Roger Andrascik, a fixture at Mount Rainier for the past 13 years, retired Nov. 27 after 37 years with the National Park Service.
As the chief of natural and cultural resources in the park, he says, “It has been a privilege going out into the field with my staff, interns and volunteers to observe or assist on various projects such as meadow restoration, monitoring mountain lakes, banding owls or surveying effects of stream aggradation.”
Andrascik volunteered at Olympic National Park in 1976, and his career has taken him to numerous locations in Redwood, Crater Lake, Yellowstone and Theodore Roosevelt national parks.
Andrascik and his wife, Karen, will stay in Eatonville, where he is a member of the School Board and volunteers with several organizations. Shortly before his retirement, he took a few minutes to field some questions:
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What are some of your favorite adventures at Mount Rainier?
Before working here, my first adventure at Mount Rainier began June 1974, when I was 16. I rode the train from San Diego to Seattle by myself, and then caught a tour bus to the park so I could climb the mountain. I had signed up for RMI’s five-day expedition climb on the Fuhrer Finger Route. Our team of two guides and four clients made the summit. The irony was, when we moved here in 2002, one of the first friends we met was a woman who later married one of my guides.
Choosing a favorite trail is difficult because the mood of the seasons can change your experience on the hike. The draw of wildflowers or fall colors can lead me to different places each year. I do like getting away from the popular areas but must admit the Glacier Basin — Burroughs Loop is pretty awesome because of the views and subalpine terrain.
Roger Andrascik, recently retired Mount Rainier chief of natural and cultural resources
Probably my most memorable experiences were after the November 2006 flood, which closed the park for six months. I recall surveying the flood damage by helicopter with (then deputy superintendent) Randy King and witnessing the cataclysmic nature of the event. Segments of the Wonderland Trail were washed away, culverts were blown out and multiple sections of highway lost. Debris flows occurred throughout the park — most notably on Tahoma Creek along the Westside Road. Nearly half the Carbon River Road was damaged, and the river was flowing through what use to be the road, and fire lookouts lost their roofs due to gale force winds. Subsequent precipitation events are occurring more frequently, with more intensity and dynamic results.
With more than a third of your tenure at Rainier, what is it that kept you here?
Life’s circumstances, working in an iconic national park and a fondness for the Pacific Northwest have kept me here.
In August 2005, I hiked the Wonderland Trail with my son. Emerald Ridge to Klapatche Ridge ranks high for the scenery. ... The planning for and the challenge of hiking the Wonderland is as much a motivating factor as being immersed in the scenery. It was a lifelong goal, as for so many other people. This past summer my daughter and I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail portion through the park, which is also another favorite.
Working for the National Park Service used to be somewhat like transfers in the military. We moved every three to five years. When we moved here, we were close to my wife Karen’s family. She was hired at Eatonville Elementary School and is now in her 11th year teaching. My father moved to the area shortly after my mother passed away. Our children, Hannah and Sean, were at the time in fourth- and seventh-grades respectively. We wanted them to finish high school in Eatonville before even considering another assignment. Gradually we became very involved in our community, met many great friends and loved the area. Both our children attended and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University. I stayed challenged in my work through a broad array of experiences in managing Mount Rainier’s natural and cultural resources program. … My family and I have seen no reason for leaving and have planted our roots.
What is your favorite place for kayaking in the Northwest?
Karen’s family has a small cabin on Fox Island that her grandparents built in 1950. I have been spending time there since the late 1970s when I first started dating Karen. I enjoy both the mountains and ocean.
Kayaking is very therapeutic for me. You can’t beat the views of Mount Rainier and the Olympics over either shoulder when paddling across the water.
When we moved from Minnesota we brought our kayaks. I love being able to just haul out the boat and tour around Fox Island or going across toward McNeil Island and Anderson Island. Kayaking is very therapeutic for me. You can’t beat the views of Mount Rainier and the Olympics over either shoulder when paddling across the water. Sunsets over the Olympics are spectacular.
You mentioned a bucket list. What are one or two of the things you’re most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to traveling and hiking with my wife. … We would like to sail up the Inside Passage and see the interior of Alaska. There are numerous treks, including the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We have had the opportunity to live in some wonderful parks, but there are still many we would like to visit.
Finally, I am still interested in continuing to provide service. I intend to help others and organizations such as the Nisqually Stream Stewards and Nisqually Land Trust, working on salmon restoration in the local area, continuing my involvement on the Eatonville School Board and assisting in planning our local Relay for Life event.
To nominate somebody for Adventurer of the week, contact Craig Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. @AdventureGuys