A Pennsylvanian’s understanding of the Pacific Northwest pins it as a constantly overcast, drab, soggy, chilly, rainy and overall blah part of the world.  That’s why I had every intent of enjoying every sunny day to the fullest and save the blogging for a rainy day.

I had been at Mount Rainier for 29 days before I saw my first grey cloud. With that one grey cloud, there was a loud crack of thunder.  And, chasing the tail of that thunder was something we like to call rain.  After a record breaking dry winter and spring around the mountain, no one could possibly complain as those droplets fell through my open office windows.

Finally, rain was here.  And then, seven minutes later, the sun peeked through the clouds and shone brightly upon the volcano in my backyard.  The rain had passed just as quickly as it had came.  But with that short burst of rain came a rejuvenation of the spirits of everyone I encountered.  Some were puzzled by what was hitting their heads while others were joyfully cheering to themselves.  Who would have thought rain could make people so happy, even though it was only a seven minute sprinkle?

My Backyard is Better Than Yours

This volcano has quite the collection of names associated with it.  Tahoma, Takoma, Rainier, all have importance in the culture surrounding this giant geological feature in the neighboring tribes and communities.  And how could it not?  Standing at over 14,400 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier demands attention and draws in the eyes of anyone within 75 miles.  In the shadow of the mountain, there have been thousands of visitors already this summer, and hundreds of them here to volunteer.

Volunteers have been working on many projects throughout the park, whether it be volunteering through the Washington Trails Association every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the summer, taking on a shift as a Meadow Rover, patrolling the beautiful sub-alpine meadows that John Muir said were “…the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I have ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings,” participating in countless citizen science projects in the park relating to global climate change, or even cleaning the summit camps above 10,000 feet and carrying out backpacks of human waste (yes, there are volunteers that do that; in fact, the person in charge of that program has a doctorate!).  Volunteers have been showing up in greater numbers this year, and are even more excited to be able to give back to the park in any way they can.

This Hoary Marmot spends most of his time volunteering in the park as an ambassador for other marmots.  He will post-up in the most traveled trails of the meadows, eat flowers, and wait to be photographed.
This Hoary Marmot spends most of his time volunteering in the park as an ambassador for other marmots. He will post-up in the most traveled trails of the meadows, eat flowers, and wait to be photographed.

In the short time I’ve been here, I have heard some amazing things from volunteers, and I cannot wait to continue to hear more of their stories.

“I’m out there enjoying the park and capturing images for inclusion in my Mount Rainier National Park calendars. Those publications serve as ambassadorial pieces for the park worldwide. That’s enough recognition for me.” – Ron, Retired since 1996.

“I feel that I am very fortunate to have such a beautiful national wonder in my back yard.” – Rick, Public Safety Volunteer of 5 years.

“It is with great joy that I volunteer at Mount Rainier National Park” – Bev, volunteered over 500 hours in the past 5 years.

“30 years just flies by when you are having fun.” – Dixie, 91 year old volunteer of over 30 years.

I can’t wait to hear more of the stories and reasons why this community volunteers at Mount Rainier, and I am very grateful for how welcoming all of the volunteers I have met have been.

Rain is in the forecast for the next few days.  I can’t imagine how anyone could be happier than the volunteers at Mount Rainier, but I’m sure this little bit of rain will show me.  I’d like to add one more name to the list for this grand rock overlooking me right now: Home.

Ian Harvey, MORA CVA

ian_harvey@partner.nps.gov