An important person once said, “Getting out of bed is half the battle.”
We wanted to be part of this year’s National Park Lands Day, but in order to be there in time, we needed to be at the White River Camp Ground at Mt Rainier National Park before 9 in the morning. That meant we had to get the kids up and out of bed at 6am on a Saturday, during the school year. We debated. Was it worth the potential battle? Were we the worst parents ever, to even consider this?
The kids usually love activities like this, but the idea of getting up that early posed some challenges. With some persuasion, we agreed as a family that it would be worth it.
There would be Starbucks for breakfast in the car on route.
There would be extra treats and the promise of a dinner out at a restaurant, or perhaps even a visit to The Fair.
Yes, we could do this. And yes, we did.
The sun was rising and greeting us as we headed east. The mountain was glowing in the morning mist. It was a glorious morning as we drove, with our pastries and coffee, toward the park.
We arrived at the campground to meet with the organizers with plenty of time to spare. The air was brisk, but we had prepared warm clothes and were ready to work.
Two groups offered volunteer events on the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier that weekend. The WTA was doing some trail maintenance, which sounded fun, but would require some heavy lifting and wasn’t something suitable for kids. The National Park Conservation Association along with the National Park Services offered a revegetation project of native plants in the Sunrise subalpine meadows.
After signing in along with about 50 other people, we received a brief introduction by the volunteer coordinator and a warm welcome by Randy King, the Park’s Superintendent.
The burly folks headed with the WTA to their trail site, while we, along with a group of Cub Scouts and others, were heading out to our planting site. The area used to be a car campground in the 1930s and is now being replanted and restored to its natural habitat. We learned from the incredible friendly and helpful park rangers that due to the fact that the Sunrise area is almost 80% of the year covered in snow, plants grow very slowly and to restore an area that had previously being built on will require careful management and care. Seeds had been collected a few years back, carefully nursed into seedlings, and now in 2015, the goal was to plant 50,000 new native plants. So late in the season seemed strange, but this wouldn’t require any watering, and the snow wouldn’t harm the little plants, since they were used to the harsh climate of the subalpine meadows.
Usually, we spend our time in the park hiking trails or climbing mountains. This time around, we carried flats of seedlings. We carefully navigated wheelbarrows down small trails usually off limits for hikers. We learned how to plant plants in groups so they could pollenate and prosper next Spring.
The kids had an absolute blast and being surrounded by people. With lots of other kids, who all were focused on the task at hand, they had a great time doing it, with time passing quickly.
During lunch we explored a bit down a spectacular little valley that felt it had been forgotten by the times.
In the afternoon, as we approached around 5,000 plants planted for the day, we packed up, snapped a couple group pictures and made the short hike back to the parking lot.
After we were done, the kids told us “this was absolutely the best day ever”. We initially had negotiated with them that on the way back we might stop by the Washington State Fair. The fair still in full swing, but after a day out in nature no one really wanted to enter the madness of a fair. So, we decided to take the long road back, drove toward Paradise and had dinner at the lodge. It was a long and glorious day in the Park… the perfect ending to a great Summer outdoors.
If you want to participate in an event like this in the future and stay up to date with upcoming opportunities visit the website of the National Public Lands Day and follow us on Twitter – we’ll post about similar opportunities in the public lands of the Pacific Northwest.