Follow by Email

Monday, May 30, 2011

D-Day Anniversary, 2011

Update June 6th, 2011. I asked Phil and the other members of American Alps to not blog, and leave this blog as the headliner for the past week to commemorate Memorial Day and remember our countrymen in uniform. Much has been happening in the great outdoors, with vehicle access on forest service roads at the top of the list. We will address that tomorrow. For now, let's remember again D-Day, sacrifice and all who help us celebrate National Parks and lands protection...

First, a sincere and solemn thank you to all who have given their lives, given their bodies, and given their energy willingly so that we can even consider creating and supporting National Parks and Wilderness.

American Alps Legacy Project is really all about the Legacy. The efforts of many regular people in the 1950s led to the creation of North Cascades National Park, The Glacier Peak Wilderness Area, The Pasayten Wilderness Area, and many other treasures of our incredible Pacific Northwest.

One of the main movers in lands protection was a couple from the midwest, Margaret and Joe Miller.

So what of Memorial Day, American Alps and Legacy?
It's not often an organization can claim a war hero as a member of the board of directors, but that's exactly what the NCCC had in Joe Miller. Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote upon Joe's passing a couple years ago. Note we finally got Joe's remains to Cascade Pass this past summer (see Summer/Fall edition of The Wild Cascades).

March 28,, 2008
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 first. 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 Czechoslovakia.

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 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 the North Cascades. Talk about homeland security.

Big Beaver valley, North Cascades National Park. The entire lower portion of the valley (out of sight behind rocky ridge coming down from Mt. Prophet on the left) is still outside National Park status and full protection and recognition of what's really important to our way of life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

N. Fork Cascade River, late May

Okay, don't want to get too long winded here. There are many things to blog about right now--Suiattle issues, Memorial Day and what it means to be a patriot and exercise true homeland security, and of course snowpack and avalanches. Let's start with something heavy like a sub-tropical rainstorm (note, broke several regional precip records). Later I'll blog a(nother) article about Joseph W Miller and Memorial Day...

May 15, 2011
You know the story: N Fork Cascade River makes for big avalanches. That's why I go back every nice weekend in the Spring (given snowpack/timing). As usual, the weather played a big role--temps on Friday the 13th almost made 70F, and in direct sunlight it was even warmer.
It was wonderful to have Athena along on this trip--the sun was there, my wife was there, but no bears, and very few small avalanches. Huh?
Oh well, it was a lovely day and we enjoyed the incredible scenery. Forecast called for Tstorms to show up Saturday, but as we left town, updated forecasts showed chance of showers in the North Cascades Friday evening...
"Showers" in the North Cascades usually means trouble.
Turns out the weather was about 12 hours faster than thought just 24 hours earlier.

Friday afternoon/evening, the winds really picked up, and high clouds streamed in. By dark, we were in the tent debating deploying the fly. Fly in wind equals LOUD NOISE, not too conducive to sleep. Then again, pouring rain on head doesn't make for good sleep either. The muted moonlight was a nice indicator of cloud thickness, so we got in some nice early zzzs. The sound of light rain tapping the tent woke us up, but moonlight could still be seen on the summits of Mount Torment a mile above us, so I figured this shower was tiny and we'd be okay.
Then flickers of lightning appeared. Hmmm.
Time to deploy the fly.
This meant the end of good sleep, which we found hard to come by an hour later anyway, when torrential sub-tropical rains showed up. Whoa, huge drops, and plenty of them. That was about 01:00. Athena and I agreed there would be avalanches now...
[At least I'm now sleep-shifted to watch the final launch of shuttle Endeavour on her final mission]

It rained for the next four hours. And yes, then the avalanches showed up. Rain from 1 to 6, Avalanches from 5 til after we left, and wind the whole time.

It was great to see Athena experience the North Cascades as she's never seen, and why most of us in the know try to avoid these mountains in stormy conditions. The rains returned as we hiked out at 10AM. Within 30 minutes, we we soaked to the bone--no rain gear matters when one is swimming across and through blowdown, struggling with a full pack that branches grab on to and won't release. Then came the avalanche crossings and stream crossings. We'd seen one big event on our side of the valley at about 9AM (see photo captions). Made it through the big ones in a warm rain that ate through the snowpack and swelled creeks and waterfalls by the minute. Indeed, a brook flowing across the road due to a blocked culvert below Midas Creek had turned in to a ground-trembling torrent a meter deep and a meter wide. Care to jump that with a full pack on? Oh, but stand around very long trying to figure a way across, and one can be sure ANOTHER blast of boulders, trees and snow WILL BE coming through!

It was really the rain and wind that caused Athena to soberly declare when we made it back to the car: "I will NEVER hike in conditions like this again". Smart girl, she is.

The North Cascades just being who we thought they were!

Friday, May 27, 2011

New logo for American Alps!

What do you think? This new logo will be used with the American Alps Challenge...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hydro projects proposed for Hancock and Calligan creeks

Snohomish P.U.D. has filed for permits to construct hydroelectric projects on Hancock and Calligan creeks, both tributaries of the North Fork Snoqualmie north of Mount Si, at the very western edge of the Alpine Lakes region. Although the area in question is private land and not at all pristine, NCCC and other conservationists nonetheless regard the proposals with concern.

Experience has shown that once some projects like this get built in an area, others tend to follow once the infrastructure of roads and powerlines is put in. Although these two projects may not seem that harmful if looked at in isolation, many other projects have been proposed in the North Fork Snoqualmie and in virtually every other major watershed outside of park and wilderness areas all around the North Cascades. Falling water is what gives the Cascades their name, but there are those who would like to see much of that water diverted into pipes and spinning turbines.

The European Alps offer a unfortunate example of what can happen. Natural free flowing streams are a rare sight there since most of the water in streams big and small has long since been diverted for power generation. The sound of falling water, always somewhere in the background in the Cascades, is seldom heard there. In Washington state many large dams have already been constructed on almost all major rivers. Small projects like those proposed on Hancock and Calligan produce only tiny amounts of energy compared with big existing dams, and the vast majority of what power they do produce is generated only during high spring runoff when need is lowest.

NCCC believes Cascades streamwater is better left flowing over rocks rather than diverted through pipes, and questions whether the extremely small incremental increase in electricity supply is worth extending generation facilities like these into undeveloped areas of the Cascades.