It's Time to Transition to the Sun

June 20, 2018 Posted by: Ranger Mark
Glacier National Park just experienced its highest visitation and average high temperatures for the month of May.  Yet, over the past weekend we had a winter weather advisory including 2-5 inches of snow depending on elevation. 
Each week the road crew progresses toward opening the Going to the Sun Road. Still it could be July before visitors can drive across the Continental Divide in the Park. 
Nearly every Ranger patrol concludes with a new Backcountry campground going into summer status.  This means the food hang device and pit toilet are serviceable and all tent pads are clear of snow or subsequent snow melt. 
At the Apgar Permit office traffic is picking up, but we don’t have people standing in line down the street prior to our 7am opening. 
What do all of these short episodes have in common?  We are close to summer but still in the process of transitioning.

From a Backcountry Permit office standpoint, it means answering many questions both in person and via telephone.  Visitors are very excited about possible upcoming trips or obtaining an early season permit, as they should be.  Glacier is an amazing if not an overwhelming place in which to recreate.
Overwhelming in the fact we are nearly one million acres in size, to me that means about one million possibilities.  

I can relate to the near deer in the headlights reaction that some visitors have when it comes to trip planning.  In fact, I only now know where I want to go in Yosemite, it took two years of extensive work and recreation travels in their backcountry to develop an understanding their Wilderness. That being said I am super excited to learn and experience as much as possible in my new Park at the Crown of the Continent. After about one month of working and living here, I am starting to have an understanding of the possible backcountry itineraries.  So don’t sweat the details folks.  Every destination presents its own challenges, rewards, and reasons to visit.  Here are some tips though to make it easier.
  1. Be flexible- you may not get your ideal designated campsite.  In fact during the months of July, August, and September you probably won’t.  Have one to two backup plans when you arrive at 5:30 in the morning to claim your spot in the walk up permit line.
  2. Don’t plan your trip based on what someone else’s Facebook or Instagram account brags about.  Make it your own trip.  This is why we don’t like to make recommendations.  We want visitors to take possession of their trip.  Sure we are happy to speak of our first hand experiences of certain places or answer related questions.  However, in the long run it will be your blood, sweat, and tears out on the trails.
  3. Consider your motivation for the trip- as a self-proclaimed peak bagger I used to allow the outcomes of summit bids determine my enjoyment level of a trip.  Sure I’ll still get a little bummed if a planned peak didn’t pan out, but looking back those “failures” are often my most memorable experiences.  With the snow and harder access to trailheads along the Divide I’ve focused my trips towards conducting Citizen Science projects, well that and simply exploring.
  4. Lastly, stare at some maps.  You are welcome to use the Apgar Permit office as your planning headquarters.  We carry all the National Geographic section maps and have topographic quadrangle maps for reference for the entire Park.  You will also find pictures and information pertaining to the designated backcountry campsites. 
Often I’ll be hiking somewhere and wonder “what the heck is over there?” Something about a lake, ridge, glacier, valley, river, meadow, peak, etc. catches my attention.  Out comes my map and I’m already planning my next trip.  It may or may not happen but the mere idea of thinking about it is reason enough to venture outside in the first place. 
Happy trails and see you out there wherever there is.

Last updated: June 20, 2018

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