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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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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Many Glacier’s winter keepers fight weather, find solace
Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park is a lonely place during the winter.
Besides a few hearty animals – wolves, sheep and birds among them – the most abundant thing is snow.
But the historic hotel isn’t completely abandoned, as Missoulian reporter Rob Chaney found in his story “Winter Keepers,” a beautiful tale about the couple the lives at Many Glacier through the harsh winter months.
Six months ago, David and Rebecca Wilson would have been on the wait list to get a room at Many Glacier Hotel.
Today when they show up, gray jays and bighorn sheep come out to greet them. The black bear under the employee dormitory doesn’t bother to wake. They still struggle to get in, but now it’s snowdrifts and 70 mph winds blocking the way instead of throngs of tourists.
But, as Chaney explains, the job isn’t as lonely these days, as the Wilson’s blog about the job, mghwinterkeeper.com, is getting plenty of online traffic.
“We just did it for fun, to see if people noticed,” David Wilson said of the mghwinterkeeper.com blog the couple have maintained since October. “I had no idea so many people would find it, just by word of mouth. On a good day, we get 500 hits on the blog. People are always interested in what the weather’s doing up here.”
Want to see for yourself? Check out a gallery of wintry images from Many Glacier.
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Gift helps preserve Glacier of the past
We highlighted some good news for Yellowstone earlier this week, and now it’s time to share some good news from Glacier.
The park was given 21 historic paintings from the early 20th century from its former concessionaire, a goodwill move that will keep the paintings in their original homes.
As Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin tells us, Glacier Park Inc. donated the paintings to the park last week, even after losing its concessionaire contract for the park to Zanterra.
All the paintings originated between 1909 and 1915, and were either originally owned or commissioned by the Great Northern Railway. All depict scenes in and around Glacier.
The railroad, anxious to lure tourists to travel on its passenger trains, was instrumental in getting Glacier Park established in 1910. It built Many Glacier Hotel in 1915, and in 1930 acquired Lake McDonald Lodge, two of the properties where the paintings are located.
They include pieces by John Frey, Frank Stick, R.H. Palenske, Charles Defeo and an artist with the last name Richmond, about whom little is known. Some of the donated work is by unknown artists.
The only stipulation to the donation was the paintings remain in the properties for which they were created, Devlin wrote.
Dance of the Glacier County Honey bees
The folks at Glacier County Honey, as you might imagine, know a lot about bees.
Afterall, the bees make the business. Our feature on the up-and-coming business that is flourishing near the northern Montana town of Babb showed just how much knowledge it takes to keep happy bees that produce their sweet honey.
The bees are transported from Montana to California and back again each year to ensure they’re happy.
When it comes time to make honey, millions of bees buzz through fields in Babb collecting pollen to bring back to the hives. In fact, when they find a good source, worker bees do a dance to show other workers where to find it.
Read the full story in our Sept/Oct issue.
In the meantime, here’s a little more about the Glacier County Honey bees (including more about the dance of the honey bees) courtesy of owners Courtney and Greg Fullerton.
What kind of bees do you keep at Glacier County Honey?
What is the lifespan of a bee?
Lifespan of a bee depends on the time of year – in summer, they’re working so hard some literally fly their wings off, and can expect to live about 3 weeks. But once the queen shuts down production in preparation for winter, they’ll live through the winter.
How many bees help make Glacier County Honey?
In the summer months, about 90 million bees at any given time help make Glacier County (and Chief Mountain) honey.
What is your favorite fact about bees that many people don’t know?
Bees communicate with each other by dancing.
There are lots of different types of dances, but our favorite is the Waggle Dance – when a worker bee finds a good nectar source, like a field of alfalfa, she comes back to the hive and does a dance, using the sun as a compass, and tells the other bees where to find this nectar. All worker bees are female. The males are really only around for mating purposes, they don’t even have a stinger, and when they become a burden to the hive – in the winter – the workers kick them out of the hive to die.
Also, bees don’t gather honey, bees make honey. They bring nectar back to the hive in a special honey stomach (they also bring back pollen in “chaps” or pockets on their legs) and they add some special enzymes and fan the nectar down to make honey in the honeycomb that they build in their hive (they have wax secreting glands on their backs).
Bees make honey to eat honey (that’s what they live on), but given the right amount of space and forage and weather, they’ll make more than they could ever need to survive, hence, the possibility of commercial beekeeping.
Survey says Montana home to 2 top national parks
You probably saw this online poll making the social media rounds in the past couple weeks, asking people to vote for the nation’s best national park.
Easy choice right?!? Well there are two easy choices for most Montanans…
I think we can all agree it should’ve been a tie for first, with Glacier and Yellowstone at the top. But it was Maine’s Acadia National Park that took the No. 1 spot.
Still, pretty good showing for MT. And in case this makes you want to go and see the parks, we have a great suggestion on the best way to take in the scenery.
Writer Ednor Therriault wrote a great feature in our July/August issue about the iconic red and yellow buses the operate inside Glacier and Yellowstone. It really is a fun story. And even if you’ve seen the parks, Ednor says you’re missing out if you haven’t seen them in a bus.