September 16th… Where has the summer gone? I find myself asking this question every year, but the end of summer seems to roll by faster each time. Growing up, I was in the sun, playing outside everyday. As an adult, I work in a lab through the heat of the day and barely notice its passing until I start waking up and it’s dark outside again.
Before we trade in our hiking boots for snowshoes, there is still some sun left for a few more MeadoWatch hikes to explore the fruiting and seeding flowers! Also, there are still some bears enjoying the berries near the trails to admire from afar. As I have been hiking on Rainier this summer, I have been wondering where all the names come from. So I have done some researched and summarized a few findings, in case anyone else is interested in Rainier’s history:
Working your way up the Reflection Lakes hike, you will walk along the trail with a drop-off on the right that opens up into a valley – this is Stevens Canyon. Towards the top of the hike, you will pass the Van Trump monument – a stone chair structure. General Hazard Stevens and mountaineer P. B. Van Trump are credited with the first documented summiting of Mt. Rainier in 1870. Later, Van Trump also guided John Muir up the mountain – hence Camp Muir, a common pausing point for summiting hikers!
As for Glacier Basin, the most notable named structure is Emmons Glacier! Samuel Franklin Emmons was a geologist who surveyed Mt. Rainier also in 1870. While exploring, what is now Emmons Glacier was part of his route.
Hopefully you can enjoy a few more sunny hikes before the weather turns and provide a brief history lesson to whomever you are hiking with!
Last week, I went up to Glacier Basin. It looked foggy as we were driving to the mountain, but by the time we reached the trail, the sun was starting to shine through! It was a weekday, so there weren’t too many people on the trail. As usual, I always forget how far the first plot marker is from the start of the trail and reread the directions numerous times! But we eventually found the sign after which plot 1 is located and collected our data. As we continued up the trail, we kept leapfrogging a single hiker. Eventually after saying hi numerous times when we past him while hiking to our next plot then him overtaking us while we collected data, we began a conversation! Turns out he has been hiking this trail for several years. He is in his mid 80’s and still going strong. He described the different peaks and glaciers to us while we taught him a few flower species. Learning about and from other fellow hikers is one of my favorite parts of hiking. It is so encouraging to hear others’ stories. Our view of Rainier on the way down was clear and sunny:
On our return, we also came across what we believe to be a red-tailed hawk, though neither of us know birds, so we could very well be wrong! It was perched on a stump a few feet from the trail with a broken wing. Though we wanted to help, there was little we could do, so we alerted the ranger when we finished the trail.
After camping at Longmire, we went to Paradise to explore a few trails there. We saw several marmots along the trail then nearly ran into a small bear! Because of its size, we checked for mom, but the bear was big enough to have parted from her already. It was enjoying snacking on all the berries on the hillside!
There is so much wildlife to witness in this area! I am excited to finish out the summer season strong with more hiking and camping. The trails were not buggy and the sun didn’t burn. We could not have asked for better hiking conditions!
Citizen science can take on many different meanings as a result of the various science branches in which non-specialized citizens can participate. When I first started working with MeadoWatch, I had a rough idea of citizen science but did not yet realize its usefulness and necessity, nor its extent! Citizen science allows for anyone to be part of the experimental process, which makes for more data collection and a tighter-knit community. In addition to MeadoWatch, there are several other citizen science programs run out of University of Washington. If you are interested in joining other programs, here are a few in Washingotn!
COASST “The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) is a 19 year old citizen science project housed at the University of Washington and focused on the beach environment of the northeast Pacific. Since our beginning, over 1,000 participants on more than 450 beaches spanning four states have contributed directly to monitoring their local marine resources and ecosystem health.”
Rare Plant Monitoring Project “Would you like to help conserve Washington’s native plants and at the same time learn about some of the rarest plants in the state? Rare Care has volunteer positions all around the state to suit people with a wide range of interests and botanical knowledge. Volunteers participate in all aspects of our work.”
Amphibian Monitoring “Amphibian monitoring is an exciting opportunity to get hands-on experience with amphibian conservation while increasing your connection to local ponds and wetlands and contributing to authentic scientific research.”
Carnivore Spotter “The Seattle Urban Carnivore project is a partnership between Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University and aims to explore how mammalian carnivores live and interact with people across urban and suburban areas in the Seattle region.”
There are many more than those listed here, so I recommend exploring online to find more programs that catch your interest!
Have you ever had the plants in the plot not agree with some of the species listed on your data sheet? Us too! The data sheets reflect what we expect you to find in the plots based on the previous years, but sometimes seeds get spread around. Throughout the flowering season, in addition to collecting data, we need you to identify any of the focal species that are present in the plots but not listed for that plot on the data sheet. If you recognize the flower and know its name, then please write it in the notes section of your data sheet. If you are not sure of the name, the flowers are listed in the back of your hiking booklet. In addition, you can use the Washington Wildflower Search app or website to identify it after your hike!
As you hike on Mt. Rainier, we hope you take pictures of the landscape and the different flowers. When you get home and are going through your pictures, we would love to see the individual flowers! You can add them to our iNaturalist MeadoWatch project. For directions on how to do this, please look at our website, here. With all these photos, we can get an idea of the phenological patterns on the mountain in addition to our more intensive data-collection from our three designated hikes.
Thank you for all you do!
Last week, I had the opportunity to go hike Reflection Lakes and Glacier Basin, camp at Longmire, and explore Paradise! Leaving around 7am from Seattle, we started Glacier Basin in the late morning. It was sunny with few bugs! As we went along the trail, there were several stream crossings with beautiful miniature waterfalls. Winding in and out of the trees, we encountered meadows with blooming scarlet and magenta paintbrush, lupin, and tall blue bells! There was also budding bracted lousewort that should be just starting to bloom now. All the markers are in place and easy to spot, though the flowers are not always easy to tell apart. For me, I struggled to know the differences between Gray’s Lovage and Sitka Valerian on the Reflection Lakes hike as well as the differences between Sitka Valerian and Sharptooth Angelica on the Glacier Basin hike. Here are the comparison photos I found most helpful when telling them apart:
Gray’s Lovage Sitka Valerian Sharptooth Angelica
The leaves of Gray’s lovage are the best indicator as they have much more noticeable teeth. The flower heads are easiest to differentiate between Sitka Valerian and Sharptooth Angelica: Sitka valerian has one tuft of flowers while Sharptooth Angelica has several individual clumps of flowers are stemming from the same origin.
On the Glacier Basin hike, we made friends with a beetle who sat with us while we were taking a break for lunch! We also met mountain goats after continuing up the trail from the last marker, though they were too far to get a good photo.
We woke up a little stiff from a night on the ground but were ready to hit the trails once again! We hiked Reflection Lakes and were welcomed to the monument by our friendly neighborhood marmot as well as billions of mosquitoes! The mountain was out and certainly not shy:
The following day, we explored some hikes from Paradise. There were so many flowers!
Every time I hike at Rainier, I am reminded about how incredible it is to have such a mountain so nearby. With the trails looking good and the warm weather finally here, it is time dig out the poles, pack up the car, and head to the mountains!
See you out there,
Almost since the beginning of MeadoWatch history, we have had a connection with the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington. DDCSP-UW is an amazing two-summer immersion program whose goal is to train young leaders from diverse backgrounds for future careers in conservation and environmental justice. In their first summer, DDCSP scholars come from all over the country to travel across Washington state visiting with and learning from practitioners, including MeadoWatch!
Last week we led our annual first-year scholar hike on the Reflection Lakes trail and had the pleasure of introducing our focal species to 20 smart, enthusiastic, and excited young people. Even though the forecast called for showers, it was a beautiful day and the perfect hiking temperature, with nothing more than a few sprinkles coming down on our heads. The mountain never showed herself in full, but her rock-and-snow-covered lower flanks peeked out of the clouds and the scholars enjoyed views of the Tatootsh range and Stevens Canyon.
2018 MeadoWatch intern Joshua Jenkins joined us and shared some lovely moving photos:
I never thought I’d be a scientist. My last biology class was in high school. But with a few hours of training at the University of Washington, I found myself researching the effects of climate change on wildflowers in Mt. Rainier’s high meadows.
The program is called MeadoWatch. Beginning in 2011, MeadoWatch has utilized citizen scientists to collect data on the seasonal timing of flowering (wildflower phenology, in scientific parlance) in the high mountain meadows of Mt. Rainier. The volunteers monitor the phenology of several plant species at different elevations over the course of the summer. This information will help us to understand how climate change might alter the timing of flowering and fruiting plants, information that will help the National Park Service manage these resources.
Volunteers can hike either the Glacier Basin Trail from the White River Campground or the Lakes Trail from the Paradise area. I chose the Lakes Trail because the Paradise area in general and Reflection Lakes in particular are among my favorite places in the national park. Anxious to get started, I chose an early July day to get out on the trail with my friend Susan. The MeadoWatch guide materials were great and we had no trouble finding the observation plots—at least until we ran into the snow between plots 7 and 8! Locating the budding plants was a little more difficult. More than once we decided that there were no budding plants yet, only to locate a bud, then two, then three.
Though I’ve always loved wildflowers, I’ve never had reason to closely observe them. The Avalanche Lilies were out in force, and the Magenta Paintbrush added a gorgeous spot of color here and there, as you can see in the photo here. Equally lovely, however, were the leaves just unfurling on the Bracted Lousewort, revealing the spike and its buds. Depending on the elevation and the direction the plot faced, some plants were very tiny and others already producing flowers. Most Sitka Valerian were small, well below the two or three feet or more they will eventually reach. However, we found one with buds about to flower.
Although the snow made us turn around before we got to plot 8, we thought it was a very successful day. We got in a great hike, learned a lot about wildflowers, and gathered valuable information for the real scientists back at UW.
-MeadoWatch Volunteer, Michele Radosevich