun hike to lead. I'd love to have these teachers back next year!

At one point, they were joking about writing Mad Libs stories of their adventure. You know what? I think I'm going to steal that idea and use it for our future Flat Stanley mailings. ;)


I have pictures from Friday's hike. They are great. I'll post a few tomorrow or Tuesday. I didn't take any pictures yesterday (Saturday), although the group promised to send me a few of the good ones they took.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Factor in Springtime...

Bearproofing the dumpsters! Raise your hand if you think these nylon straps are going to keep hungry black bears out of our trash? Especially since they (most likely) haven't eaten all winter? I can't wait to get a picture of a bear falling in...