Crow’s Nest: Not Crow’s Nest
By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager
I have long thought that America’s National Parks are sublime, and it took years of planning to get us out to Glacier National Park on this summer’s vacation. In addition to enjoying the vistas and learning the history, on a trip like this I find myself studying the local flora and fauna as well as the ways which the park engages with its visitors. I took 1,800 photos while there; here are eleven.
Crow’s Nest is 621 acres. Glacier National Park is 1,000,000.
Some part of Glacier National Park burns every year, so it is a great place to study the effects of wildfires. We walked through many burned-over forests now awash in wildflowers even as we were awed by the fire’s apparent intensity. Fires in British Columbia, and later the Howe Ridge fire in Glacier itself, made the air smoky throughout the park.
We loved the hike to Running Eagle falls, on a day (August 12) when high winds made the air more clear on the east side of the park. Unfortunately those high winds were the same that caused the Howe Ridge Fire to blow up. Today, a month later, the Howe Ridge fire is still burning in a perimeter of 14,000 acres. We constantly checked the Incident Information System with more than academic interest: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov.
Our visit was a combination of day hikes, backcountry camping in our tent and a couple nights at the lovely Glacier Park Chalet. A combination of my spouse’s excellent planning, her persistence on the days that backcountry permits were made available last winter, and good fortune meant that we got most of the permits we wanted, and even scored an “upgrade” to stay at the Kootenai Lake campground (above).
The smoke was particularly bad the days we were on Waterton Lake and in Alberta. Normally the view above has layers of mountains unfolding in the background.
The Howe Ridge fire closed the western side of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road and many of the attractions around Lake MacDonald. Fortunately we visited that side of the park in the first week, before the fire started, so the closure didn’t affect our plans. But the closure meant that thousands of people had to change their vacations, and the park emptied quickly. We hiked the Highline Trail (above, below, and bottom photo) when the Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed, so it was quiet and we passed many fewer people on the trail (which was good, considering how narrow the trail is!).
While we’re having about the wettest year ever (or at least since I’ve been a preserve manager—27 years) at home, they’re having a very dry season out west.
The people we met there—the operators of the boats, shuttle buses, volunteers who ranger-led campground programs—were knowledgeable and consistent in their messaging. If you didn’t know how to behave as a guest in grizzly country before your visit, you certainly did before you went home (and don’t wear bear bells)! If you run into me, ask me about my grizzly story—it’s a good one!
We made many memories here and hope they stay with us forever.