Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Human Ecology on the Olympic Peninsula: Mapping Visitor Values

7-9 pm, November 14, 2012
The Mountaineers Program Center, Goodman B
7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115

Trail registers, backcountry permits and campground reservations provide the Forest Service with only limited insight into how the public enjoys the land and water resources on National Forests. 

 Human Ecology Mapping or "participatory mapping" offers a promising new, more robust approach to gathering social and cultural data on how National Forests are utilized for recreation and conservation.  On November 14, the public is invited to learn about new methods for mapping human-centered values on our public lands and participate in an interactive mapping session of landscape values and activities of visitors to the Olympic Peninsula, conducted by researchers from Portland State University and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. 
U.S. Forest Service Day Use and Areas of Interest Map,

  Bring your personal stories and thoughts about the places you love on the Olympic Peninsula.  Results from the research will be used to identify areas of high value and intense use for future land management and planning activities. 

For more information about this event, contact Sarah Krueger,  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Calling ALL Volunteers


  The Olympic Hot Springs campground, located at Boulder Creek in the Elwha
  River valley, is being transformed into a wilderness camp area.  This
  year we have 12,000 plants to plant on-site.  The work at Boulder Creek
  campground is preparing the soil for planting (tilling by hand), planting
  the plants that have been raised in the park greenhouse/nursery, hauling
  water and watering the transplants.  We fit the work to the interests and
  level of physical labor that people are comfortable with. 

  If you can  help us with any of these tasks you would be contributing to an exciting
  project and your work would be greatly  appreciated!

We'll be working on the project in October and likely November.  

Friday, October 12-14, then Wednesday, October 17 through Saturday October 20.  People can come
up and back daily with a National Park Service representative or camp on-site and work several days.  Volunteers in the past weeks have been doing all such combinations. 

It is a two mile gentle hike from the trailhead to the campground where we are working.  The trailhead access is closed other than with an NPS representative so volunteers meet in Port Angeles or the Elwha Ranger Station and travel together. 

 If you are interested please contact Ruth Scott, Wilderness Resources Office, Olympic National Park:
  (360) 565-3071 or

On Arctic Ground: Paddling the Wild Rivers of Northwest Alaska

Come join The Mountaineers for a multimedia exploration of the wild rivers in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve on November 15th, 2012. Experience Alaska's frontier with video, audio recordings and still images presented by an Alaska based author and adventurer, Debbie S. Miller as she shares stories from the largest single unit of public lands in the United States.

Based on Miller's newly-released book, On Arctic Ground: Tracking Time Through Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, this presentation will showcase highlights from the last 37 years Miller has spent travelling, whitewater canoeing and exploring throughout Alaska's wilderness. 

Image (c) Florian Schulz
Please come enjoy an evening of travel and adventure across the 23-million acre expanse of land known as "the Reserve." 

On Arctic Ground: Paddling the Wild Rivers of Northwest Alaska
November 15th, 2012, 7 pm The Mountaineers Program Center
7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA

Free Admission and Book Signing
Beer and Wine by donation, provided by Alaskan Brewing.
Proceeds benefit Braided River

Event sponsors include The Mountaineers, Braided River, The Alaska Wilderness League, The Sierra Club and American Whitewater.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The North Cascades Get Wilder

The new Thunder Creek Wilderness Area.
Image courtesy of National Park Service
Posted by Sarah Krueger, Public Lands Programs Manager

The North Cascades just got a little wilder.  On September 14, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar administratively added 3,559 acres of Wilderness to the Stephen Mather Wilderness area, which includes parts of North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas.  The newly protected area encompasses the Thunder Creek valley follows Thunder Arm of Diablo Lake, harbors lush low-elevation old-growth forest, and provides shoulder-season hiking opportunities out of the Colonial Creek Campground.
The Washington Parks Wilderness Act of 1988 originally identified the Thunder Creek Valley as potential wilderness, but the area was not federally protected due to plans by the City of Seattle to harness Thunder Creek’s aquamarine glacial waters for hydropower development.  However, the 1988 act that created a swath of protected wilderness areas within Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park Service Complex, also included a provision that the Thunder Creek Potential Wilderness Area could be could be administratively designated at the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, if and when non-conforming uses are terminated.  Since the City of Seattle abandoned plans to develop hydropower on Thunder Creek, and with no other uses planned for the area, the Secretary was able to designate this area as Wilderness, as directed by the 1988 Washington Parks Wilderness Act.   

The Mountaineers, along with 12 other conservation and recreation groups representing Washington State, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar, supporting an administrative decision to designate Thunder Creek as Wilderness. The wilderness addition marks the first lands managed by the National Park Service that have been added to the National Wilderness System in 14 years in Washington State.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wildfires continue to affect Eastern Washington trails and forests

As most of us have been enjoying late summer sunshine and blue skies over on the Western side of the state, our fellow residents in Eastern Washington have been fighting wildfires. Lack of rainfall and severe lightning has resulted in over 100 wildfires in Yakima, Kittitas, Chelan, and Okanogan Counties.
Okanogan burn area

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag for much of Western Washington and Oregon as well due to historically dry conditions.
Since initial lightning storms in early September, many roads, trails and large areas of forest have been closed to recreation. As several of the wildfires become better managed or contained closure boundaries are being changed. Before heading to your destination east of the Cascade Crest check on the latest fire updates at

Active fires in the Entiat and Wenatchee River Ranger Districts mean several key access roads and trails remain closed. Just south of Leavenworth, the 2,609 acre Cashmere Mountain Fire in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness has been closed.

Monitoring a controlled burn at Table Mountain
Closures are still in effect for the following areas near the towns of Wenatchee and Cashmere, including Mission Ridge, Beehive Reservoir and Devil's Gulch. These closures are along the boundary lines of the Table Mountain Fires within the Cle Elum Ranger District.

Entry into closed areas by anyone other than law enforcement or firefighters into these closed areas may result in a fine up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment.

Please consult your local Ranger District for closures and updates, and information on ways you can give your support to firefighting efforts.

Methow Valley Ranger District at 509-996-4003
Tonasket Ranger District at 509-486-2186
Chelan Ranger District at 509-682-4900
Entiat Ranger District at 509-784-1511
Wenatchee River Ranger District at 509-548-2550
Cle Elum Ranger District at 509-852-1100
Naches Ranger District at 509-653-1401
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Headquarters at 509-664-9200

Visit the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website for up-to-date information at

DNR Fire Alert

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tracking Invaders from Stevens to Snoqualmie

By Andrew Allison and Aaron Hunter

By way of introduction, Aaron and I are Habitat Restoration Technicians recruited by The Mountaineers for an 8-day expedition survey to identify invasive and non-native plant species in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.   Our task was to supplement the volunteer efforts of the Alpine Lakes Weed Watchers Program by surveying an iconic, high-priority trail: the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Stevens to Snoqualmie Pass. 

I have logged multiple backpacking expeditions within the Appalachian Range and the Cascades, and Aaron has spent time exploring the wilderness in Jamaica and the Olympic Peninsula, but the experience before us became a trip all to itself. Armed with five maps, four shoulders sagging under 65-pound packs, two GPS units, and one fly rod, we set off from Stevens Pass for a 75-mile climb toward Snoqualmie.

Our first two days were beautiful September gems: blue skies, warm sun, and no appreciable humidity. We spent one night at Mig Lake and went as far as Deception Lakes on day two.  Tipped back in a Crazy Creek chair, sipping hot coffee, and watching the Milky Way flow between towering mountain peaks, it was hard to believe we were getting paid.  On day three we excitedly encountered our first non-native, a small patch of Wall Lettuce. We continued on to Deep Lake, weathered an all-night thunderstorm, and began our fourth day in chilly but fragrant wisps of early morning fog. Seven miles later we set camp at Waptus River. Though peppered by another night of rain, we enjoyed the company of local waterfowl, two stream-darters, and a fat brown crayfish.

Day five the weather became menacing in earnest. We climbed to 5,530 feet under squalls of snow and sleet with heavy winds, and pushed an 8-mile descent to the Lemah Creek valley looking for shelter. The day proved the most physically challenging and the most important for our work: northeast from Escondido Lake we discovered nearly one acre of flowering hawkweed in a rocky meadow.   Hawkweeds are difficult to key and the yellow flowers concerned us – if the plants were indeed the non-native European hawkweeds, the meadow needed prompt control methods in the coming months.

With three days remaining in our adventure the sky opened to a brilliant blue. Dry and morale improving, we climbed 3,000 feet from our campsite at Lemah Creek to the Parks Lake Basin finding only one suspected non-native, a tall stalk of thistle that looked suspiciously like the invasive Canada thistle.  The following morning we woke to an early winter preview. A quarter-inch of heavy frost lay on our tent, water in our bottles froze, and ice crept out a few feet from the lakeshore; truly an unexpected moment of alpine beauty. We concluded the trip with two sunny days cat-walking trail carved into cliff sides and scraped out of talus slopes. Smoke from a long season of forest fires filled valleys west and east, creating an unforgettable sunrise, and reminding us that not all wilderness areas were as tranquil as those we’d left behind.

Overcoat Peak with Andrew
in foreground

In total, we mapped six locations of suspect and confirmed non-native species—a relatively good prognosis for nearly 8 million square feet of survey area.  GPS’s holstered, Aaron and I, our legs, and our backs were unanimously pleased to see Betsy-Blue the faithful Volvo waiting where we’d left her in the Snoqualmie Pass parking area. A whir of the engine, a quick stop at Subway in North Bend, farewells in Issaquah, and the last step of the expedition found its footing.