Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sperry Chalet to Open One Week Early - Rooms Available!

Kevin from the Sperry Chalet just posted this announcement on the Sperry Chalet website yesterday:

Good news from Sperry Chalet! We will now be opening a week earlier than previously planned. The new July 12 opening date has created many more opportunities to visit the Glacier Park backcountry this summer. Sorry about the short notice, but if you can make it we would love for you to stay with us.

We are predicting that there will be lingering snow at chalet elevations well into July. So if you can join us between the 12th and the 18th, be sure to come prepared for snowy conditions with your waterproof boots, extra socks and your trekking poles. The Sperry Glacier trail is also certain to have lots of snow cover as well as Gunsight Pass. If you are not an expert mountaineer with the appropriate equipment and skills for high exposure snow crossing, you should probably avoid the Gunsight Pass trail until August.

And a special thank you goes out to the hardworking staff of Glacier National Park! The carpentry shop, the plumbing shop, and all their laborers and workers plus the administrators and organizers have done a fabulous job of keeping Sperry Chalet in tip top condition. Thanks to their help, the beautiful old Sperry Chalet will be able to stand up to old man winter and continue serving hikers for many years to come.

We will see you in the mountains soon!

For more information on hiking the trail to Sperry Chalet, from Lake McDonald, please click here. For general information on the chalet, including some historical background on Glacier's backcountry chalets, please click here.

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Video: Proper Use of Bear Spray

While hiking in Glacier National Park, or any wilderness area that has grizzly bears, your best line of defense in the unlikely event of an attack is bear spray. According to one study, bear spray is 95% effective in stopping a bear attack, while firearms are only 55% effective.

Below is a demonstration on how to properly use bear spray. The video also includes a reenactment of Mark Matheny's bear attack in 1992. Mark went on to found the UDAP Pepper Spray company.

In a January 2012 Backpacker Magazine article, Dave Parker, a certified bear spray safety trainer, is quoted as saying that:

"If an animal comes within 50 feet, use your spray. If the bear isn’t running, point the nozzle about 30 feet away, and fire a series of one-to-two-second bursts. If it’s charging, point the spray at the bear’s chest and hold the trigger until the can is fully discharged. Out of spray and the grizzly is still charging? Don’t run, lay on your stomach, cover your head, and play dead."

Jamie Jonkel, a bear management specialist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, offers some additional advice:

"If a bear charges from a distance, spray a two to three second burst in the direction of the bear. Experts recommend bear spray with a minimum spray distance of 25 feet.

Point the canister slightly down and spray with a slight side-to-side motion. This distributes an expanding cloud of spray that the bear must pass through before it gets close to you. Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you.

Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge. Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.

If you have a sudden close encounter with a bear, spray at the front of the bear. Continue spraying until the bear either breaks off its charge or is going to make contact."

For more information on hiking in bear country, including how to avoid a surprise encounter, please click here.

If you need to purchase bear spray for an upcoming hiking trip, please click here.

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Fire Restrictions in Effect for Yellowstone National Park

Continued hot, dry weather, fire activity in the region, and the current fire danger rating of Very High has prompted Yellowstone National Park to implement temporary fire restrictions effective noon Friday, June 29, 2012.

• Lighting, building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire of any kind is prohibited in the backcountry including established campsites. Campfires are only allowed in an established fire grate at front country campgrounds, picnic areas, or housing areas. Use of portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, or use of a fully enclosed sheepherder type stove with a spark arrester screen is permitted.

• Smoking is prohibited in the backcountry and on all trails. It is permissible in the front country only in an enclosed vehicle or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

• All are reminded that the discharge of fireworks in Yellowstone National Park is prohibited and subject to penalties including fines and jail time.

Anyone negligently or willfully starting a wildland fire can be held responsible for the costs of the fire and charged with a crime.

To report any wildland fire observed in Yellowstone National Park please call 911.

These temporary restrictions are designed to protect people, property, and the area's natural resources. They will remain in place until further notice and may be elevated, relaxed or rescinded at any time due to changes in weather and fire danger.

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Partial Fire Restrictions in Effect for Grand Tetons Area

Based upon a current fire danger rating of High and regional fire conditions, Teton Interagency fire managers announced today that partial fire restrictions will begin tomorrow for Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Teton County will also implement similar restrictions.

Fire managers study the moisture content of various fuel types, track current and expected weather conditions, and monitor available fire-fighting resources, as well as the occurrence of human-caused fires, to determine when fire restrictions need to be applied to public lands.

Partial fire restrictions include:

• Lighting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, barbecue or grill is allowed only at designated recreation sites such as established campgrounds or picnic areas. Use of portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, or use of a fully enclosed sheepherder type stove with a spark arrester screen is permitted.

• Smoking is allowed only in an enclosed vehicle, building (unless otherwise prohibited), developed recreation site, or while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials (i.e. parking lots, developed campsites, or locations surrounded by water).

• Operating a chainsaw is prohibited in national parks. Operating a chainsaw on national forest lands is permitted only when equipped with a USDA or SAE approved spark arrester that is properly installed and in effective working order. Operators must also carry a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2A and one round point shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

• Discharge of fireworks and use of explosives requiring blasting caps are prohibited

• Welding is prohibited in national parks. For national forest locations, welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame is only allowed in cleared areas of at least 10 feet in diameter. A chemical pressurized fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of at least 2A must be at the location.

Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, and/or by imprisonment for more than six months.

Unattended or abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires, and it is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should NEVER leave a fire unattended, and should prepare for the unexpected by having a water bucket and shovel on hand and ready to use. The fine for an abandoned campfire is $225, but campers can also be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, visitors and local residents alike are reminded that fireworks are NOT permitted in Grand Teton National Park, on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, or in Teton County. It is essential that everyone comply with this regulation, especially given the current fire danger rating and tinder-dry conditions.

To report a fire or smoke in either area, call 307-739-3630.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Rehabilitation Work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road Continues this Summer

Rehabilitation work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park continues this summer with construction occurring between Avalanche Creek and Logan Creek (3.5miles), and Haystack Creek to Big Bend (2 miles). To date, over nine miles of the road, including sections between Logan Creek to the West Tunnel and Siyeh Bend to Big Bend, were completed in 2011. By the end of the 2012 season, it is anticipated that the alpine section of the road will be completely rehabilitated, and the section between Avalanche Creek and Logan Creek should be completed by the end of the 2013 season.

The alpine rehabilitation includes new pavement from Logan Creek on the west side to Siyeh Bend on the east side. The project includes almost 12,000 feet of new masonry guard wall, as well as retaining wall and slope stabilization features. Gutters and culverts, improving drainage, are being installed and much subgrade stabilization is being completed. A total of almost 6,000 feet of new timber guard rail, fixed and removable, will be installed. The rails are designed to withstand vehicle impacts, and are strategically located based on safety and avalanche hazards. Almost 30% of the project cost and time to date has involved stone masonry work. The stone masonry materials were salvaged from demolition of existing structures and along the road, while minor amounts were selectively obtained outside the park. Maintaining the historic character of the road is a priority of the rehabilitation project. Weather conditions and weather-related repairs, including a short season to conduct the work, have been challenging aspects of the project.

Visitors traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road can expect 30 minute maximum traffic delays on the west side of the park this summer and no delay on the east side. Night closures on the road due to construction are not expected, but advance notification will be provided in the unlikely event they occur. Construction zones will look similar to what visitors have seen over the last several years: one way travel with flaggers or pilot cars guiding vehicles through active work zones. During non-work periods, weekends and after work hours, traffic lights will guide traffic through construction sites.

Logan Pass will be accessible through Sunday, October 21 from the east side, and to allow for accelerated rehabilitation work this fall, the last day to access Logan Pass from the west side will be Sunday, September 16. This year is anticipated to be the last west-side early fall closure due to road rehabilitation work, and then the work will shift to the east side of the road below Siyeh Bend. Early fall closures are anticipated through 2015 on the east side.

To date, approximately $130 million has been directed to Going-to-the-Sun Road project, including engineering, design, and construction management, under the Federal Lands Highway Program (FLHP) and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Approximately $40 million is still needed to finish the non-alpine sections of the road.

As an option for visitors traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road during rehabilitation, the park established a shuttle system in 2007. The shuttle system provides two-way service between the Apgar Transit Center and St. Mary Visitor Center. The shuttle system is funded using a portion of park entrance fee revenue, with no additional cost to riders. It is an optional system departing approximately every 30 minutes on the west side and every 40-60 minutes on the east side of the park. The shuttle system is operated through a cooperative agreement with Flathead County Eagle Transit System. This year the shuttle service starts July 1 and runs through September 3. Pets are not allowed on the shuttles, other than service animals.

The Apgar Transit Center is the shuttle hub on the west side of the park. The first two shuttles of the day are express trips straight to Logan Pass, without intermediate stops, departing at 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Regular shuttle service for all stops on the west side of the park departs the Transit Center at 8:00 a.m. The St. Mary Visitor Center is the transit hub for the east side. East side shuttles begin service at the visitor center starting at 7:30 a.m. Visitors will need to transfer one, or two, times to travel from one end of the route to the other. The last shuttles leave Logan Pass at 7:00 p.m.

For more information about the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the rehabilitation project, or the shuttle system, visit the park's website. For general travel information on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, including link to trailheads along the route, please click here.

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No Fireworks at Montana State Parks

Visiting a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks site on the July Fourth weekend is a great idea—just leave the fireworks at home.

FWP Director Joe Maurier urged Montanans to be extremely cautious with fire of any kind this holiday weekend.

"Montana's 2012 fire season is off to a fast start. When recreating please be sure to check local conditions and be aware of any fire restrictions put in place," Maurier said.

Maurier said fireworks are illegal on FWP sites including fishing access sites, wildlife management areas and other sites April through September.

At Montana State Parks fireworks are not allowed at any time of the year. Please also obey all local rules posted on-site.

Anyone using fireworks on FWP lands may be charged with a misdemeanor that can result in a fine.

Under Montana's administrative rules campfires, where campfires are allowed, must be confined to designated fireplaces or fire rings maintained for such purposes.

For updates on fire and drought conditions, click here.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Glacial Lakes in Grand Teton

Glacial Lakes in Grand Teton is the fourth in a series of four videos called, From Valley to Peak. The films were recently completed by Jackson-based videographers Jesse Ryan and Ryan Christopher of New Thought Media on behalf of Grand Teton National Park Foundation and Grand Teton Association:

You can also check out the three other videos in the series: Day and Night in Grand Teton; Weather in Grand Teton; and Color Change in Grand Teton.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Glacier Trail Status Updates

Now that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open, many people are beginning to visit Glacier National Park. And, with the 4th of July holiday just around the corner, hikers will be seeking to hit the trail as well.

The following is a round-up of the current status for some of the more popular trails in the park. Unfortunately, with the heavy amounts of spring snow, many of the trails in the high country are still a couple of weeks away from opening:

As of 6/24, the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail in Many Glacier is now clear of snow and downed trees.

6/22/12: The trail to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook is snow free for the first 1.5 miles, however, travel beyond is not recommended due to steep hazardous snow crossings.

The Highline Trail from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet is scheduled for initial clearing on 7/5/12.

6/22/12: The Hidden Lake Trail is still 100% snow covered, but the trail is marked with yellow stakes to the Overlook. You should expect steep slippery snow at the moraine near Hidden Pass.

The Piegan Pass Trail from Siyeh Bend, is scheduled for initial clearing in July.

6/23/12: The trail to Sperry Chalet still has 30% snow cover. As of 6/12, the trail was cleared to the top of the switchbacks approximately 1 mile below the Chalet. There was 100% snow cover over the last mile.

The trail from No Name Lake Junction to Dawson Pass is scheduled for initial clearing of downfall in July.

The trail from the South Shore Trail Junction to Cobalt Lake is scheduled for initial clearing of downfall in July.

The trail from Old Man Lake Junction to Pitamakin Pass is scheduled for initial clearing of downfall in August.

6/22/12: The trail to Scenic Point is free of snow until reaching the high point of trail, where a snow hazard exists.

Many of the trails listed above are at the higher elevations in the park. However, many trails at lower elevations are already open. For the latest updates on all trails in the park, please click here.

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Yellowstone visitor gored after failing to yield to approaching bison - thrown 10 feet in the air!

Blooming wildflowers and sparkling geysers remain a perennial display of Mother Nature's own Fourth of July fireworks in Yellowstone National Park. The chance to see abundant wildlife up close and personal also brings thousands of visitors to the park over the summer holiday season.

Sometimes those encounters can get a little too close and personal, as was the case this past Saturday, when a male visitor from Massachusetts in his mid 50s was gored by a bull bison near the Norris Campground.

Though not deliberately taunting the animal, the man instead simply let the bison approach to within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away. The chance for a more brazen view resulted in the man suffering a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, several ribs and a groin injury when he was tossed nearly 10 feet in the air and pinned to the ground. He was airlifted to a hospital in Idaho Falls, ID and is expected to recover.

The animals, which typically weigh between 1,000 pounds for females and 2,000 pounds for males, often congregate near roads and other developed areas where Yellowstone’s 3.5 million annual visitors gather.

Yellowstone officials are reminding park visitors that wildlife are, in fact, wild. Intentionally approaching or disturbing animals is a violation of park regulations, which could ultimately lead to the death of the animal involved. Park rules require that you stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves at all times, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals including elk and bison. If an animal approaches you, it is your responsibility to move a safe distance away, not the animal's.

Park rangers vigorously enforce these regulations that are designed to protect both people and animals. Visitors are also reminded to be vigilant at all times with proper food storage by keeping food, garbage, coolers and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or food storage boxes. Those hiking are also advised to stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, carry bear spray and to be alert for wildlife. The best defense against attacks is to stay a safe distance from wildlife and use your binoculars, spotting scope or telephoto lens to get a closer look, and never feed, approach, disturb or entice wildlife, including birds, in any way.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Migratory Week at Montana Wild

The Montana Wild Education Center will host a week of family activities July 9-13, highlighting Montana's migratory fish and wildlife species and their amazing stories.

All programs will be at Montana Wild, 2668 Broadwater Ave, next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West.

This week of free programs includes:

Monday, July 9, 9-11 a.m. — Live raptors will be present, followed by related activities for youth ages 8-12.

Tuesday, July 10, 6:30-7:30 p.m. — "Mr. Wildlife” Vince Yannone will speak on fish migration.

Wednesday, July 11, 8:30-9:30 a.m. — In Spring Meadow Lake State Park, a guided bird walk will provide opportunities to observe the avian fauna of the area.

Thursday, July 12, 7-8 p.m. — Andrew Jakes, post doctoral candidate from the University of Calgary, will share his research on North Eastern Montana’s amazing migratory pronghorn antelope.

Friday, July 13, 10-11 a.m.—Montana's least known migratory animals will be explored in a presentation for youth ages @@ and older.

Friday night, July 13, 9-10 p.m.—a bat walk led by Matt Bell.

For details and to register, contact Montana Wild at 406-444-9944.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Canada Day: Free Admission at Waterton Lakes National Park

This coming Sunday, July 1st, is Canada Day. In celebration of the Constitution Act of 1867, which united three colonies into a single country, Waterton Lakes National Park will be offering Free Admission.

The northern half of the first International Peace Park will also be offering several events in conjunction with Canada's Birthday celebration:

• 12.30 Bike parade - meet at the community field with your decorated bike.

• 1.00 Grand opening of the Waterton Community Centre and flag-raising ceremony. Free cake & lemonade; $3 hot dog lunch; children's activities.

• 2.00 Bertha Falls walk - meet at Bertha Falls trailhead.

• 3.00 Blakiston Falls walk - meet at Red Rock Canyon.

• 3.00 Cameron Lakeshore stroll - meet at Cameron Lake parking lot.

• 8.00 Falls Theatre: Where There's a Wolverine, There's a Way.

• 8.00 Crandell Theatre: A Bear's Nose Knows!

For more information on visiting Waterton Lakes, please click here.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

New Report Finds Annual Spending on Outdoor Recreation Reaches $646 Billion, Employs 6.1 Million

A report released last week by the Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) shows that outdoor recreation is a major economic driver in the United States — and one that has grown throughout the recession. According to The Outdoor Recreation Economy report, more than 140 million Americans engage in outdoor activities each year, directly delivering $646 billion to the economy and supporting 6.1 million domestic jobs.

This new study reinforces what the outdoor industry has known for a long time — outdoor recreation is a larger and more critical sector of the American economy than most people realize.

The outdoor recreation economy is responsible for:

* 6.1 million direct American jobs
* $646 billion in direct consumer spending
* $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue
* $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue

“During a time when some American industries are struggling, we are seeing solid growth,” said Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports and chair of the OIA Board of Directors. “Since 2005, the outdoor recreation economy has grown approximately 5% annually. In fact, outdoor recreation supports a significant number of jobs, on par with — or, in some cases, more than — other sizeable American industries.”

America is recognized globally as the leader in outdoor recreation. CEOs from leading outdoor recreation companies are calling on policymakers to take action to promote this critical component of the American economy.

“Outdoor recreation directly fuels major sectors of the American economy like manufacturing, hospitality and transportation. Just like any other sector of the U.S. economy, outdoor recreation needs support to continue to thrive,” said Manzer.

“This is the definition of a win-win scenario,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA. “In this country today, we’re battling an economic recession, a healthcare crisis, and we’re trying to create safe and sustainable places for families to live. The outdoor industry provides solutions for all of this. We need to come up with a strategy to protect the industry, its jobs and our customers.”

The outdoor industry can continue to be a growing jobs generator and an economic driver in the United States if parks, waters and trails are managed as a system designed to sustain these economic dividends for America.

For a full copy of the report, please click here.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Details Released on Collision between Vehicle and Grizzly Bear in Grand Tetons

An ongoing investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers, with assistance from Wyoming Highway Patrol, has clarified the circumstances around a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a young male grizzly bear on June 21. The driver of the vehicle, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania man, sustained minor injuries and his sedan incurred significant damage.

The preliminary investigation has determined that a southbound vehicle slightly swerved to avoid a young grizzly bear that was trying to cross the highway. That unexpected maneuver caused the northbound vehicle to also swerve, over correct, and veer off into the sagebrush on the west side of Highway 26/89/191. At some point while the vehicle careened through the sage, it collided with the bear-the animal was not struck on the road surface. The vehicle came to rest about 80 feet off the road. Findings from the accident scene reconstruction suggest that neither vehicle was speeding at the time of the incident. The daytime speed limit on this highway is 55 mph.

The young bear was still breathing when park rangers arrived at the scene, but died shortly thereafter.

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Understanding Survival

In this episode of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife outdoor survival video series, outdoor expert Peter Kummerfeldt discusses weather, lightning and altitude:

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Young Grizzly Bear Killed by Vehicle in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton officials announced that a young male grizzly bear was killed by a motorist yesterday morning on Highway 26/89/191, about 1 mile south of Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park. The circumstances of the collision are under investigation by park rangers. The driver of the vehicle that struck the bear sustained minor injuries and was transported by park ambulance to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming.

A passerby called 911 to report a single vehicle roll-over. Once on scene, park rangers confirmed that a bear had been hit and died from its injuries. Park rangers remind drivers to be extra vigilant on park roads during the busy summer season as it is not uncommon for drivers to be distracted while attempting to view wildlife or scenery while operating their vehicle. The driver of the vehicle that hit the bear told rangers he was swerving to avoid hitting another vehicle that had stopped in the road and was attempting a U-turn to view the bear.

Grand Teton National Park biologists are collecting various samples from the young bear including hair and tissue samples, and a tooth to determine the age of the bear. Biologists will submit a hair sample for DNA testing to determine if this bear is a yearling cub of tagged bear 399.

This is the first bear fatality caused by a vehicle on park roads this year. Each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more bears (grizzly and/or black bears) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal. In the past six years, vehicle-related deaths of bears include:

2006 - one black bear
2007 - two black bears and one grizzly bear cub
2009 - one black bear
2010 - one grizzly bear, one black bear cub, and one black bear cub and two other bears (unverified species) that were injured but left the scene
2011 - two black bears

These encounters between vehicles and bears - among other wildlife accidents - serve as a reminder that animals actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife, or those viewing wildlife, along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits-especially at night-can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to bears, other wildlife such as wolves, elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines may also be encountered on or near park roads.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a motor vehicle operator is required to report an accident involving property damage, personal injury, or death - which includes the injury or death of wildlife.

Vehicles take a significant toll on park wildlife, resulting in the deaths of well over 100 animals per year.

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How would like to be a Backpack Field Tester?

Tahoe Mountain Sports and Boreas Gear are teaming up to get real-world feedback from hikers, bikers, campers and climbers across the country on the unique, innovative backpacks from Boreas Gear.

Five testers will be selected to put a Boreas pack to the test – whether it’s on a week-long backpacking trip or daily bicycle commute – whatever you’re adventure is, Tahoe Mountain Sports wants to know how the Boreas Backpack performs. Just head to the Tahoe Mountain Sports Facebook Page and tell them what you propose to do with a new Boreas pack.

“We’re looking for testers who can really take advantage of what our packs have to offer – whether you’re planning a big backpacking trip, you need a great day pack to haul around climbing equipment, or you live on your bike,” said Anders Johnson, sales manager with Boreas Gear.

Check out the full line of Boreas Gear backpacks to see which pack would be best for you to test, and get creative! Pack selection subject to availability.

Tahoe Mountain Sports pick five testers on July 6 and send them packs for field testing. The testers will then send 500 to 1,000 word reviews with a minimum of three photographs to Tahoe Mountain Sports by August 15th. By completing the review and photos, testers will get to keep their new Boreas pack!

“We’re excited about Boreas packs, and we want to help get the word out by putting these in the hands and on the backs of real-world users,” said Dave Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

US Forest Service adds four heavy helicopters to support wildfire suppression

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced earlier this week that the agency is adding four heavy helicopters to the aviation firefighting fleet.

The helicopters will be available this summer for large fire support and initial attack to any location in the United States.

The U.S. Forest Service successfully suppresses about 98% of the approximately 10,000 wildfires that occur each year on National Forest System lands.

Two of the heavy helicopters are S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.; one is an S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.; and one is an S-70 owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla.

Helicopters are used primarily for dropping retardant or water during wildland fires, supporting the actions of firefighters on the ground. The additional helicopter assets will strengthen the agency’s capability to respond effectively to fire activity during the summer wildfire season.

The Forest Service can respond vigorously to wildfire with an array of assets that includes more than 15,000 USDA and Department of the Interior firefighters (about 70% from the Forest Service) and up to 950 engines, 14 large airtankers, eight Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, one very large (DC-10) airtanker, 300 call-when-needed helicopters, and a mix of type 1, 2, and 3 helicopters.

On June 13, the agency awarded exclusive use contracts for seven "Next Generation" airtankers. Three will be operational in 2012 and four in 2013. This is the first step in implementing the Large Airtanker Modernization Strategy, which was submitted to Congress in February and recommends 18 to 28 large airtankers.

The Forest Service uses many tools for wildland fire suppression including accelerated restoration efforts that include thinning and other fuels treatments. Restoration of National Forest System lands are critically needed to address a number of threats to the health of forest ecosystems, watersheds, and forest dependent communities.

This year, as in the past, firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial attack capabilities.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Video: Hiking the Highline

Steve Salis narrates this 15.3-mile classic trek that takes him across the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet, over Swiftcurrent Pass, and then down to Redrock Falls before finishing his epic hike at Many Glacier:

If making plans to visit Glacier National Park this summer, be sure to visit our accommodations page to help with your lodging needs.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road is now open

Glacier National Park just announced on their website that all 50 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are now open to vehicle travel, thus allowing access to Logan Pass.

Park road crews have encountered a minimum of 35 inches of new snow from multiple spring storms since Memorial Day Weekend, creating some challenging conditions to plow and ultimately open access to Logan Pass.

It is anticipated that the Logan Pass Visitor Center and rest rooms will be open, but potable water at Logan Pass will not be available until later in the week. New rest room facilities below the visitor center were constructed last year and will be available for use. The visitor center will be open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including a bookstore managed by park partner Glacier Association.

Visitors will discover a snow-covered landscape at Logan Pass. Winter weather may be encountered with cold temperatures and wind, freezing temperatures at night, as well as icy conditions. The trails are covered in snow and visitors should exercise caution when walking on snow. Be aware of unseen holes in the snow and snow bridges that exist. The Highline Trail from Logan Pass is closed due to snow conditions.

Rehabilitation work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road will continue this year with construction on the west side occurring between Avalanche Creek and Logan Creek (3.5 miles) and between Haystack Creek and Big Bend (2 miles). Visitors can expect 30-minute maximum traffic delays on the west side of the park this summer and no delays on the east side.

The opening of Logan Pass marks the end of current hiker/biker access. Bicyclists are reminded that bicycle restrictions are in effect on the Going-to-the-Sun-Road due to traffic congestion now through Labor Day, September 3. Bicycles are prohibited between Apgar Campground and Sprague Creek Campground from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, bicycles are prohibited eastbound (uphill) between Logan Creek and Logan Pass from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information on bicycle restrictions and average bicycle times, check the park newspaper, the Waterton-Glacier Guide, which can be accessed online here.

The park's free optional shuttle system that provides shuttle services along the Going-to-the-Sun Road will begin operations on July 1. The shuttle system is intended to minimize impacts on visitors throughout the multi -year rehabilitation project on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. For more information on the shuttle system, please click here.

For current information on park roads, weather conditions, and visitor services visit Glacier National Park's website or call park headquarters at 406-888-7800.

For more information on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, including locations of trails along the road, please click here.

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Tower, Canyon Area Road Projects Scheduled for Summer

Road and parking area improvement projects in Yellowstone National Park's Tower Junction and Canyon Village areas are scheduled to begin the first week of July, though little impact is expected on park visitors enjoying the summer season.

The contract to reconstruct and widen a 2.5-mile stretch of road between Tower Junction and Tower Fall and reconstruct the Canyon Village parking lot has been awarded to HK Contractors, Inc., of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Also included will be the replacement of the Obsidian Creek Bridge at the Indian Creek Campground.

Expected closures/impacts with these projects include:

Tower Road: Early July - Mid September, closed nightly 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Expect 30-minute delays during open hours. Mid September - Early November, full closure. Road closure points will be at Tower Junction next to the Roosevelt Corral and just north of Chittenden Road between Tower and Canyon Village. Overnight visitors in the Tower Fall campground will be allowed entry or exit during closure hours for an emergency situation only. During closures, access to Mount Washburn via trail will still be available from the Chittenden Road and Dunraven Pass trailheads.

Canyon Village Main Parking Area: Construction will occur in four sections -- one section at a time - in order to keep day-use parking available in the remaining three sections of the parking area serving the Visitor Education Center, lodge and stores. The entire parking lot (all four sections) will be closed nightly from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. All stores will remain open for business during their normal operating hours.

Obsidian Creek Bridge (Indian Creek Campground): Construction will occur after the campground closes for the season September 4.

The Tower Road has not been reconstructed since 1939. Also included in this project will be the improvement of pullouts, major retaining wall repairs and the addition of ADA-accessible routes to viewpoints along the Calcite Springs overlook. The current Canyon Village parking area is 55 years old. The historic Obsidian Creek Bridge was built in 1911. It is being redesigned to retain the character of the original bridge, while safely accommodating today's modern recreational vehicles.

The Obsidian Creek Bridge project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The Tower and Canyon projects are expected to be completed by October 2013.

A complete list of facility and road closures can be found on the park website. Updated Yellowstone National Park road information is available 24 hours a day by calling 307-344-2117.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Canoe Capsized and Hiker Falls on Snowfield in Glacier NP

Glacier National Park Rangers responded to two serious incidents this past weekend involving an injured hiker and a capsized canoe.

On Friday, June 15, eight individuals were climbing Mount Sinopah near Two Medicine Lake on the east side of the park. At approximately 6 p.m. one of the hikers, a 21-year old female, fell on a snowfield and was unable to self arrest, or stop the fall. The individual slid on approximately 200 feet of snow and then slid through approximately 10 feet of cliff bands at the bottom of the snowfield. The hiker only had general day-hiking gear. Two of the individuals from the hiking group traveled approximately four miles to the Glacier Park Boat Company on Two Medicine Lake to report the incident. Park rangers responded and encountered the injured hiker and the rest of the hiking party at a trail junction below Mount Sinopah. Park rangers assessed the injuries and transported the injured hiker by boat to the Two Medicine Boat Dock where an ambulance was waiting. The hiker had minor injuries.

On Saturday afternoon, June 16, employees of the Glacier Park Boat Company reported a capsized canoe and two people in the water on Lake McDonald. The boat company employees rescued the individuals from the water and transported them to the Lake McDonald Lodge where rangers assessed their condition and transported the individuals to their vehicle. The rangers also retrieved the canoe and returned it to the individuals. The boaters were wearing life jackets.

Hikers and climbers visiting some of the higher elevations in the park should expect snow and ice, 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.

Park visitors are also reminded to be prepared for cold, high and fast moving waters in the park during spring and early summer. Always wear a life jacket when boating, and use caution when crossing or stepping near bodies of water.

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Sign Up For Becoming An Outdoors Woman Workshops

Women interested in learning the basics of fly fishing, bird watching and wild plants will want to sign up for this year's Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park's Becoming an Outdoors Woman program equips women of all ages with the outdoor skills they need to enjoy outdoor activities—and to get their families into the outdoors.

Here are descriptions of some upcoming workshops:

Birding in Montana - June 22-24

Birders of all ages, especially beginners, are invited to enjoy the great bird watching opportunities in the class location near the Mission Mountains. Come enjoy easy-going bird walks at the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge area and the National Bison Range while Audubon members and biologists share the knowledge you need to become a better birder.

Beartooth Botany – July 14

Explore the Beartooth Plateau near Red Lodge as you learn about the vast assortment of flowers and native plants that thrive in this high elevation area. We’ll drive and hike along Beartooth Highway 212 between Red Lodge and Cooke City to view plants in a variety of habitats and landscapes. This class is designed for those with little or no formal plant identification experience.

Don't miss the free evening program in Red Lodge on July 13 that will provide background on basic plant terminology, parts of the plant, and helpful guides.

For details and to register for these two workshops, visit the FWP website at on the Education page. Or contact Liz Lodman at FWP by phone 406-444-9940, email:

Workshops in the offing include: Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Plains, Mt. on July 21 and the annual Summer BOW Workshop Aug. 17-19 near Bigfork.

For more on Becoming an Outdoors Woman, please click here.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spare the life of a Young Wild Animal

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks is asking everyone to leave young wild animals alone.

Every spring FWP biologists, wardens and other field personnel begin to hear stories of how an "abandoned" newborn wild animal was "rescued." Unfortunately, in most cases this means the rescuer separated the young animal from a nearby parent.

"If you care, leave them there," is FWP's annual advice this time of year. The hope is to spare newborn wildlife the sad fate of being separated from the only parent capable of teaching it to live free in the wild.

Please do not photograph, move or attempt to feed newborn wildlife. Always keep dogs on leash when recreating outdoors this time of year and be aware of ground nests.

To protect Montana's deer and elk from the impending threat of Chronic Wasting Disease, FWP is unable to accept, hold, or rehabilitate deer and elk. Should someone bring a deer fawn to FWP, it must be returned to the site where it was found, or euthanized.

Other wildlife species, such as birds and small mammals, are also best left in the wild. Usually, young animals picked up by humans can’t be rehabilitated, and they are often abandoned by adult animals once humans have become involved.

Numerous incidents have shown that a newborn wild animal's best chance at survival and a quality life occurs if you care enough to leave them where they are.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Defining Survival

Below is the first in a series of outdoor survival videos, produced by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, that I will be posting on this blog over the next several weeks. Each episode deals with a different aspect of survival in the outdoors. Although the videos are geared towards hunters and fishermen, the excellent advice and tips they provide are applicable to anyone who ventures into the wilderness, including hikers and backpackers. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to surviving any number of events that could happen while in the wilderness.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Gardiner Revitalization Partnership Project Unveiled

A plan to revitalize Montana's historic, year-round entrance to Yellowstone National Park was unveiled today at Arch Park in the gateway community of Gardiner.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk were among the many dignitaries on hand for the signing of the historic partnership agreement. Fifteen federal, state, local, and non-profit groups have all agreed to work together to help revitalize the Gardiner Gateway to the world's first national park.

"This agreement calls for all the partners to work together, cooperatively, to make this historic, iconic park entrance a more memorable experience for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year", said Governor Schweitzer. "The community of Gardiner and businesses in the gateway area will reap additional economic benefits from the revitalization and future generations will continue to see the benefits of the Montana Gardiner Gateway Project for years to come."

The project is the result of an effort on the part of the National Park Service to improve traffic circulation and enhance visitor safety along Park Street and the North Entrance. In addition, the Gardiner Gateway Project will enhance the experience of visitors to Gardiner and the North Entrance, through beautification of the area, increased visitor services, and additional economic opportunities for Gardiner and Park County.

Representatives of the groups signing the Memorandum of Understanding arrived at Arch Park in a Yellowstone Stagecoach and vintage Yellow Bus, escorted by local riders on horseback. After the remarks, the group traveled the short distance to the Roosevelt Arch for the historic signing of the agreement.

Both the community of Gardiner and Yellowstone National Park are seeking funding sources to begin work on their respective aspects of the project. The goal is to have components of the revitalization project completed by 2016, which marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service.

For more information on the project, please click here.

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Living With Mountain Lions

The Montana Wild Education Center will host the next in a series of "Wild Thursdays" programs on June 21, 7-8 p.m., at 2668 Broadwater Ave, next to Spring Meadow Lake State Park off Highway 12 West.

Retired Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Research Biologist Rich DeSimone will present "Mountain Lion Ecology, Research and Safety." Come learn about mountain lion behavior and how to safely live and recreate in mountain lion habitat.

DeSimone, a nationally recognized mountain lion biologist, spent 13 years researching the mountain lion population in the Blackfoot drainage. During his study, 121 mountain lions were captured and radio-collared to learn more about the effects of human hunting on lion ecology.

DeSimone's more than 30 years with FWP also included work with waterfowl and elk.

For more on this free program, call Montana Wild at 444-9944.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Glacier National Park Ranger-Led Activities Begin

It must be summer! The schedule for the ranger-led activities in Glacier National Park through July 7 has just been released. The activities include a variety of hikes, talks, boat tours, demonstrations, and evening programs. Hour-long to day-long hikes led by rangers are offered in many areas of the park, including Lake McDonald Valley, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Goat Haunt. Most programs are free of charge. The schedule of activities is available here, or may be obtained when entering the park.

Ranger-led programs cover a wide range of topics. Visitors are encouraged to discover the role fire plays in the surrounding ecosystem and explore the impacts of the 2003 Robert Fire by joining "Fire in Glacier Walk." This activity is a moderate two-mile hike beginning at the Rocky Point Trailhead north of the Fish Creek Campground. Visitors may view diverse habitats near the shores of Two Medicine Lake on the "Nature Hike," an easy one-hour hike led twice a week geared for the whole family. For a more challenging hiking experience, the public may participate in "Heart of Glacier," a moderately strenuous 10-mile hike that usually visits Iceberg Lake in the Many Glacier area.

Visitors, especially families, are encouraged to visit the Discovery Cabin, a historic cabin with hands-on activities and displays located near the Apgar Visitor Center. Rangers and volunteers are available to share information about the park's predators and prey, and provide an opportunity to touch a grizzly bear's claw or a wolf's coat. On the east side of the park, join the "Connecting Art with Nature" demonstration at the historic 1913 Ranger Station east of the St. Mary Visitor Center. Visitors can help paint a park mural with this year's volunteer artist. The 2011 mural, "Touched by Glacier," is featured on the 2012 annual park pass with artwork from over 700 visitors and park staff.

Glacier National Park's Junior Ranger Program provides a unique opportunity for children to experience the park. Free junior ranger activity guides are available for children of all ages, including a pre-reader version for younger children. The program offers an opportunity to explore the park, learn about park resources and discover how to protect the park for the future. After completion of the various activities, children will earn a junior ranger badge and certificate. Interested participants in the junior ranger program can stop by any of the visitor centers within the park, or the Discovery Cabin in Apgar Village.

Visitors are reminded to be prepared when participating in ranger-led activities, especially guided hikes. Sturdy foot wear, such as boots with ankle support, is essential for hiking. Bring plenty of water and food for the length of the hike. Weather can change quickly, so be prepared by dressing in layers and bring raingear. Children are welcome at all interpretive programs, but should be accompanied by an adult.

For more information on ranger-led activities in Glacier National Park, visit the park's website or call 406-888-7800.

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Yellowstone Park to Conduct Safety Checks on Commercial Vehicles

Yellowstone National Park announced today that rangers and state and federal transportation officials will be conducting safety evaluations of commercial vehicles and operators traveling in the park throughout the summer season.

These inspections are designed to ensure the safe operation and mechanical soundness of commercial buses and trucks on Yellowstone's roadways, which helps protect visitors, park employees and park resources from potential mishaps. Both the vehicle and the driver are evaluated in order to ensure full compliance with federal regulations that govern commercial vehicle operation.

This is the 14th year of the interagency inspection program. It has resulted in a significant decrease in the most serious "out-of-service" violations, which require that either a commercial vehicle or a commercial driver be taken off the road due to serious mechanical or driver-specific violations.

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The $25,000 Banff National Park Big Mountain Challenge

Imagine reaching some of the most iconic and breathtaking summits in Banff National Park, surrounded by glacier-clad peaks, deep forested valleys and turquoise alpine lakes. Three summits in seven days may be a tall order and a dream trip for most - yet this dream will become reality later this summer when a winner and companion will take on the challenge of earning up to $25,000 for their favourite charity.

Just in time to kick off the summer hiking season in Banff National Park, outdoor adventurers across Canada and the United States are invited to compete in this unique opportunity to enjoy some of Canada's classic hiking, while raising awareness and funds for a charitable cause.

The Banff National Park Big Mountain Challenge opens up to contestants on June 11, 2012, when entrants will be asked to share a photo on Facebook showing how they are preparing for this epic challenge. The winner will be selected based on their creativity and their ability to collect 'votes' on a special contest site,

"Revered by alpinists the world over, the Canadian Rockies, the hamlet of Lake Louise and the town of Banff are truly deserving of the title 'Canada's hiking capital'," said Julie Canning, President and CEO of Banff Lake Louise Tourism. "The Big Mountain Challenge is a great opportunity for people to reach new personal goals, both physically and charitably."

The successful challenger will be announced on August 3, 2012 and be given two weeks to raise pledges of support to be matched up to $5000. Upon completing the three summits in seven days, the challenger will earn a guaranteed $15,000 for their charity of choice and up to an additional $10,000 based on pledges.

Completing The Banff National Park Big Mountain Challenge will also bestow huge complimentary bragging rights. These are some of the finest and most captivating peaks in the Canadian Rockies: Mount Temple towering over the Lake Louise region, Cascade Mountain staring straight down at the town of Banff, and Sulphur Mountain, one of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park. Some much deserved down time between these classic hikes will be enjoyed at two of the world's most iconic hotels.

The Banff National Park Big Mountain Challenge will take place August 27 through September 4, 2012. The total prize package for travel to Banff National Park includes:

* Round-trip airfare for two to Calgary, Alberta and transportation to Banff National Park.

* Eight nights' luxury accommodation at The Fairmont Banff Springs and The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

* Spa treatments at the exclusive Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Banff Springs.

* Certified Mountain Guides for all three hikes.

* A Parks Canada Discovery Pass.

The Banff National Park Big Mountain Challenge is presented by Banff Lake Louise Tourism with generous support from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Parks Canada. The contest is open to all residents of the U.S. and Canada 18 years of age or over (excluding residents of Quebec).

For additional details about The Banff National Park Big Mountain Challenge, please visit

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Glacier Institute Offers Summer Programs

The Glacier Institute, an official partner of Glacier National Park, hosts several adult field courses and youth science adventure programs in the park throughout the summer. Visitors and locals are encouraged to connect with the park through one of the programs.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright said, "We value the educational programming that the Glacier Institute offers about the natural and cultural resources of the park." Since 1983, the Institute has emphasized field-based learning experiences for children and adults. The programs are objective and science based regarding the area's ecology and its interaction with people.

A sample of the Glacier Institute's 2012 programming in the park includes:

Field Courses

* The Uncommon Loon - June 22
* Glacier's Grizzlies and Black Bears - July 6
* Wolverines of Glacier - July 23
* Melting Glaciers and Climate Change - August 6-7
* Geology Along the Highline - September 5

Youth Adventure Series (ages 6-11)

* Wilderness Skills - June 29/July 27
* Fire in the Forest - July 13/August 10
* Predators & Prey - July 6/August 3

Each course includes tuition for instruction, materials and transportation. The Glacier Institute also offers overnight youth science adventure camps at the Big Creek Educational Center on the Flathead National Forest, focused for ages 7-16. For more information on educational courses with the Glacier Institute please contact 406-755-1211 or visit

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Logan Pass Expected to Open Next Week

Access to Logan Pass via the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is anticipated to be available to the public by the middle of next week. A weekend storm dumped another 10 inches of snow prompting additional snow slides on the road.

Since Memorial Day Weekend, a minimum of 35 inches of snow has fallen at the higher elevations of the road. Glacier National Park Deputy Superintendent Kym Hall said, "Our goal has been to open access to Logan Pass by mid-June and we believe we can accomplish that by the middle of next week, weather dependent." Hall said, "The weather has been challenging the past couple of weeks, but the plowing crew has put in extra time and done an exceptional job to provide mid-June access."

Work continues as crews plow the Big Drift, a 25-30 feet drift located about a fourth of a mile east of the Logan Pass Visitor Center. After plowing through the Big Drift, crews anticipate they will encounter approximately 10-12 inches of ice. Crews are also removing snow and debris from recent snow slide activity, clearing snow along the road edges for two-lane travel, and plowing the parking lot at the visitor center. Many areas had to be plowed again after the weekend snowfall. Park trail and campground crews are assisting with the hand shoveling around the visitor center, restroom facility, and walkways at Logan Pass.

Hall said, "In addition to all the snow removal, crews have to install hundreds of guard rails along the road." She said installation of the removable guard rails is time consuming, but necessary. The rails are removed each fall due to avalanche activity that can destroy them during the winter.

Currently, 29 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open to vehicle travel. Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.

It is anticipated that weekend hiker/biker access will be limited to Bird Woman Falls Overlook on the west side and Siyeh Bend on the east side. Hiker/biker access may change day to day dependent on snow removal and road rehabilitation work. Visitors are encouraged to check the park website. Hikers and bikers should always be on alert for construction hazards and avalanche danger.

For photos and plowing status, as well as information on all park road conditions, visit the park's webpage. Information on the webpage is updated as conditions change. Visitors may also visit the park's Facebook page or call park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for current road and weather conditions.

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New Edition of Most Popular Hiking Guide for Glacier Just Released

FalconGuides has just released the latest and greatest edition of Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, the most popular trail guide for Glacier National Park.

Written by Erik Molvar, this comprehensive guide provides details for more than 60 hikes, from short nature hikes to backcountry treks, and includes trail descriptions, elevation profiles, best hiking seasons, difficulty ratings, average hiking times, GPS-compatible maps, and hikes suited to every ability. This new edition is fully updated and revised to include color photos and GPS coordinates of all trailheads and backcountry campgrounds.

Eric Molvar is the author of more than a dozen FalconGuides, and is a wildlife biologist for the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Wyoming. For more information on the book, please click here.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Tips for keeping your cool this summer

Summer hiking season is already upon us. Anyone who has ever been to Glacier National Park during the summer knows how hot it can get in the Northern Rockies. I’d like to offer some tips for beating the heat during the summer months.

Before we dive into anything else, I would like to emphasize that the most important thing about hiking during the summer is staying properly hydrated. Hiking in hot, dry weather depletes your body of liquids. To replace lost fluids and electrolytes you need to drink frequently. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you’ll more than likely already be dehydrated. The more dehydrated you become, the less efficient your body is at cooling itself down, thus making your body become less efficient at walking.

Make sure you take plenty of water or some type of sports drink with you on any hike. Sports drinks are excellent sources of liquids because they replace both fluids and electrolytes. Good old Gatorade gets the job done for me.

You can sweat anywhere from 1/2 to 1 quart of fluid for every hour you walk in the heat. This fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed 3 quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight and during the hottest time of the day.

When it's really hot, my wife and I will fill a couple of water bottles about half-way and stick them in the freezer the night before. Then, just before leaving for our hike the next day, we'll top-off the bottles with cold water. This way we'll have cool water to drink for a much longer time on the trail. Please note that you don't want to put a full bottle of water in the freezer as it will crack the plastic.

If you’re thinking about drinking water from the backcountry, know that it must be treated for Giardia lamblia, a parasite that can cause an intestinal infection with a variety of symptoms. To avoid this infection, boil water for at least one minute or use a filter capable of removing particles as small as 1 micron.

To help offset the effects of fatigue, bring a lunch and/or snack with you. Food is your body's primary source for fuel and salts (electrolytes) while hiking. Try eating a salty snack every time you take a drink.

Finally, stay away from sodas and alcohol as they will only promote dehydration.

Besides staying properly hydrated, there are a few other things you can do to help avoid over-heating while out on the trail.

For one, go slowly and rest often. Also, try hiking in the early morning as this is coolest part of the day.

Summer also provides a great opportunity to explore trails at the higher elevations in the park where it’s naturally cooler. Keep in mind, however, that the summer season can bring thunderstorms to Glacier. Never ascend above tree line when there’s lightning in the vicinity. If you’re already above tree line when a thunderstorm approaches you’ll want to descend immediately.

Wear moisture-wicking clothing made of polypropylene or polyester to carry sweat and moisture away from your body. Moisture-wicking material keeps you dryer, cooler and more comfortable than a sweat-soaked cotton shirt. It’s also a good idea to wear light colored clothing because it tends to reflect heat away from your body.

Wearing a hat - a baseball hat, or, preferably, a wide-brimmed hat - will help protect your face and neck from the sun. Don’t forget sunscreen either. Sun-burned skin makes you feel hotter.

Finally, you should be aware of heat related health issues on the trail. As part of your first aid training you should know the signs for heat exhaustion, heatstroke and even hyponatremia; and know what to do if someone in your party has any of these signs.

* For additional safety tips, please click here.

* To make sure you have all the essentials before heading out on the trail, please review our hiking checklist.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

National Parks From Space

Most of you are likely aware, or have seen photos of earth taken from the space shuttle or the International Space Station. However, did you know that NASA has a collection of photos featuring various national parks around the country? To be honest, many of the photos weren't all that impressive, in my opinion. There are a couple, such as Death Valley, or Crater Lake and North Cascades, that are quite compelling. However, the one photo that I was extremely impressed with was that of Grand Teton National Park:

To see other space photos of national parks you can browse through the NASA image gallery.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Teen Dies after fall from Inspiration Point in Yellowstone

An 18-year-old woman died yesterday in an accidental fall near Inspiration Point in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The woman, a Yellowstone concession employee on her first day in the park, was hiking the canyon's North Rim Trail with three other acquaintances when she ventured out off trail onto a loose rock promontory, which quickly gave way underneath her.

Yellowstone Rangers responded to a 911 cell phone call received at 5:44 p.m. Thursday, reporting a woman had fallen into the canyon. Rangers with the assistance of ground spotters and a Teton Interagency helicopter observed the woman's body resting approximately 400 feet down the canyon wall. They concluded that she had sustained non-survivable injuries.

Despite the hazardous terrain, the body was successfully recovered from the canyon by short-haul helicopter operation at approximately noon today.

The victim's identity is being withheld until next of kin can be notified.

Visitors are reminded that hiking close to canyon rims in the park is extremely dangerous. Staying on posted, designated canyon rim trails is a must due to the instability of loose dirt and rock near ledges.

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Missoula Ranger District to Spray Trees in Rattlesnake NRA

The Missoula Ranger District will spray approximately 1000 trees with the insecticide carbaryl along a three mile section of the main Rattlesnake Trail (Trail 515) beginning as early as June 13 to protect the trees from attack by mountain pine beetles, which have killed scores of trees in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Only the largest trees, 15 inches in diameter or greater, will be sprayed. The spraying will take place over two weekdays and will be weather dependent.

Recreationists and others will be restricted from the areas of the main trail where the work is ongoing or where it was recently completed to protect against exposure to the insecticide. District employees will be posted at trail junctions and at the main trailhead to advise and educate members of the public of the spraying and trail restriction.

To protect trees within a buffer area adjacent to Rattlesnake Creek where spraying will not be done, employees will attach verbenone packets to trees to repel mountain pine beetles. Spraying will not be done within a buffer of six feet in elevation and 130 feet horizontally from Rattlesnake Creek.

The spraying will begin at 5:30 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. over the two day period. Portions of the main trail will be open to the public, depending on the location of the ongoing or completed spraying.

Signs advising the public of the spraying and pending closure dates will be posted at the main Rattlesnake trailhead once weather conditions allow for spraying and a start date is selected.

For current information on the spraying, please contact the Missoula Ranger District office at (406) 329-3814.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rangers Conduct First Mountain SAR of Season in Grand Tetons

Grand Teton National Park rangers conducted the first short-haul rescue of the 2012 summer season late in the afternoon on Wednesday, June 6. Danielle Mendicino, 21, of Las Vegas, Nevada was attempting to summit Albright Peak (10,552 ft.) with a climbing partner when she slipped on snow and fell approximately 50 feet before coming to rest in a rocky talus field.

Park rangers were completing a day of short-haul training when Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received the call for help just before 5 p.m. Two rangers boarded a Teton Interagency contract helicopter from the training site and accompanied the pilot for a reconnaissance flight of Albright Peak and the Death Canyon area. During the initial flight, the pilot and rangers located the injured climber and determined they would land the helicopter on the summit of Albright Peak. At 5:50 p.m. one ranger exited the ship on the summit and descended about 750 feet, reaching Mendicino at 6:10 p.m.

Once on scene, the ranger stabilized Mendicino's injuries and prepared her for a short-haul extraction in an aerial evacuation suit. At 7:05 p.m. Mendicino was flown via short-haul to the historic White Grass Dude Ranch where she was met by a park ambulance just five minutes later and transported to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. Mendicino's injuries prevented her from hiking out on her own. Rangers estimated that it would have likely taken 12 rangers approximately 10 hours to perform a ground evacuation over rough, steep, and difficult terrain, exposing many more rangers to the hazardous terrain.

Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual is suspended below the helicopter on a 100 to 200 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain. Patients are typically flown out via short-haul with a ranger attending to them below the helicopter, as was the case for this rescue.

Mendicino was carrying an ice axe, but was unable to self-arrest. Additionally, Mendicino was not properly equipped for her intended trip; she was wearing tennis shoes, and did not have experience on snow.

Officials warn that backcountry users should be in good physical condition and stick to hikes and routes that are within their ability and comfort levels. Appropriate equipment, and the knowledge of how to use it, is essential for a safe trip. Rangers remind backcountry users that variable snow conditions persist above 9,000 feet. Hikers, climbers and skiers should also note that most accidents involve slips on snow or ice, and most occur on the descent at the end of the day. Users are advised to stop in or call a visitor center or ranger station on the day of travel to obtain the most current trail, route and snow conditions.

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Yellowstone National Park Solicits Comments For Buffalo Plateau Trail Project

Yellowstone National Park is soliciting comments for a proposed project to do routine rehabilitation work on a portion of the Buffalo Plateau Trail. The project will focus on the section of the trail between the Slough (pronounced "slew") Creek Junction and the north boundary of the park. This section of trail is almost entirely in the Buffalo Creek drainage. If funded, the project will take place during the summer of 2013.

The main intent of the project will be to re-establish surface tread and erosion control devices on the trail. This will be accomplished with the construction of a rock base and mineral soil trail surface. Crews will also install a system of water bars and retainers to limit erosion on the trail and retain tread material. The entire project will consist of work in the current alignment of the trail and will not involve any new route construction.

The project is being considered for funding by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Recreational Trails Program, and would be directed by National Park Service staff in partnership with the Montana Conservation Corps.

Written comments should be received no later than July 5, 2012. Comments can be emailed to; or mailed to Bill Hopkins, Backcountry Trails Office, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Get Outdoors in a National Park! -- Free Entrance at all 397 National Parks this Saturday

Get a head start on your summer fun with free admission to any national park this Saturday, June 9th. In celebration of National Get Outdoors Day, all 397 national parks will waive entrance fees for the day.

“Outdoor physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and national parks are great places to get out, experience nature, and get your heart pumping,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “There are so many things to see and do in a park, either on your own or on a guided tour. Stroll a battlefield, hike to a waterfall, observe wildlife, paddle a waterway, walk on the beach, or enjoy a picnic. There’s something for everyone in America’s national parks. We hope to see you on Saturday.”

National Get Outdoors Day is part of Great Outdoors Month, proclaimed by the President to encourage Americans, especially youth, to participate in outdoor activities and enjoy the beauty of public lands. Hundreds of organizations and businesses will partner with Federal, state, and local agencies to provide fun and healthy events at sites throughout the country.

A complete list of sites hosting National Get Outdoors Day activities can be found here.

The National Park Service will have four more entrance fee free days in 2012 – September 29 (National Public Lands Day) and November 10 to 12 (Veterans Day weekend). There are 133 parks that normally charge entrance fees ranging from $3 to $25. However, there are 264 national parks that never charge entrance fees.

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