Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Bark Ranger" to Protect Glacier's Goats at Logan Pass

Glacier National Park, through NPS Centennial year funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy, is implementing a pilot project to determine if a trained herding dog, "Gracie," will help to reduce human-wildlife interactions at Logan Pass this summer.

An increase in park visitation has led to an increase in human–wildlife interactions at Logan Pass in recent years. Visitor interactions with mountain goats and bighorn sheep can be dangerous for both people and wildlife. While no serious injuries have been reported at Logan Pass, habituated wildlife have caused serious injury and even death to visitors in other national parks and wild areas. Wildlife habituation can also lead to the death of the animal.

To date, park employees have used conventional hazing methods (arm-waving, shouting, use of sirens, shaking cans of rocks, and moving vehicles) to move goats and sheep out of the parking lot—but the animals tend to return within a short period of time. Because mountain goats and bighorn sheep have an innate fear of predators, however, it is expected that the adverse conditioning activities will encourage the wildlife to stay away for longer periods.

"This program represents a proactive method of wildlife management. The park is trying to provide for safe wildlife viewing by moving wildlife a safe distance from a known area of high visitor use," said Mark Biel, the dog's owner and Glacier National Park's Natural Resources Program Manager. "Through the use of a wildlife shepherding dog and educational visitor contacts, we hope to prevent adverse human–wildlife interactions."

"Gracie" is a two-year-old female border collie. Biel describes Gracie as a "medium energy dog that loves to have a job to do."

Gracie is currently being trained by the staff at the Wind River Bear Institute, in Florence, Montana, known primarily for training Karelian Bear dogs. Biel is being trained as her handler. He plans to conduct wildlife shepherding activities with Gracie at the Logan Pass parking lot and Visitor Center. She is expected to be on duty by mid-July.

Gracie will be trained not to make physical contact with wildlife. She will wear an orange vest or harness indicating that she is a wildlife service animal and will only be off-leash during the shepherding activity. Once wildlife have been moved a safe distance away from the designated area, the shepherding will stop and she will be leashed.

These activities will occur approximately 3–4 times a month, as needed. The shepherding will only occur if the wildlife shows no signs of stress from interaction with humans and vehicles. Shepherding will not occur if it is too hot, if there are other wildlife in the area, or if there is too much traffic and crowding in the parking lot.

The use of dogs to shepherd wildlife is a proven technique for safely and effectively moving wildlife away from areas of concentrated human use. In the 1990's, Glacier National Park contracted with the Wind River Bear Institute to have trainers and their Karelian bear dogs help manage habituated roadside bears. The project was successful in keeping bears away from the road for the remainder of the visitor season. Waterton Lakes National Park, in Canada, contracts with a business that uses border collies to move habituated deer out of the Waterton townsite before the deer give birth. This has greatly reduced the number of dangerous deer–human encounters. Airports across the country use trained herding dogs to prevent wildlife–aircraft collisions by keeping birds and deer away from runways.

Biel and Gracie will act as wildlife ambassadors, making visitor contacts to remind people about staying a safe distance from all wildlife as well as explaining the dangers to both people and wildlife, of approaching, touching, and feeding habituated wildlife. The Bark Ranger team will also be available to talk to schools and other groups about wildlife management and concerns about habituated wildlife.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Going-to-the-Sun Road Update for Memorial Day Weekend

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to vehicles as far as the Avalanche picnic area on the west side, and Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side of the park Memorial Day weekend hikers and bikers may travel as far as conditions allow. Visitors are encouraged to exercise caution when hiking/ biking the Going-to-the-Sun road and be prepared for wintery conditions, including avalanche danger heading past Bird Woman Falls Overlook on the east side and Siyeh Bend on the west side of the park.

The recent storm poured four inches of rain on the west side of the park in 72 hours and dumped a foot of the snow on portions of the road and three feet of snow on the Garden Wall.There were several new avalanches from Big Bend to Oberlin Bend.

Today on the west side, road crews resumed operations and began removing debris and snow from the recent storm. Road crews on the east side worked on both sides of the East Tunnel and removed large boulders, rocks, and other debris as well as deep snow.

Hiker/bikers on the west side are encouraged to use the free hiker/biker shuttle that can be accessed at Lake McDonald Lodge. The shuttle runs daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from the Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche. The shuttle trailer can accommodate up to sixteen bikes.

On the west side of the park, Sprague Creek, Apgar, Bowman Lake, and Kintla Lake Campgrounds are open. On the east side of the park Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and St. Mary Campgrounds are open. Sites at all of these campgrounds are available on a first-come-first-served basis for the holiday weekend.


“A Bear Doesn’t Care,” but Yellowstone Knows You Do

Yellowstone National Park wants to increase the number of people carrying bear spray through a new engaging, celebrity-filled campaign called “A Bear Doesn’t Care.” Whether you are a hiker, backpacker, angler, photographer, wolf watcher or geyser gazer, the campaign encourages you to carry bear spray – no excuses!

“A bear doesn’t care how far you’re hiking, if you’re just fishing, or even if you work here,” says Superintendent Dan Wenk. “No matter who you are or what you are doing, you should always carry bear spray and know how to use it.”

Recent data collected by park scientists revealed that only 28 percent of visitors who enter the park’s backcountry carry bear spray. Studies show that bear spray is more than 90 percent effective in stopping an aggressive bear, in fact, it is the most effective deterrent when used in combination with our regular safety recommendations—be alert, make noise, hike in groups of three or more, and do not run if you encounter a bear.

“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild,” says Kerry Gunther, the park’s Bear Management Specialist. “Carrying bear spray is the best way for visitors to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects both people and bears.”

Beginning this summer, look for posters in retail outlets, ads in magazines, and images on social media of visitors and local celebrities carrying bear spray while recreating in the park.

Local celebrities who appear in the campaign share the message that bear spray is essential for safety in bear country. Initial poster designs include alpinist Conrad Anker, artist Jennifer Lowe-Anker, and National Geographic photographer Ronan Donovan. Actor Jeff Bridges, writer Todd Wilkinson, fly fisherman Craig Mathews, and others will join the campaign in the coming months.

Visit or go here for information about bear encounters and how to use bear spray.

Bear spray demonstrations are also conducted by park employees at Yellowstone visitor centers throughout the summer months. Park staff is available to speak with local groups upon request about the history of bear attacks in the park, contributing human behaviors, how to prevent/respond to bear attacks, and bear spray use.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Take a Tour of Glacier National Park on an Historic Red Bus

Modern day visitors to Glacier National Park can step back in time by taking a tour of the park on one of the historic Red Buses. These historic open-air buses have been taking visitors through the park since 1936, and are widely considered to be the oldest fleet of touring vehicles anywhere. While the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road travels across precipitous cliffs and hair-pin turns, the Red Buses allow visitors to soak in Glacier's magnificent scenery - instead of worrying about having to keep their cars on the road.

In this short video below, Finley-Holiday Films gives you an idea of what it's like to cruise through the park in one of these wonderful old vehicles:

In addition to cruising the Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the best ways to see Glacier National Park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park. Prospective visitors may also want to note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Forest Service Gears Up for Significant 2016 Wildfire Season

Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell met with Forest Service Regional Foresters to discuss preparations for anticipated significant wildland fire potential in 2016. The briefing comes as the 2016 fire season has begun with five times more acres already burned than this time last year, following 2015's record-setting fire season.

"The 2016 wildfire season is off to a worrisome start. Southern California, the Great Basin in Nevada, portions of the southwest, and even Florida and Hawaii are particularly vulnerable this year. In California, more than 40 million trees have died, becoming dry fuel for wildfire," said Vilsack. "Congress must take action now to ensure that we, and, ultimately the firefighters we ask so much of, have the resources to do the restoration and wildfire prevention work necessary to keep our forests healthy."

Forest Service Chief Tidwell underscored the Forest Service's commitment to ensuring the protection of firefighters' lives. Last year, seven members of the Forest Service firefighting team were lost in the line of duty, and 4,500 homes were damaged or destroyed. This year the Forest Service is able to mobilize 10,000 firefighters, 900 engines, 300 helicopters, 21 airtankers, 2 water scoopers and over 30 aerial supervision fixed-wing aircraft. Together with federal, state and local partners, the agency is positioned to respond wherever needed.

In recent years fire seasons are, on average, 78 days longer than they were in 1970 and, on average, the number of acres burned each year has doubled since 1980. As a result, the Forest Service's firefighting budget is regularly exhausted before the end of the wildfire season, forcing the Forest Service to abandon critical restoration and capital improvement projects in order to suppress extreme fires.

The cost of the Forest Service's wildfire suppression reached a record $243 million in a one-week period during the height of suppression activity in August 2015. With a record 52 percent of the Forest Service's budget dedicated to fire suppression activities, compared to just 16 percent in 1995, the Forest Service's firefighting budget was exhausted in 2015, forcing USDA to transfer funds away from forest restoration projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires, in order to cover the high cost of battling blazes.

Last December Vilsack told members of Congress that he will not authorize transfers from restoration and resilience funding this fire season. Instead, Vilsack has directed the Forest Service to use funds as they were intended. For example, restoration work through programs like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and implementation of the National Cohesive Strategy, are reducing the size and severity of wildfires. USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior and other partners are working with at-risk communities to promote community and homeowner involvement in mitigating wildfire risk, reducing hazardous fuels and accomplishing treatments that increase forest health and resilience.

Even a so-called normal year is far worse than it used to be. On average, wildfires burn twice as much land area each year as they did 40 years ago and the threat continues to increase.

Over the last two years, $237 million has been permanently shifted from the Forest Service non-fire budget forcing the department to abandon critical restoration and capital improvement projects in order to suppress extreme fires. This loss in funds to firefighting took place before a single fire broke out in 2016.

For the first time in its 111-year history, over half of the Forest Service's 2015 budget was designated to fight wildfires, compared to just 16 percent in 1995. 2015 was the most expensive fire season in the department's history, costing more than $2.6 billion on fire alone.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Jenny Lake Renewal Project to Impact Visitors This Summer

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park this summer will notice that the Jenny Lake Renewal Project is well underway. The project, an $18 million public-private partnership between the National Park Service and Grand Teton National Park Foundation, will enhance the visitor experience in the area with improved trail conditions, restrooms, wayfinding, foot access to the lake, and interpretive information. This summer's construction will impact visitors in significant ways including limited parking, a temporary visitor center, trail re-routes and closures, and obvious construction.

Summer 2016 marks the third of four major construction seasons for the Jenny Lake Renewal Project. Most of the construction during the past two seasons was limited to trail work in the backcountry areas around Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. While that work will continue this year, construction work in the developed area around the visitor center, general store, restrooms, and boat dock will get underway this summer.

Visitors will notice limited parking in the South Jenny Lake parking area as approximately 20 percent of the lot's 300 spaces will be unavailable due to construction staging. To avoid peak visitation and frustration, visitors are encouraged to arrive early, before 9:00 a.m., or plan to visit late in the day, after 4:00 p.m. There will be extremely limited bus, RV, and trailer parking. Buses and RVs are encouraged to unload and pick up passengers and park elsewhere. Parking will be permitted along the South Jenny Lake access road and the Teton Park Road. Vehicles should be parked so they are out of the travel lane while minimizing disturbance to roadside vegetation. Motorists should slow down and be cognizant of pedestrians while traveling this portion of the Teton Park Road.

There will be no access to the base of Hidden Falls this summer as trail crews will restore damaged areas and create a more sustainable viewing area and access trail. Most other trails on the west shore of Jenny Lake will remain open, including Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon. Many of the trails in the vicinity of the Jenny Lake Visitor Center will be closed all summer.

All South Jenny Lake visitor services will remain open throughout the season, though access routes may be altered. Visitors should follow posted signs and maps to these areas and obey all closures. These open facilities include: Jenny Lake Boating, Jenny Lake General Store, Exum Mountain Guides, Jenny Lake Campground, Jenny Lake Ranger Station, and the multi-use pathway.

Visitors to South Jenny Lake will also notice that the visitor center and restrooms are located in temporary facilities. Interpretive rangers, information, and a Grand Teton Association bookstore will be available in a temporary visitor center beginning Friday, May 20. Vault and portable toilets, but no flush toilets, are available.

Rangers encourage prospective visitors to the Jenny Lake area to plan ahead, pack their patience, and be safe. Rangers are also happy to recommend other lakeshore hikes in the park that have equally dramatic scenery and fewer disruptions to those who may be interested. More trip planning information specific to the Jenny Lake Renewal Project can be found at


Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's Going On In Yellowstone?

Given all the stupidity that seems to be running rampant in Yellowstone National Park recently, I have to ask: what's going on?

In case you're in the dark on what I'm referring to, here's a quick rundown on just some of the incidents that I'm aware of:

* Last year at least five people were injured when they got too close to bison - at least two of them were taking "selfies" at the time of their encounters.

* Another man fell into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone while attempting to take a picture of a sign at Grand View. He stumbled backwards over a stone barrier and fell 25 feet into the canyon, thus requiring a technical rescue.

* Several weeks ago a woman was videod while petting a bison in the park. 

* Earlier this week 4 men were caught walking on Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone. Since then it was discovered that these 4 idiots are travel bloggers who are currently touring America. Although they apologized for their stupidity on their Facebook page, they are taking a well-deserved shellacking from the public. Apparently these guys have multiple offenses - even bragging about them on their social media outlets. Fortunately it appears that Yellowstone is going to try to throw the book at them.

* Finally, in perhaps the most audacious and wholly ignorant incident to occur in a national park in a long time (at least that I've heard of), a couple of tourists placed a bison calf in their SUV because they thought it looked cold! Unfortunately, a few days later, the calf had to be euthanized because its mother and/or the herd rejected it.

For additional reading, you may want to read this person's recent experience with the so-called "bear jams" in the park.

One can only conclude that our society has lost its collective mind. You could certainly argue we've lost our common sense. There's also a strain of narcissism that's running rampant among certain segments of our population as well.

So what can we do to help stop the madness? If you're visiting the park and you see someone endangering any animals, or the park itself - report them! Take photos of the people while in action, take photos of their car and their license plate, and then call the Yellowstone Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 (or the general park phone number at 307-344-7381), or visit the nearest ranger office.

Responsible visitors need to take a stand and stop this stupidity.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Study: Camping Tents Could Be Toxic

Campers and backpackers may want to keep track of this story as it develops. Duke University, in conjunction with REI, has conducted a study on flame retardant treatments in camping tents, which was recently published in the latest edition of Environmental Science and Technology. Although there are no clear-cut conclusions at this point, there is concern within the outdoor industry that campers and backpackers may be exposing themselves to the adverse health effects of flame retardant chemicals, including the possibility of thyroid cancer.

The study found that skin and inhalation exposure levels to flame retardant chemicals were significantly higher for volunteers while they set-up and occupied their tents.

Currently, flame retardant chemicals are applied to tents in order to prevent or slow the spread of fire on potentially flammable materials. These are used to meet regulatory flammability requirements. Apparently there are many other consumer products that potentially could be exposing us to harmful chemicals as well.

So what can campers and backpackers do while researchers dig deeper into this issue? In a recent blog posting, REI made these recommendations for reducing your exposure to flame retardants while camping:

• Wash your hands after setting up a tent or wear gloves when setting it up.

• Use the venting systems.

• Leave the rain fly off the tent when possible, to increase ventilation.

• Avoid using heat sources inside your tent, including cooking stoves, lanterns or candles.

Long term, all of us probably need to pay closer attention to any new developments on this issue, and take action as new data becomes available.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Glacier Park Gears Up For Summer Season

Glacier National Park road crews are nearing the final phase of snow removal on Going-to-the-Sun road. On the west side, road crews are tackling the Big Drift as well as removing snow from the Logan Pass parking lot. On the east side of Going-to-the-Sun road the dozer has pushed through the East Tunnel, however more snow removal is needed to reach asphalt.

The Big Drift is located east of the Continental Divide, on Going-to-the-Sun road. The snowdrift can accumulate upwards of 60-80 feet of snow as a result of blowing winds.

Once the Big Drift has been cleared, weather and road conditions permitting, it can be several weeks before vehicles will be able to drive the full length of Going-to-the-Sun road. Historically, the road opens fully to vehicle access between the middle of June or early July. In the following weeks, road crew will be cleaning-up debris which has fallen on the road, installing guard rails, preparing facilities, and assessing snow conditions.

On the west side of Going-to-the-Sun road, vehicle access is to Avalanche, 15.5 miles from the West Entrance. On the east side, vehicle access is to Jackson Glacier Overlook, 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance.

Hiker/ biker access on the west side is to The Loop, approximately 8 miles past Avalanche Creek, while the road crew is working. On the east side, hiker/ biker access is to Siyeh Bend, approximately 2 miles past Jackson Glacier Overlook, while the road crew is working.

To avoid congestion and minimize resource damage, visitors are encouraged to use the new free hiker/ biker shuttle from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche. The shuttle operates daily from 10:00 a.m. –5:00 p.m. It can accommodate up to sixteen bikes. The shuttle is in operation until the Going-to-the-Sun road opens.

Visitors are advised to check the park's website at for plowing status, current conditions and hiker-biker access restrictions, which change frequently this time of year. Visitors may also visit the park's social media pages or call park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for current road and weather conditions. Please be aware of wildlife on park roads and report any bear or mountain lion activity or sighting, regardless of the location, to a park ranger.

Visitors are also reminded to use caution around water and snow. Streams and rivers in the park are cold, high, and fast moving. Always wear a life jacket when boating, and use caution when crossing or stepping near bodies of water. Hikers visiting some of the higher elevations in the park should expect snow, and be prepared for changing weather conditions. It is important to know the terrain you are about to hike or climb, and carry the appropriate equipment. When hiking may include snowfield travel, visitors should know how to travel in such challenging conditions, including knowing how to use crampons and an ice axe. It is also recommended to have extra clothing, appropriate maps, first-aid kit, water, and food.Always communicate to someone your planned route of travel and your expected time of return.

Sections of the Inside North Fork Road Are Now Open

The Inside North Fork Road is now open to Kintla Lake. The road to Bowman Lake is open as well. RVs and truck and trailer combinations are not recommended at either Bowman or Kintla Lakes due to the nature of the long, narrow, and winding dirt roads to the campgrounds. A section of the Inside North Fork Road remains closed between Camas Creek and Logging Creek due to road conditions.

Primitive, first-come-first-served camping is available at Bowman and Kintla Lakes Campgrounds at a cost of $10.00 per night. There are no potable water sources in the campgrounds. Campers are advised to bring their own drinking water. Vault toilets are available.


Glacier's Historic Boats

Finley-Holiday Films does another great job in this short video of showcasing Glacier's historic boats. In 1910, when Glacier National Park was first established, early sightseers found that boat tours offered a comfortable and adventurous way to see the parks wild landscape. That tradition continues today:

Many visitors will use the boats to shorten hikes in the Many Glacier and Two Medicine valleys. In Many Glacier, many hikers will take the two boat shuttles to visit Grinnell Glacier or Hidden Falls.

In Two Medicine, hikers can take the Sinopah to shorten hikes to Upper Two Medicine Lake or Dawson Pass.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Bison Calf Euthanized After Tourists Put In Vehicle

In recent weeks, visitors in the park have been engaging in inappropriate, dangerous, and illegal behavior with wildlife. These actions endanger people and have now resulted in the death of a newborn bison calf.

Last week in Yellowstone National Park, visitors were cited for placing a newborn bison calf in their vehicle and transporting it to a park facility because of their misplaced concern for the animal's welfare (they thought the calf looked cold and they wanted to warm it up). In terms of human safety, this was a dangerous activity because adult animals are very protective of their young and will act aggressively to defend them. In addition, interference by people can cause mothers to reject their offspring. In this case, park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd. These efforts failed. The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway.

In a recent viral video, a visitor approached within an arm's length of an adult bison in the Old Faithful area. Another video featured visitors posing for pictures with bison at extremely unsafe and illegal distances. Last year, five visitors were seriously injured when they approached bison too closely (at least two of them were trying to take "selfies"). Bison injure more visitors to Yellowstone than any other animal.

Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival. Park regulations require that you stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury, and even death. The safety of these animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Photographing Wolves in Yellowstone National Park

With 2016 being the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, National Geographic has decided to dedicate its May issue solely to Yellowstone National Park. As part of this issue, Nat Geo has also published a series of videos, including this one in which Ronan Donovan discusses how he went about photographing wolves for the magazine:


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hiking in Bear Country

Whenever we as hikers venture into the wilderness we immediately assume a degree of risk. No matter the distance, your fitness level, or your backcountry experience, you should be prepared for a wide range of situations once you place that first foot on the trail.

There are many things hikers and backpackers can do to minimize risk and prepare ourselves for a variety of conditions or events that could happen while out on the trail, such as taking extra food and water, carrying a map, or stuffing extra clothing and rain gear into our packs, among many others.

However, for those that hike in bear country, there are extra precautions you must take, especially if you’re trekking in grizzly bear territory, such as in Glacier, Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park. There are several things you can and should do to ensure a safe and successful hike. One of your primary goals while hiking in bear country is to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear. In these situations noise will be your best friend, as bears will normally move out of the way when they hear humans approaching. Shouting out “hey bear” and loudly clapping hands every few minutes are excellent ways of making your presence known. Although many hikers think that they can rely solely on bear bells, this probably isn’t a good idea. Bear experts point out that the noise generated by the bells doesn’t carry well, especially in windy conditions, near streams and in open terrain.

Many hikers also assume that they don’t have to make noise while hiking on well-used trails, however, many of the most frequently used trails around the country travel through prime bear habitat. People have been charged and injured by bears fleeing from silent hikers who unwittingly surprised them along the trail. Even if other hikers haven’t seen any bears on any given section of trail, you shouldn’t assume that bears aren’t around.

Also, don’t assume a bear’s hearing is any better than yours. Various trail conditions can make it hard for bears to see, hear, or smell approaching hikers. Be particularly careful near streams and waterfalls, against the wind, or in dense vegetation. A blind corner or a rise in the trail also requires special attention.

The best thing to do is to make a lot of noise, stay alert at all times, and avoid the habit of looking down at the trail all the time.

Hikers should never hit the trail alone – no matter where you hike. There are far too many things that could happen in which a companion could provide some type of help, including possibly saving your life. This is especially true in bear country. One of the best ways to ensure a safe hike is to travel in groups of three or more people. Bear experts recommend four, or even groups of five individuals. The noise from footfalls and talking is usually enough to alert bears of approaching humans, thus providing them with enough time to get out of your way. Consequently, the number of human-bear conflicts drop as the number of individuals in a hiking party increases.

In the event that you are approached or charged by a bear while out on the trail, or in a campsite, your best line of defense will be bear spray. Hikers should always carry bear spray when venturing into bear country – and know how to use it. This aerosol pepper derivative triggers temporarily incapacitating discomfort in bears. It’s a non-toxic and non-lethal means of deterring bears. There are many cases where bear spray has repelled aggressive or attacking bears. According to studies in recent years, bear spray was more than 90% effective in stopping bear attacks, compared to firearms, which were only 50% effective. Obviously there are accounts where bear spray hasn’t worked as well as expected. Factors influencing effectiveness include distance, wind, rainy weather conditions, temperature extremes, and product shelf life.

If you do decide to carry bear spray be sure to purchase spray that is specifically made for deterring bears, rather than pepper spray, which is a milder version made to deter humans. Currently there are only four bear sprays approved by the EPA. One of those is Counter Assault Bear Deterrent, which is an excellent choice for the trail. I like it because it sprays up to 32 feet, has a spray time of 9.2 seconds, and has a CRC of 2.0%, the maximum strength of capsaicinoids allowed by the EPA. Although the product is sold in two sizes, I would recommend going with the larger 10.2 ounce size. This will provide you with more spray to deploy in the event multiple bursts are needed. I would also recommend purchasing the product with either a belt or chest strap holster. This will provide you with fast access in the event of a surprise encounter where seconds matter.

Under no circumstances should bear spray create a false sense of security or serve as a substitute for standard safety precautions in bear country.

Finally, the last thing I would recommend is for you to educate yourself on bears. The University of Alberta in Canada has posted some valuable information concerning Bear Safety, Awareness and Avoidance on their website. The page covers an array of issues regarding bears, including understanding bear behavior and how to react during various bear encounters.

I should also point out that the goal of this article wasn’t to scare you in anyway, but rather to prepare you before venturing into bear country. A Glacier National Park ranger that we have gotten to know over the years once said that far too many park visitors are “bearanoid”, meaning that they’re depriving themselves from enjoying their hike, or choosing to not even venture out onto the trail while in the park. For their sake, this is a shame.

To put things in perspective, bear encounters are very rare. Consider that roughly one million people venture into Glacier’s backcountry each year. On average there are only one or two non-lethal bear “incidents” in any given year. Moreover, there have only been 10 bear related fatalities in the history of the national park, which goes back to 1910. Only three of those fatalities involved hikers, and at least two of those were solo hikers.

So get out on the trail, be prepared, and have fun!


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Man Fatally Injured in Jump from Running Eagle Falls

At approximately 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, May 5th, Glacier National Park dispatch was notified that a man had jumped into a shallow pool at Running Eagle Falls and sustained life-threatening injuries. Park rangers arrived on the scene within minutes of receiving the call and performed CPR. ALERT, Glacier Emergency Services, Blackfeet Emergency Medical Services, Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services and the Glacier County Sheriff's Department also responded to the scene. The patient was pronounced dead at approximately 4:30 p.m. by advanced life services medical personnel at the scene.

Initial investigation indicates the 26-year old male jumped from the waterfall on his own accord and no suspicious circumstances were noted. The investigation is on-going. No foul play is suspected.

Park rangers are conducting an investigation. Park visitors are reminded to use caution around all water features, especially waterfalls and lakes. Water is cold, fast moving and high in most places at this time, and rocks can be very slippery.


Longs Peak: This will make you nervous just watching it!

So you want to climb Longs Peak - the tallest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. I know that I definitely wanted to when I was younger. I even made an attempt back in the 1990s. However, just a little past the Keyhole, I realized that I was way out of my league, and promptly turned around. Later, as the internet began filling-up with trip reports, photos and videos, I saw that the route was even more dangerous past the point where I turned around.

Back in 2014, Bryan Blalock and friends reached the summit of the 14,259-foot peak. Taking a GoPro with him, he published a series of videos showing what the climb is like. The first section of the route begins at the Longs Peak Trailhead, and travels up to The Keyhole, which is basically a standard day hike although the last quarter-mile through the Boulder Field and up to the Keyhole is a fairly strenuous scramble. Above the Keyhole, however, the route becomes a standard climbing route. The park website states that:
"The Keyhole Route is not a hike. It is a climb that crosses enormous sheer vertical rock faces, often with falling rocks, requiring scrambling, where an unroped fall would likely be fatal. The route has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs."
Rookie climbers should also note that the mountain is statistically one of the deadliest climbs in the United States.

The first video below is relatively tame. It shows the group climbing up the Homestretch to reach the summit. The second video is far more compelling. It shows the group descending through The Narrows. If you have any thoughts on climbing this mountain, and, you're like me - only a hiker, this video will certainly give you some pause before attempting this. Here's the first video:

And here's the descent through The Narrows:

In addition to the hike to The Keyhole, Rocky Mountain National Park has many other outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the park has to offer. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

2016 Logan Pass Star Parties

The Big Sky Astronomy Club, in conjunction with Glacier National Park, will once again host four "star parties" this summer under extremely dark skies at the Logan Pass Visitors' Center parking lot at the summit of Going-To-The-Sun-Road.

The events are extremely popular, with attendance at each event approaching four or five hundred visitors. The four 2016 dates for these fun events are July 29, August 5, August 26 and September 9. These dates are Fridays, with the following day (Saturday) reserved as a backup in case of inclement weather on the primary date. Tickets for each event will be available through Glacier National Park. Please contact Park Headquarters at 406-888-7800 for more information.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Doctors Warn that Hiking is Contagious

Doctors are increasingly writing new prescriptions for an old remedy- time in nature. As part of the burgeoning Park Rx movement, health care providers throughout the country are encouraging patients to use parks to reap the benefits of nature’s healing properties. On April 24, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, health care providers, and hundreds of people celebrated the first National Park Rx Day by participating in outdoor activities around the country.

“Nature is good for us - it is a great antidote to a variety of ailments, including obesity, heart disease, and depression,” said Jarvis at a National Park Rx Day event in Seattle. “A growing number of public health officials now prescribe time in parks for the overall well-being of their patients. In fact, it is becoming a standard medical practice to tell patients to take a hike.”

Nature-based applications to prevent and treat ailments are growing in popularity. In Washington, D.C., health care providers connect green space and park data to an electronic medical record to refer patients to parks for improved physical and mental fitness. In Miami-Dade County, Fla., children receive prescriptions to exercise in parks. And, in Marin City, Calif., the community’s new Park Rx program encourages residents to discover and use national park trails to stay active.

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking in a national park – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said Murthy. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

Looking for a place to hike? How about Grand Teton National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park or the Great Smoky Mountains? All of these parks offer a variety of outstanding hikes that will appeal to anyone.