When trying to figure out where to go and what to do for our anniversary, Kristen said, “Would you mind if I just planned something and surprised you?”. I love surprises and am not the greatest planner, so I jumped on it with the caveat that next year, I would do the planning.
So last Thursday, we got in the car with only a few clues and I figured out that we were heading north to Canada. Eventually we ended up at the Emerald Lake Lodge in Canada with the plan to explore some of Parks Canada. As we figured out what to do, we ended up deciding on hiking some and driving some. We hiked to Hamilton Falls and Wapta Falls. Most of the hiking was buried in snow, but the lakes, creeks, rivers and mountains were beautiful.
Driving and hiking around Yoho, Banff and Kootenay National Parks reminded me a lot of Glacier, west of the Continental Divide. The trees went high up the mountains and close to the road making road viewing primarily cliffs, avalanche chutes and whatever was okay with coming within 40 feet of the road. That being said, we saw a lot of elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mule deer and whitetail deer, three black bears and, much to my giddy delight, a gray wolf (the latter of which crossed the road and disappeared faster than I could get out my camera).
All in all, a very sweet trip. Check out the photos below. I’m looking forward to another year and getting out more with my favorite hiking partner.
Everyone has days in their lives that hold significance such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, the passing of loved ones. They are days to reflect on milestones, life changing events and loved ones. For me, one of the biggest is May 17th.
On May 17th, 2011, I started my hiking project along McDonald Creek. It was a typical Spring day in Montana that rained some and showed glimpses of the summer sun. It was the beginning of one of those events that has reverberated in my life every day since and I look back fondly on it.
One year later, I was getting ready to start another big project called marriage. The thought that it coincided with my previous year’s date with destiny came after. The date had significance to both my bride and I as both of our parents were celebrating their 37th wedding anniversaries on the same day. While I normally wouldn’t seek out the same anniversary date as my parents, the poetry of all three couples sharing the date was too delicious to pass up.
So this year on May 17th, 2013, Kristen and I celebrate our one year anniversary, both sets of parents 38th wedding anniversaries, and to a lesser degree, the two year anniversary of the first steps of Hike 734.
Some animals can be seen all year round in Glacier National Park while other animals arrive or wake up in springtime and disappear in the fall. Others still shoe up for a very short time and are gone again. Such is the case for the Trillium and the Harlequin Duck. I went out to McDonald Creek on a sunny Spring day to find both of these and I got a nice dose of what I was looking for.
It was a perfect spring day and I knew that Harlequin Ducks had arrived back at McDonald Creek and my schedule was going to be too crazy to be able to get to see them soon, so I made a call to head on up for a quick hike and see what I could see. I had also seen some Trillium flowers just starting to bloom and figured I could get both.
I parked by the footbridge over McDonald Creek by Sacred Cascade, walked across the bridge and started heading upstream. I started seeing Trilliums, took pictures and kept walking. Not far down the trail I started seeing Harlequin Ducks and ended up seeing three pairs and watched them for about half an hour and then headed back to work.
As a bonus, I got to see a Red-necked Grebe catching a fish on McDonald Lake.
I absolutely love giving my presentation! I get to tell my story while showing video and pictures of my trip. If you followed my blog in 2011, you got the quasi-objective version of the trail. My presentations are more of the story behind the adventure as a whole.
This coming Tuesday, I’m speaking again, this time in Helena, MT. I was in Helena a few weeks ago on my Jake N Blake 2013 trip. (insert “Helena and back” joke here) If you live in the area go and get your tickets at the Basecamp (which is a really sweet store) or at the Myrna Loy Center where I’m speaking. If you don’t live there, let your friends know.
A bonus is that the superintendent of Glacier, Kym Hall, will be there to share some things about Glacier and answer questions at the end. Here are the details:
When: Tuesday, May 14th, 7-9pm (doors open at 6:30pm) Where: Myrna Loy Center How much: $8 in advance, $12 at the door (available at the Basecamp or Myrna Loy Center) What: Me chatting it up and Kym Hall of Glacier National Park letting us know what’s happening this summer (with Q&A after) More info:Contact me or call Paul Travis at the Glacier National Park Conservancy (406) 892-3250
(also, I’m going to be filming this one in hopes of mixing down a DVD that y’all can get at a later date… stay tuned!)
As soon as roads start opening up in Glacier National Park, it’s fun to head on out and see what’s going on. In places like Many Glacier, you’ll find no crowds and animals that are looking for food as the long winter releases its icy grip. You’ll also find more snow than you probably were expecting. Thankfully we had snowshoes and a perfectly sunny day. Couple that with sitings of Bighorn Sheep, a Mountain Goat, a Moose and some birds and we went home with smiles and sunburns.
I went with my friend TJ Fallon who is working on his project Hiking for Diabetes. This was his first outing for the project and I couldn’t be more excited for him and his project. He talked about our day on his blog here.
The harried nature of migrations is waning here in the north and things are beginning to settle in. Snow is melting, flowers are breaking ground and bears are emerging. Birds are establishing their territories, building nests and looking to make little ones in their image. It’s for this last reason that we headed up to Howe Lake.
Howe Lake is two distinct bodies of water separated by a marshy stream. The lower lake is accessible right along the Howe Lake trail and frequently features a wide array of waterfowl. Upon arrival, the lower lake did not disappoint. We saw many Mallards and Buffleheads as well as Canada Geese, a male Ruddy Duck, Hooded and Common Mergansers, an American Wigeon pair a female Barrow’s Goldeney, not to mention the non-waterfowl birds such as an Osprey, Mountain Bluebirds, Dark-eyed Juncos and Red-winged Blackbirds. After spending a good half an hour there, we decided to head on up and then off trail to the upper lake.
The upper lake is closed off to the Park’s visitors to help protect the nesting of Common Loons there. Since I was up there for the Citizen Science program for Glacier National Park I was able to go to this second lake. I was up there with Jami Belt, an NPS employee, who heads up the program and Karen Chickering who is on the board of the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy helps fund this program and I just love being part of it.
As we came into view of the lake, the Loons saw us and sent out a wail call. We stayed high up on the ridge and watched them for awhile hoping that we could see one of them hop up on the shore and sit on a nest. While that didn’t happen, we did hear them let out a wail call and we looked up to see a juvenile Bald Eagle coming down to the lake. It lowered it’s legs and caught a fish while the Loons voiced their displeasure at its proximity. Loons are a ferocious bird, but one of their only enemies are eagles who like to snack on Loon chicks. Unfortunately, I was recording behavior on paper this time around so I didn’t have my camera out.
The Loons never made it to shore in the hour that we were there which is a good indicator that there isn’t a nest. We weren’t sure if they aren’t nesting or if it’s too early. Someone from the program will come back to the lake later on to see if they have successfully nested. All in all, it was a sweet day to get out.
One of the greatest things about my project has been the people that I’ve met. TJ followed me on my journey in 2011 and contacted me about hitting the trail together. We ended up finally hiking together on Loon Day last year where we ended up seeing 8 loons (6 all together in Trout Lake). This spring, he contacted me to tell me about his new project.
TJ has lived with Type 1 Juvenile Onset Diabetes since he was 15. This past year, he decided to help with the cause and raise money. He put his passion and conviction together to create a project called “Hiking for Diabetes“. He’s looking to have folks sponsor his hiking over this summer to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He’ll also be doing a raffle that includes my driving guide and other fun stuff. With over 25.8 million people in the United States with Type 1 or 2 diabetes, I’m sure you know someone who deals with this disease. Please check out his site hikingfordiabetes.com and partner with TJ for a sweet cause!
As a side, TJ hiked with me to Bullhead Lake in Many Glacier. Blog on that coming soon!
If you want your blog/video/photos featured on “Feature Friday”, please head on over to my Contact Page and send me a link to it! I love helping out people with their Glacier trips and love even more seeing how great they were!
I went out yesterday to look for Common Loon nests with some fine folks and came across my first trillium of the year. For me, this is one of my happy indicators of Spring which is followed by baby animals, more wildflowers, roads and trails opening up and eventually berries. I’ll blog about the Loon trip soon, but in the meantime, I hope the flower puts a smile on your face like it did on mine.
Glacier National Park is more than Going-to-the-Sun Road, but the progress of the plowing of the road is a good indicator as to how much of the Park is accessible to hiking. At the end of most Aprils, the indicator usually feels pretty depressing. Most of the roads are closed and snow still has its icy grip in the mountains.
In the neighboring Flathead Valley where I live, Spring is here which means that one minute, it thinks it’s summer and the other, winter is back. On the way to work this morning, I went through a heavy rain storm, then into the warm sunshine where I came across two Sandhill Cranes gleaning in a nearby field.
Shortly after, while at work, I looked outside to it snowing. Ahhh schizophrenic Spring.
Despite the traditional slow going, the Harlequins and Loons are starting to come back, the bears are starting to move around and flowers are just starting to poke their head up. Soon I’ll be out much more and you’ll see much more of Glacier National Park!
I’ve wanted to fire a can of bear spray for some time. I spend enough time in grizzly bear country that I should at least test it before I have a real need to. For some reason, I never got around to it until this video. I had seen some videos on bear spray and decided to finally do it and blog about it. Below are some takeaway points.
Always carry bear spray in bear country.
Always have at least two cans in a group (if you’re alone, have one ready and one spare in your pack).
Bear spray is a deterrent, not a repellant. Spray the bear if it comes at you, not each other before you hit the trail. Bear spray is effective when it’s airborne, not on the ground or on you.
Bear spray is nasty to breathe in and a skin irritant. Practice caution around it and wash hands.
Spray a test spray to make sure you won’t spray into the wind and disable yourself.
Bear spray is a better choice than a gun with bears. It creates a fog barrier and can be fired on a bear that is on your buddy. It’s very effective against bears. It’s safe for bears and safe for people.
Check for expired bear spray. Expired bear spray makes great practice canisters.
Counter Assault is the bear spray of choice. Visit http://www.counterassault.com for more info on bear spray, bear encounters and how you can be safe in bear country.
Also check out the video below for more great tips on bear spray.