Friday, December 30, 2011

The Top 10 Stories from Glacier National Park in 2011

2011 was a busy year for Glacier National Park. The park made headlines in the national media on a couple of occasions, but also made headlines within the hiking community. Below is my rundown of the top 10 stories from the park over the past year.

10) In 2011 Glacier National Park was featured as the seventh coin in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The park and the United States Mint launched the new coin in a ceremony on April 13th.

9) Heavens Peak Fire Lookout Stabilization Project is delayed due to deep snow. In February the park announced plans to stabilize the historic Heavens Peak Fire Lookout, but record snows and more urgent repairs elsewhere postponed those plans until next summer.

8) A mother and son were rescued from McDonald Creek near Red Rock Point on August 17th after the young boy fell in the creek.

7) Descending from the summit of Stanton Peak on May 31st, two female and two male hikers were glissading on a snowfield. One of the male hikers, unable to self-arrest with his ice axe, tumbled over a 30 foot cliff, and slid down an additional 80 feet on snow. The individual had to be airlifted to Kalispell Regional Medical Center by helicopter that evening.

6) On 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 only one year!

5) A hiker from Omaha, Nebraska fell to his death on July 18th. The hiker slipped and fell 50-100 feet on a steep snow field while hiking on the Grinnell Glacier Trail.

4) On the morning of August 29th park dispatch received a call informing them that Glacier National Park seasonal employee Jacob Rigby, a member of the exotic plant team, was overdue from a personal day hike in the park. Rigby's supervisor notified park rangers that he did not show for work at his scheduled time. On September 2nd search personnel found his body on a mountain known as "8888" in the southern end of the park. An early investigation indicated that Rigby may have fallen approximately 800 feet on the north side of the extremely steep mountain.

3) On August 5th a hiker on the trail from Many Glacier to Piegan Pass was attacked by a grizzly bear. The 50-year male hiker was hiking alone when he rounded a bend in the trail and surprised a sow grizzly with one sub-adult. The bear bit his left thigh and left forearm, and then grabbed his foot, shook him, released him and left the area. The hiker was carrying bear spray, but was unable to deploy it before the bear attacked. The man hiked back toward Many Glacier when he encountered a naturalist ranger leading a hike. The ranger notified dispatch while the man continued to the Many Glacier Ranger Station where he was treated for his injuries and then transported to the Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning.

2) Sometime during this past mid-winter season, an avalanche slid off Lincoln Peak and plowed into the south end of the dormitory of the Sperry Chalet. The backcountry hotel, accessed only by a 6-mile hike, sustained a fair amount of damage, and resulted in a truncated tourist season this summer. Snow and debris damaged the roof, broke a door, took off some shutters, and blew open windows. Four rooms on the interior were completely filled with snow. The damage delayed the opening, and forced an early summer closure as crews worked to complete repairs before another winter set in.

1) The winter of 2010/2011 was truly an historic one for Glacier National Park. A park press release at the end of April 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. A whopping 166 inches were recorded at the 7,000 foot level! All that snow resulted in the latest opening date ever for the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road, which tops out at Logan Pass at an elevation of 6646 feet, didn’t open until July 13th this year. The prior record for the latest opening date was set in 1953 when the road didn’t open until June 24th. The famous Highline Trail at Logan Pass didn't open until July 29th!

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Start the year off with a First Day Hike

Start the year off on the right foot by taking a First Day Hike in a state park near you. Across the country, state parks will be offering guided First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day 2012.

The idea for First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, this is the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

An organization called America’s State Parks has compiled an online database of more than 350 hikes on their website. You can find a First Day Hike by clicking here.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Glacier National Park: Past and Present

Glacier National Park: Past and Present is a brand new book, by Suzanne Silverthorn, that was just released for sale on Amazon today.

The sights of Glacier National Park come alive through colorful images of the park's glorious lakes, wildlife, and rugged mountains. Postcards of yesteryear and contemporary photographs tell the rich history and enduring qualities of this "crown jewel" of the National Park system. Travel along Going-to-the-Sun Road, visit Many Glacier Hotel and other historic properties, and get swept away in the panoramic views. From the pioneering transportation advances of rails and roads, to the rustic lodges that continue to beckon new generations, and the unforgettable scenery, this book is a treasured keepsake for those who love parks and a great resource guide for history buffs.

For more information on the new book, please click here.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Forest Service Chief signs record of decision for aerial fire retardant application

Earlier in the month U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell signed a record of decision establishing new direction for the use of fire retardant applied from aircraft to manage wildfires.

The new direction, initiated as a result of litigation in Montana, will help the Forest Service better protect water resources and certain plant and wildlife species on National Forest System lands when fighting wildfires. It will allow the Forest service to aggressively fight fire with the use of airtankers while protecting aquatic ecosystems.

Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), the Forest Service identified and mapped waterways and habitat for certain threatened, endangered, and sensitive species in order to avoid applying retardant in those areas.

To decide when or where to drop fire retardant, fire managers now have roughly 12,000 maps identifying avoidance areas on 98 National Forest System units that identify locations of waterways and areas for hundreds of plant and animal species.

When fire managers determine retardant is the right tool to use on a wildfire, they will direct pilots to avoid applying fire retardant in the newly-mapped areas. All other firefighting tactics will be available in the avoidance areas.

The Forest Service has avoided the use of fire retardant in waterways since 2000. Guidelines used since 2000 provided three exceptions that allowed fire managers to drop retardant within 300 feet of waterways. The new direction allows one exception: when human life or public safety is threatened. However, this represents little change with how the agency fights wildfires.

“These new guidelines strike a balance between the need to supplement our boots-on-the-ground approach to fighting wildfires while protecting our waterways and important plant and animal species at the same time,” Tidwell said. “Our new approach will benefit communities, ecosystems and our fire crews.”

Forest Service research has demonstrated that fire retardant, used since the 1950s, is twice as effective as water at reducing fire intensity. The agency continues to work with industry to develop more environmentally friendly fire retardants.

In July 2010, in response to a lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ordered the Forest Service to fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and to re-consult with USFWS and NOAA Fisheries to comply with the Endangered Species Act.

The Forest Service involved the public in the development of the new direction, including hosting five community listening sessions, several stakeholder webinars, three technical listening sessions, a science panel discussion, and several Tribal engagement events.

The new direction includes procedures for monitoring and reinitiating consultation with USFWS and NOAA Fisheries if aerially-applied fire retardant impacts certain species or habitat. The direction also provides greater protection for cultural resources including historic properties, traditional cultural resources, and sacred sites through closer coordination with states and Tribes.

Tidwell issued the decision after reviewing the analysis of three alternatives in the October 2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement and the results of the consultation with USFWS and NOAA Fisheries.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Nation’s forests are severely damaged by marijuana grow sites

Marijuana cultivation sites in 20 states on 67 national forests have caused “severe” damage according to U.S. Forest Service director of law enforcement, David Ferrell.

“The illegal cultivation of marijuana on our National Forest System is a clear and present danger to the public and the environment,” Ferrell said.

His warning came in testimony earlier this month before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

“Many marijuana sites found on national forests are under cultivation by drug trafficking organizations that are sophisticated and include armed guards, counter-surveillance methods, logistics support and state-of-the-art growing practices,” Ferrell said. “It is incumbent on the agency to do what is necessary to ensure that the resources we manage are protected and visitors as well as employees are safe.”

Ferrell gave an example from efforts in California where the Forest Service completed cleanup and restoration on 335 sites which resulted in the removal of more than 130 tons of trash, 300 pounds of pesticides, five tons of fertilizer and nearly 260 miles of irrigation piping.

The effects of marijuana sites on natural resources are harsh. Native vegetation is cleared before planting. Thousands of feet of black tubing transport large volumes of water diverted from streams, lakes, and public drinking water supplies. An average size marijuana plot of approximately 1,000 plants requires up to 5,000 gallons of water daily.

Natural vegetation and wildlife are killed as growers use liberal doses of herbicides, rodenticides and pesticides, some of them banned in the United States. These chemicals can cause extensive and long-term damage to ecosystems. Human waste and trash in the grow sites are widespread. Winter rains create severe soil erosion and wash the poisons, this waste and trash into streams and rivers – including Congressionally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Recreation Areas.

Limited agency funds are impacted by the activity, costing approximately $5,000 an acre just to clean up a grow site. The restoration of the site to re-establish streams costs another $5,000 an acre. And yet another $5,000 an acre is needed to restore the area to its natural state. The typical marijuana site is between 10-20 acres.

The agency will continue to enhance partnerships with other federal, state, local and Tribal agencies in a cooperative effort to investigate and eradicate marijuana cultivation and other narcotic activities occurring on National Forest System lands, Ferrell said. The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on USFS managed land contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Montana: Shaped by Winter

The Montana Office of Tourism does an excellent job of selling the state in this video:

MONTANA: Shaped by Winter from Montana Office of Tourism on Vimeo.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Flathead National Forest Hosting Advanced Avalanche Awareness Programs

The Flathead National Forest is hosting a free avalanche awareness and safety training program beginning Tuesday, January 3. The program, focused for down-hill and cross-country skiers, snowboarders, snowshoe enthusiasts and mountaineers, will consist of four evening lectures and two all-day field sessions.

The evening lectures will be Tuesdays and Thursdays January 3, 5, 10 and 12 at the Flathead National Forest Office in Northwest Kalispell, 650 Wolfpack Way, 6:30 – 9:30pm (located south of Glacier High School). The Saturday field sessions will be January 7 and 14.

Flathead National Forest Avalanche Specialist Stan Bones said, “The program will include information about avalanche terrain, mountain weather and snowpack, stability evaluation and decision making, and avalanche rescue.” Bones encourages participants to attend all sessions to gain maximum benefit. Registration is not required for the workshop but participants are encouraged to contact the Flathead National Forest 758-5284 or visit for more information.


The Flathead National Forest issues avalanche advisories for Northwest Montana throughout the winter. Advisories are issued once a week, on Friday mornings until the last week of December, when they are issued Tuesday and Friday mornings (as weather conditions warrant) until April. Advisories include information about snowpack conditions, weather forecasts, and hazard evaluations.

Advisories are posted on the Flathead National Forest website, and on the Glacier Country Avalanche Center website,

The advisory can also be accessed by calling 406-257-8702. Anyone traveling in the backcountry will always need to make their own time and site specific avalanche hazard evaluations.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

From the Trailhead

"Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven."

- John Muir on his visit to Glacier in the early 1890s

Some of the best scenes in Glacier National Park are only a short walk from a road or parking area. Take for instance the views across Swiftcurrent Lake from the Many Glacier Hotel. From the balcony, or the shoreline, the views are some of the grandest in the park. From a photographic point of view we were quite lucky to have thick clouds leftover from a storm that passed through the night before:

The historic boat shuttle, Chief Two Guns, awaits her early morning passengers under the gaze of Grinnell Point.

One of the more remote areas on the east side of the park is Cut Bank. From the Pitamakan Pass Trailhead are some outstanding views of Bad Marriage Mountain under an appropriately brooding sky. Too bad the Native American for whom the mountain was named after didn't have Dr. Phil around. The mountain might have a different name now:

Our favorite area of the park is without a doubt the Two Medicine Area. Although not as popular as Many Glacier or West Glacier, and perhaps not as scenic as Many Glacier, it has a much more laid back charm than the other more popular destinations. The hiking out of Two Medicine is outstanding, but the views from the parking lot are just as magnificent. Sinopah Mountain, Lone Walker Mountain and Flinsch Peak create a perfect backdrop behind Two Medicine Lake, whether in the morning or at sunset:

One of the most iconic scenes in all of the national parks is from a roadside parking area off the Going-To-The-Sun Road. The island in the middle of the photo is known as Wild Goose Island:

Glacier National Park has some absolutely spectacular scenery, and you don't have to go deep into the backcountry to enjoy it.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Trails Day

The Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE), a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness and understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead Region, is celebrating Winter Trails Day on Saturday, January 7 with several free outdoor activities.

These free activities are a great way to enjoy the outdoors in winter and discover the fitness and social benefits of snowshoeing in Northwest Montana. All activities are suitable for beginners and families. Be prepared with warm clothing and wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots.

* A snowshoe walk in the Flathead National Forest, hosted by the Swan Lake Ranger District, will be at the Blacktail Mountain cross-country ski trails near Lakeside, 10am-Noon. Participants may bring snowshoes, or a limited number of children and adult shoes will be available by reservation. Please meet at the upper trailhead parking area. Reservations are not required. For more information or to reserve snowshoes, please contact the Swan Lake Ranger District at 837-7500.

* Explore Lone Pine State Park on snowshoes. From 10am to 5pm, park visitors can borrow snowshoes and explore the many park trails. Adult and children’s snowshoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact the park at 755-2706 for more information.

* Ranger-led snowshoe hikes at Glacier National Park will be hosted at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Each hike will last approximately two hours and reservations are not required. Snowshoes are available for hike participants. Visitors need to purchase a park entrance pass. Please meet at the Apgar Visitor Center. Call 888-7939 for more information.

* A short snowshoe hike for ladies new to the sport will be offered by the Swan Ecosystem Center from 10am to 12:30pm in Condon. Snowshoes are available. Participants will learn about snowshoe basics and the guided hike will take participants over gentle terrain through open and forested areas. Please meet at the Forest Service Condon Work Center, 6887 Hwy. 83. Call 406/754-3137 to sign-up and for more information.

For information about Winter Trails Day visit

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Help Wanted: Protection Ranger in Glacier National Park

For those interested, this was posted on NPS Digest this morning:

Glacier National Park is seeking candidates for a lateral reassignment to fill the St. Mary Area Ranger position. This position is permanent, subject to furlough. The furlough period is not expected to exceed 12 weeks.

Occupancy is required. Travel, transportation, and relocation expenses are authorized, but the government will not provide the services of a third party contractor for the guaranteed home sale program.

The ranger selected will oversee a full range of law enforcement and emergency services operations in the St. Mary area. The position is covered by 6(c) retirement and is classified as primary law enforcement with responsibilities for emergency medical services, search and rescue, backcountry management, wildland fire, structural fire, wildlife management, and resource management and protection.

Glacier has a high volume of grizzly bear activity. Trails are posted and closed on almost a daily basis in July and August. There is a fair amount of interactions with outside agencies. The area ranger is responsible for overseeing daily patrol activities as well as providing leadership for the seasonal ranger staff.

The candidate must possess an NPS Level I commission and National Registry EMT basic certification. Winter patrol skills are desirable.

Glacier National Park is located in the northern Rocky Mountains and offers excellent outdoor recreational opportunities. From May through October, St. Mary in Montana and Waterton, Cardston, and Lethbridge Alberta in Canada offer nearby shopping and services. During the winter, Browning and Cutbank offer limited shopping and services. Great Falls and Kalispell offer a greater variety of shopping and services.

Summer temperatures are moderate with highs near 80 and lows in the 40s. Winter temperatures vary from 50 below to 40 above zero. Wind and snow are common. Snow depths range from bare ground to drifts several feet high. Winter road conditions are periodically severe, and may occasionally limit access. Due to the isolated living conditions we strongly encourage interested applicants to research the area. Information on Glacier National Park is available at .

If you are interested in the St. Mary position, please contact Dona Rutherford, St. Mary District Ranger, at 406-732-7730 or

Applicants should submit the following:

* An OF 612, Optional Application for Federal Employment or resume/ application
* A current SF-50, Notification of Personnel Action
* A copy of your current or latest performance appraisal

Email documents to or mail to: Human Resources Office,
Glacier National Park, Attn: Mary Lou Fitzpatrick, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT 59936.

Applications/resumes must be received by January 6th.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Win this: Heli Skiing in Alaska

‘A Year of Adventure’ sweepstakes, co-sponsored by Sierra Designs and Alaska Mountain Guides, continues with the final installment of its once-in-a-lifetime adventure giveaways.

Launched in April of this year, the ‘A Year of Adventure’ consumer sweepstakes is offering contestants an incredible opportunity to learn mountaineering skills in Ecuador, win a trek to Everest Base Camp, or access untracked powder via helicopter in the Alaska backcountry. Premier guide service Alaska Mountain Guides will lead the trips and Sierra Designs is supplying apparel and equipment.

The winner of the third and final sweepstakes will float through untracked powder on seldom-skied peaks in the Alaskan backcountry. The Heli Skiing in Alaska sweeps will start today. Contestants will be able to enter until midnight on April 17, 2012 with a winner drawn the following day. The Heli Skiing prize pack will include Sierra Designs Ministry 40 packs, Gnar down jackets, Mantra Fusion jackets, and Fusion pants.

For more information on the sweepstakes and how to enter, please click here. Each prizewinner will have up to one year to schedule their trip.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Director Jarvis Signs Policy On Sale Of Disposable Plastic Water Bottles

Earlier this week National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis signed a policy to allow national park superintendents to discontinue the sale of water in disposable plastic bottles.

"Sustainability is a signature effort for the National Park Service," Director Jarvis said. "We must be a visible example of sustainability, so it is important that we move our sustainability program forward as an organization."

The policy came about after two national parks had discontinued the sale of water in disposable plastic bottles and more parks sought to do the same. Director Jarvis said the subject of disposable plastic bottles affects the entire national park system and warranted a national policy.

The policy addresses recycling, reduction of the sales of disposable plastic water bottles through visitor education as well as the end of the sales of these bottles if superintendents (1) complete a rigorous impact analysis including an assessment of the effects on visitor health and safety, (2) submit a request in writing to their regional director, and (3) receive the approval of their regional director.

Education is a big part of the policy. Parks will develop a proactive visitor education strategy that addresses visitor expectations and explains the rationale for whatever plastic bottle reduction, recycling, or elimination effort is implemented. This includes information about the environmental impact of purchasing decisions and the availability of reasonably priced reusable bottles which can be filled at water fountains or bottle refill stations.

You can click here to read more about the new policy.

** Only one day left for free standard shipping from Amazon before Christmas. You can find more details about all Christmas ordering cutoffs here.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last Minute Outdoor Gift Solutions

What gift is always the perfect size, color and ideal for every occasion? A Gift Card of course!

So, for all you last minute shoppers, here are a couple of gift solutions to save the day:

Outdoor gear and apparel company, Patagonia, offers both E-Gift Cards and Traditional Gift Cards. Their E-Gift Cards are delivered free of charge via email within 24 hours of purchase, and their traditional Cards are mailed for free via U.S. Postal Service First-Class Mail:

Top brand outdoor gear seller,, offers electronic “Gear” Certificates that can be sent via email to anyone at anytime:

If you prefer to send a gift card from a store that offers more than just outdoor gear, check out They offer email, Facebook, printable, as well as physical gift cards. The electronic versions of their gift cards are sent immediately, and you can receive free one day shipping on their physical cards. Another benefit with using Amazon gift cards is that they have several designs to choose from:

Amazon shoppers may also want to note that the last day for free standard shipping, before Christmas, is on Monday. You can find more details about all Christmas ordering cutoffs here.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

2012 Recreational Trails Program Grants Awarded

Montana State Parks ( announced earlier in the week that 52 trail organizations, local communities, tribal entities and more will receive Recreational Trails Program (RTP) federal grant awards for trail projects in 2012.

The current federal appropriation is nearly $600,000. It is only a percentage of the anticipated total amount based on the latest apportionments from the Montana Federal Highway Administration.

“Fifty-two successful project sponsors throughout the state can be certain of partial funding for their projects,” said Beth Shumate, Trails Coordinator for Montana State Parks. “The funding received will provide a boost to local economies and rural communities across Montana.”

The federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is an important funding source for Montana trail projects. Administered by Montana State Parks, a division of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, RTP funds are awarded each year for local trail projects such as the construction and maintenance of trails, development of trailside and trailhead facilities, ethics education and interpretive programs, and weed control.

Montana State Parks received a record 72 project applications this year from local communities, counties, federal and state agencies, tribal entities, private associations and organizations.

Some of the recipients include trails in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Chief Joseph X-Country Ski Trails in the Bitterroot Mountains. For a full list of Grant Award Recipients, please click here.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Almost There - The Muir Project

Earlier this summer a group of multimedia artists spent 25 days hiking the 219 mile long John Muir Trail. The intent was to capture their experience on the trail and bring it back to the general public in the form of a gallery exhibit that includes photographs, video installations and hands-on displays that allow visitors to truly get a feeling for the beauty and majesty of the trail - without the burning lungs and blisters. Alongside the exhibit will be a feature length documentary chronicling their adventures on the trail. Below is a short preview of what's to come. Based on what they've already published, I can't wait to see the entire film:

Almost There - The Muir Project from The Muir Project on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guided Snowshoe Walks Offered Again in Glacier

Glacier National Park has announced that the popular guided snowshoe walks will be offered again during the upcoming 2012 winter season.

Walks are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays, 10:30 am and 1:30 pm, from January 7 through March 18, 2012. The walks will depart from the Apgar Visitor Center. Snowshoe rental is available at the Apgar Visitor Center or in the Flathead Valley adjacent to the park. Participants are urged to call the Visitor Center on the weekends after 9:00 am to find out if conditions will permit the walk, 406-888-7939.

Skiing and Snowshoeing:
There are several ski and snowshoe trails that can be accessed throughout Glacier. Click here for more information, trail maps and current avalanche conditions.

Other Winter Travel Information:
Vehicle access is more limited during the winter as Apgar Village, 11 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road on the west side, and a mile and a half on the east side are the only roads maintained in the winter. Check the Current Road Status to find out which roads are open for vehicle travel.

For road conditions outside of the park, please visit the Montana Department of Transportation Road Conditions Report.

Auto camping is available at the Apgar Picnic Area and St. Mary Campground. There is no charge for camping in the winter. A free backcountry permit is required to camp in the backcountry and available on both sides of the park. Please call ahead to find out the most convenient location to obtain your permit, 406.888.7800.

Additional visitor information can be obtained in person at Headquarters (Monday through Friday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, except holidays) and Apgar Visitor Center (open weekends from 9:00 am - 4:30 pm), or by phone at 406.888.7800.

Glove Holiday Sale - Up to 30% off

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Study: Camping is the Safest Recreational Activity

According to a study conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, camping ranks as one of the safest recreational activities in America. The hunting advocacy organization recently compiled data from the National Sporting Goods Association and the Consumer Products Safety Commission to compare total injuries per 100,000 participants in 29 recreational activities. Campers only reported 4942 injuries in 2010, versus an estimated 44,700,000 participation nights, or 11 injuries per 100,000 participants.

I found it quite interesting, and perplexing, that mountain biking had a much lower injury rate than "bicycle riding", which I would interpret to mean road cycling. The only explanation that I can think of is that "bicycle riding" includes more children.

Unfortunately hiking was not included in the study.

Here are the top 10 safest activities:

Here are the most unsafe activities:

Of course this study only measures the number of incidents, and doesn't look at the severity of these injuries, which would likely tell a much different story. You can look at the full table of activities on the Fact Sheet published by the NSSF.

Vibram FiveFingers Sale at REI! 5 Styles of FiveFinger Shoes on Sale + Free Shipping!

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Yellowstone Opens For Winter Season Thursday

Yellowstone officials announced yesterday that the Park will open to the public for the winter season as scheduled on December 15.

Beginning Thursday morning, visitors will be able to travel on commercially guided snowmobiles or rubber-tracked snowcoaches between the park's South Entrance and Old Faithful. Businesses which normally offer commercially guided snowmobile and snowcoach tours will be temporarily allowed to use either rubber -tracked snowcoaches or wheeled vehicles to transport visitors from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful. Rubber-tracked snowcoaches will be permitted to travel between Norris and Canyon.

The rest of the interior park roads have too much ice and snow to allow visitor travel by commercial wheeled vehicles, but not enough snow yet to permit commercially guided snowmobile or snowcoach travel.

Park staff members will continue to closely monitor conditions and weather forecasts. Additional sections of the park will be opened to commercially guided snowmobile and snowcoach travel as soon enough new snow falls to permit the roads to be packed and groomed for safe oversnow travel.

Travel through the park's East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin December 22.

The road from the park's North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana outside the park's Northeast Entrance is open to automobile travel all year.

At Old Faithful, the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on Sunday, December 18.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop will open for the season on Tuesday, December 20. The Yellowstone General Store, the medical clinic, campground, post office, 24-hour gasoline pumps, and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year.

All communities around and on the way to Yellowstone are open year-round, with local businesses offering a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone are on the park's website.

The final legal requirement to winter opening of the park was met Monday, with the publication of the "One Year Rule" in the Federal Register. This allows managed oversnow travel this season in the same manner as has been permitted under a temporary plan the last two winters.

Under the rule, up to 318 commercially guided, Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles, and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches a day will be allowed into Yellowstone again this winter.

In the next few weeks, the National Park Service will begin working on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to complete a long-term plan to guide winter use in Yellowstone. 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.

Holiday Sock Sale - Up to 30% off

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Great Idea for Preventing Frozen Water Bottles

Last week I presented some tips for preventing water bottles from freezing solid while hiking in cold weather.

In the posting I mentioned that if you’re storing water bottles in your backpack on a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. Using an old wool sock will work. I also mentioned that you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck.

A couple of days after publishing this blog I learned of another trick. This comes courtesy of Christian Vande Velde, the pro cyclist and Tour de France veteran. Vande Velde told the Wall Street Journal that he spends part of his off-season training in his hometown of Chicago - in the dead of winter. Vande Velde said that he combats frozen water bottles by adding a half shot of Grand Marnier to the bottle before leaving his house.

I think he might be on to something!

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Season Activities to Begin in Grand Teton National Park

Activities for the 2011/12 winter season begin on Thursday, December 15 in Grand Teton National Park. The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center (12 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming) is open year-round and winter hours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Discovery Center will be closed on December 25, to observe the Christmas holiday.

A Single Day Pass is available to winter visitors at the Moose, Moran and Granite Canyon entrance stations. This winter-season permit allows a one-day entry into Grand Teton at a cost of $5 per vehicle. The single day pass is valid only in Grand Teton and cannot be used for entry into Yellowstone. Winter visitors may choose to purchase one of the following other options for entry:

$25 Seven-day Pass valid for single vehicle entry into Grand Teton and Yellowstone
$50 Grand Teton/Yellowstone Annual Pass valid for one year entry into both parks
$80 Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all federal land management fee areas

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Monday, December 26 at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. This 2-hour activity is offered every day at 1:30 p.m., and previous experience is not necessary. Snowshoes are provided for a requested donation of $5 for adults and $2 for children, 8 years or older. Reservations are required and can be made at 307.739.3399.

Backcountry users and mountaineers planning to stay overnight in the backcountry must get a non-fee permit before their trip at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Permits are not required for day users. To obtain weather forecasts and avalanche hazard information, stop at the Discovery Center, visit the backcountry website, or call the avalanche hotline at 307.733.2664.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities in the park. Most trails are skier tracked, but not groomed. The Teton Park Road (TPR) is a designated winter trail, open to non-motorized use in winter. The TPR gets intermittently groomed for cross-country touring and skate skiing from the Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain. Grooming operations may begin in late December after sufficient snow (at least 2 feet) has accumulated on the TPR. Severe winter storms or park emergencies may preempt the trail grooming schedule on occasion. Important reminder: Snowshoers should walk adjacent to the groomed ski trail, as snowshoes ruin the grooved track set for skiers' use.

Skiers and snowshoers are not restricted to established trails; however, for protection of wildlife, they are required to observe closure areas from December 15 to April 1. To obtain trail maps, closure locations, or winter information, go to the park's website or visit the Discovery Center in Moose, Wyoming. Winter wildlife closure areas include:

* Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor's Ferry near Moose Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park
* Kelly Hill and Uhl Hill
* Static Peak and Prospectors Mountain
* Mount Hunt areas (see the park's cross-country ski brochure for descriptions)

Leashed pets are allowed on the park's plowed roads and turnouts, the unplowed Moose-Wilson Road, and the Grassy Lake Road. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, which includes all other park areas beyond the plowed roadways.

The unplowed TPR is open to visitors who wish to walk, snowshoe or ski with their leashed pet. Dogs are restricted to the TPR winter trail, and must be restrained at all times on a leash no longer than 6-feet in length. Dogs must also be leashed while in the parking areas at Taggart Lake or Signal Mountain. Please keep dogs off the groomed ski tracks as a courtesy to other trail users.

Mutt Mitt stations are in place at the TPR trailheads to dispense plastic bags for pet waste; trash receptacles are also available for disposal of used bags. Pet owners are required to clean up their pet's waste and properly dispose of the bags in the receptacles provided. Some pet owners have left used bags along the side of the road, and when these bags become buried in snow, they cause problems for rotary snow plows during the spring road opening.

Please note that allowing pets on the TPR is a provisional program that may be discontinued at any time. If pet owners do not comply with the rules and regulations-especially with regard to pet waste disposal and leash rules-it is possible that pets will be prohibited from the TPR in the future.

Dog sleds are not allowed on the Teton Park Road or on Grassy Lake Road in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (JDR Parkway).

Snowmobilers may use the frozen surface of Jackson Lake for the purposes of ice fishing only. A Wyoming State fishing license and appropriate fishing gear must be in possession.

On Jackson Lake, snowmobiles must meet National Park Service air and sound emissions requirements for Best Available Technology (BAT). Before operating a snowmobile in Grand Teton, review the regulations and approved BAT machines online, or stop by the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

Snowmobiles may also use the Grassy Lake Road in the JDR Parkway for recreation. The BAT machine requirement does not apply to snowmobile use on the Grassy Lake Road between Flagg Ranch Resort and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

For further information about winter activities in Grand Teton National Park or the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, visit the park's website.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sectional Trail Maps for Glacier National Park

National Geographic now publishes a total of four Trails Illustrated Maps for Glacier National Park. The original map (map 215) encompasses both Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.

For much greater detail, National Geographic also publishes three sectional maps: Many Glacier, Two Medicine and North Fork. The original map has a scale 1:100,000, however, the three new sectional maps have a scale of 1:50,000, and provide much greater detail such as backcountry campsite locations, footbridges, fords/stream crossings, points-of-interests, shuttle stops, nature/interpretive trails, as well as water and snow hazard locations.

Many Glacier Sectional Map:

The Many Glacier Map (map 314) includes: the Many Glacier area, Cracker Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Goat Haunt, Belly River, Upper Kintla Lake, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, and more.

North Fork Sectional Map:

The North Fork Map (map 313) includes: Lake McDonald, Apgar, Avalanche Basin, Sperry Chalet, Kintla Lake, Bowman Lake, Waterton Lake, Flathead River, Pacific Northwest Trail, National Park Headquarters, and more.

Two Medicine Sectional Map:

The Two Medicine Map (map 315) includes: Cobalt Lake, Dawson Pass, Logan Pass, Piegan Pass, St. Mary Lake, The Loop, Cut Bank, and more.

If you're looking to purchase all three sectional maps you're much better off purchasing the three-map bundle pack, which provides a fairly steep discount.

The Nat Geo maps provide far more information and detail than the official national park map. Additionally, all Trails Illustrated Maps are waterproof and tear-resistant.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

The First Winter Ascent of Mt. Rainier on 1922 Newsreel

Check out this film from 1922 that documents the first ever winter ascent of Mt. Rainier by Jean and Jacques Landry, Jacques Bergues and newsreel cameraman Charles Perryman. It's also the first motion picture ever taken on the summit of Mount Rainier, and is the oldest known climbing or skiing film in the State of Washington.

The film come courtesy of The Mountaineers. In 2003, Charles Perryman's grandson, Steve Turner, contacted The Mountaineers about the film after reading about Perryman's climb in the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project. This led to an eight-year effort by Skoog to acquire the newsreel films. The project was completed in October 2011:

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Deals Begins Today

Altrec Outdoors annual 12 Days of Christmas Deals begins today. Each day through December 19th, Altrec will feature a different set of bargains for shoppers to take advantage of. Today the online retailer is offering hot deals on women's outdoor gear, which also includes free shipping. Please click here to begin shopping.

This week is also Holiday Flurry Week Deals for Electronics on Amazon. Deep discounts on computers, HDTVs, home audio gear, GPS devices, cameras, MP3 players, video games, and cell phones ends this Saturday. Please click herefor more information.

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Backpacking in the Belly River - Glacier National Park

Below is a slideshow of some pretty awesome photos taken during a backpacking trip with Glacier Guides in the Belly River area of Glacier National Park:

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Northwest Montana Early Season Backcountry Snow and Avalanche Safety Presentation

The Flathead National Forest is hosting a free presentation about early-season backcountry snow and avalanche conditions in Northwest Montana on Tuesday, December 13, 6:30-9:30pm at the Flathead National Forest Office in Kalispell, 650 Wolfpack Way. Forest Service Avalanche Specialist Stan Bones will present the evening session.

The presentation will focus on the weather in Northwest Montana, including typical weather patterns, websites that display current mountain weather conditions and forecasts, and how to interpret the data and forecasts. A discussion regarding the fall and early winter weather to date, and how these conditions affect snow and avalanche conditions will also be held.

Bones will discuss last season’s conditions and how the weather set the stage for the January 2011 Doris Ridge Fatal Avalanche Incident. Bones will also review how avalanche advisories are formulated, the North American Avalanche Danger Scale and the new local advisory format.

The session will be an open discussion with an emphasis on a question-and-answer format. The session is free and open to all. There is no registration. Please call the Flathead National Forest at 758-5284 or visit for more information.

The Flathead National Forest issues avalanche advisories for Northwest Montana throughout the winter, beginning the first Friday in December or as weather conditions warrant. Advisories are issued once a week, on Friday mornings, until the third week in December, when they are issued Tuesday and Friday mornings (as weather conditions warrant) until April. Advisories include information about snowpack conditions, weather forecasts, and hazard evaluations.

Advisories are posted on the Flathead National Forest website, and on the Glacier Country Avalanche Center website, The advisory can also be accessed by calling 406-257-8702. Anyone traveling in the backcountry will always need to make their own time and site specific avalanche hazard evaluations.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Glacier National Park Fund: Adopt an Animal

The Glacier National Park Fund is currently promoting a program to raise money for wildlife research within Glacier National Park.

For $45, which goes to the General Research Fund, you can "adopt" an animal from the park: a bighorn sheep, moose, or a bear. For your donation you will receive a stuffed animal of your choice, an adoption certificate, as well as periodic updates on the research that is happening within Glacier related to that animal species.

GNP Fund plans to make other animals available for adoption in the future.

The GNP Fund website states that the "Park management team needs sound scientific data to make critical decisions that will affect Glacier’s flora and fauna well into the future."

For more information, please click here.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Going-to-the-Sun Road on Travel Channel Tonight

The Going-to-the-Sun Road will be featured on the Travel Channel tonight. The epic 50-mile road across Glacier National Park will be highlighted on a program called America's Wildest Roads: Rocks and Roadkill. The Travel Channel series highlights 10 of the most nail-biting drives in the United States.

Tonight's program airs at 10 p.m. EST, 8 p.m. Mountain.

For additional information about traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, visit our web page here.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

At the Top of South Dakota

This really wasn’t what I was expecting. For whatever reason I thought we would be hiking on a hot dusty trail through an arid, dessert-like environment. Maybe it came from my experience hiking at nearby Badlands National Park several years back. Instead, the trail to Harney Peak passed through a pleasant forest of spruce, ponderosa pine, a few aspens, a couple of meadows, and a surprisingly large number of wildflowers.

The 7242-foot peak, the highest point in South Dakota, is located in the Black Elk Wilderness Area of the Black Hills. There are two primary trails that lead to the summit in the southwestern corner of the “Mount Rushmore State”. The Harney Peak-Willow Creek Trail, which begins from the Willow Creek Horse Camp and approaches the mountain from the north, is a 10-mile roundtrip hike that climbs roughly 2200 feet. During our visit, in August of this year, we opted for the shorter route, a 7-mile roundtrip hike from Sylvan Lake that climbs roughly 1500 feet.

On the way to the trailhead we had a couple of interesting views of Mt. Rushmore:

About a half-mile into our hike we had the first views of our destination. It's fairly easy to find – simply look for the stone tower atop the ridge towards the north.

The day we hiked this trail was the first day of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Although we were miles from the road we could still hear the roar of the engines – even from as far away as the summit. To add insult to injury, we were buzzed a couple of times by a tour helicopter with a Harley Davidson logo on it!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with the Sturgis Rally, I just wouldn’t recommend visiting the area this time of year if you’re looking for quiet and solitude. During the 24 hours we spent in the Black Hills area we probably saw at least a couple thousand motorcycles, even though we never came within 20 miles of Sturgis. If you think this might be an exaggeration, we were told that roughly 750,000 motorcyclists showed up for the event last year!

The peak is named after General William S. Harney, a military commander in the Black Hills area during the Indian Wars. The mountain also served as a destination for Sioux Indians on their vision quests. Even today you’ll see a couple of prayer flags near the summit.

As already mentioned, there’s an old stone tower that sits atop the summit. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1939, and was used as a fire lookout for several decades. Although no longer in use, it is open to hikers. A plaque at the tower states that Harney Peak is the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe.

If you ever decide to hike the mountain you may want to note that the chipmunks at the summit are extremely aggressive. Watch your food like a hawk, and don’t leave your backpack open.

The views from the summit were quite grand:

As a side note, Harney Peak became my 16th state highpoint!

Trail: Harney Peak-Sylvan Lake Trail
RT Distance: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1500
Max Elevation: 7242

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Missing the Hucks?

One of the great things about hiking in Glacier, versus most other parks, is the abundance of huckleberries and the ability to pick a handful or two while out hiking. Maybe, after a long day on trail, you made a stop at the store for some huckleberry icecream or a huckleberry shake. Or perhaps you waited until after dinner for a yummy slice of huckleberry pie.

Unfortunately, for those that don't live in Montana, many won't have a chance to experience the delightful taste of huckleberries for a very long time....that is until now.

For those travelers missing huckleberries, or simply have a year-round craving for the small, but delicious purple fruit, you now have the option of purchasing a variety of Montana huckleberry products from our online store. Whether its chocolate covered huckleberries, huckleberry jam, pie filling, or even BBQ sauce, "huck" lovers will find a wide variety of products to satisfy that craving - that is until the next time you can pick a handful yourself.

To see our entire selection of huckleberry products, click onto our Amazon affiliate store, and then look for the "Huckleberry Products" tab.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Grandma Gatewood Project

In 1955, after raising 11 children, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail - at the tender age of 67!

Then, in 1960, she hiked it again. And, just to prove those first two weren't a fluke, she hiked it again in 1963 - at the age of 75! After that third adventure Emma became the first person to hike the trail three times.

Some claim Gatewood was a pioneer of ultralight backpacking. She never carried more than 20 pounds of gear or food. She wore Keds sneakers, and carried an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder. According to, she simply didn't believe in expensive state of the art paraphernalia. “Most people today are pantywaist,” she once stated. Wow, what would she think of today's generation?!?!

To celebrate this hiking pioneer, Eden Valley Enterprises is working on a project to produce a documentary about her life. The documentary will be produced by Peter Huston of FilmAffects. WGTE (PBS Toledo, Ohio) has agreed to be their broadcast sponsor and production partner for the film. However, the project will cost money to get off the ground. Eden Valley Enterprises is spearheading a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,500 in seed money before approaching larger corporations and foundations for help with the lion's share of the production costs.

For more information on the project, and to donate, you can visit the Kickstarter campaign website. You can also find additional information on the Eden Valley Enterprises website as well.

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