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catbirdseat

Revegetation at Sunrise Camp

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No climbing involved, but rather spent a nice weekend helping the rangers plan native plants at what once was a parking lot and what will again become an alpine meadow. All that work planting made me very aware where I was stepping lest it be on a fragile plant. I would cringe every time I would see a hiker stray off the trail.

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This reminds me of a work party removing little trees around Paradise twenty-five years ago. Apparently, the Park Service was at the time worried that the meadows there were being encroached upon by trees so that the tourists' flower-gazing was threatened. Willi Unsoeld was teaching a class on wilderness management ethics, and volunteered his students to go up there and help the rangers remove the offending saplings! While some may note that the area around Paradise visitor center is not wilderness, the project spawned some good ethics debates.

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I remeber reading once that many years ago motor-cross events were held at Paradise?!? Is this true?

I recall in Colorado coming across wonderful alpine meadows that had been desicrated by a motor bike, even five years didn't heal the scars. If they ride motor bikes at Paradise how did they recover the area?

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I believe most of the area just above the parking lot at Sunrise used to be a camprgound.(!) You can still see the loop road and even make out some of the old campsites.

 

Good story Mattp. I hadn't heard Willi was part of "the program" back then. I would have thought that a guy like Unsoeld would have been more of a "visionary"....even back then. I vaugely remember reading about "our rapidly disappearing meadows" back in the 70's. This should be a case study about why we need to take in all the data before we act lest we cause unanticipated results. Much like the fire suppression practiced until....well I guess we're still doin' it. hellno3d.gif

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There is an ugly scar running straight up the hill from the Sunrise parking lot that I wondered about. It is too steep to have been created by hikers. A tow rope for skiing might have done it, but I was told there never was such a thing at Sunset. Motorcycles might well have made such a scar had they been allowed. Anyone know?.

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Fairweather, he was somewhat friendly with some of the rangers up there but I don't think he was trying to be "part of the program." He was just trying to be provocative, taking a bunch of granola head college kids up there to kill trees in a mountain meadow. Kind of like modern day troll fishermen on this website.

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I think you misunderstand my post Matt. By "part of the program", I simply mean acceptance of existing standards/practices. As Unsoeld was considered to be ahead of his time by me and others, I find his acceptance of this practice surprising.

 

Chill out.

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So back to the question of trees filling in the meadows. It seems to be a natural process. Meadows are usually old lakes that have filled in with sediments, are they not? Sometimes they form when glaciers or semi-permanent snowfields retreat.

 

Some meadows are man made. The native Americans used to set fires down by present day Fort Lewis every year to keep the trees from growing in so they would have good hunting. The trees are filling in now and rare flower species are threatened with extinction.

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I thought the prairie burning near Ft Lewis was actually agriculture, to ensure habitat for Camas, whose edible bulb was a dietary mainstay.

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I just love those old Manning/Spring pictures of folks glissading down Heather slopes.

 

In the late 19th century a common practice of adventurers in the subalpine areas of Rainier was to ignite a small grove of alpine fir at dusk. The flames could be seen for miles and the heat lasted all night.

 

I suspect that, even then, these practices were viewed with disgust by more enlightened individuals.

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When I was a kid they were still setting bon fires at Glacier Point in Yosemite and pushing it over the cliff. What did they call that? The rain of fire?

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Fairweather -

I didn't miss your point at all. The fact that Willi Unsoeld signed his students up for a project didn't mean he endorsed it. Every year for approximately ten years in a row he signed his students up for stupid projects, just so that that they would get all fired up and try to make some big controversy over it. He was interested in having his students get all strident and stuff, but in most if not all of these cases I highly doubt he thought there would be any net affect on Park Service policies. This kind of manipulation caused him to be lauded by some and reviled by others. But that is a big sidetrack in this discussion. Most folks here would probably support your position (if that is your position) that the Park Service has been less than enlightened in their management of the Park. I'm chill.

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I found an old news article about Paradise and some of the things that were done. I guess they did do a motorcycle race up the hills of Paradise.

Paul Sceva, 1890 - 1979

Entrepreneur’s grand ideas for the park never made it big

By Rob Carson, The News Tribune

Paul Sceva tried everything he could think of to get people to spend money at Mount Rainier National Park. For 46 years, Sceva ran the tourist facilities at Rainier, and he spent most of that time frustrated. The tourist season was too short, and there weren’t enough activities to keep people occupied longer than a few hours. Park development policies were too restrictive. The cost of labor was outrageous, and the winter weather laid waste to buildings. Worst of all, most of the tourists were locals who lived no more than a couple of hours away and rarely stayed overnight or ate at the restaurants. Behind their backs, Sceva and his staff members called the locals “toilet customers,” because that was the only park concession many of them used. But all this didn’t stop Sceva from trying. He was a determined and creative pitchman who struggled to boost business from the day he started with the Rainier National Park Co. in 1923 until the company finally gave up the enterprise as a lost cause in 1969. Some of the enticements Sceva cooked up sound preposterous in retrospect: a golf course at Sunrise, a motorcycle hill climb on fragile alpine slopes at Paradise , horse-drawn sleigh rides, downhill ski races and dude ranches. The Rainier National Park Co. was formed by Seattle and Tacoma businessmen in 1916, thinking they could use their exclusive contract to develop recreational concessions to turn Rainier into a profitable international tourist mecca. They were after tourists who didn’t mind spending money: those who would pay top dollar to stay in comfortable beds and eat meals off china on the table and ride to the top of the mountain on enclosed tramways. That approach had worked in the days of railroads. But the introduction of the automobile and constructions of roads to the park in the 1910s changed everything. Private cars made the park accessible to the thrifty middle class, who tended to bring their own sandwiches and sleep in tents. As the number of cars on the road grew, the Rainier National Park Co.’s revenues shrank, from $6.45 per visitor in 1920 to 41 cents in 1948. Sceva, with the backing of the state tourism industry, did his utmost to get federal money for a year-round hotel at the park, but it was a losing battle. In 1972, when it became clear that the federal government was not going to subsidize an all-weather hotel, Sceva complained that the feds were saving the parks for “long-haired, bird watching conservationists.” “I’m not an extremist, “ Sceva said. “I don’t think there should be merry-go-rounds in the park. However, I think there should be dancing on Saturday night.”

Sceva died in Tacoma on Dec. 21, 1979.

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Alpinefox's picture above is not of the Firefall from Glacier Point. It is Horsetail falls on El Cap at sunset.

 

I've never seen a photo of the firefall, only artistic renderings...

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Speaking of devegetation of alpine meadows: there are former meadows in the high Sierra where sheep were allowed to denude the grasses for only a few seasons in the late 1800's, that are still dust bowls over 100 years later.

 

I haven't seen too many egregious off-trail violations at Paradise, though it's usually snowy when I'm there. A couple of years ago at Hurricane Ridge I witnessed several tourist groups trampling the heather, walking past a nearly billboard sized warning sign before grouping together to pose for a picture. But to be fair, I don't think they could read English. The signs should probably be in every language, like the red tide warnings at the shore.

Speaking of the old glissading photos:

5a1a5599118d0_250021-1901glissaders.jpg.5e18138982ffef00021efd16f709531b.jpg

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Norman_Clyde said:

Speaking of devegetation of alpine meadows: there are former meadows in the high Sierra where sheep were allowed to denude the grasses for only a few seasons in the late 1800's, that are still dust bowls over 100 years later.

A tangential relationship, but... the Dolly Sods wilderness in West Virginia, which has a nice alpine meadows(and average 150+ inches of snow a year), was once a climax Spruce Forest. Then it was logged, and the accumulated humus burnt - leaving a nice wasteland. Ugh! It's up there with the golf course that used to be at the Awhnee in Yosemite.

 

 

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On the note of meadows, nothing pissed me off more this year than seeing 5 shitheads playing frisbee in spider meadows on the newly snow free meadow land. God I wanted to beat their asses.

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