Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scouts Recognized for Centennial Work in Glacier

The Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America has been selected as the 2011 regional winner of the National Park Service George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service by a Youth Group.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Glacier National Park and the Boys Scouts of America in 2010, more than 250 scouts and troop leaders performed 4,500 hours of volunteer service in the park. Boy scouts from all over Montana and Alberta, Canada volunteered time and energy to complete projects across the park. Projects included building and refinishing picnic tables, painting and staining buildings, fences, barrier logs and water spigots, laying gravel, clearing brush, assisting with star gazing programs, and litter pickup.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright said, "Our joint centennial year was an opportunity to have the scouts involved with the park, and reinforce the value of stewardship of our public lands. We greatly appreciate the work they completed, because much of that work would not have been finished without the tremendous energy they provided."

Scout Leader Jim Atkinson of Kalispell was instrumental in working with the park and organizing the scout involvement. Atkinson said, "I'm honored to have been involved with this special once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." He said Boy Scouts have a proud tradition of performing service projects in the park, and a partnership like this is what scouting is about; it produces a visible contribution on the ground, instills a service ethic with the boys and creates lasting memories for all. After completing the service work, each scout and leader received a specially-minted medal and scout ranger patch. A formal presentation of the award will be presented to the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America in May.

The George and Helen Hartzog Awards recognize the commitment of the National Park Service's most outstanding volunteers. During his nine years as the seventh Director of the National Park Service (1963-1972), George Hartzog created the Volunteers-In-Parks Program.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Fire Lookouts of Glacier National Park

1910 was one of the worst forest fire years in the history of the Pacific Northwest. Wildfires torched more than three million acres of virgin forest in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, and in the process, destroyed enough timber to fill a freight train 2,400 miles long. 1910 also happened to be the year that Glacier National Park was established. It would literally be a baptism of fire for our eighth national park. More than 100,000 acres burned in Glacier, including a 23,000-acre blaze near Kintla Creek. The situation in the park that year would be exacerbated by the lack of an organized firefighting infrastructure, very little equipment, few trails, and practically no roads.

As a result of that infamous year, Glacier Park would find itself on the leading edge of fire management throughout the first half of the 20th Century. According to Mitch Burgard's Fire Blog on the park website, Glacier achieved several firsts:

• Glacier was the first National Park to have a dedicated fire crew (prior to this time the Army/Calvary and, later, the National Forest Service were solely in charge of fighting forest fires).

• In the early 1920’s Glacier was the first National Park to bring the new technology of ‘portable’ (horse drawn) pumps into the United States from Canada.

• Glacier established the first fire management plan in the National Park Service. In 1929 a newly appointed “fire control expert” at the national office used Glacier’s plan as a benchmark. It would become the model which other plans were measured against for the next decade.

• In 1946, Glacier became the first National Park to utilize Smokejumpers.

The park was also quick to build fire lookout towers. Although most of Glacier’s lookouts were built in the 1930s, two were already constructed by 1923, both of which had phone line connections.

Most of the lookouts in the park had the same basic design; a two story wooden structure with a windowless dirt floor storage area, topped by a 14 x 14 foot ‘cab’ in which the fire lookouts worked and lived.

There were two notable exceptions to this basic design, however. One was the Red Eagle Lookout, a 60-foot steel tower that was built in 1960, but destroyed in 1986. The other, Swiftcurrent Lookout, which still stands today atop Swiftcurrent Mountain, has a stone foundation, and a gable roof made with heavy timber framing and a flagstone and mortar roof surface. The park opted for a much sturdier design in order to protect the lookout from the harsh weather and strong winds that buffet the 8436-foot peak.

I would assume this to be true for all the towers in Glacier, but according to Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, by Ray Kresek, the Numa Ridge Lookout has a heavy wooden panel with 200 spikes driven through it. With its sharp points sticking out three inches, the panel is dropped in place on the stairway each night as a security measure against grizzly bears!

Glacier still staffs four fire lookouts each season. Traditionally these have been Huckleberry Mountain, Numa Ridge, Scalplock Mountain and Swiftcurrent Mountain. However, in 2009, and for the first time in more than 30 years, the park also staffed Loneman Lookout in the Middle Fork area.

Lookout work is mostly a solitary job with limited amenities and long shifts where firewatchers work at least 10 straight days during the summer fire season.

In his book, Kresek published several journal entries from lookouts that worked at Numa Ridge over the years. There were many complaints about having to do chores. They seemed to come out of boredom, rather than the physical work itself. Apparently there were other hazards that lookouts had to deal with that weren’t in the job description. On September 12, 1950, firewatcher Scotty Beaton made this entry:

“Found mud in water barrel; put there by kid from McFarland’s dude ranch; same kid busted crosshairs on firefinder, bent nails on bear board, and ruined my binoculars on the hot stove.”

Speaking of Numa Ridge, Edward Abbey, author of the Monkey Wrench Gang, once spent a summer in 1975 manning the lookout. In A Lookout’s Journal, Abbey summed-up his experience with this quote: “Bears, beans, bores and bugs: Numa Ridge Lookout.”

As we move forward into the 21st Century it will be interesting to see if Glacier National Park continues to stay on the cutting edge with the latest technologies in fire management. In the very near future it appears that unmanned drones will be used to detect and monitor wildfires, and may even be used to suppress fires.

Of the 17 fire lookouts that once stood in the park, 9 still remain, all of which can be reached by trail. Here’s a list of lookouts in Glacier, present and past:

Apgar Lookout / Built: 1929
Access: 2.8 mile hike on the Apgar Lookout Trail near Apgar

Huckleberry Lookout / Built: Original in 1923, rebuilt in 1933
Access: 6 mile hike Huckleberry Lookout Trail near Apgar

Loneman Lookout / Built: 1930 and rehabed in 2003
Access: 7 mile hike on Loneman Lookout Trail off Highway 2 near Middle Fork

Mount Brown Lookout / Built: 1928
Access: 5.4 mile hike from Lake McDonald Lodge

Numa Ridge Lookout / Built: 1934
Access: 5.6 mile hike on the Numa Ridge Lookout Trail at Bowman Lake

Porcupine Ridge Lookout / Built: 1939
Access: Porcupine Lookout Trail via Waterton Valley Trail out of Goat Haunt

Scalplock Lookout / Built: 1931
Access: 4.7 mile hike on Scalplock Trail in Walton

Swiftcurrent Lookout / Built: 1936
Access: 6.2 mile hike from The Loop, 7.8 miles from Many Glacier, or 9.9 miles from Logan Pass

Bear Mountain Point Lookout / Built: 1935 / Destroyed: 1965

Curly Bear Lookout / Built: 1934 / Destroyed: 1963

Elk Mountain Lookout / Built: 1930 / Destroyed: 1963

Heaven's Peak Lookout / Built: 1945 / Building is still standing after being abandoned in 1953, and is scheduled to be stabilized in 2012 in order to preserve it.

Heaven's Peak South Lookout / Built: 1943 / Destroyed: 1963

Red Eagle Lookout / Built: 1960 / Destroyed: 1986

Reynolds Ridge Lookout / Built: 1931 / Destroyed: 1963

Riverview Mountain Lookout / Built: 1923 / Abandoned: 1930s

Waterton Lake Lookout / Built: 1930s / Abandoned 1940s

For more information on the lookouts you can visit the Fire Lookout website and the National Park Service’s List of Classified Structures.

I’ll sign-off today with this lookout journal entry from September 3, 1980:

“Autumn is in the air. A pair of golden eagles are hovering in the thermals around the station. The western sky is gorgeous, pink with crimson ruffles. CFCN Radio is playing the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra’s Canadian Sunset. It’s time to bring in the flag. God Bless America!”

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Severe winter storm leads to rescues in Grand Tetons

A severe winter storm on Saturday with snow and high winds (up to 50 mph on the valley floor and over 80 mph at higher elevations) created blizzard conditions and led to two major SAR operations in the Grand Tetons – one to evacuate and shelter stranded travelers and the other to rescue a lost snowboarder.

The storm also forced the closure of Highway 26/89/191 within the park on Saturday afternoon, stranding approximately 160 travelers between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch near the south gate of Yellowstone. Due to whiteout conditions caused by high winds and blowing and drifting snow, Grand Teton snowplow operators were unable to keep open a 22-mile stretch of highway between the Jackson Hole Airport and Moran Junction, 30 miles north of Jackson.

Out of concern for traveler safety, rangers closed the main highway at 1:45 p.m. Marooned travelers were provided emergency shelter, food, and makeshift accommodations at Signal Mountain Lodge, Flagg Ranch, and the Moran Elementary School. Teton Interagency fire staff gathered emergency gear, cots, and sleeping bags from the Colter Bay fire cache and Moran Fire Station to provide some level of comfort to the stranded people. Rangers staffed highway barricades throughout the stormy night and rerouted motorists to the provisional shelters. Rangers at the Jackson Hole Airport Junction barricade advised travelers to return to Jackson, eight miles south, for overnight lodging.

The highway was reopened at 7 a.m. the next day, and two-way travel resumed without restriction.

In the midst of the intense blizzard and resulting highway closure, rangers also received word that a snowboarder was missing in the park. Sam Hoerr, 31, of Dunlap, Illinois, became separated from his companions. He sent a text message to them at 2:30 p.m. and explained that he had reached a creek and was going to follow it out. His companions notified Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s ski patrol.

Given the high avalanche danger and late hour of the day, a rescue effort was launched. High winds and poor visibility closed the upper mountain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. These same conditions also prevented use of a helicopter-assisted search for the lost snowboarder. The highway closure prevented rangers from responding from rescue facilities located at park headquarters in Moose. Rangers therefore requested help from Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers, and a unified command was established. Considerable avalanche danger made it unsafe to direct rescue personnel into Granite Canyon from the Mountain Resort’s out-of-bounds gate. Ultimately, thirteen rescuers accessed Granite Canyon from Teton Village and begin to ski into the canyon from the trailhead off the Moose-Wilson Road. Rescuers made contact with Hoerr via cell phone at 7:30 p.m., directed him to continue down canyon following the creek, reached him around 8 p.m., and provided him with a “split board” so that he could more easily travel out of the backcountry canyon on his own. He was then escorted out of Granite Canyon by rescuers.

Because Hoerr was unprepared to spend a night in the backcountry-and he crossed numerous avalanche-prone areas during stormy conditions that were wind loading slopes-this situation could have become life-threatening or worse. Hoerr and most of his companions did not carry avalanche equipment with them when they exited the out-of-bounds gate. Park rangers remind skiers and snowboarders to consider weather conditions and time of day before making a decision to enter backcountry areas. Rangers also strongly advise skiers and snowboarders to be prepared before embarking on a backcountry excursion by carrying appropriate avalanche gear and emergency equipment, and using good route-finding skills. It is essential for backcountry users to have basic knowledge of backcountry areas in which they plan to travel.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Glacier Proposes to Modify Existing Quartz Creek Fish Barrier

Native fish populations in Glacier National Park have been severely compromised by the invasion and expansion of non-native fish species into the park’s lakes and streams. Non-native fish can affect native fish populations through predation, hybridization, and competition and are imperiling populations of bull trout, which are federally listed as threatened, and the native westslope cutthroat trout, a state listed Species of Concern. Of the seventeen lakes on the west side of the park that support bull trout, nine have been compromised by non-native lake trout and a tenth has been compromised by the non-native brook trout.

Quartz Lake, located in the North Fork of the Flathead River drainage and the park’s North Fork District, is one of the last remaining strongholds for bull trout in park waters west of the Continental Divide. Until recently, Quartz Lake was believed to be the largest lake on the west side of the park accessible to lake trout but not yet colonized by them. In 2005, lake trout were detected in Quartz Lake, threatening the long-term persistence of the Quartz Lake bull trout population. At that time, a fish passage barrier designed to protect the drainage from invasion by non-native fish was under construction on Quartz Creek, approximately 100 yards below Middle Quartz Lake, but completion of the barrier was suspended until options to control lake trout could be reviewed. The National Park Service has since collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey and others in an ongoing experimental program to remove lake trout from Quartz Lake to suppress the population. Experimental suppression has so far been promising, with identification of lake trout spawning areas and annual removal of spawning lake trout. Data suggests that the project is successfully removing a high percentage of spawning adults annually, which is expected to eventually reduce the lake trout population over time.

The NPS is proposing to complete, modify, and improve the existing Quartz Creek fish barrier. The purpose of the project is to support lake trout suppression efforts in Quartz Lake, reduce the potential for additional lake trout to enter the lake, and reduce the likelihood of invasion from other non-native species such as rainbow trout and brook trout, thereby better protecting the integrity of native fish populations in the upper Quartz drainage.

According to the environmental assessment, the park is proposing to raise the barrier's total height by 1-2 feet in order to prevent further migration of lake trout into Quartz Lake. The EA calls for installing about 28 gabions (wire mesh cages filled with rock, each two feet high, two feet wide and six feet long) on and near the existing barrier.

If you would like to comment on this proposal, please click here. The comment period ends on 3/19/2012.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Winter in Yellowstone National Park

Few people ever get a chance to see Yellowstone National Park in the winter. This short film by Christopher Cauble provides an excellent opportunity to see what the park is like during what is arguably the most beautiful time of the year in Yellowstone. I particularly enjoyed the shots of the otter. Several years ago I saw a family of 7 or 8 swimming in Delacy Creek on our way to Shoshone Lake in south Yellowstone. We were literally only 15 feet away from the family. I don't know who was more startled by the surprise encounter - the otter, or me and my wife!

The footage for this film was shot in Yellowstone during the winter season of 2011:

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Avalanche warning for Glacier Park, Flathead and Kootenai National Forests

Forest Service avalanche specialist Stan Bones issued a special backcountry avalanche warning yesterday for Glacier National Park, and the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests.

The avalanche danger is considered high between 4,500 and 7,500 feet on all steep, open slopes and gullies. The report states that natural avalanches are likely, and human triggered avalanches are very likely. As a result, travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended at this time.

According to the report:

Because of wind, rapidly warming temperatures, and locally heavy precipitation in the form of rain or snow, the avalanche danger is currently rated HIGH. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended until the current snowpack has time to settle and strengthen. Reports are that both natural and triggered avalanches are occurring in many of the regions mountains.

The weather forecast is for another strong Pacific weather system to impact our region this weekend.

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Glacier's High Country

To see the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer you have to go deep into the high country. Fortunately, with more than 740 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, it's pretty easy to find a trail that offers mind blowing scenery.

Although not quite as popular as some of the other areas of the park, the Two Medicine area still provides some incredibly beautiful scenery. One of the best hikes in this area is Scenic Point. The rock outcropping that sits just above alpine tundra meadows, offers panoramic views of the Two Medicine Valley. On a clear day you can even see the Sweet Grass Hills rising above the Great Plains 90 miles away!

One of the most popular backcountry hikes in the Two Medicine area is the one up to Dawson Pass. Near the top a group of 9 or 10 bighorn sheep passed by us, no more than 20 yards away. As you can see, most of them were relatively young lambs. They stopped just long enough on this perch for a nice photo op:

Dawson Pass usually gets all the attention in Two Medicine. However, at least for me, I thought the views from Pitamakan Pass were much more dramatic. From the knife-edge pass you can see five lakes on either side of you. In this photo is the largest, Pitamakan Lake, sitting like a sapphire gem almost 800 feet below the pass:

This photo was also taken at Pitamakan Pass. The clouds above Rising Wolf Mountain were quite interesting:

One of my new favorite areas in Glacier is Preston Park, a large, incredibly beautiful alpine meadow, located in the valley between Mt. Siyeh and Matahpi Peak (near Logan Pass):

Of course one of the most popular hikes in Glacier is the Highline Trail. This world famous hike should be on the bucket list of any self respecting hiker. The views, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life. From Logan Pass, high adventure awaits right from the start. Hikers have to walk on a six-foot ledge for roughly a quarter of a mile. One false move and your next stop is on the pavement of the Going-To-The-Sun Road, more than hundred feet below:

99% of the Highline Trail passes through open country, so there's never any dull scenery:

The trail is famous for wildlife as well, especially bighorn sheep and mountain goats. This goat was sitting on a ledge right below the trail when we passed him:

Glacier is also famous for its two backcountry chalets, Sperry and Granite Park. Similar to the LeConte Lodge, the only way to reach these is by foot or horseback. The Granite Park Chalet can be reached via a 7.6 mile hike along the Highline Trail, or a 4.2 mile climb from The Loop area on the Going-To-The-Sun Road:

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Glowing Man

Check out this extremely cool video by Jacob Sutton. The fashion photographer out of London filmed pro snowboarder, Will Hughes, while wearing a LED light suit in France recently. The result is this pretty surreal video:

Glowing Man HD from Jacob Sutton on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail in 7 Days with Andrew Skurka

Fresh off his incredible solo trek around the Alaskan and Yukon bush in 2010, Andrew Skurka is at it again. This past summer he guided Gerry Morton, President and CEO of EnergyFirst, on a 7 day hike along the entire 224-mile John Muir Trail. Averaging 32 miles a day, the two hikers trekked from the Yosemite Valley to the summit of 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48. The video below documents some of the highlights from their adventure.

In recent years Skurka has become known as a hiking and adventure superstar. During his trek around Alaska and the Yukon he traveled roughly 4680 miles in 176 days. This included 1315 miles of skiing, 2100 miles of trekking, and 1270 miles of packrafting.

In addition to his recent Alaskan and John Muir Trail excursions, he's hiked the Appalachian Trail, and in 2007, became the first person to hike the 6875-mile Great Western Loop, which includes the Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails. It's probably safe to say that after all those miles he should be an expert on blisters. Andrew offers some excellent tips on preventing them in the January issue of Backpacker Magazine.

As of today, Skurka is officially an author as well. The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide was officially released today by National Geographic Books, and is available on Amazon. In this how-to guide, Skurka "shares the gear, supplies and skills that will allow you to love hiking, while still remaining safe and comfortable while camping."

Here's the video from the John Muir Trail:

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Glacier Artwork Contest Winners Announced

Glacier National Park and Glacier Association recently announced the winners of the recent postcard and annual park pass artwork contest. The contest was announced in the fall to promote learning about the park and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright said, "We are pleased to share and showcase the artwork of these students. Their images reflect the beauty of the park."

Brian Smith, a senior at Glacier High School, submitted the winning entry in the high school category. His image of Grinnel Point towering over Swiftcurrent Lake and the historic Many Glacier Hotel will be on the 2013 Glacier National Park Annual Park Pass. This pass will be available in January 2013, and approximately 14,000 passes will be issued during the year. The top three winners in the high school category will receive a gift certificate from the association that can be redeemed at any Glacier Association sales outlet, or their on-line store.

Postcards available to the public will feature the first-place winning artwork in three categories from the first through eighth grade entries. The postcards will be available free of charge at Glacier Association bookstores within the park and at the association's headquarters at the historic depot in West Glacier. First and second place winners will receive a gift certificate and the third place winners will receive a book from the association.

Wendy Hill, Glacier Association Executive Director, said, "Through this art contest, we are creating future stewards, future caretakers of the park, to help ensure the longevity of this national treasure." Hill said that this is the fourth year for the contest, but the first year that winning art will be displayed on the annual park pass.

All winning artwork can be found on the park's website.

Patagonia 50% Off Sale on Winter Gear!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Take a Hike (in every National Park)

Many individuals have made it their goal to hike every trail within a national park. For those achieving that goal in the Great Smoky Mountains, for example, they earn the right to become a member of the exclusive 900 Miler Club.

Even more ambitious are those that seek to hike every trail in a national park over the course of just one year. In 2011, Montana resident Jake Bramante became the first person ever to hike all 734 miles of trails in Glacier National Park in only one year.

And then there’s Donna and Mike Guthrie, who have taken it upon themselves to hike at least one trail in every national park in the United States. They plan to achieve this goal by 2016, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, as well as their 70th birthdays. If you consider the logistics of reaching all 58 national parks – from the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, to the Everglades in Florida – the travel alone is an enormous undertaking.

The Colorado Springs couple set their ambitious goal in late 2009 as a way of seeing more of the country. To date, the Guthrie’s have already been to 32 parks, including a winter excursion to Yellowstone earlier this month. They’ve also seen some of the lesser-known parks such as Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, and Dry Tortugas in Florida. However, some of their favorites so far have been Crater Lake in Oregon, and Yosemite in California.

Throughout 2012 they plan to tackle Canyon Lands in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Asked what her favorite hike has been so far, Donna responded; “I think the hike to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier Park. It was an all day hike that was challenging but very doable. And it was worth the climb!”

Their most challenging hikes, they expect, will be in Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks in Alaska. Neither park offers any established trails. Kobuk Valley, in northwestern Alaska, is so isolated that it can only be reached by chartered plane.

Although their plan was hatched a few months before the airing of the Ken Burns documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” the Guthrie’s drew further inspiration from a segment in Episode 4 that featured Margaret and Edward Gehrke. The Lincoln, Nebraska couple traveled thousands of miles while touring the national parks between 1915 and 1939. While Edward snapped photographs, Margaret recorded their adventures in her journals. Just as the Gehrke’s did almost a century ago, the Guthrie’s have been documenting their adventures on their website:

In addition to recording the parks they’ve already visited, the Guthrie’s use their website to seek out suggestions from the public about accommodations, restaurants, trails and “not to be missed sights” in the parks they’ve yet to visit. You can even post a photo or two.

In 2016 they plan to hold a very big party in Estes Park to celebrate their birthdays and their accomplishments. If you happen to earn one of Donna and Mike’s “Take a Hike” caps, by joining them on a hike, you may receive an invite to the party yourself. So far they've given out about 45 hats.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Overexposed: My Strange Life on America's Toughest Trail

Last month Lynne Whelden, lightweight backpacking guru, and veteran of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, published his latest DVD film, "Overexposed: My Strange Life on America's Toughest Trail". This three-hour documentary provides a day by day account of Lynne's border to border adventure on the Continental Divide Trail.

The video is the tenth in a series of hiking and backpacking films that Whelden has produced since the early 1980s. Using a high-definition video camera for the first time, this project took 7 years to complete. Lynne's goal was to bring the glory of the mountains right into your living room.

In his "The Long Distance Hiker" newsletter (winter 2011), Mike Cunningham had this to say: "I will confess that I think that Lynne Whelden is one of, if not THE, finest producers of backpacking/outdoor films."

Cunningham also had this to say about Overexposed: "The photography is exquisite. The scenery is awe-inspiring. The sound track is amazing."

The film is available in regular widescreen format or on blu-ray. For more information on the video, please click here.

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A Conversation with Chas Cartwright

The Glacier National Park Fund is partnering with Grouse Mountain Lodge to co-host Chas Cartwright, Glacier National Park’s Superintendent, on Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 7 p.m. Chas plans to have an informal, open conversation with the audience about the current issues facing Glacier National Park. This program is open to the public and will be held at Grouse Mountain Lodge. Please check the sign in the lobby for the room assignment. Cold beverage refreshments will be provided by the Lodge. Coffee will be provided by Montana Coffee Traders. GML would also like to invite you to come early for their happy hour and dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. before the evening’s presentation.

As superintendent of Glacier National Park, Cartwright is responsible for the management of 1,013,572 acres, a staff of approximately 150 permanent and term employees, 365 to 435 seasonal employees and an annual operating budget of more than $13,700,000. Cartwright began his career with the National Park Service in 1987 at Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and Natural Bridges National Monument as their first archeologist. Since 1989, he has held a number of superintendent positions at several parks - including Dinosaur National Monument, Devils Tower National Monument, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and Hovenweep National Monument. He has also held acting superintendent positions at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument.

For more information, please click here.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Emergency Repairs Completed On Historic Belly River Ranger Station

NPS Digest is reporting this morning that emergency repairs and construction of temporary roofing has been completed on the historic backcountry cabin at the Belly River Ranger Station.

The cabin, located in the northeast portion of the park, was severely damaged during a winter storm in late December or early January. More than half of the roof shingles and a quarter of the roof were blown off by high winds, leaving the cabin directly exposed to rain and snow. A significant amount of snow accumulated inside the structure, resulting in water and ice damage to the flooring, interior finishes, furnishings, and equipment. The storm also damaged a jack-leg fence at the site.

The damage was discovered by a resource management crew conducting work in the area during the second week of January. The crew surveyed the site, removed some of the accumulated snow inside the structure, and moved materials and furnishings for better protection from the weather.

In anticipation of additional damage to the historic and culturally significant structure, including loss of the entire roof and destruction of furnishings and equipment inside the cabin, an emergency response plan was created. A four-person crew and materials were flown to the site via helicopter. The crew removed snow from the building, constructed a temporary roof, heated the cabin with the wood stove to dry out the building and furnishings, and inventoried the site to help prepare for final repairs this summer. After four days of intense work, the crew skied out.

The Belly River Ranger Station was built in 1925 and is a significant cultural resource listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The station has been in use since it was built, housing rangers, trail crews and others. It is an integral part of Glacier’s cultural legacy, and contributes to the unique character of the park’s backcountry landscape. The Belly River Ranger Station complex retains the classic configuration of structures (combination residence and office, barn, woodshed and fire cache) with few intrusions and excellent physical integrity. The locally legendary Joe Cosley, the first Belly River district ranger, lived at this site in the park’s early years.

Support from the Glacier National Park Fund helped with the emergency response plan. The fund assists the park with preservation of historic structures within Glacier and is an official partner of the park. The fund’s mission is to support the preservation of the outstanding natural beauty and cultural heritage of Glacier National Park for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations by fostering public awareness and encouraging private philanthropy. For more information about the Glacier National Park Fund, visit

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Traveling in Glacier during the Early Years of the Park

Last week I posted an article about the historic brochures that are now available for viewing on the National Park Service website. This week I wanted to highlight a couple of interesting tidbits I found in the 1920 and 1936 brochures for Glacier National Park that I thought were quite entertaining.

For example, in the 1920 brochure, visitors were told that "Once off the excellent trails in the developed part of the park (meaning, traveling from hotel to chalets, or from chalets to chalets), the trails are little better than the original game trails."

Following along the trails established by and for the chalet system, the brochure states that;

"The average tourist....usually enters at the east entrance, visits the Two Medicine Lakes, and passes on to St. Mary Lake, believed by many travelers the most beautiful lake in the world. After seeing some of the many charms of this region, he passes on to Lake McDermott (now Swiftcurrent Lake), in the Swiftcurrent Valley. The visitor then usually crosses over the famous Gunsight Pass to the west side, where he usually but foolishly contents himself with a visit to beautiful Lake McDonald and leaves by the Belton entrance."

Interestingly, the Two Medicine Valley was considered to be "one of the best known sections of Glacier." Not anymore. For many visitors, Two Medicine is more or less an afterthought.

We also find out that the "Wild animals are more frequent and tamer". Wow, were they used as circus animals in the off season?!

For all of those addicted to your Iphones and Blackberries, you can rest assure that, "Telegrams may be sent to all parts of the world from Belton and Glacier Park. All hotels will send and receive telegrams by telephone connection with these offices."

Speaking of hotels, in 1920 you could get a room at the Many Glacier Hotel, "with bath, including meals, American plan, per day, per person, $6, $7, $8, $9, and $10."

Modern day guests time-traveling back to 1920 definitely won't need to bring their Ipods:

"At all of the principal hotels in the park dancing is provided each evening for the guests, good music being furnished for this purpose. At some of the chalets there is opportunity for impromptu dancing, as phonographs or pianos are provided for furnishing music."

In 1936, the park brochure offers some pretty sound hiking advice:

"The trip should not be ruined by attempting too much. An average of 2 or 3 miles per hour is good hiking time in the rough park country. One thousand feet of climb per hour is satisfactory progress over average trails. In this rugged country, hikes of 15 miles or more should be attempted only by those who are accustomed to long, hard trips."

Pretty reasonable advice, but then the brochure goes on to warn;

"An attempt at mountain climbing or "stunts" should not be made alone unless one is thoroughly acquainted with the nature of Glacier's mountains and weather. Too often "stunts" result in serious body injuries, or even death, as well as much arduous work for rangers and others."

Were they referring to a young Evel Knievel there?

Did not know about this:

"Shelter cabins have been erected by the Government on Indian, Piegan, and Gunsight Passes. They are equipped with flagstone floors, stoves, and a limited supply of fuel wood. They are for the free use of parties overtaken by storm. Mountain etiquette demands that they not be left in a disorderly state, that no more fuel be consumed than is absolutely necessary, and that their privileges and advantages not be abused."

I found this to be quite interesting on a couple different levels:

"Glacier offers exceptional views to delight the photographer. While the scenic attractions are most commonly photographed, the animals, the flowers, and the picturesque Blackfeet Indians provide interesting subjects. Photographic laboratories are maintained at Many Glacier, Lake McDonald, and Glacier Park Hotels, and at Belton village. Expert information regarding exposures and settings is also available at these places."

Under the large heading "IDEAL PLACE TO SEE AMERICAN INDIANS", we have this information:

"Today the Blackfeet on the reservation adjoining the park on the east remain a pitiful but picturesque remnant of their former pride and glory. They have laid aside their former intense hostility to the whites and have reconciled themselves to the fate of irrepressible civilization. Dressed in colorful native costume, a few families of braves greet the park visitor at Glacier Park Station and Hotel. Here they sing, dance, and tell stories of their former greatness. In these are reflected in a measure the dignity, the nobility, the haughtiness, and the savagery of one of the highest and most interesting of aboriginal American peoples."

On the other hand, reading the rules and regulations from the 1936 guide, I was quite amazed by how enlightened the park was with regards to bears, camping, fires, garbage and general conservation issues at that point in time.

If you enjoy going back in time, these brochures are quite entertaining.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lost Snowboarders Rescued in Grand Teton National Park

NPS Digest is reporting that rangers in Grand Teton National Park conducted their first backcountry search and rescue operation of the 2011/12 winter season on Monday night.

Joe Tauro, 55, and Mike Fasciolli, 36, both from New Jersey, left the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort just before 3 p.m. on Monday. Their plan was to go to the Rock Springs Bowl, but they went the wrong way and ended up in Granite Canyon inside the park instead.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ski Patrol first received notification that they needed help around 7 p.m. Teton County Search and Rescue was notified, and members of that team were able to ping the GPS location of the pair from their cell phone and determine that they were in the park’s backcountry. The Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified of the out-of-bounds boarders at 7:30 p.m. Rangers were able to communicate directly with the duo via cell phone and determine that a search and rescue response was needed based on a medical condition of one of the two men, combined with their inadequate preparation for backcountry travel.

Rangers used a snowmobile to access the mouth of Granite Canyon and reached the pair around 10 p.m. at a location in the lower canyon. Although the snowboarders were not injured or in need of medical aid, they lacked winter backcountry experience and did not possess food, water, lights or the appropriate avalanche gear.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center reported the general avalanche hazard for February 13th to be “moderate” above the 9,000 foot level and “low” for low elevations (6,000-7,500 feet). Backcountry users were also cautioned to be prepared with appropriate emergency equipment and the knowledge and skill of how to use such gear before attempting a winter excursion.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Taking the Hike 734 Presentation on the Road

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

Armchair adventurers now have opportunity to hear first hand what it's like to accomplish such an ambitious feat. Next month Jake will be recounting his adventure through pictures and video at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish, and the University of Montana in Missoula.

Armed with a Canon 7D and bear spray, Bramante captured sweeping panoramas, birds, alpine lakes, elk, grizzlies and moose fighting. Discover how he planned the adventure and executed his goal over 5 months with 89 total hiking days, 1,200 miles of actual hiking, and three pairs of shoes.

On March 1st he will be at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish at 7 p.m. This will also be a fundraiser for the Glacier National Park Fund. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at door (if not sold out).

On Wednesday, February 15th, at 7:30 p.m. he will at the University of Montana in Missoula (in CHCB 131). This event is free.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Glacier’s Grand Loop Hike

Thanks to its topography, excellent trail system, and a favorable location of accommodations, hikers have the opportunity to experience an epic three-day loop in Glacier National Park that includes the absolute best scenery the park has to offer. And as a bonus, it doesn’t require lugging any backpacking equipment around, or camping under the stars. This “grand loop” starts from Logan Pass, visits Granite Park Chalet, drops down into the Many Glacier valley, climbs over Piegan Pass, and then heads back down to Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Every step along this trek offers awe-inspiring beauty!

The best way to do this hike is to park your car at Rising Sun on the east side, or at Apgar on the west, and take the free shuttle up to Logan Pass. From there you’ll hike 7.6 miles along the Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet. Due to its exceptionally beautiful views, the Highline Trail is likely the most popular backcountry trail in the park, and should be on the bucket list of any self-respecting hiker. With an elevation gain of only 975 feet, the hike to the chalet is also relatively easy.

If you feel this first leg of the loop is a little too easy, and you still have a little gas left in the tank, I highly recommend taking the 0.6-mile Garden Wall Trail up to the top of the Continental Divide. From this perch, 900 feet above the Highline Trail, you’ll enjoy commanding views of Grinnell Glacier lying on the other side of the divide.

That night you’ll stay at the historic Granite Park Chalet. The Chalet has 12 guest rooms, each with 2 to 6 bunks. Although very basic, and virtually no amenities, it’s still much better than camping if you’re not a fan of sleeping in tents. Be forewarned though, you will need to make a reservation several months in advance.

The next day you’ll make the short climb over Swiftcurrent Pass before making the 2300-foot descent down to Many Glacier. From the top of the pass, down to the head of Bullhead Lake, the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail drops nearly 2000 feet in just three miles. Once in the Swiftcurrent Valley the trail flattens out substantially. As you proceed down the valley you’ll pass Redrock Falls, Redrock Lake, Fishercap Lake, as well as several alpine meadows. In all, this leg of the trek covers 7.5 miles.

Before leaving Swiftcurrent Pass, however, you do have the option of visiting the Swiftcurrent Fire Lookout. The lookout is perched atop Swiftcurrent Mountain, which requires a climb of more than 900 feet in roughly 1.4 miles. As you might expect the panoramic views from this outpost are quite spectacular.

Once in Many Glacier you’ll have several options for overnight accommodations, including staying at the historic Many Glacier Hotel.

Your third day of hiking will be the longest and the toughest. Hikers will climb roughly 2700 feet as they make their way up to Piegan Pass, before dropping back down to Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The climb out of the Many Glacier Valley is 8.4 miles by itself, and then from Piegan Pass to Siyeh Bend is another 4.4 miles. Although Piegan Pass isn’t nearly as popular as the Highline Trail or Swiftcurrent Pass, it’s only because it’s overlooked by most people. If you still haven’t had enough of the mind-blowing scenery, I highly recommend taking the short and easy side trip out to Preston Park, located roughly 2.4 miles from your end point. I would have to rank this as one of the beautiful alpine meadows I’ve ever seen.

Upon returning to the Going-to-the-Sun Road simply take the shuttle to return back to your car.

The exceptionally beautiful views, the excellent opportunities for spotting wildlife, and the proliferation of wildflowers along most of the route, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember for the rest of your life.

The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for Many Glacier includes the entire route described in this posting. The sectional maps series for Glacier National Park have a scale of 1:50,000, and provide much greater detail such as backcountry campsites, footbridges, stream crossings, water and snow hazard locations, points-of-interest, as well as shuttle stops. All Trails Illustrated Maps are waterproof and tear-resistant.


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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

US Forest Service announces strategy to replace large airtankers for wildfire efforts

The U.S. Forest Service announced this week a strategy, developed with input from the Department of the Interior, to replace the fleet of aging airtankers used to battle wildfires with a next generation of newer, faster, more cost-effective large airtankers.

“We need a core fleet of the next generation large airtankers to supplement our boots-on-the-ground firefighters for what we know will be longer and more severe wildfire seasons in years to come,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Not only will these newer, more effective airtankers help us keep fires contained and communities safe, they will also protect our brave men and women on the fireline.”

Although no large airtanker has been built specifically for firefighting, several aircraft were designed to handle similar stresses. Recommendations for the next generation of airtankers include:

• Capabilities of carrying a minimum of 1,800 gallons of mixed retardant with more than 3,000 gallons preferred.

• A minimum cruise speed of 345 mph for quick fire response over long distance.

• Powering by turbine engines, which are more reliable, more fuel efficient, and require less maintenance than older aircraft piston engines.

• Capabilities of operating from most federal airtanker bases.

• Forest Service contract structural integrity program requirements must be met.

“The effectiveness of airtankers on a wildfire is directly proportional to its speed and load capacity,” Tidwell said. “Large airtankers can be effective in thick forest canopies and areas of dense brush or timber. A larger load capacity also allows large airtankers to split their retardant loads to support different parts of a fire without delay of returning to base.”

The best mix of tools for wildland firefighting includes ground and air resources. However, retardant applied from large airtankers may slow the progress of a wildfire so firefighters on the ground can safely construct a fireline to contain it.

Tidwell noted that as airtankers age, maintenance costs and safety risks rise. The Forest Service’s current large airtanker fleet is at least 50 years old and more than half of the aircraft face mandatory retirement within the next 10 years. The fleet has decreased in size from 43 in 2000 to only 11 under contract today.

Currently all large air tankers are owned and operated under contract by private companies.

The fleet of aircraft that are used for wildland fire suppression also includes water scoopers, single engine airtankers, very large airtankers and helicopters.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Yellowstone Recruiting for 2012 Youth Conservation Corps Program

Imagine having the opportunity to work, learn and play in the world's first national park.

Yellowstone National Park is recruiting for the 2012 Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program, a residential work program for young men and women between the ages of 15 and 18. The program is designed to develop an appreciation for the nation's natural resources and heritage through unique educational, recreational and work experiences.

This summer, Yellowstone will offer two, month-long YCC sessions, June 10 to July 12, and July 15 to August 16. Approximately 40 teenagers from across the country will be randomly selected to participate in each session of the program.

Initiated in 1984, Yellowstone's YCC Program recruits youth from all social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Corps members work together under adult leadership to complete conservation projects such as rehabilitation of trails, campground restoration, and a wide variety of resource management and maintenance projects. Through this experience, participants develop their job and leadership skills while further exploring personal values, gaining self-esteem, expanding their awareness of work ethics, and learning firsthand about environmental and conservation issues.

Corps members will also participate in recreational activities and discover the many options for careers in the National Park Service and other land management agencies. Many of these activities take place in the evenings and on weekends. Activities may include hiking, rafting, fishing, ranger-led programs, enrollee and staff presentations, assisting rangers and/or scientists, seminars with special guest speakers and trips throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

No previous wilderness experience is required, but a willingness and ability to work in a physically active outdoor program, getting along well with others, and maintaining a positive attitude are essential for success.

Participants will be required to live on location, and room and board will be provided at a minimal cost. Wages will be set at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Applicants must be citizens of the United States and be 15 years of age by June 10, but not over 18 years of age by August 16.

For further information and application materials click here. Questions may be directed to the park's YCC Program Manager at (307) 344-2256. Completed application materials must be received no later than March 5, 2011.

The Yellowstone YCC Program is supported by the Yellowstone Park Foundation including generous donations from the men and women of the Loyal Order of the Moose. Since 1989, members of the Moose have generously donated over three million dollars in support of Yellowstone's YCC program.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

A Week In Montana

Check out this awesome video by Preston Kanak and Eric Hines. The two photographers recently spent a week in Montana shooting from various locations around the state:

A Week In Montana from Preston Kanak on Vimeo.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

American Hiking Society Celebrates 20th National Trails Day

Mark this date down on your calendar: the American Hiking Society will be celebrating its 20th National Trails Day (NTD) event on June 2, 2012. The event will bring together outdoor enthusiasts across the country to celebrate America's magnificent trail system and its countless supporters and volunteers. Over 2,000 nationwide events will take place including trail maintenance, hiking, paddling, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, running, trail celebrations and more!

To mark two decades of celebrating and maintaining America’s trails, the 2012 NTD event theme is America’s Largest TRAILgating Party. Move your party off the pavement to where the scenery is greener and the air is fresher. Experience, appreciate, and share the natural places we cherish by connecting with local outdoor clubs, businesses, community groups, and parks and recreation departments as well as federal land managing agencies.

"Twenty years ago, AHS built National Trails Day around the idea that for one day each year we should come together outdoors and give back to our favorite trails,” says Gregory Miller, American Hiking Society president. “Since then, people from all walks of life have been coming out in increasing numbers on NTD to celebrate our trails and the great outdoors.”

To find out more about NTD 2012, or if your community organization would like to learn how to host an event, please contact John Michels, Trail Programs Manager, at or (800) 972-8608 x 208 or visit the American Hiking Society website.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Dress in Glacier National Park (in 1920)

Yesterday I posted a news items about the National Park Service adding another 100 new historical park brochures to the NPS Brochures website. The site already includes several old brochures from Glacier National Park.

I was particularly intrigued by a section of a 1920 brochure that describes how visitors should dress when visiting the park. Here's what it has to say:


As a rule tourists are inclined to carry too much. A very inexpensive and simple outfit is required—old clothes and stout shoes are the rule. For a week's to two weeks' trip, either afoot or horseback, the following list is about all that is required:

1 suit of old clothes.

2 pairs of cotton gloves.

1 sweater or mackinaw wool jacket.

1 old felt hat.

2 suits of wool underwear (medium weight).

1 rubber blanket or raincoat, if on walking tour. Waterproof slickers are furnished free with saddle horses.

3 pairs of wool socks (heavy).

1 pair of stout lace shoes or hunting boots.

1 pair of canvas leggings (if shoes are worn).

The above, together with toilet articles, will go in a compact bundle and can be put in haversack or bag. Women should have either stout shoes or boots and riding trousers or short divided riding skirts.

Essential articles of clothing of good quality, including boots, shoes, haversacks, slickers, blankets, camping equipment, provisions, etc., may be purchased at well-stocked commissaries at Glacier Park Station and at St. Mary and Many Glacier Chalets. The Glacier Park Hotel Co., which operates these commissaries, also makes a practice of renting, at a nominal figure, slickers, riding trousers, mackinaw coats, and other overgarments.

Stores carrying a similar general line of articles most useful in making park trips are located at Belton, Mont., the western entrance to the park, and at Glacier Hotel (Lewis's) at the head of Lake McDonald.

An overnight stopping place is maintained at Christensen's ranch on the Flathead River road about 2 miles south of Logging Creek, where travelers and horses are accommodated. A small store carrying some provisions, principally lunch stuff, cigars, tobacco, and fisherman's supplies, is at the foot of Lake McDonald.

(Hmmm, I guess they didn't have Gore-tex or fleece back then...)

Save 10% on All Outdoor Research Gear!

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

NPS History E-Library Continues to Expand

The NPS History e-Library announced today that they have added 48 new reports to its ever expanding collection of electronic publications. The National Park Service history program will continue to provide on-line electronic editions of studies covering a wide array of new, rare, and hard-to-find materials about our parks and the National Park Service.

To see the entire list of the new additions, please click here.

The NPS History e-Library now has four search engines available for use in finding historical materials. If you can't locate a specific study you can use one of the following search engines.

History e-Library in the IRMA Portal:

History e-Library in NPS Focus:

Quick Links to additional NPS Library and Database sites:

Search the text of publications:

Another 100 new park brochures have also been added to the National Park Service park brochures website, including several from Glacier.

If by chance you have any brochures that are dated prior to 1980 that you do not see on the site, you can send them to for inclusion.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Avalanche Airbag in Action at the Coloradikal Backyard BBQ

The video footage below was caught on January 25th at an unsanctioned snowboard freeride contest near Montezuma, Colorado. It features Pro Snowboarder Meesh Hytner getting caught in a class 3 avalanche. Fortunately she was able to deploy her BCA Float 30 avalanche airbag, which allowed her to remain on the surface for the duration of the slide, and escape the incident without injury.

Videographer Tyler Malay was filming the grassroots event, called the Coloradikal Backyard BBQ, and captured the entire incident.

Most avalanche fatalities are the result of asphyxiation after a skier or snowboarder becomes buried in compacted snow. The majority of time during an avalanche rescue is spent on finding and excavating victims, thus preventing or minimizing burial depth is key to reducing fatalities. One study reports that 92% of victims will be found alive if recovery is accomplished within 15 minutes; however, the survival rate drops to 30% at 35 minutes after burial.

Avalanche airbags are designed to keep winter adventurers at or near the surface during an avalanche.

This video clearly shows how the product works in a real situation:

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Majestic Many Glacier

I think most people would likely agree that Many Glacier is the most scenic area in Glacier National Park. Several of the most memorable hikes in the park begin from this valley.

Many people experience the grandeur of Many Glacier for the first time from the parking lot above the historic Many Glacier Hotel:
From there you can take an easy stroll around Swiftcurrent Lake. It's quite common to see bears and moose in this area:

Iceberg Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier. Below is my wife Kathy as we approach the Ptarmigan Wall, an arĂȘte, or thin ridge of rock separating two valleys that have been carved by glaciers:

Of course you can't name a lake "Iceberg Lake" if you don't have any icebergs floating around:

The other extremely popular hike in Many Glacier is the one to Grinnell Glacier. The 300-acre glacier sits below Mt. Gould and the Continental Divide:

Due to the glacier retreating in recent decades, the melting ice has created a new lake next to the glacier:

Although not quite as popular as Iceberg and Grinnell Glacier, the hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel is one that should not be passed up. The highlight of the hike is passing through the 240-foot tunnel, which cuts a hole through the Ptarmigan Wall. The tunnel was built for horses and early park tours by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's, so that visitors could pass over into the remote Belly River area.
After hiking all day in the Many Glacier Valley, walking to the other side of the tunnel is like walking into another world. Just beyond the tunnel the trail hugs the red rock cliffs below Crowfeet Mountain:
The views from the other side are simply stunning. You can see Old Sun Glacier on the slopes of Mt. Merritt, Natoas Peak, and the Belly River as it flows into Elizabeth Lake more than 2300 feet below you:

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Trekking the Wild North

Trekking the Wild North with Andrew Skurka. Some of you may recall that name. Andrew was named an "Adventurer of the Year" by Outside in 2010, the "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Society in 2007, and the "Person of the Year" by Backpacker in 2005. He's best known, perhaps, for his 2010 solo trek around the Alaskan and Yukon bush. His adventure deep into the wild north was roughly 4680 miles in length, including 1315 miles of skiing, 2100 miles of trekking, and 1270 miles of packrafting, and took him 176 days to complete.

Last March Skurka gave a presentation about his trek at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington D.C. During his discussion he shared photos and video clips from his adventure with the audience. The video below is from that presentation. Although it's fairly long when compared to most online videos, anyone who enjoys the outdoors, or has ever dreamed of doing their own big adventure, will likely enjoy this:

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter Outings in Glacier National Park with GNPF

The Glacier National Park Fund will offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing outings in Glacier National Park this winter. The purpose of each outing is to get some exercise and to take-in the beauty of Glacier National Park in the winter. There will be no formal interpretation so if you are interested in learning about Glacier in winter, check out the Park’s free ranger-led weekend programs or the Glacier Institute’s in depth courses. All GNPF winter outings are open to the public and will meet at the GNPF office in Columbia Falls. Please note that park entrance fees are required for all participants.

Outings are scheduled for:

• February 10th – snowshoeing
• February 24th – snowshoeing
• March 9th – cross-country skiing
• March 16th – snowshoeing
• March 23rd – cross-country skiing

All outings are weather dependent, will be on the west side of the Park and will last about 3 hours with breaks included. The time frame and distance will depend on the group, how everyone is feeling that day and the weather conditions. Call the Fund at 406-892-3250 for more information and to sign up for any of these outings. The full schedule and details are posted on GNPF’s website.

All participants are asked to be prepared. Winter weather conditions in Glacier are often unpredictable and can change rapidly so participants need to be prepared for any type of weather. It is suggested that you bring a backpack, your own water and sack lunch/snacks, winter hat, gloves, waterproof pants, sturdy waterproof boots, snowshoes or cross-country skis, poles, something waterproof to sit on while taking breaks, a camera and whatever else you might need.

The Glacier National Park Fund is the non-profit fund raising partner for Glacier National Park. Their mission is to preserve and protect the natural beauty and heritage of the Park for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. For further information about the Fund, call 406-892-3250 or go to

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Yellowstone Releases Lake Area Plan For Public Review

A plan to chart the future of the Lake area of Yellowstone National Park has been released for public review.

This section of the northwest shore of Yellowstone Lake is known for its spawning streams and grizzly bear habitat. It is also home to iconic historic structures such as the Lake Hotel and the Fishing Bridge Museum.

The Lake Area Comprehensive Plan Environmental Assessment addresses and puts limits on what kind, where, and how much future development could occur at Lake Village, Fishing Bridge, and Bridge Bay.

This plan addresses changes in resource conditions, recently identified needs, and aging infrastructure such as 70 year old water and sewer lines.

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 writing to the Lake Comprehensive Plan EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

Park staff members will hold a series of public meetings during the 30-day public review period to answer questions about the plan:

- Wednesday, Feb. 8 in Cody WY: Holiday Inn, 1702 Sheridan Ave.
- Wednesday, Feb. 15 in Bozeman, Montana: Hilton Garden Inn, 2023 Commerce Way
- Thursday, Feb. 16 in Jackson, WY: The Lexington (Formerly the Trapper Inn), 285 N. Cache

Each public meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a short presentation, and will continue with an open house format until 8:00 p.m.

Written comments may be submitted through the PEPC web site, in person, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, March 2, 2012.

Once comments are analyzed, the National Park Service will make a decision on the final plan. Details of the decision will be contained in the decision document signed by the Regional Director of the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service. The decision document will be made available on the previously mentioned website.

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Public Open Houses Scheduled in February for Long-Term Winter Use Plan in Yellowstone

The National Park Service (NPS) continues working on a long-term plan to guide winter use in Yellowstone National Park. The NPS and the park will host a series of open houses in February during a scoping period for that plan.

In May 2011, the NPS released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review on the potential effects of the plan for motorized oversnow travel in the park. After months of public comment and review, the NPS decided additional study was needed before putting a long-term plan in place. While the final plan is being developed, the NPS chose to manage snowmobile and snowcoach access in the park this winter under the same transition plan used the previous two winters.

The NPS is preparing a Supplemental EIS to create a final winter management plan to take effect with the 2012-2013 winter season. Among the subjects identified for further analysis in the Supplemental EIS are requirements for entry into the park by 10:30 a.m. daily, sound and air quality computer modeling assumptions, "best available technology" standards for snowcoaches, the impacts of Sylvan Pass avalanche hazard mitigation, and opportunities for park access by non-commercially guided snowmobile groups.

The first step in developing the Supplemental EIS is to ask for further public comment and suggestions on potential approaches to winter use, including any additional issues not yet discussed. This process, known as public scoping, will officially open for a 30 day period upon the publication of a Notice of Intent, which is expected to appear in the Federal Register in the next few days.

The NPS has released a draft range of alternatives for public review and comment during scoping. The alternatives cover a wide range of possible approaches to winter uses in the park.

The "no-action" alternative would eliminate all snowmobile and snowcoach travel in the park after the end of the current winter season. A second alternative looks at continuing winter operations at the present temporary limits, plus analysis of limited access for non-commercially guided snowmobiles. Under a third alternative, park roads from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful would be plowed to allow commercially operated, wheeled vehicles into the park. Also under consideration is a proposal to phase out snowmobiles and allow motorized entry by snowcoaches alone. This alternative includes analysis of closing the park's east entrance over Sylvan Pass to motorized oversnow use.

Two other draft alternatives would take a new and different approach to winter use: Regulating park entry according to the number of "sound events" created by snowcoaches or guided snowmobile groups, rather than by specific numbers of snowcoaches or snowmobiles. One of these alternatives also assesses the effects of two-week 'shoulder seasons', where entrance to the park during the first two and last two weeks of the season would be via wheeled vehicles or rubber-tracked snowcoaches.

Park staff members will host a series of open houses during the scoping period to answer questions about winter use issues, the draft alternatives, and the process of preparing the supplemental EIS:

- Monday, Feb. 13 in Cody WY: Holiday Inn, 1702 Sheridan Ave.
- Tuesday, Feb. 14 in Jackson, WY: The Virginian Lodge, 750 W. Broadway
- Wednesday, Feb. 15 in West Yellowstone, MT: Holiday Inn, 315 Yellowstone Ave.
- Thursday Feb. 16 in Bozeman, MT: Holiday Inn, 5 Baxter Lane

All four open houses will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Additional details on the Supplemental EIS, the draft range of alternatives, and an electronic form to submit comments can be found on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website, or by writing to Winter Use Supplemental EIS, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190.

Written comments may be submitted through the PEPC website, in person at either the open houses or at park headquarters, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted over the phone, by fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight MST 30 days from the beginning of the comment period.

Park staff members will analyze the scoping comments and other additional information as they refine the draft alternatives and prepare the Supplemental EIS. That new document is expected to be released for public review and comment in spring 2012. The NPS intends to have a final Supplemental EIS, a Record of Decision, and a long-term regulation for winter use in Yellowstone in place before the mid-December start of the 2012-2013 winter season.

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