Going-to-the-Sun Road: The ‘art’ of moving snow
Snowplow crews are making headway in their work to clear Glacier’s epic roadway.
Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin has the story:
The annual opening of this iconic two-lane highway through the heart of Glacier National Park signals the full-bore start of tourist season in this part of Montana, and so the date Going-to-the-Sun is ready for traffic is an important one to lots of people.
And we don’t know it.
What we do know is that when snowplow crews on the west side reach Oberlin Bend near Logan Pass, Glacier officials escort a gaggle of reporters up to watch them work.
- View a video of the plowing progress on Going-to-the-Sun
That happened Monday, as machinery labored its way through a winter’s worth of snow, even as more snow fell.
A year ago – with significantly more snowfall for crews to deal with – the annual journalists’ trek to Oberlin Bend didn’t happen until June 5. The road went on to open on July 3.
This year, they’ve reached Oberlin Bend almost four weeks earlier than last year, but, as is always the case, Mother Nature will have the biggest say in how work progresses from here.
“We’ve had blizzards in June, and it’s not even mid-May yet,” explained Glacier spokeswoman Denise Germann.
Read the rest of the story here.
Glacier and Yellowstone: Come with us from Park-to-Park
By Jenna Cederberg
If you set out via vehicle to see both Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, you’ll find many routes on many roads that will take you from park to park.
Google the question and you’re presented with one 370-mile driving route through Montana in about six hours and 36 minutes.
For our Park-to-Park issue, we’re suggesting a broader loop around the state that runs close to 973 miles total.
Whether you want to go from Yellowstone to Glacier, or vice-a-versa, take a look at these routes that’ll take you through a good chunk of the Big Sky State. Whether you make the entire drive or not, don’t worry: Head east or head west, north or south, there are more than a few things to see along the way.
East Route: Roughly 530 miles
Start: Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park
Finish: St. Mary/East entrance, Glacier National Park
Leave Old Faithful, head north on U.S. Highway 89 about 18 miles until the Madison Campground – where you’ll veer east and continue on Highway 89 on a portion of the Grand Loop Road – open only in the summer season – for about 164 miles, hopping off the Loop at Mammoth and driving along the Yellowstone River until you reach Livingston. Then, you’ll drive for 170 miles from Livingston to Great Falls. Next, you’ll take Interstate 15 north to Vaughn, connect with Highway 89 again, this time heading west past Freezout Lake, Choteau and north to Browning. Drive 175 miles from Great Falls through Browning and you’ll arrive at the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park. Then, you’re ready to head up Going-to-the-Sun Road.
– Gardiner – A “full service” town, according to the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, this is a must stop to get gas and supplies before continuing through some long stretches of road without gas stations. You might also run into some bison, which are known to walk the town’s streets on occasion near the famous Roosevelt Arch.
– Livingston – By the time you reach this artsy town, you’ll most likely be ready for a bite to eat. Gil’s Goods on the main drag – Park Street – has menu items like sweet homemade sodas and sourdough French toast.
– White Sulphur Springs – Now home to one of the Montana’s most popular summer music festivals – the Red Ants Pants Music Festival – this town lives up to its name in the Spa Hot Springs Motel and Clinic, where there are gorgeous pools filled with natural hot mineral water. Each pool is drained every day, and no chemicals are ever used.
– Great Falls – Perhaps the most famous cowboy painter of all time made this city his home, and the museum named for Charlie Russell is a must-stop on this park-to-park route. The C.M. Russell Museum is home to more than 12,000 permanent collection objects – from Russell originals to his log home and studio.
– Freezout Lake – A wildlife management area on the Rocky Mountain Front, Freezout Lake is a prime stop along the route for anyone looking to spot birds. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, beyond the well-known spring migration that brings thousands of geese and swans to the area, the grasses and marshes of the area attract more than 227 species of birds each year.
West Route: Roughly 443 miles
Start: West Entrance, Glacier National Park
Finish: West Yellowstone
Head south on U.S. Route 2, leaving Glacier National Park on your way toward Flathead Lake. You’ll drive for 35 miles on Route 2, turning south again on Montana Highway 93 at Kalispell and down the west side of Flathead. You’ll approach Missoula after approximately 120 miles, merging onto Interstate 90 heading east at The Wye just west of Missoula. Head east on Interstate 90 for about 168 miles, until you’re just east of Whitehall, when you’ll turn south on Montana Highway 287. You’ll drive for about 120 miles on Highway 287, past Hebgen Lake, before heading south on Montana Highway 191 until you find West Yellowstone.
– Hungry Horse – Sometimes known as “Huck Town, USA,” Hungry Horse is just outside Glacier’s boundaries and is a must-stop for anyone who loves huckleberries. The Huckleberry Patch on Route 2 in the middle of town offers just about everything huckleberry – including one of the best huckleberry shakes in the area, complete with whole hucks at the bottom of each glass.
– Pablo – The People’s Center in Pablo, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, is the place to get to know the heritage of the Salish, Pend d’Orielle and Kootenai tribes. The museum includes 1,200 square feet of exhibits and a gift shop that sells local Native American artwork.
– Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge – If at all possible, plan to stop at the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge just as the sun is setting. Not only is it home to a spectacular spread of wetlands, to the east is an unbeatable view of the Mission Mountains.
– Missoula – Next to the Clark Fork River and host of outdoor events throughout the year, Caras Park in downtown Missoula is a perfect stopover spot on your way from park to park. There’s Out to Lunch each Wednesday in the summers, and Downtown ToNight each Thursday. Both feature live music and food from local food trucks.
– Ennis – Officially listed on the “Backroad to Yellowstone” tour that runs through the Madison Valley, this town might be best known for its fly fishing features. But there are a lot of other sites to see, including an outdoor art walk featuring the largest hand-tied fly ever made.
Glacier’s Goat Haunt is an unlikely passport portal
By Becky Lomax
No roads reach Goat Haunt. The secluded Glacier National Park outpost is tucked three miles south of the Canadian border at the nexus of a few hiking trails. Despite its remoteness in Montana, anyone can get to this far-flung place.
For most visitors, the route is via Canada.
Isolated on the south tip of Waterton Lake, Goat Haunt is one of the least visited places in Glacier National Park. While Logan Pass clogs with cars each summer, Goat Haunt sees some day hikers arrive on foot, a few backpackers and boat tour sightseers every couple hours.
- To explore Goat Haunt through a Glacier National Park web cam, click here.
Beyond that, a motorboat or two stops by. Of the record-breaking 2.3 million visitors to Glacier in 2014, only 34,000 visited Goat Haunt.
“You’re so secluded in Goat Haunt,” said Denny Gignoux, co-owner of Glacier Guides that takes about 20 trips of backpackers in, out or through Goat Haunt every summer. “But it’s very easy to get into the backcountry. Trails get you into fabulous alpine country, and it’s a great destination for day hikers to enjoy and then return to the amenities in Waterton.”
Goat Haunt is part front country, part backcountry.
To read the entire story on Goat Haunt, subscribe today.
Portfolio: Glacier’s glaciers, before they’re gone
Photography of Seth Eagleton
The Glacier National Park Seth Eagleton’s kids see today won’t be the park they see when they’re grown.
Whether the 25 glaciers remaining inside Glacier are gone in 5 years or 20, their retreat is changing the face of the Crown of the Continent.
“When I was hiking around in high school there was 35 (glaciers),” Eagleton said. “At the turn of last century, there were 150, they’re fading fast.”
As the Columbia Falls native scrambles and climbs through the wild backcountry in the park he considers his backyard, he knows there’s nothing he can do to stop the glaciers from melting.
Instead, Eagleton has created the Glacier Preservation Project, and is on a mission to carefully and artfully photograph each of the park’s remaining glaciers.
“I want to make sure we’ve got something to remember them by,” said Eagleton, who noticed no one was attempting to capture photos of all the glaciers when he worked gathering social media content for Glacier Park Inc.
Now a full-time wedding photographer who works with his wife, Jill, Eagleton has visited and photographed a good portion of the glaciers in the past several years.
Glacier Preservation Project is currently a digital project. Eagleton posts images from the glaciers he and his family visit online at glacierpreservationproject.com, and on several social media sites where the project has a steady following.
According to the U.S. National Park Service, there were 150 glaciers inside Glacier in 1850.
Today, there are 25 that “remain large enough (at least 25 acres in area) to be considered a functional glacier.”
It’s predicted that by 2030, all the glaciers will be gone, according to NPS.
Eagleton’s journeys to the glaciers are often arduous – finding a safe hiking approach to the most inaccessible glaciers is a constant challenge.
Along with backpacking gear, Eagleton hikes with as much as 65-70 pounds of camera gear.
Recently, he’s had several of the older set of his six kids in tow as well.
Eagleton says there’s never been this kind of comprehensive photographic documentation of Glacier’s glaciers – at least none with such an artistic twist.
Eagleton photographs each glacier in several ways. First, finding a wide, more scenic “distance” shot. Then, he gets on the glaciers and examines the “details” so “you catch on to the atmosphere,” he said, to show “what did it feel like to be there?”
“Some are really bleak; it’s melting fast so nothing has had a chance to grow up. Some are really lush and it really speaks of Glacier National Park and what it has to offer,” Eagleton said.
Eagleton will focus on glaciers in the northern portion of the park this summer, and if weather and routes cooperate, he’ll finish photographing the glaciers this summer.
Then, Eagleton is planning to self publish a book about the project, funding it through an upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
What Eagleton won’t do is get political. He said he can’t say exactly what is causing the glaciers’ retreat.
“I’m not trying to push a bunch of controversial subjects, the fact is we’re losing our glaciers,” he said. “We’re going to lose them and whether it’s in 5 years or 10 years – I’m not a scientist, I’m good at observation – it would just be a shame if we didn’t have something to remember them by.”
- Glacier Preservation Project: To learn more about Seth Eagleton’s Glacier Preservation Project, and for a link to the Kickstarter campaign to help fund a coffee table book about the project, visit glacierpreservationproject.com.
To view the entire Glacier Preservation Project Portfolio, subscribe today.
Yellowstone roads set to open
It’s time to get your summer park plans in order. The mild winter around Montana means that the parks are beginning to awake early this year.
Portions of roads inside Yellowstone National Park (open to bikes only for a few weeks) are set to open Friday.
The road from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will open for the season at 8 a.m.
Each spring, Yellowstone National Park plow crews clear snow and ice from 198 miles of main road, 124 miles of secondary roads and 125 acres of parking lots inside the park, as well as 31 miles of the Beartooth Highway outside the park’s Northeast Entrance to prepare for the summer season.
Additional road segments in the park will open during May as road clearing operations progress.
We’ll be taking readers into both Yellowstone and Glacier in our upcoming Park-to-Park issue.
As for Glacier – here’s a look at plowing progress on Going-to-the-Sun-Road.
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Yellowstone! Glacier! Come with us on our Park-to-Park journey
We’ve got National Parks on the brain this month at Montana Magazine for a couple reasons.
For one, we’re preparing to send our Park-to-Park issue where we’ll take readers from Yellowstone to Glacier and back again in a couple ways (spoiler alert: there’s a map and a couple can’t-miss features.)
- Subscribe today!
For example, take writer Kelsey Dayton’s story on Yellowstone’s “geyser gazers.”
The feature showcases not only the geysers of Yellowstone, but the self-appointed stewards of the geysers. They’re a set of people who dedicate years’ worth of vacation time to documenting the activity of geysers. Their data allows rangers to guide millions of visitors around the park, so they can have their own geyser gazing experiences.
Our Park-to-Park issue ships to subscribers on April 30.
Also, the National Parks Service launched its Find Your Park campaign this week, as it gears up for the 2016 centennial of the National Parks System. The new website includes several videos – including this one where Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone makes an appearance.
Still want more from Glacier and Yellowstone? We’ll help you find the people and place that make Montana’s national parks special year round in Montana Magazine. Subscribe today!
List: Springtime is the best time to see Bighorn, Glacier
We know: There are a lot of “must visit” lists out there these days.
But it’s hard to resist sharing them when two of the “must visit” destinations are in our wonderful state.
Both Teton Canyon National Recreation Area and Glacier National Park made MSN Travel’s “10 Great National Parks to Visit This Spring” list.
Here’s what they had to say about Bighorn:
The park is home to wild horses, bighorn sheep and mountain lions, but the major attraction in the spring is fishing in Bighorn Lake—it’s a world-class trout fishery that should be on every angler’s list.
And what’s so special about Glacier in the springtime?
Though Glacier National Park is normally chilly in the spring, it is the best time to visit. The 700+ miles of hiking trails and abundance of wildlife are best experienced when the crowds are sparse
Here’s one of our most popular 2014 features from Glacier. It’s all about goats.
We’re gearing up to bring you a special Park to Park issue this summer – including one-of-a-kind feature stories on what make our parks special, and a road trip map to get you from one park to the other.
Subscribe today and don’t miss a Montana moment.
Beautiful signs of spring already blooming in Glacier
There’s an unusual feeling in the air lately around Montana – and the people who live and work in Glacier National Park have been feeling it too. Even though it’s only February, the snow cover that the deer in the middle of the road was enjoying in December and January – is melting.
The unusually warm spring-like temperatures have prompted a flurry of Facebook posts by the park, noting that things are blooming and animals are waking up as the snow melts.
A post on Feb. 11 noted that pussy willow buds look ready to bud.
“This is most unusual and way too early as we still have a lot of winter to come in northern Montana. Buds on many cottonwoods also very swollen and looking ready to leaf out. Chickadees singing their “spring song.” And people out riding bicycles and flying kites. Feels a bit like the twilight zone.”
Another post of showed the browning meadows of Two Dog Flats near St. Mary Lake, an important winter habitat for elk.
If you haven’t already, be sure to follow Glacier National Park on Facebook for more updates and gorgeous photos from around the park. Also, check out GNP’s Flickr stream for some great images of a wolverine.
We’re proud of the Glacier photography we’ve featured, too. Check some out here.
And our readers have taken some great Glacier shots as well.
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