Saturday, September 28, 2013


Iceland - what a beautiful country! Watching this short timelapse video, I was amazed by how much of the terrain looked like some of the scenery you would see in the Rocky Mountain west. This video was shot by Eric Hines during a 17-day, 4000-mile adventure around the country this past June during the midnight sun.

I would absolutely love to visit this country someday:

Expedition Iceland from Eric Hines on Vimeo.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Ride the Red Rock

Next Saturday is your opportunity to "Ride the Red Rock" in Waterton Lakes National Park.

On Saturday, October 5th, Waterton Lakes National Park will close the Red Rock Parkway to all motor vehicle traffic during the morning. You can ride as far as your interest takes you - just a short distance, or all the way to Red Rock Canyon and back (19 miles / 30 km round-trip). There will be refreshments and cyclist support along the way.

After the ride, participants can return to Pass Creek to relax and refuel with a BBQ kindly provided by Wieners of Waterton.

Helmets are mandatory for anyone under 18, and highly recommended for everyone else. Children should come with a legal guardian.

Need a bike? You can call Pat’s at 1-403-859-2266 to rent one!

If interested, participants should meet at Pass Creek at 9 a.m.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Glacier Institute Celebrates 30th Anniversary

This Saturday the Glacier Institute will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary with a party at the Big Creek Outdoor Education Center.

The community is invited to commemorate the anniversary. The special celebration event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 28th at the Big Creek Outdoor Education Center, located at 6500 North Fork Road, approximately 21 miles north of Columbia Falls.

The event will feature live music, complimentary lunch, education stations, facility tours and activities for kids. A short program will take place at 12:15 p.m. Lunch will be served immediately following the program. A scavenger hunt will take place at 1:15 p.m.

Additionally, the folks at Desert Mountain Brewing & Draughthaus have donated a keg of Red Eagle Irish Red Ale to the celebration - so you can't beat that!

Admission into the event is free. Donations will be collected to support The Glacier Institute.

For more information about the Glacier Institute, please click here.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What happened to the other 7 backcountry chalets in Glacier National Park?

Did you know that there were a total of nine backcountry chalets in Glacier National Park at one point? You're probably already aware of Sperry and Granite Park Chalets. So, what ever happened to the other seven chalets?

In the early 1900s some Americans were becoming alarmed over the increased spending of American dollars on European travel. While discussing Glacier one day, Senator "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman of South Carolina stated: "It is very ridiculous to me to see the amount of money spent by Americans to see the scenery of Europe without having first seen what we have at home." This concern provided one of the motivations for creating a national park at Glacier. Having an "American Alps," or a "Switzerland of the United States," such as Glacier, allowed America to compete against Canadian and European resorts and tourist attractions.

The Great Northern Railway also played an extremely important role in the establishment of Glacier as a national park during this time period as well. The Great Northern had constructed a rail line along the southern edge of Glacier, and saw the establishment of a national park as a way of increasing passengers on their trains, which in-turn would help to increase their revenues.

So, it was against this backdrop that the president of the Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill, began building a number of hotels and chalets throughout the park in the 1910s as a way of promoting tourism. These buildings were modeled on Swiss architecture as part of Hill's plan to portray Glacier as the "American Alps" or "America's Switzerland". Included in this project was a network of nine European-style chalet complexes. Thus, leaving from one of Hill's luxury lodges, guests could hike or ride to one these rustic chalets in less than a day.

The Two Medicine Chalet:

The chalets, built between 1910 and 1915, included Sperry, Granite Park, Cut Bank, Goat Haunt, Going-to-the-Sun (Sun Point), St. Mary, Gunsight Lake, Many Glacier, and one of the Two-Medicine Chalets (the other was converted into a store, which is still in use today). In their prime, several of the Chalets would host as many as 100 to 150 guests per night.

The Sun Chalets:
Today, only Sperry and Granite Park remain. Both owe their survival to the use of native stone as their primary construction material. The masonry of these chalets made it possible to withstand Montana’s brutal winters. In contrast, the wooden structures of the other chalets deteriorated so badly that many had to be razed during the late 1940s.

The St. Mary Chalet:
The first chalet to meet its demise was Gunsight Lake when it was destroyed by an avalanche in 1916. The Many Glacier Chalets burned down during a massive forest fire in 1936. During WWII the remainder of the chalets were closed. The lack of use during the war years forced a reassessment of the facilities, and by 1944 park officials agreed that the St. Mary Chalet was no longer necessary, and was subsequently destroyed. Similarly, the chalets at Cut Bank and Sun Point were regarded as "beyond repair" and an "eyesore," and were destroyed by 1949. Finally, the structure used for lodging at Two-Medicine was razed and burned in 1956.

It’s a shame that America had to lose these historic structures. Too bad the Great Northern Railway didn’t have the foresight to build more of the chalets out of native stone. Modern day hikers would have even more overnight destinations from which to consider - without having to rough it!.

For a more in-depth history on this era, I highly recommend View with a Room, which traces the creation and use of the Great Northern Railway’s hotels and chalet colonies in Glacier National Park, and includes many historic photographs.


Ramble On (2nd edition book on the rich history of hiking)
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Albright Visitor Center at Yellowstone Receives an Upgrade

The Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs will be upgraded over the coming months to be retrofit for seismic activity and bring better accessibility to the building.

The facility was originally built as bachelor officer’s quarters by the United States Army in 1909. Named after Horace Albright, the first Superintendent for Yellowstone and the second Director for the National Park Service, the building had been through a variety of uses before officially becoming the Albright Visitor Center in 1979.

Yellowstone National Park often encounters the unique challenge of adaptive use while protecting the historical structures. The current project will involve a seismic retrofit of the existing historic stone building, as well as, addressing some accessibility and life safety concerns. The seismic retrofit requires the installation of a steel frame inside the structure and attaching the frame to the stonework.

In addition to the structural changes, the exhibits will also be receiving a makeover. While each visitor center throughout the park has a specific focus, this visitor center will feature exhibits on park history and the Northern Range area of Yellowstone, with its diverse and abundant wildlife. A new and dynamic orientation area with interactive displays will offer enhanced trip planning information for visitors. Rounding out the services that will be available in the renovated facility is a backcountry permit office where hikers can obtain permits and up to date information for backcountry trip planning. The park’s nonprofit cooperating association, the Yellowstone Association, will operate a bookstore in which visitors will find a variety of educational materials about Yellowstone and the surrounding region.

Swank Enterprises, which also completed the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center and the Mammoth Justice Center, plans to complete the project by spring of 2015. The projected opening date for the new visitor center is the summer of 2015. During the project, the visitor center operations will be relocated into a temporary building located nearby. All visitor services, including the Yellowstone Association store, will continue in the temporary location.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

GNP Video: Mountain Goat Study Begins at Logan Pass

Glacier National Park, in partnership with the University of Montana, has begun a three-year research study on how mountain goats are affected by roads, people and trails in the Logan Pass area. The research is a critical component of the current Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management planning effort, as human-wildlife interactions within the corridor are an identified issue of concern. Interactions between humans and goats are increasing in the Logan Pass area, creating potential unhealthy and unsafe conditions.

Here's short video from Glacier National Park that provides a nice overview of the program:

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Open House to Focus on Flathead National Forest Assessment

The Flathead National Forest is hosting an open house on Thursday, October 3, 2013, at the Supervisor’s Office (650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT) from 5 PM to 8 PM. The event will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with Forest Service specialists working on an assessment of the Flathead National Forest, the first phase of forest plan revision.

The Flathead National Forest is embarking on a multi-year process to update its forest plan, the document that guides management of your public lands. The forest plan provides direction for managing resources and activities such as recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, vegetation and timber production. Forest plan revision is achieved in a three-phase process: assessment, revision, and monitoring. The assessment evaluates existing information about relevant ecological, economic, and social conditions and trends. It also looks at the land management plan within the context of the broader landscape. The 2012 National Forest System land management planning rule calls for an enhanced commitment to collaboration and public engagement throughout the revision process.

As part of the assessment phase, the forest has been hosting a series of public field trips focusing on subject matter important to the forest plan revision effort. The final trip is scheduled for September 26, 2013, and will look at inventoried roadless areas, recommended wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers. The trip will take participants up the North Fork Road on the Glacier View Ranger District. Transportation is provided for the field trips. A bus will depart the Flathead County Fairgrounds at 8:00 AM near the entrance at the North Meridian and Two Mile intersection with a second pick-up at 8:30 AM at the north-west corner of the Columbia Falls Super 1 parking lot off of Highway 2. We will have people back to Super 1 around 4:00 PM and to the Flathead County Fairgrounds at 4:30 PM. We’ll have a lunch stop at the Polebridge Mercantile. They have limited lunch items so you may want to bring your own food.

The information shared and the feedback received during the field trip and open house will be used to develop and finalize the assessment, determine needs for change, and to draft a proposed plan. There will be additional opportunities to engage in the collaborative process as the plan is developed over the next few years.

The Supervisor’s Office is located at 650 Wolfpack Way in Kalispell. Please RSVP to Wade Muehlhof ( or 406-758-5252) if you plan to attend either the open house or the field trip. For additional details please visit the Flathead National Forest Plan Revision web page.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Logan Pass Access Changes Monday

The last day to access Logan Pass by vehicle from the east side of Glacier National Park will be on Sunday, September 22, allowing accelerated fall season rehabilitation on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Vehicle traffic will be restricted on the east side near the St. Mary Campground beginning Monday, September 23. Vehicle access to Logan Pass will be available from the west side of the park through Sunday, October 20, weather permitting.

Fall access to east-side hiking trails between Rising Sun and Logan Pass will be limited during road rehabilitation activity beginning Monday, September 23. Hikers wanting to hike any of the trails that are accessed, or may be an exit point, along the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, are highly encouraged to contact the park at 888-7800 before departing. The trails that are affected include Siyeh Pass, Piegan Pass, Otokomi, St. Mary Falls/Barring Falls/Virginia Falls, Gunsight, Sperry, and Red Eagle Trails. For more information on status of trails and access, please contact the park or click here.

Access to some backcountry campsites on the east side of the park will also be affected. All backcountry campers are required to have a permit from the park’s backcountry office for overnight stays. All backcountry permits must be obtained from the Apgar Permit Center at this time of the year. For more information on backcountry camping and trail access, please contact the park at 888-7800 or visit

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own drinking water as drinking water availability throughout the park will be limited during this time of year. Drinking water is not available at Logan Pass, but restroom facilities (new vault toilet) are. For more information contact the park at 406-888-7800.

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St Mary Campground is Temporarily Closed Due to Bear Activity

The St. Mary Campground, located on the east side of Glacier National Park, is closed temporarily. The campground has seen a recent increase in black and grizzly bear activity, creating a high potential for negative human/bear interactions. It is unknown at this time when the campground will reopen.

Earlier this week, the campground was only open to hard-sided camping. Since that announcement, there has been increased black and grizzly bear activity in and around the campground. Efforts to haze the bears from the area have been unsuccessful. For public and bear safety issues, the campground will be temporarily closed until bear activity decreases.

At this time of year, bears are entering a phase called hyperphagia. It is a period of concentrated feeding to prepare for hibernation. This year there has been an exceptionally abundant crop of a variety of berries located in the campground, attracting bears to the area.

Glacier National Park is home to black and grizzly bears. All park visitors are reminded to recreate safely in bear country, and report all bear sightings to a park ranger.

Park regulations require that all edibles, food containers, and cookware be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night. Place all trash in bear-proof containers. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter around your camp. Fire rings should be free of trash before vacating a campsite.

To avoid a surprise encounter with a bear, hikers are encouraged to make noise, hike in groups, hike during day-light hours, and carry bear spray. When carrying bear spray it is important to have the spray readily accessible and have knowledge of how to use it properly.

For more information about camping or hiking in bear country while recreating in Glacier National Park, please click here. For updated information about campgrounds and campground status, please visit here or contact the park at 406-888-7800.

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Forest Service Offers Planning Tools for Fall Colors Viewing

The U.S. Forest Service is urging people to get outdoors, spend time in rural communities and urban forests, and enjoy one of nature's most spectacular seasons with its Fall Colors 2013 campaign.

"America's public lands, particularly our national forests, are among the most spectacular venues to view the changes in fall colors," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "The Forest Service offers numerous resources to help you plan your experience. Nature is closer than you may think."

The Forest Service has launched an online map to help visitors see if trees are peaking in their state. The map will be shaded in green (not peaking) to bright red (peaking) to brown (past peak). Another map will help visitors find a national forest nearest them to enjoy the colors of fall.

For a more analogue approach to trip planning, the Forest Service is once again offering its Fall Colors Hotline – 1-800-354-4595. The hotline provides audio updates on the best places, dates and routes to take for peak viewing of fall colors on national forests.

Fall colors provide an economic boost to communities across the United States. The New England area alone receives an estimated $8 billion annually in local revenues from fall visitors. In the Midwest, millions of visitors hit the road to enjoy the sights, and in the West, the mountains offer destinations filled with tourists seeking views of shimmering gold aspens.

To visit the new USFS fall color map page, please click here.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Prescribed Burn Planned in North Fork

A prescribed fire project is planned in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park, approximately four miles northwest of Polebridge. Approximately 125 acres are planned to be burned in the Big Prairie area by the end of September, depending on weather and fuel conditions. This project was initiated this spring with approximately 150 acres successfully managed through a prescribed burn. The entire project includes about 700 acres of prairie that will be managed with prescribed fire over the next several years.

Firefighter and equipment support from the Flathead National Forest was instrumental in the success of the spring burn. It is anticipated that forest personnel will assist with the fall burn as well.

The primary objective of the burn is to reduce lodgepole pine regeneration which is encroaching on the native prairie grassland. Managers hope to remove some lodgepole with fire and improve the growth of native grasses and shrubs.

This prescribed burn will only take place if optimum weather and smoke dispersal parameters are met. For more information, contact the park at 406-888-7800.

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Available foods will bring bears to lower elevations this fall

Unlike the last two years which produced abundant crops of whitebark pine seeds, this year few cones were produced by the high elevation trees in the Greater Yellowstone National Park area.

Due to the low yield whitebark pine crop, rangers are expecting an increase in human-bear encounters in the backcountry this fall as bears seek alternative foods common at lower elevations. In the last week Park and Forest officials have observed a significant increase in bear activity at lower elevations near trails, roads, and developments where bears are foraging for berries, bison carcasses, digging ant hills, and ripping open logs for ants. Berry production has been especially good this year. In addition, apple trees have been highly productive this year. However, since berry producing shrubs and apple trees are generally found at lower elevations more frequently inhabited by people, officials expect human-bear encounters to be more common this fall.

Whether enjoying a day with friends hunting on National Forest System lands or hiking on your public lands remember to follow food storage guidelines. These guidelines have been in place for many years in Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin National Forest, and the Beartooth Ranger District of the Custer National Forest and are intended to help keep both you and bears safe.

When hiking on National Park lands or hiking or hunting National Forest System lands, carry bear spray, hike in groups of 3 or more people, be alert for bears at all times, and make noise so you don’t surprise bears. If you encounter a bear, do not run, slowly back away to put distance between you and the bear. This often diffuses the confrontation. If the bear charges, stand your ground and use your bear spray. In most cases the bear will break off the charge or veer away. If the bear makes contact, drop to the ground face down on your stomach, with your hands clasped behind your neck and lie still. Make sure the bear is gone before moving.

When camping in the backcountry, hang all food and garbage from food storage poles or bear boxes that are provided at every Yellowstone Park backcountry campsite and some National Forest campsites. Food should be hung at all times except during preparation and consumption. If a bear approaches your campsite, yell and bang pots, pans, or other objects to discourage it from entering.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hard-sided Camping Only at St. Mary Campground in Glacier

The St. Mary Campground, located on the east side of Glacier National Park, is currently available to hard-sided camping only. The campground has seen a recent increase of black and grizzly bear activity, creating a high potential for negative human/bear interactions. No incidents between humans and bears have been reported in the St. Mary Campground to date.

Park rangers and wildlife managers are initiating some aversive conditioning, or negative reinforcement, to attempt to modify bear behavior near the campground. This conditioning will be on-going in the area of the campground. It is unknown when hard-sided camping limitation will be lifted in the campground.

Primitive camping is available at the St. Mary Campground through October 31 for a fee of $10 per night. From November 1 – March 31, camping is free with a valid entrance pass at the St. Mary Campground. Campgrounds in primitive status have pit toilets available, no potable or drinking water, and limited number of sites. Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead and reminded that any water taken from streams or lakes requires treatment before use.

Glacier National Park is home to black and grizzly bears. Campers are reminded to keep campground and developed areas clean and free of food and trash. Regulations require that all edibles, food containers, and cookware be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night. Place all trash in bear-proof containers. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter around your camp. Fire rings should be free of trash before vacating a campsite. All bear sightings should be reported to a park ranger.

For more information about camping or hiking in bear country while recreating in Glacier National Park, please click here. For updated information about campgrounds and campground status, please visit here or contact the park at 406-888-7800.

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Mountain Goat Study Begins at Logan Pass

Glacier National Park, in partnership with the University of Montana, has begun a three-year research study on how mountain goats are affected by roads, people and trails in the Logan Pass area. Currently, six mountain goats have been successfully collared by National Park Service staff, University of Montana researchers, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks personnel with GPS or VHF radio devices. Collaring efforts will continue through the fall as weather permits. It is anticipated approximately 20-25 goats will be collared of the estimated 1,500 goats in the park.

Data collected from collared goats will provide information on the animal's use of Logan Pass and adjacent areas, as well as movement on the landscape throughout the year. Collars will remain on the goats for three years at which point a mechanism will release allowing the collar to fall to the ground. The collar will then be retrieved by researchers. The use of the release mechanism means that goats will only be handled once.

The study also incorporates observational, temporary marking, and visitor messaging techniques. Researchers will spend time observing and recording human-goat interactions. Informational signs about human-goat interactions will be placed in the Logan Pass area. A few goats that will not be able to be collared may be temporarily marked to enable a researcher to visually distinguish between individual goats.

Research on bighorn sheep will be conducted simultaneously, with observational, temporary marking, and visitor messaging techniques. No collars will be placed on bighorn sheep, as individual sheep are easier to identify due to unique horn variations.

The research is a critical component of the current Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management planning effort, as human-wildlife interactions within the corridor are an identified issue of concern. Interactions between humans and goats are increasing in the Logan Pass area, creating potential unhealthy and unsafe conditions.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, "Mountain goats are an icon of Glacier National Park and the information gathered from this study will play a valuable role in future management decisions. Ensuring the safety of both mountain goats and staff conducting research is our top priority with this project."

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Visitors Invited To Celebrate Hayden Valley Hawk Watch

Celebrate the spectacle of raptor (bird of prey) migration in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley this Sunday, September 22. Join education ranger and raptor enthusiast Katy Duffy to watch and learn about raptors, their ecology and their migration strategies.

If you would like to learn some raptor identification tips, meet Ranger Duffy at 9:00 a.m. Sept. 22 at the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center for a 45-minute presentation involving the mounted raptors on display there. Then travel to the park’s famed Hayden Valley to observe and learn about the raptors that flow through Yellowstone each fall.

For the field portion of the tour, visitors are invited to meet at 11:00 a.m. at the turnout 6.6 miles south of Canyon Junction and 9 miles north of Fishing Bridge Junction. Each end of this turnout will have a sandwich board indicating the program location. Also look for a uniformed ranger with a spotting scope.

Observation of raptors will occur from 11:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m.

Both programs are free and open to the public. For more information, please call Katy Duffy at 307-344-2296.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lower McDonald Creek Bridge Rehabilitation Begins

Rehabilitation of the Lower McDonald Creek Bridge near Apgar Village on the west side of Glacier National Park began this week with work continuing through the first week of November. This bridge provides access to the Camas Road.

One-lane closures on the bridge are anticipated to occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the first week of October. At that time, one-lane closures will occur between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Visitors can expect short delays during bridge rehabilitation work. Rehabilitation work on the Lower McDonald Creek Bridge is anticipated to be completed by the first week of November.

The scope of work to be completed includes bridge repair, paving, embankment improvement, and formalization of social trails near the bridge. Timberline Contracting, Inc., a Montana-based company, will lead all rehabilitation efforts for the Lower McDonald Creek Bridge.

For more information please contact park headquarters at 406-888-7800.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

How Unique is Triple Divide Peak?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before making this great assertion, however, there is one major caveat to consider. There seems to be a dispute as to whether waters from Hudson Bay discharge into the Atlantic Ocean or the Arctic Ocean. According to the article on the Hudson Bay page on Wikipedia:
Hudson Bay is part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes the Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait basins are considered part of Arctic Ocean despite that their waters flow predominantly to the Atlantic. Some sources describe Hudson Bay as a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, or the Arctic Ocean.

Does anyone have any definitive information? Please let me know if I am incorrect on this assumption.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

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 120,000 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 was 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!”

Hiking in

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Alpine Paradise

"Notwithstanding the sixty glaciers from which it derives its name, the Glacier National Park is chiefly remarkable for its picturesquely modeled peaks, the unique quality of its mountain masses, its gigantic precipices, and the romantic loveliness of its two hundred and fifty lakes.

Though most of our national parks possess similar general features in addition to those which sharply differentiate each from every other, the Glacier National Park shows them in special abundance and unusually happy combination. In fact, it is the quite extraordinary, almost sensational, massing of these scenic elements which gives it its marked individuality.

The broken and diversified character of this scenery, involving rugged mountain tops bounded by vertical walls sometimes more than four thousand feet high, glaciers perched upon lofty rocky shelves, unexpected waterfalls of peculiar charm, rivers of milky glacier water, lakes unexcelled for sheer beauty by the most celebrated of sunny Italy and snow-topped Switzerland, and grandly timbered slopes sweeping into valley bottoms, offer a continuous yet ever changing series of inspiring vistas not to be found in such luxuriance and perfection elsewhere.

And this rare scenic combination is not alone of one valley of the park, but is characteristic of them all; so that it is difficult to single out any part of these fifteen hundred square miles that is more beautiful, more remarkable, or more strikingly diversified than any other."

-- From the National Parks Portfolio brochure from 1916.

Hiking in

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Glacier National Park: Land of Shining Mountains (Part 2)

Over the weekend I published Part 1 of Land of Shining Mountains, a black and white and silent travelogue from the Great Northern Railway circa 1930. Here is Part 2:


Ramble On (2nd edition book on the rich history of hiking)
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Free Entrance to all National Parks on September 28th

All 397 national parks will offer free entrance on Saturday, September 28th for National Public Lands Day. The 20th annual event encourages everyone to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Visit for a list of parks and information to help plan your park adventure.

“National Public Lands Day reminds all of us of the vast and diverse nature of America’s open spaces, from small neighborhood parks to large national parks, and the importance of each one,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are fortunate that more than 600 million acres of public land, including national parks, provide all of us with cherished places where we can go to unwind, recreate, or learn.”

Many people will lend a hand to help the land and spend part of National Public Lands Day volunteering on work projects. More than 170,000 people are expected to plant trees, clean watersheds, remove invasive plants, replace signs, and otherwise beautify 2,000 public sites throughout the country. Visit for more information.

Other Federal agencies offering free admittance on September 28th include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, September 8, 2013

RMEF Grant to Help Wolf Management in Wyoming

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently announced that a $50,000 grant from the organization will assist the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) with its wolf management plan.

The funding will expand WGFD’s knowledge of predator-prey interactions between wolves and elk. It will also expand the radio collar program to help managers better understand the home range, territory size, pack size and other biological traits and actions of the wolf so they can better implement management techniques.

“It is vital that state agencies have a firm grasp on predator populations in order to properly implement science-based management practices,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This grant will help WGFD gain more knowledge to better understand its wolf population so it can better implement its approved wolf management plan.”

"Our partnership with the RMEF is extremely valuable to us and this grant shows how this relationship continues to develop great opportunities for conservation," said Tom Ryder, Wildlife Assistant Division Chief for WGFD. “This grant will help the Department execute its adaptive wolf management plan by helping to increase our knowledge of wolf/elk interactions, wolf home range, and pack and territory size. Each of these biological components is important for the management plan and to our shared constituents."

In keeping with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, RMEF supports state-regulated hunting and trapping as the preferred tools of wolf management. RMEF staunchly supports management to balance and control wolf populations.

RMEF also remains committed to learning more about wolves through research efforts. Since 1989, RMEF invested nearly $664,000 in research grants to advance scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species, and overall wolf management. The total includes $174,079 in Wyoming-specific research projects and more than $200,000 in science grants in just the past five years. Most of the contributions paid for independent research by leading universities, state and federal wildlife conservation agencies and tribes.

“Part of RMEF’s mission is to ensure the future of elk and other wildlife,” said Allen. “This grant helps managers do just that in Wyoming by helping them know how many wolves are out there, where they travel and what effect they have on elk, deer and other ungulates.”

RMEF will allocate nearly $2.9 million for elk and wildlife-related conservation projects in 27 states with wild, free-ranging elk populations in 2013. Additionally $570,000 will also be allocated to hunting heritage programs in 49 states.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Glacier National Park: Land of Shining Mountains (Part 1)

From the Glacier archives is this black and white silent travelogue, produced by the Great Northern Railway circa 1930, before the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed. You may notice some familiar views in this film. Although the film shows early visitors interacting with wildlife, visitors today should not feed or approach wildlife. I'll be publishing part 2 of this film on Wednesday:


Ramble On (2nd edition book on the rich history of hiking)
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, September 6, 2013

Man Falls in Crevasse at Jackson Glacier

At approximately 8:50 a.m. this morning park dispatch received a call from a backcountry ranger reporting there was an injured visitor at the Gunsight Lake Backcountry Campground. The campground is located approximately five miles from the trailhead along the Going-to-the-Sun Road east of Logan Pass.

According to reports from backcountry campers, a 36-year old male from California suffered injuries sustained from a 30-40 foot fall into a crevasse on Jackson Glacier Tuesday evening. It is believed the man was able to self rescue out of the crevasse and hike approximately 2.5 miles to the backcountry campground. Campers at the campground assisted him and spent the night at the campground with him. Early this morning three campers began hiking to the trailhead to report the need for medical assistance and that the man was unable to hike out due to his injuries. Several other campers stayed with the injured man. A backcountry ranger patrolling in the area was notified of the situation and contacted park dispatch for medical assistance.

A.L.E.R.T. Air Ambulance was called and responded to the scene at approximately 10:00 a.m. today and transported the man to medical facilities. The extent of the man's injuries are unknown, but reported as not life threatening. It is believed the man was hiking and climbing alone.

Travel on and around glaciers in the park is not recommended.

Glacier National Park Hiking

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Best Fall Hikes in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year, but during the fall is an especially wonderful time. Hikers will have many options for viewing the beautiful fall colors, especially those of aspens and western larch.

Roughly 55% of Glacier National Park is covered by forest. Of that percentage, roughly 90% is coniferous forest. The remaining 10% is considered to be deciduous forest, and is primarily made up of aspen, western larch and black cottonwood.

Some of the best places to see aspens, in all their shimmering golden yellow and orange glory, are on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Towards the end of September is usually the best time to see aspens at their peak, and some of the best trails to find them include Redrock Falls and Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier area, Oldman Lake / Pitamakan Pass and Firebrand Pass in the Two Medicine area, the Beaver Pond Loop near the St. Mary entrance, as well as the Forest and Fire Nature Trail near the Camas Creek Entrance (just north of Apgar). Bowman Lake near the northwestern corner of the park is another great choice.

Western larch:

The western and southern portions of Glacier are some of the best places to see larch as they turn bright yellow during the mid-to-late October timeframe. Although western larch, also known as tamaracks, appears to be an evergreen, they’re actually needle-bearing deciduous trees. After turning golden yellow in the fall, the trees lose their needles, and appear to be dead during the winter months.

If you wish to hike among the larch during the fall, visit any of the trails from the Sperry Chalet trailhead near the Lake McDonald Lodge. Rocky Point on the western end of Lake McDonald is another great choice. Any of the trails on southern end of the park, such as Loneman Lookout, Scalplock Mountain Lookout or the South Boundary Trail, are all excellent options for viewing tamaracks at peak color.

The park strongly urges autumn hikers to make sure they are familiar with safety precautions while traveling in bear country, and to be prepared for variable temperatures and rapidly changing weather conditions.

Glacier National Park Hiking

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fall for Glacier

Later this month the Glacier National Park Conservancy will be holding its annual Fall for Glacier. The four-day event will be held September 19-22 at the historic Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT, near the southern tip of Glacier National Park.

There's still plenty of time to make plans to take part in this outdoor oriented event.

The Conservancy has lined up a wide variety of activities, such as an all-star cast of guest speakers, guided hikes, Red Bus tours and more, as well as great food and lodging in a unique setting. Hikes will be led by experts in fields such as geology and wildlife biology, and will explore the lightly-visited southern portion of the park. One hike will be led by ultra-hiker Jake Bramante, who in 2011 became the first person to hike every trail within Glacier National Park in one year. Chas Cartwright, the former Glacier National Park Superintendent, will also be leading a hike this year.

Some of the destinations included on this year's hiking schedule include a hike along the Flathead River, Garry Lookout, Stanton Lake, Firebrand Pass, Three Bears Lake, Elk Mountain (with Jake Bramante), and Scalplock Lookout (with Chas Cartwright).

For more information on the event, please click here.

If planning to attend, or just visiting Glacier this fall, don't forget you can find a variety of lodging options on our Accommodations page.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Going-to-the-Sun Road: A Road out of Rock

A Road out of Rock is a black and white silent film that was made during the construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. It shows the monumental task of building a road on the side of a mountain using early machinery and methods:

For more information on driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, including the trailheads along the way, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Many Glacier Hotel

This short video from Finley-Holiday Films highlights the magic of the Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. Opened in 1915, the Many Glacier Hotel is situated on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake, and is one of four great historic lodges in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

As you might guess, some of the best hiking in Glacier can literally be found just outside the hotel's doors. To discover some of those trails, and to plan your hiking itinerary, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park