Glacier National Park
At the beginning of the summer, I began working with the Citizen Science program at Glacier to help the Park Service keep track of loons, pikas, and mountain ungulates. So, on the weekend before school began, I did a big loop in Many Glacier to catch a couple of the less visited sites. We started late in the afternoon on Friday, staying at Poia Lake where I would do a survey in the morning. Then, we went over Red Gap Pass and down to Elizabeth Lake for a simultaneous loon and ungulate survey, coming up and out via Ptarmigan Tunnel.
The loop is an odd one in high summer, combining some of Glacier’s least-visited country with its most-visited. Even so, it is beautiful, and the smoke stayed far away. Only a light haze, typical for this time of year, obscured our vision.
Yellowstone National Park
Our original plan was to hike the Beartooth Plateau and investigate the reputation of the trout in its lake system. However, our plans changed, and we spent only one night near the Montana-Wyoming border as the wind poured smoke over us from a nearby fire. Finding that rather intolerable, we hiked out and checked our maps, realizing that we were only an hour or so from Cooke City and from Yellowstone. So to Yellowstone we went.
Our improvised Plan B turned out much better than Plan A, and after visiting a ranger station we had permits in hand. The area was noticeably less smokey, even if we could see plumes from several surrounding fires rising like white columns into the sky. We soon discovered that, as far as we could tell, we had all of Wyoming north of the Yellowstone River and west of Hellroaring Creek to ourselves—despite never being more than four-and-a-half easy miles from the trailhead. Not bad for a national park in high summer.
The smoke plume from the Emigrant Fire in the Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
Looking down on the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone.
We found a number of impressive elk sheds in the area—a few several feet in length and nearly all found and relocated by hikers. But none were still attached as with this bull.
The Yellowstone River
Despite a short amount of time for actual backcountry travel, I was able to pull off a surprising number of trips this summer into a number of diverse locales: the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Glacier National Park, the Beartooth Plateau, and Yellowstone National Park. Add to that a tourist-style trip into Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada over the long weekend, and summer turned out far better than expected—especially given that I had to write something near 200 pages of academic work between June 7th (the last day of the school year) and August 3rd.
But with all that logorrhea comes exhaustion. Each of these trips deserves a post in its own right, but I simply don’t have the time or words. I am certain that these days and nights will find their way into my writing at some point or other, as they make their slow way through my mind. Until then, I leave you with the pictures.
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The South Fork of the Flathead River (and Tributaries)
Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
In all honesty, I cannot claim these. I was fishing a new rod on the trip, and I had little time to practice tenkara-style casting before we left. I learned as we went.
Layers of sedimentary ocean floor—“rocks from the basement of time.”