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Friday, August 27, 2010

Flashback to '08's AmAlps release announcement - updated!

We just re-released our original American Alps Project announcement, updated for the current study areas. Check it out at:

It's a nice, succinct summary of who we are and the worthy landscapes we seek to protect. Let us know what you think! Pass this link along to anyone who asks you about AmAlps!

Monday, August 23, 2010

North Cascades Challenge hike, Part I, photos now online!

Our trans-Cascade hike, the 2010 "North Cascades Challenge" took 2 groups of hikers from the West Fork Methow trailhead all the way to the Cascade Pass Trailhead over the course of 2 weeks! Photos are just in from Part One! The weather and trail conditions were less than ideal but the scenery was pretty darn good nonetheless!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taking Joe Home, Part II

Margaret Miller took her husband Joe’s remains to Cascade Pass on August 14th, 2010. Why would I share this with all of you? Who are the Miller’s and why should any of you or all of you care? Read on…

It is difficult for me to put in words how honored and humbled I am to have been present for Joe’s funeral, and a couple years later, his final return to Cascade Pass. I wish to thank the Buchanan family—Kitty is Margaret and Joe’s god-daughter, and together with her husband Larry and two sons, care for Margaret in her advancing years—Margaret is 88. I also wish to thank Charles Ehlert.

I wrote the below shortly after returning from Tahoma National Cemetary in March, 2008. What I didn’t write at that time was a deliberate omission about some of Joe’s remains. You see, not all of Joe is interred at Tahoma. Joe’s wife Margaret had in mind one final mission for Joe—to lay him to rest at Cascade Pass…

March 28, 2008
Typically I wouldn't write about a funeral, but this is something that must be shared. I went to Tahoma National Cemetary today to pay respects to a true American hero: Joseph W. Miller. Joe served our country in the 1st Battalion of the 20th Engineering Combat Regiment--a combat engineering battalion that first landed at Casablanca and directly engaged Rommel at Kasserine Pass in North Africa. Many of Joe's mates died clearing mines and building the road that enabled the US and Brits to acheive victory there. Then the 20th hit Yellow Beach closely E of Licata on Sicily. Joe helped Patton reach Messina before Montgomery. Then it was on to Omaha Beach, where a landing craft directly in front of Joe's was hit by an 88 and he watched as his comrades disintegrated in front of him. Joe's unit cut through tank traps and mines, and secured one of THE roads that allowed so many Brits, Canadians and US to escape the meatgrinder of those beachheads. Joe and his mates literally built the podium on which the generals stood to celebrate the liberation of Paris. Joe secured the road at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. Joe's was the first unit to enter Leipzig, and later shook hands with Russians as the forces linked in Czechland.

But Joe would be quick to tell you the greatest victory of his life was helping create North Cascades National Park, and saving Big Beaver Valley from flooding/dams and chainsaws. You see, the reason I was there to pay respects to Joseph W. Miller is that above all he believed preserving our glorious wildlands was his primary mission--he was what some would denigrate as a tree-hugger. Joe was on the board of the North Cascades Conservation Council. Joe and his lovely wife Margaret worked for years volunteering with the National Park to catalog as many lifeforms and ecosystems as possible. They stood before Congress to testify in defense of, and support for the North Cascades, and were key in securing protected status as Wilderness and National Park.
Margaret and Joe spent countless hours replanting damaged meadows, notably at Cascade Pass, and fighting extractive industries hell-bent on making a buck at the expense of our national heritage.
Talk about Homeland Security!
The ceremony was carried out by a full US Army Color Guard, right down to three veterans firing M1 rifles in salute, and another veteran playing taps on a bugle. Young soldiers folded the flag and presented it to Margaret with solemn precision. Fittingly, on this March 28th, it was snowing heavily, turning those acres of graves a pristine white. It couldn't snow hard enough to conceal the tears running down my cheeks.
A true American hero, a son of the United States we all owe a debt to, a giant of a man, has passed. Thankfully, the legacy of clean water, sustainable habitat, and an intact ecosystem will carry on for millenia to come.

This was read at Joe's service, it is reminiscient of a Native American burial rite:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not here. I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle Autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not here...I did not die.

August 14, 2010
Margaret Miller was intent, even adamant that she would carry Joe home—to lay him to rest at Cascade Pass. The only problem: even with the long, high road in to the trailhead, the path to Cascade Pass is about four steep, rocky miles; and Margaret is 88 years old and essentially blind. So the Buchanans (Kitty, Larry, son Ross) rigged up a dual-pole system,
and together with head NPS ranger Kelly Bush, a number of NCCC board members and others, helped Margaret embark upon the hike. I should mention that many board members of the NCCC were there to celebrate the event (as well as an American Alps Legacy Project hike) and carry dozens of native plants to Cascade Pass as part of a re-vegetation program first created by the Millers decades ago. In fact, the National Park Service greenhouse in Mablemount is named in honor of Margaret and Joe! Talk about true patriots and National Heroes!!
Polly Dyer was on hand too—so we had TWO pioneers of conservation in the United States: a 90 year old and an 88 year old ready to tackle Cascade Pass—to visit the National Park they created.
Truth be told I was uncomfortable with Margaret and Polly hiking, but they would not be denied! Polly didn’t quite make the pass, she refused any help or escort. As she noted on the trail—“I’m not quite as fast a hiker as I used to be, but then again you see how fast you are when you’re 90.” Heck, I’ll be lucky to make 90…
Margaret made it to Cascade Pass because of the support of her loving family. God bless and
keep the Buchanans!
I couldn’t believe it. Here was a woman, THE woman that literally created the National Park for ALL citizens of the United States of America, laying to rest her husband, a man who helped allow this great nation to prevail over the forces of corruption perhaps more than ANY single man in US history (and I’m not just talking about WWII battlefields).
The Buchanans had a hard time putting words to the impromptu ceremony. We had all been so focused on getting Margaret up there (including Margaret) that when the time came, it was a bit of a shock. I barely choked out a few words through my tears “Thank God Joe wasn’t laid to rest in Europe, and that he’s here on home soil…”
Margaret scattered Joe’s ashes with the high peaks and glaciers of the North Cascades—timeless sentinels overlooking millions of fortunate people, (most of whom) unwittingly depend on heroes to protect and keep our very way of life.

Getting Margaret down was no easy deal. Larry rigged up a Cleopatra-esque chair/sling arrangement that we perfected as we worked our way down. This allowed us to carry Margaret at a reasonable pace. It would getting dark, and we needed to make better time…
Then the sling broke. Margaret was up to the task, and continued hiking the last couple of miles.
So glad Phil Fenner showed up when he did, cheerfully coming off of Sahale Arm. We got down to the trailhead just as darkness fell. Wow.

Mark these words: thank God Joe wasn’t buried in some European field or beach. He still had so much more to give to our country, and give he did. The legacy of Margaret and Joe Miller is significant and worthy of the great landscape that is OUR NORTH CASCADES.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Park Creek Pass named one of this year's "Endangered Trails" by WTA

Washington Trails Association has named the Park Creek Pass trail in North Cascades National Park an "Endangered Trail" for 2010 due to bridge damage.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Irate Birdwatcher to show at Port Townsend Film Festival

Crest Pictures is proud to announce The Irate Birdwatcher (about Harvey Manning of N3C) has been accepted into the Port Townsend Film Festival to be held on Sept 24-26, 2010. Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

N3C Member a Conservation Photo Award Winner!

N3C member-photographer Ethan Welty won an award in Art Wolfe's International Conservation Photography Awards! Read the story in the Seattle Times, and join us in congratulating Ethan, and see more of his North Cascades images at!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Foothills Gazette article on American Alps

The Foothills Gazette published an article on the American Alps Legacy Project recently!

Timelapse movie of Mt. Baker glacier

The Glacier Documentary folks have released a short sample of their timelapse photography from Mt. Baker!

Glacier Documentary Time Lapse Preview from Denny Trimble on Vimeo.

Mountaineers hosts "Outdoors Fest"

Check out the Mountaineers' website for info on their big Outdoors Fest coming up 9/18. Conrad Anker is the special guest!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Margaret made it!

Just a quick update for blog fans who've been on the edge of their seats [... full story and more picstures to follow...]

Margaret Miller, octegenarian heroine of meadow-rehabilitation at Cascade Pass, made it there yesterday with the help of many friends and lots of patience!
The crew also carried more plants up, planted and watered them, as part of carrying-on the legacy she and her late husband Joe started back in the 60s. Here's to you, Margaret!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Outdoor Research to host AmAlps presentation 8.26

Outdoor Research ("O.R.") a manufacturer of high quality outdoor equipment, is hosting an American Alps presentation at their Seattle location in the SODO district of Seattle (2203 1st Avenue South, near Starbucks HQ) on August 26th at 7pm. Snacks and drinks are provided, and a suggested donation of $5 is requested. Here's a sneak preview of the dramatic poster they designed for the event. Click the image for a larger version!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Millers' Revegetation "Bible" from 1977 now online

Who notices that under the Seattle City Light powerlines up the Skagit River valley in the North Cascades you'll see low-growing native plants, not the usual herbicided wastelands under most power lines...? Who to thank? N3C's Joe and Margaret Miller, being celebrated this Saturday at Cascade Pass!

Joe and Margaret's revegetation "Bible" from 1977 is now online, too!

From the introduction:
In the past ten years more and more of us have become increasingly aware of the impact of people on the backcountry of our wilderness areas and parks. This effect is certainly evident in the North Cascades, especially in the choice but scarce alpine and subalpine meadows. In 1970 we were asked to begin a revegetation project on Cascade Pass in the North Cascades National park. In the past this area had been heavily visited and used for camping by both backpackers and horse parties. Its beaten down meadows full of impacted trails, barren campsites, eroded gullies and assorted horrors stimulated us to study and conduct trials of revegetation methods.
Read more of their original report HERE. We're celebrating the legacy of Joe and Margaret Miller this Saturday morning at 10am at Cascade Pass! Margaret herself will be there to help us with our annual N3C "Plant Carry!"

Report from Easton Glacier

Latest field report from the Glacier Climate Project just in! (See previous posts for background)
As we climbed higher, the Black Buttes appeared from the clouds. Hanging below was the strikingly gnarled Deming glacier. Deming is the main water source for the town of Bellingham, but it’s an impassable steep mass of cracking blue ice. As such, surrogate measurements from the Easton are used in order to assess the town’s water supply, underscoring the importance of our work that day.
More at  including a Topo map...

N3C's Jim Davis presents at NCI's “Hikes, Camera, Action!” Film Festival 9/3-5

Our friends at the North Cascades Institute are hosting the "Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival" at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake, Sept 3-5. Here's a short summary of the events. N3C's Executive Director Jim Davis will present our American Alps Legacy Project at the festival on Saturday evening! Here's more about the festival, from NCI...

“Hikes, Camera, Action!” brings together the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival and a weekend chock full of fun in the North Cascades September 3-5 at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake. Information and registration at
The centerpiece of the weekend is the nationally touring film festival showing several environmentally-themed movies on Friday and Saturday nights alongside presentations from local conservation groups. The movies explore issues including Northwest forests, climate change, sustainable agriculture, land preservation in the Flathead River watershed and wise land use planning. During the day, North Cascades Institute offers an array of outdoor activities, including a guided hike to Cutthroat Pass, paddling canoes on Diablo Lake and going on a Skagit Valley farm tour with a Learning Center chef.
Your weekend ticket also includes two nights in our guest lodges, delicious meals made from local and organic foods, access to Learning Center amenities, and naturalist-led learning adventures. A $20 commuter pass, good for dinner and a night of films, is also available for local residents and park visitors. 
Friday night
Ascending the Giants
Join tree lovers and climbers Brian and Will as they attempt to find Oregon’s largest Sitka Spruce trees. Through their eyes, from both ground and canopy views, we discover the breathtaking beauty of these beautiful giants.
Going beyond charts and numbers, this new film humanizes the debate on climate change by exploring the delicate balance of winter and the intrinsic value of snow to people across generations and cultures.
A portrait of the Hudson Valley's agricultural beauty and potential, through the lens of a local non-profit that helps communities to save farming.
Division Street
Roads and cars have fragmented wild landscapes, ushered in urban sprawl and challenged some of the bedrock values we once took for granted. But as the transportation crisis spirals out of control, a new generation of ecologists, engineers, city planners, and everyday citizens are transforming the future of the American road. Follow the filmmaker as he tours North America, highlighting sustainable road projects and wildlife corridors for the 21st century.
Conservation partners: Friends of the Forest and the Methow Conservancy
The Secret Life of Paper
Have you ever considered what impacts paper products have on the environment, from beginning to end? The Secret Life Series is a collection of videos that highlight the environmental impacts of everyday products we all use.
Flathead Wild
As a result of mountaintop mining and drilling proposals, Montana’s Flathead River is one of North America’s most endangered. Flathead Wild follows the International League of Conservation Photographers as they descend on the Flathead Valley with local conservation groups and work to get the perfect, iconic image of this amazing place.
Finding Farley
When writer Karsten Heuer and filmmaker Leanne Allison, along with their son Zev and dog Willow, set out to retrace the literary footsteps of one of Canada’s most famous writers, they meant it literally. Their 5000 km trip -- trekking, sailing, portaging and paddling from the prairies to the Maritimes -- rediscovers the people and places that inspired Farley Mowat’s most acclaimed books.
Conservation partners: North Cascades Conservation Council and The Nature Conservancy
Information and registration at We hope you’ll join us for this exciting weekend of independent films, local food, organic beer, Cascadian explorations and community.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Art Kruckeberg, botanist, on Joe and Margaret Miller's habitat restoration at Cascade Pass

Art Kruckeberg
Joe and Margaret Miller, in so many ways
gave full devotion to glorifying and fostering
the preservation of the wild world of
our region’s native flora. Self-taught was
their expert knowledge of our plant world.
When Ross Dam was threatened to be
raised, to flood pristine old-growth cedar in
Big Beaver Valley, they mounted a floristic
survey of the drainage. Their meticulous
inventory of the area destined to be flooded
was a key and decisive contribution to stop
that travesty. Their masterful account of
the Valley’s biota has become a paradigm of
gathering evidence in the wild to preserve a
great piece of nature.
The Millers also pioneered a new kind of
preservation in the montane West. Cascade
Pass was being loved to death, its flora being
trampled to near extinction. The Millers
convinced the Park Service that restoration
of the Pass area could be done by propagating
starts of local native species for reintroduction
to the disturbed sites. They established
a plant nursery near Newhalem and
packed the propagules back to the Pass for
planting. This successful venture now has
been repeated all over the montane West.
The Millers started habitat restoration. 
Joe and Margaret were early active members
of the Washington Native Plant Society
(WNPS). Joe was president early on. The
Millers also initiated an annual plant sale
for WNPS members at their Bellevue home.
This pioneering effort continues, now at the
Bellevue Botanic Garden, an institution also
fostered by the Millers.
Although Joe is no longer with us, we
thank him, as well as Margaret, for their
deep devotion to wilderness, their works its
living evidence.
Art Kruckeberg
in The Wild Cascades, Spring 2007 (read the full issue at

Join us this Saturday morning at Cascade Pass for the annual "plant carry" with Margaret Miller!

Meet us at Cascade Pass on Saturday morning!

The Cascade Pass event is coming up this Saturday morning - so just a reminder, some living legends of conservation will be there as part of a dual-purpose event, to re-enact the famous annual "Plant Carry" that N3C's Joe and Margaret Miller devised to restore the native flora of the Cascade Pass area, AND... to greet the contingent of hikers coming over the Pass as part of our North Cascades Challenge trans-Cascade hike event! See our PREVIOUS POST about the Plant Carry's history, and SEE YOU THERE!

You are invited to attend
a Plant Carry in the grand tradition of meadow restoration
the grand finale of the North Cascades Challenge
this Saturday, August 14th at 10am
Cascade Pass
North Cascades National Park

RSVP to: n c c i n f o @ n o r t h c a s c a d e s . o r g

View Larger Map

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mountaineers announce North Cascades book project

Take a look at this recent blog post by The Mountaineers about their new North Cascades book project, at:

N3C urges you to donate to this very worthy cause! It could make all the difference when the time comes to reach our elected officials, who will be the ones to sign any legislation expanding North Cascades National Park, of course!
Beautiful coffee table photographic books published by Mountaineers Books have been held up on the Senate floor, hand delivered to U.S. Presidents during legislative debates, and played an integral role in galvanizing people to become engaged in public policy debates.
It's important to understand the economic reality behind this sort of project, as summarized in their post:
While gorgeous works of art and important advocacy tools books like these are rarely money makers. With this in mind The Mountaineers is leading a donation drive to raise money to produce this book on the North Cascades. Contributions to this campaign help us doubly to reach our goal since every dollar donated up to $25,000 is generously matched by The Mountaineers. Please make checks out to Braided River- and be sure to put North Cascades Advocacy Book in the memo of your check. Publication will be in 2011 or 2012.

Donate now at

New N3C Photo Gallery released

A new photo gallery page has been released on the N3C website, featuring photos by four of our member-photographers! Check it out for some visual inspiration! (Click the link at the top of the page to open the web gallery.)

The gallery will be growing as we add more photos, so check back now and then!

Any members who would like to contribute images, please email:

p f i t e c h @ s e a n e t . c o m  (remove the spaces)

Or.... if you're a photographer (amateurs and pros are welcome) who agrees with our conservation goals, JOIN US and submit some of your photos.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Glacier Documentary: Shooting on Ice: Days 1-3

Posted: 07 Aug 2010 05:00 PM PDT

After recuperating from the first leg of the trip, director of photography Max  McSimov took time to reflect on the unforseen trials and rewards of shooting on ice…

You don’t realize until you come down from the mountain.  The work. The challenges.  The weight.

You find out that shooting expert glaciologists on a massive slab of rock and ice is… a whole hell of a lot of fun. As Mauri and our crew traversed back and forth across the glacier, I was just happy to be there to take the whole experience in.  It was my first time out on a real glacier, a far cry from the piles of plowed and frozen-over snow studding the streets of my midwestern winters.

We filmed a good deal the first day, running around the snow trying to find the best shots of Mauri and his team as they took measurements of the shrinking ice that lay below. We stopped and had lunch on a fallen rock overlooked on all sides by waterfalls pouring off the mountain above.  We talked shop, finished our lunch, and went back to work. We continued shooting for a couple of more hours and then started our steep descent back to base camp on the shore of Blanca Lake.

All in all, it was an amazing day.

And we only had one gear casualty.

I lost one of the feet from my tripod. It slid down the stream that cut through the ice cave. No second chances. It was a goner. But once we arrived back at the trailhead, it was my feet that became the issue.  Nothing a little dinner, bourbon, and moleskin couldn’t handle.

First leg done.  Columbia Glacier captured.  Only six more to go.
Posted: 07 Aug 2010 02:58 PM PDT

Our first foray onto the Columbia Glacier, we shot with the research team all day and quickly discovered that shooting on a glacier was going to be a unique and interesting challenge. After coming off the glacier, we started an interview with Mauri and Tom Hammond [of NCCC and American Alps], but within 15 minutes the rain came to shut us down. I hope the weather doesn’t turn out to be a challenge. We have enough to worry about as is.

It rained us to sleep that night, but somehow the mice didn’t mind and toyed with us all night.  I woke at 3:00 am and found clear skies. Perfect for shooting time lapse of the stars circling over the glacier.  It was the first real peace I had on the trip. It eased my mind to lay out under the stars by the camera that clicked away like a slow metrome.

The next day we opted not to go up the glacier with Mauri, but instead explored the ice caves and meadows while capturing more time lapse photography. We soon learned that was a very good decision because the hike back to the trailhead turned out to be a long, foot pounding grind. By the time the day was done, our feet were hamburger. Any more might have been too much.
Once back in Gold Bar, where we would spend the night, we were quick to find the best beer and burgers in town. I believe the beer in the Stevens Pass Cafe and Lounge may be the coldest in the state - and I have three more who’ll back up my theory.

With a full belly, sore feet and a beer in hand, we went to work off-loading the footage onto harddrives, recharging batteries, dividing up food, fixing gear, and other tasks.
I believe we all had our first good night’s sleep of the trip.

Now we’re off to Sedro Wooley. There we will stash some of our gear at a hotel and head up to Mt. Baker.  I am looking forward to this leg. Our climbing photographer, Steph Abegg, will be joining us. For me, it will be great to get back on Mt. Baker - a huge volcano with many sprawling glaciers and striking vistas.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

North Cascades Glacier Climate Project--Columbia Glacier 2010

North Cascades Glacier Climate Project 2010
Columbia Glacier August 2-5

“Pump Up the Volume”
Please understand that on this 27th field season of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project, I was only along for the Columbia Glacier. Because I am missing the vast majority of the season (I participated in 1 of 9 glaciers, and 4 out of 16 days) I do not feel I should be the reporter for the 2010 field season. Instead, I’ll provide my own narrative of the Columbia Glacier, and leave the rest of the field season report to Ben Pelto.
2010 marked my seventh consecutive year on the Columbia Glacier as a member of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. Regulars this season are Mauri Pelto, PI and Director; Ben Pelto, Field Assistant, going in to third year of a Geology and Environmental Science double-degree at Alfred University; Jill Pelto, Field Assistant, going in to her senior year of high school; Ben Kane, Field Assistant, going in to graduate school in Geology at Western Washington University.
This time we’d be joined by Jonathan Reeve, a professional geologist and mountain/glacier man, and a film crew of four led by husband and wife team Christina and Cory Kelley (cameramen Chris and Max). From all appearances with the equipment the film crew toted up and on to the Columbia, it should be a fantastic film and I very much look forward to seeing it and sharing it! They are posting updates right now—please see:

The official North Cascades Glacier Climate page (no updates during field season):

For full photo gallery with captions, please email me at:
As usual, I went in about 12 hours ahead of the team—the nice summer weather we’ve been having (a cool, wet spring and early summer have given way to a month of fine weather, with highs in the mid-70s to low-80s F for all of July) was reason enough to want to spend an “extra” evening at the base camp at the head of Blanca Lake. Of course the weather is always an issue with visits to the North Cascades and this trip would be no exception. The forecast called for “a chance of T-storms all week in the afternoon, especially North Cascades”, a forecast that would prove generally correct—if one considers 4PM-9AM to be afternoon…
The hike in was delightful, especially compared to last year’s blast-furnace temps of 100+ F. I hiked in the “heat of the day”, and while I worked up quite a sweat, it was a nice hike, and camp was made without too much distress. The bugs weren’t even that bad. I set up camp in the usual spot, and noticed the small creek that has been flowing through/past camp the last couple of years was totally dry. Interesting to note the return of monkey flower and heather to the dry channel so quickly after the water has shifted back to the main creek draining the glacier. Evening was spent enjoying the symphony of a dozen waterfalls roaring off Kyes and Columbia peaks.
The team arrived Tuesday morning and after a quick camp deploy, we headed up to the Columbia Glacier. After a quick visit through a nearly collapsed snowcave (snowcave would
collapse the next day!)

we ascended the flowery 15th century moraine to the glacier terminus. The lakes that appeared a couple of years ago were melted out more than half-way—these new lakes created/revealed by the headlong recession of the Columbia are about the area of two football fields...

We kept a wary eye on the building convection around us as we completed the first round of mass-balance measurements and stream flow evaluations. The film crew got some great shots, and we visited an incredible opening in the glacier along the lower eastern margin. Surface stream flows cut deeply in to the glacier—some streams a meter or more. Once again it was mixed emotions: such a powerful and compelling landscape, with jagged peaks and fangs rising thousands of feet above the expanse of snow covered glacier, blue ice peeking through in far too many places for this glacier to survive…
And so many waterfalls. Many more falls than the dozen visible from camp are revealed as one ascends the glacier, literally surrounded on all sides by cascading water high and low, big and little. Storm clouds began to block the sun as we headed back to camp, and we arrived just as a cell moved over and dumped rain on us. Some of the droplets in that first cell were quite large—not hail, but big blobs of water. Thunder began to rumble far and near, and then nearer. Just after dinner a huge black and gray cloud roared through and over the Monte Cristo peaks. It began to rain hard. Really hard, with super huge droplets of rain. In all of my years, I have never seen such large rain drops in the Pacific Northwest (or really, anywhere, including Hawaii and Florida). 10 of these drops would saturate clothing, and it was coming down so hard the air was buzzing. Everyone bailed in to respective tents to ride out the storm. The wind picked to the point Ben and I had to secure the door and sides of the tent—water was streaming in at weak points in the tent (zippers and stays)—we tried to keep a slit open in the door to watch the excitement, and excitement there was! A brilliant bolt of lightning struck the summit area of Monte Cristo Peak as the heart of this super cell rotated and churned over the Columbia Glacier, the high peaks directing the storm straight over camp…
30 minutes it lasted (over camp)—an eternity for those of us trying to protect our little patch of dry clothes and sleeping bags. We were successful, mostly, and as soon as the rain abated, we jumped outside. The dozen waterfalls streaming off the high peaks had become 16 or more, and the volume was turned up. Way up. Then one of the most amazing sights I’ve been fortunate to experience happened. We had a flash flood appear in the dry channel about 10 minutes after the cell moved to the S. One minute Ben and I were joking about surviving without an ark, then we both heard the sound of flowing water more proximate that it had been, and then the stream was flowing at our feet! Some water was absorbed by the sandy ground, but not enough to keep the stream from reaching all the way to the lake—at basically a walking pace. Then it got bigger, wider, faster and deeper—the very essence of VOLUME. Once again the lesson of living was in evidence: I have been to this place seven years in a row, and Mauri has been here 27 years in a row and neither of us has seen such an event. There are always new things to see and experience, even in a place seemingly so familiar. We literally lived life on the alluvial fan, braided channels forming and disappearing in “human-time”. Ahhh.

Lightning continued to flicker, and thunder continued to rumble near and far throughout much of the night...

The film crew did not show up for the second day of research—understandable considering the weather and effort, but unfortunate since the day was sunny and lovely, and we made it all the way to Monte Cristo Pass.

But much like the previous day, convection was building in the early afternoon and we beat feet off the high country. This time we didn’t make it back to camp before the rains hit. Within 10 minutes of being caught in Wednesday’s first shower, I was soaked to the bone. Harvey Manning once wrote about not being afraid to hike/camp in rain, and that once one is saturated, “there is no more pain to being in the rain.” I suppose he’s right: once one has hypothermia, there is no pain as one moves to permanent slumber...
Sorry Harvey, but I prefer to enjoy the mountains without so much liquid sunshine! J Again the drops were so huge that Mauri noted he could visually distinguish individual raindrops from about 100 meters (and he wasn’t exaggerating)!

Wednesday night would prove to be more settled than Tuesday, and we enjoyed fine dining and story- telling until dark. But Thursday morning dawned with showers forcing us to do a hasty retreat around the lake and back to the trailhead. Ug—so wet! We managed to get all measurements in and data collected.

Columbia Glacier mass balance: minus .9 meters.

[reminder: Columbia Glacier is virtually flat. As such the “accumulation zone” is below the trimline. That is, there is no accumulation zone—even the top of the glacier will lose nearly a meter of thickness this year. This is known as “disequilbrium”]

The team is on Kulshan as I type this—and apparently the film crew is there too! I envy them all, and am so thankful that Mauri shared the project with me, if only for one glacier. Even more I am thankful for the desire and ability to go see planetary science in action.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cascade Pass "Plant Carry" next weekend is the legacy of a "biological milestone"

Patrick Goldsworthy, board chairman and elder statesman of N3C, wrote in the Spring '07 issue of The Wild Cascades:
Joe and Margaret Miller devoted untold energy and time to bringing back the vegetative health of damaged alpine regions of the North Cascades. Their eventual successful revegetation of Cascade Pass was a biological milestone that has served to promote the program throughout damaged regions of the national parks and national forests of the Cascades.

Joe passed away in '07. Margaret will be among the N3C folks carrying native plants to Cascade Pass next Saturday to continue the legacy! JOIN US! RSVP to:

For twenty-five years we worked on a plan

To restore wild country from the impact of man.

Though aging body keeps me now from the wilderness scene,

I visit these places still on memory’s screen.

My legacy is that I restored wild lands

With years of work with mind and hands.

— Joseph W. (Joe) Miller
Christmas card, 2005

What's the threat, you ask? Try "small hydro..."

Watch out, North Cascades, here comes "death by a thousand little dams!"
International Water Power and Dam Construction News
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) has introduced the Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act (H.R. 5922), a bill designed to encourage and promote efforts to produce more hydropower from smaller sources.

The bill - introduced during a Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee hearing on hydropower- would exempt any conduit-type hydropower project generating less than one and a half megawatt from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction. It would also require the Bureau of Reclamation to examine its facilities for more conduit generation opportunities using existing funding.

"One-size-fits-all federal regulations make small scale hydropower projects throughout the country financially prohibitive by imposing unnecessary and outdated rules. My bill would help stimulate the economy of rural America, empower local irrigation districts to generate revenue, and decrease reliance on fossil fuels - all at no cost to the taxpayer," Smith said.

News of Smith’s bill comes just a few weeks after US Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the production of hydroelectricity in the country – the Hydropower Improvement Act and the Hydropower Renewable Energy Development Act.

Related Articles: US Senator introduces bills to boost hydro generation 

Wolves re-listed in Idaho and Montana

Wolves are an absolutely essential top predator in the western ecosystem. And they're safe again in the Northern Tier!

N3C's Jim Davis says, "Conservation groups won their law suit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The court found that USFWS  could not delist wolves in Montana and Idaho (but leave them listed in Wyoming) when the recovering population spanned all three states. Wolves are now back under Endangered Species Act protection. The eastern portions of WA and OR are considered part of the Rocky Mountain wolf population."

You'll find lots of news reports on the web about this development. For example:

For background on N3C's long-term efforts at wolf recovery, see the white paper on our website:

New American Alps brochures released

Jim just dropped-off a big stack of the new AmAlps brochures yesterday! They're quite nice, with the new map and some new photos and text. If anybody out there would like some copies, I have plenty and would be happy to mail you some! Just email me at:

p f i t e c h @ s e a n e t . c o m  (removing the spaces).


Glacier Project update from film crew - Trip Report #1 – Part 1

Posted: 05 Aug 2010 08:42 PM PDT
The team gathered early Monday morning – one camera short. They were expecting a second Canon 7D Camera to arrive by mail the week before, but the package still hadn’t arrived by the day they were scheduled to leave. Luckily, Max tracked it all the way to the UPS truck it was traveling on and disaster was averted.
The team packed into Christina’s Subaru with four people plus their film, climbing, and camping gear. Truly testing the limits of “what’s inside.” After a two-hour drive, they arrived at the Blanca Lake trailhead and started the first leg of their journey with glaciologist Mauri Pelto on the Columbia Glacier. Here’s how it went in Cory‘s words:
The hike in to Blanca is steep but lovely. Shaded with large old mossy pines. We were certainly feeling the weight of our packs on this first climb, but we were carried by high excitement and good spirits. After 3.5 miles (they felt more like 6), we got our first views of gorgeous, milky blue Blanca Lake and the Columbia glacier that feeds it.
The next morning, we woke early to hike around to the top of the lake and meet up with Mauri. We chose to keep our campsite at the bottom of the lake because the hike around would’ve been too challenging given the size of our packs. The decision was probably a good one, but after a couple days of extra effort in the morning and evening… we had to wonder. Mauri likes to call the hike from camp to glacier the “commute.” Ours was a bushwack and scramble with great views of water and rugged peaks. His was a rocky climb that took almost an hour.
On the way up, we passed through our first ice cave and I was impressed at how much snow and ice survive through the hot summer days. I was struck by the fact that all of the water melting from these high snow fields and glaciers are what keep the streams and rivers full in the late summer. Without them, the Pacific Northwest would be a very different place…

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A great example of "re-wilding" at Perry Creek

It was a classic example -- a Cascade valley that used to have a trail from the bottom up, but then a logging operation built a road in a couple of miles so the logging road became the new access road to the (new) trailhead. This scenario was played-out many many times over the years, shortening trails and creating new motorized routes into what were once wild areas.

The USFS Verlot Ranger District has corrected one such situation as best they could. The Perry Creek Trail to Mt. Forgotten Meadows now starts a full mile further down the valley than it has since the logging road was punched up Perry Creek's mouth back in the 50s.

Click HERE for a map of the area.

It's an elegant solution -- a new trailhead parking lot had been built a mile up the Mountain Loop Highway for the Mt. Dickerman Trail a few years ago. If you could follow the 2000 ft. contour from there back down the main valley, you'd intersect the Perry Creek Road just a hundred yards or so from the trailhead. So the road was blocked with huge boulders, the parking area was increased and a new trail was built through some beautiful old forest in the Stillaguamish River valley to connect to the old trail. This has several benefits to the area and the users:
  • No more motor noise or wheel dust on the Perry Creek Road. The road will gradually green-over.
  • Savings of taxpayer money - no more maintenance on the road.
  • The additional mile added to the trail means hikers get a more realistic experience of how long it takes to hike up into the high country. The original deep forest walk segment has been restored.
  • Hikers looking for an easy stroll on almost level trail through old forest have a new place to go (the first mile). This should help reduce some of the load on the nearby Ice Caves Trail.
True, the new trail does create some disturbance in the area it passes-through. But overall, the benefits outweigh this.

So if you're looking for a fun full-day or overnight trip, or a short forest stroll, try the "newly re-wilded" Perry Creek Trail. And think how this can be an example of re-wilding in other Cascade valleys.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Plant carry" to Cascade Pass on Saturday Aug. 14th!

All interested in joining us at this spectacular location, and lending a hand to carry some native plants up to help restore the meadows at the Pass, just RSVP to As a bonus, you'll meet the teams completing the North Cascades Challenge hike that day, and also meet Margaret Miller, who, with her late husband Joe, was responsible for restoring the meadows at the pass from years of overuse prior to the creation of North Cascades National Park!

 [Photo (c) 2010 Ethan Welty]

Glacier Project update from film crew

The team set out yesterday for the Blanca Lake trailhead outside of Index, Wa. From there, they’ll ascend 2,700 feet into sub-alpine meadows, skirt crystal blue lakes, and continue onto the Columbia Glacier at about 4,700 feet above sea level.
[Click map above for larger image]
The road to from Index [on US Hwy 2, west side of Stevens Pass] to the Blanca Lake trailhead was washed out a few years ago, making the popular trail nearly inaccessible to day hikers. It’s in great condition now with little more than mud, a few downed trees, and of course steep grades and switchbacks to contend with.
Good luck, team!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Film team follows Glacier Climate Project expedition

A documentary film team is accompanying the annual North Cascades Glacier Climate Project expedition for 17 days, beginning today! N3C board member Tom Hammond has accompanied this research team and reported back in detail for six consecutive years, but this year the video cameras will be rolling for the first time!
The rapid retreat of the North Cascades glaciers makes the area an ideal laboratory of climate change, attracting climate scientists from around the world.

You can take a look at the project and the filming of the documentary about it by following the web links below.

The Columbia Glacier, the first stop of the expedition. 

You can also read an article Tom wrote about his involvement with the NCGCP since 2004, at: