Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Heads Up: National Park Week

National Park Week is coming. Ranger Hank Mallery is here to sing about it.

And here, from the National Park Week website, is some interesting information:
Each spring, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, invite everyone to celebrate National Park Week. This year, from April 20 – 28, YOU are invited to get to know your national parks. 
Did you know…America’s national parks include more than:
  • 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, historic landmarks and cultural treasures
  • 17,000 miles of trails
  • 43,000 miles of shoreline
  • 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures
  • 100 million museum items
  • 12,000 campsites
Join us for National Park Week and hike, learn, share, and give back in the nation’s 401 national parks!

Did you know…that from Monday, April 22 – Friday, April 26, the national parks waive all entrance fees?  So, whether it is your first trip, or the latest of many memorable park experiences, there couldn’t be a better time to get out and explore!
Did you know…that with 401 parks coast-to-coast, every American is less than 100 miles from a national park experience?

We are fortunate in Washington State to have no less three National Parks, three National Recreation Areas, two National Historical Parks, and one National Historical Reserve.

Our closest park is North Cascades National Park, founded in 1968.

I learned something wonderful about the park as I was looking things up for this post. I learned that it was here, in 1953, on one of the peaks now incorporated in the park, that Gary Snyder wrote one of my all-time favorite poems:


Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

He appears in this recent video--briefly--and actually reads from the poem--but only a fragment. That's like exhibiting a random square-foot fragment of a Van Gogh or a Picasso. But, be that as it may, it was good to make the connection between him and North Cascades.

So I'm thinking it would be nice to head up to the park to help celebrate National Park Week, but we'll have to see whether the road will be open by then. Highway 20, the northern leg of the North Cascades Highway, and our best route, is closed every winter. Many years it isn't open again until sometime in May.

It's those pesky avalanche areas.

Here's what the DOT says about it:

We cannot physically keep the North Cascades Highway open all winter. The North Cascades Highway has avalanche chutes that are more than 2,000 feet long. Even if a couple inches of snow slides, the chutes can dump a 20-foot deep avalanche on the highway in a matter of minutes. (The avalanche chutes on Stevens and Snoqualmie are all well under 1,000 feet long.) Couple that with the fact that the highway has among the most avalanche chutes of any mountain pass highway in the country and there's no way anyone could provide a safe highway, short of putting the route in a tunnel (which would eliminate all of its appeal, even if someone had that much money).

But the good news is that every spring a crew from the west and a crew from the east start out to break through the snow and open the road. They use Kodiak snowblowers, D-6 Caterpillars, Arctic Cats, road graders, and scoop loaders. This year they started on March 25.

This map shows progress through week 2. This is week 3, though, and the very latest report, from yesterday, puts the west crew past the Swamp Creek Mile Post, and the east crew past Whistler Mountain Mile Post. That's only 5 miles apart! But it also says that a predicted snowfall today could slow them down.

You can follow the progress here. And root them on. They just might break through in time for the big celebration.

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