May 2010

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.

Photo courtesy Kane Jamison


Featured Hike: Rampart Ridge Trail

by Three Bears Lodge on May 26, 2010 Category: Hikes

Rampart Ridge Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Rampart Ridge Map

Click for Large Map

Distance: Approximately 5 miles
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation Gain: Approximately 1400 feet
Time: About 2.5 Hours
Season: Mid-June to October
Dogs Allowed: No

As the snow in Mount Rainier National Park begins to melt in early summer, more and more great hiking opportunities present themselves. One trail that becomes hikeable in mid-June is the Rampart Ridge Trail. Created by ancient lava flow from Mount Rainier, Rampart Ridge is located near Longmire, just a few minutes inside the Southwest Ashford entrance to the park. You’ll find the trail just across the street from the National Park Inn. The nearly 5 mile loop offers beautiful scenery and a short but challenging climb to the top of Rampart Ridge.

View of Mt Rainier from Rampart Ridge

View of Mt Rainier from Rampart Ridge

For the best views of Mt. Rainier you should take the loop clockwise. To reach the Rampart Ridge Trail, start out along the 0.75 mile Trail of the Shadows, a quick loop and good day hike alternative for families with small children. At the back of the Trail of Shadows you’ll find the trailhead for Rampart Ridge. Once you begin the hike you’ll quickly ascend nearly 1400 feet. Switchbacks will lead you up and through douglas firs to reach the top of the ridge, where the path quickly levels off. The hike up is steep, but the payoff is quick once you reach the top of the ridge, since hikers are rewarded with gorgeous uninterrupted views of Mt. Rainier. Follow the ridge until you meet up with the Wonderland Trail to take you back down to Longmire, about 2 miles further.

The hike should take approximately 2.5 hours for the average hiker. Be sure to bring your camera for the wildlife and scenic views. Keep in mind that the trail may still have snow until late June, so come prepared for a little mud or cold wind at the top of the ridge.

For an awesome day trip through Mt. Rainier National Park try pairing this hike with a stop at Paradise to see the Henry Jackson Visitor Center, a quick 2.5 mile hike from Bench Lake to Snow Lake, and a short drive to Ohanapecosh to hike through Grove of the Patriarchs.

Rampart Ridge Hike Map

Click for larger map of Rampart Ridge Trail


Bringing Your Dog to Mount Rainier

by Three Bears Lodge on May 25, 2010 Category: Pets

Dog friendly cabins and trails at Mt. Rainier

It’s something every dog owner can agree upon: our canine comrades make a career out of making us happy – and sometimes that can be a full-time job. Next time the family needs a refreshing escape from the city, why not give your pup a vacation, too?

From a spacious fenced enclosure nestled beneath the cedars, to a cozy washable dog bed, to a fully-stocked “doggie basket” complete with treats and personalized cabin ID tags, our Little Bears Cabin and our Three Bears Lodge cabin have been outfitted with thoughtful amenities to make Fido’s stay at the mountain as wonderful as your own. The Nisqually River is just a hop, skip, and a springing leap away from our Three Bears Lodge cabin, where you can walk along the levy for miles.

Although dogs aren’t permitted on the trails inside the National Park, the one exception is the Pacific Crest Trail that runs along the eastern border of the park. Hikers find themselves strolling through sub-alpine forests, passing lovely lakes and ponds, waterfalls and meadows filled with summer flowers. This hike offers spectacular views of Mount Rainier and other distant peaks.

Outside the National Park there are a multitude of trails in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest and leashed dogs are welcome. One of our favorites is High Rock Lookout, which offers incredible views of the Sawtooth Ridge, Mount Rainier and the surrounding peaks. The trail head is just 10 minutes from our dog friendly cabins.

There’s no shortage of outdoor adventures to explore and enjoy with the whole family!

We guarantee a tail wagging good time!