Going-to-the-Sun Road Closed – Fire!

 

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Sunday, August 12 picture of the Howe Ridge Fire. If you look very closely above the treeline, you can see the mountains in the background.
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Monday morning, August 13 picture of the Howe Ridge Fire. The smoke blocks all views beyond the trees.

 

August 13, 2018

It’s a good thing we went on the Going-to-the-Sun Road on Sunday.  I had thought about doing it Monday or Tuesday to get away from week-ends crowds.  But, the weather was good, so we went on Sunday.  As you may recall from yesterday’s post, we noticed a fire shortly after you entered the park.  It is called the Howe Ridge Fire.  I took some pictures and we did our thing.  Click here for a link to a video of the Canadian Superscoopers gathering water from Lake McDonald in an attempt to put out the fire.  This effort was not successful in dousing the fire.  (We did not post this yesterday because it took several hours to upload which is one of those problems associated with lousy internet access.)

Later in the evening, we wanted to go up to one of the look-outs and catch the sunset and wait around to watch for meteor showers.  We were both very tired, so we didn’t do that.  We drove through less traveled sections of the park in search of wildlife.  Dusk is a good time to see them and we were hoping.  We didn’t see much but we got a view of the fire that evening and Regis got a picture of a hawk.

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Hawk in Glacier National Park.
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Regis wants to go kayaking with these guys.

Regis and I wanted to hike the Highline trail in the park, but with Dart we couldn’t both do it at the same time.  Dogs are not allowed to hike in the park.  We decided to have one of us do it one day and the other the next.  Originally, Regis was going to wake up early and do it Monday and I would do it Tuesday.  He was so tired that he opted to wait.  I didn’t care about hiking in the afternoon, so I figured I would go Monday afternoon.

Monday morning, we decided to check out an area that often has mountain goats which skirts the edge of the park southeast of us.  On the way, we saw all the signs that said the Going-to-the-Sun road was closed because of the fire.  The fire we saw worsened overnight considerably.  Apparently, the winds picked up the fire expanded quickly.  It’s probably why I couldn’t see the meteor shower last night.

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We saw this fire on the way to look for goats. As of this posting, they still haven’t named it.
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A close-up of the fire we saw on the way to look for goats. As of this post, the fire had not been named.

On our way to see the goats (which we didn’t see) we saw another wildfire that recently started.  Between the time we first saw it and an hour later on the way back, it was definitely larger.

We went back to Glacier to go to the lesser traveled section to do a before an after picture of the fire from the same spot.  You can’t really see the fire itself, but you can see the smoke.  In the first picture, if you look closely above the treeline, you can see the mountains in the background.  In the second picture, there is so much smoke, you can’t see anything.

We headed out of the park and came back to the campground to grab lunch.  I set about adjusting our return trip and was successful in booking some campsites so that we could leave tomorrow rather than the next day as we originally planned.  At this point, you can’t go in the best part of the park from this side.  There are multiple wildfires causing lots of smoke.  Dart spent some time this afternoon sneezing and coughing (me too!).  I don’t know how fire fighters do it.  We don’t want to hike in these conditions and we are limited in what we can do, so it’s best to move on.

I am happy that we drove on the Going-to-the-Sun Road immediately and didn’t wait.  That was the priority item I had for this visit.  If we had gone to the overlook as planned that evening, we may have had to return home via the east entrance to the park.  Since they began to evacuate at the west entrance and shut down the road road at the west side of the park on Sunday evening, we may have found that we couldn’t go back that way.  That would have required a very long drive around the park to get back to the campground (perhaps 4 hours).  Sometimes things just work out.

Last night, in between trying to watch meteors, I tried to sleep.  But, there are non-stop trains that go through this area.  They make three long whistles somewhere around here, so back-to-back trains whistle and rumble and then shortly thereafter another one comes through.  If you live here, you probably get used to it.  If you don’t live here, it takes awhile.  We don’t here trains much during the day.  As we were looking for goats today, we drove on a road that went along the same basic route as the train tracks and saw some trains sitting still waiting.  I told Regis they were waiting for nightfall.  I don’t think I was wrong.  As soon as the sun set this evening, what do we here???, trains!

Internet access:  Even with unlimited Verizon internet access, we have SIGNIFICANT issues getting decent internet access.  We sometimes struggle to make a blog post and adding video is nearly a killer.  I look forward to seeing my friends when I get home and then I look forward to good internet access.  I miss it!

 

 

Leaky Mountains

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Glacier National Park.

August 12, 2018

Yesterday we headed to Glacier National Park.  We thought the smoky situation would get better after we got over the mountains in Idaho, but it got progressively worse as we neared the park.  We could barely see the mountains when we got here because of the smoke.

The air cleared last night and we entered the park through the West Glacier entrance and drove on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50 mile long road that goes along the shores of two of the park’s largest lakes and goes along the side of the mountain below the Continental Divide and through Logan Pass.  It is a narrow road that hugs the cliffs.  This is one of the most beautiful highways in the world.

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Dart in Glacier National Park.

When we entered the park, there were some fire fighters entering the park at the same time.  Not far into the park, we saw a fire across the lake.  The fire fighters were standing on our side of the lake, so they weren’t in a position to do much about the situation.

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Fire in Glacier National Park.

We left the fire and the fire fighters behind and drove through the park.  It is stunning.  The road through the park takes you through spectacular scenery.  The mountains are leaking everywhere.  There is water poring out between the rocks, so it looks as though the rocks are weeping.  There are waterfalls everywhere.  We saw some glaciers and there are still patches of snow here and there.  And, the wildflowers are beautiful.

The park information indicates there is a thriving population of black bears and grizzlies.  There are also cougars and wolves in the park.  If we hike in the area, we’ll bring our bear spray.

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Glacier National Park.

On the way back out of the park, we could see that the fire was larger.  We saw a couple of planes that were attempting to put the fire out with water.  The planes would get the water out of the lake and swing around to drop it on the fire.  The planes look so small compared to the fire, it doesn’t seem like it could be doing much.  Hopefully, it is.

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Glacier National Park.
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Glacier National Park.
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Glacier National Park.

 

Post Fire

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A view of the Wanapum Recreation Area in the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park and the Columbia River. The green area in the right center of the photo is the campground. The entire surrounding area was burned. The campground is watered regularly.

August 2, 2018

We found out that there were 3 fires in the area within the last two months that have burned an extensive part of this area.  (Here is a link that shows pictures of one of the fires.  Click here.) One fire started at the rest stop that is about 10 miles up the road.  There is almost no vegetation at this time.  It looks very desolate and it is hard to believe that any animals can survive in this environment.  But, some do.

Yesterday, we found several Bighorn ship by the river at the north part of the State Park.  There is some vegetation along the river, so it is not surprising the sheep would be there.  There are a few babies.  Once you get a few feet away from the river, there is no vegetation except for the grassy area around the State Park visitor center and parking lot.  This area is regularly watered and the sheep hang out here because of it.

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Bighorn Sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park by the Columbia River. Mom spotted us and is heading to safety with her baby.
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Bighorn Sheep mom and her baby in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Bighorn Sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Bighorn sheep baby in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

Regis went hiking for about six miles in this desolate landscape.  He found a couple seeps/springs where there is a bit of greenery among the barren landscape.  He found a few places where the plant life is beginning to come back.

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The little bit of greenery is this burned landscape shows where there is some water in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. 
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Life trying to return after the fire in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

He noticed several animal skeletons.  At least some of them are charred, so the bones were there before the fire.  With the vegetation gone, it is easy to see all the “hard” stuff left behind.

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Animal skeleton in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Burned fence post in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

We learned that in 2016, only one person died in the U.S. from a rattlesnake bite and that person had an underlying health condition.  Twelve thousand people died from stairs that same year.  Even the vet told me that rattlesnakes are not that big of a concern here.  He thinks there is more concern about alligators in Florida.  The snakes aren’t interested in being around you.  But, like anything, be aware of your surroundings.  We also learned that a relocated rattlesnake is a dead rattlesnake.  Rattlesnakes spend the winter communally in a specific place.  They learn where that place is in their first year and if they are relocated will search endlessly for that place.  As a result, they die of starvation and/or exposure because they will not eat while searching for that place.

It is about 10 degrees cooler today, so it is much more bearable.