• Glacier National Park After Dark: Sunset to Sunrise in a Beloved Montana Wilderness is available directly from author John Ashley through his website, johnashleyfineart.com

    New book tells the nighttime story of Glacier

    Here’s a beautiful story about a photography who captures the best of Glacier National Park – at night:

    Glacier Park’s nighttime stories come alive in new photo book

    By Rob Chaney

    To see Glacier National Park like John Ashley does, you don’t have to be a mountaineer or a tour bus driver.

    You just have to stay awake. All night long.

    Landscape photographers lecture one another about the “golden hours” around sunrise and sunset, when the sun skims the horizon and alpenglow gleams on the mountain peaks.

    Ashley’s biological clock ticks to very different rhythms, like moon cycles and magnetic storm pulses. Any Glacier visitor treasures snapping a photo of a grizzly bear. Ashley holds out for comets.

    Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) rises over Mount Brown on a minus 11-degree December night in 2013, just three months after its discovery. Photo by John Ashley

    Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) rises over Mount Brown on a minus 11-degree December night in 2013, just three months after its discovery. Photo by John Ashley

    “The image on the cover is one of Comet Lovejoy,” Ashley said from his home in Kila, where he’s launching the publication of “Glacier National Park After Dark – Sunset to Sunrise in a Beloved Montana Wilderness.” “That comet was only visible during the month of December 2013, and there were only three nights that were something less than 100 percent cloud cover. Those three nights, the temperature was 10 below, 11 below and 21 below zero. I was out all three nights, and I never saw another photographer on any of those nights.”

    That could be because a photographer had to linger four hours on the subzero shore of Lake McDonald hoping that a night fog would clear. But then, Comet Lovejoy only passes by once ever 14,011 years.

    Numbers and calculations hold considerable sway over Ashley’s art.

    He schedules his photo forays by the appearance of meteor showers, the seasonal aspect of constellations, and when those features might line up with park landmarks such as lookout towers, lake valleys or significant mountains.

    Read the rest of the story here

    Where to get ‘After Dark’

    Glacier National Park After Dark: Sunset to Sunrise in a Beloved Montana Wilderness is available directly from author John Ashley through his website,johnashleyfineart.com and wherever Montana natural history books are sold.

  • The Thompson Creek Fire burns in Glacier National Park. Photo by Nicholas Parker

    More fires spark in Glacier – much of park still open

    As crews continue to contain the wildfire that shut down Going-to-the-Sun Road in late July, another set of fires sparked early this week.

    Most notably, the Thompson Fire near Nyack and Cold Creek “exploded” to more than 11,000 acres on Tuesday. As you can see from the photos courtesy of Nicholas Parker, it’s a big one.

    But, as park officials keep noting, much of the park is open and ready to explore.

    Mountain goats lick salt from the rails near Hidden Lake at Logan Pass. Photo by Nicholas Parker

    Mountain goats lick salt from the rails near Hidden Lake at Logan Pass. Photo by Nicholas Parker

    Here are a few suggestions:

    Jenna

  • Ivan O'Neill is one of the founding members of the Over the Hill Gang. Photo by Beck Lomax

    Meet the founders of Glacier’s longest-running hiking group

    Planning a hike in Glacier National Park anytime soon? Here’s a story you’ll want to read.

    Imagine hiking in park once a week for the past 39 years.

    Photo by Becky Lomax

    Photo by Becky Lomax

    Introducing the Over the Hill Gang:

    Story and photos by Becky Lomax

    On a gray drippy day, a group of 16 Flathead Valley hikers, ages 60 to mid-80, eyeball the pouring rain.

    Inside their restaurant meeting place on the west side of Glacier National Park, no one looks at a menu to order breakfast.

    The waitress, greeting the regulars by name, asks, “You want the usual?”

    One member quips, “With the rain, maybe we should stick around for lunch.”

    But weather does not deter these weekly hikers. Not rain, snow or single-digit temperatures.

    Every Thursday, nearly year round, the Over the Hill Gang meets at the Glacier Grill in Coram.

    After breakfast, they depart to multiple trailheads – some to lung-busting, seldom-visited peaks, and others to worn paths where every red mudstone and gnarled sub-alpine fir is a familiar friend.

    It was 1976 when five men in their 60s launched the Over the Hill Gang.

    Read the rest of the story here

    Jenna

     

     

  • The Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier National Park closed Going-to-the-Sun Road. Photo courtesy Erika Pierce

    Wildfire closes Going-to-the-Sun

    It’s wildfire season in Montana. And thanks to drought in many areas, it’s shaping up to be a bad one.

    Most notably this week: A growing wildfire in Glacier National Park has closed most of Going-to-the-Sun Road.

    That made a scary night for many visitors hoping to stay in the area. Mountain Pine Motel owner Terry Sherburne was booked up and wondering where all the misplaced travelers would stay.

    A wildfire can be seen burning in Glacier National Park in this image from the St. Mary Visitor Center webcam. Courtesy of Glacier National Park

    A wildfire can be seen burning in Glacier National Park in this image from the St. Mary Visitor Center webcam. Courtesy of Glacier National Park

    “It’s pretty tough – there’s no place I know of in East Glacier that has rooms for tonight, and all those people at Rising Sun will need to go someplace.”

    A friend of Sherburne’s who manages the Two Dog Flats Grill at Rising Sun “can’t get back to get her things,” he said, and will be spending the night on the only spare bed he has – a rollaway cot he’ll move into his living room.

    “I’m sure if I had 30 more rooms I could rent them tonight,” Sherburne said.

    Worse: Weather conditions for the rest of the week are worrisome.

    You can find updates on the Reynolds Creek Fire at the Missoulian.com.

    Until then, here’s more stories from our July/Aug issue.

    Jenna 

  • Doris Sherburne, 95, and her husband, Fred, opened Mountain Pine Motel in 1947. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Mountain Pine Motel and its lovely neighbors

    The Mountain Pine Motel is a place where you can have huckleberry pie for breakfast and see the world’s largest purple spoon.

    It’s a quintessential Montana spot, owned by the same family since it opened in 1947. Founding owner Doris Sherburne, 95, is still in charge. Writer Keila Szpaller and photographer Kurt Wilson introduced us to the motel in the our July/Aug issue.

    Terry Sherburne, owner/operator of Mountain Pine Motel near East Glacier, takes care of a potential guest. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Terry Sherburne, owner/operator of Mountain Pine Motel near East Glacier, takes care of a potential guest. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Along with the story of Mountain Pine, Szpaller told us about the awesome neighbors the surround the motel, including the place that encourages patrons to have pie for breakfast and the see the world’s largest purple spoon.

    The pie: AT LUNA’S RESTAURANT, ABOUT A BLOCK AWAY FROM THE HOTEL, THE MENU OFFERS HUCKLEBERRY PIE, AND IT’S LISTED AS A BREAKFAST STAPLE. IN CASE YOU WONDERED, A SLICE COSTS $5.50, AND IT’S “A PERFECTLY RESPECTABLE BREAKFAST!”

    The spoon: ALSO JUST ACROSS THE STREET? THE WORLD’S LARGEST PURPLE SPOON. YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS IT. ACTUALLY, THE ENORMOUS UTENSIL WILL LEAD YOU TO THE SPIRAL SPOON, A SMALL SHOP WITH GREAT BEAUTY IN ITS HANDCRAFTED SPOONS.

    Oh, and in case you’re still hungry, this: SURE, EAST GLACIER IS CLOSER TO CANADA THAN IT IS TO MEXICO, BUT FOR SOME DELICIOUS ENCHILADAS, BURRITOS, GUACAMOLE, AND OTHER MEXICAN FARE, HEAD TO SERRANO’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT, ACROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS. BEVERAGE OF CHOICE? THE HOUSE MARGARITA, WITH SALT ON THE RIM.

    Here’s hoping you can go explore East Glacier soon!

    Jenna

  • Ivan O'Neill is one of the founding members of the Over the Hill Gang. Photo by Beck Lomax

    Glacier’s longest-running hiking crew forms close bond with park

    Story and photos by Becky Lomax

    On a gray drippy day, a group of 16 Flathead Valley hikers, ages 60 to mid-80, eyeball the pouring rain.

    Inside their restaurant meeting place on the west side of Glacier National Park, no one looks at a menu to order breakfast.

    The waitress, greeting the regulars by name, asks, “You want the usual?”

    One member quips, “With the rain, maybe we should stick around for lunch.”

    But weather does not deter these weekly hikers. Not rain, snow or single-digit temperatures.

    Every Thursday, nearly year round, the Over the Hill Gang meets at the Glacier Grill in Coram.

    After breakfast, they depart to multiple trailheads – some to lung-busting, seldom-visited peaks, and others to worn paths where every red mudstone and gnarled sub-alpine fir is a familiar friend.

    It was 1976 when five men in their 60s launched the Over the Hill Gang.

    Since then, the gang has grown, evolved with new faces, and garnered the reputation as the longest running hiking group in Glacier. The big adventurers have climbed to hidden lakes, bushwhacked cross-country routes, and summited crags, often returning after dark.

    For hikers that could have bragging rights as giant as the roster of peaks they’ve climbed, they ditched egos years ago behind some clump of beargrass in favor of camaraderie.

    Glacier’s Over the Hill Gang

    Year Established: 1976

    Headquarters: Glacier Grill, Coram

    Membership dues: $0

    Hiking day: every Thursday, year-round

    Attendance: approximately 30, for peak summer hikes

    They have forged an emotional bond with the park, their decades lending an intimate perspective of the changes Glacier is undergoing.

    ***

    As some of the original Over the Hill Gang members faced the challenges of aging, the club began splitting into two or more hiking groups each week: one still tackles 20-mile hikes that include off-trail adventures and summits, while the other group walks fewer miles on trails.

    Many of the gang’s early members, now in their 80s, hike in the latter. They joke about which group is the “A” team and which is the “B” team. But despite miles versus summits on the day’s docket, clear deference to the older hiking group leaves little question of who’s on the “A” team.

    “Our trips have gotten shorter, and I’m through with counting peaks,” said 86-year-old Ivan O’Neil, the only one of the original five still hiking with the gang.

    He’s summited about 120 peaks, many with the gang, and credits the group for bringing balance to his life at a time when he worked six days a week.

    Despite his age, O’Neil has several more years to catch up with two early members who hiked into their 90s.

    The gang rose to local legends when journalist George Ostrom joined the weekly treks. He hyped their escapades on the radio and in two books.

    As the gang gained distinction, it grew in numbers.

    But there’s no president of this club. No bylaws. No membership dues. In fact, if you ask what’s on the agenda for hiking that day, you’ll most likely get a vague, “Well, I don’t know,” or a joke. If strangers show up, they’ll invite them to hike, too.

    While longevity on the trail is a hallmark of the gang, younger seniors now fill the ranks, and newcomers join annually. Numbers of participants shrink in winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but swell during summer to around 30.

    Roger Wolfshorndel linked up with the gang four summers ago. He credits the camaraderie with helping him change his lifestyle back into healthier patterns, like when he used to hike frequently during his five summers at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

    Women have joined the hiking club, too.

    Greta Kiremidjian hikes weekly with the older group.

    “They’re the best group to hike with. They are so intelligent,” she said, referring to members who are retirees from law, business and medicine, plus one nuclear physicist.

    On Thursday mornings by the time breakfast is finished, usually two or more destination are on the agenda.

    No one consults a guidebook or map. Trail stats are in the octogenarian heads, and they can describe remote nooks of the park.

    With the drizzle, the older group opts for Rockwell Falls in Two Medicine, acting on old park lore that less rain might be falling on the east side.

     

    ***

    At the trailhead in Two Medicine, O’Neil, Wolfshorndel, Kiremidjian and three others bundle in rain gear.

    O’Neil, who is legally blind from macular degeneration, uses poles for balance, but plods up the trail at a steady gait that would outpace many younger hikers. The Paradise Creek swinging bridge that would stop some 80-year-olds poses minimal challenge for the three hikers familiar with how to balance while stepping across the jiggling span.

    At Rockwell Falls, O’Neil pulls out an iPad to snap a photo of the tumbling water, the large screen aiding his eyesight. Its use contrasts with the film cameras that used to document Over the Hill Gang trips.

    Even professional photographer Robert Zavadil, who climbs higher up the falls to capture a better angle, has traded in his big, heavy camera and lenses for a small digital model.

    Yearly, the oldsters still tackle their favorite trails: Iceberg Lake, Ptarmigan Tunnel and the Highline. For 20 summers, the gang aided the park service in opening the Highline Trail.

    They shoveled tread paths across the steep snowfields from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet. They also cleared winter debris and fallen trees from other trails.

    But after 2011, the park service nixed the volunteer efforts.

    “The park got worried about these old guys with chain saws clearing out windfall,” cracks Zavadil.

    The years of tromping Glacier’s backcountry gives the older gang members an intimate historical perspective.

    Over the decades, they’ve seen substantial changes in the park.

    “We used to have the park to ourselves,” O’Neil said.

    But last summer, he recalls passing 250 people on the way out from Avalanche Lake. He also notes several off-trail traverses that show human impacts.

    In Swiftcurrent, so many hikers have explored Shangri-La and the Snow Moon and Falling Leaf Lakes that now eroded paths mark the routes.

    “For so long, I never realized how many tourists were in the park because we’d often get off the trail after dark,” Zavadil adds.

     

    ***

    These aren’t simply old codgers whining about the good old days.

    The National Park Service recorded 2.3 million Glacier visitors in 2014, a record-breaking year, and is examining management strategies for crammed parking lots and crowded trails on the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor.

    In addition to melting glaciers, the gang has noticed more subtle alterations in the landscape.

    “There used to be fewer trees. More areas now are covered by forest,” Zavadil said. Wolfshorndel adds, “From the Iceberg Lake Trail, you used to see Red Rock Lake. Now you can’t.”

    Science corroborates their gut impressions with climate models and repeat photography from the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center showing forests encroaching on alpine meadows.

    As the gang hikes back from Rockwell Falls, Zavadil dives off the trail into the forest to photograph a wood nymph flower.

    “I’ve been looking for it for 23 years,” he beams.

    That sense of discovery, even after decades of hiking the same trails, epitomizes what the gang is all about.

    The oldsters, rather than lament their inability to do the grueling climbs of earlier decades, they still revel in their love of Glacier.

    No matter how the landscape itself or the faces of the Over the Hill Gang change, the core hiking crew keeps plodding on with a perennial sense of exploration.

    No egos. Just camaraderie.

    Becky Lomax is a longtime Montana Magazine contributor. She writes from Whitefish.

    To read more about Montana all year, subscribe today!

  • national park buses

    TBT: Remember these summertime stories?

    It’s that time of week again: to for a little Throwback Thursday action.

    In honor of the first day of summer on Sunday, we’re pulling up a few of our most popular stories from the summer of 2014.

    Montana State Parks guide by Kristen Inbody and Erin Madison.

    Montana State Parks guide by Kristen Inbody and Erin Madison.

    First, this awesome feature on the 75th anniversary of Montana state parks – which are really great places to play during the summer. There are 54 state parks in Montana.

    Here’s our feature from the May/June 2014 issue. It includes an interactive map so you can see where you might want to go this summer. Need a little more info? Here’s a post about a book all about the parks.

    And we can’t forget Glacier and Yellowstone when we’re talking about summer. Here’s a story on a great way to see both the parks: In vintage cruiser buses. Yellow in Yellowstone and red in Glacier.

    The feature by Ednor Therriault is posted here. And for a list of even more stories about Yellowstone, click here.

    To get our most recent dose of summertime stories, subscribe today!

    Happy summer!

    Jenna

  • MM_Park2Park 500x500 teaser

    Come with us from Park-to-Park: Glacier to Yellowstone

    All week we’ve been taking you to place we think are some of the best stops on any journey from Yellowstone to Glacier.

    We’ve been to fishing towns and museums, and to places where the scenery will stop you in your tracks.

    • Stop 1: Where buffalo roam (downtown
    • Stop 2: More than a fly fishing Mecca
    • Stop 3: A beautiful place of refuge
    • Stop 4: A brief detour to Going-to-the-Sun
    • Stop 5: Charlie Russell’s home town
    • Stop 6: A huckleberry haven

    In our May/June feature, you can view the entire trip, both our eastern and western routes. There’s more must-stop suggestions too. 

    Enjoy!

    Jenna

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