Last updated: June 7, 2016
To introduce myself, I’m Ranger Carol and I’ll be helping to orient you to Glacier’s backcountry in early June. First off, I should give my qualifications…my residency is in the hot southern part of Florida where there are no mountains. I live at less than 10 feet above sea level. Cold…well as far south as I live, I saw frost once this winter. Snow isn’t something that happens. OK, although this is all true, I’ve been coming to Glacier to work since the summer of 2007, so I am seasoned. But I also understand what backpackers not from Montana might be thinking.
First off, just because it’s now the rainy, hot, humid hurricane season in South Florida and dreams of that one morning of light frost are now but a wistful memory…There is still snow here! Glacier’s famous mountain passes are for the most part still snow covered and treacherous. Even though folks in nearby Kalispell, Montana are wearing flip flops and eating ice cream, you may need to be prepared for steep angle snow crossings and route finding if trying a pass this early. In fact, we are going to strongly recommend against travel on some high-alpine snow-covered areas unless you’re familiar with the route and have experience using an ice axe and crampons. I know…who would conceive of remembering to pack such things in June?! But you’ll need them if you want to do early-season high-country travel.
Now that being said…there are a lot of options for folks who are thinking more about relaxing in sandals by a lake instead of wrapped in a parka on the snow. Quite a few of our non-alpine backcountry sites are open in summer status. Summer status? What does that mean? Ah, well, you’ll find a summer status campground with a food hanging device that is ready for use. You’ll be able to take your 25 feet of rope, toss it over the pole and hoist up your bag of food well out of a bear’s reach. You’ll also have the luxury of using one of our backcountry pit toilets at your campground. AND, you’ll set up your tent on a tent site…instead of that wet, cold snow. Your roomy outdoor dining room (often called the food prep area) will be snow free and open for your cooking and dining pleasure. Which campgrounds are already in this awesome summer status? To check (and see what’s available), take a look at our walk-in availability. Campgrounds with a # after them are still in winter status! All others are now in summer status. Don’t forget to check out current trail status too, to find out what our backcountry rangers are seeing, or to see if a ranger has even been on that trail yet! I don’t know about those sandals though, even when it’s hot in Apgar, it can be chilly in the backcountry…Always bring a jacket (if you’re from South Florida, maybe a coat, gloves, a warm hat…) and be prepared for changing spring weather.
I hope this short background helps orient you a little. Visit our website (actually you probably already have) and stop by a permit office and we’ll try to sort out the rest and get you a permit for a trip. Stay tuned for future blogs. Oh and fellow sea-level livers…NEVER underestimate the effects of altitude and thinner air on your sea-level lungs. Take it from an “expert.” See you all soon!