Glacier Park Hiking -be aware of the dangers before you start

The news that solo hiker Jennifer Coleman was found dead near Glacier Park’s Logan Pass after being reported missing two days earlier comes as a shock and reminds all of us who love the park’s pristine beauty that in spite of visitor overcrowding, the beautiful mountainn world is a a dangerous place.

Wikipedia photo

I made it a policy to never climb alone in the park and, other than two-to-three mile strolls around Many Glacier Hotel, never to hike alone. Too much can go wrong, from illness, to falls, to bears and mountain lions. Even a sprained ankle can put a person down on a seldom-travelled trail with no way to get help where there’s no cellphone service.

Coleman’s death is under investigation. Even the precise location hasn’t been released, though there’s speculation she was hiking along the Highline Trail or the Dragon’s Tail. The highline is filled with hikers, yet if one fell when nobody else was nearby, they might land in an out-of-view spot. The Dragon’s Tail has fewer visitors and this makes hiking alone there more dangerous.

As for Coleman, all we know is that she was near Logan Pass and was apparently hiking or climbing alone. The peace of the mountains and the lure of wondrous views is addictive and hard to resist. So, I cannot fault her solo hiking. I might have done it even though I knew I shouldn’t. I’ve climbed a lot of mountains and would probably assume I was imune to the potential dangers.

Matches, maps, bear spray, water, food, and a hiking partner are always the safer way to proceed. We know this, but we don’t always do this.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell has written fiction and nonfiction about Glacier National Park. including the novel “Mountain Song.”

Search for Missing Visitor Near Logan Pass Underway UPDATE

NPS Glacier News Release

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [September 3, 2021] – Search efforts are underway in Glacier National Park for Jennifer Lee Coleman, a 34-year-old Virginia resident.

Coleman was supposed to check out of the West Glacier KOA on Tuesday, August 31 and was believed to be hiking around Logan Pass on August 30th or 31st. An extended team of ground searchers will continue searching today in cooperation with Flathead County Search and Rescue, Two Bear Air Rescue, Flathead County Sherriff’s Department, and the Flathead National Forest.

Coleman is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and approximately 128 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. She is possibly wearing a tank top, spandex pants, sunglasses, brown slip-on two toned boots, a turquoise and pink flower scarf, and a dark colored day pack.

Coleman’s last known itinerary is believed to be hiking solo on Monday, August 30 possibly to the Dragon’s Tail or Highline Trail. Her vehicle has been located at Logan Pass.

Anyone that may have information or was in the area and saw an individual that fits the description is encouraged to contact the park tip line at 406-888-7077.

The following information comes from the AWARE Foundation:

Body of missing woman found in Glacier National Park

Posted at 7:22 PM, Sep 05, 2021
and last updated 9:27 PM, Sep 05, 2021

GREAT FALLS — The body of Jennifer Coleman, who was reported missing on Wednesday, September 1, was found in Glacier National Park on Sunday.

Park officials said in a news release that Coleman’s body was found in a steep and rocky area near the Continental Divide. Coleman’s family has been notified.

The cause of her death is being investigated.

OMG, I still use wall calendars

A Facebook meme lists a bunch of stuff that’s supposedly out of date and asks how many of us use any of these items? I forget the list, but it probably included washboards, spring wagons, Springfield M1861 rifled muskets, and wall calendars.

So, you tell me, what’s old fashioned about wall calendars? You can see the entire month at a glance and you get a pretty picture to go with it. Of course, my PC and my cell phone tell me today’s date. Yes, I can display the entire month, but–and maybe this is just me–it’s a lot easier to glance at the wall. Plus, I don’t know where my cell phone is most of the time, while I can usually find the wall.

If you’ve ever been a member of a conservation organization, it’s not like you have to pay for the calendar. If you’re a member now, the calendar shows up every year. If you’re not a member, multiple calendars show up every fall to shame you into joining up again as a way of saying “thank you” for the nice calendar and the accompanying return-adress stickers.

My office usually has a Montana Historical Society calendar in it. Lots of cool stuff from the archives. Sometimes scenics. Sometimes special themes like historic railroads. The kitchen wall calendar usually has something colorful and/or scenic. When my brother and his wifew visited Hawai’i, we saw lush tropical scenes in the kitchen. When they traveled to Scotland, we had great pictures of the old country. Last year, nobody went anywhere so we have a cat calendar.

If you visit a national park or some other cool location, you’ll probably spend $1000000 in the gift shop buying shot glasses, coffee mugs, coasters, and tee shirts. Might as well pick up a wall calendar to beautify your kitchen or, at least, your garage.

I guess I could tape my cell phone to the wall with a calendar displayed on it (the phone). I would at least know where the phone is, but the calendar would be too small to read from across the room.  And let’s face it, you could be almost anywhere in the room when somebody asks, “Hey, is July 23 on a Friday?” I can answer that because my wall calendar is 1.5 feet away.

Sure, I suppose it’s modern and enlightened never to use wall calendars or spring wagons these days. That view comes mostly from peer pressure. That is to say, people will laugh at you if you ride a spring wagon to work or if they see a wall calendar in your kitchen. The point is not to care.

There might be other points, but I don’t know what they are.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Loving our parks to death

You’ve heard the old story, one version or another, about a family who builds a cabin next to a lake or on a high hill where there’s a spectacular view. Their friends visit, some build next door, then one day a restaurant appears and a gas station and a traffic light and a hotel and, in time, the place is just as crowded as the neighborhoods in town everyone tried to escape.

The national parks are suffering a similar death, one in which most people consider humans to be the most invasive species with the once pristine preserve. Years ago, Glacier National Park was considered the most threatened park in the NPS system, primarily from air and water polution that arose outside its borders. Now the new threat comes from within as the NPS continues to resist putting a cap on the number of visitors allowed each year.

Glacier started a ticketed entry system this year. So far, it seems to be managing the traffic. The sad thing is this: it’s not reducing the traffic. A recent story said visitor counts on Sun Road in Glacier are up 41% over 2019. I had hoped the NPS would manage to reduce the number of visitors based on the premise that too many is too many if the park and its flora and fauna are to be preserved.

When a new building goes up in town, the fire marshal establishes a maximum occupancy in the name of safety. We  need a similar limit for parks because once our invasive species of humans have overrun the place, it will lose everything the NPS was supposed to be preserving. In Glacier, there are traffic jams not only to get into the park, but of hikers waiting to use popular trails like the High Line which, I suppose, will one day have a turnstile at each end to control access.

Unfortunately, the most viable way to reduce visitor counts is also the most unfair: charging so much that people cannot afford the bill. This means the rich get in and the poor do not. The ticketed entry system seems to be helping at Glacier. I look forward, though, to the next viable and democratic system that truly keeps each year’s visitor counts to a safe level.

In the 1960s when I worked in Glacier as a seasonal employee, we said, “Thank goodness nodody knows where this place is.” Unfortunately, they’ve found out. The park was overcrowded several years ago: letting more people in is not the answer we need.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Glacier Park Announces Sun Road Temporary Ticketed Entry System

Glacier National Park News Release

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [March 31, 2021] – Today, Glacier National Park announces the decision to implement a Going-to-the-Sun Road temporary ticketed entry system for the 2021 season. Going-to-the-Sun entry reservation tickets will be available at www.Recreation.gov starting April 29, barring any unforeseen delays.

The system will require visitors to set up an account on www.Recreation.gov and obtain a vehicle entry reservation ticket at ($2 nonrefundable fee) to enter the 50 mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) corridor at the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances between 6 AM and 5 PM from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Entry reservation tickets will not be required for those with lodging, camping, transportation, or commercial activity within the GTSR corridor. Landowners with property within the GTSR corridor and affiliated tribal members are also not required to have a GTSR entry reservation ticket.

Glacier National Park saw record numbers of visitors in the last few years. This season is predicted to be one of the busiest on record.

“We have the making of a perfect storm this season,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Not only do we have ongoing COVID-19 mitigations and reduced staffing, but we are also facing construction delays inside and around the park.”

In 2020, park officials implemented temporary closures 29 times in 25 days at the park’s West Entrance which at times resulted in backups along Highway 2. The ticketed entry system offers visitors increased certainty that they will be able to enter the park while reducing or eliminating the need for closures at the park’s west entrance.

“The goal is to maximize access while avoiding congestion that results in temporary closures of park entrance gates,” says Mow.

Numbers will be tracked each day and additional entry reservation tickets will be available if there is additional capacity. There will be fewer entry reservation tickets available prior to the full opening of GTSR. When the road opens, the number of entry reservation tickets available will increase. The date for GTSR opening is unknown at this time and subject to weather and plowing progress. The park plans to start plowing GTSR on April 5.

About two-thirds of the entry reservation tickets will be released for 60 days advance purchase on a rolling window, and the remaining entry reservation tickets will be released for 48 hours advance purchase, also on a rolling window. For example, on June 2 a visitor could purchase entry reservation tickets 48 hours in advance for entry on June 4. They could also purchase an entry reservation ticket 60 days in advance for entry on August 2.

The traffic congestion at Glacier National Park has been off the scale during the last several years. I am happy to see that the park administration is taking a proactive approach to this growing problem.

–Malcolm

A Glacier Park Novel – Audiobook Edition

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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The songbird that walks and flies underwater

“He is the mountain streams’ own darling, the humming-bird of blooming waters, loving rocky ripple-slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows. Among all the mountain birds, none has cheered me so much in my lonely wanderings, –none so unfailingly. For both in winter and summer he sings, sweetly, cheerily, independent alike of sunshine and of love, requiring no other inspiration than the stream on which he dwells. While water sings, so must he, in heat or cold, calm or storm, ever attuning his voice in sure accord; low in the drought of summer and the drought of winter, but never silent.” – John Muir

When I worked as a seasonal hotel employee in Glacier National Park, my attention focused first on mountain sheep and mountain goats, deer and moose, marmots and ground squirrels, and–of course bears. The most striking birds were the ospreys and golden eagles, followed by large flocks of songbirds such as pine siskins. A month went by before I saw a water ouzel, beloved by John Muir, because this bird seems to spend more time underwater than in the air. Imagine resting beside a stream on a long hike, glancing down into the water where–amongst the minnows–you see a dark grey bird walking on the bottom looking for insects and even small fish.

Wikipedia Photo

We consulted George Ruhle’s Guide to Glacier National Park and learned the bird was a water ouzel, now (for reasons I don’t know) more commonly called the American Dipper ( Cinclus mexicanus). Cornell Labs calls the dipper “America’s only truly aquatic songbird,” noting also its thick plumage, low metabolic rate, and molting of feathers (like ducks) every year.

According to Audubon, “This distinctive bird is locally common along rushing streams in the West, especially in high mountains. It is usually seen bobbing up and down on a rock in mid-stream, or flying low over the water, following the winding course of a creek rather than taking overland shortcuts. The song and callnotes of the Dipper are loud, audible above the roar of the water.”

I found the bird fascinating even before I learned later that one of my wilderness heroes, John Muir considered it a favorite. 

–Malcolm

Glacier Park Novel

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Glacier Park’s East Side Reopens

NPS Glacier News Release

WEST GLACIER, Mont. [March 17, 2021] – Glacier National Park announces access to the east side of the park will reopen on March 18 at Two Medicine, Cut Bank and St. Mary for foot traffic, skis and snowshoes. Regular winter closures remain in place. Chief Mountain Road will remain closed at the park boundary until road conditions permit.

Wikipedia photo

The entrance at St. Mary allows vehicle traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road for 1.5 miles until the winter gate closure at St. Mary Campground. Access past the gate is allowed by foot, skiing and snowshoeing as is typical of normal winter seasons. The St. Mary Campground remains closed to winter camping until further notice.

The roads into Cut Bank, and Two Medicine remain closed to vehicle traffic for the winter, but access by foot, skiing and snowshoeing is available past the gates as is typical of normal winter seasons. Construction began on Many Glacier Road on March 15 and is closed to vehicular traffic and closed to hiker/biker traffic Monday through Friday through May 28.

Visitors are reminded that winter conditions are unpredictable and can quickly become dangerous. Visitors should prepare for icy conditions, high winds, and snow. Cellular communications in the park are extremely limited.

Access to the park east of the Continental Divide has been closed since March 2020 to protect the Blackfeet Indian Reservation population from COVID-19 due to high-risk members of the community. The decision to allow access to the east side was made after close consultation between health officials from the National Park Service, Indian Health Service, the Blackfeet Tribe, Glacier County and the state of Montana.

It will be nice to see Two Medicine, Many Glacier Hotel, and Glacier Park Lodge open again. The news should be especially exciting to organizers and participants at the planned MGH Employees Reunion scheduled for this summer.

Malcolm

Writing about a high-speed chase on a mountain road

Since it’s cold and rainy here in north Georgia, I spent the day writing about a speeding Harley Davidson being chased by a ranger along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun road. In “real life,” that highway is covered by many feel of snow in February that will take many weeks to plough before the summer season begins in June.

Fortunately, the Google Earth views and the Google Maps street views–as discussed here were taken in the summer. So, what I see looks like this photo:

My keyboard almost has no room on my desk due to the stack of paper maps, guidebooks, and place name guides cluttering up my space. If this were a fictional road or some random road in the middle of nowhere, I might get away with a little artistic license. But Glacier National Park has over three million visitors a year and most of them want to see this road from their cars, from a red bus, or from a park shuttle.

So, there’s no room for mistakes. That’s a bit daunting. On the other hand, I hope the fame and beauty of the setting will help draw people to the novel to be called “Weeping Wall.” Here’s what the real weeping wall looks like, compliments of Wikipedia:

 

If you’re westbound in one of the convertible red tour busses, you’re going to get wet. All of that water comes from snowmelt higher up on the Garden Wall. There’s less of a torrent here late in the summer. Weeping Wall will be the third in my “Mountain Journey’s Series,” following The Sun Singer and Sarabande.

The most difficult task hasn’t really been getting the landmarks right. It’s been getting the background from the earlier novels in the series correct–and then some of the characters also appear in my Kindle novels Mountain Song and At Sea. Co-ordinating all these stories was something I never wanted to face–until now. I think I’ve gone nuts.

But, it’s a fun kind of crazy.

Malcolm

I invite you to enjoy my two earlier novels in the series, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.” Both of them are contemporary fantasies set in Glacier National Park, Montana.

 

Giveaway: ‘Mountain Song’

My Montana novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle for three days, February 8 through February 10. Previously called The Seeker, the novel is the first of my two David Ward novels. At Sea is the sequel.

Description

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Background

This novel is set in Glacier National Park Montana where I worked for two summers as a resort hotel employee. It’s also set at a fictional Montana sheep ranch and at a real Florida Panhandle swamp. The characters move around a bit, one might say. The mountain on the cover is named Heavy Shield, previously Mt. Wilbur, and can be seen across Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of the park.

You can find information about all of my books on my website.

–Malcolm

for the love of rock

Serious mountain climbers attend very closely to the nature of rock. Is it crumbly? Does it take a piton? In addition to the historic routes to the summits of mountains, guidebooks often mention the condition of the rock.

One thing I care about is the kind of rock I’m climbing on. Climbers’ guidebooks seldom mention this because, I suppose, the authors don’t care and/or they don’t know. When it comes to mountains, I see guidebooks as a teaching opportunity. Without becoming a geology textbook, guidebooks could easily note the name of a mountain’s rock formation or the principal rock along a climbing route.

NPS Glacier Park

I’m surprised that mountainous national parks, some of which have climbers’ guides, don’t mention the kinds of rocks or the specific rock formations (in passing) along with the recipes for getting to the summits.  Or, if that’s too much trouble, the park service could even create a guidebook that addresses geology for a park’s major peaks–as a self-guided tour, perhaps, that would be suitable for those who view the mountains from a road or trail as opposed to climbing them.

The rock within a mountain or a mountain chain has an interesting history, often beginning as sediment deposited in an ancient sea during the Proterozoic eon and–as one might say for Glacier National Park–carved by water and ice for 60 million years to create the spectacular sights we see today.

Or, perhaps only a mountain climber who loves geology would care.

Malcolm

My novels set in Glacier National Park include: “Mountain Song” and “The Sun Singer.”