National parks offer astronomy programs this summer

If you did not get to see the aurora borealis Monday night, don’t fret. Volunteers at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks will be holding astronomy sessions throughout the summer.

MOUNT RAINIER: The park will hold sky-viewing events, weather permitting, every night through Labor Day outside the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise.

The program will start just after dark and continue for at least two hours.

Leading the programs will be volunteer astronomers:

Pat Beatie: Friday through Tuesday nights. He is a Bellevue College astronomy professor and retired FBI agent.

Don West-Wilke: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday nights. He is a recent Astronomer of the Year with Tacoma Astronomical Society. He’s also known as the Singing Astronomer.

Tom and Gracie Pauly: Thursday nights. Retired teachers and owner/operators of the nonprofit Starryhill Planetarium and Observatory in Eatonville.

Matt Dieterich: Thursday through Monday nights. A Geo-Corps astronomy intern, he recently graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

On some afternoons, the astronomers will also set up a solar scope outside the Jackson visitor center.

Park staffers will update a hotline recording at 360-569-6230 to provide information on what will be viewed and to announce cancellations.

OLYMPIC: Master observer John Goar will lead one-hour astronomy programs with telescopes at Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Programs will be offered at 11 p.m. July 5-14, at 10:45 p.m. July 15-20, at 10;15 p.m. Aug. 4-6, at 10 p.m. Aug. 7-14, at 9:45 p.m. Aug. 15-18 and at 9 p.m. Sept. 3-6 and Sept. 11-12.

In addition, astronomer John Goar will lead full-moon hikes on Hurricane Hill. Participants should meet at the Hurricane Hill trailhead. As the sun sets and the full moon rises, hike at your own pace up the 1.6 mile, partially paved trail, climbing 700 feet to the summit. Goar will point out constellations at the top. People should bring flashlights and wear sturdy shoes.

The programs will be from 8:30 p.m. to about 11 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1, and from 7:30 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 28-29.

If skies are cloudy, the program will be canceled. For status updates, call the park recording at 360-565-3131 after 3 p.m. the day of the program.


Work to repair the final 3 miles of the Cascade River Road will begin in August.

Drivers may experience up to 20 minute delays from Aug. 23-Sept. 7, according to a news release from North Cascades National Park.

The road will then be closed to all vehicle and foot traffic from Sept. 8 through late October.

The closure will begin at the Eldorado parking area near milepost 20 and will affect hikers and climbers approaching the area from either the east or west side. Eldorado Peak and other peaks accessed via Eldorado Creek will not be affected.

The project will include the installation of a 60-foot-long concrete box culvert with a debris rack. It will be placed at Boston Creek, a common washout area. The road was significantly damaged at Boston Creek in 2009 and again in August 2013, when a washout left more than 70 visitors temporarily stranded.

The road provides access to the very popular Cascade Pass, Horseshoe Basin and Sahale Arm trails, as well as a scenic route for hikers crossing the park to Stehekin. Boston Basin is a popular climbing area, with access to Forbidden, Sahale and Sharkfin peaks, among others, according to a park news release.

For up-to-date information, visit the park’s website, Facebook or Twitter pages. For help with trip planning, suggestions for alternative autumn hikes or climbs, or to learn about alternate hiking routes to Stehekin, contact the Wilderness Information Center at 360-854-7245.