Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Horseback Riding in Yosemite

In this short video from Finley-Holiday Films, Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson talks about seeing Yosemite on horseback (or mule back) - an experience that hasn't changed much since the earliest visitors ventured into Yosemite. You may recognize Ranger Johnson - he was featured quite extensively in The National Parks: America's Best Idea, the Ken Burns film from a few years ago:

If seeing Yosemite on horseback isn't your thing, or if you've never been to the park, did you know that you can do one hike that encompasses nearly all of Yosemite’s iconic sights? This epic 12.6-mile hike includes a full view of Yosemite Falls from the only place in the park to see both the upper and lower falls in their full glory. Along the way you’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall. The one-way hike begins from the Yosemite Valley, climbs up to Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back down to the valley via the Panorama Trail and the famous Mist Trail.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, December 27, 2013

Harney Peak: The Top of South Dakota

Not only does Harney Peak offer outstanding views of the Black Hills, and the chance to stand atop the highest point in South Dakota, but it also allows hikers the opportunity to visit the old stone fire tower that sits atop its summit. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1939, and was used as a fire lookout for several decades. Visitors are now free to explore this castle-like structure.

For more information and photos on this outstanding hike, please click here to visit our new Discover the West website.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, December 20, 2013

National Parks to Offer Free Admission on 9 Days in 2014

Circle the dates on the calendar and plan your trip – America’s 401 national parks will offer free admission on nine days in 2014, including several holidays. The 2014 entrance fee-free days are:

◾January 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
◾February 15-17: Presidents Day weekend
◾April 19-20: National Park Week’s opening weekend
◾August 25: National Park Service’s 98th birthday
◾September 27: National Public Lands Day
◾November 11: Veterans Day

“America’s national parks welcome more than 280 million visitors a year. To say thanks for that support and invite every American to visit these treasures that they own, we are declaring nine days of free admission next year,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Whether it’s that once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Yellowstone or taking a daily walk along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., or the moment at Central High School that your child suddenly understands what civil rights are all about, national parks offer places for unforgettable experiences.

With more than 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, 17,000 miles of trails, 5,000 miles of shoreline, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, and 100 million museum items and an infinite number of authentic American stories to tell, national parks offer something for every taste.

Those in search of superlatives will find them in national parks including the country’s highest point (in Denali National Park) and lowest point (in Death Valley National Park), deepest lake (Crater Lake National Park), longest cave (Mammoth Cave National Park), tallest trees (Redwood National Park), and highest waterfall (Yosemite National Park).

Normally, 133 national parks charge an entrance fee that ranges from $3 to $25. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for things like camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Other Federal land management agencies that will offer fee-free days in 2014 are: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. Please contact each for details.

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Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2014 Annual Park Pass Available

The 2014 Glacier National Park Annual Pass is available for purchase and features the winning artwork from the recent annual art contest sponsored by the park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

The pass showcases an image of the historic Lake McDonald Lodge by 2013 Glacier High School Graduate Valarie Kittle. High school students participating in the contest were requested to submit artwork related to the 100th anniversaries of three iconic cultural resources in the park- Lake McDonald Lodge, Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet.

The pass can be purchased from park headquarters 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or by calling 406-888-7800. The pass is also available through the Glacier National Park Conservancy located in Columbia Falls at 402 9th Street West or by calling 406-892-3250.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, “We are pleased to have the new passes available for the holiday season, and showcase a local student’s artwork.” Mow said he appreciates the partnership with the Glacier National Park Conservancy in sponsoring the artwork contest and making the passes available at their Columbia Falls Office.

Approximately 80% of the revenue from the park annual passes sold is returned to the park through the Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program and is used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services at the park.

The annual pass allows unlimited entry to the park for one year from month of first use and admits the pass owner and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle. The cost is $35. The pass is for entrance into the park only and does not apply to any other user fee.

Without an annual park pass, the park’s seven-day winter entrance fee is $15 for vehicles and $10 for single entrants (hiker /bicyclist /motorcyclist), and during the summer the fees are $25 for vehicles and $12 for single entrants.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Survival Skills: Eating Snow versus Ice

We posed a similar situation over the weekend, but will ask again: What if you're out several miles from the trailhead during a winter hike and find yourself in an emergency situation in which you've run out of drinking water? In this particular situation you'll have plenty of snow and ice around, but the question is, do you consume any of it to help with your increasing dehydration? Is one source better than the other? And do you know why? The folks over at Vermont-based Peak Survival provide the answers to these questions in this short video:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Yosemite Valley

Half Dome "presents an aspect of the most imposing grandeur; it strikes even the most casual observer as a new revelation in mountain forms; its existence would be considered an impossibility if it were not there before us in all its reality..."

- Josiah D. Whitney

The Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop hike is the perfect way to experience the Yosemite Valley. The loop hike offers a variety of attractions, including lush meadows filled with wildflowers, wildlife, and outstanding views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Half Dome.

For more photos, and to learn more about this short easy hike, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, December 16, 2013

First Day Hikes 2014

Start the new year off on the right foot by taking a First Day Hike in a state park near you. All across the country state parks will once again be offering guided First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day 2014.

The idea for First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, all 50 state park systems have now joined together to sponsor a range of First Day Hikes.

This year, for the first time, the American Hiking Society has joined America’s State Parks in support of their First Day Hikes program. So far more than 400 hikes in all 50 states have been scheduled for this years events, with numerous options for a First Day Hike in the Glacier National Park region. You can find a First Day Hike by clicking here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Procuring Water in a Winter Survival Situation

What if you're out several miles from the trailhead during a winter hike, and you find yourself in an emergency situation in which you've run out of drinking water. In the video below, the folks over at Vermont-based Peak Survival offer some interesting and "outside of the box" alternatives for creating and storing drinking water. These are probably some good skills to learn and remember for anyone who ventures out into the wilderness during the winter months:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, December 13, 2013

Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends delisting grizzlies from Endangered Species List

At their annual winter meeting in Missoula this week, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) met to hear reports from the various ecosystem subcommittees responsible for grizzly bear recovery and management in the six recovery areas in the contiguous United States and adjacent Canadian Provinces. After over 32 years of cooperative efforts the overall news was promising about the progress being made, especially in regards to the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone Ecosystems.

A presentation was made to the IGBC by Frank van Manen, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST), regarding a grizzly bear food synthesis report that the team a year ago had been directed by IGBC to pursue. The purpose of the report was to address the sole remaining issue that placed the Yellowstone grizzly bear back on the Endangered Species List in 2009, after it had been originally delisted in 2007 after meeting all the required population and habitat recovery requirements. The food synthesis report is a comprehensive peer-reviewed examination of the wide range of foods available to grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. A copy of the report is available at the IGBST website.

After the presentation, a motion to accept the findings of the study was made by IGBC member Jim Unsworth, Deputy Director for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, “I move that the IGBC accept the IGBST (Study Team) Synthesis Report and endorse it as an adequate evaluation of food habits and the relative importance of White Bark Pine in the diet of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bears. I further move, that the IGBC recommend the United States Fish & Wildlife Service proceed with development of a new proposed rule to delist the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Population.” The motion was supported unanimously by all the other members of the committee.

Acceptance of the report officially does nothing to trigger the delisting of grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, but its overwhelming acceptance by the IGBC is a signal to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) that they can now move forward with internal review of the status of the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population. The USFWS will review the report and will decide in the next month or so whether to move forward with a new proposed rule to delist the Yellowstone grizzly population. If this proposed rule is developed it will be published for public comment approximately mid-2014.

In addition to discussion of the Yellowstone Ecosystem, the IGBC received detailed reports on the progress being made towards moving to propose the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem for delisting and work towards beginning a required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needed as part of the Recovery Plan for the North Cascades Ecosystem.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Kayaker Trapped Underwater Saved by Friends' Quick Reaction

Below is a pretty amazing video from EpicTV showing the rescue of a kayaker who became trapped underwater after paddling down a small waterfall. The incident occurred on November 2nd on the Lyn River in the United Kingdom. In the video description, EpicTV describes the situation like this:
In one of the drops Mark Hardingham is pushed offline and becomes 'vertically pinned' with his body trapped and his head held underwater by the current! This GoPro clip shows the reactions of his friends who pull him out of this sticky situation just in time.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zion Canyon Overlook: Don’t bypass this one!

Just inside the east entrance of Zion National Park, but far from the hustle and bustle of the main portion of the park, is the hike to Zion Canyon Overlook. Unfortunately many people will pass this one by, instead opting to visit the more popular attractions within the canyon itself. Many visitors, in fact, probably aren’t even aware of its existence. However, this vantage point offers hikers a view of Zion Canyon that’s just as beautiful as those you’ll find along the park’s most popular hikes. Even better, for some, is that it’s much easier to reach. An easy roundtrip hike of only 1 mile will reward you with outstanding views such as this (for more information on this hike, please click here):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone Winter Season Begins Sunday

Yellowstone National Park will open to the public for the winter season as scheduled on December 15.

Beginning at 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning, visitors will be able to travel to the park’s interior roads on commercially guided snowmobiles or snowcoaches from the North, West and South Entrances. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin December 22.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year.

At Old Faithful, the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on December 18.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room and gift shop will open for the season on December 20. The Yellowstone General Store, the medical clinic, campground, post office and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year, as are the 24-hour gasoline pumps at Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction.

Communities surrounding Yellowstone are open year-round, and local businesses offer a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone during the winter is on the park’s website.

Park staff members will continue to closely monitor road conditions and weather forecasts that can have an impact on roadways and guided oversnow travel operations. Weather during the winter season is extremely unpredictable in Yellowstone and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Visitors are reminded to come prepared by carrying personal emergency survival equipment in their vehicles and dressing appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter Season Activities Begin Sunday in Grand Tetons

The 2014 winter season begins Sunday, December 15 in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. This year, as a cost saving measure, the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center will be closed until April 7, 2014. A phone line (307.739.3399) will be staffed Monday through Friday for park information. An alternative for winter visitor information about the greater Jackson Hole area, including Grand Teton and the JDR Parkway, is the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache Street in Jackson, Wyoming. This interagency visitor center is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, offering interactive displays and dioramas that highlight the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its many features. Wintering elk can be observed on the nearby National Elk Refuge from a wildlife observation deck equipped with spotting scopes.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Friday, December 27 from Taggart Lake trailhead on the Teton Park Road, three miles north of the park's Moose HQ campus. The snowshoe tours take place at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday each week. The two-hour guided walks offer an opportunity to learn about snow science and winter ecology. Previous experience is not necessary, and snowshoes are available for a rental fee of $5 for adults and $2 for children, 8 years or older. Reservations are required and can be made at 307.739.3399.

A Single Day Pass is available to winter visitors at the Moose, Moran and Granite Canyon entrance stations. This winter-season permit allows a one-day entry into Grand Teton at a cost of $5 per vehicle. The single day pass is valid only in Grand Teton and cannot be used for entry into Yellowstone. Winter visitors may choose to purchase one of the following other options for entry:

•$25 Seven-day Pass valid for single vehicle entry into Grand Teton and Yellowstone
•$50 Grand Teton/Yellowstone Annual Pass valid for one year entry into both parks
•$80 Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all federal land management fee areas

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities. Most trails are skier tracked, not groomed. The Teton Park Road becomes a designated trail in winter, open to non-mechanized use only. This road gets intermittently groomed for cross-country and skate skiing from the Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain, but plowing of park roads and other access areas take priority and often preempt grooming operations, which begin only after sufficient snow (at least 2 feet) accumulates on the roadbed. For grooming updates, phone 307-739-3682. Important reminder: Snowshoers should walk adjacent to the groomed ski trail, as snowshoe treads ruin the grooved track set for skier use.

Skiers and snowshoers are not restricted to established trails. For protection of wildlife, however, park visitors are required to observe closure areas from December through March. To obtain trail maps, closure locations, or winter information, click here. Winter closure areas include:

Closed December 1 to April 1— Static Peak, Prospectors Mountain and Mount Hunt (see the park's cross-country ski brochure for area descriptions).

Closed December 15 to April 1— Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor's Ferry near Moose, Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park, Kelly Hill and Uhl Hill.

Backcountry users and mountaineers planning to stay overnight in the backcountry must get a camping permit before their trip. Winter backcountry permits can be obtained in person at the front desk of the park's HQ building in Moose between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday. During weekends and holidays, persons wishing to get a backcountry permit must call 307.739.3301.The backcountry permits office phone (307.739.3309) will be staffed Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On weekends and holidays, this line will not be staffed and only voice messages will be accepted. Permits are not required for day users.

To obtain weather forecasts and backcountry avalanche hazard information, visit www.jhavalanche.org, or phone the avalanche hotline at 307.733.2664.

For complete information about winter activities in Grand Teton National Park or the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone’s Ecological Health Revealed In Updated Reports

Yellowstone National Park’s 2013 “Natural Resource Vital Signs” report and annual wolf and bird project reports are now available as valuable tools used to assist park managers and scientists more fully understand the status of important indicators of resource condition.

In the Vital Signs report, park scientists and their cooperators report on data from more than two dozen indicators to study the influences, both inside and outside of the park, that affect Yellowstone’s overall ecological status and the condition of cultural resources. Ecological indicators include ecosystem processes such as wildland fire, as well as the status of native species and stressors such as wildlife disease and non-native species.

This year, several indicators on the status of Yellowstone’s cultural resources were included. As the world’s first national park, rich in America’s history, the National Park Service steward and continue to use an incredible collection of over 800 historical structures that help tell the story of transportation, lodging, and park management. The park also contains more than 1,600 known archeological sites that demonstrate at least 10,000 years of evidence showing deep human connections with the ecosystems. Hundreds of thousands of historic documents, ethnographic artifacts, fossils, pieces of clothing, souvenirs, and works of art also reside in the park’s museum collections, providing priceless data and precious stories on the park’s rich history.

All three reports, published by the park’s Yellowstone Center for Resources, help inform resource management decisions and support ongoing and future research needs.

Highlights from this year’s Vital Signs report include:

• Climate: Precipitation data suggest that Yellowstone is still in a long-term drought. Recent data support a continued trend of warming with average low temperatures increasing by 4.6 degrees since 1989.

• Bears: Grizzly bear numbers appear to be stable in the GYE this year; supporting recent discussion that bears have reached carrying capacity in the ecosystem.

• Wolves and elk: Elk surveyed along the northern range of Yellowstone continued to decline as a result of multiple factors, but show signs of stabilizing at a new low. The number of wolves that spend most of their time in Yellowstone declined slightly.

• Bison: The conservation of Yellowstone bison continues to be successful with population numbers over 4,000 bison.

• Historic structure conditions and archeological sites: Historic structure assessments of the 880 buildings, roads, bridges, and grave markers have been completed for 80 percent of the sites. About 77 percent of historic structures and 65 percent of known archeological sites are in “good” condition.

• Native fish: There are signs that the number of Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake is increasing. Efforts to reduce the population of non-native lake trout have resulted in the removal of over 1 million lake trout from Yellowstone Lake. Artic grayling and westslope cutthroat trout restoration efforts began in 2013 as part of the native fish preservation effort.

The 2013 Vital Signs report can be found online here.

The wolf and bird program reports are available here and here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

How To Dress For Winter Hiking

Although the winter season is already upon us, we shouldn't use it as an excuse to NOT go hiking. It all comes down to being prepared and knowing how to dress properly. Below is a pretty good video demonstrating how you should dress when venturing out on a winter hike. Although the spokesman doesn't mention it, you should always have an extra pair of socks in your pack, just in case the ones you're wearing get wet. An extra pair of gloves aren't a bad idea either, not to mention an emergency blankets and the ability to start a fire.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Becoming an Outdoors Woman' workshop set for Red Lodge

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has announced the dates for the annual winter-skills workshop in its popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program. This years workshop will occur from January 31st through February 2nd in Red Lodge, Montana.

Participants will choose three classes from a list of winter activities that includes cross country skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, wildlife in winter and winter survival. Women 18 years old or older may participate. The fee ranges between $170-240 and includes class instruction and meals.

Registration forms and information are available online by logging in to fwp.mt.gov and following the link to ‘Education.” Women are encouraged to sign up with a friend and learn a new activity or improve existing skills. Registration forms and brochures also are available at FWP’s Region 5 headquarters, 2300 Lake Elmo Dr. in Billings Heights.

For more information on the BOW Winter Workshop, call Liz Lodman at 406-444-9940, or by email: llodman@mt.gov.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, December 9, 2013

Public Scoping Period Begins for Moose-Wilson Corridor

Acting Superintendent Kevin Schneider announced last week that the National Park Service is developing a comprehensive management plan/environmental impact statement (Plan/EIS) for the Moose-Wilson corridor within Grand Teton National Park. A public scoping period for the Plan/EIS will occur from December 6, 2013 through February 6, 2014, during which time public comments will be accepted.

The purpose of the Plan/EIS is to determine how best to provide appropriate opportunities for visitors to use, experience, and enjoy the Moose Wilson area while protecting park resources and values. During the scoping period, the NPS seeks input from the public on significant issues, alternatives, concerns, opportunities, or topics that should be addressed during the planning effort. The Plan/EIS will consider a range of alternatives for the corridor's future management and will analyze potential environmental impacts associated with each alternative. Additional opportunities for public involvement will also be provided at other stages of the planning process.

The Moose-Wilson corridor comprises about 10,300 acres in the southwest corner of Grand Teton National Park. This exceptional area has a remarkable variety of natural communities, cultural and wilderness resources, and opportunities for visitor enjoyment. The Moose – Wilson Road extends 7.7 miles through the area, and is the primary access to several park destinations, including Death Canyon and Granite Canyon trailheads, Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, White Grass Ranch, and Murie Ranch historic districts, and Sawmill Ponds overlook. The corridor highlights the rich history of working ranches and the beginnings of conservation work, and provides exceptional opportunities for wildlife viewing. Developing a comprehensive management plan for the corridor is critical to ensure the protection of key resources, values, and visitor experience for the enjoyment of this and future generations.

To learn more about this planning effort join the NPS at an open house in Jackson, Wyoming on Tuesday, January 14th from 5 to 8 pm in the Moose-Wapiti Classroom at St. John's Medical Center.

Additional information, including a scoping newsletter is available here. A copy of the newsletter can be downloaded through this website, and comments can be provided electronically online. You can also sign up for regular e-mail updates here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nat Geo Trail Maps for Glacier National Park

National Geographic now publishes a total of four Trails Illustrated Maps for Glacier National Park. The original map (map 215) encompasses both Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.

For much greater detail, National Geographic also publishes three sectional maps: Many Glacier, Two Medicine and North Fork. The original map has a scale 1:100,000, however, the three new sectional maps have a scale of 1:50,000, and provide much greater detail such as backcountry campsite locations, footbridges, fords/stream crossings, points-of-interests, shuttle stops, nature/interpretive trails, as well as water and snow hazard locations.

Many Glacier Sectional Map:

The Many Glacier Map (map 314) includes: the Many Glacier area, Cracker Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Goat Haunt, Belly River, Upper Kintla Lake, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, and more.

North Fork Sectional Map:

The North Fork Map (map 313) includes: Lake McDonald, Apgar, Avalanche Basin, Sperry Chalet, Kintla Lake, Bowman Lake, Waterton Lake, Flathead River, Pacific Northwest Trail, National Park Headquarters, and more.

Two Medicine Sectional Map:The Two Medicine Map (map 315) includes: Cobalt Lake, Dawson Pass, Logan Pass, Piegan Pass, St. Mary Lake, The Loop, Cut Bank, and more.

If you're looking to purchase all three sectional maps you're much better off purchasing the three-map bundle pack, which provides a fairly steep discount.

The Nat Geo maps provide far more information and detail than the official national park map. Additionally, all Trails Illustrated Maps are waterproof and tear-resistant.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Burroughs Mountain at Sunrise

The Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier National Park offers big expansive views of the park’s star attraction, 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier. There’s no better way to experience the area than a hike along the Burroughs Mountain loop trail. This hike offers outstanding 360-degree panoramic views as you walk along the alpine tundra plateaus of Burroughs Mountain. From the summit you’ll have up-close views of Mt. Rainier’s impressive east face, as well as the largest glacier in the lower 48, the Emmons Glacier.

For more information and photos on this Rainier classic, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Since 1900, the National Audubon Society has led the charge in counting birds during the annual "Christmas Bird Census" across the U.S., Canada and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere. It's longest-running citizen science survey in the world!

From December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteers will take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.

If you would like to participate this year, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, December 2, 2013

A trip through Glacier National Park

Bruce Peters, one of our website and blog readers, sent me this video the other day and asked if I would publish it. The video is a compilation of video snippets and still shots from across Glacier National Park in 2012. Bruce is an award-winning photojournalist, so I think you'll really enjoy this.... and will probably make you wish you were there right now:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oregon’s Rugged Coast

For many years the Oregon Coast has been near the top of my bucket list of places to see. Based on the hundreds of photos I’ve seen over the years I knew there were numerous spectacular places to visit. Whenever I looked at a map of Oregon I was always amazed by the number of state parks that line the coast from top to bottom.

When we finally arrived at Cannon Beach back in early September of this year, it was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps my reaction was similar to that of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. When they arrived on the coast in November of 1805, William Clark noted in his journal: "Ocian in view O! The Joy!"

I posted two blogs on our new Discover the West website that describes and shows some of the amazing sights we saw along the north coast and the southern coast.

Hiking in Glacier National Park