Playin’ Hooky

Most trails take you through parks or forests. This one took us through time.

I’m at Mount Rainier National Park with some SCA crew leaders and local volunteers. Our board of directors was here yesterday, helping to redirect part of the Wonderland Trail after a rain-swelled, ravenous Nisqually River took a giant bite out of the trail near Cougar Rock last winter. Today the directors and other senior staff are in Seattle conducting their summer board meeting, but I stayed behind at the park.

The morning started cloudy and cool, but as long as things stayed dry we were happy. Some people wrestled stumps while others removed a foot or more of loose organic material — known as “duff” — to make way for a more durable trail surface. Just an inch or two into the duff they found a light gray, powdery substance. Some in the group correctly surmised it was volcanic ash from the 1980 eruption at Mount St. Helens. But no one knew what to make of a similar discovery some eight inches deep.

Crew Leader Sam Commarto revealed this layer was also ash from Mount St. Helens but it was much older. Five hundred years older. (I didn’t doubt Sam but I was intrigued, so I later looked it up: St. Helens recorded two major ash spews between 1479 and 1482, a moment in time known as the Kalama Eruptive Period.)

The trail dogs were blown away, kicking up volcanic ash that landed before Columbus. No one needed another reminder of nature’s muscle but it’s unlikely any of us will forget it soon.

I hung with other SCAs at Paradise in the afternoon for Meadow Rover Training. I’ll fill you in on that next time I get a wireless connection.