Follow by Email

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Skiing wetlands of the North Cascades

In the two weeks since my last snow report, a couple of strong storms have moved through, resulting in impressive snow totals at all elevations.  Places I was driving a car two weeks ago are now buried under about 30 inches of snow.  This marks three consecutive years of good snowfall at relatively low altitudes (1,500 feet to 2,500 feet elevation).  This is great news for salmon, steelhead and all aquatic creatures; all terrestrials too (including humans).  From hydroelectric generation to watered orchards, we should all revel in the world of water that is our North Cascades.  Such a treat to ski these places--world-class scenery, and sometimes even the snow is world-class.  On this day it would be decent groomed snow along the main road, and some nice track-cutting up towards Stillaguamish Peak.  I urge extreme awareness and caution this year to all travelling the back-country.  But enough of this essay--let's have a photo-essay instead!

Big Four eclipses the sun, which doesn't get very high in mid-Winter sky--the solstice was one week ago. 

The South Fork Stillaguamish River flows away from us, passing below Long Mountain on the way to the inland sea of Puget Sound.

 Picnic table at Big Four visitors area--about 32" of snow at 1,800 feet elevation.  I mentioned strong storms and awareness--note the strata in that snowpack.  There have been at least two events with strong winds and heavy snow lately, and that on top of 2-5 meters of snow from the early December storms...

Wetlands and the on-set of Winter make for some great photography.  The pictures only tell part of the story--the sound of water gurgling and flowing was everywhere, and quite soothing..

Mount Dickerman and headwater forests are reflected in the wonderous wetlands that help form the South Fork Stillaguamish River.

Stillaguamish Peak, namesake of this entire valley.

Water water everywhere.  It is a real blessing to be surrounded by water--and I mean surrounded:  from the snow and ice covering the foliage that occasionally dusted me, to the frosty mist hanging in the air, to the snow and liquid water underfoot, life is good when one is immersed in the stuff of life.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ode to Old Ski Road

Ssshh-whump, ssshh-whump
Life is Good
On old Ski Road

Sorry I haven't blogged in a long time--life is busy, and frankly, I haven't been in the North Cascades too much lately (waiting/hoping for snow).  I've certainly been working on/for the North Cascades, and while such work is at the core of being a conservationist, not many pretty pictures or fun stories emerge from this important work.

The past week has seen cool temps and plenty of precipitation, so I figured conditions would be just right for a weekend ski.  As you can see from the pics, it was simply spectacular!  About a half-foot of fresh snow atop a firm, crusted foot of Cascade Concrete.  At 2,000' elevation, there was about 18" total, and at 2,400', there was more than two feet of snow.  Water content is relatively high, which is a good thing for glaciers and rivers.

I'm a bit surprised at the healthy low elevation snowpack, given the lack of La Nina conditions.  But things are shaping up to be another great year of snow sports and glacier maintenance in our North Cascades!  There have been as many winters over the past 30 years where there was no snow at this location as years where there has been this much.

Nothing like cutting track for a few miles, and visting the headwaters of a pristine river.  This is the Stillaguamish River--I've been exploring here for 30 years.  Each trip brings new understanding about the landscape, and affirms what is really of value and worth. 

 Check out this lovely scene of a temperate rainforest in winter.  She has icewater in her veins!

Dare I say that a road closed (in this case by snow) is not about access lost, but opportunity found.  Opportunity for quiet reflection, peace in mind, body and heart.
This place is within a 90 minute drive of more than 2.5 million people, but on this day, I saw no other humans once I left the plowed road..

Life is Good
On Old Ski Road!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Loss of ancient, big trees becoming a global issue

From the Seattle Times:

Loss of ancient, big trees becoming a global issue

A man visits an old-growth cedar during a walk 
along the border of North Cascades National Park
The Pacific Northwest was once covered 
with such huge trees.

Big trees are vanishing around the world and often are not being replaced. The loss of these trees can be devastating to other species.

Seattle Times science reporter
It's not news to Northwesterners that most of the giant firs and cedars that once dominated the region's forests are long gone, felled by decades of logging.
But a review of ecosystems around the world finds that big trees are vanishing almost everywhere — and aren't being replaced.
"What we're seeing is a global phenomenon," said ecologist David Lindenmayer of Australian National University, lead author of a paper published in the Dec. 7 edition of the journal Science. "There are different sets of drivers — it might be fire, logging, drought, disease — but they all lead to basically the same outcome."
The loss of big, old trees can be devastating to thousands of other species that nest and take shelter in their branches and cavities, said University of Washington forestry professor Jerry Franklin, a co-author of the paper.
In some forests, nearly a third of all birds, reptiles, mammals or marsupials make their homes in ancient trees, the scientists reported. Gnarled, old trees also produce a bounty of seeds to replenish the forests and are a vital source of food.
"These big, old trees are really important elements of many forests and many landscapes," said Franklin, who was a key player in the 1990s-era battle to protect the remnants of the Pacific Northwest's famed old-growth forests. "An old tree tends to be very idiosyncratic, just like we are as human beings."
Though the causes for the decline are diverse, all involve the common denominator of human intervention.
In Scandinavia, logging companies are simply targeting the biggest, oldest trees, the researchers found.
On the savannas of Northern Australia, nonnative grasses planted to improve cattle and sheep grazing burn seven times hotter than native grass, decimating trees that weathered centuries of normal fire.
If the rate of loss doesn't abate, all of the trees in the region — both old and young — will be gone in 50 years, Lindenmayer said.
In Brazil, where rain forests have been reduced to fragments, old trees are much more vulnerable to being toppled by wind and parasitized by strangler vines that proliferate after logging.
Many forest ecosystems are so altered by invasive species, human management and shifting climate that young trees no longer are able to grow into behemoths, the scientists said.
Infestations of a plant called lantana smother seedlings in some parts of India, Lindenmayer said.
In the mountain-ash forests of Southern Australia, where he's worked for nearly three decades, cycles of fire followed by salvage logging prevent forests from maturing.
Shifting mindset
Forestry experts have long been aware of the decline of big trees, said Oregon State University professor Mark Harmon, who was not involved in the analysis.
But the Science paper is one of the first attempts to pull together evidence from different parts of the world and make the argument that big trees deserve special consideration.
"Maybe it will change the mindset," Harmon said.
Lindenmayer got interested in big trees while tracking the fate of Australia's equivalent of the northern spotted owl: the Leadbeater's possum, a 4-inch, big-eyed marsupial that can only nest in ash trees at least 200 years old.
Unless the country takes steps to protect the ancient ash trees, the world's tallest flowering plants, the possum is headed for extinction, he said.
In the Pacific Northwest, legal wrangling over the old-growth-dependent owl led the federal government to restrict logging on millions of acres of federal forest in Washington and Oregon. During the debate, Franklin proposed a more eco-friendly alternative to clearcutting that leaves some trees standing.
No policy
But there's still no nationwide policy that singles out big, old trees for protection or works to ensure that young trees are able to replace their elders, he said.
"We're dramatically reducing the number of big trees," Franklin said. "As part of our active management, we need to be planning to restore historic levels of those big, old trees."
The scientists compared the decline of ancient trees to the decimation of tigers, whales and other large mammals. After decades of protection, many slow-growing species like the blue whale are still hovering on the brink of extinction, Lindenmayer pointed out.
"The stakes are very high," he said. "Big trees can be lost very quickly, but it can take centuries for them to be replaced."
Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The new WILD CASCADES is now online!

The Summer/Fall 2012 issue is now online!

In this issue:
  • North Fork Snoqualmie update
  • Green Mountain lookout must be removed
  • Proposed motocross project on the Mountain Loop Highway
  • NCCC Actions, May – September 2012
  • DNR Snoqualmie Corridor plan taking shape
  • American Alps update
  • “A sense of betrayal” in the Yakima Plan 
  • Charismatic minifauna: North Cascades Pika Project report, 2012
  • On the outside looking in
  • New Wilderness! and NCCC work party 
  • NCCC joins appeal against Enloe Dam rebuild
  • Heli-skiing company gives new meaning to “cut and run”

CLICK HERE to download your copy. 

And remember, our members have had their copies for a couple of weeks already. To get your issue earlier next time, JOIN NCCC!

Monday, November 12, 2012

"North Cascades Crest" reissued

One of our favorite books turns out to be an homage to Tom Miller's of NCCC and his pioneering photo book promoting a National Park for the North Cascades in the early 60s, and it's again in print!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Voices of the North Cascades

A great series of podcasts by Park staff. We worked with Mike Brondi on native plant restoration recently so it's great to hear him tell his personal story in this podcast:

Mike's talk is on the bottom of the list. He talks about "AH-HA" moments. Listening to him is such a moment!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Heybrook Ridge effort continues

Check out the Friends of Heybrook Ridge's website and blog in one!

NCCC continues to support FOHR's ongoing efforts to bring a trail system to the ridge they saved just outside the town of Index, WA -- and we're grateful for their efforts every time we drive Hwy 2 and don't have to stare and a vast fresh clearcut there!

Friends of Heybrook Ridge

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Friends of Bumping Lake is organizing

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology are promoting construction of two new dams in the Yakima Basin, including a dam that would drown and destroy more than 1,000 acres of ancient forest at Bumping Lake. With an estimated cost of up to $5 billion, the Yakima Plan is the largest project in the State of Washington since WPPSS!! And likely to be just as ill-fated!

We support the newly-formed Friends of Bumping Lake and invite you to join in our joint efforts to protect this irreplaceable resource.

Friends of Bumping Lake

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Work Party a big success

Now that the forecast finally says we have rain coming, we can all relax a bit -- those native plants we put in the dry, dusty soil up at the Diablo Lake overlook will survive!

A group of NCCC members met-up there last Saturday for a great work party, re-vegetating the grounds at the Diablo Lake overlook with help from the North Cascades National Park horitcultural staff.   


 Diablo Lake from the overlook

 NCCC crew getting its orientation from NPS officials

 Planting underway...

 We were planting drought-resistant native species

 A pep-talk by NPS staff after lunch

Nearby, some of the first vine maples had started turning fiery red!

 Some of us stayed the night at NCI's ELC on Diablo Lake
(see: and look for info about "Basecamp").
We held our board meeting there the next morning and
enjoyed the setting and hospitality immensely!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Desecration on a new level--heli skiing owners destroy ancient trees

What price,  Recreation?

North Cascades Heli-Skiing (NCHS) cut down at least fifty trees, up to 275 years old, in the pristine headwaters of the Methow River high on the north side of Silver Star Mountain, in violation of the USFS permit and their own operating plan.

The owners of NCHS seem to have taken this terrible action to provide more skiing opportunities for their clients (though they claim it was for "safety").  Simply put, and in my 30 years of experience in the North Cascades:  if it's not safe, don't go there.  Certainly don't modify the landscape.
Instead, Paul Butler and Ken Brooks not only went there, they cut down and killed dozens of trees.  Very, very old trees.  Trees that have been living there since the Continental Congress was forming.

This is not a successful business model in the Methow Valley, the North Cascades, or ANY of the ethics with which I was raised and respect.

Contact Paul Butler, Ken Brooks, and most importantly, the US Forest Service Okanogan National Forest, and tell them what you think.  I think the selfish operators should be shut down (read:  grounded) for at least one year.  Probably better for the duration of the current permit.

Address to write letters to the violators:
Mr. Paul Butler
North Cascades Heli-skiing
PO Box 367
Winthrop, WA98862
Address to write letters to the Forest Service:
Jennifer Zbyszewski, Acting District Ranger
Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest
Methow Valley Ranger District
24 W. Chewuch Rd.
Winthrop, WA 98862

Photos courtesy Matt Firth

Saturday, September 29, 2012

From our friends at the Northwest Geological Society, a topic of interest to the North Cascades generally:
October 9th Speaker Program
Speakers: Paul Kennard, Regional Geomorphologist, Mt. Rainier National Park, and Chris Magirl, Research Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Tacoma
Title: Goats to geoducks: Landscape response to climate change from the summit of Mount Rainier to Puget Sound
This debris flow is in lower Colonial Creek
Abstract: Mount Rainier is an active volcano, and is considered the most dangerous mountain in the United States, because of its proximity to major cities. However, it is the more “everyday” risks such as floods, debris flows, and river aggradation (or filling) that are posing unprecedented challenges to people and roads at Mount Rainier National Park, and to the downstream communities.
Because of vast amounts of sediment sloughing off the mountain, Mount Rainier’s rivers are aggrading - that is, the river beds, on average, are rising by natural processes. Recent aggradation has more than doubled in the last 10 years (to over 3 feet/decade). This means that for the same size storms, the flood potential is ever increasing, since the “capacity” of the river channel is reduced, as the channels fill in.
Ongoing glacial recession has exposed large volumes of oversteepened and very unstable sediment, promoting increased numbers of debris flows, compounding the flooding problems. Debris flows are destructive, sediment-laden slurries that move downhill by gravity. In areas affected by debris flows, large rivers near developed areas have aggraded an astounding
38 feet since 1910, and almost 6 feet in a single year. The park has had at least 16 debris flows since 2001, and there were multiple debris flows in 3 streams that had not had debris flows in hundreds of years. In 2006, there were 10 debris flows in two days, resulting in extensive damage to park roads and campgrounds, and closing the Park for 6 months.
To add insult to injury, climate change is expected to increase storminess, and further escalate debris flows and flooding.
Stream flow records at Mount Rainier show a striking rise in the occurrence of large floods. Specialists predict further increases, as glaciers continue their rapid retreat due to global warming, making this a major management concern at Mount Rainier National Park.
Location: Talaris Conference Center, 4000 NE 41st St., Seattle, WA
Oct 9, 2012
5:30pm: No-host social hour
6:30pm: Buffet dinner
7:30pm: Speaker program
All are welcome to attend —
reservations are required
if coming for dinner.
Reservations here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pika project report

In the upcoming issue of The Wild Cascades, look for a report on the 2012 Pika Project in North Fork Bridge Creek valley of NCNP. Here's an excerpt:
North Fork Bridge Creek, upper valley near our base camp
The goal was to locate four or five  “patches” where temperature loggers had been installed on talus slopes known to be pika habitat, and install recharged loggers for another year’s monitoring. A pair of the little sealed metal units are put in each spot, one on a surface rock under a set of wind and sun shields that look like a stack of inverted plastic pie pans, tied to the rock they sit on, and the other dropped about 24” into a nearby gap between boulders, where it’s cooler.
Roger Christoperhsen, NPS Biologist, anchors a data logger
That combination gives  biologists the most useful temperature info about the surface and at some depth where the pika were likely to be this time of year. As long as we could find exactly the same locations, the new readings would be consistent with those taken in prior years and the data would be useful. Any variation of sensor locations would leave the study results open to criticism, which in these days of climate research – well, let’s just say there’s no room for any “benefit of the doubt” in that field!
Two researchers perched on a boulder in search of pika sign

NOTE: Current funding may not be adequate for replacements of any hardware that fails. Also, having the volunteers needed to install and retrieve the loggers and survey the talus fields is crucial. Your donations and volunteering can make all the difference!
To contribute to the Pika Project, contact
North Cascades National Park,  360-854-7200
More general info:
North Cascades Institute, 360-854-2599
For more photos, visit
More information:

[For the official research summary, see]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Members: check your email for the latest Catalyst!

Members: you'll be getting a new Cascade Catalyst from NCCC soon! Watch your email!

Non-Members: wish you got a copy too? Join us! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nice send-off for Chip Jenkins

Congrats to Chip Jenkins for his promotion to Deputy Regional Director of NPS. We wish him the best, and as part of that we made an appearance at his send-off party last Friday.

Here, David Fluharty, NCCC Board member (and nearly a founder), says a few words of praise for Chip:

David confessed that NCCC had historically been NOCA's "harshest critic and fondest admirer," and named Ross Lake NRA, Stehekin River Corridor, High Lakes Fisheries Management as issues where Jenkins deserves special praise for his outstanding conservation focus during his tenure as NCNP Superintendent.

Best of luck in your new position, Chip, and thanks again for all you did for the North Cascades!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Announcing a National Park Service work party Oct. 6th

On Saturday October 6, NCCC members and friends will volunteer on a National Park Service work party, improving the landscaping at the entrance to Colonial Creek Campground.  Meet there at 10 AM.  Work will include removal of invasive weeds.  The Park Service will waive overnight camping fees for volunteer workers.

Monday, September 3, 2012

American Alps Legacy Project made the FRONT PAGE of the Sunday Seattle Times!

It is great to see that the American Alps Legacy Project made the FRONT PAGE of the Sunday Seattle Times!  Scroll down a few pages to see my article "On the Outside Looking In" to see just how arbitrary the boudaries of the Park are, and how they can be improved to be more ecosstem/watershed-based.

The long-awaited Linda Mapes article:

I will submit an update from the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project 2012 field season in the coming days.  Note we just had the driest August ever recorded (SeaTac)--not conindicentally, it was also one of the three warmest in the North Cascades...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An impression

Aldo Leopold wrote that "the penalty of having an ecological education is to live in a world of wounds." One antidote to Leopold's dilemma is increased intimacy with the natural world. Pick a place and get to know it. From this knowledge and depth of experience come facts and feelings that call us to action. As we look to the future we have no other choice. 
-Saul Weisberg, in Impressions of the North Cascades, a free eBook now available on N3C's website at  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Report from Norway

An N3C member traveling in Norway recently sent us this comment:
Last week when we were up in the high Norwegian mountains I found myself comparing US wilderness with what they call wilderness and national parks here.  They run open-range stock, mainly sheep, everywhere, even on the highest elevations limited only by the animals' ability to climb cliffs and snow/ice.  Which means that even far above tree line where the heather (or similar species) is common you can see that the plants are heavily grazed.  And of course unless you get onto the snow fields and glaciers, there are frequent piles of sheep and cattle crap (or maybe it just seems frequent to my eye).  Also, the huts and private holdings are everywhere.  Even the top of the highest mountain in Norway has a small shop selling candy and snacks.  Right in the middle of a national park!  Soon as I read a notice about the snack shop I completely lost all interest in climbing the mountain.  Picking and collecting flowers etc was allowed, but (get this) only if you're doing it for yourself.  I didn't see signs of anyone backpacking.  Here they just go hut to hut and get food at each stop, etc., the European way.  All this, despite quite large land areas that could be set aside fully protected.  I really enjoyed seeing the mountains here, but came away with a deeper appreciation of the US park and wilderness systems (which work all the better because of public advocacy by groups like N3C).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

NCI's Pika Project seeks volunteers

The wildlife division of North Cascades National Park, in conjunction with North Cascades Institute, is seeking highly motivated and responsible individuals to collect data on pika abundance, distribution, and habitat use throughout the Park Complex during summer and early fall 2012. The research will continue a project started in 2009 to help further address factors influencing pika abundance and habitat use, and document population trends. Pikas are a proposed indicator species for climate change and have been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Volunteers may commit to day trips, multi-day trips, or for the entire project, with priority given to those who can commit for extended periods for consistency purposes. The work will be conducted as part of a 2-4 person field crew and involve extensive backcountry hiking and camping, and off-trail travel across rugged terrain. Frontcountry trips can usually be completed in a day, while backcountry trips will range between 2-5 days in length.

NCI has created a Yahoo group page for the project:

For more info, please email:

Ashley Kvitek
Graduate Student, North Cascades Institute
Citizen Science/Stewardship

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Action needed to stop "Lookout" bill

Action needed to protect Glacier Peak Wilderness, stop "Lookout" bill

We need your help to stave off a bill in Congress (H.R. 6039) that would set
a terrible precedent for the National Wilderness Preservation System and set
the Glacier Peak "Lookout" table for the House Republicans to
launch an across-the-board attack on Wilderness protection. H.R. 6039 would
perpetuate the recently, illegally constructed Green Mountain Lookout in the
Glacier Peak Wilderness by overriding a recent court ruling ordering the
structure's removal. 

Background. In 2009, with no public notice or environmental review, the
U.S. Forest Service (FS) began illegally constructing a "fire lookout"
building on Green Mountain after having removed the remains of the former
lookout seven years earlier. The FS used more than 65 helicopter flights,
power tools and jack-hammers, new massive concrete footings, and all new
wood for the foundation, wall studs, rafters, floor joists, and more.
Construction of a new building, use of helicopters and power tools, and lack
of environmental review all violated the Wilderness Act and the National
Environmental Policy Act.

When Wilderness Watch learned that the new "lookout" was under construction
we tried to halt the project. We appealed to the district ranger, forest
supervisor, regional forester, and the Chief's office in Washington, D.C. At
each level our attempts to get the law enforced were ignored and the agency
pushed ahead on the flimsy rationale of local support for the wilderness
construction project. With no other remedy, we went to federal court. In
March, Judge John Coughenour in Seattle ruled in our favor. Noting the FS
"egregiously erred" in its actions, the judge ordered the agency to remove
the new building from the Glacier Peak Wilderness. You can read more on our

The Larsen Bill. In late June, responding to pressure from a small, vocal
group, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents the Darrington area in
Congress, introduced H.R. 6039 to amend the 1984 Washington State Wilderness
Act to authorize the Green Mountain Lookout and effectively overturn the
court's ruling. So far, the bill has not received a hearing and we are
actively working to forestall any companion bill in the Senate.

Rep. Larsen generally supports Wilderness, yet this bill would be a damaging
blow to the Glacier Peak Wilderness and the entire National Wilderness
Preservation System. If enacted into law it would allow the illegally
constructed building to remain in designated Wilderness, where buildings and
structures are banned. The bill would reward Forest Service officials who
deliberately violated laws intended to protect Wilderness and allow for
public participation in public lands' management. And Rep. Larsen's bill
would set a damaging national precedent for exempting unlawful uses in
existing Wilderness. Today, with the most anti-wilderness U.S. House since
1964, wilderness opponents would love to set this precedent by passing
Larsen's bill. For more information, see the excellent commentary that
appeared recently in the Everett Herald:

WHAT YOU CAN DO. Please contact Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty
Murray (D-WA) urging them to protect the Glacier Peak Wilderness and the
Wilderness system by not supporting or pursuing Green Mountain Lookout
legislation. Their contact information is below. Also, please send a letter
to Representative Larsen, even if you don't live in his Congressional
District, urging him to withdraw his bill. If you live in Rep. Larsen's
district you can email him at the address below. Otherwise, to reach him
you'll need to send your letter via U.S. Mail. Write in your own words, but
consider including the following points:

1. H.R. 6039 would set a terrible national precedent that could open the
door for other bad bills authorizing illegal uses or structures elsewhere in
the National Wilderness Preservation System.

2. H.R. 6039 would degrade the wilderness character of the Glacier Peak
Wilderness with this building highly visible atop a wilderness peak.

3. H.R. 6039 would overturn a well-reasoned ruling from U.S. District Court
and reward officials who knowingly broke the law.

4. The delegation should support a plan to move the new lookout to a
location in nearby Darrington or to a non-wilderness summit where it can be
accessible to many more citizens. This has been done at the popular Columbia
Breaks Fire Interpretive Center near Entiat, WA .

5. Glacier Peak Wilderness is a national treasure belonging to all citizens
across the country. It deserves the strongest possible protection for
current and future generations.

Senator Maria Cantwell Senator Patty
915 Second Avenue, Suite 3205 915 Second Avenue, Suite
Seattle, WA 98174 Seattle, WA
206-220-6400 - phone 206-553-5545 - phone
206-220-6404 - fax 206-553-0891 - fax

Email at:
Email at:

Representative Rick Larsen
2930 Wetmore Avenue, Suite 9F
Everett, WA 98201
425-252-3188 - phone
425-252-6606 - fax
Email at:

If you can make a financial contribution to help in this effort, please do
so by visiting our website. Contributions from
wilderness advocates like you make our work possible. Thank you.

Wilderness Watch is the only national conservation organization dedicated
solely to the protection and proper stewardship of lands and rivers included
in the National Wilderness Preservation System and National Wild & Scenic
Rivers System.


Wilderness Watch
PO Box 9175
Missoula, Montana 59807

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The NCCC Fights for Washington's Mountains - history video now online

A team of gifted local High School students produced this wonderful documentary video, and has kindly given us permission to distribute it on YouTube! It was an entry in the Washington State History Day competition, a great look back -- of course not a summary of current engagement -- for that, see the current issue of The Wild Cascades.

Our thanks to Maxwell Schrempp, Jessica Jin, Nathan Maris, and Ceri Riley for this!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why is there a Wilderness Act, you might ask?

Does this look like an historic structure renovation?

"U.S. Forest Service Workers at the Green Mountain Lookout stand on new floor joists with gasoline powered generator in the foreground in 2009." -THE HERALD, Everett, WA
The Wilderness Act has a purpose. Without it, vast tracts of wild lands would be over-run, frequented by motorized users, and would have lost their essential wild character. So a rule is a rule. Or rather the law is the law. If government agencies like USFS don't abide by the law, why should anyone else? No, sorry, it's not up to local authorities to decide when a law 'makes sense' and when it doesn't. Perhaps a civics lesson is in order, since the basic principles of our legal system seem to not be taught in schools anymore. Now we see why we have a judicial branch that can rule on the legality of actions like this, and isn't subject to the whims of the coming election cycle.

Bill to protect lookout would chip away at wilderness protection

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen has introduced federal legislation to effectively over-rule a federal court decision to remove the illegally constructed Green Mountain Lookout near Darrington. Larsen's actions are an unprecedented effort to strip away protections from a designated wilderness that will undoubtedly be cheered by those in Washington, D.C., who are itching to chip away at our nation's wilderness law. The court's clear and objective judgment that Larsen seeks to undo is entirely consistent with every Wilderness Act case in the 48-year history of that law. Readers can access the full ruling at The Forest Service violated several laws, culminating in the Court's judgment that the lookout should be removed and relocated outside wilderness. 


USFS: Forest Advisory Committee Members Sought

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
215 Melody Lane
Wenatchee, WA 98801

For immediate release:  July 19, 2012
Contacts: Okanogan-Wenatchee N.F. Public Affairs Officer Roland Giller, 509-664-9314
    Okanogan-Wenatchee N.F. Public Affairs Specialist Robin DeMario, 509-664-9292
Forest Advisory Committee Members Sought
WENATCHEE—The Forest Service is seeking applicants for vacancies on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Eastern Washington Cascades and Yakima Provincial Advisory Committees.
Applications can be obtained from the national forest’s headquarters in Wenatchee, the Okanogan Valley Office, or online at
All applications should be submitted by September 1, 2012.
Informational meetings describing the committees and their activities will be held on July 30 and July 31 in Wenatchee and Naches. 
The meeting in Wenatchee on July 30 will be held from 2-3 p.m. in the conference room of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest headquarters office, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee.  The meeting in Naches on July 31 will be held from 2-3 p.m. in the Naches Ranger District conference room, 10237 Hwy. 12, Naches.  Forest Service representatives will explain the application and selection process and answer questions at each meeting.
            “For the past 17 years, advice from provincial advisory committees has helped the Forest Service and other federal land managers implement the Northwest Forest Plan on federal lands in ecological provinces within the range of the northern spotted owl,” said Forest Supervisor Becki Heath. 
Two of these committees provide advice on federal lands in North Central Washington. 
The Eastern Washington Cascades Province encompasses federal lands within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Chelan County and west of the Chewuch and Methow Rivers in Okanogan County.  The Yakima Province encompasses federal lands within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Kittitas and Yakima Counties.
            Advisory committee membership represents federal and state agencies, counties, tribes, and public interests including recreation and tourism, environmental groups, the forest products industry, fisheries, wildlife, forestry conservation, special forest products, mining, grazing, commercial fishing, and general citizen interests.
            The Forest Service seeks gender, ethnic and cultural diversity on the Eastern Washington Cascades and Yakima Provincial Advisory Committees, including citizens with disabilities.  Advisory committee membership diversity will assist the agency to foster effective program and mission delivery to all Americans.
            Applicants for advisory committee positions must be United States citizens at least 18 years old.  Criteria for selection will include considerations such as an applicant’s knowledge of local and regional resource issues as well as public land uses and activities; the ability to communicate well; willingness to work toward mutually-beneficial solutions to complex issues; and respect and credibility in local communities.
Applicants must also be willing to make a commitment to attend advisory committee meetings—generally one-day sessions, held in Wenatchee, every two to three months.  Field trips and alternate meeting locations may also be scheduled. 
Advisory committee members serve without pay, but reimbursement is provided for mileage expenses.  A routine Advisory Committee Membership Background Information Form (AD-755), included in the application package, must also be completed before anyone can assume membership on a Department of Agriculture advisory committee.
Those interested in serving on a Provincial Advisory Committee should submit an application to Becki Heath, Designated Federal Official, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, WA 98801, by September 1, 2012.  Faxed submissions may be sent to her attention at 509-664-9286.  Letters of endorsement from groups or organizations may also be included with applications. 
Questions about the process may be directed to Roland Giller at 509-664-9314 or Robin DeMario at 509-664-9292.
Selections for advisory committee positions will be notified of the final selections by mail.  All advisory committee meetings are open to the public.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Roland Giller
Public Affairs Officer
Okanogan-Wenatchee N.F.
215 Melody Lane
Wenatchee, WA 98801

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cascade Pass stewardship next weekend!

In the footsteps of Joe and Margaret Miller:

Join North Cascades Institute and North Cascades National Park Native Plant Nursery staff July 28 for a day of plant stewardship at Cascade Pass, the site of a major revegetation effort.  The day's work will include removing non-native invasive plants, collecting native plant seeds for the nursery and some planting if the season is right. We will be working with a variety of alpine plant species including white and pink heather, partridgefoot and huckleberry. We look forward to working with our volunteer Stewards to help revegetate one of the Park's most beautiful subalpine locations.

To register or for more information please contact Matt Kraska, Stewardship Specialist, at (206) 526-2575 or

The above is reposted from NCI's blog:

For more details on the trail and project location visit:

For background on NCCC's Joe and Margaret Miller and their pioneering work to start the Cascade Pass revegetation effort, see this article in the Seattle P-I:

...and the cover story of the Summer/Fall 2010 issue of The Wild Cascades: 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

DNR survey - have your input heard!

The Washington Department of Natural Resources just released a survey to gather input on how the public would like to see recreation managed on DNR-managed state trust lands and conservation areas in the Snoqualmie Corridor.
This is a unique opportunity for you to have your input heard by the recreation planning committee.
For more information, please check out our blog.
We encourage you to share this link with the recreation groups you are involved with through your e-newsletters or social media pages. I’d also be happy to submit an article or blog to your publication.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Diana Lofflin
Recreation Program Communications Manager
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Office: (360) 902-1169
Cell: (360) 480-1037

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On the Outside Looking In

It's been far too long since my last post, and that's because it's been far too long since my last trip to the mountains.  Indeed, this is the first time in 30 years I did not make a significant trip/climb in June. Weather has been an issue, but finally we got some of the good stuff.  I'm way out of shape, but still managed to pull together a trip highlighting areas in the American Alps Legacy Project .

This write up will likely run as an article in the upcoming The Wild Cascades, so consider this a free sneak preview.  Enjoy the link to the photos below!


On the Outside Looking In
July 4 – 6, 2012

My mountaineering focus has changed over the past several years, in part due to injuries and evolving life priorities, and more so because of my involvement with conservation efforts on behalf of the North Cascades Conservation Council and the American Alps Legacy Project.  I have made it a goal to visit lands outside federal recognition as National Park (Dept of Interior) or USFS Wilderness (Dept of Agriculture) designation.  Usually this means lower elevation mountains, places without a marquee name (though there are large exceptions in the form of the Methow Mountains, Black Peak and others) but which provide critical habitat and are important and impressive in their own right.  Over the past several months, I’ve been studying maps, trying to find a place as representative as any of the seemingly arbitrary placement of the National Park boundary, the boundary of the Pasayten Wilderness and the vast stretches of mountains and valleys between which remain inexplicably unprotected.  I found such a place along Highway 20 in the Granite Creek trench, a place with no trail leading to it, no trailhead, some un-named 7,000 crags, and plenty of opportunity to learn more about the landscape.
One thing I know, and keep relearning, is that mountains, even small ones, are much bigger than we think they are, and much bigger than we are.   After a classic North Cascades approach from the old school handbook of mountaineering and route finding, I found myself atop a crag, surrounded on all sides by magnificent forests, soaring peaks, tumbling glaciers and cascading waters.  Yet I was on the Outside Looking In.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again--It was with a bit of trepidation as I left my car along Highway 20, not only because I was confronted with trackless forest and many unknowns rising above me, but out of concern it might not be there when I returned (I had cleared it with the WSP, but along a heavily traveled road during a holiday week, one is exposed to more than the usual attention, especially a rig by itself “in the middle of nowhere.”)
The ascent was generally three equal  parts, the first through a recent burn (not bad, most trees small diameter Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine), then lovely moss forest;  the second through and up a steep, green hell of brush; and the third a spectacular ridge ascent on snow to a steep summit pitch.  I should note I dubbed the steep brush “The Green Mastication”, for it certainly filleted me and left me bloody and generally shredded.  Ahh, going trail-less in the North Cascades!  At points on both ascent and decent, I was literally swinging from tree to tree, brachiating like the alpine hominid I am.  Unlike other monkeys, I had 50 pounds on my back—an exercise in energy management, if you will.  All the while keeping on a route that was as much dead-reckoning as it was following game paths.  By the way, I don’t flag routes—it makes it more fun on the way down/out!
At the summit, I found a tiny, postage stamp of a flat spot on a quickly diminishing cornice.  I was very fortunate that cornice lasted the 50 hours I was there (two cycles of the sun)—by the time I left, one corner of the tent was literally hanging off the edge of the cornice.  Not really dangerous, but it left little room if there was an encounter with larger wildlife (though almost had two serious accidents with deer jumping in the highway on the drive home).   It was a great camp—few bugs and when they showed up, so did a nice breeze.  I had planned to climb an adjacent 7,200’ peak, but as this is the first time in 30 years I did not climb in the month of June (weather issues), I was and am too out of shape.  I chose to stay at camp, as this facilitated the primary mission objective:  record and compare/contrast areas that are unprotected, proximate and adjacent to areas that are.  As evidenced by the accompanying photo gallery, I think the camp served as a delightful platform from which to perform my research.
I’ll let the pics tell the story, but will note the Kimtah Glacier is spectacular!   Indeed, the entire northern fa├žade of Ragged Ridge is world class alpine material:  big icefalls, cirque glaciers cradled by jagged spires, tremendous relief and big forests.   A full moon rising over the Methow Mountains each night was remarkable,  The Methow Mountains, the forests of the Granite Creek valley, with the obvious transition from wet west marine climate to dry east continental climate literally under my feet was awesome. 

The whole area, even the adjacent small mountains and forested valleys had me wondering how so many mountains can fit in such a tight array.  It also had me wondering about boundaries and borders.
So how is it that I was on the outside looking in?  Is it because the mountains are too low to qualify for recognition?  Places such as cabinet Creek are amazing, productive and provide critical habitat for everything in the region, including us.  The water pouring off our North Cascades literally power our lives, and provide food and clean water.  The fact such vast areas remain unprotected does require attention—why aren’t they protected, and how can we get them protected?  For these places are certainly worthy of recognition, and their best value is in keeping them pristine.  For us now, and for generations to come.
Photo Gallery:

You might note I haven’t named the peak I was on—can you?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The new Wild Cascades is now online!

Check out the latest issue of TWC, in color PDF!

In This Issue:
  • NCCC leadership changes mean new roles for Forsgaaard, Zalesky
  • Reiter Forest non-motorized trail development continues
  • Alternative C is NCCC's choice for Suiattle River road project
  • Catalyst makes debut 
  • NCCC Actions, January – April 2012
  • In Memoriam: John Edwards
  • Bumping Lake Update 
  • A conversation with Jan Henderson, Part 2 
  • National Park retirees speak out on H.R. 1505

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dam the North Fork Snoqualmie for a few kilowatts? Don't let it happen! Attend a meeting on the 19th!

FERC staff will be out from DC and it's the ONE AND ONLY time you can make an impression on them in person on the value of this river.

Daytime Scoping Meeting
Date and Time: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 11:00 a.m.

Virtual Site Review
Date and Time: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 2:00 p.m.

Evening Scoping Meeting
Date and Time: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 6:00 p.m.

Location for all meetings:
Cedar River Watershed Education Center Auditorium,
19901 Cedar Falls Road SE, North Bend, WA  98045

More background here and scoping document are here:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interpretive Center opens June 9th at Twisp

Tom and I got a request for the use of our photos of Tower Creek today from "Twisp Works." Turns out there's a new interpretive center opening on the east side of the North Cascades, in the town of Twisp on Hwy 20, and one of their displays is about the geology of the North Cascades. They were looking for a picture of a classic U-shaped glacial valley, that are common in the Cascades. They found this blog and liked our pictures of Tower Creek, at the headwaters of the Methow. It is a classic glacial valley. To see it from this perch you have to hike the PCT as my brother and I did to the point about halfway between Harts Pass and Rainy Pass, then ascend a side trail to Snowy Lakes (spectacular in themselves) then ascend that much elevation again on a steep scree field to the knife-edge of the Cascade Crest itself and look over the rim. That's the vantage point from which I took my version of the photo:

The new interpretive center is where our photo(s) will be exhibited, and it's opening June 9th -- they have a full weekend of events  --  check out their website:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Snow Report April 20-21, 2012

Time for a snow report.

As you can see from the attached photos, and the gallery linked below, the snowpack is very healthy this year. At mid and low elevations, I'd venture the snowpack is 150 -200 of "normal". Higher elevations APPEAR to be in the 120% range, but could be more. What is notable is that it's been a cool, wet spring, so the upper elevations continue to hold huge amounts of snow that might otherwise have avalanched already.

It was very ominous that in four of the most dangerous avalanche chutes we crossed, only two had debris in them. My take on the situation is that there is still a ton of snow loading the upper reaches of all the peaks, so the chutes are empty not because there wasn't/isn't enough snow, it's that the big events have yet to happen.**
The debris filling Midas/Boston was a 10' high wall of basketball -to-shopping cart sized blocks of snow that measured 200 feet wide. It was a treacherous crossing--very unstable, unpleasant, unnerving.

There has been much angst about "access" and opening roads or closing them. My experience is to be thankful that this road is currently closed by snow. The Mrs. and I snowshoed four miles with full packs to reach camp--a tough first overnighter of the year, but also glorious. We access this area in spring because the road IS closed and we have the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of an amazing place free of RVs and SUVs! Nothing like the lilting call of the Varied Thrush, and the rush of the Cascade River to carry one along on a restful afternoon nap. We didn't see another person the entire weekend (until hiking out, almost to the National Park boundary).

We did see and hear plenty of avalanches, including one big one at about 11PM off Cascade that shook the valley for a good five minutes. Filmed another off the "usual" W chute of J-burg at about 10 Sunday morning--respectable size, but certainly not Mr. Big, nor the Big One. It was big enough that Athena menionted it reminded her of a shuttle launch! The overnight hours were filled with the crash and roar of small events near and far. We also saw and heard thousands of migrating Canada geese. They were flying well above the summits--probably 12,000' in altitude, yet we could clearly hear them honking to each other as they formed and reformed their V formations. Wow!

We will continue to visit this place as long as the road is closed to motor vehicles, and there is snow to avalanche...

**I've mentioned the snowpack is highly stratified throughout my winter reports. It well may be that there are no true "Climax Avalanches" this year because the snowpack will slab and fracture in a progressive fashion, unloading in an exfoliating manner. Then again, some of those layers are so thick, avalanches may be very similar to climax events even if they don't slide from base/ground.