Rangers caution still plenty of snow, other hazards on trails

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comJune 24, 2012 

Rangers at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks are reminding people interested in hiking that there is still plenty of snow in the backcountry.

Significant winter snowpack and other early-season hazards can make route finding challenging. Route-finding skills are necessary on most backcountry trails at this time, said an announcement from Mount Rainier.

Rangers recommend carrying a detailed map, along with a compass and/or a GPS unit at all times, and know how to use them.

Among the Mount Rainier trail reports, the Spray Park Trail is 60 percent snow covered, and is completely covered above Spray Falls. Much of the Wonderland Trail is under snow, in the Summerland and Reflection Lakes areas. All the trails at Paradise are still covered by about 115 inches of snow.

You can get Mount Rainier trail updates at nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/trails-and-backcountry-camp-conditions.htm. Olympic trail updates can be found at nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wilderness-trail-conditions.htm.

SHUTTLE START DELAYED

The free shuttle service at Mount Rainier National Park will begin on Friday, a week later than originally scheduled.

“Due to funding, we have chosen to delay the start-up date one week, rather than cut the service at the end of the season when the visitation and ridership is higher,” said Donna Rahier, a park spokeswoman.

The park runs two shuttle routes. One will run from Longmire to Paradise on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The other route will carry visitors from Ashford to Longmire on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Longmire-to-Paradise shuttle runs every 45 minutes on Fridays and every 20-30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays. The shuttle stops at Cougar Rock Campground in both directions. Shuttles also stop at Narada Falls on the way to Paradise and at the Comet Falls Trailhead on the return to Longmire. Service begins at Longmire at 10 a.m., with the last bus returning around 7:30 p.m.

The Ashford-to-Longmire shuttle begins service at 9:15 a.m., with buses leaving every 20 minutes until 10:45 a.m., then every 75 minutes thereafter. The last shuttle leaves Ashford at 5 p.m., with the final bus returning from Longmire by 8:15 p.m. The ride is free, but park entrance fees apply.

The schedules are posted at all shuttle stops and on the park’s website at nps.gov/mora.

DAM-RELATED CLOSURES

There are three closures related to the work to remove the two dams on the lower Elwha River.

Whiskey Bend Road will be closed daily Monday-Friday. The road will close from 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. to allow the safe passage of heavy trucks hauling material from the Glines Canyon Dam area.

Altair Campground will be closed July 2-31. Contractors will use a series of controlled blasts to lower the Glines Canyon Dam in July, necessitating a safety-related closure of the campground.

Olympic Hot Springs Road remains closed to public entry beyond the Altair Campground during removal of the Glines Canyon Dam. Olympic Hot Springs is not accessible from the Elwha.

“Dam removal contractor Barnard Construction will be working steadily throughout the month of July to lower Glines Canyon Dam,” acting superintendent Todd Suess said in a news release. “With the rest of the summer work season restricted by ‘fish windows,’ Barnard needs to maximize their efforts throughout July.”

Controlled blasting will result in more a sudden water release than the hydraulic hammer previously used to remove Glines Canyon Dam.

May visitation

Mount Rainier

May 2012: 62,732

May 2011: 39,096

Difference: 60.5 percent

Year-to-date 2012: 135,284

Year-to-date 2011: 117,608

Difference: 15 percent

The park continued to benefit from good weather, drawing more than 60 percent more visitors in May than it did in the same month last year. Last month’s count was the best May since 2009, when there were 66,161 recreational visits to the park. For the year-to-date count, it took five months but 2012 is finally ahead of 2011. The annual total after April was -7.6 percent compared with the same time frame in 2011.

Olympic

May 2012: 287,399

May 2011: 282,322

Difference: 1.8 percent

Year-to-date 2012: 617,024

Year-to-date 2011: 665,483

Difference: -7.3 percent

Major increases in visitation to the Hoh and Elwha districts helped counter declines at Lake Crescent and Quinault, and allowed May’s total to top the number in May 2011. It also was the best May total since 2009. The improvement also helped cut difference in total number of visits for the year by more than half after April, from -14 percent to -7.3 percent.

Jeffrey P. Mayor, jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.com

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