May 22, 2007:
The big news for Northwest backcountry skiers this month was the re-opening of the road to Paradise at Mt. Rainier on the weekend of May 5th and 6th, after months of intensive earth rearrangement and road repair. For those used to the old scenery along the way to Paradise, the shock of not seeing the familiar Sunshine Point Campground as you enter the park is quite jarring. The Nisqually riverbed has tripled or quadrupled in size and comes alarmingly close to the road in a few places, and there is evidence of huge amounts of earth having been moved in places like Kautz Creek. We didn't take a look up the defunct West Side Road.
The good news is that access to the most popular south side of the mountain is restored. The bad is that work on the Steven's Canyon road will in all likelihood take until late summer or early fall to complete (right now they are saying September) and the gravel road to Mowich Lake (one of the prettiest ways to access Rainier, IMO, but low priority) has barely been considered. Access to Sunrise, where the road went pretty much unscathed, doesn't seem to be a problem, and the ranger told us they planned to open it June 15th.
As before the flooding, parking seems to be the major impediment to enjoying yourself at Paradise for the present. If you don't get there early on a weekend and nab a spot in the old Visitor's Center lot or up by the new construction, be prepared to park well down the return road and hike back up. Wonder why they can't open up some of the blacktopped area at the top, 3/4 of which is currently fenced off for construction worker's vehicles, and shuttle them up from Longmire or Ashcroft. As it is, it seems like much of the space is being wasted on single guys parking their 4x4 trucks there, and it sure would be nice to give the paying customers a more direct line to the toilets.
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"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2007 Gregory C. Louie