Hope the summer has been going well for you. It sure has been an interesting summer for our flowers, as you well know!
For starters, another hearty Thank You!! for your important contributions to the project! We are sure it is challenging at times to find the markers, id focal species from foliage, and painstakingly identify and rank phenophases, but you should realize how important your work is at every step of the way!
So, of course by now you’ve seen how early this year’s wildflower season has been. The peak at Paradise occurred over the July 4 holiday weekend, and at Glacier Basin, about the same if not a bit earlier (a full month earlier than usual). We suspected this would happen - this was a record-breaking low snow-pack year for Mt. Rainier, and the melt-out at Paradise was the second earliest in recorded history (the earliest was in the early ‘40s). At the beginning of the season, we were not sure how this would affect the duration of the wildflower season. Would it be longer, or shorter? Or would it simply move to an earlier time-frame but remain the same length? At this point, we can anecdotally report that the wildflower season is both earlier and shorter. Likely this is because there’s been no precipitation to speak of (see picture to the right, taken from near site 8 on the Reflection Lakes Hike, as an illustration of just how important water is for plants!). Once we analyze the data that are streaming in, we will know exactly how much shorter the wildflower season of 2015 was.
Of course, we are also interested in whether the timing of seed dispersal (critical to the long-term health of these wildflower populations) will be similarly affected, or if some of our focal species might even miss producing seeds this year (some species seem to be flowering but not fruiting). All this to say, your work continues to be important! So, please continue hiking and sending us your valuable data! We will keep you posted on the MeadoWatch season and plan to keep the markers in place until mid September at least.
A few points to ‘bear’ in mind as we proceed with through the summer:
* There have been bear-sightings on the trails!! So, where possible, hike in pairs, and if you’re alone, make some noise as you go around blind curves in the trail, and just be vigilant. As you probably know, if you see a bear, make yourself big, make a lot of noise, and never turn and run--just slowly back away. And report bear-sightings to rangers if you can.
* Some of the markers occasionally disappear. We replace them as we can, but if you are on a hike and cannot find the marker, do the best you can at assuming where the plot is by the descriptions (and photos in the pamphlets), mark it on your data sheets (for that site) and drop us an email so we can try to get someone out there to replace the marker ASAP. There have been situations where the marker is there but gets hidden by sand or vegetation.
* Camping: Because it is such a busy summer for the volunteer campground hosts, you are not likely to get an email confirmation about your camping - but do not worry! We have sent your request on to the NPS so there should be space for you. Here’s a good place for a reminder to do your best to do that at least 2 weeks in advance of your planned arrival.
* Longmire Camping: For Longmire Volunteer Campground, go around the right side of the Community Building, and Maggie Webster will have left you an envelope with your campsite assignment and a key to the bathroom.
* White River Camping: The campground host at White River has limited access to internet, so is likely not getting updates on camping requests regularly. If you arrive at White River and you cannot find the campground host (Rick Strasser), or there is no note on the bulletin board for you, just drive around and claim a campsite. Leave a note on the site number post or on your dashboard saying you are a MeadoWatch volunteer (NPS staff are aware of the program and you should have no problems). If you run into problems finding an empty site (unlikely, especially on weekdays), the Ohanapecosh Campground (SE corner of the park, near Grove of the Patriarchs, which is worth a visit) has two loops (G and H) that are unreservable, so you are likely to find a campsite available, even on a weekend. And in a real bind (hopefully this never occurs), you can actually camp for free in any Forest Service land (there is usually a charge, however, for the designated official campgrounds).
That’s it for early August! Have a great rest of your summer, feel free to email us with any questions and enjoy the great hiking!
The MeadoWatch team