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thuja
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thuja
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PostTue Dec 20, 2022 11:24 am 
I am not aware of guide services getting special access to Paradise, but I learn something new every year I volunteer for the park. The IMG trainings mentioned are scheduled for late April/early May, by which point many summer seasonal employees are starting and the climbing rangers have been training, usually for several weeks by then. NWAC forecasting staff have "admin" access to Paradise and will sometimes use this to conduct field observations.

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cascadeclimber
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PostTue Dec 20, 2022 5:08 pm 
Some snippets from then superintendent Randy King in November, 2013, when they curtailed access to Paradise, but didn't go as far as closing it M-F. For anyone who wasn't paying attention then, he has been quoted as saying the curtailment of access was due to staffing issue, and in other places he was saying it was a budget issue. "The answer to your second question is, no, access to Paradise will not be available to the park's guide services when the road is otherwise closed to public vehicle access." "I instituted the Tuesday - Wednesday gate closure at Longmire this past winter because we did not have enough snow plow operators and rangers to safety staff and operate seven days a week." "I'll follow your suggestion to hold additional public meetings in Tacoma and Seattle if similar circumstances arise in the future." "Regarding your staffing question, staffing is driven by budget." (My question: Also, I was told by a staff member on Saturday that the current closure is due to inadequate staffing, not budget. He was quite firm about this. Can you please explain why his perception would differ so significantly from yours?) My positions on this: 1. The constant rotation of park superintendents should not be used to invalidate commitments made by them. 2. Their failure to hire adequate winter staff is a decade-old problem; it's not new, it's not unforeseeable, and it certainly shouldn't come as any sort of surprise to a competent manager.

If not now, when?

vogtski
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Bruce Albert
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PostTue Dec 20, 2022 8:57 pm 
cascadeclimber wrote:
1. The constant rotation of park superintendents should not be used to invalidate commitments made by them. 2. Their failure to hire adequate winter staff is a decade-old problem; it's not new, it's not unforeseeable, and it certainly shouldn't come as any sort of surprise to a competent manager.
Agreed. There should be a set of service standards set and met by whoever is supe de jour. They need to be realistic and the money there to reach them. One such standard to me would be daily opening of the Paradise Road, extreme storm condition exception permitted. If this is on the list and fairly budgeted then implementation is a function of attitude and details on everyone's part from the supe on down.. Slightly but not totally OT, a similar issue - lack of staffing to run the mountain coupled with a transparency and accountability failure nothing short of horrible - sent the last Stevens GM deservedly packing. And I still wanna know what the 100 people on staff do all day, every day. I understand that there are going to be lots of people, useful people that, like in a ski area, the casual eye doesn't see or know exist. There will be HR, AP, water treatment, wastewater treatment, building maintenance, motor pool, and a host of others that are not expendable, plus God knows how many tiers of managers and assistants-to. But I cling to a notion that just a few of that 100 could be successfully and happily reassigned to snow removal in the spirit of accomplishing a necessary mission and having the road open. I also reiterate that Jan, Feb, March, they're gonna pretty much have to keep it plowed all week to have any hope of opening weekends. Given any sort of typical snowfall/wind conditions, there will be far too much to simply hog it out on Fridays. This necessity will leave us with a plowed road closed to the public because...it's not plowed?

vogtski
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Randito
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Randito
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PostTue Dec 20, 2022 9:38 pm 
I wonder how many of the Monday morning quarterbacks on this thread have ever managed an organization with more than 50 people.

joker, Carbonj, runup
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vogtski
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PostThu Dec 22, 2022 6:25 pm 
Seems to me it might be useful to document how Mount Rainier used to be. I was the only volunteer at Paradise for three winters in the mid 70's. The park had five plows then. One was a ten-yard dumptruck with a 'V'-shaped blade; three others were five-yard trucks, one of which was often broken down. All were surplus from the Navy at Bremerton and much less powerful than today's plows. There was also a new one-ton truck with a blade and sander that was usually used to clear Longmire and the road to the entrance. The park also had two old Idaho-Norland twin-diesel rotary blowers, one of which was usually cannibalized to keep the other running. Two rangers lived in apartments in the old 'saucer' visitor center. They would sometimes radio that the power was out. This was long before the power & coms were buried in the road. I was a better skier than any of the rangers and would draw the fun job of skiing the power line from Paradise to Ricksecker Point to check for fallen trees and breaks while a ranger snowshoed from Longmire to Cougar Rock looking for problems, then would also glass the inaccessible power line portion between Ricksecker and the Paradise River confluence. It was quite a thrill to ride in the first big plow and watch the huge 'bow wakes' of snow fly off both sides into the darkness as it roared right up the middle of the road at 30-35 mph. The smaller plows would follow on each side, sometimes falling behind to clear turnouts. I would jump out at Cougar Rock to move and reset the simple barricades signed "Road closed - Equipment Working". Partial openings were SOP on weekdays; it was usually possible for the public to drive the first two miles to Cougar Rock, with it's somewhat better snow conditions, while the plows were working higher up, unless it was snowing hard down low. Narada Falls was often open to the public as soon as the road was cleared that far, a real boon for Tatoosh trips. The equipment sheds at Narada usually held the working rotary, a bulldozer, and a refueling pickup. The dozer was sometimes used to clear small slides, but more often in midwinter was used to lower the snowberms when they got too high for the rotary. This lowering was done on days with little new accumulation. As soon as the lower (W) Paradise parking lot was cleared, the road was opened to the public on weekdays, weather permitting, while the road crew tackled the main lot, which took about as long to clear as the rest of the road combined. After the upper lot was cleared, the road crew took a long, well-deserved break while pilgrims reached paradise. Modern management does not usually open the Longmire gate until the road crew has returned to Longmire, adding at least a half hour to the opening time. If they had used the old VC utilities for a new winterized comfort station and were willing to consider partial weekday openings, they could shave much more time off the public's wait. This would also help with summer congestion by reducing the public's cruising in search of a flush toilet. 4WD & AWD drive vehicles were not common then; the road foreman had the only 4WD pickup on this side of the park. The rangers all drove GSA Ford station wagons rigged as ambulances and had to chain up like everyone else. The chain-up rule was not strictly enforced, but those who had an accident without them got an expensive reckless driving citation. A contracted tow truck was on duty weekends/holidays and the park tolerated chain installers plying their trade. Rather than hassle people for being late, the rangers left the Longmire gate combo on windshields. The road foreman budgeted overtime for plow drivers on weekends/holidays and two heavy equipment mechanics worked Friday and Saturday nights to keep all that ancient iron operating. The winter's road sand was stored at Cougar Rock picnic area and groomed by the loader there to double as a kid's snowplay when Paradise could not be opened. For the past several years management could not be bothered to have the Paradise snowplay open over Christmas or Spring Break. Superintendents lasted about five years, and some of the District Rangers stayed over ten years. Compare that to the modern 'itinerant manager class', whose top priority seems to be getting their ticket punched for their next promotion every 2-3 years (see carbonj's comment on page 2 of this thread). According to his bio, The current super held 10 different jobs over 30 years and was run out of his Yukon-Charley job for heavy-handed law enforcement and insensitivity to local interests. "...they felt they were treated as second-class citizens by Dudgeon, who showed little regard for the Alaska way of life, and they wish the communities around Mount Rainier well as he takes over the large national park near Seattle." https://mustreadalaska.com/controversial-park-service-supervisor-promoted-to-mount-rainier-park-post/ I find it disgraceful that Paradise is scheduled to be open fewer days the remainder of this winter than the total number of closed days most winters in the 70's.

Diagonally parked in a parallel universe

chilge, Bramble_Scramble, jaysway, williswall, philfort, Bruce Albert, zimmertr
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Bruce Albert
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PostThu Dec 22, 2022 9:37 pm 
vogtski wrote:
Seems to me it might be useful to document how Mount Rainier used to be.
Fascinating set of recollections, thank you, and a look at how much better things might be for the visitor, maybe with some more money, but also with a different outlook on the mission. There is so much in your post that doesn't happen any more...but could. I remember the funky old plows and found it interesting to learn what they ran on a regular basis. I had forgotten they ran a V plow. Truck mounted snow blowers are the contraptions for which the phrase "two is one, one is none" was coined. Much midnight oil is burned keeping those pigs running, and little can evoke as much resigned frustration as a truck chain wrapped up in the reel at 3 o'clock in the morning. A volunteeer gig at Paradise must have been a good time for a time and a ski tourer's dream as was my Baker gig; the low wage apparently did not drive you off?

vogtski, williswall
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vogtski
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PostWed Dec 28, 2022 4:50 pm 
Bruce Albert wrote:
A volunteeer gig at Paradise must have been a good time for a time and a ski tourer's dream as was my Baker gig; the low wage apparently did not drive you of
Yes, it was a life-changing gig. 'Powerline' was a unique tour, but more work than fun, really. The routine was actually better. The plow drivers would drop me & skis off at the old Saucer loading dock, which the rangers usually had finished clearing of rime & drifts. I'd drag out the barricades to set up behind them as the plows worked the main lot. Next was to boot up to the analog weather station with a notebook & spare tube, record the data, and carry down the water equivalent cylinder to the Vc to melt & record that. This was all long before our current luxurious telemetry. I don't think there was an NWAC then, but I would next call Rich Mariott with the data (UW?). He would often ask specific questions, usually about wind and snow settlement or any avy observations. Great guy, willing most days to slip in a brief lesson for a rookie! Sometimes there were more chores as the pilgrims began to arrive, but most often my assignment was to grab a radio & go. These were about the size & weight of a brick and were barely dependable line-of-sight only. At times, Rick Kirschner (RIP) the lead ranger would want a specific area checked or hung out in, but usually I was free to follow my nose. I began a lifelong study of where & when the snow was good, and why. At least for pins & grip-waxed Bonna 2400s ;o) I had seen Rainier for the first time accompanying my girlfriend to her seasonal job as one of the very first backcountry no-fee permit clerks the summer before. They had previously just used sign-in logs at each trailhead. I went to Longmire HQ (this was before most of the hindquarters moved to Tahoma Woods.) every morning saying 'Still here if you need anybody... ' After about a week, the gruff old Chief of Maintenance said 'Might have sumpin' fer ya'. We walked all over the maintenance yard until he found a tough-looking smallish sort drinking coffee at the auto shop. The CM said 'Got a new man fer ya!' Lynn O'Donnell the Trail Foreman, replied 'Don't need him!' I later watched him drop a big misbehaving mule in it's tracks with a single uppercut! Turned out I was a last minute replacement for Tom Erlichmann, a popular multi-season laborer who'd decided to stay back east and help his Dad through a rough summer. Hiring corruption then was national, rather than today's still widespread, but more localized cronyism & nepotism. I'd been making $2.50 hour building plywood ski hutches around Nederland. Trail crew here paid almost five bucks an hour then. After a wonderful six months of adventure, I discovered I could get free housing in the Longmire bunkhouse by volunteering 32 hours per week. Sally went back to dental school in Colorado; I never really left... And that has made all the difference... So that's the story of how Watergate changed my life. I didn't mind that the 32-hour volunteer weeks were sometimes twice that; there were some fringe benefits, if no wages. I had easy shuttle options and keys. Ability to bivy at Narada & Paradise, plus use the backcountry patrol cabins on off days. By the second winter, I had discovered the new Karhu 'XCD', an early plastic ski with fulll metal edges and a bit of sidecut, soon joined by a 'fishscale' version. Also learned to tele from the photos in Steve Barnett's XC Downhill. One of the RMI guides bought me a pair of long Austrian mohair downhill skins on his trip to the Alps. I cut off their attachments, sliced them in half lengthwise, and sewed on webbing loops and a strip of velcro for the tails. Bingo! two sets of XC climbing skins! Some of the rangers soon copied. and my comfort zone & aspirations widened. Lou Whittaker & Ingrid took me down Nisqually Glacier from Glacier Vista, then the rangers had to try that. There was lots of crashing and kick-turning, but all agreed it was the most exciting ski tour they'd ever done. Paradise Glacier from Anvil Rock became my personal favorite when you could still ski through part of the famous Ice Caves; the rangers teased me about living at Cowlitz Rock, but hey, it had great park radio reception. Highlights of my over 2000 lifetime ski days in MRNP include racing the young waist-high Hummel twins down Devils Dip (and losing!), endless snowy days in the secret Mazama glades, North face of Foss, Tatoosh Traverse, and 'Dream Bowl'. My longest day-trip ever was Cowlitz Glacier to its terminus, returning to Reflection & Narada via Fan Lake and Stevens Ridge. Also the 3rd ski Orbital with RMI. Perhaps the very best memory is a dazzling full moon and perfect powder, lapping Mt Ararat all night long while staying at Indian Henry's Patrol cabin. Breaks my heart that coming generations may not have such opportunities...

Diagonally parked in a parallel universe

Bruce Albert, jaysway, ChinookPass, gb, grannyhiker, Bramble_Scramble, zimmertr, reststep, GeoTom, Carbonj  chilge
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grannyhiker
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PostThu Dec 29, 2022 12:07 am 
Wonderful account! Fascinating reading! Thank you!

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey
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Bruce Albert
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PostThu Dec 29, 2022 2:27 pm 
vogtski wrote:
Perhaps the very best memory is a dazzling full moon and perfect powder, lapping Mt Ararat all night long while staying at Indian Henry's Patrol cabin.
This. A fascinating and compelling account, thank you. Indian Henry's, Thanksgiving weekend, 1975:
Van Trump, New Year's weekend, 1976:
"Ghosts of my history will follow me there And the winds of the old days will blow through my hair."

Carbonj, vogtski, jaysway, chilge, rossb, zimmertr
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cascadeclimber
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PostFri Dec 30, 2022 5:57 pm 
Randito wrote:
I wonder how many of the Monday morning quarterbacks on this thread have ever managed an organization with more than 50 people.
More than have been hired as a National Park Superintendent, who I'd like to believe has the skills to, you know, be the superintendent of a National Park. Skills which I believe should include making the park accessible to the general public most of the time. And I bet more than a couple here could find a way to open the damn road more than once a week (on average) this winter.

If not now, when?
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vogtski
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PostTue Jan 03, 2023 6:24 am 
Bruce Albert wrote:
And I still wanna know what the 100 people on staff do all day, every day. I understand that there are going to be lots of people, useful people that, like in a ski area, the casual eye doesn't see or know exist. There will be HR, AP, water treatment, wastewater treatment, building maintenance, motor pool, and a host of others that are not expendable, plus God knows how many tiers of managers and assistants-to.
You forgot the deputy assistants ;o) Only a few years ago Rainier's NPS website was claiming 160 'full-time equivalents'. My spies explained there were often shorter-term planning teams that worked on regional problems like transit and also assisting nearby small NPS units. I thought that's what the top-heavy Regional Offices did, but I guess now they just beg DC for money. "This interdisciplinary effort will result in a structured decision-support tool to help park and program managers evaluate the risks posed by coastal hazards when considering investments in coastal assets like lighthouses, historic buildings, visitor centers, park housing, roadways, and utility systems," he added. "Tool development is being co-led by superintendents of coastal parks and supported by decision-support scientists from the United States Geological Survey." https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2023/01/climate-changes-grip-national-park-system I'm not sure what the current cast is, but Rainier formerly had a stable of maybe twenty scientific types, who I'm sure did great work behind the Westside Road gates in what locals call 'The Country Club'. Somebody please explain to this poor geezer what is a "decision-support scientist"?

Diagonally parked in a parallel universe

mosey, Bruce Albert
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Bruce Albert
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PostWed Jan 04, 2023 10:13 am 
vogtski wrote:
You forgot the deputy assistants ;o)
Hah! I don't think the NPS has a monopoly on this at all, though. One source of repeated hilarity during ownership changes at Stevens was watching the mad scramble of various tiers of managers to ingratiete themselves with the new bosses so they could keep on polishing chairs, attending meetings, formatting their Excel sheets, maximizing their bonuses, and 'assessing' things. Oh, and on good days popping out of the office for first tracks ahead of the waiting public. Over in the other corner was/is the shrinking number of people actually making the area run.
vogtski wrote:
I'm not sure what the current cast is, but Rainier formerly had a stable of maybe twenty scientific types, who I'm sure did great work behind the Westside Road gates in what locals call 'The Country Club'.
Reading between the lines just a little, that's what I have long suspected, that the West Side is Animal Farm exemplified: some animals are more equal than others, and the more equal ones just happing to be wearing NPS uniforms. I understand that all trips are not for all people and all that, but I mourn the loss of reasonably easy day access to Klapatche and St. Andrews to the general public.

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PostWed Jan 04, 2023 1:37 pm 
Quote:
I thought that's what the top-heavy Regional Offices did
Regional offices are skeleton crews these days. The physical space and staff have shrunk massively. Generally when someone has retired in the last 10-20 years, their position is not filled.

vogtski
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PostFri Jan 06, 2023 9:23 am 
Quote:
Join park superintendent Greg Dudgeon for an informal hour of discussion of the opportunities and challenges of overseeing one of the most dynamic and popular national parks in the United States. 2 pm, Friday, 1/13/23 at the Longmire National Park Inn
https://twitter.com/MountRainierNPS/status/1611410343020081152?s=20&t=L8Z-InAFR-8G5BbYbMkKmw

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PostFri Jan 06, 2023 9:32 am 
"I made the decision to hold the public meetings in Ashford and Enumclaw. Ashford businesses are those most directly affected by winter access to the park; many mid-week park users in winter are local residents. As I stated clearly during the meetings, the intent of the meetings was not to seek public input....I didn't like having to close the Longmire gate two days a week, and didn't expect anyone else to like it either...the intent was, rather, to explain the reasons for my decision. I'll follow your suggestion to hold additional public meetings in Tacoma and Seattle if similar circumstances arise in the future. The meeting times in Ashford and Enumclaw were set based on prior experience and feedback from the communities. Regards, -Randy" This from an email exchange with then-superintendent Randy King when he pulled a similar closure stunt in 2013.

If not now, when?
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