Tag Archives: national park

Tahoma (Mount Rainier) National Park

For anyone who lives in the greater Seattle region, Mount Rainier (or maybe it is time for Tahoma National Park?) is a spectacle to behold. “She’s out” is a common refrain from Seattle/Tacoma residents when the weather is nice. The mountain dominates the horizon, and while majestic, poses a significant risk to an ever increasing population.

Considered a dormant active volcano, it is believed to have erupted as recently as the late 1800s. The mountain averages 30 small earthquakes per year, and there is geothermal activity around the crater that will rid its rim of snow not long after a snowstorm. More incredible are the mind boggling sizes of past mudflows that have raced down her flanks at speeds of 50mph and as high as almost 500 feet. Ancient forests have been found buried deep below the surface. And these flows have made it all the way to Puget Sound.

Glacial activity on Rainier continues to sculpt the landscape – and swallow the occasional climber. There are a total of 25 glaciers on the mountains, and the volume of snow and glacier ice is equivalent to that of all the other Cascade Range volcanoes combined. You could fill T-Mobile Park stadium in Seattle 2600 times.

Emmons Glacier is on the northeast flank of Mount Rainier, in Washington. At 4.3 sq mi, it has the largest surface area of any glacier in the contiguous United States. Photo by Robert Payne

Take the time to learn more about the impressive geology that has shaped greater Seattle and this mountain into what it is today. It will make you feel small and insignificant, but you will be a better person for it.

While Rainier continues to stew in her own juices and whisper to the underworld for direction on her next great show, we get to explore her flanks and marvel at the sheer magnitude of this 14,411 foot peak that rises some 3 miles above greater Seattle.

Photo by Robert Payne
Photo by Robert Payne

See you out there…

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great_Basin_2 I always wanted to visit Great Basin National Park, but distance, time, and alternate plans had a tendency of getting in the way. My recent departure from Reno-Tahoe, however, finally afforded me the opportunity to pay this substantial piece of Nevada a visit.

You always hear the term “Great Basin” used to describe the state of Nevada. I thought I more or less understood what it meant, but it turns out I didn’t. When I heard the term my mind would immediately flash to wide open places and large expanses of land; but I never really included water into that equation. I know it seems obvious considering the use of the word “basin,” but because much of Nevada is seemingly dry to the naked eye, I didn’t think about it 3-dimensionally.

Great_Basin_Diagram What is really occurring is the flow, and sometimes trickle, of water both over ground and underground to a central and internal source. What is unusual about the Great Basin is that it has no external outlet. In other words, it does not lead to the sea. Instead, water eventually evaporates, giving itself up to the atmosphere, returning again to the earth at some later date.

I always knew this was the case with the Truckee River, as it carried water from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, but I just never thought of it in larger terms. I did not know that it incorporated the entire state of Nevada, as well as parts of Utah, California, and Oregon. It is huge!

There_Is_No_More_Water I of course learned all of this at Great Basin National Park. I also developed a larger appreciation of what the ramifications of Las Vegas growth means to Nevada’s most precious resource. As the city reaches further and further out into the Great Basin, they are slowly but surely depleting a confined water system. It may be large, but it is not infinite, and it is connected to many different environments and communities that depend on it.

Great Basin National Park is a popular stop off for those who are interested in exploring Lehman Caves and climbing Wheeler Peak. I actually did neither. But I did go hiking, and I found this most incredible tree. I’ve seen my fair share of trees, including the Giant Sequoias, some of the oldest Bristlecones, and the large Live Oaks of the south, but I have never come across such a peculiar configuration of rooted wood in my life. We spent some time together.