Glacier’s longest-running hiking crew forms close bond with park
Story and photos by Becky Lomax
On a gray drippy day, a group of 16 Flathead Valley hikers, ages 60 to mid-80, eyeball the pouring rain.
Inside their restaurant meeting place on the west side of Glacier National Park, no one looks at a menu to order breakfast.
The waitress, greeting the regulars by name, asks, “You want the usual?”
One member quips, “With the rain, maybe we should stick around for lunch.”
But weather does not deter these weekly hikers. Not rain, snow or single-digit temperatures.
Every Thursday, nearly year round, the Over the Hill Gang meets at the Glacier Grill in Coram.
After breakfast, they depart to multiple trailheads – some to lung-busting, seldom-visited peaks, and others to worn paths where every red mudstone and gnarled sub-alpine fir is a familiar friend.
It was 1976 when five men in their 60s launched the Over the Hill Gang.
Since then, the gang has grown, evolved with new faces, and garnered the reputation as the longest running hiking group in Glacier. The big adventurers have climbed to hidden lakes, bushwhacked cross-country routes, and summited crags, often returning after dark.
For hikers that could have bragging rights as giant as the roster of peaks they’ve climbed, they ditched egos years ago behind some clump of beargrass in favor of camaraderie.
Glacier’s Over the Hill Gang
Year Established: 1976
Headquarters: Glacier Grill, Coram
Membership dues: $0
Hiking day: every Thursday, year-round
Attendance: approximately 30, for peak summer hikes
To read the full story on the Over the Hill Gang, subscribe today!
TBT: Remember these summertime stories?
It’s that time of week again: to for a little Throwback Thursday action.
In honor of the first day of summer on Sunday, we’re pulling up a few of our most popular stories from the summer of 2014.
First, this awesome feature on the 75th anniversary of Montana state parks – which are really great places to play during the summer. There are 54 state parks in Montana.
Here’s our feature from the May/June 2014 issue. It includes an interactive map so you can see where you might want to go this summer. Need a little more info? Here’s a post about a book all about the parks.
And we can’t forget Glacier and Yellowstone when we’re talking about summer. Here’s a story on a great way to see both the parks: In vintage cruiser buses. Yellow in Yellowstone and red in Glacier.
To get our most recent dose of summertime stories, subscribe today!
Come with us from Park-to-Park: Glacier to Yellowstone
All week we’ve been taking you to place we think are some of the best stops on any journey from Yellowstone to Glacier.
We’ve been to fishing towns and museums, and to places where the scenery will stop you in your tracks.
- Stop 1: Where buffalo roam (downtown
- Stop 2: More than a fly fishing Mecca
- Stop 3: A beautiful place of refuge
- Stop 4: A brief detour to Going-to-the-Sun
- Stop 5: Charlie Russell’s home town
- Stop 6: A huckleberry haven
In our May/June feature, you can view the entire trip, both our eastern and western routes. There’s more must-stop suggestions too.
- Montana Magazine’s official Park-to-Park routes
Park-to-Park stop No. 4: A detour up Going-to-the-Sun
We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled program – AKA Stop No. 4 on our virtual Park-to-Park journey- for a special notice: Going-to-the-Sun Road has opened to vehicle traffic on the west side.
It’s a summer right of passage each year in Montana when the highway through Glacier opens. And this year it’s a touch earlier than most. Actually, it fits into our trip pretty nicely.
- Read our Park-to-Park story inside the May/June issue here
The announcement Wednesday means it’s the earliest opening in a decade, according to Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin.
It’s still a winter wonderland at Logan Pass, where (Park spokesperson Denise) Germann said visitors will encounter a snow-covered landscape, not to mention temperatures that are running 25 to 30 degrees cooler than ones found in Flathead Valley floors this week.
Any wind will make it feel even chillier.
While the entire 50 miles of Going-to-the-Sun is slated to open on June 19, drivers should still expect delays of up to 30 minutes on the east side of the park this summer as the road work continues. Sun Point, which is being used as a staging area for the road rehabilitation, will remain closed to all visitor uses this summer.
Just four years ago, Going-to-the-Sun had its latest opening since 1933, the year it was dedicated on July 15. In 2011, deep snows and bad weather delayed it until July 13.
So what are you waiting for? Get up to Glacier!
We’ll have more great Glacier stories in our upcoming July/August issue. Subscribe today and don’t miss a Montana moment.
Park-to-Park stop No. 2: Ennis is more than a fly fishing mecca
We’re continuing our virtual trip from Park-to-Park today (which for our own purposes we’re calling Travel Tuesday) with a stop in Ennis.
It’s on our West Route from Glacier to Yellowstone.
- Read our entire Park-to-Park story here
Ennis is a place known for its fly fishing wonders. We’d be remiss to not point out that the town – according to the chamber of commerce website – is home to the largest hand-tied fly ever made (huge kudos to anyone who can send us a photo of that). There’s also a ton of outdoor art around the town.
It’s also a place on the “Backroad to Yellowstone” – which is a road through the Madison Valley. Beautiful might be an understatement for that area.
- Here’s a fun list of 20 Things To Do In Ennis
Not a bad stop over point if you’re going from Glacier to Yellowstone.
Goat Haunt: Glacier’s unlikely passport portal
You may – or may not – need your passport to get into this slice of heaven inside Glacier National Park.
It depends on how you get there. As writer Becky Lomax explains, Goat Haunt inside Glacier National Park is both accessible front country, and hard-to-reach backcountry.
But, for full disclosure’s sake, we have to tell you, there aren’t any goats in Goat Haunt.
Despite its remoteness, Goat Haunt has a unique history. Its name comes from Goat Haunt Mountain, an 8,641-foot high summit to the east, perhaps named by the Blackfeet for a concentration of goats.
But mountain goats do not inhabit Goat Haunt. The elevation is too low and the heavy forest surrounding it is not their favored habitat. The only goat is a metal weather vane on top of the observation pavilion.
Read more here.
And if you’ve ever been to Goat Haunt, we’d love to hear your stories – send them our way to email@example.com.
And to get more on Glacier all year round, subscribe today.
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.
How’s spring progressing in MT? Check out our web cams
No matter where you are, it’s easy to keep track of Montana these days.
We’ve compiled a list of web cams – with links! – for everything from ski mountains to national parks.
As the state thaws, the cams are a good way to keep track of spring’s progress through the web cams.
Take second to check out our Web Cams of Montana page.