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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 31, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Mount Rainier National Park opens for summer activities, but snow melt is on the one slow side

A cooler than normal summer so far has meant that the snow is melting slower than usual along the hillsides of Mount Rainier.

Many trails park-wide are still under snow. The current snowline is around 4,000 feet.

The park experienced a very heavy snowfall this past winter and melt-out isn’t expected until sometime in August.

Winter-like conditions exist in the backcountry. Hikers should check the park’s webpage for current trail conditions before heading out for a trip.

Some wildflowers are blooming along park roadsides as the snow recedes, but given the current snowpack, the best estimates for wildflower blooms are mid-August.

Here is a rundown on park conditions and events happening at Mount Rainier:

The Mowich Lake Road in the northwest corner of the park is now open. In average snow years, this road would have opened on the Fourth of July weekend. Three to four feet of snow remain in the area, but the parking lot is clear and some picnic tables are melted out.

Join renowned mountaineer Dee Molenaar and author of “The Challenge of Mount Rainier,” Aug. 2 3:45 p.m. at the Jackson Visitor Center, 9 p.m. at the Paradise Inn.

Dee Molenaar was a park ranger and mountain guide at Mount Rainier and has climbed peaks throughout the western U.S. and Canada, Alaska, the Alps, and the Himalayas.

He participated in major expeditions to Mount St. Elias in Alaska in 1946 and in the ill-fated 1953 American expedition to K2 in the Karakoram Himalaya. His artwork and maps have appeared in books and art shows all over the world. His book “The Challenge of Mount Rainier”, considered the definitive work on the climbing history of Mount Rainier, is in its ninth printing. At age 91 he continues to work on art and map projects, and writing and lecturing about mountaineering and geology.

Mount Rainier is looking for volunteers to participate in Sunrise Archaeological Dig. To better document the mountain’s archaeological record, Mount Rainier National Park is working with Central Washington University’s archaeology field school. Under the direction of Dr. Patrick McCutcheon, the field school will be conducting an excavation in the Sunrise area to improve our understanding of the long-term human use of Mount Rainier’s higher elevation landscapes.

Volunteers will get a guided tour of the site and have the opportunity to shadow a field school student working on the excavation. Volunteers will join in the daily operations, assisting with sieving excavated sediments, carrying soil and measuring sediment volume. Participants will also have the opportunity to discover and learn about the artifacts and their uses.

Opportunities are available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. during the first three weeks in August. The number of participants is limited each day to six people ages 16 and above. Reservations may be made in person at the Sunrise Visitor Center or by calling 360-663-2425.

For general information visit the Mount Rainier National Park website or call 360-569-2211.

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