Last updated: August 24, 2015
Bah humbug…sheep and snow! Last night brought Glacier National Park’s backcountry a gentle dusting of snow. The cool weather and snow knocked down that intense smoke haze that had been hanging over the park – at least for awhile! Yes, it’s already back. Meanwhile the Sheep Fire (part of the Thompson Divide Complex) moved down towards Montana Highway 2. According to InciWeb, the fire has moved to within a ½ mile of Highway 2. This growing threat caused a couple of new backcountry campground closures. Ole Creek and Park Creek campgrounds are closed as a precaution. Currently we still have closures in effect from the Reynold’s Creek Fire and also the Thompson Creek Fire. Check the backcountry/trail closures for the most up-to-date information or stop in a backcountry office.
Good news! The Waterton Lake Fire is now listed as 100% contained, and the trails and backcountry campgrounds affected by this fire have reopened. The only stipulation the fire folks have given us is that they do not want people stopping on the Waterton Lake trail near the fire area. For your safety, they want you to move right along. They also don’t want you to interfere with firefighter’s activities or equipment along the trail. That’s a small price to pay for access!
The bad news is that we’re not out of fire season yet! We have entered Stage 2 fire restrictions; this means that we are not allowing wood fires in ANY backcountry campground. Unfortunately for our backcountry users who enjoy those little wood/duff stoves, these aren’t permitted when we’re under Stage 2 restrictions. Only the propane, butane type stoves are allowed in the food prep areas of backcountry sites. Some people only eat G.O.R.P. while backpacking – most prefer having a varied diet. Under a fire ban, your gas camp stove is going to allow you the pleasures of reconstituted freeze-dried food or whatever else you’re brave enough to pack and cook.
In addition to ever changing closings and reopenings of backcountry campgrounds, you also may face the possibility of a new fire when you’re in the backcountry. If this happens, you could be evacuated. A backcountry ranger may come in to make sure you have left and are out of harm’s way. However, if you know you are in danger from a new fire, you may certainly use your own smarts and hike out before a backcountry ranger can hike in to retrieve you!
Your family at home may worry about you while you are out because of all these fires. If it helps them rest easier, let them know we have closed all campgrounds that may be quickly affected by current fires. We also will evacuate and close any additional campgrounds if the fire behavior shifts. Most importantly, tell them you will be prepared and cognizant of current environmental conditions while on the trail. Pay attention when lightening storms move through the area and watch for new plumes of smoke. Let your family know you are going to engage in safe behavior while in Glacier’s backcountry. And don’t forget to let them know (as a quiet and small disclaimer at the end) that your safety is not a guarantee here in Glacier – it’s still wild country.
Push your way through the smoky haze and see us in a permit office soon!