Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Going-to-the-Sun Road to close early

It seems that we are still recovering from the torrential rains of last November's storm that dropped 11 inches of rain on Glacier National Park. Road crews were able to make enough repairs to open Going-to-the-Sun Road on time this year, but because of the extensive damage, more work needs to be done before the snow flies this season.

If you were not aware, entire sections of the road on the east side of the divide were completely washed out by the storms. It is always a delicate dance to perform road repairs around the tourist season and Glacier's unpredictable weather. To get a jump on things, officials have decided to close the upper portions of the road on September 16th.

The park will remain open, but visitors will only be able to drive as far as Avalanche Creek (approx. 15 miles from the west gate). On the St. Mary side of the road (east entrance), visitors will be able to drive to Siyeh Bend.

Fire News

Whew! This was a challenging fire season this year, but it appears that the major fires that were affecting the park are now contained. We would all feel a little better if we had a few days of drenching rain, but conditions have improved and the fire crews seem to have everything under control.

Planning a Trip?



Fall in the park is a magic time of year and fall begins at different elevations. If you are planning a trip, now is a great time to visit Glacier National Park. Remember, you need to get here before September 16th. if you want to travel to Logan Pass and drive the entire length of Going-to-the-Sun Road.

If your trip to Glacier is cut short due to the road closure, not to worry... the other jewel in the "crown of the continent" is Flathead Lake, which is a short drive to the south. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Glacier & Flathead Fires

They say "it ain't over till it's over", and I'll not dispute that, but it appears the main fires that were affecting Glacier National Park area and Flathead Lake are at least under control. Yes, I know that a change in the weather and other variables can whip these fires into a new and even greater threat, but being the optimist that I am, I think (hope) we may be seeing the 2007 fire season wind down.

This is a photo of Hidden Lake about three weeks ago, prior to the rash of fires that erupted in our area. Below is a photo taken from the same observation point just last week when the fires were most active. Visibility was very poor.

A little rain, cooler temps, and higher humidity has finally helped the firefighters get control of some major fires. As of today, the Brush Creek Fire (west of Glacier) is now 90% contained and Skyland Fire (east of Glacier) is 51% contained. These are two of the main fires whose smoke was affecting Glacier National Park.

If you want to get the latest information on these fires, visit the InciWeb website.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wildlife in their habitat

On any given day, unique wildlife experiences can be had anywhere in Glacier National Park. On the other hand, you could miss seeing any of the more “exotic” creatures like Bears, Mountain Goats or Big Horn Sheep just by virtue of bad timing. The problem is they will usually see you coming before you see them and most critters will avoid making your acquaintance.

One way to be sure of seeing some creatures that are not afraid to show themselves is to park your car at the Logan Pass lot and head up the hill for the Hidden Lake hike. This is a pleasant hike where 90% of it is “paved” with a well-maintained boardwalk.

You can almost always count on seeing plenty of Big Horn Sheep and mountain goats are everywhere. The goats have no fear of people and will walk past you or share the view from the overlook as pictured above with a mama and her kid.

These pictures were taken just two weeks ago in the Hidden Lake trail. Note that as hot as it has been (July set a record as the hottest Montana July on record), there is still snow & ice in many parts of the park.
We are heading back to Glacier later this week and hope to have some great pictures and wonderful tales to share with you in my next post. Until then, stay safe and enjoy life!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wildfires


In my last posting I sounded like a restaurant critic (which I am not) and today I may sound like a Park Ranger (which I also am not). If you are in our beautiful area right now, you need do nothing but look out he window to know that there is a forest fire burning somewhere nearby.

Unfortunately, it does not mater where in the valley you are because we have a number of fires burning in different areas. Today I learned of a valuable online resource, which I was not aware of; Inciweb.org posts information on incidents nation-wide. Our family lives in the "West Valley" area and we are concerned about a fire that is raging to the north of us (Tally Lake area). The Brush Creek Fire, located about 29 air miles west of Whitefish, MT, is now estimated at over 4,300 acres.

The wind shifted overnight and thick smoke has come crawling down our draw and it is actually making it difficult to breathe and see. There is a mountain range in front of our home that is almost completely invisible this morning. According to Inciweb.com, there are 114,264 acres burning in Montana right this very minute in 12 "active incidents".

Last Saturday during a visit to Glacier National Park, we drove by the Skyland fire raging on he east side of U.S. 2, which has been closed a couple of times since then. Highway 2 is open to 2 way unescorted traffic with a speed restriction in the area of the fire. Travelers also can expect short stoppages on Marias Pass while helicopters are flying over the highway when dipping from a water tank.

One of the (few) downsides to living in such a beautiful place as NW Montana is the annual threat of wildfires. Unfortunately, they are inevitable and it can be argued that they are beneficial to balancing the ecosystem, but it is one of those things where the theory of any benefit is outweighed by the proximity of he fire.

There is no need to panic or even change your travel plans if you are planing to come to this area for a visit. Wildfires happen and are part of life here in Montana. Most important is the fact that the best firefighters in America are battling these blazes and we are in good hands. A mention of these brave men and women in your prayers just might be the thing that tips the scales a little quicker.

Oh and BTW, there's a campfire ban in effect so if you are planning to camp at one of the many campsites here, check with the locals to see what restrictions are in place.