Because, really, that was the main reason I wanted to take the trip to Glacier National Park. Yes, it was going to be cool to see the very last of Park's fading glaciers. To be sure, I wanted to say that I'd seen Glacier National Park while there were still a few glaciers in the damned place! And there they were, indeed. Pathetic, rocky, streaked with dirt and soot. I can say that I saw them before humans pumped so much carbon gas into the atmosphere that we had heated the planet to such an extreme that glaciers can no longer hang on the shoulders of 9,000-foot towering summits at the Canadian border.
Plus, I wanted to see the vistas. I got about three days of that sandwiched in between the days when fire smoke besmirched the great blue dome and made it impossible to see much of anything beyond a hundred meters. Once again, Mankind had so mucked up the planet that western droughts have become so severe and so prolonged that the states to the west of Montana--Idaho and Washington--were being swept with fires of truly mythic proportions. In fact, the fires in Washington state were truly engorged, one of them having become the largest in the history of Washington (over 400 square miles) while we were there. The smoke from it spread over the west and covered thousands of square miles. Between the rainfall that briefly cleared the skies and the time we left, that cloak of choking smoke covered our escape route from Washington clear down to Missouri. I am not exaggerating. It was that bad. Thank you, petrochemical industries of the western world.
So. My other main reason for hitting Glacier was the wildlife. All of my friends who have visited the Park have impressed upon me the wildlife superlatives of the landscape. They--to a man--had told me that it was the finest that the lower 48 states has to offer. I was ready to see Grizzly bears, mountain goats, Bighorn sheep, Pronghorn antelopes, Black bears, Marmots, Fishers, mountain lions, Golden eagles, Bald eagles, Moose...
I was chomping at the bit to see all of that glorious wildlife.
Alas, it was not to be. Apparently both the drought and the forest fires had combined to chase most of the wildlife high into the mountains. The huckleberry crop was not to be found this year in the lowlands, and so the bears--both species--had fled into the high country to find the sweet berries. Mountainsides that were normally (I was told) swarming with goats and sheep were barren of all movement.
I'm not saying the trip was cursed, but it was cursed.
We did eventually end up seeing some wildlife. The only animals that we saw in abundance were rodents and--eventually--Bighorn sheep. Of bears, we saw two. One adult very high on a mountainside in Many Glacier, and a lone cub grazing some of kind of berry in a big shrub along the Going to the Sun Road. Mountain goats? I never saw one in the Park, but Carole and Andy saw two. The griz never made its appearance, and neither did the majestic moose. One ranger told us of a beaver pond where we could hang out to see a mother moose and calf, but the two never showed. Instead we got the consolation prize of seeing a beaver.
All in all, it was still an impressive trip. Custer State Park in South Dakota delivered the big animals that Glacier did not. Also, the three days of clear skies that we did get in Glacier provided us with jaw-dropping scenery. Just not with much in the way of wildlife.
What this means is that I'll have to go back. Not next year. But maybe in two or three years. Let's hope.
|One critter of which there was no shortage was Bighorn sheep. They were pretty much everywhere.|
|Along the roads...|
|In the back country...|
|And even in the parking lot at Logan Pass.|
|Baby Mountain goat in Custer State Park.|
|Pronghorn in Custer.|
|All of the bison we saw were in Custer.|
|We went to a beaver pond to spot moose, but only saw beavers.|
|Momma grouse on the Iceberg Lake Trail. She had two half-grown chicks.|
|A gorgeous Hoary Marmot on the Highline Trail.|
|Golden mantled ground squirrel.|
|One of the dark red squirrels. This was the best shot I could get of one, since they were so active.|
|We got a huge kick out of watching the Prarie dogs.|
|This little chipmunk was taking a dust bath.|
|Another golden mantled ground squirrel.|
|This was the only adult bear we saw. He was very far away on a big mountain.|
|This bear cub was crawling around in this shrub eating the heck out of the berries growing on it. I don't know what the shrub is, but he was going to town on those berries!|