June 2010

Packwood Summer Rod Run

Annual Packwood Summer Rod Run – July 24 & 25, 2010

This annual gathering of hundreds of antique and restored cars features judging, awards, competitive events, music and dancing and food. Enter your hot rod in the competition, join the fun at the street dance, and take part in the poker run! A poker run is an event where registered hot rods travel to stops around town, collecting a playing card at each stop, and prizes are awarded at the end for various poker hands. There’s plenty of fun for hot rod owners and enthusiasts alike!

Gates Open:

  • Saturday, July 24th: 9 AM – 4:30 PMFollowed by a town cruise and a dance in front of the Cowlitz River Lodge at 7 PM
  • Sunday, July 25th: 8 AM – 3 PMHot Rod Poker Run in the morning and awards at 1 PM

For more information call Laurie at 360-494-2026 or Rick at 360-494-4275 or Jerry at 360-494-8601, or visit the links below:

Packwood Rod Run

Packwood Rod Run 2006


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.


Featured Hike: Bench Lake to Snow Lake

by Three Bears Lodge on June 17, 2010 Category: Hikes

View of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake
Bench Lake to Snow Lake Hike Map - Click for Larger Map

Click for Larger Map

Hike: Bench Lake to Snow Lake
Distance: Approx. 2.5 Miles Round-Trip
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Elevation Gain: Approx. 700 feet
Time: About 1 Hour
Season: Mid-June to October

We received some great comments from last month’s Rampart Ridge Hike, and several requests that we include some hikes near the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier. This week we thought we’d feature the hike to Bench Lake and Snow Lake, an easier and family-friendly trail that has lots of great scenery everyone can enjoy. This 2.5 mile hike offers rolling meadows, beautiful lakes and an amazing uninterrupted view of Mount Rainier.

Though these lakes are located just off the road a few minutes past the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, you’ll feel like you’re miles from everyone after dropping into the basin surrounding the lakes.

The parking area is on the right side of Stevens Canyon Road, about 2 miles from Paradise. The trailhead will lead you South from the parking area and  you’ll wind your way through the meadow area known as The Bench. As you approach Bench Lake, approximately ¾ of a mile into your hike, you’ll get an uninterrupted view of Mt. Rainier and its reflection upon the lake.

As you continue your hike you’ll follow the trail another ½ mile to reach Snow Lake. Snow Lake is formed by Unicorn Creek, which in turn is formed by ice and melting snow from Unicorn Peak just above the lake. The lake sits surrounded on the East, South, and West by a tall ridge, blocking most sunlight and leaving the lake almost as cold as the ice and snow above it. You can usually find blocks of ice floating in the lake throughout the year, leaving no doubt as to how the lake earned its name.

The trail features rolling hills and a relatively short distance, so this hike is recommended for families with children and those looking for a quick day hike and some amazing photo opportunities in the National Park.  This hike is a great addition to a stop at Ohanapecosh in the Southeast end of the park to hike the Grove of the Patriarchs path featuring old-growth forest and some of the largest trees in the region.

View of Bench Lake from the Trail

View of Bench Lake from the Trail

Photo Credits: View of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake & View of Bench Lake from the Trail.


New Henry Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

If you’re planning a trip to Mount Rainier National Park, the drive to Paradise should be at the top of your “must-see” list. Famous for its beautiful meadows covered in wildflowers during the summer and its close proximity to the glaciers of Mount Rainier, Paradise is the most visited area of the park throughout the year. It’s also the location of the main visitor center for the National Park, known as the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center.

Located at an elevation of 5,400 feet, the Paradise area surrounding the visitor center receives an average of 680 inches of snowfall (nearly 57 feet) every year, making it the “snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly.”  Despite the impressive amount of snow that accumulates here each winter, the Jackson Visitor Center is open year-round.

Originally known as the Paradise Visitor Center, the building was renamed in 1987 to commemorate the life of Henry M. Jackson. Jackson was a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator for the state of Washington from 1941 until his passing on September 1st, 1983.  He was instrumental in the creation of the first Paradise Visitor Center in 1966 as part of the National Park Service’s “Mission 66″ park renewal program.

Old Henry Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park

The Old Jackson Visitor Center

The original visitor center, seen to the right, was frequently criticized for both its appearance as well as its functionality. The building was said by many to look like a flying saucer, and local residents likened it to a sunken version of Seattle’s Space Needle. Furthermore the building was not properly engineered to handle the snowfall at Paradise. The building’s structure was so inadequate that the Park Service spent 300 to 500 gallons of diesel fuel per day during the snow season – which lasts more than 6 months of the year – just to melt the snow on the building to prevent the roof from collapsing.  This amounted to an annual power bill of nearly $190,000 for the building.

Recognizing this inefficiency, the Park Service began construction of a new visitor center in 2006. Still known as the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, the new building opened to the public on October 10, 2008, and was followed by demolition of the original visitor center in spring of 2009. Inspired by the traditional style of the historic buildings found throughout the rest of the park, the new visitor center was designed to withstand the heavy snowfall that occurs throughout the winter.

Interior of the New Jackson Visitor Center

Interior of the New Jackson Visitor Center

Heating for the new energy-efficient building costs 77% less than the original building.  The savings are largely due to a pitched metal roof designed to shed snow, energy-efficient windows, and a reduction in the new building’s size of 70% to 18,000 square feet.  These energy savings will amount to an estimated $7 million during the life of the building, which cost $21.2 million to build.

With almost 2 million visitors each year at Mount Rainier National Park, the new visitor center receives a lot of traffic.  The updated interior of the visitor center features informative displays on local wildlife, mountain climbing at Mt. Rainier, diagrams on how the inside of the volcano works, and even a theater that plays a movie about the National Park’s history (On a side note, the film crew stayed at our cabins during filming!).  The traditional style of the new building may not draw the same attention as the former “flying saucer,” but it will certainly create just as many memories for Paradise visitors for years to come.

Photo Credits: