On January 27th, we reported that Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz had introduced a bill titled HR 621, which would open up 3.3 million acres of Federal Land across 10 states can be ‘disposed of’ and sold off to private companies. The outrange was immediate. All around social media, at protests in Montana’s Capitol and flooding the emails and answering machines of Congress, the American people stood up against the attack on Public Lands. Now, it appears like our message was victorious.
Olympic National Park is known for numerous awesome natural wonders. From moss-covered rainforests in old-growth forests to cascading waterfalls plunging into rough, salmon stocked rivers, we have it all out here. When we want a hike along the ocean to look at sea-stacks, the Olympic National Park has us covered. Neah Bay to Ocean Shores and from Olympia to Port Angeles, the Olympic Peninsula is full of awesome sights that inspire millions each year. Sadly, one of the sights that have been consistent for thousands of years is slowly leaving the region, and it might be too late to stop it from vanishing for good.
As a resident of the Puget Sound Region of the PNW, I never expect a White Christmas. If you are a resident of Western Washington, you shouldn’t either. Over the last century, the city of Seattle has only had four Christmas Days with snowfall. In outlying areas, the total is higher, but not much. In the Pacific Northwest, snowy holidays are what we see on Instagram or what we hear crooned on our holiday Pandora station. Around the Puget Sound, Salish Sea and wilderness coast, if we crave a snowy Christmas experience, we usually head to the mountains. This year, with an above average snowpack for the entire Pacific Northwest, you can have a white Christmas with ease. While my last two snowpack articles have been full of data and a bit long winded, this is going to be short and sweet so we can all enjoy the holidays.
It should really come as no surprise.
Leading up to this nearly 8,000 foot mountain in the center of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the Hoh River Valley is known for endless rain that creates the Hoh Rainforest. Receiving over 14 feet of rain a year, the Hoh region of Olympic is one of the wettest spots in the contiguous United States. While most who visit this popular wilderness National Park fall in love with the endless green the rain produces, the mountains above are filled with more glaciers than Glacier National Park and get slammed by endless, powerful moisture-filled storms rolling off the Pacific Ocean. For the past two weeks, Mount Olympus, the highest summit in the Olympic Mountains, has been getting the brunt of this incredible winter weather.
The last week of fall is here, meaning that true winter is just around the corner. For most of the Olympic Peninsula, winter has been in full force for the better part of December. After a wet and wild fall, cold air is sitting on our region, giving our mountains a well-deserved blanket of snow. While the past seven days have been snowy in places, the majority of the snowpack around the Olympic Mountains has seen small, incremental growth. No major storms rolled in, but the current snowpack is still a whopping 170% of normal for this time of year. This is awesome!
In late July 2016, the waters of the Hood Canal turned a brilliant blue, causing many residents and visitors to wonder what had happened to the usually dark waters of Washington State’s most famous fjord. The answer is actually a pretty simple one- the water color changed due to a phytoplankton bloom. Thanks to NASA, we were able to see just how impressive the bloom was, as it was visible from space. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, the bloom turned the waters a milky blue color, due to microscopic plankton called Coccolithophores that are plated with white calcium carbonate. The plates can impart a milky, turquoise hue to the water that is often visible from space.
In the mountains of the Olympic Range, much like the mountain ranges across the west coast of the United States, signs of a low snowpack and climate change are all anyone seems to be talking about. Whether on the snow free trails on Hurricane Ridge, summiting classic Olympic Mountains like Mount Ellinor, or experiencing the beauty of Lake of the Angels, hikers on the Olympic Peninsula are shocked by the staggering lack of snow on some of the most popular trails.
I hike Mount Ellinor more than I should. In fact, I am probably addicted. Every four weeks or so, I take the 90 minute drive from Olympia to the upper parking lot. I have the drive, the trail, and the views memorized, yet I keep returning, again and again. On May 18th, 2015, I returned yet again to the summit of this Olympic Peninsula mountain, with hopes of another adventure, stunning views, and hopefully some pictures of Mt St Helens and/or baby goats. It was my sixth time up Ellinor in the last five months, and I feel like I have been ignoring her.
The most polluted wild bird in the world has been found, and it wasn’t found where most would think. In the majestic town of Vancouver British Columbia, the mountains meet the sea in one of the most beautiful settings for a city in the world. Known for being an environmentally sound region, the news of a cooper hawk has been found with a level of fire retardant chemicals in its system that it is fireproof.
Anyone living out west knows that this year has been usually warm, easily seen by glancing at any of our normally snowcapped peaks. While we know that this year’s El Nino has been tough, what is most shocking is that it is one of the worst snowfall years in history. The snowpack for the 6 western states of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are at a combined 41% of normal, with the highest snowpack coming in just under 80%.
Yosemite and Sequoia National Park are now, once again, home to Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep, something the region hasn’t seen for over a century. Between March 26th and 29th, 12 sheep (9 ewes and 3 rams) were placed in remote regions of both of these California National Parks, specifically to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park and the Laurel Creek area of Sequoia National Park.
The fate of West Coast starfish is now in the hands of congress. Unlike the starfish, the hands of congressmen aren’t melting off, which is probably why they aren’t rushing to address this issue. First discovered on the rugged and isolated wilderness beach of Olympic National Park, starfish along the West Coast of the United States and Canada are infected with what appears to be a disease that turns their appendages to mush. The event isn’t limited to a few starfish here and there, instead it is impacting the entire species, and threatens to devastate the entire ecosystem of the west coast.
The silence of the wilderness of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, which houses Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest and six Wilderness Areas, is under attack. The attack on silence isn’t coming from the growing number of tourists looking to fall in love with the region, it isn’t coming from highway noise or cities, nor is it coming from logging operations looking to revitalize at struggling economy around the Peninsula. Instead, it is coming from the United States Navy,
As has been well documented over the past few months, the winter of 2014-15 is shaping up to give the mountains of the west one of their worst snowpacks in recent memory. While many look at the lack of snow this year and are concerned about the economic impact on ski areas and the increase of wildfire danger over the summer, the environmental impact of years like this has the potential to be far more devastating. On March 13th, 2015, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought for three regions of Washington State, including the Olympic Peninsula, which is sitting at just 7% of normal snowpack.
As most everyone around the western states knows, this winter has been beyond disappointing for those hoping for a normal snowpack. Mountains across the region, from the Rockies and the Cascades, to the Olympics and the Sierras, the amount of snow that has fallen in the winter of 2014-15 has been disappointing.