WHY IS THIS GIRL DRESSED LIKE AN OLIVE, AND WHY IS SHE LURKING IN THE WOODS?
Many of you have already met her, but allow me the pleasure of formally introducing Park Ranger Monica Morin to the community of Crystal skiers & boarders. Monica is what’s called a seasonal winter Wilderness Ranger, stationed out of the east side of Mount Rainier National Park.
Monica first came to Crystal during the winter of 2005-2006, and returned for the winter seasons of 2007-2008 and 2009-2010. Two other seasonal rangers (Gavin and Abby, if you’re keeping track at home) split the position in 2008-2009. (Hmmm…apparently wilderness rangers can only take our constant radio yackety-yakking 1 year at a time.)
So why is Monica here, what is she doing, and why do I get the feeling I’ve been “tallied” whenever I ski by her out along the boundary?
As a Wilderness Ranger, Monica’s job is to monitor wilderness conditions, assist visitors, and act as a representative of the National Park Service. The major emphasis of her position is to work along the boundary between Mount Rainier National Park (MNRP) and the U.S. Forest Service Crystal Mountain Special Use Permit area, documenting winter use activities inside the Park. Equally important, she is there to provide information on current avalanche conditions, general avalanche safety, answer visitor questions, and assist with emergencies (Monica is an Emergency Medical Technician and is trained in search and rescue). Her wilderness monitoring duties include surveying vegetation, wildlife, visitor use, soundscapes, etc. This is a standard way to gather and trend data to measure changes over time.
OK…full disclosure….I didn’t write that last paragraph. I poached it from Monica and her bosses because I didn’t want to screw-up the details. Wonder what a “soundscape” is? It turns out that among the many things scientists measure, “sound” can impact an environment and make it less wildernessy, just like litter and automobile traffic! Something to think about next time you feel the urge to yodel in the Enchantments! (Pacific Northwest “insider” reference.)
As Crystal Mountain implements its Master Development Plan, the Park is interested in monitoring any resulting changes within its boundary. Remember, the parkland just west of Crystal’s boundary (from Three Way Peak to the north boundary of Morning Glory Bowl on the ridge) is all within the aforementioned designated Wilderness of MRNP. In fact, the Southback access trail, starting from the false summit of the Throne to Three Way Peak, is entirely within the Park.
In case it seems like I’m throwing around the term “wilderness” willy-nilly, let me explain what I mean.
In 1988, the United States Congress designated 228,480 acres (97%) of Mt. Rainier National Park as “Wilderness”. This special designation requires by law (meaning The Wilderness Act of 1964), that these lands are managed to be left unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness. For more information about what and where Wilderness is, visit wilderness.net
A common question that Monica and Ski Patrol get asked:
Q: Can we ski into the park?
A: The Park has an open boundary policy with Crystal Mountain. The rope line from the back of Lucky Shot north to Morning Glory and from the top of Silver Queen to the false summit of the Throne is the ONLY rope line you’re permitted to duck at Crystal. That means you may freely ski into the park, with the exception of the Kemper’s special area closure. HOWEVER, leave the ski area only if you have the proper avalanche skills and knowledge, know the avalanche danger, know the terrain and snowpack history, and carry the proper equipment (beacon, probe, shovel, partner, emergency gear). The avalanche slopes in the Park are completely different from slopes in-bounds at Crystal. They are not controlled by ski-cutting or explosives and receive little to no skier compaction. They are a completely different aspect with different snow-loading patterns. The slide paths that exist are there because of past avalanches. This means they can and have slid nearly 4,000 feet down to Highway 410. Remember, if you get into trouble back there, rescue may be slow, expensive to you, and difficult at best. The terrain in the park is very dangerous with cliffs and thick vegetation. There are no signs marking any hazards as it is wilderness and you are completely on your own. If you are in the park you must adhere to park regulations. (Please see “fine print” below). Please respect that you are in a wilderness area.
Monica usually works the boundary 4-5 days a week. If you have any questions or concerns look for the short girl in the green jacket on the boundary. And don’t be surprised if you see her touring around very near her "office", on her days off with my patrol homie Mike, too. If you are nice, she might even tell you where the best pow stashes are!
This sign indicates you’re leaving Crystal Mountain and entering Mount Rainier National Park–return, if possible, will be arduous at best! (My apologies to Monica for the cheesy pose suggestion!)
*Mount Rainier National Park winter regulations: a free permit is required for camping, which is permitted on two or more feet of snow 100 feet from water and 300 feet from plowed roads and buildings from October 1st-June 14th. You may obtain permits about 100 feet past the closure gate on Highway 410 at the information kiosk. Please fill out the permit, keep one copy with you and leave the other in the box. Sledding and tubing are allowed only in the Paradise Snowplay area on the West side of the park, pack your trash out, and pets and destruction of natural features are not permitted.