Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yellowstone National Park’s July Visitation Highest on Record

Yellowstone National Park had the highest recreational visitation on record in July with 980,702 visits for the month - a 14 percent increase over last July and a 2 percent increase over the previous July record in 2010.

For the first seven months of 2015, record breaking recreational visits totaling 2,279,557 are up 17 percent over last year, and 13 percent over the previous record year in 2010.

Each of the park’s five entrances showed increased visits for the month of July, with the North and West entrances both continuing to record the largest increases over July of last year.

Visitation statistics are calculated by taking the actual number of wheeled vehicles entering the park gates, and using a person-per-vehicle multiplier to calculate the number of monthly recreational visitors.

July is typically the park’s peak visitation month, followed in order by August, June, September, and May.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Largest Wildfires in U.S. History

Several major wildfires raging across the west have grabbed headlines around the world in recent weeks. So far this year more than 39,000 wildfires have burned nearly 6.4 million acres in the United States. The number of wildfires this year represents about 80% of the ten-year average. However, the number of current acres burned represents a roughly 38% increase over the ten-year average at this point in the year. At more than 330,000 acres, the largest wildfire currently burning in the U.S. is in central Alaska. There are three other significant wildfires of note, the Soda Fire in Idaho, the Comet-Windy Ridge Fire in Oregon, and the Chelan Complex in Washington, which are currently burning more than 283,000, 103,000, and 69,000 acres, respectively.

As a result, the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group increased the National Fire Preparedness Level to its highest point last week.

Having looked at the current situation, I wanted to see where these fires stood when compared to the largest wildfires in U.S. history. The following are the top 10 largest wildfires in U.S. history, none of which include any of the fires currently burning:

1) The Great Fire of 1910: 3,000,000 acres - Killed 86 people, including 78 firefighters in Idaho, Montana and Washington. The fire destroyed enough timber to fill a freight train 2,400 miles long.

2) The Great Michigan Fire (1871): 2,500,000 acres - The Great Michigan Fire was a series of simultaneous forest fires that were possibly caused (or at least reinforced) by the same winds that fanned the Great Chicago Fire. Several cities, towns and villages, including Holland, Manistee, and Port Huron suffered serious damage or were lost.

3) Taylor Complex Fire (2004): 1,305,592 acres - The Taylor Complex Fire near Tok, Alaska was the largest wildfire by acreage during the 1997–2007 time period.

4) Peshtigo Fire (1871): 1,200,000 acres - The Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin killed over 1,700 people and has the distinction of causing the most deaths by fire in United States history.

5) Silverton Fire (1865): 1,000,000 acres - Oregon's worst recorded fire.

6) Thumb Fire (1881): 1,000,000 acres - Killed more than 200 people in Michigan.

7) Yellowstone (1988): 793,880 acres - The Yellowstone fires of 1988 in Wyoming and Montana were never controlled by firefighters. They only burned out when a snowstorm hit in early September. A whopping 36% of the park was affected by the wildfires.

8) Long Draw Fire and Miller Homestead Fire (2012): 719,694 acres - Oregon's largest fire in the last 150 years.

9) Murphy Complex Fire (2007): 653,100 acres - The fire was a combination of six wildfires caused by lightning in south-central Idaho and north-central Nevada that started on July 16–17, 2007.

10) Siege of 1987 (1987): 650,000 acres - These fires were started by a large lightning storm in late August, burning valuable timber primarily in the Klamath and Stanislaus National Forests in California.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Glacier Wildfire Updates - U.S. Highway 2 Reopens

Below is updated information on the five wildfires burning in or near Glacier National Park. Highway 2 along the southern border of the park reopened as of 8 a.m. today, with pilot cars escorting traffic in both directions to ensure safe traffic flow through the fire area. Amtrak trains will also be running today. For more information on Amtrak you can call 1-(800) 872-7245. You can also click here for current road status. Residents and businesses in the vicinity of Essex have been alerted for possible evacuation.

A cold front with thunderstorms and some rain late yesterday cleared the smoky conditions in the area. The rain had some slowing effect on the fires. However, all fires continue to burn and fuels are expected to dry out today as temperatures rise and light winds pick up. Temperatures are predicted to rise back into the 80s starting tomorrow, with a possibility of reaching the 90s by Wednesday. Air operations are expected to resume today. A Sky Crane Type-1 Helicopter, capable of carrying a water load equivalent in weight to an F-550 truck, is scheduled to arrive today. A mobile fire retardant base is being used for helicopter bucket drops.

The Sheep Fire is located roughly 2.5 miles south of Essex in the Great Bear Wilderness of Flathead National Forest. It is burning in very steep, difficult terrain with limited access. The fire was very active yesterday with the influence of the predicted Red Flag weather conditions. The fire spread northeast toward the Middle Fork and was about ½ mile from the transportation corridor the prior evening. Portions of the Highway 2 corridor around Essex remain in the ‘Set’ Stage of the Ready, Set, Go evacuation strategy. Residents of Essex and surrounding area are advised to prepare their property and themselves for possible evacuation. People should load critical property and needs into their vehicle in preparation. They should have an evacuation plan in place and make sure everyone knows the plan. There are more than 200 structures at risk. The fire has grown to 428 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Granite Fire is west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2 in the Great Bear Wilderness. It is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. Thursday, crews assessed the area to determine the best plan of attack. They implemented structure protection measures on several backcountry cabins. Crews have been encountering numerous snags that need to be dealt with for safety before line construction. The Granite Creek Trail (#156) is closed. The fire is roughly 176 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Thompson Fire is located in a remote south-central backcountry area of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage and west of the Continental Divide.Crews made good progress yesterday mopping up some edges from burnout operations earlier in the week to contain the fire. Today, crews will continue that effort. The fire remains west of the Divide and poses no threat to communities around East Glacier and St. Mary. The fire remains at 14,095 acres in size, with 0% containment.

Below is a map showing the areas affected by fires in the southern portion of the park:


The Waterton Lake wildfire is now 95% contained, and is still 'being held'. Parks Canada continues to work with the US National Park Service to manage the forest fire near Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. The fire remains approximately 25 acres in size. It's located on the slopes of Campbell Mountain, on the west side of Upper Waterton Lake. Five crews and one helicopter continue to fight the fire. The Lakeshore Trail from the junction with Bertha Lake Trail to Boundary Bay, and Boundary Creek Trail from Summit Lake to Boundary Bay in Waterton Lakes National Park are closed. Boulder Pass Trail from Francis Lake Campground to Goat Haunt; Boundary Trail from Goat Haunt to the International boundary; and Waterton Valley Trail from Stony Indian Junction to Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park are also closed.

The Reynolds Creek Fire near St. Mary Lake continues to burn within the fire perimeter on the east side of the park. Holding and mop-up operations continue on the 4311-acre fire, which is currently 67% contained.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open through the park. For the most up-to-date information on the expanded trail and area closure statuses, please click here. You can also visit the Inciweb website, or call (406) 314-1669 for updated fire information. 

Although several wildfires are currently burning in or near Glacier, the rest of the park is still open with tons of outstanding hiking opportunities still available. Remember, the park is more than one million acres in size, and there's still plenty of epic Glacier National Park scenery to explore. For more information on many of the hikes in these areas, please click here.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Make Plans Now for a Great Fall Hiking Trip to Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year, but during the fall it's an especially wonderful time. In addition to weather that is usually spectacular, and with fewer crowds, hikers will have many options for viewing beautiful fall colors, especially those of aspens and western larch.

Roughly 55% of Glacier National Park is covered by forest. Of that percentage, roughly 90% is coniferous forest. The remaining 10% is considered to be deciduous forest, and is primarily made up of aspen, western larch and black cottonwood.

Some of the best places to see aspens, in all their shimmering golden yellow and orange glory, are on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Towards the end of September is usually the best time to see aspens at their peak, and some of the best trails to find them include Redrock Falls, Bullhead Lake, Swiftcurrent Pass and Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier area, Oldman Lake, Pitamakan Pass and Firebrand Pass in the Two Medicine area, the Beaver Pond Loop near the St. Mary entrance, as well as the Forest and Fire Nature Trail near the Camas Creek Entrance (just north of Apgar). Bowman Lake near the northwestern corner of the park is another great option.

Western larch:

The western and southern portions of Glacier are some of the best places to see larch as they turn bright yellow during the mid-to-late October timeframe. Although western larch, also known as tamaracks, appears to be an evergreen, they’re actually needle-bearing deciduous trees. After turning golden yellow in the fall, these trees lose their needles, and appear to be dead during the winter months.

If you wish to hike among the larch during the fall, visit any of the trails from the Sperry Chalet Trailhead near the Lake McDonald Lodge. This would include hikes up to Sperry Chalet, Snyder Lake and the Mt. Brown Lookout. On the western end of Lake McDonald, Rocky Point is another great choice. Any of the trails on the southern end of the park, such as Loneman Lookout, Scalplock Mountain Lookout or the South Boundary Trail, are all excellent options for viewing tamaracks at peak color.

The park strongly urges autumn hikers to make sure they are familiar with safety precautions while traveling in bear country, and to be prepared for variable temperatures and rapidly changing weather conditions.

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If you do plan to visit Glacier this fall, be sure to visit the accommodation page on our hiking website to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Friday, August 21, 2015

Update on Glacier National Park Wildfires

Below is updated information on the five wildfires burning in or near Glacier National Park. Over the last 24 hours there has been considerable developments with regards to the Sheep Fire near Essex on the southern border of the park. The blaze has grown to within 1 mile of U.S. Highway 2, forcing authorities to close the road at West Glacier and East Glacier, except to local residents. You can click here for current road status. Residents and businesses in the vicinity of Essex have been alerted for possible evacuation.

Stage II Fire Restrictions are in effect for Northwest Montana. A Red Flag Warning is also in effect for active fire behavior until 8:00 pm today. The fires will experience warm and windy conditions with southwest winds up to 30-40 mph shifting to the northwest later in the day. The fires are expected to become more active with increased spread under these conditions. A mobile fire retardant base is being used for helicopter bucket drops. Smoke conditions are elevated throughout western Montana. New closures are in effect for some trails in the vicinity of the fires for Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest.

The Sheep Fire is about 2.5 miles south of Essex in the Great Bear Wilderness of Flathead National Forest. It is burning in very steep, difficult terrain with limited access. The fire was very active yesterday with the influence of the predicted Red Flag weather conditions. The fire spread northeast toward the Middle Fork and was about ½ mile from the transportation corridor last evening. A heavy helicopter was effective in applying about 29,000 gallons of retardant on portions of the perimeter to slow spread. Because of fire spread fire managers requested a closure of U.S. 2 at West Glacier (Mile Post 154) and East Glacier (MP209) with residents only allowed past these points. Access between MP178 (Walton) and MP185 (Bear Creek) have restrictions. Portions of the Highway 2 corridor around Essex remain in the ‘Set’ Stage of the Ready, Set, Go evacuation strategy. Residents of Essex and surrounding area are advised to prepare their property and themselves for possible evacuation. People should load critical property and needs into their vehicle in preparation. They should have an evacuation plan in place and make sure everyone knows the plan. There are more than 200 structures at risk. The fire is currently estimated to be 232 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Granite Fire is west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2 in the Great Bear Wilderness. It is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. Thursday, crews assessed the area to determine the best plan of attack. They implemented structure protection measures on several backcountry cabins. Crews have been encountering numerous snags that need to be dealt with for safety before line construction. The Granite Creek Trail (#156) is closed. The fire is roughly 65 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Thompson Fire is located in a remote south-central backcountry area of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage and west of the Continental Divide.Crews made good progress yesterday mopping up some edges from burnout operations earlier in the week to contain the fire. Today, crews will continue that effort. The fire remains west of the Divide and poses no threat to communities around East Glacier and St. Mary. The fire is estiamted to be 14,095 acres in size, with 0% containment.

Below is a map showing the areas affected by fires in the southern portion of the park:


The Waterton Lake wildfire is now 95% contained, and is still 'being held'. Parks Canada continues to work with the US National Park Service to manage the forest fire near Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. The fire remains approximately 25 acres in size. It's located on the slopes of Campbell Mountain, on the west side of Upper Waterton Lake. Five crews and one helicopter continue to fight the fire. The Lakeshore Trail from the junction with Bertha Lake Trail to Boundary Bay, and Boundary Creek Trail from Summit Lake to Boundary Bay in Waterton Lakes National Park are closed. Boulder Pass Trail from Francis Lake Campground to Goat Haunt; Boundary Trail from Goat Haunt to the International boundary; and Waterton Valley Trail from Stony Indian Junction to Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park are also closed.

The Reynolds Creek Fire near St. Mary Lake continues to burn within the fire perimeter on the east side of the park. Holding and mop-up operations continue on the 4311-acre fire, which is currently 67% contained.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open through the park. For the most up-to-date information on the expanded trail and area closure statuses, please click here. You can also visit the Inciweb website, or call (406) 314-1669 for updated fire information. 

Although several wildfires are currently burning in or near Glacier, the rest of the park is still open with tons of outstanding hiking opportunities still available. Remember, the park is more than one million acres in size, and there's still plenty of epic Glacier National Park scenery to explore. For more information on many of the hikes in these areas, please click here.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, August 20, 2015

10 Climbers Stranded Overnight on Grand Teton, Suffer Hypothermia, Prompt Rescue

In the early morning hours of Sunday, August 16, Grand Teton National Park rangers initiated a multi-phased rescue mission for ten climbers in two separate parties who became stranded together in the Stettner Couloir late Saturday evening, August 15, while descending from the Petzoldt Ridge on the Grand Teton. The initial call for help, at 8:45 Saturday evening, set in motion a search and rescue operation that did not end until four of the climbers were finally evacuated from the Lower Saddle of the Grand by helicopter late Sunday afternoon. Although none of the ten climbers sustained injuries during their mountain mishap, several did suffer from exposure to the extremely wet and cold conditions that they experienced during their hours-long descent of the Stettner Couloir.

The two climbing parties (one with six members and the other with four) were attempting to summit the Grand Teton in a single day, rather than making a two-day climb with an overnight in Garnet Canyon.

The two parties met up during their respective descents off the Petzoldt Ridge, and both groups made an ill-fated decision to rappel down Chevy Couloir and into the Stettner Couloir to reach the Lower Saddle at the end of their day-long climbing adventure. With little understanding of summertime conditions typically found in the Stettner Couloir, this decision proved to be problematic and ultimately placed the climbers in jeopardy of incurring serious injury.

Climbing in the Stettner Couloir can be difficult during summer months because the floor of the couloir essentially becomes a waterfall, with steep, wet and polished rock walls. A constant flush of snowmelt—and the tendency for repeated rockfalls—makes this route a challenge. The climbers encountered several icy waterfalls, and rescuers witnessed dislodged boulders and other debris sloughing down slope as they approached the stranded climbers' location mid-morning on Sunday. A description of the Stettner Couloir, including a warning about summertime conditions, can be found in A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range by Leigh Ortenburger and Renny Jackson.

Jerry Painter (59) of Idaho Falls, Idaho served as leader for his climbing partners Chris Hanvit (55) also of Idaho Falls, Holly Preslar (27) of Sugar City, Idaho, Jacob Preslar (22) of Provo, Utah, Tina Reis (24) of Rigby, Idaho, and Chelsea Principio, 24 of Phoenix, Maryland. Painter's group began their push for the summit of the Grand Teton at 7:00 a.m. from the Lower Saddle. They intended to climb the Petzoldt Ridge, but had a discussion prior to departing about changing their objective because of the time of day and the crowding on the route. They ultimately stuck with their original plan. After encountering other climbing parties and getting delayed—plus moving slowly due to their large size—they did not arrive at the top of the Petzoldt Ridge until 5:00 p.m. Saturday, and they were still a considerable distance from the summit of the Grand. The Painter party encountered a party of four climbers led by Mike Hagen (25)of Moran, Wyoming. Hagen and his partners Nicolas Aguirre (20) also of Moran, Ryan Moorhead (28) of Colorado Springs, and Nancy Nguyen (23) of El Monte, Californiawere also climbing the Petzoldt Ridge. Following a discussion about the most expedient descent route, both parties ended up independently rappelling into the Stettner Couloir. Both groups also become separately stranded when their ropes got stuck and they could not continue to rappel.

Holly Preslar placed a first call for help at 8:45 p.m. and rangers started to initiate a rescue effort. Due to the late hour, the Teton Interagency contract helicopter could not fly, so one ranger hiked to the Lower Saddle from the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache at Lupine Meadows—a distance of seven miles and almost 5,000 feet in elevation gain.

Because rescue options were limited until first light on Sunday morning, rangers also encouraged Preslar and her five companions to use all their available resources to either move down the couloir, or find a safer and drier place to huddle up for the night. At 11:30 p.m., Preslar called to inform rangers that the two climbing parties had combined forces in an effort to make it down and out of the couloir, and she had high hopes that the climbers would make it to the Lower Saddle before morning.

Two of the climbers, Hagen and Reis, eventually made their way to the Lower Saddle by 12:30 a.m. Sunday and were given a sleeping bag and food by rangers at the rescue hut. They were also able to provide more information about the predicament that their stranded partners were encountering.

In trying to problem solve, a number of decisions were made which placed the ten climbers in the path of the icy water that drains into the Stettner Couloir during this time of year. Several of the climbers became fatigued and hypothermic from the cold and wet conditions, so the majority of the group decided to stop and not proceed further until morning light. Rangers received a text message at 5:50 a.m. that said, "Still stuck in the couloir. Very wet and cold. Need to get out ASAP." This communication caused park rangers to accelerate their rescue response.

At first light, two rangers headed out on foot from the Lower Saddle's rescue hut to climb to the scene, assess the situation, and ideally arrange for an evacuation by the Teton Interagency contract helicopter. Because high winds prevented use of the ship, three additional rangers hiked from the Lupine Meadows trailhead to reach the rescue staging area on the Lower Saddle and prepare for a ground rescue. Once the high winds subsided, three additional rangers were flown to a backcountry landing zone located on the Lower Saddle, and they also joined in the rescue operation.

Rangers also enlisted the help of four guides from Exum Mountain Guides, and two private climbers, who happened to be in the vicinity. The two private climbers accompanied one ranger to the rescue site, and the Exum guides helped the group across the Black Dike traverse after they were free of the couloir.

After extricating the remaining eight people from the Stettner Couloir and assisting them to the Lower Saddle rescue hut by early afternoon, rangers provided food and hot drinks to the climbers and assessed their physical condition to determine who might need aerial evacuation. Four of the ten climbers (Hanvit, Principio and the two Preslars) were evacuated via helicopter at 3:00 p.m. and delivered to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache on the valley floor. The remaining six climbers hiked out of the mountains on their own.

Rangers strongly advise that climbers thoughtfully consider their skills, abilities and limitations before undertaking a climb of the Grand Teton and other peaks throughout the Teton Range. Climbers should also consider the time it takes to complete an excursion and realize that the size of a group, and other climbers on the same route, can increase the time it takes to complete a climb. Climbing partners should not rely solely on the skills and problem solving abilities of one member of the group. To ensure a safe and successful climb, each party member needs to be competent in navigating the vertical terrain, as well as the chosen route, and each should be capable of making good decisions in a mountain environment.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Yellowstone Seeks Public Comment on Rehabilitation of Canyon Rim Overlooks and Trails

Yellowstone National Park is seeking public comment on a plan to rehabilitate many of the overlooks and trails along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River in the central section of the park. This project would address aging and deteriorating infrastructure, provide better accessibility to visitors, address safety issues in the area, and improve the visitor experience, all while retaining the historic integrity of the district.

The project would rehabilitate a number of existing overlooks and trails situated along both the north and south rims of the canyon. Areas to be rehabilitated include: Uncle Tom’s overlooks and trails, Sunset Point overlook and trail, the Brink of the Upper Falls overlooks and trails, Crystal Falls overlook and trail, the Brink of the Lower Falls overlook and trail, Red Rock Point overlook and trail, Inspiration Point overlook and trail, and portions of the North and South Rim Trails. Parking areas at the Brink of the Upper Falls and the Uncle Tom’s area would be reconfigured slightly to increase parking and pedestrian circulation efficiency and parking capacity. In particular, walking surfaces are uneven and erosion has undermined asphalt pavement and created many potholes on the trails. Log rails on many of the bridges and along the trails have rotted and need to be replaced. Gravel and debris on steep sections of asphalt make descending some trail sections difficult. Many of the parking areas and overlooks were rehabilitated in 2008 including Artist’s Point, and this project would carry on this effort for the remaining areas located along the canyon rim.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) and an electronic form to submit comments (preferred method for commenting) can be found on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website. To request a hard copy of the EA, call 307-344-2017. Comments may also be hand-delivered, or mailed to: Compliance Office, Attention: Canyon Rim Overlooks and Trails Rehabilitation EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190. Comments will not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or in any manner other than those specified above. Bulk comments submitted in any format on behalf of others will not be accepted. The deadline to submit comments is midnight MDT September 16, 2015.

Once comments are analyzed, a decision on whether to implement the plan will be made by the Regional Director of the Intermountain Region of the NPS. If approved, the project would begin in 2016.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com