Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Cracker Lake Mine

If you’ve ever had the chance to hike to Cracker Lake, it’s likely you’re aware of the remnants of the old mine located near the far end of the lake.

The mine was established after copper ore was discovered near the shores of the lake in 1898. Although the Blackfeet Indians owned all of the lands east of the Continental Divide, they sold their claim on the mountainous area to the United States in 1896 for $1.5 million. This parcel, which became known as the “Ceded Strip,” would eventually become part of Glacier National Park. By an Act of Congress the transaction officially took place on April 15, 1898. On that same day the area was declared open, and a "rush" to stake mining claims took place. At the appointed hour a volley of shots rang out and the rush began with a wild stampede of miners on horses, in wagons, and even on foot. Within a matter of hours hundreds of claims were staked in the Swiftcurrent Valley and in adjacent areas such as Rose Creek, Boulder Creek and Cracker Lake.

The Cracker Lake Mine was established on the southern end of the lake at the foot of Mt. Siyeh. According to legend the mine received its name when two prospectors, L. C. Emmonds and Hank Norris, after staking their claim, had a lunch of cheese and crackers on the site. Later in that same year the claim was sold to the Michigan and Montana Copper Mining & Smelting Company.

At the site, miners dug a thirteen hundred foot tunnel, built a sawmill, and erected a steam driven concentrator to process the ore.

According to Through The Years In Glacier National Park, Charles Nielson used a large freight wagon and twelve mules to transport the 16,000 pound concentrator on a 29-day trip from Fort Browning to the mine. Often the load was hauled with block and tackle up the bed of Canyon Creek to its headwaters at Cracker Lake. Although hauled in and installed, the concentrator never operated. A mining expert from Helena determined that the site wouldn’t be profitable and discouraged further development (and you thought the boys on Gold Rush were the only ones that didn’t have a plan!).

The boom town of Altyn

One of the financial backers of the Cracker Lake Mine was Dave Greenwood Altyn. A town bearing his name was built near Cracker Flats, and was active from 1898 to 1902. During its peak it had an estimated population of 600-800 people, and boasted a store, post office, hotel, newspaper, several saloons, and many of the other establishments typically found in a boomtown. After the Cracker Mine went bust, so did the town. The former townsite was eventually buried under water after the Lake Sherburne reservoir filled the valley in 1921.

After the short boom most of the mining claims were abandoned. Unfortunately for the miners who staked their fortunes in this area, little or no minerals were found. With the exception of a few diehards, most of the claims were abandoned by 1903.

The land surrounding the Cracker Lake Mine changed hands several times throughout the following years. It was finally picked up on a tax deed from Glacier County on September 22, 1953 by the Glacier Natural History Association. In October of that same year the land was turned over to the Federal Government for $123.96, the cost of acquiring it and clearing title.

Today hikers can still find many of the remnants from the old mine. In addition to mine tailings, you can still see several abandoned machinery parts, including the boiler. The tunnel entrance is also nearby, though entry into the mine shaft is prohibited by the park. For more information on the hike to Cracker Lake, please click here.

Glacier National Park: The First 100 Years details the astonishing changes the park has undergone since its designation in 1910, including the Great Northern Railway's Swiss-style chalets & lodges. It features more than 200 historical photographs, as well as some of the finest artwork of the region and its people, including Charlie Russell.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, January 30, 2012

Glacier National Park Wildflowers

Okay, so it's the dead of winter, and spring is still a long way off. I thought I'd offer a ray of hope with a few wildflower photos. Warm days are a ways off, but they will arrive again!

Although the ice and sheer cliffs at Iceberg Lake get all the attention, the wildflowers in the alpine meadows just before reaching the lake are quite amazing:

Indian Paintbrush:

A Glacier Lily peaking out of the snow near Cobalt Lake:

The next three photos are from the Highline Trail:

This photo was taken in the meadow next to the small lake just below Iceberg Lake:

More beargrass:

Hiking in Glacier.com

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Making a case for the Great Plains Trail

“While I know that the standard claim is that Yosemite, Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows…but the prairies and the plains, while less stunning at first sight, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America’s characteristic landscape.”

– Walt Whitman

Most people are already familiar with the Appalachian, Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest Trails. All three trails traverse the United States from north to south. However, there's a great void within the middle of the country with respect to a national border-to-border trail. That could change if one mans vision comes to fruition.

Over the last year-and-a-half, Steve Myers, a 5th-grade teacher from Colorado, has been pushing the idea for a "Great Plains Trail". Earlier in the week, Myers told the National Parks Traveler:

"I believe the Great Plains is an often overlooked national treasure with remarkable scenic qualities, incredible wildlife, and a rich human history. I believe the best way to experience the beauty of the Great Plains (or any place for that matter) is through direct experience and recreation."

Mr. Myers' ultimate goal is to establish a long distance, non-motorized trail that passes through the short grass prairies of the Great Plains. He envisions a trail that will run from Canada’s Grassland National Park on the U.S. / Canadian border in Montana, to the summit of Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas.

In between, day hikers and thru-hikers will pass through the American Prairie Reserve and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Pawnee National Grassland in eastern Colorado, Arikaree Breaks in western Kansas, Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado, and will likely follow the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through parts of Kiowa National Grassland in northern New Mexico.

As currently envisioned, the trail will allow for hiking, horseback riding, and in most areas, mountain biking. Eventually, Myers would like to see the trail be designated as a National Scenic Trail.

I know many people might scoff at this idea, but I'm in total agreement with Steve that the Great Plains are truly beautiful, and worthy of a national scenic trail. Non-believers just need to slow down and explore the region, and all it has to offer.

For more information, or how to get involved, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Old Faithful Visitor Lodging Improvement Plan Out For Public Review

A proposal to return some cabin units in the Old Faithful area back to visitor use has been released for public review and comment.

The preferred alternative in the Old Faithful Cabin Repurposing and Dormitory Construction Plan Environmental Assessment would result in an increase in summer lodging in the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park, and would amend a decision from the 1985 Old Faithful Development Concept Plan that called for the removal of all cabins from the area.

Under the plan, 67 lodge cabin units would return to their original historic use as visitor accommodations, after having served as concessioner employee lodging for about a decade. This also represents a commitment to properly preserve these historic cabins. A new dormitory would be built in the Old Faithful Administrative Area to accommodate the displaced employees.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) and an electronic form to submit comments on the internet can be found on the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

A hard copy of the EA is available upon request by calling (307) 344-2221, or by writing to the Old Faithful Cabin Repurposing Plan EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, February 26, 2012.

Once comments are analyzed, the National Park Service will make a decision on the final plan.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Friday, January 27, 2012

Glacier National Park Ranks 26th in Visitor Spending in 2010

According to a recently-released National Park Service (NPS) study, Glacier National Park ranks 26th among all 397 national park units in visitor spending. The study estimates that in 2010 the Park's 2.2 million visitors spent just under $109 million in the gateway communities surrounding the Park. A large portion of those dollars were generated from an estimated 372,371 overnight stays in 2010. The study also estimates that 1632 local jobs were supported by Park visitor spending.

The study, "Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010", was conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University. According to Stynes' study the National Park Service received 281 million recreational visits in 2010 and park visitors spent $12.13 billion in local gateway regions.

The study provides a park-by-park and state-by-state breakdowns of each park unit's visitation, visitor spending, and local jobs supported at NPS units from Alaska to the Virgin Islands. The top five NPS units in terms of spending generated were:

1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN/NC) with $818 million
2) Grand Teton National Park (WY) at $424 million
3) Grand Canyon (AZ) at $415 million
4) Yosemite (CA) with $354 million
5) Yellowstone National Park (MT/WY/ID) at $334 million

The spending estimates at each park were derived from a money generation model that begins with a park's visitation, party size, length of stay, and proportion of local vs. non-local visitors. Those statistics are combined with locally-indexed cost estimates for restaurants, lodging, amusements, locally-purchased fuel and transportation, and retail spending.

Visitor spending for other NPS Units in Montana include:

* Big Hole NB: $1.6 million
* Bighorn Canyon NRA: $7.6 million
* Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS: $769 thousand
* Little Bighorn Battlefield NM: $11.2 million

The entire study can be found here.

Hiking in Glacier.com

New Forest Planning Rule Seeks to Restore the Nation’s Forests through Science and Collaboration

Yesterday Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signaled the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s intent to issue a new planning rule for America’s 193-million acre National Forest System that seeks to deliver stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife while supporting the economic vitality of our rural communities, by releasing online a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule.

USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered nearly 300,000 comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued last February, to develop the agency’s preferred course of action for finalizing the planning rule. This is included in the PEIS released today as USDA’s preferred alternative. A notice of availability for the PEIS will be published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2012, and the Secretary will issue a record of decision selecting a final planning rule no less than 30 days afterwards.

“The most collaborative rulemaking effort in agency history has resulted in a strong framework to restore and manage our forests and watersheds and help deliver countless benefits to the American people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Our preferred alternative will safeguard our natural resources and provide a roadmap for getting work done on the ground that will restore our forests while providing job opportunities for local communities.”

The preferred alternative emphasizes collaboration and strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. It also would require the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.

Highlights of the preferred alternative include:

• Plans must include components that seek to restore and maintain forests and grasslands.

• Plans would include requirements to maintain or restore watersheds, water resources, water quality including clean drinking water, and the ecological integrity of riparian areas.

• Plans would be required to provide habitat for plant and animal diversity and species conservation. These requirements are intended to keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, conserve proposed and candidate species, and protect species of conservation concern.

• Plans would provide for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish.

• Plans would be required to provide opportunities for sustainable recreation, and to take into account opportunities to connect people with nature.

• Opportunities for public involvement and collaboration would be required throughout all stages of the planning process. The preferred alternative would provide opportunities for Tribal consultation and coordination with state and local governments and other federal agencies, and includes requirements for outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities.

• Plans require the use of the best available scientific information to inform the planning process and documentation of how science was used in the plan.

• The planning framework provides a more efficient and adaptive process for land management planning, allowing the Forest Service to respond to changing conditions.

“This approach requires plans to conserve and restore watersheds and habitats while strengthening community collaboration during the development and implementation of individual plans,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Under our preferred alternative, plan revisions would take less time, cost less money, and provide stronger protections for our lands and water. Finalizing a new rule will move us forward in managing our forests and grasslands, and will create or sustain jobs and income for local communities around the country.”

The planning rule provides the framework for Forest Service land management plans for the 155 forests, 20 grasslands and 1 prairie in the National Forest System. A final rule, when selected, would update planning procedures that have been in place since 1982, creating a modern planning process that reflects the latest science and knowledge of how to create and implement effective land management plans. Revisions of the land management plans would take less time and cost less money under the preferred alternative than under the current 30-year-old procedures, while achieving better results for people and the environment.

For some answers to FAQs on the Proposed Rule, you can click here. I found this document to be the most helpful.....it had the least amount of "government speak".

Hiking in Glacier.com

Thursday, January 26, 2012

National Park Service Funds Trail Projects in 22 States, including the Lewis & Clark Trail

The National Park Service announced today that nearly one million dollars in trail grants will be awarded to 14 trails in 22 states and Washington DC.

The 2012 Connect Trails to Parks Awards will provide a total of $934,000 to 14 projects where national historic and scenic trails intersect with national parks and other federal facilities. The projects will restore or improve existing trails and trailhead connections, provide better wayside and interpretive services, encourage innovative educational services, support bridge and trailhead designs, and provide planning services for important trail gateways.

Many of the projects reflect National Park Service priorities such as expanding outreach, connecting to youth, enhancing urban recreation, promoting healthy lifestyles, and upgrading interpretive materials as outlined in the agency’s A Call to Action: Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement. In addition to operating 397 parks across the United States and its territories, the National Park Service plays a vital role in overseeing the 52,000-mile National Trails System.

The Connect Trails to Parks program is designed to increase awareness, appreciation, and use of the nation’s federally-designated system of trails. The years from 2008 to 2018 have been declared "A Decade for the National Trails" ramping up to the trails system's 50th anniversary in 2018. Many of these projects will help specific trails and their related federal facilities to achieve goals associated with this commemorative decade.

One award of note for the Montana region is the $19,552 grant for the "Interpreting Indian Language & Culture on the Lewis & Clark Trail" project.

You can view all of the trail grants by clicking here.

I'll be honest, as I looked over some of these projects I couldn't help but think that this money could've been spent more wisely. $57,200 for a "Children’s TV Program About the Ice Age Trail". Are you serious? This is how we're spending our tax dollars? I don't know, what do you think?

Hiking in Glacier.com

Altitude Sickness in Glacier

At 10,466 feet, Mt. Cleveland is the highest point in Glacier National Park. Reaching a maximum height of 8100 feet, the Siyeh Pass Trail is one the highest maintained trails in Glacier. And at only 6646 feet, Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. These elevations are hardly comparable to the heights regularly reached by hikers on the 13 and 14 thousand-foot peaks of Colorado, or motorists on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (12,183 feet), or even Beartooth Pass (10,947 feet) for that matter.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience altitude sickness in Glacier. Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), can occur in some people at elevations as low as 8000 feet. For most visitors and hikers in Glacier, this won’t be an issue. However, for adventurers looking to visit the Swiftcurrent Mountain Lookout at 8436 feet, or go off-trail to summit any of the highest peaks in the park, it is something to be aware of. Moreover, there is a small segment of the population that can experience mild symptoms of AMS at altitudes as low as 6500 feet.

At elevations over 10,000 feet, 75% of people will experience mild symptoms of altitude sickness, which include, headache, nausea and dizziness, loss of appetite, fatigue, shortness of breath, and a general feeling of malaise.

At higher elevations where moderate or severe cases of AMS can occur, be aware of severe headaches that aren’t relieved by medication, nausea and vomiting, increasing weakness and fatigue, and decreased co-ordination.

If you experience any of these symptoms, the best remedy is to descend at least 1000 – 1500 feet, or more, as soon as possible.

There are several steps you can take beforehand to help prevent altitude sickness:

* Stay properly hydrated. Fluid loss normally occurs during the acclimatization process, so you need to drink lots of fluids to remain properly hydrated.

* Eat a high calorie diet while at altitude.

* Take it easy and don't overexert yourself when you first arrive at high altitude.

* Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other depressant drugs.

* If possible, don't fly or drive to high altitude. Start below 10,000 feet and walk up.

* If you do fly or drive, don’t overexert yourself or move higher for the first 24 hours.

* If you go above 10,000 feet, only increase your altitude by 1,000 feet per day, and for every 3,000 feet of elevation gained, take a rest day to acclimatize.

* Climb high and sleep low. You can climb more than 1,000 feet in a day as long as you come back down and sleep at a lower altitude.

* If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don't go higher until symptoms decrease.

* For more information you can visit the NOLS Wilderness First Aid altitude illness page.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Volunteers needed for brain imaging studies of acute mountain sickness

Here's pretty cool way to become a human guinea pig, while at the same time helping mountaineers, climbers and the advancement of science.

As most adventurers are already aware, traveling to high altitude can result in a variety of symptoms, collectively called acute mountain sickness. The Neural Systems Group at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is currently seeking volunteers for a brain imaging research study to help learn why this occurs. The study will involve 5 visits, spread over approximately 4-7 weeks, at both MGH in Charlestown, MA and the testing chambers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, MA.

To be eligible, volunteers must be in good general health and currently exercising for at least 20 minutes, 3 times/week. They must be between the ages of 18 and 50 years. Must be willing to have 5 modest blood draws over the course of the study, and must be able to have an MRI.

The total time commitment will be up to about 35 hours. Volunteers will be compensated for your participation.

More than likely you'll never get a chance to climb Everest or K2, but you might be able to help others attain lofty goals some day down the road by participating in this research. For more information on the trials, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Win a Gregory Z45 BackPack

Our friends over at MyLifeOutdoors are giving away a brand new Gregory Z45 BackPack, via LeftLane Sports. The pack is valued at $180. And, if you're a brand new member at LeftLane Sports, you'll receive a $10 in-store credit just for signing up.

The Gregory Z45 features "the LTS Jetstream Load Transfer Suspension which provides true ventilation with no unnecessary points of contact on your body. Adjustable waistbelt and harness with perforated foam and mesh increase comfort and increase air flow, and a dual density foam lumbar pad to correctly transfer weight of the pack to your hips."

To check out a review of LeftLane Sports, and to learn how to enter the contest, please click here. The contest ends at Midnight EST on Sunday 1/29/2012.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hiking a Classic: Cascade Canyon Trail in the Grand Tetons

The Cascade Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park is often rated as one of the best trails in the United States. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hike this gem you would probably have to agree.

Having such notoriety bestowed upon it, the trail is naturally going to be one of the most popular destinations in the park. Our last visit to Cascade Canyon several years ago was no exception. In fact, this hike is probably one of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever had – and that’s not just due to the majestic mountain scenery.

Roughly a mile-and-a-half from the boat dock at Jenny Lake we caught up with a large group of hikers making a bit of a commotion. Based on their accents we assumed they were tourists from Germany. The clear “leader” of this group, a muscular guy without a shirt and wearing a bandana, whom we appropriately nicknamed “Rambo”, was banging the ground with a large stick. He and his fellow travelers were all yelling at a young black bear as it walked along the trail only a few yards in front of them.

The absurd part of the story is that the bear really didn’t care how loud these people yelled. He just continued strolling down the trail at his own leisurely pace. With the Germans in front of us, we literally followed the bear for nearly a mile before he decided he'd had enough and meandered off into the woods. We took this opportunity to double-time it in order to get away from this loud and obnoxious group.

Don’t try this at home! I never would’ve gotten this close had there not been so many other people around:

Later on, near the Forks of Cascade Canyon, we came across another commotion. This time there were several people off the side of the trail watching two bull moose engage in a turf battle. Naturally we wanted to check out the struggle ourselves. However, just as we arrived, the smaller moose waived the white flag, licked his proverbial wounds, and wandered out of the danger zone. Most of the people continued to stick around to snap a few more photos of the victor. But as the number of onlookers grew in size, and people tried to get a little closer, the moose became visibly agitated. Giving us fair warning, he began thrashing his antlers in the brush before suddenly rushing across the creek towards us. In an instant everyone scattered to the wind. Fortunately, it was only a bluff charge that ended just as quickly as it started, but I guarantee that everyone’s heart was racing for several moments afterward. As you might expect, that ended the photo shoot.

So, to complete our hike, we continued on to the forks. On our return trip I was able to get a shot of the moose while no one else around:

The hike to the forks is roughly 6.5 miles one-way. However, you can subtract two miles each way by taking the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake.

Many people prefer to end their hike at Inspiration Point, satisfied with the spectacular panoramic views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole:

Just beyond Inspiration Point, Mt. Owen comes into view:

Cascade Creek and Mt. Owen a mile above:

From Jenny Lake to the Forks of Cascade Canyon, the trail gains a little more than 1000 feet. Most of that elevation gain occurs in the first mile or so (above Jenny Lake). Just beyond Inspiration Point, the trail levels out as it passes through the U-shaped, glacially sculpted Cascade Canyon. The trail offers spectacular close-up views of Grand Teton, Mt. Owen and Teewinot Mountain. Although the trail can be quite crowded during peak tourist season, it's still a trek every hiker should experience at least once in their life.

Parting shot: this photo was taken the morning we left for home. We were extremely lucky to have come across this vantage point near Moran Junction just as a cloud bank was passing mid-way below the summit of Mount Moran. This is one of my all-time favorite shots:

Must-Do Hikes in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Hiking in Glacier.com

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Forest Service grants $52.2M to protect working forests, rural economies

Earlier in the week the U.S. Forest Service announced that it is granting $52.2 million for 17 conservation and working lands projects across the U.S. in 2012.

The Forest Legacy Program has protected 2.2 million acres through public-private partnership using federal and leveraged funds of more than $562 million. The program works with private landowners, states and conservation groups to promote sustainable, working forests. Forest Legacy is an important component of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative’s goal of conserving rural working farms, ranches, and forests by accelerating locally-driven landscape conservation priorities.

Intact forest lands supply timber products, wildlife habitat, soil and watershed protection, aesthetics, and recreational opportunities. However, as these areas are fragmented and disappear, so do the benefits they provide. Roughly 57 percent of the nation's forests are privately owned yet the country has lost 15 million acres of private working forests in the last 10 years with an additional 22 million acres projected to be at risk from development, wildfire and other threats in the next decade.

The Forest Legacy Program uses a competitive process to strategically select ecologically and socially important projects facing the greatest threat of conversion to other land uses. Projects that protect clean air and water, provide recreation, protect wildlife habitat, supports large-scale land conservation partnerships, and provide forest-related rural jobs receive strong consideration.

The state of Montana is the recipient of one the 13 major projects announced:

The Stimson Forestland project ($6.5 million) will permanently protect, through a conservation easement, 28,000 acres of highly productive timberland near Troy, Montana. The project area contains some of the best wildlife habitat in Montana, supporting eight federally listed or candidate threatened or endangered species and numerous other rare, sensitive and game species and is an America’s Great Outdoors priority landscape-scale conservation partnership. The proposed conservation easement would preclude development, ensure continued timber management, sustain local wood-product jobs, protect incredible wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity and provide permanent public access to extraordinary recreation lands.

To view information on the other projects receiving grants, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Introducing Buggy Rollin

Buggy Rollin: the next Olympic Sport? Not sure about that, but it certainly looks like it could qualify as an X-gamers event:

Hiking in Glacier.com

Friday, January 20, 2012

Glacier National Park Fund Announces 14 Grants to Glacier National Park for 2012

The Glacier National Park Fund announced this week that they have awarded funding for 14 of the recently requested critical projects to Glacier National Park. The funding for these projects comes from the sale of the Montana Glacier National Park specialty license plate, along with support from annual donors.

The news of National Park budgets being cut is causing concern that our National Parks will be “cash-strapped.” A cut to Glacier National Park’s budget is challenging and has encouraged the Park to depend even more on their official fundraising partner, the Glacier National Park Fund, to increase support related to education, research, visitor experience and preservation.

While the Fund was created in 1999 as the Park’s designated philanthropic partner, the history of private/public partnerships has a long history in Glacier National Park. “We are fortunate to have so many donors who love Glacier National Park and understand the importance of giving back to ensure that we can enjoy into the future what we have enjoyed in the past.” says Jane Ratzlaff, Executive Director of the Fund.

The funding for this year’s 14 grants has all come from private philanthropic donations:

Avalanche Lake Trail Rehabilitation

• Promote Youth and Adult Citizen Science

• Wireless Water Tank Monitoring System

• Bear-Proof Food Storage Boxes

• Roadway Sign Inventory Management

Ptarmigan Trail Rock Walls and Trail Rehabilitation

• A Fisher Survey

• Winter Ecology School Program Interns

• Girl Scouts of the USA Centennial Service Program

• An On-Line Citizen Science Program

• Half the Park Happens after Dark – Astronomy Program

• Discovery Cabin and Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program

• Going-to-the-Sun Road Podcasts

• A Wildlife Sighting Notebook

Jane Ratzlaff also commented, “Those of us who cherish Glacier National Park or benefit from having the Park in our back yard have a choice to leave it in the hands of what the National Park Service can afford, or step-up to the plate to help keep our Park accessible and protected. We invite you to go to our website - http://www.glacierfund.org/ - to read about $3 plus million in projects that private donations have helped us accomplish, as well as projects planned for the future.”

Hiking in Glacier.com

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Montana's Mystical Moose

Montana's moose will take the stage at the next "Living with Wildlife" presentation on January 26th, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the Montana Wild Outdoor Education Center west of Helena, 2668 Broadwater Ave., near Spring Meadow Lake State Park.

Lynne Dixon, an interpretive ranger at Glacier National Park, will help participants of all ages to learn more about this visually interesting, wetland loving species, its presence in Montana and its ability to survive in challenging conditions.

Dixon spent the past 15 years as an Interpretive Ranger in Glacier National Park. She has also worked with youth as a wilderness educator, presenting numerous programs on winter ecology, adaptation, weather, tracks, scat, botany, and wildlife biology.

For more information and to reserve a spot for the program, call 406-444-9944.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cross-Country Skiers Rescued in Bowman Lake Area

This morning's NPS Digest is providing more details on the two cross-country skiers that were rescued after an unplanned, overnight bivouac near Bowman Lake this past weekend.

Glacier National Park, the Flathead County Search and Rescue Mountain Rescue Team, and the Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s A.L.E.R.T. air ambulance responded to and rescued two cross-country skiers who were lost and stranded overnight in the North Fork area of the park.

The married couple from Kalispell sent a 911 message using a SPOT messenger device, reporting that they were lost and stranded in the park. Flathead County dispatch received the message at approximately 8 p.m. on Saturday evening and determined that the message originated from a remote location approximately one mile north of the Akokala Creek Trail near Bowman Lake in the North Fork area of park (approximately six miles north of Polebridge). Park rangers were immediately notified and an incident team was organized.

Due to bad weather, downed trees, difficult trail conditions, darkness and overall unsafe conditions for ground or aerial searches, it was determined that a response would need to take place early Sunday morning. Operations resumed that day with rangers and members of the county’s rescue team snowshoeing and cross-country skiing toward their location. A helicopter joined them when weather conditions improved. The crew spotted tracks on the ground, landed briefly, and dropped off two crew members, who hiked a half mile to the couple’s location. They were treated at the scene and flown out. Rangers met them and transported them to the Polebridge Ranger Station. The couple then returned home.

It's a good thing the couple carried the SPOT messenger device with them. Moreover, based on local media reports, the couple was extremely conscientious about using the SOS device. In recent years, technology such as SPOT has been abused by people who aren't really in a search and rescue situation. There has been much controversy around people using the device out of convenience and putting SAR personnel in danger, not to mention the costs involved.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Glacier National Park Podcast Series Available

Avalanche Basin, one of Glacier National Park's unique and most treasured areas, is now highlighted in a series of new audio podcasts accessible on the park's website.

The park's Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center worked with graduate students from the University of Montana, and the Glacier National Park Fund to create short essays on various aspects of the Avalanche Lake area. The students learned the art of 'nature writing' through an environmental writing class offered in the Environmental Studies Program at the university. As volunteers for the park, they explored the Avalanche Basin, researched a specific topic, and wrote natural and cultural history essays.

These essays were turned into six podcasts and are featured on the park's website. Each podcast has a different focus, such as geology or wildlife, while providing an insight to the feelings this place evokes for all those fortunate enough to experience it.

Avalanche Basin is situated near the head of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park and is part of the larger glacially-carved McDonald Valley. The highlight of the basin is Avalanche Lake and its outlet stream Avalanche Creek. Water draining from the basin's steep slopes cumulates in the rushing icy blue waters of Avalanche Creek and scours through layers of rock to create the sculpted red walls of Avalanche Gorge. Beginning at the Trail of the Cedars, the Avalanche Lake Trail is a popular hike in the park that accesses the Avalanche Basin.

The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center is one of 19 centers across the country serving National Park Service units. It was established in 2002 to help facilitate the use of parks for scientific inquiry, support science-informed decision making, communicate the relevance of and provide access to knowledge through scientific research, and promote science literacy and resource stewardship through partnerships.

You can learn more about the natural and cultural history of the Avalanche Basin by clicking here.

The project was supported with funding from the Glacier National Park Fund. The Fund is the official non-profit fund raising partner for the Park. Since 1999, the Fund has distributed over $3 million for projects devoted to wildlife, natural resource conservation, park preservation, educational programs and visitor experience. Click here for more information about the Fund.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cooke City Among Finalists for Coolest Small Towns in America

Readers of Budget Travel Magazine nominated a record 647 towns to be considered among the Coolest Small Towns in America in 2012. The magazine has narrowed that list down to just 10 standout communities across the country. Making that list is Cooke City, Montana.

Here's what the online mag had to say about the gateway town at the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park:

The string of villages along the border of Yellowstone National Park occupy some of the best real estate in the country, with unfettered access to the waterfalls, geysers, and mountains in the country’s first national park. But Cooke City—a true lightweight in terms of numbers, with a population lower than its own area code—may actually be the reigning champ among these satellite towns. Set on the quiet northeastern corner of the park, it receives just a fraction of the tourist traffic of Yellowstone’s other, busier borders. Cooke City’s history as a mining community has given it an authentically rustic appeal: Its town’s log-based architecture is appropriate rather than contrived, and its teensy size means that everything is within easy reach. There are a dozen traditional mountain lodges, a number of which—such as the Cooke City High Country Motel—include cabins for rent. Early risers can stroll a few short blocks to Bearclaw Sales and Service for pecan rolls and biscuits with gravy at the in-house bakery, then consult with Bearclaw’s outfitter experts—or one of Cooke City’s several other outfitters and tour operators—to prepare for whatever great wilderness expedition the day might hold.

Interestingly, Budget Travel failed to note that Cooke City marks the beginning, or end, of the Beartooth Highway. The road, which takes travelers to the top of 10,947-foot Beartooth Pass, is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful drives in America.

You can read about each of the towns that made the final cut, and then vote for your favorite to become America's Coolest Small Town by clicking here. You can vote once daily until the contest ends on January 31st. As of right now, with nearly 87,000 votes cast, Cooke City ranks dead last, with Hammondsport, NY currently in the lead.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Monday, January 16, 2012

Waterton Winterfest

Come and enjoy four days of winter fun in the magic surroundings of Waterton Lakes National Park next month.

The Waterton Winterfest, with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, horse-drawn carriage rides and other activities, takes place on Family Day weekend, February 17-20.

Join park personnel at the Little Prairie picnic shelter on the Akamina Parkway for a hot drink before warming your soul on the ski and snowshoe trails. Bring your own gear or rent skis and snowshoes from the Waterton Lakes Lodge or Waterton Glacier Suites. Guided trips will also be available.

Tour the village on a horse-drawn carriage ride. Chill out and warm up indoors with family activities, crafts and board games or maybe enjoy a splash around in the pool.

Take in a special performance by one of Parks Canada's Mountain W.I.T. actors. All ages will enjoy the songs, stories and sketches about the nature and culture of Canada's mountain national Parks.

This event is organised by Parks Canada and the Waterton Chamber of Commerce, including Waterton Lakes Inns and Resorts, Waterton Glacier Suites, and Waterton Outdoor Adventures.

Please click here for more information.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Sunday, January 15, 2012

El Camino de la Muerte: Biking the Death Road

El Camino de la Muerte, more commonly known in English as the "Death Road", has become a popular destination for thrill seekers and adventurers in recent years. Many Americans are now aware of the infamous road through the History Channels' highly popular IRT Deadliest Roads show.

The Yungas Road, a.k.a. El Camino de la Muerte, a.k.a. the "Death Road", and a.k.a. the "World's Most Dangerous Road", earned these nicknames because it has more deaths per mile than any other road in the world. The Inter American Development Bank declared it the most dangerous road in the world in 1995. It's estimated that 200 to 300 people die each year on this stretch of road less than 50 miles in length.

What makes El Camino de la Muerte so dangerous are the extreme dropoffs of more than 1800 feet, its single-lane width of 10 feet or less, its lack of guard rails, a mud and rock surface, and nasty weather like rain, fog and dust that reduces visibility.

Not even adventures are immune to the dangers. At least 18 cyclists have died on along the route since 1998. Despite this, the Death Road has become one of the most popular adventure travel activities in all of Latin America, with several tour operators catering to cyclists.

Below is a video, from a segment of ABC's Nightline, that shows the thrills of biking down the "World's Most Dangerous Road". The ride starts out at an elevation of roughly 16,000 feet, and descends to 4,000 feet, in roughly 40 miles. The ride takes nearly 7 hours to complete as cyclists snake their way through the high mountains of the Andes to the subtropical jungles that lead to the Amazon basin in Corocio, Bolivia.

Think you would want to do this?

Hiking in Glacier.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Montana State Parks Launches New AmeriCorps Program

This past Thursday Montana State Parks announced that it has launched a new AmeriCorps program. Montana State Parks AmeriCorps will include 23 members serving in state parks during the year, to preserve and promote Montana’s natural and cultural resources. Six members were sworn-in this week, in Condon, Montana during their program orientation.

“We are excited to partner with this outstanding national service program,” said Chas Van Genderen, Administrator for Montana State Parks. “Our new AmeriCorps members will help our parks staff enrich educational opportunities, increase volunteerism, and expand community outreach.”

The initial members will be serving in Lone Pine State Park, Wild Horse Island State Park, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Pictograph Cave State Park, upcoming new Milltown State Park and Parks Division headquarters.

Montana State Parks AmeriCorps is now recruiting for seasonal and summer positions, across the state. Montana residents and out-of-state applicants are encouraged to apply by visiting: stateparks.mt.gov

AmeriCorps is a national service program that engages more than 50,000 Americans each year, nationwide, in service to meet community needs in education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, public safety, homeland security and more. Funding for AmeriCorps is provided in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency and administered through the Governor’s Office of Community Service.

“Our members will have their offices literally amid stunning scenery, dazzling waters, geologic wonders and cultural history,” said Katie McKeown, Program Specialist for Montana State Parks AmeriCorps. “This program is a great way to share your talents, learn new skills, help promote and preserve our state parks while earning money for college.”

Montana State Parks AmeriCorps members earn an Education Award from $1,415 to up to $5,350 per year depending on their term of service, to be used towards a college education or to pay off student loans. Members who are 55 years or older can transfer the Education Award to a child, grandchild or foster child. All Montana State Parks AmeriCorps members will receive a modest living allowance to help cover incidental costs, such as commuting.

Members can range in age from young adults to retirement, but all members must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.

To apply: visit stateparks.mt.gov

Hiking in Glacier.com

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance Ceases Operations

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance has just announced that they will be shutting down over the next couple of weeks. Citing the inability to raise the proper amount of funds to sustain the organization, the CDTA announced on their website that the "Board of Directors has made the very difficult and painful decision to cease operations".

Here's the entire statement:

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA) was formed in 1995 to assist federal land management agencies in the completion, management and protection of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Since that time, CDTA volunteers have dedicated nearly $7 million worth of labor while individuals, foundations, and businesses committed millions to the effort. As of 2011, of the 2,268 miles of the Trail completed CDTA volunteers are responsible for 525 of those miles, and to date only 832 miles remain to be constructed.

Increasing pressures from development in the West, rising land costs, and challenges with the longstanding down cycle in the economy threaten the completion of the Trail. Despite the strong level of financial support from so many of you, overall contributions and other revenues in recent years have significantly declined. These revenues are the life blood of nonprofit organizations like the CDTA.

Consequently, the CDTA Board of Directors has made the very difficult and painful decision to cease operations of the CDTA. The financial condition of the organization has been unstable and deteriorating for a number of years. We have not been able to raise the necessary financial resources to sustain the continued operations of the organization.

We are taking the actions necessary to complete our outstanding contracts for work on behalf of the Trail. We are retaining the services of our committed and outstanding staff to meet our current obligations, to the extent financially possible, as we complete closing down CDTA over the next few weeks.

This is a sad day. But the Trail is still here, and it continues to inspire us all. We are confident this inspiration will lead people to start a new and stronger organization to continue the work on the Trail.

The Board and dedicated staff of the CDTA would like to thank each and every one of you for your tremendous commitment and support of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and the CDTA. We are truly humbled by the selfless actions of so many and hopefully this will inspire another group of people to continue the mission of CDTA.

Stay Tuned . . .

I assume this means the website will be shutting down as well, along with the information they've accumulated. Roughly 110 miles of the Continental Divide Trail runs within the boundaries of Glacier National Park.

Hiking in Glacier.com

US Forest Service announces 2012 fee waiver days

The U.S. Forest Service announced yesterday eight dates for the new year when national forests nationwide will waive fees that are usually collected to support forest maintenance and amenities.

“We encourage the public to get outdoors in America’s vast and dynamic playground,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We hope that visiting your beautiful national forests and grasslands will help people gain a deep appreciation for natural resources, and create lifelong memories.”

Visitors to national forests will not pay fees on the following dates in 2012:

• Jan. 14-16 -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend

• June 9 -- Get Outdoors Day

• Sept. 29 -- National Public Lands Day

• Nov. 10-12 -- Veterans Day weekend

Despite the Forest Service’s fee waivers, the agency does not usually charge for visitors to national forests. In fact, the Forest Service does not charge for access on 98 percent of its land. More than two-thirds of the Forest Service’s approximately 18,000 recreation sites nationwide can be used for free. They include picnic sites, campsites, beach and lake areas, trails, boat launches, and cabins.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Glacier's Annual Park Pass Features a Collaborative Mural

The 2012 annual pass for Glacier National Park features a mural developed by hundreds of park visitors and staff.

The mural, titled Touched by Glacier, was created by park volunteer Sheryl Mink and was painted by more than 700 park visitors and staff throughout the course of last summer. The project was located in the park’s 1913 Historic Ranger Station near St. Mary. Mink created the basic background of the St. Mary Valley while others added layers of detail and color.

The $35 pass is valid for one year from month of purchase. It admits purchaser and passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle, or the pass holder and his/her immediate family (spouse, children, parents) when entry is by other means (foot, bicycle).

The original mural now is at the St. Mary Visitor Center.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Man proposes to girlfriend on hike, then becomes lost

Saw this one on the NPS Digest this morning. Certainly a unique way to start your life as a married couple. At least they'll have a great story to pass onto their grandchildren. Also, I found it quite amazing the number of military aircraft that became involved during the SAR:

On the afternoon of Monday, January 9th, park officials at White Sands National Monument learned that two visitors who had been hiking within the dunes since noon were lost and unable to find their way out.

Russell Vandameer and Karen Renshaw, both of Oklahoma, left to go hiking with their three dogs, Stitch, Suzy, and Griswald. After finding a suitably beautiful spot within the dunes, Vandemeer proposed to Renshaw. The newly engaged couple then attempted to hike back to their car, but were unable to find their way back. Rather than continue to wander and become even more lost, they contacted a cousin via cell phone and requested that help be sent. An interagency effort was begun that involved the NPS, the Alamo West Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Army.

While two Army Rescue Blackhawk helicopters were en route from Fort Bliss, approximately an hour away, Holloman Air Force base diverted an F-22 Raptor from a training mission to the search effort. The pilot of the Raptor was able to positively identify the couple with their three dogs. Two Air Force drones were also tasked, which were able to relay specific coordinates and monitor the lost hiker’s location and movement from the air while the Army helicopters were en route.

The hikers and their dogs were transported by the Army Blackhawks out of the dunes to the command post, where they were examined by NPS and Alamo West EMS for exposure to the below freezing nighttime temperatures.

Renshaw accepted Vandemeer’s marriage proposal. The newly engaged couple invited the Blackhawk crew to the wedding. The search effort was greatly aided by the assistance of the military aircraft, which utilized night vision and infrared equipment to safely locate the hikers after nightfall. Ranger Kelly Roche acted as IC.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Should Be Back....

Here's a great idea - and a free one at that. Jared Morse has recently launched a web app to help solve issues such as the one Aron Ralston ran into in Utah several years ago.

After registering your trip, ShouldBeBack.com sends out an email and a text message to your emergency contacts if you're late in returning at your predetermined time.

Here's how it works:

You create a trip and provide ShouldBeBack.com with emergency contact information. At the time you indicated that you should be considered late they will send you a text message. If you reply "back" to this text, no further messages will be sent out.

If you don't reply to this first text, they will send a second text to you with the same prompt.

If they still don't hear back from you, a third text is sent, as well as a text and email to your contacts to let them know you're late. This email will contain information about your trip.

If you're in trouble or danger, you can reply "help" when responding to one of the texts and ShouldBeBack.com will immediately text and email all of your contacts to let them know.

One of the fundamental rules of wilderness adventure is to always let someone know where you're going, and when you expect to be back. This app provides an excellent and easy way of giving yourself a lifeline in the event of becoming lost or injured while out on the trail.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Visitation Down 15.7% in 2011 for Glacier National Park

The number of visitors to Glacier National Park dropped 15.7% in 2011 when compared to the prior year. The biggest decline was recorded at the St. Mary Entrance where visitor counts plummeted by nearly 42% versus 2010.

These numbers, however, shouldn't cause much alarm. The 2010 figures were inflated due to the park celebrating its 100th anniversary. The park nearly set a record that year, only 3800 visitors shy of the record set in 1983 when 2,203,847 paid a visit to Glacier.

A closer look at 2011 shows that the 1,853,564 visitors is very much in-line with park visitation trends since the mid-1980s:

As a reflection of the 100th anniversary dynamic, tent overnight stay dropped 5.8%, and backcountry overnight stays dropped 16.2%

Hiking in Glacier.com

Introducing the Hexa Pot

On the surface this sounds like a great idea. The yet to be formerly launched Hexa Pot is a single-use outdoor cookware pot formed from an ultra-light, 100% biodegradable and eco-friendly paper material to be used for picnics, camping, backpacking, and traveling.

The Hexa Pot can be used for boiling water, or for cooking meals such as pasta, soup, chili and ramen noodles. The disposable pots may also come in handy in the event of an emergency situation when sterilizing and disinfecting contaminated water is necessary for making it drinkable.

Energia USA, the manufacturer of Hexa Pot, pitches these selling points on its website:

Hexa Pot can be a blessing on your hands due to it being a single use product, no dish washing is required. You can save time, water, electricity, and money spent on dish washing detergent. Ultra-light and convenient when carried around. It helps save space and time when on the go for outdoor activities. Safe alternative cookware when compared to your traditional stainless steel pots and pans that may produce harmful health effects caused from iron, nickel and chromium.

The Hexa Pot will biodegrade within 24-36 months, when disposed in the right environment. I take this to mean not in a hole dug next to your campsite, or thrown into a fire. So how many people will actually take it home with them?

Right now Energia USA is trying to raise $25,000 by Friday, January 27th, through a Kickstarter Campaign in order to help launch this project.

The Los Angeles based company will also unveil its products at the ASD Las Vegas on March 25-28, 2012.

Here's a short product demo from the manufacturer:

Hiking in Glacier.com

Monday, January 9, 2012

Public Comments Encouraged for Proposal to Install Telecommunications Tower

Glacier National Park is requesting public comment on a proposal from CenturyLink to install a new telecommunications tower in the St. Mary administrative area inside the park. An environmental assessment financed by the project proponent is being conducted. Public comments on the tower proposal should be directed to the park by February 3.

The tower would service the greater St. Mary area and is part of a larger statewide initiative through the Montana Public Service Commission to upgrade telecommunications facilities to small rural exchanges in Montana.

The telecommunication capacity in the St. Mary area, both inside and outside the park, is currently inadequate to support resident, visitor, and government internet demands. The new tower would upgrade the area's telecommunication capacity to a modern standard and improve the reliability and speed of internet access. The National Park Service's existing 50-foot radio tower in St. Mary would be removed and replaced with a new, approximately 80-foot tall microwave antenna and radio support structure. The new tower would be constructed of steel lattice supported on a concrete footing, and would include a 6-foot diameter microwave dish for CenturyLink and up to three National Park Service antennas.

The new structure would be located next to the existing park telecommunications building in the St. Mary administrative area, and the microwave feed wiring would be connected to the existing CenturyLink equipment building. The new structure would be designed to provide a direct line of sight to the CenturyLink Divide Mountain transfer station.

To date, two alternatives have been identified: 1) The no-action alternative, and 2) an action alternative that would remove the existing National Park Service radio tower and install a new tower.

Comments and concerns on the proposed project should be submitted by Friday, February 3. Comments can be posted online, or may be mailed to:

Glacier National Park
Attn: St. Mary Microwave Tower Proposal
P.O. Box 128
West Glacier, MT, 59936

There will be another opportunity to comment on the project when the environmental assessment is completed.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Free Admission to All National Parks from January 14-16

The National Park Service announced today that all 397 national parks across the country will offer free admission from January 14 through 16 to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Additionally, several parks will be holding special events to honor Dr. King over the three-day weekend.

The National Park Service will also waive admission fees on 14 other days in 2012:

– National Park Week (April 21 to 29)

- Get Outdoors Day (June 9)

- National Public Lands Day (September 29)

- Veterans Day (November 10 to 12)

Please click here to read the entire national park press release.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Best Of: Glacier's Waterfalls and Lakes

With roughly 200 waterfalls, and 762 lakes - 131 of which are named, including "No Name Lake" - many of the hikes in Glacier National Park end at a lake or waterfall. Below are a few of my favorites.

Redrock Falls is an outstanding choice for an easy hike in the Many Glacier Valley. You'll have great opportunities for seeing wildlife, it passes two picturesque lakes, and ends at one of the most scenic series of waterfalls in the park. Although the lower falls are far more interesting, the upper falls had this beautiful mountain backdrop:

Running Eagle Falls, also known as "Trick Falls", is located in Two Medicine area. The waterfall receives its nickname due to there being two separate waterfalls in the same location. During the spring run-off water rushes over the upper falls for a 40-foot drop, while obscuring the lower falls. By late summer the upper falls dries up. However, water continues to rush over the lower 20-foot falls, while seeming to flow out of the rock wall, as you see in this photo:

Okay, this isn't a lake or waterfall, but there is a lake below those mountains. This is a meadow that hikers walk through on their way to Medicine Grizzly Lake:

Below is the 50-foot Virginia Falls, perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen. And to top it off, there are three other incredibly beautiful cascades and falls you'll pass on your way up to this set:

Cracker Lake in the Many Glacier area has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Prior to reaching the lake, about a mile from the trailhead, hikers will have this view of Cracker Flats. The mountains across the upper reaches of Lake Sherburne create this magnificent scene during the morning hours:

Five miles later hikers finally reach Cracker Lake. The best vantage point is from an outcropping of rocks where you’ll stand about a hundred feet above the lake. Directly across the lake is 9376-foot Allen Mountain. Towering above the south end of the lake is 10,014-foot Mt. Siyeh, and sitting like a gem more than 4000 feet below is Cracker Lake:

The lake is the most beautiful turquoise color you’ll ever see. If you could ignore the magnificent scenery of the surrounding mountains, it would still be well worth the hike just to see the amazing color of this lake. The deep turquoise color is a result of light refraction through its suspended load of glacial silt:

Hiking in Glacier.com

Friday, January 6, 2012

Seeking Two Artists to Work in Glacier National Park

Do you have any artistic talent at all? If so, you may want to take a close look at two dream jobs that will be available in paradise this summer.

Glacier National Park is looking for artists to fill two positions for their Artist-in-Residence Program this summer.

One artist will be chosen based on their abilities to produce artwork for Glacier's Junior Ranger Program. This program reaches over 5000 children per year and the artwork created will be used to illustrate the Junior Ranger Program Booklet.

The second artist will be chosen based on their photographic and videographic abilities. The photographs and videos produced by this artist will be used for social and print media.

The icing on the cake is that the two candidates will have the opportunity live in an historic cabin on the shores of Lake McDonald:

With views like this everyday.....sounds like a pretty good gig:

If interested, and you have the right stuff, please click here for more information.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Yellowstone Invites Public Comment On Draft Progress Report To UNESCO World Heritage Committee

The National Park Service is seeking public comment on a draft report on progress made addressing threats to Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1978. The World Heritage Committee placed Yellowstone on its List of World Heritage in Danger in 1995.

This is the sixth report to the World Heritage Committee on the conditions of the park since the park was removed from the list in 2003. It includes plans and actions currently underway that specifically seek to redress the 1995 threats and dangers. The report follows a visit this past summer from the Director of the World Heritage Centre and a representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), during which they observed the state of the park's resources and progress in a addressing conservation challenges.

All member nations of the World Heritage Convention voluntarily nominate their own sites embracing outstanding natural or cultural values. Member nations retain complete sovereignty over each site and over the operation of locations added to the World Heritage List.

The draft progress report is available for public review and comment until January 20, 2012 through the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.

All comments will be reviewed by the National Park Service and transmitted, in their entirety, along with the final report to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Glacier National Park Featured on New Postage Stamp

The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday that an image of Glacier National Park has been selected for an international rate stamp to be issued on January 19th. The stamp was selected as part of the Postal Service's "Scenic American Landscapes" series.

The 85-cent stamp features a photo of Logan Pass, the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, taken by nature photographer Michael Melford:

To see images of all the newest stamps, please click here (the Logan Pass stamp is #46 on the list).

Hiking in Glacier.com

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

U.S. Postal Service Delays Closure of Post Offices

Last July the U.S. Postal Service announced that they would be conducting a study to determine the need for some 3700 retail post offices. Potentially, the USPS was prepared to eliminate more than 10% of all their post offices around the country. Most of these closings were likely to occur in rural areas, such as those found along the Continental Divide Trail or Appalachian Trail.

This decision would have a significant impact on long-distance hikers. Thru-hikers, and section hikers, use the services of post offices to forward, or pre-deliver, food, gear and other supplies as they proceed along the trail. Many backpackers fear that it will become much more difficult to thru-hike trails like the Continental Divide Trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail, due to possibility of having to carry significantly more weight in their packs.

As for now, however, rural post offices have received a stay of execution. The USPS recently made this announcement on their website:

The U.S. Postal Service, in response to a request made by multiple U.S. Senators, has agreed to delay the closing or consolidation of any Post Office or mail processing facility until May 15, 2012. The Postal Service will continue all necessary steps required for the review of these facilities during the interim period, including public input meetings.

The Postal Service hopes this period will help facilitate the enactment of comprehensive postal legislation. Given the Postal Service’s financial situation and the loss of mail volume, the Postal Service must continue to take all steps necessary to reduce costs and increase revenue.

This is partial good news for thru-hikers. Most northbound hikers on the Continental Divide Trail will have already knocked-out a couple of hundred miles by the time that deadline rolls around. At least up until that point they'll be able use the postal service for their supply drops.

As I mentioned in a posting back in July, I believe the private sector will step-in and continue to offer re-supply services to hikers in the event of any closures. However, things might be a bit confusing for hikers already on the trail this year.

Hiking in Glacier.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How Unique is Triple Divide Peak?

Most people familiar with Glacier National Park are likely familiar with Triple Divide Peak. The significance of this mountain, near Cut Bank, is that it's the point where rain water flowing down its slopes eventually ends up in the Pacific, Atlantic or Arctic Oceans.

Geographically, the summit of Triple Divide Peak lies at the point where the Northern Divide (or Laurentian Divide) meets the Great Divide (or, what many people call "The Continental Divide").

While hiking to Medicine Grizzly Lake this past summer I wondered how many other triple divides existed in the world. After doing a little research on the internet I really couldn't find a definitive answer to this question. On its Triple Divide Peak page, Wikipedia states that it's "one of the few places on the Earth whose waters feed three oceans".

However, the article on continental divides on Wikipedia has a world map showing drainage areas into the major oceans and seas of the world. The map uses data from the USGS Hydro1k project from the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center. Looking at the map below (click here for a larger version) you can see there are several places around the world that have triple divides. Look a little closer and you'll notice that most have drainage areas flowing into two oceans, but the other flowing into a sea, such as the Mediterranean, or the Gulf of Mexico. One such triple divide lies near Hibbing, Minnesota, where water either flows north into the Arctic Ocean, east into the Atlantic, or south into the Gulf of Mexico. In my view though, the Gulf and the Atlantic are one in the same.

I guess the real question I had was how many triple divides have water flowing into three of the four great oceans of the world. Surely there had to be at least two on the European-Asian continents. Again, looking at the map below, you'll see at least four triple divides on the Euro-Asian continents. However, in all four cases, one of the drainage areas flows into what is known as an endorheic basin, where water doesn't drain into an ocean. A perfect example of this is the Great Basin, which covers much of Nevada, and parts of Wyoming, California, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. According to this map, most of south-central Asia doesn't drain into an ocean.

Therefore, from what I can gather, it appears that Triple Divide Peak is the only place in the world that has water flowing into three of the four great oceans of the world.

Please let me know if I am incorrect on this assumption.

Hiking in Glacier.com