Did You Know?

Height of Mount Rainier To Be Remeasured

by Three Bears Lodge on July 8, 2010 Category: Did You Know?

Height of Mount Rainier

The official height of Mt. Rainier has stood at 14,411.1 feet since the first GPS measurement of the mountain in 1988. A second measurement in 1999 came within a half-inch of that number. Now geologists plan another trek to the top to measure the mountain again with a new generation of GPS devices.  These aren’t your standard handheld GPS devices, either; they’re specially designed for surveyors and construction companies to take extremely accurate measurements.

Here’s a few of the measured heights of the mountain over the years, and the methods used prior to GPS technology:

Height: 12,330 feet
Measured By:
Lt. Charles Wilkes
Visual estimate / Triangulation

Height: 14,440 feet
Year: 1856
Measured By: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
Method: Triangulation

Height: 14,528 feet
Measured By: Edgar McClure
Method: Mercury Barometer

Height: 14,408 feet
Year: 1914
Measured By: U.S. Geological Survey
Method: Plane Table and Alidade

Height: 14,410 feet
Year: 1956
Measured By: USGS
Method: Triangulation with Simultaneous Reciprocal Angles

Height: 14,411.1 feet
Year: 1988
Measured By: Larry Signani & Land Surveyors’ Association of Washington
Method: GPS Device

Height: 14,411.05 feet
Year: 1999
Measured By: Land Surveyors’ Association of Washington
Method: GPS Device

Original Story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012293597_rainier07m.html


Bison vs. Buffalo: Do You Know the Difference?

by Three Bears Lodge on June 18, 2010 Category: Did You Know?

American Bison, Not Buffalo

If you’re looking for the home where the buffalo roam, you’d better save up for a plane ticket to Africa or southern Asia. We’ve all grown up hearing time and again the colorful tales of our traditional American history: pioneers striking out for the West, wagon trains, Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail, Native American tribes, and massive herds of buffalo- or was it bison?

Though we use the names interchangeably in the U.S., the shaggy beasts that traditionally roamed our continent’s plains are not buffalo, but another member of the Bovidae family, called bison. French fur trappers of the early 1600s referred to these animal as les bœufs, meaning oxen, which is believed to be the origin for our usage of the word “buffalo.” The word “bison,” similarly meaning ‘ox-like animal’ in Greek, was introduced in the late 1700s to distinguish these animals from the true buffalo of Asia and Africa. Bison is the correct name of these massive beasts that inhabit North America and Europe.

The True Buffalo

Asian Water Buffalo

Asian Water Buffalo

There are two types of true buffalo in the world. The first is the water buffalo, which resides in southern Asian countries such as Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The second is the African cape buffalo, which lives in the wild in most of the non-desert land of Africa. Water buffalo, African cape buffalo, and the American Bison all come from the same scientific family and subfamily, but vary considerably in their appearance and behavior.

African Water Buffalo

African Water Buffalo

Water buffalo can grow to almost 10 feet long from nose to tail and almost 7 feet tall. They have long horns that curve backwards, and weigh about two and a half tons. African cape buffalo are slightly smaller, about five and a half feet tall, around 11 feet long and weigh anywhere from 1 to 2 tons, and tend to sport horns that curve upwards and in. While wild African cape buffalo are not considered an endangered species, the wild water buffalo population of Asia is dwindling every year, with less than 4,000 estimated to live in the wild. The water buffalo thrives in domesticated numbers, much like cattle; conversely, the volatile, ill-tempered African buffalo doesn’t seem to be suited for the tame life.

The American Bison

American Bison

American Bison

The iconic bison of American folklore is actually quite different from its cousins across the ocean. American bison are far less cattle-like in appearance, though technically they are more closely related to livestock than true buffalo. They are intimidating beasts, with a broad, high hump above their muscular shoulders, culminating in a massive, shaggy head that is crowned with a pair of short curved horns. The bison’s size is formidable as well, ranging up to six and a half feet tall, ten feet long, and weighing over two tons.

There is another closely-related species of bison known as the European Bison, which look very similar to the American bison. Their differences are primarily anatomical, such as differing rib counts and vertebrae, however they also have slight differences in horn shape, coat, and stature.

When American bison roamed the plains freely they were said to rival the brown bear as the most dangerous animal one could encounter in the North American wilderness. But despite their naturally fearsome appearance, American bison were nearly hunted to extinction by Western settlers in the 19th and early 20th century. The population rebounded only as a result of the concerted efforts of worried conservationists.

Bison in America Today

Many of the bison in captivity today are bred solely for their meat. It is estimated by the American Bison Society that of the nearly 500,000 bison currently repopulated in North America, as few as 20-30,000 are under the supervision of conservation groups. There have been a number of efforts recently to reintroduce American bison throughout the country to large open spaces. Nearly 100 bison are planned for release into the Alaskan interior in 2011. On a contained scale bison have been reintroduced to a number of plains states such as Iowa and Kansas as well as areas in Canada and Mexico.

While you won’t find bison inside Mount Rainier National Park, there are ample opportunities to view them at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, located a short drive from our Ashford WA cabins. Imagine coming within mere yards of animals that have supported entire native civilizations; it’s all part of the Northwest experience, a rare chance to connect with a living piece of history.


Poison Ivy vs. Poison Oak: How To Spot These (Ob)noxious Weeds

by Three Bears Lodge on May 27, 2010 Category: Did You Know?

Do You Know What These Rhymes Have In Common?

“Leaves of three, let it be”
“Berries white, run in fright”
“Hairy vine, no friend of mine”

They remind us how to spot Poison Ivy and Poison Oak! All of these are useful rhymes which have certainly helped many a hiker escape painful exposure. Itchy red rashes, swelling, even blistering- an innocent hike in the forest can have very uncomfortable consequences if you don’t know what to avoid.

Here are some characteristics shared by Poison Ivy and Poison Oak:

  • Found in nearly every State in the United States

    Poison Ivy Leaflets

    Poison Ivy Leaflets

  • Grows at altitudes below 5,000ft
  • Deciduous
  • Grows as a bush or vine
  • Stems do not have thorns
  • Usually grow clusters of three ‘leaflets’
  • Leaflets can range in size from the length of your thumb to the length of your hand
  • Middle leaflet has a notably longer stem than the two side leaflets, though more obvious in Poison Ivy than Poison Oak
  • Depending on the season, leaf color can range from green to orange and even a dark purplish-red
  • Inconspicuous white spring flowers which usually produce clusters of small white blueberry-sized berries that turn red in late summer
  • Produce a rash-inducing oil called Urushiol
  • Toxic to humans but harmless to animals
  • All parts of the plant contain the toxins (leaflets, stems, and roots)
Poison Ivy Vine

"Hairy" Poison Ivy Vine

The most tell-tale characteristics of poison ivy are:

  • “Hairy” vines
  • Though Poison Ivy is not really an ivy, it’s often viney growth pattern can resemble ivy
  • Smooth or subtly toothed almond shaped leaflets that are sometimes irregularly lobed
Poison Oak Leaflets

Poison Oak Leaflets

The most tell-tale characteristics of Poison Oak are:

  • Leaf shape resembles an oak leaf, but it’s not a member of the oak family
  • Leaflets are duller green and usually more distinctly lobed or toothed than poison ivy
  • Mature leaflets are typically duller green than young ones
  • Leaflets have hairs on both sides, unlike poison ivy

Even a slight brush against theses plants can result in a skin reaction. The toxin is easily transferred from one surface to another and will remain potent for years if not thoroughly cleaned (imagine your exposed dog running through your house!). Also, symptoms can take 24-48 hours or even up to a week to show up, particularly if its your first exposure!  We recommend that you keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs to avoid contact!

Poison Oak Coloration

Poison Oak Coloration

Urushiol: Poison Ivy and Poison Oak’s Oily Toxin

Poison ivy and poison oak have one very essential thing in common: urushiol. This sinister substance is an oil secreted from the leaves, vines, stems, and roots of both plants. Upon contact with your body, urushiol immediately forms a chemical bond to the skin and causes an almost unstoppable allergic reaction. A fraction of the populace is unresponsive to the irritating resin, but don’t count on it: even an initial natural resistance to urushiol will eventually break down after repeated exposure from too many careless treks off the beaten path.  Caution: Smoke inhalation from burning Poison Ivy or Poison Oak can send you straight to the emergency room, avoid burning these plants at all costs!

Poison Oak Leaflets Showing Coloration

Poison Oak Leaflets Showing Coloration

To The Rescue: How to Treat Exposure

If you come into contact with either plant, the sooner you take care of it, the better. As the chemicals rub off your clothes onto other surfaces you run the risk of exposing yourself and spreading the oil. Urushiol is not water-soluble, so if you can, use rubbing alcohol or strong soap to cleanse the area of contact within the first ten minutes, then rinse off with cold water. As urushiol can remain active for years, you’ll want to wash any clothes, items, or furniture that may have come into contact with the invisible oily residue.

If you don’t catch the exposure immediately, your only choice is to treat the resulting itchy rash and blisters as best you can. While there are countless home remedies to relieve itching and pain, standard treatment options include oatmeal baths, baking soda pastes, calamine lotion, aloe vera, and a number of commercial products designed specifically for Poison Ivy and Oak. Of course, the best remedy is always prevention, so if you’re able to recognize and avoid poison ivy and poison oak, your experience in the mountains will feel the benefit!

Still not afraid of Poison Ivy and Poison Oak?
Click the links below to see just how bad these rashes and blisters can be…. (Warning! These graphic images are pretty disgusting!)

Leg Rash

Calf Rash

And if those two photos weren’t enough: Poison Ivy Rash Gallery

Poison Ivy Vine with Young Leaflets

Poison Ivy Vine with Young Leaflets


National Parks vs. National Forests: What’s the Difference?

by Three Bears Lodge on May 26, 2010 Category: Did You Know?

Mount Rainier National Park Entrance

For the average person, there’s a little-known distinction between our National Parks and our National Forests. Many believe them to be more or less the same thing, and in many ways, they can be! Both are large, natural areas owned and managed by the Federal government, both are devoted to the protection of America’s natural heritage, and both are intended to educate and entertain us when we feel that urge to reconnect with the world around us.

America’s First National Park

National Park Service Logo

Logo of the National Park Service

In 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Act establishing Yellowstone as the country’s first National Park. Yellowstone, home to Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful, was the first in a legacy of National Parks that stretches nearly a century and a half into the future.

Created in 1916, the primary purpose of the National Park Service is to manage the 84.9 million acres of land in the National Park System. The Park Service has a minimal impact policy when it comes to protecting the National Parks. Most people have heard this policy in the form of slogans, such as “Leave only footprints, take only pictures.”

Here’s some quick facts about the National Park Service:

  • Of the 84.9 million acres under management, Alaska has 55 million acres
  • 3.6% of all land in the U.S. is in the National Park System!
  • Hunting, fishing, and logging are not allowed on National Park land
  • There are 26,830 campsites, located in a total of 776 campgrounds!
  • There are a total of 55 National Parks
  • The National Park Service also manages 24 historic National Battlefields, 74 National Monuments, 10 National Seashores, and 54 Wilderness Areas
  • There were 272 million visits to National Park Service lands in 2007
  • 154,000 volunteers donated 5.1 million hours of time in 2007, saving the Park Service over 92 million dollars

Here at Three Bears Lodge, we’re lucky to be located near a protected natural haven of our own. Our cabins are located just moments outside Mount Rainier National Park, and provide an inspiring opportunity to spend the day discovering the Northwest’s richest arboreal treasures. You can explore it almost any way you like, from ranger-guided tours to motorcycle or the seat of a car, on two wheels for biking the trails or two feet for hiking them. While hunting and fishing are prohibited, feel free to capture as many wild animals on film as you like (or mountain meadows, blossoming flowers, bubbling streams, and alpine lakes)!

National Forests: “The Greatest Amount of Good for The Greatest Amount of People”

US Forest Service Logo

Logo of the US Forest Service

Unlike the National Park Service, which defends and protects our National Parks, the US Forest Service acts more as a steward to our National Forests. Where the National Parks function somewhat like a forested museum, the National Forests operate as a natural resource to the public at large.

Though the land is owned by the government, commercial activities such as logging, grazing livestock, and recreational pastimes are all allowed and regulated. Many popular skiing and snowboarding destinations are located on National Forest land, and hunting, fishing, camping, water sports, and picnicking are all popular outdoor activities.

The first Chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, offered a simple and accurate summary of the National Forests’ purpose: “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.” The National Forests are a functional complement to the grandeur and treasured beauty of the National Parks.

Here’s some quick facts about the US Forest Service:

  • There are over 192 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands located in 42 states
  • 122,000 campsites located in 4,300 campgrounds
  • An average of 205 million visits to National Forests annually

National Parks and National Forests Working Together

Here in Ashford you get the best of both worlds. Though our cabins are located next to the National Park entrance, most of the land to the South of the park, including Mount St. Helens, is part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. One of our cabins even backs up to National Forest right in the back yard!

To the North of the National Park, you’ll find the beginning of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which winds its way North through the Cascades all the way to the Canadian border. Both forests offer a truly rugged outdoor experience and allow many activities that you might not be able to do in the National Park, not to mention allowing dogs.

Sources: http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/quickfacts.htm
Sources: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/facts/facts_sheet.shtml
Photo courtesy Kane Jamison