Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Scenes from Glacier's 2011 historic winter

As the northern hemisphere approaches another winter season, I thought this would be a good time to take a look back at last year's historic winter in Glacier.

The amount of snow that fell in Glacier during the 2010/2011 season was massive. On average, the Going-to-the-Sun Road usually opens by early June. In 2011, however, it didn't open until July 13th, the latest ever. Road crews estimated that the Big Drift area at Logan Pass had roughly 50-60 feet of snow in early July, a depth normally seen on Memorial Day weekend!

Earlier in the year the park reported that USGS snow surveys measured 106 inches of snow on the ground at the 5,900 foot level near Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road at the end of April. 166 inches were recorded at the 7,000 foot level.

Here are a few photos from the National Park Service to give you an idea of what the conditions were like in early July as the crews worked to clear the Going-to-the-Sun Road:

Here's the Logan Pass Visitor Center:

And the restrooms at Logan Pass:

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What happened to the other 7 backcountry chalets in Glacier?

Did you know that there were a total of nine backcountry chalets in Glacier National Park at one point? So what happened to the other seven?

In the early 1900s some Americans were becoming alarmed over the increased spending of American dollars on European travel. While discussing Glacier one day, Senator "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman of South Carolina stated: "It is very ridiculous to me to see the amount of money spent by Americans to see the scenery of Europe without having first seen what we have at home." This concern provided one of the motivations for creating a national park at Glacier. Having an "American Alps," or a "Switzerland of the United States," such as Glacier, allowed America to compete against Canadian and European resorts and tourist attractions.

The Great Northern Railway played an extremely important role in the establishment of a national park during this time period as well. The Great Northern had a rail line running along the southern edge of Glacier, and saw the establishment of a national park as a way of increasing passengers on their trains, while also increasing their revenues.

So it was against this backdrop that the president of the Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill, began building a number of hotels and chalets throughout the park in the 1910s as a way of promoting tourism. These buildings were modeled on Swiss architecture as part of Hill's plan to portray Glacier as the "American Alps" or "America's Switzerland". Included in this project was a network of 9 European-style chalet complexes. Thus, leaving from one of Hill's luxury lodges, guests could hike or ride to one these rustic chalets in less than a day.

The chalets, built between 1910 and 1915, included Sperry, Granite Park, Cut Bank, Goat Haunt, Going-to-the-Sun (Sun Point), St. Mary, Gunsight Lake, Many Glacier, and one of the Two-Medicine Chalets (the other was converted into a store, which is still in use today). In their prime, several of the Chalets would host 100 to 150 guests a night.

Today, only Sperry and Granite Park remain. Both owe their survival to the use of native stone as their primary construction material. The masonry of these chalets made it possible to withstand Montana’s brutal winters. In contrast, the wooden structures of the other chalets deteriorated so badly that many had to be razed during the late 1940s.

St. Mary Chalet:

The first chalet to meet its demise was Gunsight Lake when it was destroyed by an avalanche in 1916. The Many Glacier Chalets burned down during a massive forest fire in 1936. During WWII the remainder of the chalets were closed. The lack of use during the war years forced a reassessment of the facilities, and by 1944 park officials agreed that the St. Mary Chalet was no longer necessary and was subsequently destroyed. Similarly, the chalets at Cut Bank and Sun Point were regarded as "beyond repair" and an "eyesore" and were destroyed by 1949. Finally, the structure used for lodging at Two-Medicine was razed and burned in 1956.

It’s a shame that America had to lose these historic structures. Too bad the Great Northern Railway didn’t have the foresight to build more of the chalets out of native stone. Modern day hikers would have even more overnight destinations from which to consider.

For more historical perspective on this subject, check out Glacier's Historic Hotels And Chalets, which traces the creation and use of the Great Northern Railway’s hotels and chalet colonies in Glacier National Park, and includes many old photographs.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Heat Elite: Columbia Sportswear goes high tech

Last year Columbia Sportswear approached me to see if I would be interested in field testing one of their new Omni-Heat Elite Jackets.

Of course I jumped at the opportunity. My only requirement was to field test the product, and then provide feedback via a questionnaire. Writing this review is completely voluntary on my part.

Columbia sent me the jacket in late October and I provided my feedback in early December. Unfortunately we had a relatively warm late fall, so I really didn't get a chance to provide Columbia with my thoughts on how the jacket performed in the conditions it was meant to be used in. Thus, the following is my review after wearing the jacket through a full winter that turned out to be one of the coldest in several years.

First and foremost, the Omni-Heat Elite is a top quality jacket for outdoor usage, especially hiking.

The Omni-Heat line of gear from Columbia Sportswear utilizes new technology that helps to maintain warmth and prevent heat loss in cold weather. The secret is a new thermal reflective technology that helps regulate your temperature by reflecting and retaining the warmth your body generates. Additionally, a breathable membrane helps to dissipate moisture and excess heat to keep you comfortable. Columbia claims that, on average, the jacket boosts heat retention by 20%.

Two other important features that Columbia touts are that the jacket is waterproof and windproof. Essentially, the Omni-Heat Elite Jacket is billed as a lightweight fleece that offers the protection of a parka without the bulk.

So, for me, the jacket has to pass four tests: comfort, wind resistance, rain resistance and warmth.

Comfort was the easiest to assess. The jacket passed with flying colors. Although it has a relatively snug fit, there’s still plenty of room for a heavy base layer without feeling any restriction in movement. I particularly liked the neck which fit just right from the back of the neck to the bottom of my chin. This prevented wind and rain from making its way into my core area. Also, the jacket has only a little more bulk than my medium weight fleece.

Wind: Over the course of the winter months last year, we had a few (relative) high wind events. During one of the worst weather conditions that I had a chance to wear the jacket occurred while hiking in an 18-degree temperature, with winds of 15-20 MPH and a wind chill of 5 degrees. I thought the jacket did an outstanding job of keeping the icy winds out, thus keeping my core warm even during the strongest gusts.

For what it’s worth, on one occasion I used the constant wind generated during a bike ride to test the wind resistance of the jacket. Most road cyclists would probably tell you that it starts to get uncomfortable on a bike when temps start falling below the mid-to-upper 50s. On this day the temperature held steady at 47 degrees, with overcast skies, while riding for an hour at an average speed of just over 16 MPH. Again, I thought the jacket did an excellent job of keeping the wind out. This is in comparison to what I normally would wear under similar conditions: a long sleeve wicking shirt, a heavy long sleeve jersey and a wind breaker. During the last half of the ride I was warm enough that I had to partially unzip the jacket. Afterwards, although my face, hands and feet were cold, my core felt completely warm.

Rain: On one occassion I decided to take a walk in the rain to see how effective the Heat Elite would be at keeping me dry. On this day I walked for almost 45 minutes in a light-to-steady rain, with a temperature hovering around 37 degrees. Although you could make the argument that this wasn’t a monsoon or hurricane, the jacket still kept me completely dry and warm that day. As mentioned above, the snug collar prevented rain from seeping down my neck.

Warmth: As mentioned above, on the day that I wore the jacket while hiking in 18-degree temperatures, winds of 15-20 MPH, and a wind chill of 5 degrees, was likely the worst conditions in which I had a chance to test the Heat Elite. With only a long-sleeve wicking shirt underneath, I still felt completely warm during the entire hike, as I have on each of the other occasions I’ve worn the jacket. In fact, when temperatures were in the 30s, there were many times I had to unzip the front or the underarm vents in order to help regulate the heat I was generating. As far as I'm concerned, the jacket lives up to its main selling point.

The only complaint that I have is with the adjustable cuffs. When tightened, they tend to bunch-up on the wrist. If I had my choice, I would prefer the elastic type wrist I have on the two fleece jackets that I own.

Columbia also uses the Omni-Heat technology in some of their new gloves, something that will be on my Christmas wish list this year (Kathy, are you reading this?).

Overall I think the Omni-Heat Elite is an outstanding jacket and would have no problem purchasing it for myself. I like that this jacket will keep me warm and comfortable in colder weather. Most of all I like the fact that the jacket offers protection against multiple weather conditions, making it much easier to choose what to wear when heading out to the great outdoors.

Right now is offering 15% off on some men's colors and sizes.

However, may have the best deal. They're offering the jacket at 30% off on men's jackets, for a sale price of only $125.96.

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No Changes to Glacier's Mountain Goat Management Plan

Kurt Repanshek from the National Parks Traveler is reporting that Glacier National Park has no plans to change its regulations with regards to mountain goats. This response from Superintendent Chas Cartwright comes in light of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit that was recently filed by the widow and stepson of Robert Boardman, who was killed in Olympic National Park by a mountain goat in October 2010.

Witnesses and others in the area at the time describe an aggressive male mountain goat that approached, followed and fatally gored Boardman while he was hiking. Following the fatal encounter, the goat stood over Boardman until several visitors, including an off-duty National Park Service employee, succeeded in scaring off the goat.

An investigation into the park's handling of the case by the family's law firm turned up documentation that the goat had established a pattern of "aggressive behavior towards Park Service employees, experienced hikers, Boy Scout troops, (and) families with children."

Superintendent Cartwright told the National Parks Traveler:

“We have a variety of wild animals, most notably grizzly bears and black bears, and yes, we do have goats, sheep, and other animals that are in close proximity to heavy visitor use. I think that we have a pretty good plan and a pretty good program for managing that, but that’s something that I think will always be in the back of our minds."

You can read the full National Parks Traveler article here.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Backcountry Odyssey: Goat Haunt to Bowman Lake

Back in early 2010 our good friend Steven over at My Life Outdoors won an all expense paid trip to Glacier National Park. His prize, which he won through a contest hosted by Agion Active, provided him with a five-day guided backpacking trip with Glacier Guides this past August. His Glacier backcountry odyssey took him from Goat Haunt at the head of Waterton Lake, over Brown Pass, and down to the foot of Bowman Lake. In all, he and his wife hiked 26 miles.

Between late August and early September, Steven provided details of his adventures in a series of blogs, which include many great photos.

Blog 1 is about their trip down Waterton Lake, their short hike from Goat Haunt to the Waterton River Campsite, and a side hike to Rainbow Falls.

Blog 2 takes Steven and his wife past Lake Janet and onto the incredibly beautiful Lake Francis.

Blog 3 takes them up 6255-foot Brown Pass, as well as a side trip on the Boulder Pass Trail to see Hole in the Wall. Steven includes some very beautiful panoramic photos in this posting.

Blog 4 discusses Steven's kayaking excursion on Bowman Lake, and then their hike back out to civilization along the Bowman Lake Trail.

All in all, this is a great trip report, especially if you're considering a similar trip.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Recognizing Grizzly Behavior

Backpacker Magazine has an excellent article in their October issue called, Survival: Recognize Grizzly Behavior. This is really good informative article, especially if you plan on hiking in Glacier or spending any time in any other wilderness area with grizzlies.

While on the subject, Backpacker also answers the question: At what altitude is it okay to not hang a bear bag?

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The Top Survival Stories of All Time

What’s the definition of a great survival story? Some of the obvious answers to that question include, coming face to face with death, an unbelievable escape, or, because of fate or just plain dumb luck, an individual was able to survive some extreme disaster.

For me, my list of the top six survival stories of all time is based on two criteria: a convincing story of human perseverance and an iron will to survive, and the author’s ability to tell the story in a compelling manner which keeps me on the edge of my seat.

So, in reverse order, here's my all-time best survival stories:

The Long Walk

Stephen Ambrose, the late historian and author of Undaunted Courage and Band of Brothers, said that “The Long Walk is a book that I absolutely could not put down and one that I will never forget”. I couldn’t agree with him more.

My only hope is that Slavomir Rawicz, the protagonist in this story, hasn’t pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone, including Mr. Ambrose.

Ever since The Long Walk was published in 1956, the authenticity of the story has been challenged. Unfortunately Rawicz was never able to provide any documentation to prove his story. However, it does seem that the general consensus among most critics is that the story is mostly true, but, possibly embellished. It’s even possible that the embellishment occurred at the hand of his English speaking ghost-writer. For an interesting perspective on the veracity of the story from someone who retraced the steps of Rawicz in 2004, and who came to believe the story to be true, please click here.

Slavomir Rawicz was a cavalry officer in the Polish army when he was captured by the Red Army during the German-Soviet partition of Poland in 1939. After being tortured and put on trial in Moscow he was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Siberian Gulag.

After a year of unbearable and inhumane conditions, Rawicz and six other prisoners escaped from their labor camp in Yakutsk.

In order to make their way to freedom the escapees marched 4000 miles, on foot, across the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi Desert, through Tibet, and over the Himalayan Mountains to British India. Along the way they conquered fatigue, thirst, starvation as well as their own inner demons. The story is also famous for the claim that the surviving escapees saw a pair of yetis while traversing the Himalayas.

Whether the story is actually true, partially true, or totally fabricated, this book is still a great read, one that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

It’s Not About the Bike

When I originally set about creating this list, I intended to compile a list of only the top five survival stories. However, as I was browsing through my book case, I realized that I needed to expand the scope of the list to include Lance Armstrong’s first book. I recalled the significance of It’s Not About the Bike, which was in the message that Lance conveys throughout his book: that no matter how much the odds are stacked against you, whether it’s cancer or any other obstacle in life, you should never give up the battle. Lance clearly demonstrates his deep will to survive in this book. I believe this strong will, his attitude, and the courage he displayed can also be applied to wilderness survival situations.

It’s Not About the Bike, as the name would imply, focuses on Lance’s near death battle with cancer. Armstrong states that having cancer "was like being run off the road by a truck, and I've got the scars to prove it." This excellent read is about life, death, illness, family, and setbacks. But most importantly, it’s about Lance’s triumph over cancer.

We Die Alone

Stephen Ambrose wrote the introduction for We Die Alone. In it he states that it was “a book that I absolutely could not put down, and one that I will never forget”. That quote might sound a little familiar. I did a double take at first as well, but Ambrose states in the intro that, in addition to We Die Alone, he has only described three other books in his life this way, one of those being The Long Walk.

Like The Long Walk, We Die Alone is a story of survival in extreme circumstances that takes place during World War II. However, there’s never been any controversy surrounding the validity of this story.

In March 1943 a team of four expatriate Norwegian commandoes, including Jan Baalsrud, sailed from England to Nazi-occupied Norway to organize and supply the Norwegian resistance.

Somehow the commandoes were betrayed shortly after landing and the team was ambushed by the Nazis, leaving Baalsrud as the lone survivor.

We Die Alone recounts Baalsrud’s incredible and improbable escape and his iron will to survive. Poorly clothed, with one foot entirely bare, and part of his big toe shot off, Baalsrud was relentlessly pursued by the Nazis.

Surviving an avalanche, and suffering from frostbite and snow blindness, Baalsrud fought his way over the Norwegian mountains and tundra to a small arctic village. He was near death and was a virtual cripple when he stumbled into the village of Mandal. Fortunately, the locals were willing to help save him, and at mortal risk to themselves, help him escape to Sweden.

Into Thin Air

I remember reading Jon Krakauer’s original article on the infamous Mt. Everest disaster in Outside Magazine and being completely astounded by what occurred on that mountain that day. And then, a year later, he published his bestseller, Into Thin Air, which fleshed out many more details of the ill-fated expeditions that left eight people dead that day. Although several books and articles have been written, Into Thin Air would become the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Mt. Everest.

Originally, Krakauer went on assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of guided trips up Mount Everest and the inherent danger to unsuspecting clients. Instead, he wound up writing a first-hand account of the disaster that unfolded after a ferocious storm blasted Everest with gale force winds that killed eight climbers.

The most amazing aspect of the story centered around Beck Weathers. Twice abandoned and presumed to be dead on the South Col, Weathers spent some 18 hours in subzero temperatures - in the death zone - before miraculously regaining his senses and staggering into camp. He was suffering from severe frostbite, corneal lacerations, hypothermia, and had a face so badly frostbitten it barely seemed human.

Over the course of the next year Weathers underwent ten surgeries, the longest lasting 16 hours. His entire right hand and most of his left was amputated; surgeons were able to fashion a thumb out of muscle from his side and back.

The updated paperback edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy.

Miracle in the Andes

I must admit I was pretty apprehensive about reading this story in detail. I was quite familiar with the basic facts of the story: a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashes in the Andes Mountains; many on board are killed, and after several weeks without rescue and a few failed attempts to walk off the mountain, the survivors are forced to resort to cannibalism. My apprehension, as you might suspect, had to do with the cannibalism aspect of the story. It just seemed too disturbing to me.

My fears, as I discovered, were unfounded. Nando Parrado, the hero and author of the book, spent relatively little time discussing the details surrounding this aspect of the story.

Miracle in the Andes is actually a fresh re-telling of the high altitude plane crash through the lens of the person most responsible for the rescue of the survivors. The original story was recounted in the 1974 bestseller, Alive.

Although he suffered a fractured skull, was unconscious for three days after the crash, and was presumed to eventually succumb to his injuries, Parrado was able to revive. After several weeks of recovery he eventually devised a plan and led a team over the 17,000-foot peak that trapped the survivors on a glacier, and marched ten days to rescue and freedom.

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

The best survival story of all time, and overall, one of the best books I’ve ever read is The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition.

The story is about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to cross Antarctica on foot just prior to the start of World War I.

Before the expedition was able to reach the continent, their ship, the Endurance, became stuck in an early ice floe in the Weddell Sea. The crew of 27 had no means of communication or hope of outside help, thus condemning themselves to isolation for the next 22 months.

The men lived within the bowels of the Endurance for almost a year before the ice destroyed it, forcing the expedition to move out onto the frozen sea. Several months later, the expedition built sledges and moved to Elephant Island, a rocky deserted spot of land just beyond the Antarctic Peninsula. At this point no one knew what happened to the expedition or where they were. Most people assumed they had been killed.

Knowing that a rescue wasn’t going to happen, Shackleton made the decision to take one of the open lifeboats and cross the 800 miles of frigid sea to South Georgia Island where a small whaling station was located. Incredibly, he landed on the wrong side of the island and was forced to trek over the frozen mountains to reach the station.

This incredible book is also accompanied with the previously unpublished photographs of Frank Hurley, one of the members of the expedition.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Outdoor Gift Ideas & Black Friday Deals

Looking for some gift ideas, or maybe just trying to find a simple stocking stuffer for that outdoor lover in your life? Let me offer a few ideas that would make any hiker or fan of Glacier National Park a happy camper on Christmas morning:

How about a wall calendar to enjoy the beauty of Glacier National Park throughout the year:

This is great way to enjoy a glass of wine after a long day on the trail! The PlatyPreserve is the best way to protect the taste of an opened bottle of wine by completely eliminating the presence of oxygen. While alternative methods might have you pump air out of the bottle or inject gas into the bottle - PlatyPreserve has you transfer your un-finished wine into an air tight reservoir to truly protect the taste of your wine so it may be enjoyed several days or even weeks later.

The Don't Die Out There Deck, a compact deck of playing cards that tucks easily into any backpack or pocket. From construction of emergency shelters and evacuation techniques to how to care for someone with a fracture or construct a solar still, your poker hand contains basic survival tips that could prove lifesaving! The Don't Die Out There Deck makes a great gift for anyone who spends time in the outdoors.

Perfect for a family camp-out or an evening around the fireplace, Bears! is a fast-moving dice game for two to four players, ages 7 and up. Who will survive the rampage? And who will be eaten by bears? Each turn, when the bears come roaming through camp, players must choose to run, shoot or take a chance and sleep through it all.


Here are some of the hottest deals happening right now on top name brand hiking and camping gear, offered from some of the top online retailers:

* Save Up to 50% Off on 10,000+ Items - and - Free 2-Day Shipping on Orders Over $50 at (from Black Friday through Cyber Monday).

* Altrec Outdoors is offering Up to 60% Off - from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.

* The North Face Buy/Get Deal – Get $50 bucks off the rest of your order with any $200 North Face purchase. Only from Altrec Outdoors. Deal ends 11/28/11.

* Buy one, Get 2nd item at 50% off on Men’s, Women’s, Kids’ & Footwear at REI-OUTLET.

* Five Days of FREE! – Free Lift Tickets, Free Nights, Free Rentals:
Through 6 p.m. MST on 11/28/11, You can save up to 50% or stay free one night, get a Free lift ticket with 3-night lodging reservation, and get Free ski rentals at select resorts from Mountain Reservations.


To see our complete selection of books and trail maps releated to Glacier National Park and the surrounding region, as well as other gift ideas, please visit our online Amazon affiliated store.

Thanks for all your support!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

9th Circuit Rules that Greater Yellowstone Grizzlies to remain on Endangered Species List

In a ruling handed down yesterday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem should remain a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Circuit Judge Richard Tallman stated that federal wildlife biologists were wrong when they concluded that the decline of whitebark pine trees was not detrimental to the bears' future.

In an opinion filed yesterday, Judge Tallman states:

The Service's delisting decision, the subject of this appeal, raises a host of scientific, political, and philosophical questions regarding the complex relationship between grizzlies and people in the Yellowstone region. We emphasize at the outset that those are not the questions that we grapple with here. We, as judges, do not purport to resolve scientific uncertainties or ascertain policy preferences. We address only those issues we are expressly called upon to decide pertaining to the legality of the Service's delisting decision: first, whether the Service rationally supported its conclusion that a projected decline in whitebark pine, a key food source for the bears, does not threaten the Yellowstone grizzly population; and second, whether the Service rationally supported its conclusion that adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to maintain a recovered Yellowstone grizzly population without the ESA's staunch protections.

As to the first issue, we affirm the district court's ruling that the Service failed to articulate a rational connection between the data in the record and its determination that whitebark pine declines were not a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly, given the lack of data indicating grizzly population stability in the face of such declines, and the substantial data indicating a direct correlation between whitebark pine seed availability and grizzly survival and reproduction. As to the second issue, we reverse the district court and hold that the Service's determination regarding the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms was reasonable.

You can read his full opinion here.

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The Face on Rising Wolf Mountain

This past summer, while sitting atop Pitamakan Pass, I noticed a face staring at me. It wasn't a hungry hiker eye-balling my sandwich after realizing he forgot to pack his own snacks. No, this was a face in the mountain staring at me from across the valley. If you look closely, right in the middle of Rising Wolf Mountain, you'll see a clearly outlined face:

Here's a closer look:

According to Through The Years In Glacier National Park: An Administrative History, the 9513-foot Rising Wolf Mountain "was the Indian name for Hugh Monroe, the first white man to live with the Blackfeet Indians. The name is said to have been suggested by Monroe's habit of getting out of bed in the morning on his hands and knees. "

Wikipedia sheds a little more light on the name. According to the online encyclopedia, the Blackfeet name for the peak, "Mahkuyi-opuahsin", meaning, "the way the wolf gets up", was later translated to the current name of the mountain. After Hugh Monroe's death, his close friend and author James Willard Schultz, named the peak after Monroe.

I wonder if the face inspired the Blackfeet in naming the mountain. Did they think the geological oddity resembled Monroe in anyway?

One other thing about the photo at the top. Check out those clouds - they looked like a weave that day. It reminded me of the cover of the Tommy album by The Who.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Senate Bill could force Cyclists off Roads in some National Parks

Cyclists may want to make note of legislation in the U.S. Senate that could force cyclists off roads in some national parks.

The draft of the Senate's transportation authorization bill, S. 1813 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, includes language that would introduce a mandatory sidepath law on roads in our National Parks and other Federal lands.

Section § 203 (d) (p. 226), states:

(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road.

Based on the surface of this language, it doesn't sound like the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier would be impacted by this law, simply because there aren't any bike paths that exist next to the road. However, according to Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists:

What precedent does this set? Two pretty awful ones come quickly to mind: why stop at Federal land highways; and if roads with higher than 30 mph speed limits are so unsafe for bicyclists to share with motorists, bicyclists shouldn’t be using them, period.

You can read his full analysis on this piece of legislation here. The League of American Bicyclists is also organizing a petition to strip this language out of the bill.

Thanks to the National Parks Traveler for alerting me on this one.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Who inspires you to enjoy the outdoors?

Who inspires you to enjoy the outdoors? What program or people are breaking new ground and getting people active outdoors?

The Outdoor Industry Association would like to recognize these individuals and organizations with an Outdoor Inspiration Award. The outdoor trade organization is now accepting nominations for individuals, groups or companies that inspire the enjoyment of, participation in and support for outdoor activities. They're looking for personal stories of achievement, encouragement and insight that truly stand above the crowd.

If you know an employee, volunteer, customer, athlete, teacher, leader, community, school, fund raising group, guide service, product development team, sales force or company that has motivated or inspired you and others, now is the time to publicly recognize them.

Nominations will be accepted through December 16, 2011, and the winners will be announced at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, Utah. For more information, including all the nomination guidelines, please click here.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

FWP Seeks Comment On Bighorn Sheep Transplant Environmental Assessment

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission is seeking comment on a draft environmental assessment of a proposal to transplant bighorn sheep into three areas in southwestern Montana.

The areas assessed include the Bull Mountains north of Whitehall, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park near Three Forks, and Doherty Mountain, just north of Lewis and Clark Caverns. The areas were selected, in part, because there would likely be interchange of bighorns among the three locations if sheep were to inhabit the area. Additionally, the areas were occupied by bighorns historically and the available habitat could support 200-300 sheep.

A public meeting to discuss the proposal is set for Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Whitehall High School, 1 Yellowstone Trail, in Whitehall.

One of the statewide objectives in FWP’s recently completed “Bighorn Sheep Conservation Strategy” is to establish five new populations over the course of the next 10 years. This proposal would help meet that objective and also help Montana’s struggling bighorn sheep population.

Final approval of the EA would be taken up by the FWP Commission in January. If approved, bighorns would be captured from existing Montana populations and moved to release sites as early as this winter. To adequately stock all three areas may take several years and would depend on availability of surplus sheep.

FWP will take public comment on the draft EA through 5 p.m., Dec. 16. Comments can be submitted in writing to Montana FWP, P.O. Box 998, Townsend, MT 59644; or by email to Tom Carlsen at

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Yellowstone Seeks Input on Old Faithful Visitor Lodging Improvement Plan

Yellowstone National Park is seeking ways to restore visitor lodging while accommodating permanent and seasonal lodging for park concessioner employees in the Old Faithful area.

The National Park Service is considering a plan to improve visitor experience and employee housing in one of Yellowstone's most visited areas, while preserving the historic character of the area.

In considering a reasonable range of alternatives, at least one alternative allows existing Old Faithful Lodge cabin units that currently house park concessioner staff to be made available for overnight visitor use. The units are some of the most affordable lodging in the park. That alternative would also call for the construction of a new 77-room dormitory in the Old Faithful administrative area to house up to 144 employees displaced by the change. The 28 multiplex cabins consisting of 67 units accommodates approximately 140 overnight visitors.

The first step in preparing a plan and Environmental Assessment is to ask the public to help identify issues or concerns that the park staff should consider.

A scoping newsletter with a more detailed overview of the plan, along with instructions on how to submit comments can be found online at the National Park Service's Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

Suggestions and concerns may be submitted through the website, in person or by mail, and must be received or postmarked by midnight MST, December 20, 2011. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail, and submitted responses may be made publicly available at any time.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lost: The First Five Minutes

Is this still the trail?

Why are we going down when we should be climbing?

This direction doesn’t seem right.....

Professor Hike has a pretty good article in Backpacker Magazine on how to prevent yourself from getting lost. The professor makes a great point in that the most critical time period is the first five minutes after you begin to question yourself as to whether you're on the right path or not.

He also offers three personal case studies to show what he's talking about. You can click here to read the article.

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Win a Chance to Be a Gear Editor for Backpacker Mag!

Backpacker Magazine is looking for two exceptional men, and two exceptional women, who share their fascination with new products, cool gear, and upcoming trends.

If selected, you will become an elite member of the inaugural Backpacker Reader team and will be sent on assignment to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, 2012, in Salt Lake City to write, blog, photograph, and maybe even star in a video or two at the world’s largest outdoor industry trade show.....the Mecca for all things gear and gadgets for the upcoming retail year. Your job will be to give Backpacker readers a behind the scenes perspective on upcoming new gear and new trends.

If interested, all you need to do is create a compelling video and send Backpacker a writing sample: a blog-type entry that describes one of your favorite pieces of gear and why you think it’s so cool. To learn more, click here.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hiking in Glacier Launch

Last week we officially launched our brand new trail website:

If you haven't been to the site yet, we provide details on more the 60 hikes in Glacier. To find any given hike we use four directories so that you can find trails by area of the park, difficulty, payoff (great views, waterfalls, lakes), as well as an alphabetical listing. Hopefully you'll find this helpful in planning your next visit to Glacier!

After sending out a press release last week, we had several blogs and news sites post our news. I just wanted to thank the National Parks Traveler, KTVQ in Billings, KPAX in Missoula, JAGS Report, Oh, Ranger!, and ABC of Hiking for publishing the news and a link to our website on their site.

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New 'Vital Signs' Report Documenting Yellowstone's Ecological Health

Yellowstone National Park's 2011 "Natural Resource Vital Signs" report is helping park managers and scientists more fully understand the status of important ecological "health indicators."

Park scientists and their cooperators are reporting on data from more than two dozen natural resource indicators to study the influences both inside and outside of the park that affect Yellowstone's overall ecological and environmental stability. These indicators include examining ecosystem processes such as wildland fire as well as environmental quality, native species and stressors such as wildlife disease and non-native species.

The report published by the Yellowstone Center for Resources (YCR) helps guide resource management decisions and supports ongoing and future research needs. The first study was conducted and published in 2008.

Among the health indicators studied, a number of significant new highlights have emerged:

• Earthquakes: More than 3,000 earthquakes were detected in the park in 2010, including a "swarm" of 2,400 quakes northwest of Old Faithful near the beginning of the year, the largest concentration since 1985.

• Grizzly Bears: Bear populations reached 602 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2010, the largest number since the recovery program began in 1975.

• Bison: Efforts have been made by the State of Montana in coordination with the Interagency Bison Management partners to expand winter grazing areas north of the park. The park now numbers around 3,700 bison, down slightly from 2010.

• Invasive Species: Since 1994 more than 550,000 invasive Lake Trout have been removed from Yellowstone Lake to help revive the population of native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.

• Wolves: Yellowstone's wolf population was approximately 100. However, wolf numbers in the GYE have increased.

Over the next year, the Yellowstone Center for Resources, along with its research partners, will re-examine these vital signs with a special emphasis on including cultural resource indicators.

The 2011 report can be found here.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

How To Survive a Bear Attack (Don't get your head ripped off)

A humorous look at a serious subject from the "Howcast" series. Does anyone else think the claymation figure looks a little like Bill Clinton?

For more in-depth information concerning hiking with bears and what to do if you come in contact with one on the trail, please click here.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forest Service maps link healthy drinking water to healthy forests

Earlier in the week the U.S. Forest Service unveiled a comprehensive series of maps that illustrate for the first time the crucial role forests play in sustaining the watersheds that are most important to the quality of American surface drinking water.

The Forests to Faucets interactive maps also identify the extent to which those watersheds are threatened by development, fire, insects and disease. Communities can use the data to help determine the important role their forests play in providing clean drinking water to urban areas

The Forests to Faucets project will also help identify watersheds where a payment for watershed services project may be an option for financing conservation on forest lands. The cost of treating drinking water increases 20 percent for every loss of 10 percent of forest land in a watershed.

“Spending money on forest management upstream in a watershed saves money on water treatment downstream,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “The Forests to Faucets project provides powerful information that can help identify forest areas that play a key role in providing clean drinking water.”

The project found that Appalachian forests critically impact drinking water in East Coast cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. Forests in the Sierras in California and the Front Range in Colorado are also home to crucial watersheds that provide clean drinking water for millions of Americans.

Watersheds on national forests and grasslands are the source of 20 percent of the nation’s water supply, a value estimated to exceed $27 billion per year. Another 60 percent of the nation’s water flows from private lands.

“We expect Forests to Faucets will support rural economies by steering funding to upstream landowners, encouraging healthy forests and healthy water,” said Tidwell.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Volunteers Help Plant 600 Seedlings in Waterton Lakes

On October 11, 2011, five volunteers joined Parks Canada restoration staff to plant whitebark pine trees in the Summit Lake area of Waterton Lakes National Park.

Despite the rain, cold weather, and patches of snow, the crew managed to put 600 seedlings in the ground.

Whitebark pine is threatened by white pine blister rust, an introduced fungus that has killed over 90% of trees in many stands.

In 2010, volunteers assisted in planting 1,200 seedlings in the same general area and survivorship after the first year was over 90%.

You can read the rest of the story on the Parks Canada website.

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Missoula Ranger District seeks recreation site and campground hosts

The Missoula Ranger District in the Lolo National Forest is currently seeking volunteer recreation site and campground hosts for the 2012 summer season. Please contact 406-329-3970 for more information.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't urinate on the trails in Olympic National Park

Visitors to Olympic National Park are being advised not to pee near trails or face the risk of being attacked by mountain goats.

This warning stems from a fatal goring that occurred in the park last fall. Witnesses at the time of the attack described an aggressive male mountain goat, weighing more than 350 pounds, that approached, followed and fatally gored a Port Angeles man while he was hiking last October.

The warning is a new measure park officials are instituting as part of their revised Mountain Goat Action Plan. Biologists point out that hikers that urinate along trails are turning the pathways into "long, linear salt licks", which attracts the mountain goats. To avoid potential conflicts, park officials are advising hikers and campers to urinate at least 50 yards from a trail or campsite.

The report also provides some examples of unacceptable mountain goat behavior:

* Goat does not retreat when comes in sight of people, lets people approach within 150 feet.

* Goat approaches and follows people on trails or at camp or rest sites.

* Goat aggressively seeks out areas where humans urinate and consumes soil and vegetation where human urine is deposited.

* Goat makes contact with clothing or equipment; chews gear seeking salt.

* Goat displays aggressive postures or behavior to people when encountered on or off trail.

I think this advice should be taken by anyone who hikes in Glacier National Park as well, or anywhere else, for that matter, where mountain goats thrive. Last year I had a run-in with a mountain goat family on Quandary Peak in Colorado. Looking back now, those goats clearly demonstrated "unacceptable mountain goat behavior".

The first indication of aggresive behavior came when the largest male laid down on the trail as my wife and I approached from below, thus preventing us from proceeding forward. The only reason the ram started moving again was due to another group of hikers ascending the trail below us. This group also included a dog.

Although the goats were at least walking again, they stayed on or near the trail, not allowing us to pass. This went on for several minutes until another group of hikers approached from above, prompting the goats to finally move off the trail. At this point we were able to safely pass, and got about a quarter of a mile away from the goats when we decided to take a quick bathroom, food and drink break. Because we were on a fairly narrow ridge here, we were only just off the trail at this point.

After sitting down on a rock for a couple of minutes we noticed the goats moving again. The large male, the same ram that plopped down on the trail earlier, was making a direct bee line towards us. In a somewhat similar situation as the Olympic N.P. goring incident, I told my wife to get moving as quickly as possible. She was already up the trail when I was finally able to get my backpack together and hurriedly moved out as the goat got to within 75 feet of me. It was the last time we saw those goats.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Park Program Inspects 1,300 Boats for Aquatic Invasive Species

Glacier National Park announced today that park personnel performed almost 1,300 boat inspections during this past summer intended to reduce the risk of unintentional movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into park waters.

"We put a lot of energy and resources into this program, but realize this is just the beginning of a long-term effort to protect the pristine waters of Glacier National Park and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem against the devastating effects of aquatic invasive species," said Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright.

Glacier National Park contains the headwaters of three continental-scale watersheds. An infestation would pose a serious threat to all downstream waterways.

In 2010 the park initiated a boat inspection and permit program that required all motorized boats users to obtain a boat-launch permit prior to launching in any water body within the park. Inspections were only focused on boats believed to pose a high risk of transport of aquatic invasive species to park waters. The program also included an educational awareness component.

In May of this year, the park began an expanded boat inspection and permit program in response to an increasing threat of aquatic invasive species, which required an inspection and permit for all boaters. A free permit is required to launch any motorized or trailered watercraft in Glacier National Park. Hand-propelled water craft and personal flotation devices such as float tubes do not require a permit at this time. After an inspection of the watercraft indicates no signs of aquatic invasive species present, a launch permit will be issued. Boats must be clean, drained and thoroughly dry, including the bilge areas and livewells, upon inspection. A new permit is required upon each entry into the park.

From January to the beginning of October, 1,257 boats were inspected in the park. Six boats were denied launch permits for a variety of reasons, including that some that were not clean enough to properly inspect. No aquatic invasive species were found. The majority of the inspections were boats launching in Lake McDonald. Approximately 88% of the boats were registered from Montana with the remainder coming from 18 states and two Canadian Provinces.

Park visitors planning to launch a boat into any park waters throughout the winter are encouraged to call the park at 406-888-7801 to arrange for an inspection. Launching a boat without an inspection in Glacier National Park threatens park resources and is illegal, with a fine up to $500. Waterton Lakes National Park also has a boat inspection program.

Cartwright said, "Trailered boats with mussels attached to the boat and/or the trailer have been detected in Montana, as well as some aquatic invasive plants in local waters recently. This is a serious threat and we must be proactive to reduce any risk."

Park managers and specialists recently met with Glen Canyon Recreation Area representatives to learn and share ideas on additional prevention measures, and to develop a response plan if something is detected in the area. Glacier National Park is also cooperating with other federal, state and local agencies and organizations, and Parks Canada to protect the lakes, rivers and streams of Montana.

Cartwright conveys his appreciation to park visitors for helping maintain the pristine waters in Glacier National Park by complying with the boat inspection and permit program.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Do Air Horns make for good bear deterrents?

** For the most up-to-date information on this topic, please click here.

A couple of years ago I came across an article suggesting that air horns might make for a good bear deterrent. To me this kind of made sense. My thoughts were that the high-decibel noise coming from an air horn might be more effective than bear spray because:

1) You don't have to worry about the direction of the wind (or rain)

2) You don't have to wait for the bear to get close enough before sounding the horn

3) Bears have much better hearing than humans, thus the noise would bother them even more than humans

4) When a problem bear is captured and then released, biologists/rangers always use lots of noise to scare the bear so that it stays away from humans in the future

Never hearing anyone else make a similar suggestion, I just assumed that it probably wasn’t a good idea. However, I proceeded to do a little research and found one person who claims to have successfully used an air horn to scare a bear away. This was from a personal website, so I wasn’t about to put my life on the line based on one website claim.

Thinking about this again recently, I decided to revisit the subject to see if there was anything new on to report on. In particular, were there any new studies providing hard evidence as to whether air horns actually work or not?

It seems that the idea of using air horns as a bear deterrent has actually gained some traction since I last visited this topic. However, I couldn’t find anything definitive. In other words, I couldn’t find any studies that have actually been conducted on black bears or grizzly bears to determine the effectiveness of air horns as a deterrent.

However, here’s what I did find:

In a fairly recent “Ask A Bear” column, Backpacker Magazine cited a test conducted on polar bears in the 70s that found that ultrasonic frequencies fine-tuned and blasted over large speakers repelled bears roughly 69% of the time.

This was the only study that I could find that was even remotely related to my question, but it really doesn’t answer it. One, the test was conducted on polar bears, and two, air horns weren’t used in the test. I should point out, though, that the column also states that bear guru Stephen Herrero thinks that an ultrasonic bear repellent is worthy of further study and testing.

The Get Bear Smart Society, a Canadian organization that works to educate the general public as well as government agencies across North America, believes that air horns can be effective when used in conjunction with human dominance techniques to move a bear off (as mentioned in their A guide to non-lethal management techniques).

On their website, they state:

Noise deterrents work by making a loud, unpleasant sound that causes the bear to be uneasy and move away. Noise deterrents are advantageous if you are a long distance away from the bear. Furthermore, they cause neither harm nor injury to the bear when correctly used.

In some cases, noise deterrents do not work either because the bear has habituated to human noise or because it has no natural fear of the noise. For example, a habituated bear is very unlikely to respond to a vehicle siren if officers remain in the vehicle. Unlike human dominance techniques which speak the language of the bear, a bear may have to be taught that noise deterrents are followed by an unpleasant or negative situation. However, once a bear makes the association, an officer may only have to cock his shotgun to make the bear leave

I found several governmental websites in the United States and Canada that offered similar advice. For example, the Kenai Fjords National Park website states that “It is a good idea to carry a non-lethal deterrent such as an air horn or pepper spray in case of a surprise encounter…”

As a result of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published Deterrence Guidelines in the Federal Register, which states that:

These guidelines…are appropriate for safely and nonlethally deterring polar bears from damaging private and public property and endangering the public. The use of commercially available air horns and other similar devices designed to deter wild animals…may be effective in deterring bears while causing no lasting or permanent harm to individual animals.

The Department of Earth & Atmospheric Science at the University of Alberta has this advice on their Bear Safety Information page:

Make lots of noise, especially when traveling in dense vegetation. Sing, shout, or talk loudly. You can carry portable air horns, cans of rocks. (Please note that bear bells are not effective – they do not make enough noise to warn a bear that you are approaching. You need to be loud so the bear can hear you coming!) Remember that the noise you make can be masked by loud natural sounds such as the wind or water. Therefore it is possible that the noise you make can go unnoticed by a bear whose attention is focused on feeding. You must make every attempt not to surprise a bear. In areas of loud natural noise, be louder!

However, they do warn that air horns can sometimes provoke a bear into attacking.

The Alberta Sustainable Resource Development website makes these points about deterring a bear:

• Noisemakers are best used to deter a bear that is at a distance – one that sees you and continues to approach or one that’s heading to your camp or settlement.

• Before using noisemakers, be sure to assess the situation. Make sure the surroundings are clear of people and the bear has an obvious way out. A bear that’s been startled by a noisemaker may not be able to avoid groups of people as it flees the area.

• Remember, the noisemaker may not immediately deter the bear, especially if the bear has had previously experience with noise deterrents. Also, noisemakers may not prevent the bear from returning to the area.

• Bear spray is best used when you need to deter a bear at close range.
The bottom line, I guess, is that there’s no 100% safe and reliable way to deter a bear. Each bear has a different personality, and each encounter is essentially a unique situation. In addition to air horns and pepper spray, high pitched whistles are also known to be of help in some situations.

Your best bet is to make sure you make a lot noise while hiking in bear country, and to practice bear awareness and avoidance techniques.

If anyone has access, or knows of any definitive studies that have been conducted with air horns, please let us know and/or provide a link in the comments section.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Hiking every trail in Glacier - in one year!

On Saturday, October 15th, 34-year-old Montana resident Jake Bramante became the first person to hike every mile of every trail within Glacier National Park - a total of 734 miles - in one year!

To complete his goal, Jake actually had to hike a total of 1,000 miles to cover all 734 miles of designated trails in the park.

Here's a video of him on his last hike as he crosses the finish line at the Lincoln Lake Trailhead in the Lake McDonald area:

You can read more about his adventure on his blog.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Free Entrance to Yellowstone on Veteran's Day

The North and Northeast Entrances to Yellowstone National Park will offer free visitor admission on Friday, November 11, to honor all past and current members of the U.S. Armed Forces. All other park entrances and interior roads close at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, November 7.

All entrance fees, including commercial tour entrance fees and transportation entrance fees, will be waived at all National Park Service sites on Veteran's Day. Free admission is offered to all visitors, not just to veterans or military personnel. This annual fee free day was established in 2006.

Yellowstone has a long and proud association with our nation's military. After struggling for years with limited staff and budget in an effort to thwart souvenir hunters and poachers in Yellowstone's early years, the U.S. Army was called upon to protect the park in 1886.

During the 32 years the U.S. Army was present in the park, it set the tone for conservation and protection of special places like Yellowstone, which still guides the uniformed members of the National Park Service to this day. Among the most visible reminders of the military presence in the park are the stone and tile roofed structures of Fort Yellowstone in Mammoth Hot Springs, which are still used by the park for administration and residences. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the historic fort all year 'round.

The road from the park's North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction, the Lamar Valley, and on to Cooke City, Montana, is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year.

At Mammoth Hot Springs, the Yellowstone General Store, Post Office, medical clinic, campground, and the Albright Visitor Center remain open all year. Pay-at-the-pump fuel is available 24 hours a day all year at the Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction service stations.

Additional information on the military era and on Fort Yellowstone can be found online at

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Yellowstone Completes Winter Use Environmental Impact Statement

Yellowstone National Park will issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) later today that ensures the park opens for motorized oversnow travel as scheduled on December 15th.

This Final EIS will be available online at The National Park Service intends to issue a Record of Decision selecting only the transition year from the preferred alternative, and then publish and implement a "One-Year Rule" for the upcoming 2011-2012 winter season

These actions will allow the park to open for winter use on December 15, and provide for managed motorized oversnow travel over groomed, snow-packed park roads in the same manner as allowed the past two winters under a temporary plan. Under the One-Year Rule, up to 318 commercially guided, Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles, and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches a day will be allowed this winter into Yellowstone National Park.

After the Record of Decision and One-Year Rule are published, the National Park Service will begin working on a Supplemental EIS, which will contain the further analysis of the issues raised during the public comment period.

Some of the more than 59,000 public comments received on the Winter Use Draft EIS raised additional questions as to long-term effects and options regarding winter use in Yellowstone.

Among the subjects identified for further analysis are variable use limits, a 10:30 a.m. entry requirement, air quality and modeling assumptions, proposed Best Available Technology standards for snowcoaches, cost of avalanche hazard mitigation on Sylvan Pass, and opportunities for non-commercially guided snowmobile access.

A draft Supplemental EIS will be completed and released for public review and comment in early 2012. The National Park Service intends to have a final Supplemental EIS, a Record of Decision, and a long-term regulation in place prior to the start of the 2012-2013 winter season.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Park Invites Public to Brown-Bag Lecture

The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glacier National Park is hosting a free brown-bag lecture on Tuesday, November 8 from 12- 1pm at the Community Building in West Glacier. The public is invited to join the Bigfork High School Cave Club for a presentation about their five years of cave research in the park.

The Bigfork High School Cave Club was created in 2005 to provide high school students with opportunities to participate in recreational activities through cave exploration and work with local land managing agencies, such as the National Park Service and the US Forest Service, to restore and conserve fragile cave resources.

In 2010, the club was awarded the President's Environmental Youth Award for their work in the conservation of caves in Glacier National Park. They were invited to present at the opening ceremony of the International GIS Users Conference in San Diego, California.

Recently, the club completed monitoring for 11 caves in Grand Canyon National Park and in October, club members presented at the National Cave Management Symposium in Utah.

For more information about the presentation, or the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center, please visit or contact 406-888-5827.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A sprint to the top of the Eiger

In November 2008, Swiss climber Ueli Steck set the solo speed record on the 13,025-foot north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland.

In this video, Steck makes a mockery of the mountain by practically sprinting to the summit in a ridiculous two hours and forty seven minutes. This clip comes from the award-winning film, Swiss Machine, which was shown as part of last year’s Reel Rock Tour.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Can you survive in the wilderness in the winter?

I'm sure most you would never really want to actually find out, but you could test yourself - virtually - by playing the Discovery Channel's "Life or Death Game".

The scenario is that you are on a guided extreme winter hike to a luxury cabin. You awake after the first night to find that the guide has left - with all the food - and you're still two days away from the cabin. Can you survive?

Warning: the game can be quite annoying because everytime you miss the right answer, you're forced to start over again. Fortunately there's only a handful of questions. All in all though, it's a pretty good exercise because there are a couple of questions with counter-intuitive answers, forcing you to think outside of the box, which is something that would come in handy in a real survival situation.

The site also has other scenarios including being lost at sea and being stranded in the jungle.

Just click here to play.

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