Bill Hayden's Blog
The White Lilies
This is the time of year that I always go looking for the white glacier lilies. I saw my first one several years ago and got quite excited until I learned that although they are not seen everywhere they aren't really all that uncommon. I still get a kick out of finding them however. One place that has always been a good spot for me to look has been the Camas Road. So, last night I took a drive to find one of my favorite flowers.
Since the regular yellow glacier lilies bloomed around West Glacier two weeks ago, I figured it might be time to see the white ones up on the Camas Road. Fortunately there was no other traffic because I was driving about 10 miles an hour. There are tons of trillium out right now and it's pretty hard to spot the few white lilies out. I drove almost all the way to the junction with the North Fork Road before I decided to turn around and make another pass back home. I found a big patch of trilliums and a small patch of yellow glacier lilies and just off to the back there was one lone white glacier lily in bloom. On closer inspection there were several others that had not opened up yet, so I'm guessing that this weekend there might be more out and visible.
Our staff botanist Tara tells me that in the late 80s there was some work done to see if these are a distinct species or just a variety of the more common species. The evidence seemed to indicate enough genetic diversity to warrant it being considered a new species, but so far it has not been generally accepted within the botanical community as distinct. The yellow ones are Erythronium grandiflorum and the white ones are considered a variety of that species, Erythronium grandiflorum var. candidum.
There is a close relative of these flowers in the Cascade and Olympic mountains of Washington State...the avalanche lily. It is white with yellow centers and yellow stamens. Interestingly when I googled avalanche lily the first link lead me to a page that mentioned the distinction between glacier lilies and the avalanche lily with the comment "...the Avalanche Lily's beauty is an extra step above either of the other two." I'm not sure I can let them get away with that, but when you see them you can decide for yourself.
The patch of flowers I saw last night are 6.8 miles north of McDonald Creek on the Camas Road. Look on the left (west) side of the road.
Water and Ice Don't Mix
It's raining today in Glacier…a lot. Outside most every flat surface is just a sheet of ice with a good layer of water floating on top. Just getting from the building to the car is a challenge. I continually think I'm about to do an unplanned quadruple Salchow, and probably about as successfully as most of the guys that tried them on purpose at the last Olympics. As I'm about to head out next week to British Columbia to attend an ice skating event, this all got me to thinking about how ice and water and skating work.
Ice is a pretty interesting thing, come to find out. Its physics are not well understood. I'd always heard that ice skating works because pressure from the weight of the skater, all concentrated in that small spot where the blade contacts the ice, causes the ice to melt slightly and the skater glides on that thin sheet of water. I can confirm that having a sheet of water on the parking lot makes my hiking shoes slide quite nicely, but apparently new research has indicated that something else is happening between the blade and the ice. In this link about the subject, new data seems to indicate that it's vibrating molecules that are the reason that ice is so slippery.
When I navigate my way home tonight I will try to remember that, as I try to keep my own molecules from "vibrating" too much by any slips and falls on this interesting surface we have covering the park today!
Did You Know?
If current trends continue, some scientists predict that by the year 2030, Glacier National Park will not contain any glaciers and many of the park's smaller glaciers will melt even sooner.