A few weeks ago, in my Rainy Day Post, I mentioned that I planned on only writing blog posts when it was raining, so that I could enjoy the few sunny days that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. I have lied, because I am writing this on a fair and sunny day, but I have not seen a rain drop since my last post. The temperatures have been increasing and the watertable has been lowering. Maybe it’ll rain again, someday?
July was extremely busy for the Volunteer and Outreach Office at Mount Rainier National Park, and it looks like August may be even busier. Throughout the month of July, we had hundreds of volunteers from all over the world coming out to give back to the park that has given them something within their lives. Luckily, I’ve been able to go out and work alongside most of these groups, while only having a day or two in the office each week. The vast majority of my hours involve hiking out to groups, getting my hands dirty, and talking to the people that truly keep the park running.
Some of the groups that I have spent my time with include:
The SCA Community Crews – Mount Rainier is host to three different community crews of high school aged students that hike deep into the backcountry and spend fifteen days working on trails projects. For each group, I go out with our Outreach Guru and he gives a little presentation on the history of the NPS and the role the SCA has played in that history. In fact, about thirty seconds after I post this, I will be going to their home-base and checking in with them.
The Backcountry Response Team – This is a group of volunteers that travel even deeper into the backcountry to do some much needed work on some of our most popular trails. This is all organized by the Washington Trails Association, which is one of the park’s closest partners, as they host trail projects every weekend throughout the summer as well as two different backcountry response team trips. To illustrate how far into the backcountry this group was, it was a two mile hike (downhill) to the closest water source, followed by a two mile hike (uphill) to bring it back to their spike camp. I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend out with them, and in 24 hours, I went through two gallons of water. That was a lot of hiking, after a long day of trails work above 5,000ft.
Meadow Rovers – Mount Rainier is known for its beautiful subalpine meadows, and this group of volunteers hikes over a mile above sea level, helping to protect the precious resource that we have here. They will answer any questions people may have, help people to find their way on a trail, help to get people back on to trails, and even perform first aid, as they are often the first responders in some of our busiest locations in the park. Volunteers played a key role in aiding a visitor who had a heart attack while hiking above 6,500ft. And it was all in a day’s work for them.
And looking ahead to August, there is no sign of the action slowing down. We are hosting our largest volunteer group to-date when over 150 volunteers from REI come to the park for three days. Just two days before they arrive, we are getting a visit from the National Park Foundation board of directors and they will be exploring some of the most important resources our park has to offer. But just one week before that, we are having over 50 people from Starbucks come for a weekend of work with our trails crew. Quite possibly the one I am most excited for would be the JVIPA, or the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association, which is a group of volunteers from Japan that come here every year for three weeks to volunteer throughout the park. In addition to this, we are having two more SCA Community Crews come out, another Backcountry Response Team, weekly trails projects with the WTA, and hundreds of other opportunities for volunteers to come out and give back to the mountain in any ways they can.
If you don’t hear from me for awhile, it is because one of two things happened:
- One of the many volunteer groups coming through have eaten me.
- It has not rained yet.
And every post from Mount Rainier needs a picture of the mountain, so here is my contribution to that cause.
I am a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador for the National Park Service at Mount Rainier National Park.