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Between the melting of the snow in June until the first snowfall in September, summer lasts only a brief time in the subalpine of the Washington Cascades.
With such a brief season, subalpine plants grow little in any year. One reason subalpine trees and plants are smaller than their lower elevation counterparts.
Like tundra ecosystems, after the snow melts, many subalpine wildflowers begin their yearly life cycle. They must flower, get pollinated, and set seed in a brief window of time.
These subalpine regions often receive damage by off-trail human activity. It can take decades for nature to heal itself. Therefore, it’s essential to obey the signs throughout these fragile areas asking us to stay on the trail.
I’ve seen people out in these delicate meadows taking photos of themselves or their friends on every trip I’ve made to the alpine regions this year. Just this one action can cause damage that takes years to repair. Further multiplied if another person or group follows in their footsteps.
Leave No Trace Principles.
What can we, as a visitor do to prevent this from happening? First, we can follow the “Leave No Trace Seven Principles” with an emphasis on:
-Learn about the regulations and unique concerns of the area you are visiting. Observe and obey the signage.
-Stay on designated trails.
-Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when it’s wet or muddy. Hikers often create alternative paths to avoid these sections.
-Avoid locations where effects are just beginning. Another person or group traveling through a fragile area should not be an open invitation for others to follow.
National parks are receiving record numbers of visitors this year. If we all do our part, we can help preserve these natural wonders for future generations.
About This Photo.
I captured this photograph a few weeks back while visiting the Sunrise area of Mt Rainier National park, Washington.
It was a warm summer afternoon by the time I set off for my hike to Burroughs Mountain. Hours later, clouds would move in to obscure the mountain from an unobstructed view. Very typical for this location.
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