Monday, August 19, 2019

Highline and Loop Trails and Swiftcurrent Pass area temporarily closed

The Highline Trail, The Loop Trail, and Swiftcurrent Trail (from Swiftcurrent Pass to Granite Park Chalet) are all closed as of Sunday evening, meaning that access to the Granite Park area is not possible.

On Monday morning, park staff will hike to the area to observe bear behavior and conduct hazing activities as appropriate.

The Granite Park backcountry campsite will be closed to campers arriving Monday, August 19.

The park expects that the trails will be closed at minimum until park staff can evaluate the area on Monday, and may be closed an indeterminate period of time afterwards, depending on their findings.

Park staff who live in the Granite Park area have been monitoring grizzly bears frequenting the area and on Sunday received several first hand visitor reports of encounters with a bear or bears along the trail within the general area of the campground and the chalet. The bear or bears exhibited behavior consistent with being disturbed and frustrated by human presence. Bears can respond aggressively in defense of themselves, a food source, or cubs.

“We appreciate the public’s patience while we evaluate this situation,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “The park has a proactive bear management program, and we take reports of aggressive bear behavior very seriously.”

People can monitor trail status by visiting the park’s Trail Status webpage.

Guests planning to hike to Granite Park Chalet with reservations for tomorrow night should call the Granite Park Chalet Office at 888-345-2649 for more information and updates. The park does not expect that any trail status updates will be available before Monday afternoon.

People currently in the Granite Park region departing Monday morning will be permitted to hike out the Loop or Swiftcurrent Pass Trails, but not the Highline Trail.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hailstorm pummels Big Lake WMA waterfowl

A hailstorm that flattened crops, broke windows and wrecked roofs and vehicles throughout the region Sunday also killed and maimed more than 11,000 waterfowl and wetland birds at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists who visited the lake this week picked up dead ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls, internal damage and other injuries consistent with massive blunt-force trauma. They reported thousands of additional dead or badly injured waterfowl and wetland birds in and around the lake.

A neighboring landowner reported baseball-sized hail that broke windows in the area Sunday evening. Local weather reports said Molt and Rapelje suffered two-inch hail propelled by a 70-mile-per-hour wind.

FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the birds at the lake were killed or injured. Of the birds that still are alive, Paugh estimated that five percent of ducks on the lake and 30 percent to 40 percent of living pelicans and cormorants show some sign of injury or impaired movement – mostly broken wings and broken wing feathers.

FWP’s Big Lake Wildlife Management Area features a shallow, often-seasonal lake and wetland that are nesting areas for dozens of species of ducks, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, shorebirds, gulls, pelicans and other waterfowl. Because of wet weather this past spring, the lake filled and currently covers around 4,000 acres.

Paugh and wildlife research specialist Jay Watson were back at the lake later this week to continue their survey of the damage to birds and try to assess the potential for additional problems to crop up.

Paugh said his scientific estimates show that the hailstorm killed or badly injured between 11,000 and 13,000 waterfowl and shorebirds, some of which still are alive but will not survive their injuries from the storm. Most of the dead birds have blown ashore.

Among future concerns is the possibility that disease – including botulism – caused by rotting carcasses could further devastate the bird populations. FWP will continue to monitor that situation.

“On a positive note,” Paugh said, “the lake is still covered with waterfowl that are alive and healthy. Life will go on.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Visitors feeding bears forces closure of Signal Mountain Summit Road area

The Signal Mountain Summit Road and area in Grand Teton National Park have been temporarily closed due to reports of visitors feeding bears, and bears bluff charging park visitors and staff.

Park rangers received reports that multiple visitors were feeding bears on Signal Mountain Summit Road on Tuesday evening, August 13. It is unknown what type of bear was being fed.

Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said, “Feeding wildlife is irresponsible, dangerous and illegal, and we take these incidents very seriously. Please share any information about the feeding of wildlife immediately to a nearby park ranger, visitor center, or by calling Park Watch at 307-739-3677.”

On the same night, park visitors and staff were bluff charged by a female grizzly with two cubs along the Signal Mountain Summit Road.

Bears are protective of their feeding areas, which include ripening berry patches. All visitors are required to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from bears and always carry bear spray, as well as make noise and travel in groups.

Never feed bears. Bears that obtain human food may lose their natural fear of humans and become dependent on human food. As a result, they may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. The maximum penalty for feeding park wildlife is a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Every visitor who comes to Grand Teton has the unique opportunity to view bears in their natural habitat. With that opportunity comes the responsibility to protect themselves and the bears. It is up to everyone to keep bears wild and alive. Please report any bear activity or human-bear interactions to a nearby park ranger or visitor center.

The proper storage of food items and responsible picnicking are vitally important in bear country. Picnickers should only have immediate use items out so that if a bear approaches, food items can be quickly gathered and the opportunity for the bear to receive a food reward is removed. Visitors should store food and scented items in bear-resistant food lockers that are located throughout the park or in a hard-sided vehicle. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter in campsites.

Grizzly and black bears thrive in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr., Memorial Parkway. Visitors may encounter a bear anywhere and at any time. Some of the most popular areas and trails pass through excellent bear habitat.

Park visitors should follow regulations related to human and wildlife safety. For more information, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 16, 2019

Girl dies from rockfall on Going-to-the-Sun Road

A 14-year-old girl died Monday from injuries she suffered when falling rocks struck a vehicle on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Around 7 p.m. Monday, rockfall near the East Tunnel on Going-to-the-Sun Road struck the vehicle in which the girl and four other people were traveling westbound. The rocks hit the top of the vehicle and shattered the rear windshield, fatally injuring the girl and also injuring her parents and two other children in the vehicle.

A.L.E.R.T. air ambulance responded, but was unable to airlift the girl because of her unstable condition. Flight paramedics traveled with her via ground ambulance to Kalispell, MT. The girl died while being transported to a local hospital. The two adults suffered significant bruises and were transported to area hospitals by Babb and Browning ground ambulance. The two other children in the vehicle had minor injuries and also went by ambulance to the hospital.

The family was visiting the park from Utah.

The rocks that hit the vehicle were between fist-sized and 12 inches in diameter. The park estimates that the amount of debris could have filled the bed of a pickup truck. The rocks fell from an unknown height from the mountains above the road.

The last fatal injury from rockfall on the Going-to-the-Sun Road was in 1996 when a vehicle was struck by a falling rock in the Rimrocks section of the road, just west of Logan Pass.

Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed at the East Tunnel for approximately three hours on Monday night while the park road crew cleared the rocks and a tow truck removed the vehicle.

The park extends its deepest condolences to the girl’s family, and thanks its partner emergency care providers for the significant response.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Multiple Search and Rescue Incidents in Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park rangers responded to multiple search and rescue calls in the backcountry this past weekend. Hikers and climbers attempting larger ascents are reminded to research their route and be knowledgeable of the skills required for their trip. It is imperative that hikers understand their own skills in order to prevent emergency situations for themselves and responders.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 9, Teton County Interagency Dispatch Center received notification of an emergency 9-1-1 text of an injured hiker in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. Nergui Enkhchineg, 28 year-old female from Mongolia working in the area, was hiking when she slipped on snow and fell approximately 50-100 feet on snow and rocks and sustained significant injuries. Another hiking party in the area assisted by using an emergency backcountry application on their cell phone to request assistance.

The search and rescue incident was initiated with waning daylight hours left. Using the coordinates generated by the emergency backcountry application, responders were able to immediately locate the injured party via the Teton Interagency Helicopter, allowing for quick medical assessment and treatment. The injured hiker was short hauled to Lupine Meadows and transported via park ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The other hiker walked out with a park ranger.

Other incidents that took place in the park this weekend involved a stranded individual on the Middle Teton on Sunday, August 11. The interagency helicopter conducted a reconnaissance flight as rangers initiated a rescue. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was then notified that a private climbing party assisted the stranded hiker to safety. Park rescue personnel were not involved.

Additionally, late Sunday evening, park rangers responded to a visitor with a medical emergency at a backcountry campsite on Leigh Lake. Rangers transported the individual to the trailhead via a wheeled litter. A park ambulance transported the individual to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming.

As good weather and conditions draw hikers and climbers into the backcountry, it is important to be prepared. Hikers and climbers should set a reasonable objective within the skills and experiences of the group. Consulting topographic maps, guidebooks, and park rangers will help parties gauge difficulty and skill level of the route before ascending. Desire to reach the summit during dangerous conditions is a hazard. Hikers should be prepared to alter their route if they do not feel confident about their skill level or if conditions worsen.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

UPDATE: Human-caused fire at Yellowstone’s North Entrance; Suspect pleaded guilty to starting fire, sentenced to three months in jail

An investigation of the human-caused fire at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park resulted in a suspect who was charged for discarding a lighted material in a hazardous manner. At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Friday, July 26, a human-caused fire spread through the grass and sage between the North Entrance Station and the Gardner River. It was contained at approximately 4 acres.

Curtis J Faustich, a seasonal concessionaire employee in Yellowstone, admitted to dropping a lit cigarette on the ground while sitting at a picnic table and igniting the fire.

Faustich appeared Tuesday, August 6, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming. While in court, Faustich pleaded guilty to the charge. Sentencing included:

•Three months of incarceration

•$5,000 in restitution

•Two years of unsupervised probation

•Prohibited from entering Yellowstone National Park for two years

Park law enforcement officers sincerely thank the individuals who called the park’s 24-hour Tip Line at 307-344-2132 and provided timely incident details.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 12, 2019

National Park Service approves plan for Lake McDonald properties

The National Park Service Intermountain Region has approved Glacier National Park’s proposal for managing NPS-owned properties at Lake McDonald.

On July 23, 2019, the NPS Intermountain Regional Director signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the park’s Lake McDonald Properties Management Plan Environmental Assessment (EA). The FONSI is the final decision document for the plan.

Under the selected action, Glacier National Park will use an adaptive decision framework to manage cabins and outbuildings around Lake McDonald that were once privately-owned but have come into NPS possession over the last decade. Most of the structures are listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and many are in need of repair. A strategy is needed to guide the management of the properties and acquire funds for their preservation before the buildings deteriorate to the point where demolition and removal are the only available options.

The adaptive decision framework includes five different management options: historic leasing, assigning to an interested concessioner, NPS administrative use (such as park housing or offices), stabilization, or removal. The park will use one of these five options to manage each property based on historic preservation and administrative needs and objectives, the condition of the structures, and feasibility. If the preferred management option for a given property is not underway or cannot be implemented by timeframes specified in the EA (generally ranging from one to two years), then other management options identified for each property will be triggered.

In all cases but one, the decision to remove a structure will be made only after other management options have been exhausted. As historic leasing is the preferred management option for most of the properties, the FONSI now enables the park to develop a historic leasing program.

The EA evaluated impacts to historic structures and districts; vegetation, soils, and wetlands; wildlife; and grizzly bears. No potential for significant adverse impacts was identified. The EA was available for a 30-day public comment period ending March 1, 2018, and public comments were considered.

The EA and FONSI are available on the National Park Service Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) website.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking