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Old September 7th, 2012, 01:35 PM
Russ Russ is offline
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Rainier hike....and a growing problem

I made a mistake, actually several: I went for a hike on a warm crowded August weekend day, got a late start (harsh lighting), and let the people distractions effect my photography/enjoyment. Folks may recall one of my favorite and at least once/year hikes is off Chinook Pass on the eastern edge of Mt Rainier National Park. I've done it for 35+ years, mostly on a relatively little known trail but increasingly written/advertised by any/everyone trying to make a buck selling "where to" books...and thus the exponentially growing crowds, especially in August when all of the world seems to be visiting western Washington.

All are SOOC...you know the drill!

1. This was a notably prolific year for wildflowers which was quite amazing given the dangerously late, almost non existant growing season last summer. Here a little draw holds small alpine firs, False Hellebore, Lupine, Sitka Valerian, Paintbrush, Western Anemone, and several other species.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 65
ISO-100, f-11, 1/13 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

2. The peak for which this loop trail is named, shooting up at a steep angle across its lower wildflower filled meadows.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 47
ISO-100, f-14, 1/15 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

3. The view (albeit slightly CW tilted) from what I call "lunch spot". You may note a "hiker" on the far left side of the pond and another 2 off to the far right....more on that later!

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 35
ISO-100, f-14, 1/15 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

4. Just a bit further down the trail, using a vertical to capture near wildflowers, pond, Rainier.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 58
ISO-100, f-16, 1/13 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

5. Good concept.....marginal execution (lighting, DOF/aperture). Wrong time of day, wrong frame of mind. South facing with backlighting on distant peak.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 105
ISO-100, f-22, 1/13 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

6. The east side of Rainier with The Chimneys and Governor's Ridge on its lower flank.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 92
ISO-100, f-22, 1/13 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

And now for the rest of the story! This is a national park and therefore no more (or less) mine than any other citizen's.....but it was, is, and hopefully will continue to be a favorite of mine for many years. Therefore I have a vested interest in its preservation, a FRAGILE alpine wildflower area. There are any number of threats to its continued enjoyment but principle amongst them is the growing pressure by human traffic, exacerbated by either ignorance and/or lack of concern. These areas have EXTREMELY short growing seasons and anything that disturbs a plants progress at using that short window sets it back mortally. There are No Dogs, Stay On The Trails, and other signs in multiple places.....as if one needs to be told?!!!

7. Here is a tarn on the way to the "lunch spot" and one I've photographed across many times. It is in the half of the loop trail that is outside the NP...but in a wilderness area. The problem is that many folks (all but the oblivious!) are reluctant to be the 1st to wander off the intended trail....but will readily detour if there's any excuse to "go where others have"....ie follow footprints or the beginning of a worn path. The meadows around alpine tarns/ponds/lakes are especially fragile, yet can be spectacularly beautiful if left undisturbed. Note here that these folks think this is a city park or something, walking/sitting/tromping on vegetation with abandon. As noted earlier, the "path" down to them is NOT an authorized path.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 75
ISO-100, f-14, 1/15 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

8. And then there's this woman, apparently oblivious to the ramifications of her selfish desire to lunch amongst the fragile lupine meadow. I once saw this particular area this lush 20+ years ago and its been hit-or-miss since. Does one person kill a meadow....of course not. But does one person beget 2 who beget 4 who......beget hordes, ruining it for everyone else for years? Heck yes! I see it all of the time and everywhere shows the "sprouting" of unauthorized trails thru fragile meadows. I hope she and/or her friends see this and are sufficinetly embarrassed to never do this again.

Canon 5D II, 24-105mm @ 105
ISO-100, f-14, 1/15 sec, polarizer
tripod, MLU, cable release

Besides the general need to vent my frustration, I hope to imprint on others that this is NOT Disneyland or a city park where the cleanup crew and gardeners/landscapers come in overnight to reprettify the place for the next onslaught of users. Some may think "I'll never be back, therefore what do I care" or they may be oblivious/ignorant to the ramifications. One is extraordinarily selfish, the other needs to consider the peril of going thru life so clueless. There should be signs "What if 500 people did what you're considering doing....every day. Do you think this place would exist today for you to enjoy?". I won't even get into off leash dogs plowing thru meadows or on leash on NP trails...despite signs. I should advocate that the NP's new financial resource program be based on fines for the criminal and ignorant!

There....rant done!
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Old September 7th, 2012, 02:30 PM
tbarry tbarry is offline
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

You're entitled to the rant! Unless there is an officer present to tell people to obey the rules, they will wander where they want. I've seen it for decades in several national, state and local wilderness areas. I'm beginning to think the only thing wrong with this planet is us humans.
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Old September 7th, 2012, 08:01 PM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

Its tough tl take pics in just about any of the major parks these days without showing the influence of we humans. Nice series Russ and certainly like looking at that nice snowy cap in the heat wave we have been having
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Old September 8th, 2012, 01:25 PM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

Frankly, I'm on the fence about all this, Russ. On the one hand, you're exactly right about the proliferation of people and trails throughout the parks. On the other, it was this ability to wander as a kid that helped teach me love and respect for the land. If I wasn't able to get into it, I never would have learned those lessons.

I remember growing up, the mantra was "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints." Increasingly, the Park system seems to have taken the mantra "Take nothing but gifts from the gift shop. Leave nothing but money."

There are places where I can absolutely see the need to keep people on designated trails, such as Yellowstone where there's danger, or Mt. Evans where there's endangered arctic tundra. But at, say, Roxbourough Park where there's nothing but grass? Increasingly, it seems the Park Service has responded to tightening budgets by limiting what people can do while in the parks so they don't need to hire as many rangers.

However, I too have witnessed the damage hundreds upon hundreds of people can do. I visited a lake in Colorado with signs everywhere telling people how fragile the lake was and not to wade in it. So of course there were kids wading, other kids throwing rocks, and adults throwing beer cans.

I don't know what the answer is as roads and convenient parking allows what used to be day hikes become casual strolls. Pictures like these may well help. Did you offer to post them near the parking lot? I do know, though, that I don't want to be kept away from wild locations because some people can't behave within them.

I like your idea, though, about funding the parks with fine money. That would provide some incentive from both sides.
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Old September 8th, 2012, 08:52 PM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

another wonderful set Russ !! BEAUTIFUL country there !! VERY much so,, I feel you on the people too,, I feel the same way about my beach's ,, while they dont particularly ruin anything such as plant life, they do leave their trash, plastic, broken shoes, clothes, garbage and such which does find its way into the water and eventually can kill wildlife, we have LOTS of tourists and I see the way many of them act, like its not their local area so who cares,, I feel ya buddy !! great stuff here though !! on my screen the snow on the top of Rainier looks slightly over exposed, I know these are "sooc" though
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Old September 8th, 2012, 10:17 PM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

Very strong set Russ, I like your "lunch spot".....!!

I see what you are saying about the parks. I think it's a double edge sword. The more rules you make the more I think people say "Hey, you can't keep me from doing X"..... Here in Central Massachusetts ATV's and dirtbikes are prohibited from State Parks and Forests.

I myself mountain bike in a lot of these places. Without fail I run into folks on ATV's every time out. And since they are running rouge they tend to do more damage to the trail system during their get in and get out philosophy even though there isn't any enforcement of these rules, there isn't enough money to hire enough rangers to make a difference.

On one hand I can see the trail destruction and the reason for the ban but on the other hand I'm thinking if these folks could actually work together and show how fragile the eco-system is that maybe a compromise could be made.

All the TV commercials I see advertising ATV's shows them always flying through mud puddles, shooting water and dirt sky high as they bound through the forest at high speeds. After seeing this I'm sure a lot of owners and potential owners think this is how they should be driven........
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Old September 10th, 2012, 12:04 PM
Russ Russ is offline
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

Tom, Clark, Tim, Jim, & John,

Thanks for the great feedback....I wasn't sure how my then still pi$$ed off rant would be taken, but it needed to be said.

Awareness is a concept I harp on. Awareness is a function of being reasonably intelligent AND consistently applying it. One without the other is virtually useless. I would expect all of us to treasure our freedom and ablity to make choices, but with that comes an accountability to make good choices....not only for oneself but in consideration for others, both now and into the future (aka being aware!). There's always a certain amount of latitude to be provided, but it can't be open ended.....and that's what we increasingly seem to have done such that others make decisions predicated solely on what serves them alone at that moment, whether out of ignorance and/or selfishness. Time to cull the herd! EVERYTHING has consequences.

In the decades of enjoying the outdoors I've seen over used areas (both wilderness and (professionally) residential/commercial/industrial). I've seen remedial actions allow these areas to recover, but ONLY if longer term actions were taken to allow such recovery, usually somewhat constraining the previously unfettered use/abuse that created the need in the first place. We've all seen Julie Andrews mindlessly twirling thru alpine meadows in Sound of Music....a beautiful scene that we'd all like the chance to emulate. The land, like so many other organisms, has the ability to buffer a certain amount of use, whether weather or animal or human etc. One person walking thru a meadow causes damage....usually recoverable. 1,000s of walkers without relief clearly constitutes a death spiral. Each place has its own "breaking point". We seem to be a species that likes conveniences including the safety of numbers, yet the "freedom" of access and space. Distribution/dispersement of our impact is an issue. City/county/state/federal lands all have "missions". BLM, USFS, wildernesses, and NPS all have different missions. National Parks have the conundrum of preserving the naturalness of an area, yet promoting its recreational capacity (ie access and supporting amenities....not necessarily a McDonalds every mile!). National Parks are some of the grandest places on earth. While they may have relatively wild places within them, they aren't truly wild. One of my favorite lines recently was an Entertainment Tonight (or whatever it is) segment where some ex beauty queen, now reporter (in high heels) is chasing after a Yosemite ranger near the scene where 2 teenagers perished after slipping into a stream and being swept over a waterfall. With microphone in hand and struggling to keep up to the ranger, she yammers on insistently "shouldn't the park service have placed railings and warnings about the danger, shouldn't......" yada, yada.....when the ranger momentarily stops, turns around partially, and simply/calmly states "this ain't Disneyland". I don't want my access to an area denied because of the area is deemed too fragile to withstand the impact of fools or because of the pendulum effect of needing time to recover due to past bad practices. I'm willing to make compromises.....for the good of all of us over a longer term. I'll abide by the necessity that in certain fragile ecosystems that otherwise too many of us wish to enjoy, steps MUST be taken to make that aggregate impact manageable and the area sustainable. The consequences of the behavior photographed (times the number of people that could've been photographed, ie emulating the same) means that any of several things will happen: the area becomes exponentially degraded (and I said what a favorite its been) and/or steps are taken to target such behavior in a preemptive manner (enforcement, deterrency) and/or more resources (ie expense) are provided to offset damages(if feasible?) and/or access is further constrained or even eliminated. Which choice would you want UNIVERSALLY applied?
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Old September 10th, 2012, 07:45 PM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

It's rather interesting, Russ. This month's "PopPhoto" (yes, I still subscribe), has an article about this same conundrum by a dedicated nature photographer. He used to keep the locations he found a secret, but he's now publishing the exact location of all his photos. He hopes this will encourage people to love those spots and try to preserve them. I'm not really sure about that.

I do know, however, that the direct approach he describes by yelling at someone who left the trail seemed to work in at least one instance. Of course, that can be very uncomfortable.

It occurs to me that an effective means of educating people would be to show some of the shots you took years ago with relatively minor trail damage right next to a shot from this series. That's a message that sticks!
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Old September 10th, 2012, 11:50 PM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

Its interesting that you bring up the yosemite case of the teenagers from last year. The only reason there was no "Safety Railing" is because the waters were too high and moving to fast. That area are along the mist trail at the top of the vernal falls area.

While on my trip I did hear about a couple of trails that were closed because of how dangerous they were. One of them is a trail used by ansel Adams for a spectacular shot for Yosemite Falls. called the fern trail. The other is a direct trail somewhere behind Curry villiage leading up to glacier point call the ledge trail.

These 2 trails are amongst the most dangerous trails I have every heard collapsing under people including very experience hikers. In the last years they wer opened it was assured that 5 people would die per year on these trails alone. Its only in cases like these that trials are closed.

The biggest offenders though of wild abandon in fagile meadows though is not the Julie Andrews crowd, but the clark w griswold family man who allow their kids to splash in ponds and lakes in these areas like its their private beach.
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Old September 12th, 2012, 09:56 AM
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Re: Rainier hike....and a growing problem

This is a wonderful series, Russ - and your thoughts about respecting the environment are well stated. Hard to pick a fav from the set, but I do like the 3rd one. The flowers in the foreground contrasted with the snow capped mountain in the background and the lake in between - very nice!
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