Glacier National Park
If you didn’t catch this weekend’s article on Glacier National Park in The New York Times, it’s worth a read, especially for anyone concerned about the rapidly diminishing glaciers that are these park’s namesake.
The day before, I had spoken with Daniel Fagre, who coordinates climate change and glacial geology studies here for the United States Geological Survey. He is a 20-year veteran of research at the park. The retreat of the glaciers began around 1850, he said, as part of a slow, natural climatic variation, but the disappearing act has accelerated during the last hundred years. Until recently, his research projected that, as global warming hit its stride, the park’s glaciers would all be gone by the year 2030. Now he thinks it may be as soon as 2020.
Outsize snows this past winter, which kept many park roads and trails closed well into July, could briefly forestall the meltdown, but the longer warming trend is inexorable, he said.
No reprieve? “No, I think we are continuing on that path,” he said.
The science is preliminary, but it’s clear that this loss will be more than aesthetic for the park’s ecosystem, he said. Those glacial reservoirs provide a steady supply of cool meltwater through hot summers and dry spells, helping to sustain a constellation of plants and animals, some rare — big-horned sheep, elk and mountain goats among them.
The NYT put together a killer slideshow too – such a gorgeous place.
Image: The New York Times
Writer and photographer Aaron Teasdale recently took his Osprey pack out on an adventure in Glacier National Park, complete with cycling and skiing.
We didn’t know we’d encounter two bears in a matter of hours, but Greg Fortin and I knew we were in for an adventure when we started pedaling away from Glacier Park’s Avalanche Campground parking lot at 8:20 last Friday night. It was an absurdly late time to head into Glacier’s bear-riddled backcountry, but, as a smiling old man once said to me when he saw me bicycle touring in a rainstorm, “You go when you can.”
We only had 48 hours before backcountry permit officials, concerned we’d interfere with road crews plowing record snow off Going To The Sun Road, insisted we be back. The road crews might have been miserable, we weren’t going to let that magnificent, once in a lifetime June snowpack go to waste. We were going to ski. With tent, sleeping bags, skis, and food for two days in our bike trailers, we set off for the mountains.
Five minutes later an enormous, glistening scat pile appeared in the road. Seconds later came the bear. Neither of us noticed it until the moment we passed it, standing on its hind legs and staring at us intensely not 20 feet to my right.
“Whoah!” we said simultaneously, looking at each other with the universal “holy crap we just saw a bear!” expression of raised eyebrows, open mouths, and bug eyes. We laughed, but I saw bears everywhere after that. Trees, stumps, rocks, everything looked like a lurking bruin in the dimming light. Still, we pedaled higher and higher into the mountains until, just as the day’s last light ebbed from the sky, we reached the trail to Granite Park where we planned to camp for the next two nights.
Stashing the bikes, we strapped skis to our packs and started walking. We’d been fairly jovial while pedaling, but now that it was dark and we were making our way through an eery burned forest, our mood mellowed. Darkness does that. Especially darkness in wild places full of bears when you’re the only humans for many miles around.
Read the full post, complete with excellent photos.
Last Tuesday I woke up to another cold gray morning alongside the Belly River in northern Glacier National Park, only 6 miles from the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail. I pried myself from the warmth and comfort of my sleeping bag, slipped on my shoes, and undid my bear hang. After chucking everything into my pack I started off down the mushy, muddy trail along the Belly River.
Soon I came across some fresh Griz tracks, which got me singing some made up songs, loud enough to scare any bears with any remote musical taste far, far away. As I hiked, the mountains turned burnt pink with an early alpine glow. Thimble berries lined the trail all the way to the border.
Before I knew it I was standing on the Chief Mountain Highway hugging the border monument. (Road walks aren’t really my favorite).
A mere half hour later I found myself in a friend’s van on the way to Park Cafe, a local favorite whose slogan is “pie for strength.” We ate an entire peach pie and they were kind enough to give me tokens for a 12 minute shower. That left me heading up the Going to the Sun Road (by car) satisfied; full, clean, and in good company.