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!!!!