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Podcast

Headwaters

Glacier, Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers Directorate, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, Climate Change Response Program

Headwaters is an in-depth storytelling podcast by Glacier National Park.

Season Two documents the generational effort to restore a species in five chapters. It’s also a story about the purpose of national parks and our relationship with nature. We ask, can people have a positive impact on their environment?

Episodes

Season 1

Episode 4

Confluence | Many Glacier

Transcript

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT GRINNELL INTRODUCTION Michael: Okay, Andrew. It's summertime as we're recording this. Andrew: Yep. Michael: But I want to rewind the clock to mid-may of this year. Think cool air, drizzling, rain, you know, spring. Andrew: Okay. I'm with you. Michael: This may I volunteered with the Harlequin duck project and we were trying to capture ducks on Upper McDonald Creek. And as we talked about in the Goat Haunt episode, you catch them by stringing a net all the way across the creek, and trying to catch them as they fly down. But with all the melting snow in the spring, that creek is flowing too fast to safely walk across. So a few people, and one end of net, get carried across to the other side in a raft. Andrew: So did you get to go across the Creek? Michael: Well, no, I stayed behind to help spot the birds with binoculars. But at the end of the day, everyone on the other side had to come back, and I volunteered to help catch the raft and pull them to shore. The raft—really conveniently—has a handle on the bow that helps you grab it. And I leaned over to grab it, totally missed, and fell face first into McDonald Creek. Andrew: [laughs] Ouch. Michael: Yeah, I was totally soaked. Andrew: Well, it's pretty cold in the spring. Did you have a change of clothes? Michael: Well, yes and no. Uh, it was very cold, but I didn't have any spare clothes. But the volunteer paddling the raft that I failed to catch had a spare pair of long johns. And despite my insistence that I'd be warm enough, made me go change into them. Andrew: So you had warm legs and a bruised ego... But isn't this episode about many glacier? Michael: Okay, let me finish. That volunteer's name is Gerard, and I'd met him before cause he drives a school bus for some of the local students I've led on field trips. But through the Harlequin project, I got to know him a little better. And a few weeks later I had the chance to get him in the studio. Gerard: Yeah, my name is Gerard Byrd, born and raised about nine miles from Glacier National Park in a little town of Martin City. Michael: He's the sort of wonderful person that seems to know everyone and can do anything. What were you doing just before this interview? Gerard: We were helping band songbirds. Yeah. Trapping and banding. Michael: I think he volunteers with every single wildlife research project in the park. Gerard: We started about 12—maybe 13—years ago helping out with the wolverine project, got involved and we put in roughly 175 back country miles. Andrew: Did you make him come into the studio just to return his long johns? Michael: No, he's, he's got wonderful taste and long underwear, but that's not why I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to talk to him about a trip he did with the Glacier Institute in 1986 Gerard: Glacier Institute was founded in 1983, started working in '84, I came on board in '85. I'm a school bus contractor. They were looking for someone to transport students around the park, specifically up over Logan Pass. Andrew: Wait, so what is the Glacier Institute? Michael: The Glacier Institute is one of the park's three official partners. They offer hands-on, field-based learning opportunities for both kids and adults all throughout Northwest Montana. And they do a lot of work here. Gerard: There's grizzly classes, flower classes, and then some geology classes, which included glaciology as well. And this one particular class, we were hiking into Grinnell Glacier—and it was a geology class, but one of the founders had wanted us to go and meet this gentlemen that was giving... I can't remember where he was from now. But anyway, he was giving a speech on Grinnell glacier. And so— Michael: The guy's name was Bob Anderson, and he was a geologist with the California Institute of Technology. And he wasn't just giving a talk on Grinnell Glacier. He was giving a talk in Grinnell Glacier. Gerard: They had an access point that we were able to enter underneath this glacier Michael: Into an ice cave. Andrew: Whoa. Gerard: It was about maybe three foot high, and it kind of went back maybe 20-some feet. Michael: The times I've spent in other park units like Mammoth Cave National Park. One of the biggest takeaways was just how dark it got, like what was the lighting? Gerard: Straight up? I mean, it's no different than a regular cave. If there were human bodies blocking that entrance. Yeah, it was, it would be no different than being in an underground cave. As I looked around, there was probably 20 of us crowded into this small space and there was a flash photographer taking tons of photos—leaned over and I said: "Lex, what? How come this is so obnoxious?" He goes: "Gerard, National Geographic's in here doing a photo-op here under this glacier." Andrew: National geographic was there? Michael: Yeah! They published a 20 page article, not long afterwards, which really reads like an introduction to Glacier: where it is, what it's all about. A harrowing search and rescue tale. And here's the one photo they use from the ice cave. Andrew: Wow, this is crazy. So this is under Grinnell Glacier? Michael: Yeah. The photo, it's really dark—this guy's wearing bright yellow pants sitting on the ice and yeah, it's in Grinnell Glacier. Andrew: I've been to Grinnell Glacier a handful of times, and this looks nothing like anything I've seen up there. It's like a totally different world. Michael: Yeah. And it's hard to tell in the photo, I asked him what the weather was like outside, and he said it was sunny. But it doesn't look at all like that. Andrew: No. Michael: It just looks dark. Andrew: And cold. Michael: Gerard described these little threads of ice that would dangle from the ceiling of the Glacier. And if you looked at it too long, either your breath or your headlamp would even melt them. So it was a really powerful experience for him. Gerard: Well, the funny thing was, is, um, I had visited with my wife when I came out and I said, Oh my gosh honey you got to come in and look at this. I said, this was incredible, I was so moved. Well, raising five kids and whatnot, it just was about three years later—and we decided that we could go back in. And we hiked in, come to this rock face, And I, [stammering], this is where the glacier was. I kept looking at the rock face, thinking, God, maybe I'm on a whole different, but I, I, I did recognize the area where we . And the glacier had melted back about 200+ feet. I was absolutely astounded. Michael: Three years. Gerard: Three years. That's when I really became aware of, of man's impact on our beautiful planet. Yeah. Andrew: So if that's how much it changed in just three years, what has he noticed in the last 30 years since then? Michael: Yeah, that was something I was really interested in, but he surprised me. When's the last time you went back to Grinnell Glacier? Gerard: It was back then probably '89. Michael: Really? Gerard: 80's, yep. Michael: Haven't been back since? Gerard: I haven't been back there since then. I've done a lot of different areas in the park since, but um, not, not been back there since '89. Andrew: Wow. 30 years. I can't imagine what he'd say. If he got to see it now Michael: I know. We have got to get Gerard to Grinnell Glacier this summer. Andrew: Welcome to Headwaters - a Glacier National Park Podcast. Brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, and produced on the traditional lands of many native American tribes, including the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Selis and Qlispe people. Michael: We’re calling this season: The Confluence, as we look at the ways that nature, culture, the present and the past all come together here. Andrew: I’m Andrew. Michael: I’m Michael. Andrew: And we’re both rangers here. And today we're going to be taking you on a journey to the Many Glacier valley. Michael: Nestled in the northeast corner of the park. Many Glacier is one of its most spectacular destinations. I know every time my family has come to visit, we've made a point of taking highway 89 on the East side of the park, just to get there. Typically the road is open from mid-May to late October, but the high elevation trails have a much shorter season because they're only reliably clear of snow in August. Andrew: According to longtime Many Glacier ranger, Bob Adams, there are two trails in particular that people come here to see. Bob Adams: ...that would be the Grinnell glacier trail. And that would be the Iceberg Lake trail, which... Andrew: This area is popular, like really, really popular. Bob Adams: ...but there are lots of people, roughly 600 or more a day. Andrew: That's 600 is on each trail. Michael: So this isn't the place for solitude? Andrew: Not exactly. And to make it even more extreme, Bob sometimes has to close one of those trails for bear activity. And if the Iceberg Lake trail is closed, then... Bob Adams: You'll get 900 people on the glacier trail. Michael: 900 people on the Grinnell glacier trail?! Bob Adams: So that may not be what you want. It may be exactly what you want because you maybe feel safety in numbers. That's, that's a false assumption, but people make that assumption. Michael: Why do so many people come here? HOTEL Andrew: I asked Diane Sine, she's a ranger. And she spent more than 40 summers in Many Glacier. Diane Sine: It not only has the, the actual glaciers that are still hanging in there, just barely. Then we also have the historic hotel, we have in my opinion, the best hiking trails in the park. So if you just wanted one location that sums up all, that's excellent about Glacier National Park it's Many Glacier. And yes, this is a commercial for Many Glacier. Andrew: And she's not totally joking about the commercial thing, the marketing of Many Glacier and of the Glacier National Park region as a whole is a really important part of the Park's history. Michael: What do you mean by that? Andrew: Well, in the early days of Glacier National Park, a lot of the infrastructure was built by the Great Northern Railway and the railway executives wanted this place to look like the Swiss Alps. Michael: Yeah. There's definitely Swiss architecture noticeable, not just at the Many Glacier hotel, but the Lake McDonald lodge too. But why Swiss? Andrew: That's actually a pretty interesting story. To learn more about it I decided to join Diane Sine, the ranger you heard a minute ago, on a tour of the Many Glacier hotel. Michael: Well, I'm jealous. Andrew: Luckily for you and our listeners, these tours are offered during the summer at the Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge. You can find the schedule in your ranger led activities guide, which you'll receive at the park entrance station. Diane Sine: Well, welcome. My name is Diane Sine. I'm a seasonal ranger here with the National Park Service. I have done this for a whole lot of summers. This is our daily walking tour of the historic Many Glacier Hotel. Andrew: She told us about how she first fell in love with Many Glacier as a child on a family camping trip and all through college worked here in the summers as a singing waitress. Michael: She was a singing waitress? Andrew: Yeah. As she tells it: Diane Sine: In that era, all the employees at the Many Glacier Hotel were hired to staff the regular hotel positions because they all had music or drama backgrounds. And as a little girl just starting out as a cellist, I thought that's what I wanted to do. Michael: Why did they do that? Andrew: Well in those days, the Many Glacier Hotel was a bit beat up and weathered. So to attract guests, the manager decided to use music. Michael: Well, why have I never heard Diane sing at the hotel? Andrew: Well, she's not a singing waitress anymore. After those summers singing and waiting tables, something changed deep inside of her. Diane Sine: After having worked here for four years for the hotel, my life was warped. I was hooked on this place and I figured out how to become a park ranger. Andrew: And once Many Glacier wormed its way into her life, it never left. Diane Sine: Along the way I met my husband, who was another ranger here. We got married at Lake Josephine, had our wedding reception here at the dining room of the Many Glacier hotel. My stepdaughter met her husband here as well. And the tradition has continued. So... Andrew: But this is all a bit of a digression because although this place is important to Diane... Diane Sine: The Many Glacier hotel is considered to have national significance. It has value to the American story as a place that ties us to the past, not only the past with visitor experiences, but the past with the early development and advertising of national parks. Andrew: Diane told us about the construction of the building in the winter of 1914 when temperatures hit 40 below. Michael: Okay. We've both been here in the winter and 40 below is cold. Andrew: It's very cold. As Diane described it, the workers, the Great Northern hired: Diane Sine: Were hardy Scandinavian descendants and they could withstand hardy winters. And the story is... Andrew: The finished hotel was pretty impressive. Michael: Paint a picture for me. Andrew: Well, as you approach the hotel, a friendly bellhop clad in alps style, lederhosen opens the front door and offers refuge from the harsh winds of the valley in the warmth of the lobby. Michael: Wait, okay, lederhosen? Andrew: We'll get back to that in a minute. Michael: Okay. Andrew: Once you're inside, the lobby is vast and echo-y with a hodgepodge of different styles. A massive copper fireplace anchors one end, while the other opens up to an elegant spiral staircase. Naturally your gaze will be drawn up as your eyes trace the giant Douglas-fir beams towards the ceiling. And dangling from that ceiling is an impressive array of Japanese style paper lanterns. Michael: So I'm standing in a wild Montanan and Swiss chalet with Japanese paper lanterns? Andrew: Now you're catching on that's right. But even though there's a lot going on, the thing that really pulled me in was those giant Douglas-fir beams. And according to Diane, this was their intended effect. Diane Sine: The idea behind the design of both this Many Glacier hotel and the Glacier Park Lodge at East Glacier, they were originally referred to as "big tree lodges." The idea is that you can be down here in the lobby and you can actually feel like you're in the forest with the trees rising above you. Michael: That makes a lot of sense having stood in them, but you still have not addressed the lederhosen thing. Andrew: Okay. Okay. Well, part of it is actually an accident of history in 1914, as construction was just about to begin for the Many Glacier Hotel, World War I, cut off Americans from some of their favorite European vacation destinations. The Great Northern saw in this an opportunity to put the American West on vacationers' radar. And they started to market this area as a replacement for the Swiss Alps. Michael: Okay. But people go on vacation to Spain or to Germany. Why Switzerland? Andrew: Well as Diane tells it Louis Hill, who at the time was the president of the Great Northern Railway, just really liked Swiss architecture. Diane Sine: He had a home outside St. Paul where his family would go for winter getaways and ice skating parties. And that home was designed as a Swiss chalet. But he also had a winter home at Pebble Beach, California. In fact, his home became part of the golf course there. The design for his pebble beach home was also Swiss architecture. So the guy just had a thing for Swiss chalets. Michael: How'd the Great Northern get word out about the area? Andrew: Well, they decided to do this big advertising campaign called See America First. Michael: See America first, huh. Andrew: And the idea there was to try to convince Americans that vacationing in the national parks was the patriotic thing to do. They also gave artists free trips out here. And as you can imagine, once those artists saw this place, they took the idea of See America First and just ran with it. One of these artists was the writer, Mary Roberts Rinehart. Diane Sine: She was a very well-known writer of the time. She went on to write a couple of books about her experiences in glacier park. She said, "I have traveled a great deal of Europe. The Alps have never held this lure for me, perhaps it is because these mountains are my own in my own country." So that was her idea. Be a patriotic American, see America first, come to the Switzerland of North America, come to the Many Glacier Hotel. Michael: So this marketing campaign is why we have all the Swiss buildings around glacier? Andrew: Exactly. And it's had a pretty big impact on the way people use the park even to this day. But it also starts to get at something that's really central to the mission of the park service. Michael: What do you mean? Andrew: Well, we're supposed to be preserving these places for future generations, but our mission is also to allow for their enjoyment today, that can be a tough act to balance. Michael: Okay. I see what you're getting at. People come to Many Glacier to see the bears and the glaciers, and to feel a sense of wilderness, but their very presence alters those things. Andrew: Right, the Many Glacier hotel and the marketing around it got a lot more people to come out and enjoy this area. But it also changed the character of the valley. When people and nature come together, both are changed by the encounter. Michael: But it's not always a bad thing. Andrew: Certainly not, encountering the natural world is an important way that we can learn and grow as people. Michael: I know that hiking here in Many Glacier has changed both you and I, but in our next story, I'd like to look at the way that we collectively, as people have changed Many Glacier as well, although we might not have meant to. Andrew: You know how we've been talking about doing a hike in Many Glacier. Michael: Yeah. Andrew: Well, I just talked to Lisa McKeon. She's a physical scientist with the USGS. She invited us to go up to Grinnell glacier with her next week. Michael: Oh my gosh. We've got to bring Gerard! Andrew: I thought you might say that. So I asked Lisa about it and it turns out that they actually already even know each other from some projects he's volunteered on and he's welcome to join us too. Michael: Of course they know each other. Well, I've got to call him. Andrew: Yeah, let's get him on the phone. Michael: After the break, we try to get ahold of Gerard. GLACIER NATIONAL PARK CONSERVANCY AD Andrew: Each episode, we seem to cover at least one thing that, like this podcast, wouldn't be possible without the support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Michael: With the help of some friends over there, we got the number of executive director, Doug Mitchell, and decided to call him up out of the blue to ask about these projects. Andrew: For this episode, we wanted to ask about the restoration work done on the Many Glacier hotel. Doug Mitchell: Glacier Conservancy, Doug Mitchell speaking. How can I help you? Andrew: Hey Doug, it's Andrew and Michael, how are you doing? Doug Mitchell: Hey guys, great to hear from you today. Michael: Likewise. Andrew: We wanted to call because for this episode I had the chance to go on a tour of the Many Glacier hotel with Diane Sine, and she pointed out a staircase to me that she mentioned you might've had something to do with. Doug Mitchell: Ah, the famous double helix staircase. To be able to bring that back here in the 21st century is really a treasure. And those people who haven't seen it ought to definitely get out there and take a look. Michael: Yeah, it's pretty remarkable. This magnificent, as you said, double helix, like kind of DNA strand staircase. Doug Mitchell: Yeah. You know, we joked a little bit around here that they needed a t-shirt for the lodge that says history it's in our DNA. And history and historic renovation really is in our DNA here at the Glacier Conservancy, as well. And that is a property at Many Glacier that had fallen in disrepair. And actually some had talked about tearing it down and what a great decision not to. Andrew: Absolutely. Has the Conservancy, had a chance to be involved in any other historic preservation projects in the park? Doug Mitchell: We really have spent a lot of time and focus on that because really our future is part of celebrating our past. There's a lot of different kind of places that we've been able to help like the Wheeler cabin and the Sperry chalet of course, and the Walton ranger station. And those kinds of historic preservation projects are ones that we've been very proud to be involved in over the years. And really we think add to the fabric of, of this great tapestry that makes up Glacier National Park. Michael: Well, thanks for making the project possible in the first place. And thank you for taking some time out of your day. Doug Mitchell: Absolutely. Thanks guys. Call anytime. Michael: All right, bye Doug. Doug Mitchell: Alright, cheers. CLIMATE—PART 1 Michael: Before the break, I found out I had a chance to get Gerard back to Grinnell Glacier for the first time in 30 years—so I called him. Naturally, Gerard’s a busy guy—I didn’t get ahold of him the first, or second time I called. Gerard: Hey Michael, Gerard here. Yeah I haven’t forgot about you, I had you on my list, but I— Michael: But after playing voicemail phone tag, I reached him. And invited him to join us. Well, we're going on Tuesday with Lisa McKeon. So you're certainly welcome to tag along. Gerard: Oh I would love to, I'll have to look at my calendar to see what's on there, but I, that would be a wonderful invite. Thank you. Michael: The next day, he shot me an email. Michael: So we had everybody meet at park headquarters and wasted, no time getting going, because if you're headed to mini glacier, you should plan on an early start. Whether you're looking for a parking space or a campsite, everything fills up early, like really early. And on top of that, it's not especially close. It's the farthest main entrance from the airport. And from the West entrance alone, it takes about two and a half hours. Whether you take Going-to-the-Sun Roard to St. Mary or Highway 2 under the south end of the park. But we found a spot and set off on one of the crown jewels of glaciers trail system. Now the trail is popular not just because of its destination, but because of the scenery along the way. If you're not looking at wildlife, you're looking at towering snow-capped mountains, or crystal clear lakes. Roundtrip it's 11 miles and you gain 2,600 feet of elevation, so it's not an easy hike. In fact, one of the fan favorite ways to do this trail is to actually skip the first few miles entirely. The Glacier Park Boat Company offers historic wooden boat tours, and some of their tours include a hike to the glacier. Taking that boat shuttle shaves off nearly four miles of the hike, but none of the elevation. If you're interested in boat tours in Many Glacier, or anywhere else in the park, it pays to plan ahead. We didn't catch a boat though, we just hiked. And you don't have to hike too far before you stumble into one of the most famous views in the whole park, a bright blue Grinnell Lake tucked into the mountains. Andrew: And if you've ever seen a poster of the park odds are, it was a picture of Grinnell Lake. In fact, Lisa McKeon told us she had a poster of the view in her college dorm room. Lisa: Yeah, I've never, I've been up this trail so many times. I never thought about that, but, uh, you know, the classic Grinnell view. Gerard: Good story. Michael: When I worked for a different agency in a different state, that same poster was on the wall at the office next to me. Andrew: And I had a funny experience with this view as well. When I got hired, I was in college and I was so excited about it. I'd never been here before. And so I Google image, search Glacier National Park, downloaded some cool pictures for my like phone background. And I didn't ever really look up where it was, but I was hiking up here for the first time and I'm like, "Oh my God, this is the view from my phone." So I took my own photo from that spot. And I still have it as my. Daniel: That's still your background? Andrew: Yeah. Daniel: This whole time. Andrew: I was like, this is it! That's why I came here. Michael: And it is so easy to get swept away by the beauty of this trail: by the wildflowers, by the wildlife, whether it's mountain goats or bighorn sheep. But the entire time, I was distracted wondering how Gerard was going to react once we finally saw the glacier. And the trail does a really good job at building that anticipation because you can't really see it the very end. But after a few hours and a few thousand feet, we made it. We crested that final hill and were able to look down at Grinnell Glacier. And it was the first time any of us had seen it that year. But for Gerard, it was the first time seeing it since the eighties. Daniel: All right, Gerard, what's the big reaction to this view? Michael: That's our producer, Daniel. Gerard: There was just more snow and ice here. Right here, there was just... snow. Michael: Gerard's a guy who always has something clever to say. I had never seen him at a loss for words, but he stood there for a minute. Stock-still. Staring out at the ice in disbelief. Gerard: Holy cow. Gerard: Wow. Michael: I felt pretty fortunate to be there in that moment with Gerard. I left him totally speechless, and experiences like his are as powerful as they are rare. In the grand scheme of things, most people are lucky to see a place like Grinnell Glacier once in a lifetime, let alone have the chance to revisit it. I mean, growing up in Ohio, I could have driven in any direction for several days and never seen anything quite like it. And that's where Lisa's work comes in. Lisa McKeon is a physical scientist with the USGS or United States Geological Survey. And over the course of her career, she's taken experiences like Gerard's and made them a lot more accessible. Lisa: No, I agree. I mean, we've got, you know, area change data. We've got some volume estimates. We've gott mass-balance. We have a lot of quantitative data looking at change—most people can't relate to that, and they can look at a pair of images and go: "Wow! Something's happening there." Yeah. Michael: The USGS' Repeat Photography Project is an effort to visualize glacial change, not with graphs or charts, but with pictures. By retaking historic photos of glaciers throughout the park, you can see the change that's happened in the intervening years with your own eyes. And Lisa has been involved since it got started in 1997. Lisa: I got swept up into doing repeat photography, right at the very beginning. Jerry DeSanto had brought in this repeat pair early in the spring and showed Dan, and we had decided: "Oh yeah, let's, let's do some of this let's document glaciers in the park with photography." And then later that summer Vice President Al Gore decided to come out and have a little event here at the glacier. And they, he was talking about climate change. And like, right then at 1997, the media came out and we had taken a few repeat photos and they couldn't get enough of them. You know, it was a first, some of the first really visual evidence that people could relate to with this idea of climate change. Andrew: It struck a chord, like as soon as you started. Lisa: Mmhmm. Because they're so easy to—. Gerard: Yeah, they answer to themselves. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. You don't really need any text, nothing. It's just, it's... Michael: A picture really is worth a thousand words. Because I could read through statistics about how Boulder glacier's area today is 35,298 square meters when it used to be 829,577 square meters. Or I could show you a picture. Well, not really. This is a podcast, but you could find the photo from a 1932 horse packing trip to Boulder glacier where 80% of the frame is filled with ice. And four people stand there staring into the mouth of a towering ice cave. When Ranger Jerry DeSanto took that same photo just 50 years later, the frame was empty. The ice had receded, revealing only barren rock and the distant mountains. These repeated photos have made it possible for people no matter where they are or when they are to make sense of this change. But while these repeated photos are easy to understand, they're quite difficult to capture. Lisa: Some of them take quite a while. Some are, you know, much harder than others. But it's been amazing, sometimes, when you think "Oh, I know where that one is." And you go, Oh, no, I guess that's not it. Oh, it's up here. So then you climb up, Oh wait, no, no, no, no. It was down quite a bit. And you just can go up and down, up and down, we've gotten better at it, for sure. Michael: They don't physically mark any of the sites. So they rely purely on perspective to initially find the right spot. And one thing that's helped a lot is technology. Lisa: It's been really helpful with Google Earth now, cause you can kind of go in the landscape and line up the peaks pretty well that way before you get out in the field. Michael: The next part of our day was actually taking a repeat photo. And while Lisa had taken this repeat photo before, had seen it on Google earth, even had the GPS coordinates—she gave us the authentic experience. Using a printed photo, we had to line up what we could see (boulders in the foreground, mountains in the background) with the landscape in the picture, which was easier, said than done. Lisa: Further that way... Michael: We knew from the picture that we'd have to go up. So we started up this moraine or hill of loose rock, and feeling pretty good about it until it dropped off. And we had to climb down the Boulder field and scramble it around until we saw the snow patch. And then we had to go over... [fading out] Michael: Needless to say, it took a while. And as we were searching, we had to be very mindful of timing. Because a lot of factors go into a successful repeat photo. The time of day, can cast shadows off the mountains that make it harder to see the ice. And on a larger scale, the time of year is important. Seasonal snow is a huge obstacle to taking a good photo. Lisa: You have to wait so long. I have people in June asking if they can come to the park and take some photos for me. And I have to say, well, you can't really until the end of August at the earliest, maybe, or September, you gotta wait for the snow to melt. So you can see the actual margin. Gerard: Are we seeing snow there on top of the, Lisa: yeah, it's mostly. Yeah... Michael: And even we were cutting it close, right? Andrew: Yeah. Quite honestly, our trip was really more about getting a behind the scenes look at the process and not necessarily because Lisa needed to repeat this particular photo. Lisa: We don't have the Moraine in front. No, no. Cause that's going to be, Michael: Once you finally find the place where the photo is taken, your last step is to get the camera set up and line up the shot. Lisa: Yeah. So I'm just putting the camera on the tripod and then I'll just kind of start lining things up and slightly overshoot it so I can crop it down a little bit. But I try to match it as closely— I haven't taken any photos all summer. So half the battle is remembering how to use this camera. Andrew: No pressure, you just got everyone watching you. Lisa: Yeah. I'm not even like paying attention to that. Michael: Once it's all said and done, you've got the photo. If it's good enough, Lisa, will line it up next to its historic reference photo back at the office and upload it onto the repeat photography project webpage where you can access all of them. And at the time of this recording, at least 80 photos have been repeated of 20 different glaciers throughout the park. But after spending the day playing research assistant to Lisa, we wanted to take a repeat photo that had never been done before. One that had her in it. CLIMATE – PART 2 Andrew: In the summer of 1988, the year before Gerard returned to the glacier with his wife, a teenaged Lisa McKeon had hiked with her parents up to Grinnell glacier. When they got to the top, Lisa posed for a photo. With a white tank top, yellow shorts, and some very 80s sunglasses Lisa stepped out onto Grinnell glacier for a picture. With a grimacing smile that screamed mom, please don't make me take another photo, Lisa unwittingly created the perfect opportunity for a future repeat picture. So Michael, when I pulled out that photo of Lisa up at Grinnell glacier, that was your first time seeing it, right? Michael: No, it was, and it took me a second to even figure out what the photo was of let alone, who is in it. Daniel: Do you recognize Lisa in them, would you have know that was her? Michael: I don't think so, no. Daniel: You would have been like, who are these people? Michael: Look at this lovely picture. Daniel: What if Gerard was like in the background? Lisa McKeon: That's right. Wouldn't that be cool? He's down below us. In the cave, going "oooOOOooo." Andrew: I tried to find the spot for Lisa to stand and recreate her vacation photo, but I ran into a problem: the lake. Andrew: I spent the last 10 minutes or so trying to find this other spot that we have from one of Lisa's photos from the eighties. And I keep coming further down this way, and I still think I've got to go, we've got to go a lot further that way to get to the spot. I think where you were standing is in the lake at this point. Lisa McKeon: Yeah, I would guess. Andrew: So I don't think we're going to be able to get you back to that spot. Lisa McKeon: Yeah, I know, right? Andrew: Finding the nearest dry spot to where she had stood in 1988, Lisa replicated the pose and grimacing smile. Daniel started to wonder if these photos might be used someday too. Daniel: What about the next 20 years and like the photos that you're in, do you think that people working for USGS in the 2050s will be using photos of you as a teenager and repeating those? Lisa McKeon: I have not submitted these to the archives yet. Gerard: "Who was that babe?" Lisa McKeon: We'll see. I, yeah, I'd probably rather have those submitted than now, but certainly, I mean, it's really exciting thinking that the photos I'm taking now will certainly, you know, be used in decades to come. Andrew: This place has meant a lot to Lisa. Some of her best memories are here in this glacier basin. Lisa McKeon: I've been lucky enough to come up as, you know, a youth. And I brought both of my daughters here because I think it's a really special place. And I want them to see the beauty and, and to see the change, you know? I want them to have their own memories of what it was and then be able to see how it's changing. And my husband proposed to me here too. So I have a lot of great memories associated with this place. Andrew: Where was that? Lisa McKeon: Um, I think it was right down on some of these rocks here. Actually. I don't even remember exactly the spot. Yeah. Beautiful piece of slick rock like this. Andrew: Over a lifetime of visits, she has seen so much change, not just to the glacier, but to people's understanding of it and to our understanding of the changing climate. Lisa McKeon: Well, our glaciers are going. They're on a track to disappear now. But I think what we've done is helping the world understand the connection between climate change and what's happening on the landscape. Yeah. A little piece of that, you know, this happens to be a really visible piece, but there's so many other ways that climate change is impacting this park that are not as visible as a glacier melting away. They get people thinking about climate change. And I love that maybe it begs the question of, wow, what else is happening in this park? And there's scientists out there figuring that out. And there's people maybe looking a little more closely for it in their own experiences here. Andrew: It made me wonder, when did Gerard learn that the changes he'd seen up here were part of a wider global phenomenon? Michael: Yeah, that's something I was wondering too. And I asked him, were you aware of climate change when you made that trip up to Grinnell? Gerard Byrd: I was aware that something was taking place because of humanity here or how we were living. Because when I come back that three years, I was like astounded. I was just so impressed that we could get underneath the glacier at that time. And I told my wife, I said, Oh honey, we got to go back in. I've got to show you this. This was the coolest experience. And so I, I wasn't really aware of it at that time. It was the three years later. Andrew: So it sounds like you noticed that something was going on just from your experience here, but later, did you read in the paper or hear on the news about climate change science and realize, Oh, that's what I saw at Grinnell glacier. Gerard Byrd: Yeah. Then the pieces to fit in the puzzle. And I was like, well, yeah, I witnessed something there that was pretty profound. And didn't know it at the time. Andrew: With all the good memories from this place, but also all the evidence of melting. I wanted to ask Lisa how she felt about Grinnell Glacier on the whole. Does she have a good or bad feeling from this place? Lisa McKeon: Yeah. I think what you described, bittersweet is exactly what it is. Cause it's always a stunningly beautiful place, but the glacier is shrinking and I mean, that's one of the main comments I get back from the repeat photos is people feel loss. Andrew: But when I asked Lisa, if she still had hope she perked up a bit. Lisa McKeon: I do have hope. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, like I said, I don't, I don't have hope that these glaciers are going to last here, but I'm hopeful that climate change is not going to be the end all for this planet. Andrew: Before we left. Lisa wanted to walk up to the glacier itself to let us see what was happening to it with our own eyes, hear it with our own ears. As we approached the sound of melting water rushing off the glacier turned into a roar. I had to shout just for Lisa to hear my question, Andrew: Where is all this water coming from? Lisa McKeon: It's coming from the glacier, every bit of it. It's melting off the glacier. It's quite a torrent today. It's a hot day in the glacier basin and things are cranking. Andrew: As we stepped onto the glacier we reflected on what made this change so meaningful. The earth has always been changing and glaciers have advanced and retreated many times, but something about this felt different. Andrew: Yeah, I guess the fact that these changes that have historically happened on like geologic timescales are now happening on human timescales makes it really dramatic. Gerard Byrd: Yeah, very poignant. And I think that's where the repeat photography comes into play. That's a very visual, you can see that you don't need to be one political party or the other, old or young, you can see that blink of an eye, right there. Lisa McKeon: I think for me, I feel part of this change. There's something major going on--that's climate change. And ice melts when it gets warm. And we're part of that equation. I'm part of this. But I also feel like part of the solution to, not necessarily changing the trajectory for these glaciers, but in a larger sense, this brings awareness. It's, it's pretty stark. It's raw. Gerard Byrd: Well, it's such a quick change in geological time and there was change in the past, but it was thousands of years. I mean, what I've witnessed in just my little lifetime here is incredible. Your grandkids, your great-grandkids won't see this. It's brought an awareness to me for just being present. You know, this is all we have. Tomorrow is not here, yesterday is gone. This is all we have. We're just fortunate to be able to witness the last part of Grinnell glacier. Andrew: That’s our show—If you’re interested in learning more about the Many Glacier Hotel, the USGS Repeat Photography project, climate change, or are interested in getting to Grinnell Glacier yourself, we put links in the show notes to more info. Michael: Thanks for listening! CREDITS Renata: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The show was written and recorded on traditional native lands. Andrew Smith and Michael Faist produced, edited and hosted the show. Ben Cosgrove wrote and performed our music. Alex Stillson provided tech support Quinn Feller designed our art Renata Harrison researched the show, Lacy Kowalski was always there for us, and Daniel Lombardi and Bill Hayden were the executive directors. Support for the show comes from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy works to preserve and protect the park for future generations. We couldn't do it without them, and they couldn't do it without support from thousands of generous donors. If you want to learn more about how to support this podcast, or other awesome Conservancy projects, please go to their website at glacier.org. Of course you can always help support the show by sharing it with everyone you know— your friends, your family, your dog... And also leave us a review online. Special thanks this episode to Gerard Byrd, Diane Sine, Bob Adams, and Lisa McKeon.

Many Glacier is home to some of the park’s most popular trails, like the Grinnell Glacier trail. Many want to see Grinnell because—like the other glaciers in the park—it is retreating.

In our search to understand how Grinnell has changed, we meet someone who last visited the glacier over 30 years ago and hike with a researcher who discovered the power of portraits.

Featuring: Gerard Byrd, Bob Adams, Diane Sine, and Lisa McKeon

For more info, visit: go.nps.gov/headwaters

Episode 5

Confluence | Logan Pass

Transcript

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT BIKING INTRODUCTION Andrew: One spring, shortly after I first came to Glacier National Park to start working as a ranger here, I made my first trip up to Going-to-the Sun Road. In spring while the plow crews are still working on clearing the winter snow from the road, the area past Avalanche Creek is closed to cars. At this time of year, it's popular to bicycle up on the closed part of the road. One afternoon, I took my bike up to Avalanche Creek to ride. Only planning to bike a few miles. I was outfitted in just a t-shirt and carrying only a simple repair kit, a small water bottle, and of course a can of bear spray. When I reached my intended destination, a switchback in the road called The Loop, I was still feeling strong. The sun was bright, and the sky as that deep blue color you only really get in wide open country. From that spot there's a spectacular view of a mountain called Heaven's Peak. I just couldn't turn around. Andrew: I eschewed my original plan and kept pedaling up towards Logan Pass. I couldn't stop. Those miles above The Loop are home to some of the grandest mountain views anywhere. You'll find anywhere. As I came around each corner, a new and breathtaking vista came into focus. The effect was magnetic. As my legs became leaden from the miles of climbing up towards the pass, the mountain views compelled me forward foot by foot. The beauty of the scenery, practically physically pulling me up. If you've ever ridden the Going-to-the Sun Road, you know exactly what I mean. The feeling was ineffable and unforgettable. Eventually I reached the high point of the road, Logan Pass. And by then I was in a complete euphoria. As I looked around, I relished the alpenglow lighting up the mountains, the evening light shimmering in the snow, and the glacier lilies pushing up through the fresh soil. Andrew: The pinkish orange of the sunset was so beautiful I screamed. I couldn't react except primordially. I breathed the crisp mountain air and the place became part of me. I turned the handlebars of my bike back towards the car and began to cruise down the road. But as night started to close in on me, my bliss quickly turned to worry. The sun dropped behind the tall peaks and the temperature plummeted. The road was coated with frigid water from the melting snow, which was kicked up by my tires and soon saturated my green t-shirt. My stomach growled with hunger. I had cycled much further than planned and missed dinner. But worst of all was the wind. The air itself was still, but biking, downhill and picking up speed, I would generate my own wind faster and faster. I couldn't decide whether to descend slowly, staying warmer, but dragging out the experience, or to just let go and frigidly descend as fast as possible. Andrew: Gravity and the thought of my warm car were irresistible. I let loose. As I picked up speed, the cold wind turned my hands numb. They slumped over the handlebars pale and useless. Suddenly I regretted that decision. In the fading light I saw a herd of bighorn sheep jump down into the road from a rocky outcropping above, directly into my path. I squeezed my brakes as hard as I could with my unfeeling hands, not knowing if it would have any effect. With a shriek my tires locked up and my bike came to a halt. I was a little too close for comfort to the curly horns of a large ram. He seemed unmoved. Slowly. I made my way down to the car arriving safely, but well, after dark. At home, I cooked up fried eggs, refried beans, anything caloric and warm I could find in my cabinet. Since then I've biked the Going-to-the Sun Road many times and the views still capture my heart. But now before I leave, I always make sure I have all the necessary safety gear, including snacks, a jacket, and especially gloves. Welcome to Headwaters - a Glacier National Park Podcast. Brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, and produced on the traditional lands of many native American tribes, including the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Selis and Qlispe people. Michael: We’re calling this season: The Confluence, as we look at the ways that nature, culture, the present and the past all come together here. Andrew: I’m Andrew. Michael I’m Michael. Andrew: And we’re both rangers here. And today we're at Logan Pass. And after a brief description of the place itself, we'll hear some stories about what makes it so important. Michael: As the highest point on the Going-to-the Sun Road Logan Pass is a place of extremes. Andrew: One extreme is visitation. This is the starting spot for two of glacier's most popular trails, the Highline and Hidden Lake, and has some of the most coveted parking spots anywhere. Michael: To get one of the 234 spots here on a summer day, often means arriving before 7:00 AM. Andrew: Logan Pass is also home to extremes of weather. Michael: Once, wind speeds of at least 99 miles per hour were recorded for 12 hours straight. Andrew: It can snow any month of the year here and often there's still 10 plus feet of snow on the ground into July. Michael: As crazy as this may sound to listeners from warmer areas, if you show up to hike at Logan Pass in July, don't wear your sandals. You'll likely be walking on snow. Andrew: Because of the extreme geography and weather here. There's really only a short window to visit. Michael: Crews start plowing the Going-to-the Sun Road every year at the beginning of April, but it's a monumental task. Andrew: The plows will have to maneuver through avalanche chutes, manage extreme weather, and finally tackle a section simply called "The Big Drift" where snow often blows into a pile 80-feet deep. They do all of this on extreme terrain and it all has to be finished before the road can open to the public. Michael: Typically, the Going-to-the Sun Road opens for the season in late June or early July, but the opening date will depend on conditions. So if you're planning to drive to Logan Pass, don't plan your trip any earlier than that. Andrew: If you want to bike, like I did, the road will be available for biking before it opens to cars, but you're not allowed to bike in the immediate vicinity of working plow crews for obvious reasons. Michael: To reach Logan Pass you'll need to bike after hours or on the weekend when crews aren't working. Andrew: Once Memorial Day hits and car traffic really ramps up, there are more restrictions on when and where you can bike on the Going-to-the Sun Road. Michael: You'll really want to consult the park website or a newspaper to read all the details. Andrew: It's only a few short months before winter makes it's return to the past. Winter storms have ended the Logan Pass season as early as September in recent years, but mid-October is more typical. Michael: It's a narrow window and that's not accounting for wildfire or other natural events that can lead to unplanned closures. Andrew: But Logan Pass is a magical place full of wildflowers, wildlife, and unsurpassed views. The wild and rugged nature of this place, which makes it so appealing, can also make it unpredictable. It's good to keep in mind that some things you plan to do just might not be available. Be flexible and have a backup plan. There's always something fun to do if you're creative and prepared. Michael: With all that in mind, let's move into our first story of the day, about how workers in the 1920s and 30s were able to build the engineering marvel that is the Going-to-the Sun Road. GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD Andrew: So Michael, how many times would you estimate you've driven the Going-to-the-Sun Road? Michael: Oh gosh. Um, I've never really counted, but I'd say over the last seven years, over a hundred? Andrew: That's a lot of trips. Do you ever get tired of it? Michael: Absolutely not. No. Every time you drive it, thanks to changing sunlight or weather, it looks different. And out of all those trips, I've only ever seen one porcupine or wolverine. So it really does feel like each time you go, you notice something new. Andrew: Yeah. We're pretty lucky to live in this place and to get to drive that road all the time. Michael: Yeah. You can say that again! Andrew: When I'm driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, as it climbs along those sheer cliffs and hugs the side of the Garden Wall, I always think about the engineering that must've gone into it. I mean, they constructed that thing in the 1920s. Michael: Yeah. And the road would still be impressive if it had been constructed today. So how did they pull that off nearly a hundred years ago now? Andrew: You know, I have an idea of just who we should talk to someone who's been teaching the history of this road for decades. Michael: Ranger Bill? Andrew: That's exactly right. Andrew: Bill has been working here for a long time. Bill Schustrom: Well, I started in Glacier National Park in 1966. I worked for the boat company and then in 1988, I was lucky enough to score a job with the National Park Service. And up until this year, I think I had 32 years in. Michael: If you're lucky enough to meet Bill, you'll find that he's got a ton of stories about the park throughout the years. Andrew: When I asked him what he'd say to someone about to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road for the first time he didn't undersell it. Bill Schustrom: First of all, I would tell anybody that I was talking to that they're in for probably one of the greatest experiences of their life. Andrew: In Bill's reckoning, the road really democratized Glacier National Park. It made it a place accessible to a lot more people. Bill Schustrom: It allowed everyone that came to the park, whether you're young or old, or if you're from a different country, it gives you the opportunity to get up very close and personal with one of the finest wilderness areas in the United States, as well as alpine scenery. Andrew: According to Bill, the Going-to-the-Sun Road's origins go all the way back to the inception of the Park Service. Bill Schustrom: It came back to Steven Mather who you probably know was the first director of the National Park Service. The National Park Service came into existence in 1916. Steven Mather, within a year, became the director. Michael: Okay. What about the route? I mean, it seems obvious now, it's absolutely spectacular, but how did they decide where to put it? Andrew: According to Bill, the routing we have today was not even the one that they had originally planned on. Bill Schustrom: The first architect, a landscape architect that was involved in the road, was a guy by the name of George Goodwin. And George Goodwin proposed 15 switchbacks over that 3,000 foot climb up to Logan Pass. And Steven Mather came out, and he rode up to the area where he proposed the 15 switchbacks. And Goodwin's whole thought process was, he wanted to show the human spirit, and what the human spirit was capable of doing. And he felt that a road like that would definitely be there for all time to come. Michael: Oh really? The road was supposed to have 15 switchbacks? I mean it only has one now at The Loop, right? Andrew: [Chuckling] Yeah. They intervened, and the 15 switchback idea was shot down. Bill Schustrom: But along on that trip was another, younger, architect by the name of Thomas Vint. And Thomas Vint said, I don't think that's a good idea. And Steven Mather also said he didn't think it was a good idea, that they would ruin this incredibly beautiful, scenic part of the park. Michael: Okay. Yeah. I've got to agree. That does not sound like a good idea. Andrew: 15 switchbacks would have covered like the whole area in pavement. So Vint proposed a different route instead: one that only had a single switch back. One where the road would blend into the landscape, emphasizing the natural scenery rather than the human engineering. Michael: It sounds a lot more like the road that I know. Andrew: Stephen Mather preferred that proposal as well. He wanted the road to lie lightly on the land, to emphasize the natural over the human. Michael: So what was the next step to take it from drawing board to asphalt? Andrew: Well, they had to do a survey of the route. Bill Schustrom: When they finally decided that it was going to be a one-switchback road, a civil engineer out of San Francisco by the name of Frank Kittredge came in and hired a group of 30 men. And he'd had a lot of experience building roads along the ocean. Andrew: Michael, you know how steep and cliffy that terrain is. Well, surveying it was so terrifying and challenging, that a lot of people simply quit. Turnover was so high on these survey crews that Kittredge had to have three crews simultaneously. One that was actually working. Then he also had to have... Bill Schustrom: One crew coming and one crew quitting. And the ones that quit said that it wasn't worth it to climb up and down those cliffs and put your life in the hands of a rope. Michael: Yeah, I don't blame them. That sounds terrifying. Andrew: To be out on that crumbly sedimentary rock...no thanks. They finished that survey in 1924 and the next yearn the contract to build the West side of the road was given to a company out of Tacoma, Washington called Williams and Douglas. Bill Schustrom: When they came in in 1925, instead of starting from the bottom and working up to the high point, Logan Pass, what they did was, they established along the West side five, maybe six different camps. And they would work from there. They'd work in both directions until they ran into the other camp that was coming their way. Michael: Oh, that's clever. So they were able to work on a bunch of different sections of the road all at the same time. Bill Schustrom: They estimated that there were 300 men that worked on the road. And you know, there was no OSHA, there were no hard hats and there, you know, the kind of clothing they wore, that wasn't such a big consideration. And the amazing thing about that is there were only three deaths. Andrew: It's really pretty humbling to know that three people died working on that road, that we all enjoy so much. I can't even imagine what it'd be like to be part of those crews. Michael: No, I don't want to either. Andrew: Yeah. I asked Bill what some of maybe the biggest challenges they were facing were. Bill Schustrom: I think the biggest thing was safety. You'd see guys rappelling down off the sides of very steep cliffs, you know, with a thousand-foot drop below them. And when they did it, they actually to get all of the materials they needed up to those five camps, they actually had packers that came in. Many of them from Columbia Falls, Montana, one in particular was a guy named Joel Opalka. And the interesting thing about Joe was, in 1983, they had the 50th anniversary of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. And I was lucky enough to be there. They had a lot of the civil engineers, a lot of the people that were responsible for building the road were there and they spoke, and they were eloquent. They were eloquent in the fact that this is going to be a National Historic Site, which it is. And it's actually an, obviously a Civil Engineering National Historic Site and said all this big flowery stuff about it. And Joel Opalka turned around to one of his old buddies that was sitting there, you know, 50 years later and said, aw hell, they can talk all all they want about it, that was just one dangerous, damn hard thing that we were involved in and a lot of hard work, and it was scary. Andrew: Joe Opalka passed in 1991. So we're pretty lucky to still have people like Bill who knew those involved in the original construction. Michael: How long in total did it take to build the thing? Andrew: While a few small sections had been built in earlier years or even decades, the bulk of the construction was done in just eight summer. Because of the limited working season, it's really only about three years' worth of working days. The road was finished in 1932 and then... Bill Schustrom: In 1933, they dedicated it, I think it was on the 15th of July, and there were 4,000 people that showed up. Now, today, it would be an environmental disaster, because 4,000 people and they camped out all over the beautiful meadows and the wildflowers. Michael: That is a lot of people at Logan Pass. Andrew: [Chuckles] Yeah. So I guess some things haven't changed that much. Bill emphasized to me that hearing about the road and learning the history is great and all, but you know, Bill Schustrom: People need to come here. You can ooh and aah at the pictures, but when you're on that road, Oh. My. God. Michael: There's something irreplaceable about really being there. Bill Schustrom: It's just like now where I live, you know, they're rebuilding my road, and now they're digging. The guy that runs the excavator - he is phenomenal, the way he handles that, that great big bucket. That's gotta be like this, you know? And he's just like, he's just got it in his hand and he can put it here and there. And I, I just actually took a chair out last week and just sat out there one kind of sunny day and just watched them work. It was just so much fun, but you, I was there and I was part of it. And to me, that's what education is all about. You gotta be able to - hell, you can talk about wild flowers, but when you can actually see it happening, it's just so much more effective. Andrew: It's such a great image of Bill sitting out in his lawn chair, watching the excavator. Michael: Yeah. It actually does sound pretty cool to watch. Andrew: [Laughs] Yeah. And I loved the way Bill described the experience of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Bill Schustrom: It's like giving somebody a hug. You're hugging the park because it's so beautiful. And the road obviously is a tribute to the, you know, the spirit, the human spirit, but it also is a tribute to nature. You've got to respect it. You got to take your time. And you've got to realize you're in a place that pretty much is starting to disappear in our world, in our country. When you think about all the industrialization that has gone on, but Glacier is a place where you can come and it's still relatively untouched. Andrew: He told me about an experience that can really only happen at a place like Logan Pass. Bill Schustrom: Working up there a couple of years ago. And there was a mountain sheep, beautiful mountain sheep, just this big huge horned guy. And it was looking at us and just like a statue and a guy came up to me and he said, "Jeez, Ranger." He said, "I swear to God, that same mountain sheep was standing in exactly that position 20 years ago when I came here." And I looked at him and I said, "You know, who knows? Probably not. But the park is just exactly like it was when you were here 20 years ago, because it was set aside to become a National Park and how fortunate we are to have places like that. Michael: We’ll be back after this break with a story about some of the interesting steps the park has taken to deal with the impact of visitors at Logan Pass. GLACIER NATIONAL PARK CONSERVANCY AD Andrew: Each episode, we seem to cover at least one thing that like this podcast wouldn't be possible without the support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Michael: With the help of some friends over there, we got the number of executive director, Doug Mitchell, and decided to call him up out of the blue to ask about these projects. Andrew: For this episode, we wanted to ask about a very special ranger you'll sometimes see at Logan Pass. Doug Mitchell: Glacier Conservancy, this is Doug. Michael: Hey, Doug it's Michael and Andrew. How are you doing? Doug Mitchell: Michael and Andrew, what a treat to hear from you today! Michael: Likewise, well, we're calling because Andrew and I have both worked at Logan pass as park rangers, but no matter how good of rangers we are, most visitors who come up to us are asking for a different ranger, one special ranger. Do you have any idea what ranger that might be? Doug Mitchell: I have a feeling that it is our own four-legged ranger, Gracie, the bark ranger. Would I be correct? Michael: You're absolutely right. Andrew: Can you tell us who Gracie is and what she's doing up there? Doug Mitchell: Sure. So Gracie is an amazing addition to the team at glacier park an especially trained animal who helps separate the public from wildlife. Gracie and her handler Ranger Mark Beal have won a bunch of national awards for the work that they've been able to do in glacier to be able to keep wildlife and people interactions safe. Michael: Basically Gracie the bark ranger is a specifically trained wildlife dog that the park uses to mitigate human wildlife conflict at Logan pass. When you say Gracie's helping maintain a safe distance between animals and visitors, is it usually visitors approaching animals, animals approaching visitors, or a little bit of both? Doug Mitchell: It's a little bit of both. So, you know, obviously, as unfortunately we know animals are attracted to salt, which can, can come from the bottoms of our cars. And so they can end up in the parking lot and either people can get too close to them, in which case Gracie will gently nudge her way around both the people and the animals. And generally shoo the animals back to the other side of the road, where they are safe and sound and out of harm's way as are the people who may not know that you just don't get within five feet of a bighorn sheep. That would be a bad idea. Michael: Yeah, big horns have a few big reminders on their head to keep that distance, but it's nice to have a charismatic ranger doing the extra work. Doug Mitchell: I think in the, generally in the name big and horn you just would get the idea. Andrew: It's always fun to hear about the special projects that Glacier National Park Conservancy funds and supports here in the park. Doug Mitchell: Always fun to hear your guys' latest podcasts. Thanks for the work you're doing. Michael: Great. We'll talk to you soon. Doug Mitchell: All right. Thank you. Bye. LOVED TO DEATH Michael: Welcome back to headwaters a glacier national park podcast. In this episode, we are at Logan pass. And for this next story, I wanted to talk to someone who had worked there. On an average summer day. How early would you say the parking lot filled up there? Emlon: Uh, normal, probably 7:45 was about average. When I first started working there in 2013, it was probably closer to 9:00. Michael: Wow. Emlon: So it started people kind of got the idea that they need to get there early. Michael: That's Emlon Stanton. Emlon: Emlon Stanton, and I was a Visitor Service Assistant for Logan Pass. Michael: Who spent seven years more or less managing the whole area. You're one of the people that would make the call to close the parking lot? Emlon: Right. Michael: When it's full. How do you know when it's time to do that? Emlon: Uh, normally for closing it, if there's more than 20 cars circling is normally when we made the call to close it. Michael: In the summer of 2019, Logan pass was open for 86 days, and three fourths of the time the parking lot of the visitor center was full by 9:00 AM. Andrew: And from having staffed that visitor center, it's worth noting that Emlon or another ranger who's making the announcement that it's full, they don't live up at Logan pass. They have to drive up in the morning like everyone else. So if the lot is actually full at 6:30 in the morning, it won't get called in until Emlon arrived at work. Michael: Yeah, you're right. So what would your advice be to somebody who didn't find parking at Logan? Emlon: Just go down the road, try to find a pull—, a legal pullout, and have them just take the shuttle back up. Michael: Now on a personal level, I don't think anyone when they visit Glacier is excited to have to jockey for parking or deal with congestion. I mean, it's just not fun. But there are some other concerns that park managers have when they see crowds like this at Logan pass. Andrew: Yeah. You've got to think about, you know, can an ambulance get up here? Are people going to be forced to walk on the vegetation? Are we getting too close to the wildlife? Is someone going to get gored by a mountain goat? Michael: Things like this are often cited as proof-positive that our national parks are being "Loved to Death." And while that might be a little hyperbolic, they are great examples of the difficult nature of carrying out our agency's mission. Now the mission of the NPS is beloved, but actually implementing it proves challenging—thanks to what's known as its dual mandate. Could you describe the dual mandate? Andrew: Sure. Well, the mission statement says that places like Glacier are to be preserved unimpaired, but you're not going to set a glacier aside in a museum or hermetically seal it only to be viewed at a distance. Because the mission also states that they're to be preserved for future generations to use, for people to enjoy and learn from. Michael: Yeah. And that balance between protecting something as it is and allowing for others to enjoy it—that's a tightrope walk. Too far to one side and you'll preserve it so well that nobody could ever see it. And too far to the other, you build enough road, resorts and attractions that you built a theme park. Andrew: Yeah. You've got to find a middle ground somewhere. Michael: Logan pass, as we've said, is a place of superlatives, it's the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road with some of the park's most extreme weather and abundant wildlife, but it's also a case study in how in the face of extreme visitation glacier has grappled with this dual mandate. Michael: And none of these concerns are unique to Logan pass, destinations all along Going-to-the-Sun Road seem to grow more and more popular each year. But as the literal and figurative high point of many people's visits here, Logan Pass has been at the center of both the visitor experience and park management for a long time. And if you look at its history, you'll find some of the most misguided, controversial, and just downright bananas attempts the park has made to define our relationship to this place. Today, I'm going to share three examples of times that our favorite alpine playground was nearly "loved to death." Now the Logan Pass Visitor Center was built as part of Mission 66; a massive National Park Service program to expand and standardize infrastructure park sites all over the country in preparation for the 50th birthday of the NPS. Andrew, could you describe the Logan Pass Visitor Center? Andrew: Sure. It's built into a hillside and it's got this big sloping roof that kind of matches the contour of the hill. It's made with stone walls and big windows everywhere to enjoy the views. Michael: Yeah, it's beautiful. It's visually striking and I think really compliments the scenery well. But as with any construction project, it disturbed the ground it was built on. This is my first story of management foibles and folly at Logan pass, and I'm calling it the coverup. But first Andrew, could you describe what the meadows are like? Andrew: There's all those sub-alpine Meadows with glacier lilies, monkeyflower, all sorts of grasses... Michael: Exactly. By the time construction had finished in 1965 pictures of the building show barren dirt all around it. But the same photo just two years later shows lush green vegetation all around the building. Andrew: Wait, what? This seems impossible. Michael: Yeah, no, look at it. Andrew: Things don't usually grow that fast up at that elevation. Michael: They don't? Andrew: Those meadows are covered in snow for like eight months of the year. So I would expect it to take decades for all those plants to grow back. Michael: Yeah, you're right. And here's how they did it—if you could read this excerpt from a newspaper article at the time. Andrew: Sure—okay. Park officials decided to gather alpine turf elsewhere and transplanted around the visitor center, exactly as one might in developing a new lawn in the city. The source of the alpine sod, unfortunately, is a short distance from the visitor center, just out of the line of sight. Collectively the sites represent an area as large as a football field. Wait, they just stripped away plants from another spot and replanted them there? Michael: Yeah. And they didn't try very hard to hide what they were doing either, cause hikers on their way to the Hidden Lake Overlook just behind the building immediately noticed patches of barren dirt, like 200 yards from the visitor center. Andrew: Oh no—that's, that's pretty egregious. Michael: Yeah. So management caught some flack for that, as seen from that article you just read from, but what came next was an attempt to actually protect the meadows. Andrew: Okay. That seems like a good thing. Michael: In a story I'm going to call "The Toxic Trail." Andrew: Well that doesn't... Michael: The hikers that noticed the side stripping were on their way to hidden Lake overlook a mile and a half Southwest of the visitor center. Now, today, if you were to hike there, what would you be walking on? Andrew: It's mostly on a boardwalk. Michael: Yeah. A raised wooden boardwalk. When the visitor center opened, it was just a regular trail. Andrew: So let me guess. After they built the visitor center, it got a lot more crowded up there. And the park was worried that all these people would start to stray off trail and walk on the plants. So they built a boardwalk to try to keep people on the trail? Michael: It's almost like you work here! But you're right. A boardwalk was proposed for that very reason, but it wasn't a popular proposal. It was widely criticized notably by the trail crew members that would be tasked with its construction. In a letter to the editor of the Hungry Horse News. They opposed the boardwalk for four reasons. Now I haven't here. Can you read them? Andrew: Yeah, sure. Okay. Obvious damage to the aesthetic value of this Alpine area, nothing short of an atrocity. Michael: And their second complaint? Andrew: We do not feel that this boardwalk will fulfill the purpose for which it is intended. Michael: Third? Andrew: There are a good many well-used trails in glacier park that are in dire need of repair and maintenance. And this money could be put to much better use. Michael: And final. Andrew: And finally, we feel as do all park employees, that visitor impressions are important. And so far all comments from visitors viewing this project have been negative, Michael: A pretty thorough rebuke. Yeah. Andrew: But there actually is a boardwalk up there today. So they must have changed their minds? Michael: Well, park management actually dismissed both the feedback and the employees who gave it. The trail crew members who spoke up were actually fired. Andrew: Wait really? Yeah. Michael: The parks superintendent at the time, William Briggle, was so insistent on finishing this project despite widespread concerns, that the trail crew was replaced and work began immediately on the boardwalk. And this haste led to additional complications as well. The wood initially used was treated with pentachloraphenol, a petroleum based solvent. It pretty much right away began to leak out onto plants. Andrew: Oh, that's not good. Michael: Yeah. And folks that were there at the time observed the death of trees or grasses growing alongside it, but it also made it slippery and toxic for us to walk on Andrew: What a mess. . Michael: Yeah. Needless to say, they got a lot of flack for that as well and replaced all the wood with environmentally friendly wood at great inconvenience to visitors—because it stayed closed for longer—and at great cost to the park. But I saved the best for last, the most absurd story of visitor management, in my opinion anywhere in the park, centers around the toilets at Logan Pass. Andrew: Oh no, this can't be good. Michael: We often advertise that the park is home to over a million acres. But we don't advertise that we've got over 300 toilets. Andrew: 300? Michael: Not including lodges or hotels. Andrew: Does that count all the backcountry campground toilets too? Michael: Yeah. Vault toilets, pit toilets, flush toilets, outhouses, low riders, visitors centers, campgrounds, you name it. Andrew: Hmm. Michael: Waste management is kind of a great unspoken truth of civilization. When you've got to go, you've got to go. Even if you're miles into the backcountry. And remote restrooms, like some of them here are met with a unique set of challenges. Sperry and Granite park chalets, which you reach after hiking thousands of feet up from the trailhead, get enough traffic that their pit toilets rely on barrels that are sealed and flown out at the end of the year by helicopter. Andrew: And I think I've heard that there used to be a solar-powered composting toilet somewhere. Michael: Yeah, there was! Until it was destroyed by an avalanche. Andrew: [laughs] That sounds like a huge mess. Michael: And I even ran into a backcountry toilet this summer that had been completely torn off its foundation by a curious bear. Andrew: Oh no, that also sounds messy. Michael: So one of the reasons we don't advertise that we have over 300 toilets is because they're kind of gross, but it's also because nobody seemed to know the number offhand. I had a series of really humorous emails with facilities management to try to track down that estimate. But the whole reason I started looking into toilets and waste management in the first place was because I learned about our third and final story: a story I'm going to call "The Fleeting Fountains." Coinciding with the new visitor center, a new waste treatment facility was installed at Logan Pass. One that promised to capture and treat waste with a septic system that filters out liquid waste in a 17,000 gallon tank, before spraying clean water out of nearby nozzles. Andrew: Nearby as in, out onto the meadows at Logan Pass? Michael: Yep, watering the plants so to speak. The only problem was after the 17,000 gallon septic tank opened to the public, it got 5,000 visitors and 20,000 gallons every day. Andrew: Oh no, that's what... 3000 gallons over capacity? Michael: Yup. Yup. And that 17,000 gallon tank that they advertised to the public, that they reported to a federal sanitary engineer. Well, they exaggerated the size a little bit, it turns out it was only 6,000 gallons. Andrew: So the system was faced with a demand more than three times its capacity. Michael: Mmhmm. Andrew: That's a big, that's a big difference. That's a lot of excess waste you gotta deal with. Michael: A LOT. The result was... Well, can you read this? Andrew: Okay. "The tank continued to overflow and untreated sewage effluent continued to run directly into Reynolds Creek. It was an awful sight. Saturated toilet paper made its way through the spray heads and was draped on adjacent small trees, undecomposed fecal matter was sprayed onto the subalpine vegetation, killing some of it with the liquids then flowing into Reynolds Creek." Michael: [laughing] Andrew: Oh, that is, that was a terrifying description. Michael: It's just horrific. Some people began referring to them as the fecal fountains of Logan pass and suggested the best way to solve the issue of people seeing and being disgusted by them was to only set off the nozzles at night and light them up with a colorful light show that rivals that of Disney World. Andrew: [Laughing] Oh my God. Michael: [Laughing] Isn't that nuts? Andrew: That's... yeah. Michael: Luckily these three examples of management fiascos at Logan pass. Weren't all for not each scenario has new management solutions today. Take the sod-stripping. What do you think we do in that situation today? Andrew: Well, rather than pull up plants that are already doing fine in the park, we'd grow new ones and the native plant nursery. Michael: Yeah! In the case of disturbances like construction, we can replant vegetation using local seedlings collected and raised by our nursery staff. Now in the case of the boardwalk, there are systems in place now to evaluate potential development or construction before it happens. Andrew: Yeah. And it's not unique to National Parks, but any project like this boardwalk would now require an environmental impact statement. Michael: Or assessment. Andrew: Which would detail all the ways that the project would impact the environment. Michael: And finally, the toilets. Andrew: Yeah. I don't think we use that system anymore. Michael: Oh no. We've got a new system. Michael: [in the car] Wow, it is a beautiful day. Michael: And one morning this summer I drove up to Logan pass to meet with one of the folks that helps the system work. Michael: I feel absolutely puny in my little sedan behind this thing. Michael: The fecal fountain fiasco was a huge black eye to the park, ultimately attracting national attention. In a letter to the then Senator from Montana, the assistant director of the national park service wrote the following: here, one last thing to read. Andrew: Okay—"Sprayfield on Logan pass is being eliminated and there will only be holding facilities. Next summer, Logan pass sewage will be pumped into tank trucks and hauled to lower elevations for disposal. This will make unnecessary any additional engineering improvements to the existing system and will obviate further intrusion on the natural environment." Michael: What's your name and job title then? Jeff: Jeff Hoyt, equipment operator. Michael: I met with Jeff outside these vault toilets at Logan pass. After he drove one of those tank trucks all the way up here. Speaker 4: Do you have a name for this thing? Michael: No, it's the bigger one. Either the big pumper or the little pumper, that's which one you're taking. Michael: And they are as noisy as they are enormous. Andrew: How big is that tank? Michael: Huge. Do you know how big this tank is? Jeff: Um, it is a 3,500 gallon. Michael: Wow. Jeff: 3,500 gallon. Michael: That tank could hold 18 hot tubs, and when full would weigh as much as seven bull moose. Now all of the waste at Logan flows into a storage tank, which is periodically vacuumed up into tank trucks like this one before being trucked down to a waste management facility near the entrance. Jeff: On a busy season. We're usually three, four loads minimum. Michael: A day? Jeff: Every day. Andrew: Three to four trips every day? Michael: Yeah. Andrew: That's like what? 28 bull moose worth of human waste. Michael: Yeah, and that's just Logan Pass. There are at least three more vaults like it along Going-to-the-Sun Road alone that get the same treatment. It's an incredibly labor intensive strategy today. It's worth noting. We get more than three and a half times. The number of visitors that they did when the visitor center opened in 1965. All these tools, the native plant nursery, environmental impact statements, vault toilets—the park uses them to maintain the balance of our dual mandate: using and enjoying these places without destroying what we love about them. Andrew: Yeah. We can have convenient bathrooms with no fecal fountains. Michael: Exactly. But this balance can get harder and harder to handle in the face of increasing visitation. Now we wouldn't have the solutions we discussed today if people hadn't spoken up about the old ones. It was the voices of visitors that raised awareness of sod-stripping and put pressure on the park to fix the boardwalk. The most effective management tool a park could hope for is a community of people that support it, that care for it and are conscious of their impact during a visit. And if my time here has been any indication, we're incredibly fortunate to have supporters and stewards all around the country. In fact, if you're listening to this right now, you're a part of that community. So thank you. Andrew: Yeah, we really couldn't do all this without you. Michael: So the next time you're at Logan Pass, pat yourself on the back and spare a thought for the toilets. Because they are a slightly smelly symbol of our collective ability to protect this place. SMELLSCAPES Andrew: Okay. All this talk of toilets has got me thinking about the smells here. There are so many things to smell. Do you have any scent related memories here, Michael? Michael: Yeah, I remember the second summer I came out here to work. I noticed how much I associated the smell of the forests around park housing with the park itself. I remember calling my family to let them know that I made it safely to Montana and mentioned that I realized how much I missed that smell. My sister, Katie thought it was hilarious. Like, what do you mean you miss the smell? Bringing it up on phone calls from time to time. But when they finally got the chance to visit, I remember her apologizing, you know, I know, I know what you're talking about now. It's it smells great. Andrew: Yeah. That's a great story. And you're definitely not the only person who has ever been teased for their interest in the smells here. I want to play you a clip from a conversation I had recently. Will Rice: So much grief from my colleagues, just like kind of jabbing at me, like smellscape, are you still like doing this? Like, what are you talking about? Smellscape that can't be real! And I was reading Aristotle for a class at the time and he called smell the lowest of the human senses. And it's like, even he's beating up on smells! We've never given smell its due whether it's in the parks or just in culture. Michael: I mean, that sounds a lot like what happened with me and my sister who is, who is that? Andrew: That's Will Rice. He's an assistant professor at the University of Montana's department of society and conservation. Michael: Did I hear him use the word smellscape like, what is that? Andrew: When will was doing his graduate studies at Penn State, he worked on a survey about what motivations people had to visit an especially busy part of grand Teton national park. One visitor told him: Will Rice: Well I'm here for the smellscape and initially it was kind of funny, you know, like the smellscape, that's kind of an odd term. We hear soundscape a lot in national parks and a lot of the research I do surround soundscapes. So, I was just interested. Well, is this even a thing that's been studied in any capacity. Andrew: You realized the same thing that you were just talking about and that your sister realized when she visited: that smells play a big role in how we experience national parks, but we hardly ever talk about them. So, he wrote a paper here. You can check it out: Michael: Pungent Parks: Smell's Growing Relevance in Park Tourism by William Rice, Garrett Hamilton, and Peter Newman. Andrew: Luckily for us, since Will now just work down in Missoula, he was willing to drive up and take a walk with me around Apgar here and talk about the smellscape. Andrew: So, first of all, Will, can you tell me what is a smellscape exactly? Will Rice: Sure. So a smellscape is just the aggregate of all the smells that make up a certain area, and the scale can really vary. So we can have smellscapes that are just the size of a small room or just a meadow, or we can have the smellscape of all of Glacier National Park, you know, the aggregate, but really it's, it's kind of what you're smelling as you're moving through a space. Michael: The whole concept of a smellscape kind of seemed like a joke at first, but I totally get what he's talking about. If you're at Logan Pass, you're going to have a very different experience if the main scent you smell is the pit toilet versus wildflowers. Andrew: And interestingly Will told me the biggest threat to natural smellscapes is not toilets, but actually climate change. Will Rice: Droughts we know are going to become more prevalent in an era of climate change and droughts tend to really change, like we're standing right now around a bunch of wild lowers that are dependent on rain every year. And if we go through a period of drought, those wildflowers may become less prevalent. In turn, if we have a larger rain event, like you're seeing, you know, with the super blooms in Southern California, that changes the smellscape. Changing weather patterns, but also wildfire is a big one. A wildfire can really dramatically change the character of a smellscape rather quickly. Andrew: Have people tried to capture these national parks smells in any way? Will Rice: If you go into a store, they have officially licensed candles, air fresheners, and laundry detergent that smell like various parks. So we're trying to bring that home. I would say, you know, like if you open up the candle for Rocky Mountain National Park and you get this hit of lavender, maybe that's not exactly what it smells like, but we're trying to authenticate it somehow, but we really failing because it is so unique. Andrew: Why should people care about smells? Will Rice: They're vitally important from an ecological standpoint, but also from the standpoint that I study parks from, the social experience, the visitor experience. Imagine walking into glacier, you know, with your nose pinched, it's really going to affect your experience. And as we, as we noted in the paper, there's so much about your park experience that you can curate, that you can really make your own. Now it's taking pictures and putting them on Instagram. You can share this experience. You can record the soundscape as some people are starting to do with microphones and taking those home and mixing that. But you can't really take the smell home from a park, at least legally, you're not supposed to take, you know, pine straw home. Everyone's experiencing the smellscape while they're in the park, it's tying us all together in a place. And so we're left with this really authentic experience. Andrew: Thanks so much for joining me today, Will. Michael: I had never thought about it that way. There's all sorts of pictures and videos of the park. There are recordings and now even a podcast of the sounds, but to experience the smells, you just have to be here. Andrew: Yeah, and our last story today is about another experience that you really just have to be here to have. It's something you can't experience anywhere else in the whole of the American Rockies. Just this one spot in Glacier National Park. Michael: What is it? Andrew: Well, you'll have to join me to find out. Michael: Okay. GENTIAN Michael: Okay. You've really got me on pins and needles here. What is this experience you were talking about that's rare? Andrew: Well, I think we should replicate the journey of one Marcus Jones. Michael: Who's that? Andrew: Jones was a botanist. He worked in Montana in the early 1900s. He was pretty prolific. In his career he documented and even named a ton of plants. So he was a really great botanist, but he's actually best known for his roasts. Michael: Wait, so he's a botanist that moonlights as a roast comic? Andrew: In a sense, he was a pretty prickly guy. And in fact, his views were so unorthodox that by the late 1920s, he was shut out of most of the botany journals. So he just took matters into his own hands. He bought a printing press, taught himself to typeset, and he started putting out his own botany journal called Contributions to Western Botany. With no one to edit or censor him, Jones just took to excoriating those botanists he disagreed with. I had a friend dramatize, a few of his comments for you. Darren (As Marcus Jones): It is a common comment of workers in the Gray Herbarium that Fernald is becoming a common scold. He needs to be taken out in the woodshed and given a spanking. It is to be hoped that this will be done before he gets to the Bronxian position of seeing nothing good in the work of outsiders. Michael: Wow. He really doesn't pull any punches. Andrew: Yeah. And the next one's probably even worse. Darren (As Marcus Jones): There have been several notable deaths in the botanical world since my last Contributions. Green, the past of systematic botany, has gone and relieved us from his botanical drivel. They say that the good that men do lives after them, but the evil is interred with their bones. I suspect that his grave must have been a big one to hold it all. Green was first, last, and it all the time a botanical crook and an unmitigated liar. Michael: Holy crap, wow, wow. Andrew: He was not afraid of speaking ill of the dead. Now to be fair, Jones was just as likely to praise those he agreed with as to nail those who he felt had crossed him. Michael: So, okay, you can't deny that he was witty if a little bit temperamental, but what does that have to do with Glacier? Andrew: Well, Marcus Jones spent the summer of 1909 all around Glacier National Park. During that time he spotted a rare plant, the glaucous gentian. And to this day, over 110 years later, it's never been found anywhere else in the American Rockies, besides this one pond along the continental divide in the alpine of Glacier National Park. I think we should go see it. Michael: I'm game. What was it called again? Glock...? Andrew: The glaucous gentian. Michael: Okay. Uh, where is it? Andrew: I'll have to show you it's near Logan pass, but it is a bit of a hike. Michael: Yeah. Okay. Andrew: Okay. So yeah, we've hiked just over 10 and a half miles already this morning, climbed 4700 feet. And now I think we're within like a hundred yards of our gentian. We're getting really close. I'm pretty excited to see it in a minute here. So when we get up to the pond, there's some water kind of seeping out the bottom of it, and you can see there's these mossy patches that have started growing in that wet area below the pond. That's our habitat. So we're gonna walk down there, I think that's where we're gonna find our flower. And we're just going to be looking for something just a couple inches tall. Michael: It's a pretty tough hike up here. So I was glad to get a little break while you explained some of the background of the flower and why we're up here in the first place. So he discovered the glaucous gentian, the gooseneck sedge. Did he name all these things? Andrew: He didn't. The glaucous gentian was named actually all the way back in 1790, a Prussian botanist named Peter Simon Pallas named it. Michael: What does glaucous mean? Andrew: Glaucous is, I think it's a really interesting word. It's not one that people use very much these days, but it's actually one of the oldest color words that we know about. Glaucous goes all the way back to Homer. In the Odyssey, Athena is described as glaucous eyed and so it became a descriptor of a kind of blue-green color. Speaker 3: So what is special about this glaucous gentian? Andrew: Well, it's a pretty unique plant because it grows in so few places. It really has evolved to a very specialized kind of habitat here. This is a really harsh environment. There's a lot of snow, a lot of wind, it's cold, really short growing season. This particular spot we're in is really wet. It's fed by a snowfield. You'll see more of this type of habitat, like in the Arctic circle. So this plant is really adapted to, really an Arctic situation. But because this area is kept moist by a snowfield, it's pretty threatened by climate change. If that snowfield were to disappear, this area is going to dry out. So, scientists have been monitoring this site for 40 years, trying to track how the hydrology affects the plants. And they've noticed a statistically significant decline in the number of gentians that grow here. It really seems like it's attributable to that shrinking snowfield. It's not keeping things as moist as it used to be. Michael: Oh, wow. So it sounds like climate change is making this plant even rarer. Andrew: I talked to one scientist, who's been coming up here for years. And he said, when he first started, he would kneel down to look at the flowers and when he'd stand up his pants were soaking wet. And in recent years he stands up and his pants are still dry. It's just not as moist here anymore. It's interesting because you know, we've seen the climate trends in this area. We've seen increased temperatures obviously, but we've also seen somewhat increased precipitation, so you think maybe a wet plant would benefit from that, and it would be fine. But because that summer heat is so intense, it starts so early, it's warmer in March, April, May. Often it stays about freezing at night in May things are just melting out faster and it doesn't stay wet late enough into the season. Michael: So it's less about the amount of moisture, but about the consistency? Andrew: The timing. Yeah. It doesn't stay all, all summer anymore. So we're gonna keep monitoring this site and see what happens to the gentians, but they're really a signal for us to the health of our snowfields and, and the changing climate up here. Oh, and there's a mountain goat. Michael: Well, I'm excited to try to find it. Andrew: Should we go ahead down there? Michael: Sure. Andrew: Okay. It's been about 30 minutes now. I really actually thought we would have found it by now, but, no sign of it so far, the search continues. Michael: Spotted saxifrage, buttercups, and lots of moss. No, Gentian yet. Andrew: Alright, we're hitting the one hour mark. Still no sign of the flower. I'm a bit puzzled. Thought we definitely would have found it by now. Michael: Big pile of bear poop. Andrew: Okay. We're approaching two hours. Starting to wonder if this thing is even here anymore. I really don't know where else to look, but, I think we're going to give it just in a little longer, maybe another half hour. Michael: I think Andrew just found it. I heard him shout. Andrew: I have like the biggest smile on my face right now. It feels so nice to find it. Ah, ah, it feels so good. We've been looking for a couple of hours at this point. Yeah. Two and a half hours of just combing every square inch of this area, but it's here. It still exists. It's as glaucous as advertised. Michael: Yeah. When you said blue-green, I was picturing more blue than green, I think. But it definitely was hard to pick out from everything around it. Michael: I can only imagine the insults Marcus Jones would have hurled at us after that performance. Andrew: Hey all's well, that ends well. And it was pretty exciting when we finally found it. Michael: One of the coolest and most special things about Glacier National Park is the easy access to these wild alpine habitats. I mean, you could just drive right up to what is basically an arctic habitat zone at Logan Pass. That's pretty incredible. Andrew: Yeah, it's really great. But it comes with some responsibility as well. These alpine environments are really sensitive to disturbance, like from climate change as we discussed, but also our small individual actions like walking on or picking the flowers. It's never worth stepping on one flower to get a better picture or view of another one. But despite the toilets and the cars and all of the people up there, Logan pass is still one of the best places in the world to get close to nature. Michael: And together, if we leave no trace, we can be sure to keep it that way for a long, long time to come. Andrew: That’s our show for today—If you’re interested in learning more about visiting Logan Pass, or how to Leave No Trace when visiting a natural area, you can find links in the show notes for more info. Michael: Thanks for listening! CREDITS Renata: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The show was written and recorded on traditional native lands. Andrew Smith and Michael Faist produced, edited and hosted the show. Ben Cosgrove wrote and performed our music. Alex Stillson provided tech support Quinn Feller designed our art Renata Harrison researched the show, Lacy Kowalski was always there for us, and Daniel Lombardi and Bill Hayden were the executive directors. Support for the show comes from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy works to preserve and protect the park for future generations. We couldn't do it without them, and they couldn't do it without support from thousands of generous donors. If you want to learn more about how to support this podcast, or other awesome Conservancy projects, please go to their website at glacier.org. Of course you can always help support the show by sharing it with everyone you know— your friends, your family, your dog... And also leave us a review online. Special thanks this episode to Bill Schustrom, Emlon Stanton, Will Rice, Darren Lewis, Jeff Hoyt—along with the entire facilities crew here at Glacier.

In this episode of Headwaters we visit one of Glacier’s most popular and unique destinations: Logan Pass. First, we’ll learn about the road that gets us up here, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and about some hilarious attempts to reduce our impact at Logan Pass. We’ll learn about appreciating the natural smells of the park, and end with the search for a rare and disappearing flower.

Featuring: Bill Schustrom, Jeff Hoyt, Emlon Stanton, Will Rice, and Darren Lewis.

For more info, visit go.nps.gov/headwaters

Episode 6

Confluence | Lake McDonald

Transcript

SPRAGUE INTRODUCTION

Michael:

It's Thursday, August 10th, 2017. And I have the day off.

Andrew:

For context, we were both rangers here in the summer of 2017.

Michael:

Yes. And the job of leading guided hikes campground talks and staffing the visitor center is very rewarding, but can also be exhausting. So when the weekend rolled around some friends and I planned a relaxing backcountry, camping trip. We got a permit for the backcountry campground on the West shore of Lake McDonald. One of the few back country campgrounds that you can paddle a canoe to. So we loaded our gear into dry bags, packed our life jackets and set sail for some RNR. The campground itself is known for being sunny, that burned over in a wildland fire in 2003 and the remaining lifeless and limbless trees offer little in the way of shade.

Andrew:

That's an understatement.

Michael:

So we set out in the afternoon thinking we'd arrive after the heat of the day had passed. The first half of the paddle was nice and sunny, but the further we went, the clouds began to roll in. With each stroke the sky seemed to grow darker and we paddled faster and faster and faster to reach the shoreline. We thought we'd beaten the weather as we pulled our canoe ashore, but a clap of thunder echoed off the mountains and signaled the night that was yet to come. As we frantically assembled our tents and shabby burritos, the storm arrived. Rain came in a torrent instantly soaking me through my jacket. We hung our food up so we could retreat to our tents. But then the wind began to pick up. In my memory what came next was a loud, deafening blur. Rain pelted the ground, and began to sound like angry radio static.

Michael:

The wind was strong enough you had to brace yourself against it or be blown over and begin to topple the trees around us. And as they crashed down left and right, we ran to the lakeshore for safety as lightning and thunder reverberated up above. But just like that, it was over. The air was calm. The rain had stopped and we breathed a collective sigh of relief as we returned to the soggy rice and bean burritos we'd put away. As we ate, we tried to make sense of what had just happened, pointing out the trees that had fallen down, comparing how well our jackets had worked. But only then, with mouthfuls of burrito, did we notice a column of smoke across the lake. Smoke that would eventually grow to become the Sprague fire that burned 17,000 acres and the Sperry chalet.

Andrew:

Wow, that's crazy that you sat through the storm that started it all. I was actually just straight across the lake from you. At the same time at the Lake McDonald lodge, I was supposed to give the evening ranger program up at the Lake McDonald lodge auditorium that night. It was super stormy as I drove up from Apgar. And while I was getting ready for my talk, the power went out in the building. It was pitch black in the auditorium. I didn't think people would really be able to safely walk around the room so I just decided to cancel the program. So if you were trying to attend the ranger program at the Lake McDonald Lodge auditorium on August 10, 2017, I'm very sorry. You'll have to catch me another time. When I canceled, I stood outside the building to let people know that the program wouldn't be happening that night. It was at 8:36 PM, a few minutes after the talk was scheduled to start, that lightning struck the hillside above me and ignited the Sprague Creek fire. With no program to give I drove back down to my office in Apgar. There were lots of people just standing around and watching the flames. So in a routine that would become common over the coming months from across the Lake, I watched the fire glow against the dark night sky. I was still wearing my ranger uniform. So I stayed on the beach there for hours answering questions from concerned visitors.

Michael:

The fire became a spectacle. At night people would gather to watch it burn. Slowly at first, then rapidly as one hot and dry week was followed by another.

Andrew:

In all the Sprague fire burned for about three months on the east shore of Lake McDonald, until it was finally extinguished by autumn snow.

Michael:

Here on Lake McDonald, wildfire is a fact of life for plants, animals, and people are like, if you want to exist here, you've got to learn to live with it.

Andrew:

In this episode, we're going to learn about something that's becoming an everyday concern for people around the American West: what happens when people and wildfire come together. Welcome to Headwaters - a Glacier National Park Podcast. Brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, and produced on the traditional lands of many native American tribes, including the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Selis and Qlispe people.

Michael:

We’re calling this season: The Confluence, as we look at the ways that nature, culture, the present and the past all come together here.

Andrew:

I’m Andrew.

Michael:

I’m Michael.

Andrew:

And we’re both rangers here. And today we're in the Lake McDonald valley.

Michael:

Near the west entrance of the park, the Lake McDonald area is the most visited region of Glacier. Lake McDonald itself is one of the park's, most cherished attractions, at 10 miles long, and over a mile wide it's also the largest lake in glacier.

Andrew:

This area gets hit with a ton of lightning, and that means that wildfires start with considerable frequency.

Michael:

What happens in a place dense with people and fire. And that's what we're going to explore in this episode.

TRAPPER PART 1

Michael:

To start out. I wanted to talk to someone who knows the park as well as anyone even better than most rangers.

Chris Peterson:

My name is Chris Peterson and I am the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

Andrew:

Oh yeah, Chris!

Michael:

Hardly anything happens in Northwest Montana without Chris writing or at least knowing about it.

Andrew:

It seems like he's been here forever. How long has Chris been around?

Chris Peterson:

Since 1998, which would make it a, this will be my 23rd summer.

Andrew:

I've seen his byline a lot, but he's a photographer too, right?

Michael:

Yeah. You're right. After graduating college, Chris started working for a small town daily newspaper in New York where he started to pick up photography.

Chris Peterson:

Back in New York, uh, at the daily you had to shoot your own photos. So my photos were terrible. I was awful photographer. Didn't know what I was doing. And so I started shooting Buffalo bills, games, you know, at a Buffalo bills game you know, it was like 85,000 people there, but there's also 120 photographers. So you could, you can learn a lot just by watching the other guys.

Michael:

And after he really developed his photography skills.

New Speaker:

Oh boy.

Michael:

He landed a new job.

Chris Peterson:

So that kind of set up my portfolio and then the Hungry Horse News had put out an ad for a photographer and I applied and I got the job and the rest is kind of history, I guess.

Andrew:

That's a big switch to go from photographing Bills games to bald eagles.

Michael:

Yeah. It's a big adjustment, but he took to it. But part of covering news in the West is wildfire something Chris didn't have any experience with from his time in New York.

Chris Peterson:

Oh, well, you know, in, in New York there are, I mean, big fires. Yeah. But they were all houses or, um, you know, tire dumps.

Michael:

But it didn't take him long to get experience. The second summer, he covered the West Flattop fire, two years after that the moose fire, then the Anaconda fire.

Chris Peterson:

So, so I'd cut my teeth.

Michael:

All of which led up to 2003. You had a couple of seasons of experience then covering summer fires. What was the feeling going into the summer of 2003?

Chris Peterson:

You know, in retrospect, um, we probably should have known that we were going to have a big fire year, but I can remember in June, like just people just having fun. Cause it didn't rain. I mean, June typically is one of the wettest months. If not the wettest month in the park. It didn't rain. So everyone was having, you know—everyone's camping and fishing and float. And you know, the park is just full of people...

Radio:

The fire danger rating has been moved up and is now high.

Michael:

But by July fires began to crop up. In fact, on July 17th, after a morning storm, six fires were spotted in the park.

Andrew:

Wow. That's a lot.

Michael:

Yeah. More fires than the park season. Some whole years, just in one morning. The next day, Numa Ridge lookout spotted the Wedge Canyon fire in the North fork, which within two days had grown to 4,000 acres. And due to the number of homes in the area was the number one priority fire in the nation.

Andrew:

Wow. Uh, so what was Chris doing at the time?

Chris Peterson:

We were out running around, taking photos of them. You know, drove up and looked at Wedge Canyon and man, it was ripping across the ridge one day. So we knew unless it rained that things were probably going to get worse, not better. I don't think we thought they'd get as bad as they did.

Michael:

At the same time the Wedge Canyon fire was burning in the North fork, a fire was burning in the heart of the Upper McDonald Creek Valley: the Trapper Fire. The fire at the heart of our story was at the time. So remote that it was seen as a low priority. Park employees like Chris Baker, the lookout stationed on Swiftcurrent mountain, described what it looked like. She wrote an article after the fire all about it. Here, can you read the first part?

Andrew:

Okay. "When I arrived back at Swiftcurrent, flattop mountain was puffing here and there, but the smokes just weren't that impressive. The lightning storm had planted its seeds, but nothing much was showing yet." So for a while, trapper was underwhelming?

Michael:

Yeah, it was.

Andrew:

But that obviously didn't last forever.

Michael:

No, it did not.

Chris Peterson:

July 23rd comes along, changes everything.

Michael:

The forecast for the 23rd called for extreme winds, 30 miles an hour or more.

Chris Peterson:

Right. Right. Exactly. And so that's why, that's why we're at the loop on the 23rd.

Michael:

Now, if you've ever driven the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass from Lake MacDonald, you may remember the loop as the single hairpin turn on the whole route. As the road turns back on itself, you've got eight miles left to Logan Pass as you rise above the trees, getting a view of the McDonald Creek Valley—And, Chris hoped, the Trapper fire.

Chris Peterson:

Okay, it's pretty windy day. Let's get up there, see what's going on. And let's take a look at it.

Michael:

His instincts were right. Chris Baker, the lookout at Swiftcurrent watch the trapper fire grow that day. And rather than have you read everything, Andrew, I had a friend read the rest of her quotes for it.

Chris Baker:

There was no mistaking it when Trapper decided to make its move. I was looking right at it when it did. That wimpy white column suddenly grew tall, turned to brown, then black. Then it was wider and moving.

Chris Peterson:

And you could see that fire probably I'm guessing five miles away. And it's just starting to look like a tornado. If you can imagine a huge, a really big tornado in the sense that it's like this big circular cloud black and it just starts spinning and you can see it and it's coming closer and closer and closer.

Andrew:

That's nothing like what I expected.

Michael:

And Chris was far from the only person at the loop watching this unfold.

Chris Peterson:

I mean more and more people showed up and were just watching it. And there were other people there everyone's taking pictures.

Michael:

So there were reporters like Chris there, visitors had stopped to take pictures. There was even a corporate marketing team there.

Chris Peterson:

One of the more memorable things was there was this a couple of women in their twenties, um, with like tank tops on. And they had a red bull pickup truck, you know, red bull, that energy drink, but it had it like a big fake can on the back of a pickup truck.

Michael:

As the fire was coming closer and closer and everyone was taking photos. The red bull staff was running around with free samples.

Andrew:

Okay. I think watching a fire race towards you is a situation where you definitely would not need the extra boost from an energy drink.

Michael:

[laughing] Yeah, I think you're right. But without the Red Bull, Chris described the atmosphere being charged with anticipation and excitement.

Chris Peterson:

So we're taking pictures of her with the smoke and the fire and smoke and stuff in the background and they're taking pictures and it just kind of got into like almost a party type atmosphere in the sense that here it comes. And it came like right to the edge of the, you know, the Canyon.

Chris Peterson:

It was just a, like a, you know, a freight train.

Andrew:

But he must've gotten out safely.

Michael:

He did.

Chris Peterson:

The fire gets to the loop. Everyone he takes off because it didn't burn over the loop. It's obvious it's not going to stop.

Michael:

As it burned over the loop. It claimed anything in its path vehicles that were parked there, trail head signs, heck for years there were stains on the pavement from where port-a-potties melted into the asphalt.

Andrew:

That's kind of gross. Uh, what happened next?

Michael:

Well, the Trapper fire continued to burn uphill straight towards the Granite Park Chalet and... Well you'll have to wait and see. I talked to Mike Sanger, one of the employees that was at granite park chalet that night later in the episode.

Andrew:

I see.

Michael:

But Chris' experience goes to show that even when it's coming towards you, even when it's endangering your own safety, you can't help but watch fire. As powerful and destructive as it is. It has a sort of magnetism.

TRADITIONAL FIRE

Tony Incashola:

My name is Tony Incashola Sr. I'm the director for the Salish Kalispell Culture Committee for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

Andrew:

People interacting with wildfire here is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it's been happening for thousands of years. To learn more I decided to talk to Tony Incashola Sr. about the role that fire plays in the traditional Salish way of life. We talked about how, from Tony's perspective, not enough people understand the significance and value of fire. This misunderstanding of our environment makes fire more dangerous. And he talked about how national parks are a place where we can learn to connect with the natural world. So Tony, if we have listeners from other parts of the country or the world who aren't familiar with, the Selis people, what do they need to know about Selis history?

Tony Incashola:

According to the stories from our elders, the Selis-speaking people have been in this area since the last ice age. My, my group, my band of Selis are the most eastern Selis-speaking people here in Montana, and our aboriginal territory consisted of about 22 million acres. And then it came along in 1855 when more settlers and homesteaders moved into our area a treaty was, was negotiated. And it took several days before the leaders of the tribe agreed to, to be put on a reservation. And so that's why we are where we're at today on our 1.3 million acre reservation here. So that's kind of in a nutshell from the past where we started and how we got to where we're at as Selis-speaking people.

Andrew:

So I wanted to have you in today to talk about fire. What role does fire have in the Selis tradition?

Tony Incashola:

The Selis people, they would set fires to their favorite hunting areas, their favorite spots. When the weather was predictable, they would set fires knowning that the fire would be put out as soon as the snow got here. So there was no fear of that being a wild fire. When they did that, they'd go back into spring time and where they had set fire, they could see all the new growth coming up, the green grass, clearing the underbrush for the berries and for all the other foods that were necessary, both food and medicinal plants. It would clear it out. It was like doing work in a garden, you know, as you go in the garden, you clean out all the weeds. That's what they used fire for.

Andrew:

Were there other advantages to setting fires?

Tony Incashola:

The other thing they use it, of course, before they had horses and before they had rifles, you know, getting buffalo, hunting buffalo, sometimes was very difficult on foot. So sometimes they'd look at certain areas and they'd see these areas and they'd use fire to bring the herd to certain places. And then once they get to these certain jumps they'd build these running lanes and they used these cliffs for buffalo jumps, so go over there. So that was another way of using the fire.

Andrew:

That's really interesting, using fire to manage vegetation and to drive buffalo over cliffs, to hunt efficiently. It's a pretty amazing technique. How did traditional people actually manage these fires?

Tony Incashola:

Just like our professionals today, we have professional fisheries, water, people in those areas. Well, back then they had these people that were dedicated and assigned to fires and they were the only ones that would set the fire, because they've studied fire, they've understood fire. And so they're the ones that were allowed to set these fires.

Andrew:

And how did they actually start the fires? Where did the embers come from?

Tony Incashola:

They used buffalo horns or different things to carry these embers of fire because it was so hard, you know, to, to make fire. So they'd make a fire and then take these embers and store them in these buffalo horns or something, then they'd have these firestarters, what they call them, firestarters. They'd gallop to these different places and set fire. And like I said, only those people were allowed to do that.

Andrew:

Why do you think so many people have negative feelings about fire?

Tony Incashola:

One, I think is a misunderstanding exactly what fire is, what it means and what it could do. The other thing is fear. Naturally, it's frightening. I mean, you look at California today and how dry, how brushy some of those go up like matchsticks. And I think that's what people are afraid of, that because they don't understand fire, not knowing how our environment works, how the trees, how the animals, how the rain, how the fire--everything has a role in our ecosystem. And the people today don't understand. They don't understand how our ecosystem works. They need to know that fire is necessary. Fire must happen so that we don't get what we're getting in California today.

Andrew:

What's the reason for this poor understanding of ecosystems?

Tony Incashola:

I think because of the values, value system that we created and the values that we think are more important now today. That our lives are put first, rather than together with other things. You know, everything goes hand in hand. One of the things, when I was growing up, my grandparents and my parents and all of my elders that have always taught me, and always said, every living thing is equal. You treat it as an equal. You don't think you're better. You don't go, you don't dominate, because you dominate you destroy. And that's what we have as human beings. We've dominated certain things. We've changed certain things, and we've destroyed that. And so I think a lot of that is as misunderstanding. And national parks are kind of a stronghold of what used to be. So national parks are places that continue to be very important, especially to me, especially to natives that understand what the park is. You know, because it used to be this whole country. And there's still a need for parks. There's still a need for areas like this for our spirituality, for our wellbeing, for our minds. How many times have we in our lives have got so frustrated with our jobs, with the things that we do every day over and over that we need these areas of solitude to go, touch the ground again, to put your feet back on the ground and kind of soothe everything. All of that weight seems to lift and create something, a peace of mind that lets you move forward again. We need these places.

FIRE ECOLOGY

Andrew:

So, fire has a long history in this place. It can be a creative as well as a destructive force. And whether you like it or not, it's a factor that has to be considered in deciding how to manage this park. To learn more about what role wildland fire plays in the ecosystem here. I decided to talk to Dawn LaFleur.

Dawn LaFleur:

My name is Dawn LaFleur, and I am the vegetation management biologist for the park.

Andrew:

What does a vegetation management biologists do?

Dawn LaFleur:

What does that entail? It basically manages the vegetation for the park. So that's anything from forest management, basically making sure we have healthy forest ecosystems, as well as maintaining native plant communities. So whenever we have disturbance, human-caused disturbance, we go in behind the disturbance and utilize native plant materials that we've collected and grown at our native plant nursery. So basically trying to manage the native vegetation as well as the invasive vegetation to maintain healthy ecosystems.

Andrew:

I met Dawn on the site of the Howe Ridge fire, which in 2018 burned about 14,000 acres on the west shore of Lake McDonald. It was one year after the Sprague fire, which we talked about at the top of the show, and on the opposite side of the lake. At times, it can be a bit noisy here now that there's not much of a forest to shelter you from the wind. I asked Don what this area had looked like before the fire.

Dawn LaFleur:

It was cedar-hemlock, big old growth trees. Usually anywhere between a 100 to 200, 300 year old trees were here. And then we had the Howe Ridge fire that came through and actually burned it very, very hot, where this hadn't burned at least for 400 years.

Andrew:

So that was a pretty intense fire?

Dawn LaFleur:

It was very intense. It was very unusual. We had the extreme fire behavior happened at night and came down here very fast, very quickly and burned very intensely.

Andrew:

About two weeks after this spot burned, Dawn was one of the first people to come back here and start to assess the impact.

Dawn LaFleur:

So what we were looking for were signs of vegetation, any potential signs of vegetation recovery already, as well as the impacts to our soil.

Andrew:

The type of soil impacts Dawn is looking for are things like, how burnt is this soil? Will things be able to grow in it? And she'll look at hillsides to see if any of them have potential for erosion now that root systems that were holding them together might be burnt out. Do you remember what your initial impressions were at the time?

Dawn LaFleur:

Oh my goodness. Oh my gosh. All we have left are toothpicks, were my initial impressions.

Andrew:

For a fire to burn up essentially every tree was unusual. Typically when Dawn visits a recently burned area, the fire

Dawn LaFleur:

doesn't wipe everything out. It'll find a section of vegetation or trees, a pocket of trees to burn in and move around and kind of skip and create a mosaic or little islands of vegetation, which actually helps for rehabilitating the landscape afterwards.

Michael:

So why was this fire so intense?

Andrew:

It was a combination of factors. For one, the summer of 2018 was extremely hot and dry, but fire suppression efforts in the early 1900s had also disrupted some of the natural cycles here.

Dawn LaFleur:

Has a huge role in this natural ecosystem. We have plants and tree species like lodgepole pine that are fired dependent.

Andrew:

These are species that have evolved to rely on fire to succeed. Lodgepole pines, which need a lot of sunlight, have special cones that are tightly bound shut by resin. The seeds are trapped inside the cone until there's a wildfire, the type of event that would clear out the canopy and make it sunny enough for them to grow. When fire passes through

Dawn LaFleur:

the coons get heated up and release their seeds and they establish a forest. And then after about 20, 30 years, you have mountain pine beetle, which is also a native.

Andrew:

The mountain pine beetle will kill a few of the pines, but not all of them. Since these two species evolved together, the pines have a natural defense against the beetles. Then a low or medium intensity fire would burn out the killed trees, thinning the forest.

Dawn LaFleur:

So it's been a natural cycle between 20 and 30 years of fire to be on the landscape. We've been suppressing it since the 1920s. And so that's why we're starting to see more intense fire on the landscape.

Andrew:

In Dawn's career she's witnessed summers get warmer and drier, and the snowpack disappearing earlier in the spring, allowing soil and vegetation to dry out. These effects are changing the role that fire plays in the ecosystem.

Dawn LaFleur:

What it is is climate change. We're getting drier and hotter sooner. And then the other thing we're seeing is with extreme fire and not enough moisture in the spring, what takes advantage of those open niches after a fire are non-native plants. The opportunists, we're seeing a lot more non-native invasive plants coming in into our burned areas than we have had in the past.

Andrew:

But Dawn hasn't lost hope. She still has a clear and optimistic vision of how this area can recover.

Dawn LaFleur:

My hope would be in five years, we should have conifers that are three to four foot tall, a good diversity of conifers. I would hope a lot of larch in here, cause they tend to be fire resistant. And it would be wonderful to see pockets. I don't expect it all across the landscape up here, but little pockets of moisture where we could see cedar-hemlock coming back, and this would be completely green and you've got woodpeckers utilizing the snags and everything. We would be standing here and we would be, we would have vegetation over our heads.

Andrew:

Sounds lovely.

Dawn LaFleur:

And as we get more vegetation established, that will out-compete, as we get an overstory, it'll out-compete these, newly established invasives. And so much more native plant diversity.

Michael:

Protecting plant diversity in Glacier National Park is a collective endeavor. Dawn can't do it alone.

Andrew:

She asks that when people visit here, they take a moment to think about how their actions will affect the plant life around them.

Dawn LaFleur:

Stay on the trail, definitely stay on the trail, walk in the mud, don't go around mud holes and don't pick the flowers. Please don't pick the flowers.

Andrew:

The reason to walk through the mud is that if you go around, you'll widen the trail and disturb the vegetation around it. And we leave flowers where they are so everyone can enjoy them. And because they're part of the ecosystem here.

Dawn LaFleur:

Yeah, minimize your impact by just being respectful of the vegetation.

Andrew:

The plant life in Glacier National Park evolved in the presence of fire, and is adapted to frequent burning. Fire can be a source of renewal and even catalyze the processes of growth and change that make Glacier home to an incredible diversity of plant life, over 1100 species.

Michael:

As climate change affects the behavior of wildfire and fire ceases to behave in the way plants are adapted to, its destructive tendencies can start to outweigh its constructive ones.

Andrew:

It's something that scientists in Glacier like Dawn will continue to monitor.

Michael:

When a wildfire changes the makeup of a forest and what kind of species grow there, the effects aren't limited to just plant life.

Andrew:

These changes to the vegetation are going to have consequences that ripple down the whole food chain, affecting everything from the bushy tail wood rat up to the moose and grizzly bear.

Teagan Hayes:

Mule deer in particular are browsers. And so they rely really heavily on shrubs and other kind of nutrient dense species. So...

Andrew:

That's Teagan Hayes. She's a wildlife biologist. Her master's thesis was about ungulate forage in wildfire, dominated landscapes. In other words, how deer food is affected by fire. One of the study areas was not far from where we're standing right now. Teagan explained to me that wildfire...

Teagan Hayes:

...allows for species to get the nutrients they need in their home range or in their population range. And so for my research, when I was looking at mule deer, mule deer don't really change their home ranges very much geographically. And so change is especially important for a species like that, where if you never allowed disturbances to happen, then they will not be able to find the food they need. So, and that's the same for a lot of species in the park.

Andrew:

In other words, mule deer need fire. It promotes the growth of shrubs that are the bulk of their diet and they aren't keen to move around to find these plants. They need the fire to happen right within their home range. A deer population, in turn, is necessary to support grizzlies, mountain lions and wolves, a whole thriving ecosystem dependent on regular wildfire. I took Teagan to the Forest and Fire Nature Trail near the Camas Creek entrance to the park, this trail is a great spot to get an introduction to the fire ecology of glacier national park. Burnt in the 2001 moose fire, it's now home to a thriving lodgepole pine and aspen forest.

Teagan Hayes:

So we are now in a young aspen stand. Of course you have the nice rustle of the leaves, which aspen are named after the quaking aspen, the vegetation, the shrubs and the understory are a bit taller. So we have, there's a little more diversity here.

Andrew:

Aspen is one of the habitat types that responds best after a fire. Aspens that burned down are able to re-sprout from underground roots. In no time or recently burned stand of aspen will be a lush and suitable deer habitat.

Teagan Hayes:

They tend to love aspen. Aspens provide a different kind of cover and they provide a different suite of forage species and they tend to stay kind of cooler and wetter for longer. So I think they offer that, kind of that multitude of things, where you have higher diversity of plants, you have longer blooming period often, or period where things are fresh and nutritious. They tend to provide pretty good security as well.

Andrew:

As we moved down the trail, Teagan pointed out a flower, which I was surprised to hear was a good food source.

Teagan Hayes:

Oh, we've been seeing rose, which despite its prickles is also actually usually pretty sought after by ungulates too. So they'll nip just the ends off and avoid the worst of the prickles.

Andrew:

Wildfire is kind of a contradictory thing here. On one hand, it's natural and totally necessary for many of the plants and animals. But on the other hand, climate change is making it much more common and severe. And regardless of whether it's good or bad, it's always tough to live with.

Teagan Hayes:

Yeah. I mean, some of the most interesting and kind of disheartening research is when there's abnormally hot fires or more frequent fires than would normally be occurring in a forest. And they'll actually burn so hot that the seedlings can't establish anymore. And so you can end up having what was once a forest become a grassland or you can, you'll see that the tree species that used to grow in an area are no longer suited to the climate or the climate that a disturbance has created.

Andrew:

Still, she recognizes the importance of having natural fire on the landscape.

Teagan Hayes:

Fire, because it's a hot and dry climate during some of the year, it's one of those natural disturbances that Glacier and other mountainous places are adapted to and so it's, it's a necessity.

Andrew:

Of course, what applies in a national park where there are no subdivisions full of houses will be different from a policy that makes sense in a more densely inhabited area.

Teagan Hayes:

We can't always let fires burn due to all kinds of challenges, whether that's with human structures or infrastructure. So we're really right now just trying to find the balance between what we, what the ideal situation is for fire and what the ideal situation is for living in this area.

Andrew:

In places like Glacier National Park, where natural processes still dominate, and where we try to minimize our intrusion into the web of life, fire will continue to play a part, and scientists like Dawn and Teagan will continue to try to understand it. In the Lake McDonald Valley, where humans and wildfire are both common. We need to learn to live with fire, to let it play its natural role, creating the rich, diverse and thriving ecosystem that we come here to enjoy.

Page Break

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK CONSERVANCY AD

Andrew:

Each episode, we seem to cover at least one thing that like this podcast wouldn't be possible without the support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Michael:

With the help of some friends over there, we got the number of executive director, Doug Mitchell, and decided to call him up out of the blue to ask about these projects.

Andrew:

For this episode, we wanted to ask about Sperry chalet.

Doug Mitchell:

Glacier Conservancy, Doug Mitchell speaking.

Andrew:

Hey Doug, it's Andrew and Michael, how are you doing?

Doug Mitchell:

Hey, good. How are my favorite podcasters today?

Andrew:

We're doing well, just enjoying the beauty out here. Got to go up and check out the new Sperry chalet. And it was phenomenal. It, it looked just like before, even down to the stonework.

Doug Mitchell:

Yeah. It's really incredible what they were able to accomplish. I'm glad you brought up the stonework. I was talking to Zach Anderson of Anderson Masonry and his family were the original stonemason family. So if it looks the same, there's a reason and the care they took to make sure that it looked the same way it did when it was originally built in 1913 is really rather remarkable.

Andrew:

Yeah, and it's a great thing for people to check out while they're visiting and go see all the attention to detail and craft that went into it.

Doug Mitchell:

It really is a remarkable discovery. I was able to hike there this year with some people who had never been there and we hiked through Gunsight and to come over the top and see Sperry, it's almost like you just have to stop in your tracks as they did to see how is this possible. I've hiked 13.1 miles into the wilderness and look at what is there. It really is. It really is something. Yeah.

Michael:

We wanted to talk to you about it because we know the Glacier National Park Conservancy as the park's official non-profit partner played a huge role in helping restore the chalet.

Doug Mitchell:

We were in the superintendents office the very next morning at 10:00 AM after the fire burned Sperry. And by later that week, we had taken our lone credit card down to the hardware store here and bought the pieces of wood that held Sperry up over the winter. And it really was a remarkable public-private partnership that really made the improbable happen.

Andrew:

Thanks for taking some time to talk to us. It's always great to hear from you

Doug Mitchell:

Always great to talk to you guys and thanks again for all you're doing.

Michael:

Absolutely. Thanks for funding it. We'll talk to you soon.

Doug Mitchell:

Alright, cheers.

Michael:

Bye.

TRAPPER PART 2

Michael:

So we just heard from Dawn and Tegan about how plants -

Andrew:

Like Lodgepole pine,

Michael:

- and animals,

Andrew:

Like mule deer,

Michael:

- can benefit from the presence of fire in the ecosystem.

Andrew:

And from talking to Tony, we know that the Salish and other Indigenous communities have a deep understanding of fire's role on the landscape, and would use, it as he put it, almost like a gardening tool, to invite new and healthy plant growth.

Michael:

Working here, a big part of our job has been sharing that knowledge with visitors, talking about the plants and animals that thrive in fire’s aftermath. Yet knowing and understanding these things won't change how you respond to fire when you're faced with it - when the flames themselves are bearing down on you. So, we met Chris Peterson earlier, who watched and photographed the 2003 Trapper fire as it made a run over the Loop...

Andrew:

Yeah...

Michael:

But after it burned over the Loop, it kept going, racing upwards towards the Granite Park Chalet, a historic compound of stone cabins high in the mountains that still provide rustic lodging and dining accommodations.

Andrew:

To get there, you can either hike the Highline trail from Logan Pass, or start up from the Loop on the Loop trail.

Michael:

I hiked up to Granite Park this summer to talk with someone who's worked there since 2002 and was there on July 23rd, 2006.

Mike Sanger:

My name is Mike Sanger. I'm from Great Falls, Montana originally. I live in Belt, Montana now. I've worked for the Park Service, this will be my 19th year here at Granite Park.

Michael:

Mike keeps Granite running, managing the waste disposal system, addressing bear encounters, medical emergencies...When I caught up to him, he was fixing the sink in the chalet kitchen. And having grown up in Montana, Mike had been familiar with wildfire from afar.

Mike Sanger:

Seeing them in the distance, not quite as close as I did here [chuckles].

Michael:

But, in the unprecedented fire year of 2003, he came face to face with the Trapper fire.

Michael:

Well, I understand you were hiking up here on July 23rd. Is that right?

Mike Sanger:

I was. My boss, Walter Tab, had dropped me off at the Loop trailhead. The trail was already closed at that time and it was smoky there at the parking lot. And I asked him, I said, well, the trail’s closed. And he goes, well, you better get moving. You need to get up there. And on the way up, I passed a female ranger, and what they were doing at that time was sweeping the trails for people and trying to get them up here. And she asked me if I knew where the fire was. And I said, I have no idea, but once we get to Granite, we'll probably be able to see better and know exactly what's going on.

Andrew:

As I understand it, Mike's up there for a week or so at a time, then rotates out with a partner.

Michael:

Exactly. He was originally scheduled to hike back in to tap out his partner on the 23rd, but was sent up that day with a different goal: to help protect the chalet itself.

Mike Sanger:

And we made really good time getting up here to Granite Park.

Michael:

Yeah, goodness. When did it sink in that it was going to be a problem?

Mike Sanger:

When I got up here and I saw fire hoses strung out all over the place and Chris Burke, my partner was here and I asked, I said, where's the fire? And he pointed towards Flattop. And it was immediately apparent that we had a problem on our hands.

Michael:

So, they had to fortify the compound. With limited time and supplies, that meant converting their finicky drinking water pump into a sprinkler system to keep the buildings wet- an approach that they weren't confident would work.

Mike Sanger:

We went down to start the pump and it took two or three times. And you had to talk nice to this thing. And Chris pulled it, and the first time, it went off, and we're all high-fiving...

Michael:

But celebrations could wait. As the fire grew closer and closer, conditions only worsened.

Mike Sanger:

It was really horrific for quite a while because we had no idea where the fire was. The winds were horrific. I mean, they were blowing probably 70 plus miles an hour. And, um, and we were having embers starting to come down. And what we did is we pulled all the railings from the chalet. We were trying to reduce fuel in case the fire did get here.

Michael:

What did it sound like?

Mike Sanger:

You know, a lot of people paraphrase this with tornadoes and everything else, but it sounded like a freight train. And it was just unbelievably hot. I've always had a mustache. And after this was all over, it had curled and burnt and I just ended up whacking it off. That's the first time I've not had a mustache in many, many years because it was just glowing orange.

Michael:

Around the same time. Chris Baker from Swiftcurrent Lookout was choked with smoke.

Chris Baker:

I can remember using the word surreal a lot in my journal that afternoon. It didn't take too long before my vista towards the West was nothing but amber billows of smoke and embers. Visibility deteriorated to nothing. And I began coughing from the intense smoke. So I soaked a bandana in water and took to breathing through it, to filter some of the soot.

Andrew:

Oh my gosh.

Michael:

Yeah.

Andrew:

That's a scary situation.

Michael:

It is. In the face of it all, Mike and Chris were doing everything they could to protect the chalet and everyone in it.

Mike Sanger:

And, uh, we charged our hoses. We had everybody inside the chalet, sitting on the floor. We had the tables up against the windows because the wind was horrific and it was blowing ash and embers all through the area. And we charged the hoses and started wetting the roof.

Andrew:

How many people were in it?

Michael:

Well, between the guests that had planned to stay there that night, and hikers that were seeking refuge, there were quite a few.

Mike Sanger:

We had 39 people trapped up here. We thought the fire was actually going to come up and go over the top of this and down the other side. Why it went up Swiftcurrent Pass, I have no idea. You know, every bearing that we had, and the wind was blowing directly at us, and fires like to run uphill...so I was quite sure the fire was going to come up and over us, and instead it made a turn, and went up over to Swiftcurrent.

Andrew:

It missed them?

Michael:

Somehow, they were saved. The fire avoided the chalet and falling embers were effectively combated by the hoses and sprinklers they'd set up.

Mike Sanger:

Because could have really gone south for us and it really could have been a horrific thing. And you know, through God's graces, or whatever, the fire didn't come over. Chris, we each made one phone call, brief phone call to our wives and said, we don't know what's going to happen. We just wanted to call and tell you right now, we're all right. And we're doing the best we can.

Michael:

And while they didn't know what the next day would hold, they allowed themselves to breathe a small sigh of relief.

Mike Sanger:

Chris and I came in here, it had been a long day for both of us. He was due to go out that day and I'd hiked up, or ran up, here that day. And his wife had brought him a little bottle of Black Velvet whiskey. So we each had a drag off that and it actually felt a little better and he goes, let's get on with it. And I said, all right,

Michael:

After feeding and finding beds for everyone at Granite, the two of them stayed up all night watching the flames.

Mike Sanger:

We'd take turns. There was a chair between this building and the chalet, and one in front of the chalet, and about every hour we'd switch.

Mike Sanger:

Also up all night was Chris Baker, watching the flames from her vantage point at Swiftcurrent lookout, a thousand feet above the chalet.

Chris Baker:

Night fell. And finally, I could see the fire up here through the smoke as a thousand points of flame and torching trees. I remember just staring a lot in unbelief. Sleep wasn't even an option. This was history and I was privileged to have a front row seat.

Michael:

It was a long night and a close call. Thankfully, no one was hurt. And the chalet was saved. Mike and his partner, Chris Burke were even honored by the Department of the Interior with Valor awards, for their heroism and bravery. But Mike's a humble guy. If you have the chance to meet him, you might hear him tell stories of that night. Sometimes the chalet even asks him to give a program about it to their guests, but you won't hear him bragging. He's seen firsthand the power of fire and worked in its aftermath every year since, but even that, that night standing guard, after hours of fear and uncertainty, he could see a beauty in the flames.

Mike Sanger:

The one thing that struck me is once it got dark and you could see the fire, you know, despite what was going on, it was actually kind of pretty to look at. And, you know, I don't mean to sound morbid or anything, but it was, it had its own kind of natural beauty to it.

Michael:

A month later, the Trapper fire had died down, and Chris Baker reflected on the fire. She hiked down from Swiftcurrent lookout for the last time of the year.

Chris Baker:

I regaled in the switchbacks down to the tree line, gazing out over the pristine beauty of the divide. But then I came to the trees, those beautiful firs I have come to love. My friends and companions on my ascents and descents of Swiftcurrent mountain, the ones that frame Heaven's Peak in all my photos. And that my kids have learned to take for granted. They weren't there. Instead, I saw blackened ghosts and charred ground cover. I hiked through a lunar landscape that I knew was both natural order and devastation. I thrilled and mourned all at once. I don't think I will ever feel that again.

ARCHAEOLOGY

Andrew:

So were you up there on the night that Sperry Chalet burned down?

Brent Rowley:

No, I was actually on this trail when it burned down and I actually heard it all go down on the radio...

Andrew:

That's Glacier Park Archeologist Brent Rowley.

Brent Rowley:

...which was kind of a crazy experience. I was actually just back there probably a few hundred yards, and I heard this radio transmission that was like calling the incident management team on the radio. I'd be like, you know, I need to give you a satellite phone call cause we need to have like a conversation right now. And it turns out that was the chalet catching on fire, like the dormitory building.

Andrew:

Fire teaches us about the natural world, but it also teaches us about ourselves, and sometimes in unexpected ways. When the Sprague fire burned down the main building of Sperry Chalet on August 31st, 2017, it felt like we had forever lost a piece of our history. But the fire had another effect as well, by clearing out the vegetation around the building, it unearthed a wealth of archeological sites from lots of different eras. Out of the ashes Brent found a whole world of history.

Michael:

In a place like glacier, the vegetation is so thick that you can't see the surface of the ground to find artifacts. A fire that comes in and clears out the vegetation will often reveal major archeological sites.

Andrew:

After the Sprague fire, Brent and his team found a series of dumps where all types of people like construction, crews, cooks, and chalet visitors had thrown their garbage for decades, starting in the early 19 teens. Brent was intrigued. He told me that these types of sites hold a lot of information that you can't just read about.

Brent Rowley:

In the history books about a site, like say Sperry Chalet you only hear about the experiences of the people that are actually staying in the chalet. You don't hear the story of the people that worked at that chalet, and that may have worked at a trail camp or a CCC camp that built a lot of the infrastructure in the park. And a lot of those dumps preserved the information of like, what was daily life like for them? What were they eating? We might find game pieces or, you know, what were they doing in their spare time at their backcountry camp?

Andrew:

As we hiked the six miles up to those archeological sites, Brent told me all about his experiences that year.

Brent Rowley:

And I got assigned to the fire as a resource advisor for cultural resources. So during that summer, I probably hiked this section of the Sperry Trail forty times. And you know, so I got to watch the fire come down this ridge and sort of change the forest gradually, cause in the cedar forest, the fire just kind of creeps along. It rarely ever like really gets up into the tree tops. It kind of travels along the deadfall and through the root systems.

Andrew:

When the fire in the chalet was finally extinguished, the stone exterior walls were still standing. The fire had only burned the interior and the roof of the building. A few days later, Brent was flown to the site in a helicopter to help the park determine if the still standing walls would survive the winter.

Brent Rowley:

It was really surreal, like all the bed frames had melted kind of look a little like a little bit of a wasteland inside.

Andrew:

The stone walls were able to be salvaged. And over the next two summers, the chalet was reconstructed within them. Brent and I arrived just days before the grand reopening, when the chalet would welcome guests for the first time since the fire, it was also the first time that Brent had been in the new building, and he was a bit taken aback by the difference.

Brent Rowley:

The last time I was standing in this very spot, I was like four feet lower. And then, you know, there was debris everywhere and you know, it's pretty crazy to be standing in the same spot, but now in a constructed building.

Andrew:

After the fire, Brent and his team were tasked with surveying the burned area and noting any archeological sites that had been revealed. What they found was a vast assemblage of objects that painted a vivid portrait of early 1900s park life. What kind of objects are we talking about? Well, actually one of the most common things they found were chamber pots. What do they look like?

Brent Rowley:

They're just bowl shaped, but a little, oh, right there is one. A really good one.

Andrew:

Yeah, it looks like a, just a small bowl but with kind of a big rim around it.

Brent Rowley:

Yeah, just big enough to do your business in, you know. But those things were all over the place like down this hillside, it's kind of interesting. I just like to imagine someone walking out in the morning and getting ready to toss the contents of it over the hill and accidentally loses their grip, and there it lies. Cause that one definitely is not broken.

Michael:

Okay. That did paint a vivid portrait. What else did you find?

Andrew:

One thing that really caught my eye were these tubes of clear blue glass. Brent explained to me that those were insulators for a historic phone line.

Brent Rowley:

So in a phone line, you've got the wire that the message travels through through vibrations, the insulators allow you to attach that wire to a telephone pole or a tree or whatnot, a solid object, without interfering with the signal. And so I'm guessing, considering there's a scatter of them here that you know, once they pulled down the phone line here, sometime probably in the 1940s, they just chucked it over the hill.

Michael:

So until the 1940s, there was phone service at Sperry chalet?

Andrew:

Yeah. I think maybe a lot of people imagine the early days of the park as a much wilder time, but in many ways the visitor experience was much more managed than it is today, at least for some types of people.

Brent Rowley:

So I think out here on this point, there was some sort of tent camp set up and I don't know exactly the dates of the tent camp, but I think it was certainly early on in Sperry chalet's history. So probably 19 teens, maybe even into the 1920s. And so there's a lot of the really diagnostic artifacts that have actual Great Northern Railway logos. And you know, that differentiates it from like say a worker camp for the workers that built the chalet or maintain the chalet because those higher end ceramics would be what you would serve the very wealthy guest, oftentimes, that were coming to the chalet. Whereas, in a little bit, we'll go to a worker camp and they were eating out of cans.

Andrew:

I pointed out a ceramic shard. It was about the size of my hand, to see how Brent could interpret it.

Brent Rowley:

So this is probably like a large serving platter dish that would have been about that big. So like a communal, indicating like a communal dinner setting where sort of family style dining, I guess you would call it today.

Michael:

Oh, that's, that's interesting from just that small piece, he was able to figure out about how they dined.

Andrew:

Yeah. What was most interesting about spending the day with Brent was seeing how these little pieces of what seemed like just garbage, gave him really deep insights into how people thought and behaved a long time ago.

Brent Rowley:

I don't know how this dump got here, but it's one of the most interesting assemblages of stuff. This is it all spread out because it's all jammed in that crevice and there's everything from an assortment of condiment bottles, like this is probably ketchup, there's a medicine bottle. Here's one of those coffee ration containers. There's poison bottles like multiple of them. So it's like a really strange thing. Like, I don't know if this was like kind of where maybe some workers at some point were camped out, like the poison bottle in particular I mean kind of throws me. Like that tells me, I feel like that it's gotta be related to workers

Michael:

Wait, okay. What was the poison for?

Andrew:

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. Brent told me it was probably to poison rodents of some sort, maybe mice, pack rats, or a particularly aggressive marmot.

Michael:

How did they find all this stuff?

Andrew:

There's a couple different ways these sites get discovered.

Brent Rowley:

This one a firefighter showed it to me. But usually, yeah, when we survey areas, we do transects.

Andrew:

One of the main things that Brent has found here is the class distinctions between the different people who used this area and how this manifests, even in their trash.

Brent Rowley:

Up at that tent camp, everyone was always eating off of, you know, fine ceramics and being very proper, I guess you would say. And here it's like, you just open up the can and eat out of the can sort of thing, which is more indicative of I guess, lower class status, you know, like a worker, rather than someone that's on a very expensive vacation. Do you know what would have been in these cans? Some of them. See like, a can like this where you can tell by the openings. So see this had to be liquid. And in fact, I think this was probably a milk can. So, so they slit that one open. So when we record these cans sites, we always record what type of openings they have. Cause it can tell you a lot about what was in them.

Michael:

Wow. So we can learn something from even just the way I can was opened.

Andrew:

Exactly. There's so many levels to it. Brent even says it, the way that trash is hidden can tell us what era it's from.

Brent Rowley:

In the 19 teens, the way everybody all over America treated their waste was to throw it over the cliff or over the hillside or into your pit toilet. Later on though, people started, the ethic started changing of like, you need to hide your garbage, you put it in a centralized, garbage dump. And here, obviously, they've tried to hide it. So probably after that ethic changed, which really started, you know, in the 1920s and 30s.

Andrew:

A desire to learn about people whose stories aren't always told as motivated Brent's career from the very beginning. The first excavation, he was a part of, on a plantation in West Virginia, showed Brent the significant differences in artifacts from enslaved people versus slave owners. This technique of using historic artifacts to understand how people were treated in the past is an idea that still drives his work today.

Brent Rowley:

In Glacier, you can learn a lot about indigenous people's history prior to European settlement. And we can learn a lot about what people were doing in this landscape by what artifacts they leave behind. And those people were often, you know, are often not included in the history books. And in fact, I hate the term prehistoric or pre-history because it implies that indigenous people don't have history. It's just, their history is documented in different ways--by oral history and also by the archeological evidence that their ancestors left behind.

Andrew:

There are countless stories covering thousands of years of history, buried in archeological sites, all around glacier.

Michael:

Some of these stories will be lost forever. If these sites are disturbed.

Andrew:

So please leave historic objects where you find them. Brent says that objects are best to telling their story when they stay in their original location.

Brent Rowley:

Once they're removed from the site, they are kind of just meaningless objects. But when they're in the context of the site, they tell the story of like what sort of products people were using as they visited Sperry Chalet.

Andrew:

Our discussion was interrupted by a mountain goat grazing on the forbs that had sprouted up where fire had cleared the canopy and finally allowed sunlight back onto the forest floor. We had to step off the trail to let the goat pass....

Brent Rowley:

Then I went to work for... Oh crap.

Andrew:

There's a goat coming.

Brent Rowley:

Hey, move aside, don't eat my poles either.

Andrew:

As we sat there talking about the history of the area, a new chapter was already being written. As Brent and I moved out of the goat's path. It was hard not to think that we needed to do the same as the goats and flowers here--to learn from what we couldn't control and to flourish in the sunshine that followed.

That’s our show for today—If you’re interested in learning more about the role and history of wildfire in Glacier, or about the Selis Kalispell Culture Committee, check out the links in our show notes.

Michael:

Thanks for listening!

CREDITS

Renata: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The show was written and recorded on traditional native lands. Andrew Smith and Michael Faist produced, edited and hosted the show. Ben Cosgrove wrote and performed our music. Alex Stillson provided tech support Quinn Feller designed our art Renata Harrison researched the show, Lacy Kowalski was always there for us, and Daniel Lombardi and Bill Hayden were the executive directors. Support for the show comes from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy works to preserve and protect the park for future generations. We couldn't do it without them, and they couldn't do it without support from thousands of generous donors. If you want to learn more about how to support this podcast, or other awesome Conservancy projects, please go to their website at glacier.org. Of course you can always help support the show by sharing it with everyone you know— your friends, your family, your dog... And also leave us a review online. Special thanks this episode to Chris Peterson, Tony Incashola Sr., Dawn LeFleur, Teagan Hayes, Mike Sanger, Sarah Peterson, and Brent Rowley.

How does fire affect our relationship with the park? In this episode of Headwaters we explore our relationship to fire through different lenses. What is it like to be in a wildfire? How have native people used fire? How does fire affect plants and animals? And finally, what can we learn about our history from fire?

Featuring: Chris Peterson, Tony Incashola Sr., Dawn LaFleur, Teagan Hayes, Mike Sanger, Sarah Peterson, and Brent Rowley.

For more information, visit: go.nps.gov/headwaters

Episode 7

Confluence | Goat Haunt

Transcript

INTERNATIONAL PEACE PARK INTRODUCTION

Michael:

All right, Andrew, my first season working for Glacier, I was a receptionist at Park Headquarters.

Andrew:

Okay.

Michael:

Lowest paid position in the park, mind you, answering questions people had via phone, email and letter.

Andrew:

Gotcha.

Michael:

Occasionally we had people in person come to the front desk with a question. And one of the most challenging questions we ever got was: "where is your World Heritage Site plaque?"

Andrew:

[laughs] Our what?

Michael:

We are a world heritage site—recognized by the United Nations for protecting natural and cultural resources that are important to the whole world. And every world heritage site gets a plaque to commemorate this designation.

Andrew:

Okay. I don't think I've ever noticed this before. Where was it?

Michael:

Well, that's the thing. Nobody knew. I told them I'd never heard of it and neither had my coworker. So they described to us a two foot by three foot bronze plaque. And we started asking around. We asked our boss who coordinates exhibits around the park, he didn't know. We asked facilities management, they didn't know. We asked the superintendent... Nope. We asked everyone in headquarters, and started calling all over the park to see if anyone had any idea where it might be. And then—it turned out it was in Canada.

Andrew:

Oh, that explains it.

Michael:

Glacier national parks in Northern boundary is the 49th parallel. Also known as our border with Canada and right across the border in Alberta is Waterton Lakes National Park. And the World Heritage Site plaque was displayed at a pavilion in Waterton. So I wanted to call up somebody who works there.

Natalie:

No, that's a great question. And I don't know that I fully know the answer to that. Um, we've recently redone the pavilion in Waterton. So I don't know if the plaque is actually still visible there or not. That's something I'll have to go and look for now.

Michael:

The mystery continues!

Natalie:

Exactly.

Michael:

That's Natalie Hodge.

Natalie:

My name is Natalie

Michael:

Who works for parks, Canada, the Canadian counterpart to the NPS.

Natalie:

I am the interpretation coordinator in Waterton Lakes National Park

Michael:

Waterton, a literal stone's throw away has been Glacier's neighbor since the very beginning.

Natalie:

Yeah. Waterton was actually created in 1895 and it was originally entitled the forest park reserve

Michael:

Two years before glacier was established as a forest preserve in 1897.

Andrew:

Wow. That's really early.

Michael:

Not to mention that Parks Canada—the Canadian counterpart to the NPS—also beat us to the punch

Natalie:

Parks Canada was actually founded in 1911, and it actually became the world's first national park service.

Andrew:

Predating the National Park Service by five years!

Michael:

The two parks administered separately and their respective nations oversee a contiguous landscape that doesn't recognize the political boundary that separates them.

Natalie:

There's many jokes about animals, not needing a passport in order to go back and forth between the two nations. We see blackberries go back and forth across the border with no issue. Um...

Andrew:

[Laughs].

Michael:

[Laughs]

Natalie:

Sometimes same with moose as well.

Michael:

Now that elusive plaque that I mentioned...

Andrew:

yeah?

Michael:

If you managed to find it, wherever it is, it wouldn't say Glacier National Park on it.

Michael:

So we refer to our park, each of our parks is kind of abbreviated names: Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park... But what is the full name of our parks together?

Natalie:

The full name of our parks together would be Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Michael:

Our two parks share more than an international border Waterton and Glacier National Parks agreed that this incredible landscape deserves our cooperation. Setting aside political divisions to cooperate in the management of everything from invasive or endangered species to wildland fires.

Natalie:

For example, if there's a fire in Waterton Lakes National Park, often fire crews from Glacier will come down and help, and then vice versa.

Andrew:

And while there are over a hundred international or transboundary parks and protected areas today, back in 1932, we were the first ever international peace park,

Michael:

Which on top of signaling management cooperation was a symbol of goodwill between nations. A statement of unity that—in 1932 in between two world wars—must've been refreshing. With a passport, Waterton is just a few hours away from most places in glacier. And there are a lot of ways to experience it.

Andrew:

Yeah, there are some remarkable hiking opportunities in Waterton that range from short trips to all day outings.

Michael:

And a personal favorite of mine is to visit some of the phenomenal restaurants in Waterton Townsite.

Andrew:

Yeah, we don't have quite the same variety down here,

Michael:

But Natalie leads, what I think is the coolest way to see the place, a way to really experience the international part of our title: the International Peace Park Hike.

Natalie:

I have definitely been fortunate over the years and have been able to lead that Peace Park Hike. And it's probably one of the coolest elements of my job working for Parks Canada. The hike is unique really in the sense that participants start out hiking in Canada, get to cross an international border by foot, and finish the hike in the United States. And our audience members are generally quite excited about the opportunity to be able to hike in two countries in one day.

Michael:

It's so cool. They even hold a little hands across the border ceremony.

Natalie:

And this is where our participants line up on either side of the international border, and they shake hands as a sign of peace and Goodwill with those across from them. And this is a long-standing tradition of the hike, and it's been ongoing since the creation of the hike in 1978.

Michael:

The International Peace Park hike or IPP is 14 kilometers long, or just over eight and a half miles. You essentially walk the length of Upper Waterton Lake to wind up back in Glacier, where you'll finally catch a ride on The International, a 200 passenger boat that's ferried people across Waterton lake since 1928.

Andrew:

Yeah. And from having taken that ride myself, it really stands out as one of the most unique experiences anywhere in either park.

Michael:

Yeah. I agree.

Andrew:

Even just looking into the other country, let alone getting to hike or boat into it is... Powerful.

Michael:

Now again, you do need a passport to visit and you need a reservation to ride the international or to join the IPP. But no matter what you do on your visit, seeing both sides of the border will only enrich your experience. So the next time you come to visit, make sure you visit our sister park, keep that spirit of goodwill alive. And maybe if you're lucky, you could even find that plaque.

Michael:

Welcome to Headwaters - a Glacier National Park Podcast. Brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, and produced on the traditional lands of many native American tribes, including the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Selis and Qlispe people.

Andrew:

We’re calling this season: The Confluence, as we look at the ways that nature, culture, the present and the past all come together here.

Michael:

I’m Michael.

Andrew:

I’m Andrew.

Michael:

And we’re both rangers here. Now, we've mentioned so far that Glacier has a lot of titles.

Andrew:

National park world heritage site...

Michael:

But today we're going to focus on just one of them: International Peace Park. An agreement between the NPS and Parks Canada to cooperatively manage our shared resources.

Andrew:

And no place better represents the International Peace Park than Goat Haunt, one of the most remote and least visited regions of Glacier.

Michael:

Okay, real quick. What's with the name? Goat haunt?

Andrew:

Yeah. It's kind of an archaic term, but a haunt is a place where someone or something hangs out. So essentially Goat Haunt is a place where the mountain goats like to hang.

Michael:

I see. Well, odds are, even if you've been to Glacier before you probably haven't made it to Goat Haunt. And for good reason!

Andrew:

Yeah, there are no roads leading to it. And the shortest hike to get there is 22 miles

Michael:

Shortest hike from the U S that is.. So you can either backpack for a few days South of the border, or you can drive to Canada.

Andrew:

Yeah. Goat Haunt sits at the Southern tip of upper Waterton Lake. One of the largest lakes in either part, which stretches across the border into both Canada and the U S

Michael:

Meaning Goat Haunt is just about three miles from the Canadian border.

Andrew:

Yeah. So people overwhelmingly access Goat Haunt from Waterton lakes National Park.

Michael:

Oh, now I understand where the name comes from. Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes N--. Okay, whatever.

Andrew:

[laughing] Yeah. So some people get there on foot, uh, like on the International Peace Park Hike, but most people arrive to Goat Haunt by boat,

Michael:

including even the Rangers that work there.

Andrew:

Talk about a commute.

Michael:

In this episode, we'll be looking at what it means to be an International Peace Park; how it happened in the first place and how it has affected those that live and work here.

BACKCOUNTRY

Michael:

All right, Andrew, where is our border with Canada?

Michael:

I think it's about 20, 30 miles north of here, as the crow flies?

Michael:

Yeah. Well, could you be even more specific? Where is the border?

Michael:

It lies on the 49th parallel.

Michael:

Yeah, exactly. The 49th parallel was first proposed as a border by the Hudson's Bay trading company in 1714, which is a story for another day, but it was ultimately adopted by the U.S. and British governments, because at the time, Canada was still under British rule. Now, British and American teams surveyed the border in the 1860s, with brief interruptions for the Civil War and monuments were erected that cemented a border nearly 4,000 miles long.

Michael:

But did you know that that survey was actually wrong?

Michael:

Wait, really?

Michael:

Yeah. The border was first surveyed when we still thought the earth was a sphere, but it's actually an oblate spheroid.

Michael:

What??

Michael:

Essentially it's a sphere that bulges at the equator due to rotation. All that to say, the original line doesn't perfectly follow the 49th parallel.

Michael:

Really!

Michael:

No, it's close, but it's not exact.

Michael:

Spheroid and all, it does transect present-day Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks.

Michael:

And visiting the border between the parks today, you'll notice the only thing separating the two countries is a swath of cleared trees - a 20-foot-wide unvegetated line, continuing into the horizon.

Michael:

And as far as this area is concerned, the most meaningful discussions of that symbolic boundary occurred not in the halls of Congress or Parliament, but on the trail and around the fire.

Michael:

Two of the earliest proponents of a jointly managed park were John "Kootenay" Brown and Albert "Death on the Trail" Reynolds.

Michael:

Big fans of nicknames.

Michael:

Yeah. Brown was the first superintendent of Waterton Lakes National Park.

Michael:

Reynolds was the first ranger stationed in the present day Goat Haunt area.

Michael:

Yeah, and it was these two that hatched the idea that two parks in two countries could be managed together.

Michael:

And the story of their friendship is an origin story of the Peace Park itself.

Michael:

We actually know an awful lot about John "Kootenay" Brown. He was raised by his grandmother in Ireland during the great famine and led a colorful life. After leaving home, he joined the Royal Militia in 1858, but never saw combat. In search of excitement, he chased a fortune in the gold fields of British Columbia, working as a prospector, constable, trapper, guide, mail carrier, swamper.

Michael:

Swamper, what the heck is that?

Michael:

Someone who steers canal boats. 50 years later, he had garnered a reputation for knowing the region as well as anyone, which led to his appointment in 1910 as the first supervisory forest ranger of Kootenai Lakes Forest Reserve, which is now our northern neighbor, Waterton Lakes National Park, at age 70. He earned $75 a month to manage the whole area.

Michael:

Wait, only $75? That's like the highest ranking position in the whole park.

Michael:

Yeah. It's $2,000 in today's money.

Michael:

All right. Now much less is known about Albert "Death on the Trail Reynolds." Born in Wisconsin in 1847, he and his wife moved to Montana's Flathead Valley in 1871 so he could work at a lumber mill. And to escape the nervous strain of work, 30 years later, he retired from being the supervisor at the lumber mill to become a ranger at the then-Flathead Forest Preserve. When that preserve was converted to Glacier National Park in 1910, he was stationed on the Southern end of upper Waterton Lake. And while there have been biographies written of Brown, most of what we know about Reynolds, we learned from his diary. Take this entry from 1912, where he's looking for poachers.

Bob Adams:

Found where some hunters had camped and hauled down a sheep or deer from the mountains. But it was in Canada about six miles from the boundary line.

Michael:

Which had been brought to life here by the voice talent of ranger Bob Adams. Reynolds lived in one of the most undeveloped and least visited areas of the park, often with only wildlife as his company.

Bob Adams:

Friday, October 25, 1912. When I arrived at camp, a bear had been there last night and he raised hell all aroound camp he went, looking into all three windows, took a bath in the wash tub and stood in front of the looking glass and combed his hair with a scrubbing brush.

Michael:

His nickname "Death on the Trail" was self-described, and his disdain for horses led him to walk everywhere. He regularly walked 17 miles south to get his mail.

Michael:

I walk just about one mile to get my mail. And I thought that was rough. But Reynolds would also walk north to visit Waterton, where he befriended Brown.

Michael:

Yeah. He walked the full 12 mile length of upper Waterton Lake, which starts in Montana at Goat Haunt, and ends in Waterton townsite in Alberta, walking that whole way to visit his friend Kootenay Brown, unless he could catch a boat ride.

Bob Adams:

Sunday, October 20, 1912. Left the camp 7:00 AM in one of Mr. Hazzard's boats. Went as far as Weeks' Landing, where I walked to the post office, got some mail, then went to Mr. Browns.

Michael:

His duties as a backcountry, ranger included looking out for poachers, forest fires and other "threats to the park."

Michael:

Okay. So what constituted a threat to the park?

Michael:

Well, in the early years, the Park Service was guided by a fundamentally different understanding of ecology than it is today. And Reynolds' writing illustrates this really well. Early park managers were especially eager to protect ungulates like deer. He would actually follow deer in order to chase them towards better foraging habitat.

Bob Adams:

Left camp. As soon as I could. Went up the trail that the deer took up the mountains, I located them up on a high bench, almost at the top of that mountain. I managed to get above them. There were about 40 of them. I got above them after a hard struggle, snow was deep.

Michael:

He thought he could get them to go somewhere where they'd be happier and safer, if he could only jump out and surprise them.

Bob Adams:

Some went one way, others took my trail and went down. Last of them that I saw was about two miles and still going. They're safe.

Michael:

I think if I did that in a uniform today, people would think I was totally crazy.

Michael:

On top of chasing deer around, he would actively hunt and kill anything that could harm them. To kill coyotes, he even enlisted the help of his friend, Brown, the superintendent of Waterton.

Bob Adams:

I went to one of Mr. Brown's baits for coyotes, and I found that the coyote had been here this morning and had taken a meal out of it. I followed his tracks for nearly two miles and he did not show any signs of the poison. So I left. Canadian poison is no good.

Michael:

In the years since, we've come to understand that predators like coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions play essential roles in the ecosystem, and the practice of poisoning them has long since been abandoned.

Tracy Weisse:

It's not part of our job anymore, no. It's, it's nice that, uh, attitudes have changed in that respect and decided that all animals have a right to be here, not just the ungulates.

Michael:

That's Tracy Weisse.

Tracy Weisse:

Yeah. My name is Tracy Weisse. I've been working here at Belly River for the last 16 summers,

Michael:

The Belly River Ranger Station where she works is one of the northernmost in the park. In fact, to hike in to meet her, I parked at the Canadian border, spitting distance from the customs office. And while Tracy and her husband Bruce work here in the summer, Reynolds worked and lived near Goat Haunt yearround, with only a wood-burning stove for warmth.

Bob Adams:

It was 12 below freezing this morning and now 6:30, it's 10 below.

Michael:

Even on holidays.

Bob Adams:

I made a bread pudding for dinner and took a cup of cold water. That was my Christmas.

Tracy Weisse:

I honestly cannot imagine the rangers that spent winters out here in that kind of cold and that kind of wind. It must have just been phenomenal.

Michael:

But rain or shine, Reynolds would travel north to visit Brown.

Bob Adams:

December 27, 1912. The snow was deep and soft. The wind was awful. It took till 4:00 PM to make Mr. Browns.

Andrew:

From what we can tell, the two were fast friends, even though Brown, who wrote poetry and spiritual musings, never seemed to write much about Reynolds.

Michael:

Yeah. And, Reynolds, you know, in the journals of his that we have, he doesn't write about his friendship with Brown either. His journals are really utilitarian. A simple summary of what he did that day, often signing off with the number of miles he had traveled, but even still, Reynolds wrote often about his trips to visit Brown.

Bob Adams:

Wednesday, December 4, 1912, left camp 9:15 AM with Mr. Brown. He went as far as Weeks' Landing with me to see if I got safe over the river, I had to break ice about a hundred feet before I got into the main stream, but I made it okay.

Michael:

They collaborated for work. They shared notes. They sought one another's advice and they socialized. And as you know, Andrew, the winters here can be pretty drab.

Andrew:

Yeah. Cold, gray skies, socked in.

Michael:

Which, by all accounts gave them plenty of time to discuss the philosophical facets of their jobs. Like the artificiality of the line separating the two parks they were sworn to protect. One person who met Brown and Reynolds was Samuel Middleton, an Anglican reverend in Canada. And after meeting the two rangers, he wrote about their discussions of the boundary.

Andrew:

Emblematic of the trouble with dividing the two parks was Upper Waterton Lake, which lay partially in the United States and partially in Canada.

Michael:

Reynolds suggested that geology recognized no boundaries. And that as Waterton Lake lay in its glacial cirque, no man-made boundary could cleave its waters apart. It'd be better, then, to accept nature's creation by removing the boundary line and acknowledging one park, one lake, in its own territory.

Andrew:

And Brown agreed. He said that since the lake could not be physically divided, it was senseless to divide its management.

Michael:

This was a powerful idea at the time.

Andrew:

A subtle suggestion, through the lens of a landscape, that a political boundary could not divide us.

Michael:

This idea of theirs to jointly manage the two parks could not come to fruition in their lifetimes.

Bob Adams:

All the days I ever saw, today has put the cap sheath on them all. Talk about wind, it has been a corker. I had to face it every step of the way, 18 miles. 9:00 PM. Beautiful storm raging. Don't know where from, and can't open the door to look out. Snowdrifts all through the house.

Michael:

Reynolds was clearly an incredibly tough person with a fortitude that's hard to fathom today.

Bob Adams:

Wednesday, January 15, 1913, went up to the lake, had to use my snowshoes. It snowed hard all day. It was so soft, I sunk in above my knees on snowshoes. I reached home camp, found six feet of snow on the roof. I had to go up and shovel it away from the stove pipe before I could build a fire. It took over three hours. Did not get it nearly all off. Will finish in the morning. It was 10 below zero all day and snowing hard. Distance, six miles. And one frozen toe.

Michael:

But, as tough as Reynolds was, the winter of 1913 began to catch up to him, and he caught a cold he couldn't shake. In one last journey, he ventured north to visit Brown, who mentioned Reynolds in his own journal for the first and final time.

Andrew:

4 February, 1913. Mr. Reynolds here. 32 below zero. Rode and snowshoed west side of park to pass. Miles: 20. Reynolds very sick. Up all night with him.

Michael:

Four days later, Reynolds died.

Andrew:

And three years after that, Brown passed away as well.

Michael:

Over the course of the next 20 years the parks remained under separate management. A new Waterton superintendent was appointed to replace Brown, as was a backcountry ranger to replace Reynolds. Visitors came, people enjoyed the parks and life continued, but Reynolds and Browns' idea of an international park lived on. Because in July of 1931, the local Canadian Rotary Club called a get-together of Montana and Alberta Rotarians to discuss for the first time the creation of an international peace park.

Andrew:

And while Reynolds and Brown had entertained the notion, it had never before gained traction. In fact, this would be the first International Peace Park in the whole world.

Michael:

Yeah. And this new idea was drafted in a resolution by the newly inaugurated president of the local rotary club, Samuel H. Middleton.

Andrew:

Who just so happens to be the same guy we quoted earlier, who had interviewed Reynolds and Brown about their thoughts on the border.

Michael:

The very same. Now, it's worth noting that Middleton first came to Waterton in search of a summer camp for St. Paul's Indian school, of which he was the principal, one of many schools of its kind that sought to suppress native culture, taking kids from reservations away from their families to boarding schools, where they were taught more or less how to be white.

Andrew:

This policy was called at the time, kill the Indian, save the man.

Michael:

Yeah. But, acknowledging his racist efforts towards indigenous people, he was an important advocate for the establishment of the peace park.

Andrew:

A bill establishing the peace park passed the U.S. Congress in December. And it was echoed by the Canadian government the following year.

Michael:

The details of this new designation were not clear cut, leaving park managers to decide how they would jointly oversee the two parks, parks that have evolved a great deal in the years since. In his day as a backcountry ranger, Reynolds hardly ever saw anyone, but Tracy, the modern backcountry ranger working along the border, says her main job is to work with people.

Tracy Weisse:

Well, I really see the main part of our job as educating people in the backcountry.

Michael:

Today, more people visit Waterton-Glacier on an average summer day than the parks used to see in a whole year during Brown and Reynolds' time, but that doesn't change why they're protected or why they're important.

Tracy Weisse:

People that do come here, and there are more all the time, they're looking for something real - to go backpacking, to reconnect with nature. That's what these parks are all about. And I think every day that goes by, they're more important than than in the past.

Andrew:

Throughout the last century, with all the changes it's brought, the two parks have strived to work together.

Michael:

So, whenever our two parks share wildland firefighting resources, whenever we lead cross-boundary hikes, boat trips, you know who to thank. A couple of tough old curmudgeons with an idea.

Bob Adams:

Sunday, December 29, 1912, Oh, heavens, how it does snow and blow. A person can't see 200 feet and it is coming harder and harder. I wish I was back in Helena.

DUCKS

Andrew:

So Michael, we've been talking about the international peace park today. What is Waterton glacier international peace park mean to you?

Michael:

Selfishly it makes for a pretty awesome place to work. You know, I got to hang out with a lot more Canadians than I ever did. And the coolest visitor center around here is the Alberta visitor center. I feel like, uh, like Wilson from home improvement, like peering over the fence at my neighbors. Cause from a lot of trails in the park, you could actually see Canada. So I think it's, it's pretty unique to be part of that symbol of cooperation, uh, as an employee and as a visitor.

Andrew:

I totally agree. It's it's pretty cool. When you think about, you know, the ecosystem here, the plants, the animals, you know, even the rivers and lakes, they don't know where the border is. They don't care where the border is. They're just interacting with each other in the way they always have. And to think that we can overcome the challenges of the border to manage this place jointly, to take care of this ecosystem as a whole, instead of as two separate parts that are divided, you know, just by a line on a map is a pretty special thing. I think.

Michael:

Yeah. Two countries, two parks kind of choosing to work around or to work through a political boundary for the joint management of a, of a place like this. This is neat.

Andrew:

Yeah. And on that note, I think we should move into our next story about how scientists from two different countries came together across the border to study some important animals that spend time on both sides of the international boundary.

Lisa:

Always look back in there. Yeah. And you're good at recognizing ducks.

Andrew:

It's 7:00 AM and Lisa bait is thinking about ducks.

Lisa:

I would every year, the weather channelizes things differently, but usually this is really deep on me, like that, to like go through,

Michael:

Are they talking about walking through that water?

Andrew:

Yeah. Duck science, as it turns out, involves a lot of water.

Lisa:

So I don't think you're going to be able to do that for safety reasons. So then you just exit and come out

Andrew:

Today, we're doing a brood survey where we'll review the river to see if any of the female harlequin ducks there, have new chicks with them.

Lisa:

Since you're going to have to wait for awhile. What you could do is just walk up the boardwalk and look for ducks on Avalanche Creek. And then when you're finished, come back down.

Andrew:

Lisa Bate is a wildlife biologist here in Glacier National Park. And one of her projects is to study the parks, Harlequin ducks, observing these birds takes a lot of eyes. So Lisa enlists a ton of volunteers to help her collect that data. It's a pretty fun project to be involved with. And as it so happened, all of us in the podcast, somewhat independently got involved with it this year. Michael and I and producers, Daniel and Alex have all gone out with Lisa to study the ducks. Michael even ended up pretty wet from his experience.

Michael:

Yeah. If you want to hear that story, you got to go to the Many Glacier episode.

Andrew:

Before we get into the study. I did that morning. There's a few things you need to know about Harlequin ducks.

Michael:

First, the name 'harlequin ducks' are named for the males' breeding plumage, which resembles the makeup of a harlequin, a jester-like character popular in early modern European theater.

Andrew:

And harlequin ducks are migratory birds, but unlike most migratory birds...

Lisa:

They don't migrate North-South when their the breeding season arrives instead because they're sea ducks, they actually migrate East-West.

Andrew:

But just because these birds migrate East-West doesn't mean they're not international.

Michael:

How so? I know a bird that migrates North-South, like a robin will spend time in Canada, the U.S. And Mexico. But if you migrate straight West of here, you'll just hit ocean. Not Canada.

Andrew:

Yeah. It turns out the migration path isn't quite straight West, but check out this map of one duck Lisa tracked.

Michael:

Oh wow! It spent part of the year in Washington part in British Columbia part in glacier and part in Waterton Lakes National Park. The next thing you need to know is that these birds love whitewater. They feel right at home in crashing surf and fast running creeks. And that's part of the reason why they're so hard to study.

Andrew:

And the last thing you need to know is that harlequin ducks are very loyal.

Lisa:

Extremely loyal. Um, as far as we know, the females only nest on the streams where they were born, their natal streams though, we've banded nearly 300 harlequins in Montana thus far, we have yet to document a breeding female dispersing to a stream other than her natal stream to reproduce.

Michael:

Well, what if something happens to the natal stream?

Andrew:

Yeah. That's kind of what makes them such a sensitive species. They seem to not be able to just find a new home.

Lisa:

I think this is one of the leading reasons that harlequins are a species of concern. Their range has shrunk. We used to have Harlequins in Colorado, many streams in Idaho and Montana and we no longer have for a variety of reasons. And right now I think it's highly unlikely that those streams would ever be repopulated. Unless we can document that females will disperse to other streams.

Andrew:

It's not just streams that they are loyal to. I asked Lisa if the ducks are loyal to a particular mate as well.

Lisa:

If you asked me that question at the beginning of this study, I would say very loyal. Um, we, the first three years of this study, we just saw incredible, I think a hundred percent mate fidelity since then we have seen some so-called divorces, but I'm working on a paper with some Canadian biologists and they just documented a female, um, with a certain mate one year, the next two years with a different mate. And then in the fourth year, she returned to that original mate. So we know that sometimes things happen. We don't know why.

Andrew:

And if a duck's mate dies...

Lisa:

Documented times when the female died and the males have already migrated back to the coast, but the following those single males will come back here looking for those females. And we've seen three, possibly four males return looking for their females. I assume that's what they're doing. And we have one male who I know now has returned three years in a row, always single, never with another female and never with the original female. And we just assume that that female has died.

Michael:

I can picture the Hallmark movie now, lonely duck wintering on the coast and spending the summer searching the Rocky Mountains for his missing mate, looking for a love he'll never find.

Andrew:

And Lisa told me that there's about 33% more males than females on the wintering grounds. So he's single males are pretty unlikely to find a new mate.

Michael:

At the beginning of her research. Lisa didn't really know how many ducks there were here.

Lisa:

When I first started this project, I thought maybe there were 40 pairs of harlequins throughout the whole park. Because you can't tell because they look identical. It wasn't until we started putting colored bands on them that we realized that we had more ducks just on upper McDonald Creek drainage alone, than we realized.

Michael:

So to tell individuals apart, you've got to catch them and put a unique band on their leg.

Andrew:

Biologists have developed lots of ways to safely catch birds, but none of them could really account for the challenges of dealing with a bird whose preferred habitat is whitewater.

Michael:

In the spring when both males and females are in glacier, the water on the creeks here is dangerously high and fast. Wading out into a raging creek to try to catch a duck was potentially deadly. So for a long time, we knew very little about these birds.

Andrew:

But it's not just raging waters that Lisa has to deal with.

Lisa:

There are some years that we're walking over like 40 foot deep avalanche drifts still.

Michael:

So there were lots of challenges, but there was a lot of pressure to understand these birds better because they seemed to be disappearing.

Lisa:

Biologists throughout the western half of their range have all documented a decline or a shift in distribution.

Andrew:

But today when I joined with Lisa, we weren't catching any ducks. We were just counting them. We broke into teams to come every foot of the Creek and observe if any of the hens had chicks. If we found any chicks, then later in the summer, they could be caught and get a band before they migrated back West. But this wasn't just walking down a trail... To stay along the stream was a lot of bushwhacking.

Lisa:

Yeah., and it gets really bushwhacky when the water's high... That and at some point we're going to just start walking in the creek because there'll be a lot easier than bushwhacking because the bushwhack is like through Hawthorne and real fun stuff like that.

Andrew:

And eventually we just went right into the water. We walked in the creek through water that was above my knees.

Michael:

Well, did you find any ducks?

Andrew:

We did! Lisa and I saw seven harlequin ducks that day. And we were able to collect data on other birds as well. We saw some American dippers and spotted sandpipers. The sandpipers had just had little babies and they were about the size of a piece of popcorn. They were so tiny and fuzzy–.

Michael:

Popped popcorn? Yeah?

Andrew:

Popped popcorn, Yeah. So we actually ended up seeing a lot more pipers and dippers than harlequins.

Background:

[A bird singing and water rushing.]

Speaker 2:

A dipper is just flew downstream, singing. Hear it? Yeah. That sound. Yeah, it is unusual to hear them this time of year, there are more like February, March and April when they're really singing up a storm. Flying and singing. Andrew just saw a spotted sandpiper.

Andrew:

As far as Harlequin ducks, we had seen five single females so far. Is that a lot?

Lisa:

I don't know. Sort of depends on what they get down low. Yeah. Like I said, like a high count norm would be 12, so we still have a long ways to go.

Michael:

So how did this research get started in the first place?

Andrew:

At first, Lisa just wanted to figure out if the ducks were even successfully breeding here.

Lisa:

I was like, okay, well, to do that, we need to find the nest and monitor them. And so we started like looking for nests and we never found one, I think in 20 or 30 years of surveys here in the park, only one had accidentally been found when someone almost stepped on one, they were walking along the shoreline. So I'm like, well, how are you going to monitor nests? If you can't find them?

Andrew:

Luckily for all of us, we're not just in Glacier National Park. We're in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Lisa:

Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park: Every year we have a "Science and History Day..."

Andrew:

...A full day science conference, where experts from both sides of the border present, what they've been working on.

Lisa:

...In my first year as a biologist here, I met Cindy Smith. She is the retired conservation biologist in Waterton Lakes. And I knew that she had done research on harlequin ducks in Banff National Park. So I was lucky enough to meet her and introduce myself. And I was like, Hey, I'm thinking of doing some research on Harlequin ducks and trying to find their nests. I said, we just aren't having any luck. I was like, how did you do it? And she's like, telemetry, you have to put radios on them! And she was totally right, because when we first started trying to find their nest, even with radios on, I mean, I think it'd be a one in a billion chance trying to find those nests because they're so cryptic, they're so hidden. And some of them literally were like 2.5 miles up off of another drainage and on a cliff and a burn habitat. I mean...

Andrew:

But to put radios on them first, you have to catch them. So Lisa and Cindy, an American and a Canadian biologist, working together developed a mist net method of capturing harlequin ducks.

Michael:

That must've been what I saw.

Andrew:

Yeah. Do you remember how it works?

Michael:

Well, Gerard Byrd, who joined us on the Grinnell Glacier hike in the Many Glacier episode, and a friend of his paddled, an inflatable kayak full of a couple people and a pole across the creek. The pole had a rope attached. Uh, so there was the near end and the far end one that stayed on shore and the one that went across the creek in the boat. And when the crew on the far side of the creek got out, they pulled the net taut.

Andrew:

Oh, that makes sense. So no one had to be in the water.

Michael:

No, that you floated across, but you stood on either side and pull it tight. And because harlequin ducks, unlike mallards, that fly way up in the air, harlequin ducks fly down low, right over the water. So they go straight into the net.

Andrew:

Okay. So what would you do if you caught one in the net?

Michael:

So the net is suspended on a cable that runs from one end to the other. And if they catch a duck in the net, the crew on the far side will twist their pole to close it disconnected from their side. And then the near side crew will pull the net all the way along the cable until the duck is in their hands.

Andrew:

And then they can handle it on shore without having to get into the water.

Michael:

Yeah. Precisely.

Andrew:

So what was your job then?

Michael:

Oh, I had a really critical, a very important duck catching job.

Andrew:

Yeah. What was that?

Michael:

I, uh, was I sat, uh, probably a half mile up the road, just looking at the creek with binoculars to see if ducks were coming.

Andrew:

Okay. That sounds pretty important. How many ducks did you see?

Michael:

None. Well, okay. No, I saw mallards and I saw some mergansers. I saw mergansers. But no, no harlequins. They didn't, they didn't come down the creek that day.

Andrew:

Well, hopefully you still felt useful.

Michael:

I did for, you know, for all the lofty ambitions I had of catching a duck that day, uh, Lisa valued, you know, all the effort we put in.

Andrew:

Lisa reminded me that even if you don't find any ducks, knowing that they're not there is useful data for her too.

Lisa:

Yeah, people get disappointed when we don't see many debts or zero ducks. And I always remind people that zero is a real number too. It's a sad number, but it's an important number.

Andrew:

And even though you didn't see any ducks that day, this method has been incredibly successful here.

Lisa:

We have not had any serious injuries to any people. And we have non had any injuries or mortalities than any of the birds. And we have probably captured 250 birds now.

Michael:

Do Lisa and Cindy still work together?

Andrew:

Yeah, they do. In fact, Lisa spoke really glowingly of their collaboration.

Lisa:

Cindy Smith has been a mentor of mine for years. She's amazing. Even though she's retired, as she told me, she's retired from bureaucracy, not biology. So she's, I've worked with her on a number of publications and she still mentors me on several projects.

Michael:

That's a real Peace Park success story.

Andrew:

And the success isn't just with the science they've done.

Lisa:

We're not just colleagues. She's become a very close friend.

Andrew:

A friendship that's been able to thrive across the international border.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK CONSERVANCY AD

Andrew:

Each episode, we seem to cover at least one thing that like this podcast wouldn't be possible without the support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Doug Mitchell:

With the help of some friends over there, we got the number of executive director, Doug Mitchell, and decided to call him up out of the blue to ask about these projects.

Andrew:

For this episode, we wanted to ask him about a very special bird.

Doug Mitchell:

Glacier Conservancy, Doug Mitchell speaking.

Doug Mitchell:

Hey Doug, it's Michael and Andrew.

Doug Mitchell:

Hey fellas. How are we doing today?

Michael:

We're doing great, but we have a question for you. Are you much of a birder?

Doug Mitchell:

Uh, I am not much of a birder, but I am anxious to learn.

Michael:

We've got a great little bit of audio trivia for you. We're going to play a bird call and want to see if you can guess who that call might belong to.

Doug Mitchell:

Okay. I'm up for I'm ready.

Michael:

All right, here we go.

Andrew:

Does that ring any bells for you?

Doug Mitchell:

I'm going to default to one of my very favorite projects in the park, and I'm going to say Harlequin duck.

Andrew:

You got it.

Michael:

You nailed it. How do you know about Harlequin ducks?

Doug Mitchell:

You know I, I have come to know Harlequin ducks, to be honest through my work here at the Conservancy.

Andrew:

We actually got to see a few of them with Lisa Bate.

Doug Mitchell:

Count me jealous. I have not to my knowledge seen one, my wife has watched a mom Harlequin duck kind of teach her young to navigate the rapids there on McDonald Creek. It was, she said, a really neat experience. Yeah, they're a very, very special, beautiful animal.

Michael:

So are you involved with Lisa's research at all?

Doug Mitchell:

We've, we've been very fortunate here at the Conservancy to be able to support Lisa's research in a number of areas, including with these Harlequin duck studies and also trying to do some work, repairing some of the trails. There are some social trails that can be disruptive on the McDonald Creek area. So we've been very, very fortunate to be able to be part of that process as it's been ongoing.

Andrew:

That's pretty cool. It's a, it sounds like it might allow some more people to have an experience like your wife did when they visit the park.

Doug Mitchell:

Yeah, I think that would be, that would be great. Right. That's what we're all about at the Conservancy--preserving the park for future generations to enjoy and to be able to think about being able to protect this species and have people later on be able to enjoy that is really, really a special thing to be able to think about. Right. That's work worth doing.

Michael:

Absolutely. Awesome. Well thank you for taking some time out of your day, Doug. We'll talk to you later.

Doug Mitchell:

All right. Thanks guys. Take care.

ROMANCE

Michael:

So Andrew, neither of us grew up in Montana, right?

Andrew:

That's correct. I actually grew up in Washington state.

Michael:

Yeah. And I grew up in Ohio. So, the fact that we not only met, but became friends, is something that just flat out never would have happened if it weren't for Glacier.

Andrew:

Absolutely. Over the course of a year, this place serves as an intersection of people from all over the world. A couple of years ago, I was working as a ranger up at Logan Pass. And a guy asked me if I was the same Andrew who had refereed his kids’ soccer game like six years ago. And I was.

Michael:

No way! So, the Peace Park provides a unique opportunity to meet other people and experience cultures on both sides of the U.S.- Canada border.

Andrew:

Just by virtue of having the Alberta Visitor Center near the West entrance here, we've had the chance to meet and befriend a lot of Canadians over the years

Michael:

From the little things like celebrating Canada day on July 1st, to having them go out of their way to get me Canadian candy, ketchup chips, or Frutopia that you can't find down here. The International Peace Park is like a confluence of two countries coming together into one unique thing. I mean, it's a lot of fun.

Andrew:

And just in this episode, we've heard a few examples of employees befriending their counterparts from across the border.

Michael:

But I want to close us out today by meeting some folks that took the whole cross-border friendship thing to the next level.

Justin McKeown:

You know, I would say we got the full story, from the Peace Park perspective.

Michael:

Meet Justin and Kim.

Justin McKeown:

Yeah. I'm Justin McKeown.

Kim McKeown:

And I'm Kim McKeown.

Justin McKeown:

We're currently at our home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Andrew:

Some Canadians?

Michael:

Well, yes and no.

Kim McKeown:

I'm from Ohio.

Justin McKeown:

And I grew up in the prairies of Canada in Saskatchewan.

Andrew:

Oh, I see where this is going.

Michael:

Justin and Kim both worked in Waterton-Glacier in the early 2000s. Justin, how did you wind up working here?

Justin McKeown:

My uncle was Park Superintendent down in Waterton Lakes, National Park. So I had some exposure of going out there and visiting him and my aunt. It was a job and lifestyle that appealed to me at sort of a younger age.

Michael:

Then, around the time he went to college, or university, as they call it up there, he got a job with Parks Canada.

Justin McKeown:

Started at Elk Island National Park, and then moved down to Waterton Lake

Andrew:

What did he do at Waterton?

Michael:

He was an interpretive ranger, just like we were, leading guided hikes and campground programs.

Justin McKeown:

You know, I can probably look back on it and say, it was like the best job I ever had.

Michael:

Kim, how did you wind up working here?

Kim McKeown:

Um, so my dad decided to come out and play park ranger from Ohio. I missed him and I came out to work for the boat company in 2003, the year before Justin and I met.

Michael:

What was the name of the boat that you captained?

Kim McKeown:

What was the name of the boat...Morning Eagle was on Lake Josephine, and on Swiftcurrent was Chief Two Guns.

Andrew:

Oh, so she worked at Many Glacier.

Michael:

What is memorable specifically about the job of being a boat captain?

Kim McKeown:

If I think back now, like it seems it should have been a more difficult job than it was. It didn't feel difficult to drive these boats. And I really enjoy like giving the talk on the boat and I liked making people laugh. You're getting sometimes to show people bears for the first time and the hotel there employed a lot of young people. And so you're just around a lot of other, basically university-aged people. It's like summer camp for adults.

Justin McKeown:

I think they call it college down in the United States, dear.

Kim McKeown:

[Laughs] I’m Canadianized.

Michael:

And they actually met at work.

Kim McKeown:

We actually met on the boat dock at Many Glacier. It was one of the other boat captains that was like, he's cute. You should go for a hike.

Michael:

Justin, a Park Canada interpreter, was milling about in Many Glacier in the first place for his job.

Justin McKeown:

Yeah, so this would be part of a longstanding exchange within the Peace Park, whereby a Parks Canada interpreter would go down to Glacier National Park and deliver a program every Friday evening. And then a counterpart, an interpretive ranger from Glacier National Park, would come up to Waterton to the Falls Theatre, to provide exposure to each other's parks within the International Peace Park.

Michael:

But work wasn't the only reason he wanted to go to Glacier.

Kim McKeown:

Pretty soon after, I think I invited myself to come for a hike with Justin in Waterton and yeah, after that first hike, it was basically like, it was a thing. It was the start of a relationship.

Andrew:

Well, that's adorable. And not your typical workplace romance. The two parks brought them together, but they're from two different countries. Long distance is hard enough without a border in between you. How did that even work?

Michael:

Well, as you can imagine, it did make it tough, but they were able to find a way. [To the McKeowns]: So, how long did you do the distance thing?

Kim McKeown:

We dated cross border for seven years.

Michael:

Kim worked as a teacher on the Blackfeet reservation, living in East Glacier, and Justin could find year-round off-and-on work in Waterton.

Andrew:

Okay. That's only a few hours apart.

Michael:

So, relatively close, but they still crossed the border a lot, to the point where Customs and Border Patrol got to know them by name. [Speaking to the McKeowns]: I'm wondering, when you started seeing each other, how normal in your brain was the idea of dating somebody from another country?

Kim McKeown:

It became quite normal. I mean, it definitely took a while. Like, figuring out the differences between the two countries in the early stages of dating. I remember at one point making Justin a little paper dictionary, translating Canada speak into America speak, and then Justin made me his edition. So I think I had put things on there like it's a beanie, but you call it a tocque, for a winter hat.

Justin McKeown:

I don't remember that to be honest, but I know it was mentioned before.

Kim McKeown:

Oh. well, there were lots of things like that. And eventually it just kind of melded into like, this is normal. Like, my Ohio accent kind of became a Canadian accent. Although, in Canada for a long time, they still thought I talked like an American. But my American family would make fun of me when I came home because I was speaking like a Canadian.

Michael:

So, they made it work for years. But as time wore on, crossing the border to see one another grew more and more cumbersome.

Justin McKeown:

We sort of recognized the fact that we dealing with an international border.

Kim McKeown:

And it was really cramping our relationship style.

Michael:

And one way to remedy that would be to put a ring on it.

Justin McKeown:

And plans were afoot, you know. I realized I wanted to ask this girl to marry me. Somebody was kind of getting impatient at some point in time. They're not thinking it was actually going to happen. So we went out on a hike some evening, sort of on the shoulder of Galway mountain in Waterton. So it's up the Red Rock Road, and sort of found this little off shoot that had a great view of the valley. You know, asked Kim to marry me, and obviously, she said yes.

Michael:

So they found a local Justice of the Peace that liked hiking, and they hiked up Avian Ridge in Waterton with a few friends and got married.

Justin McKeown:

We have that date, that's our proper wedding anniversary. And we have that date stamped on the inside of our rings. And, um, yeah!

Michael:

The following year, they had a full-blown ceremony in Waterton with family coming from all over, although it was September in Alberta, so the weather was a bit of an adjustment for some.

Kim McKeown:

My grandmother actually came from Florida and the wedding was in the fall, and she moved to Florida because she does not like the cold and my, my uncle as well. So he kind of had brought her, and I know that he had to go to the drugstore in Pincher Creek that morning and buy her longjohns that she could wear under her dress clothes because she was too cold in Canada.

Justin McKeown:

It was like 50 or 60 degrees. It was a nice day, as far as we're concerned.

Michael:

And I, for one learned a thing or two about Canadian weddings.

Andrew:

Yeah? Like what?

Michael:

So, they ask a family member or close friend to preside over the event instead of a DJ or MC and they have something called midnight lunch, essentially, a full-blown late night snack. People eat at the reception, then they get up for dancing and drinks. And then a little while later, bam. Poutine.

Andrew:

Okay. That sounds really good.

Michael:

Yeah. But what Kim and Justin did the best, I think, was the dessert.

Kim McKeown:

We didn't have cake at our wedding. We had pie. We had like a variety of pies, but our wedding pie that we cut into was apple-Saskatoon-huckleberry. And it was apples to signify Ohio, and Saskatoon berries to signify Saskatchewan, and huckleberries to signify the Peace Park. And so that was the kind of pie that we cut into as like our ceremonial cake cutting.

Michael:

[Responding to Kim]: Aw, that’s something else. [Break, and music comes in] Today, 16 years after they met at the boat dock in Many Glacier, Kim and Justin are raising a family together in Calgary.

Andrew:

So, not too far away.

Michael:

Right. Close enough to visit. Now, we have spent a lot of time talking today about how the International Peace Park recognizes that the landscape we share knows no boundaries, but as this story shows, neither does love, friendship, or camaraderie. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is an invitation to see ourselves in one another, a much-needed reminder to see not our differences, but the things that we share. Justin and Kim lived this firsthand in a way more dramatic than most of us ever will. [Speaking to Kim and Justin]: So, I was curious, what does the designation International Peace Park mean to both of you?

Justin McKeown:

I think, I think it is a place that you can sort of leave jurisdictions and politics behind to some degree or another and focus on this sort of contiguous landscape.

Kim McKeown:

To me it means family. You know, if it wasn't for the International Peace Park, we wouldn't be a family.

Michael:

To see what the International Peace Park means to you - well, you’ll just have to come find out.

CLOSING

Michael:

That’s our show—for more information on the International Peace Park, on Waterton or Harlequin Ducks, check out the links in our show notes.

Andrew:

Thanks for listening!

CREDITS

Renata:

Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The show was written and recorded on traditional native lands. Andrew Smith and Michael Faist produced, edited and hosted the show. Ben Cosgrove wrote and performed our music. Alex Stillson provided tech support Quinn Feller designed our art Renata Harrison researched the show, Lacy Kowalski was always there for us, and Daniel Lombardi and Bill Hayden were the executive directors. Support for the show comes from the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy works to preserve and protect the park for future generations. We couldn't do it without them, and they couldn't do it without support from thousands of generous donors. If you want to learn more about how to support this podcast, or other awesome Conservancy projects, please go to their website at glacier.org. Of course you can always help support the show by sharing it with everyone you know— your friends, your family, your dog... And also leave us a review online. Special thanks this episode to Natalie Hodge and our friends at Waterton Lakes National Park, Tracy Weisse, Bob Adams, Lisa Bate, Diane Sine and Kim and Justin McKeown.

You should always bring food, water, and plenty of layers when you go hiking in Glacier—but sometimes you might even need… a passport? In this episode, we’ll learn about the friendship that led to the world’s first International Peace Park. After that, two stories about how that designation has affected those that live and work here.

Featuring: Natalie Hodge, Tracey Wiese, Lisa Bate, and Justin and Kim McKeown. Voice acting from Bob Adams.

For more information, visit: go.nps.gov/headwaters

Unknown Season

Podcast Bonus

Rain - Visiting Glacier in June 2022

Transcript

Lacy: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Michael: What is it like in Glacier right now?

Visitor #1: Yeah, it's beautiful, beautiful,.

Visitor #2: Rainy and cold, but still worth it. Yeah,.

Visitor #3: A little wet, but still awesome.

Visitor #4: Blue skies can be found anywhere. But the rain is something special in glacier.

Michael: It has rained a lot here in Glacier this June, which I guess shouldn't be surprising. June is on average the rainiest month in the park, but this year has been exceptional.

Michael: I wanted to record here at McDonald Falls, but it's so loud I can barely hear myself. Okay. Walked a little further. I hope that sounds better.

Michael: I've never seen anything like this year. The creek is bloated. The falls are deafeningly loud and the water is brown. McDonald Creek is known for having crystal clear blue water and today it looks like angry chocolate milk. Earlier I saw a 50-foot tall Douglas fir tree floating down this creek as if it were a matchstick. I'd be willing to bet that tree was growing right at the water's edge. But the normal shoreline is totally submerged right now. The fast-flowing creek is scouring away the soil at its edges, giving it its muddy brown color and causing trees to topple over into it. The park just in the last week is closed to trails, to roads and to a loop of St Mary campground due to flooding. A community right along the park's boundary was issued an evacuation notice because the if I Had River hasn't been this high in nearly ten years. And the National Weather Service is still predicting that it might get higher in the next week. Park biologists have had to cancel recent songbird surveys because they normally conduct them in a dry, open, grassy meadow. But to get to their equipment right now, they had to wade through chest high water. Trail crews get their drinking water by filtering from local creeks and streams. But there's so much sediment in our creeks right now that one crew found that all of their water filters were clogged with dirt and a ranger hiked out brand new water filters for him. All the rain we've been getting is a big driver of these conditions. But you also have to factor in snowmelt. Mountains are sometimes called the water towers of the world because winter snowpack melting throughout the summer provides a steady supply of water to everything downstream. Right now, our mountains are holding on to more water than usual, up to 174% of the average snow water equivalent. It's a fancy way of saying how much water is in our snowpack and usually more snow the better. We're always rooting for more snow in the mountains, but when a lot of that snow melts off at the same time, we get heavy rainfall. That's when you get flooding conditions. It's not just happening here. That's what happened in Yellowstone this week, too. And that closed the whole park and completely washed away one of the main entrance roads to Yellowstone. We're not having a 500 year flood like Yellowstone, but you still need to know what's going on because drowning is the number one cause of death in the park. So when you're here and you're near running water, look after yourself, look after other people. Make sure they know not to get too close. I've always understood that water is powerful. But standing here at McDonald Falls and listening to it roar—you can feel that power. It's, it's equal parts amazing and terrifying and uncommon, at least like this. Most Junes in Glacier are kind of rainy and kind of cold. But I've never seen anything like this here before.

Michael: That's what it's like in the park right now. Up next is some quick helpful trip planning info if you're coming to the park soon. And if you listen to the very end, we'll have some glacier trivia answering the question How many traffic jams have bears caused this June?

Daniel: Hey, Michael.

Michael: Hey, Daniel.

Daniel: So here's a game. Now, I'm going to ask you some. I'm going to ask you some rapid fire questions, I guess. I'm planning a trip to the park in the next couple of weeks. It's. It's mid-June right now. What do I need to know to visit the park? What's this thing about a vehicle reservation?

Michael: Right. Good question. There's two places that need vehicle reservations. One of them is going to the Sun Road. If you're planning to drive going to Sun Road while you're here in between peak hours, which is between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., you'll need a vehicle reservation ticket. Those are valid for three days of entry and can be acquired starting at 8 a.m. the day before your visit online at Recreation dot gov.

Daniel: So there's a vehicle reservation requirement to go on going to the sunroom corridor and that's to deal with congestion and try and help people plan in advance because the park is getting so busy these days.

Michael: Okay. That isn't true for every entrance of the park. You don't need a vehicle reservation to get into to medicine. You don't need a vehicle reservation to get into Many Glacier. The North Fork is the only other region of the park that has its own vehicle reservation system.

Daniel: Okay, so how does it work in the North Fork, if I want to do that?

Michael: The North Fork, it's just like going to the Sun Road. It has its own vehicle reservation system there during peak hours. And for the North Fork, peak hours are between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.. And instead of being valid for three days of entry, like the going to the Sun Road ones, they're valid for one day of entry, but they're also available on recreation, not gov. You can though still visit the community of Paul Bridge, which is outside of the park. You don't need to enter the park to do that. So yeah.

Daniel: Well, what if I just come in before the reservation requirement in the morning or after after 6 p.m. in the evening?

Michael: You don't need a vehicle reservation to get in before or after peak hours, so you're able to come in without one. You're also able to come in if you have a reservation for something like a boat tour, horseback tour or campground along, going to this sun road that counts as a vehicle reservation for the day of that ticket. But if you do come in the park, say, before six, you won't need an entry reservation ticket, but you will need to be aware of the fact that there is construction.

Daniel: So they're doing like a big project. On going to the Sun Road before Lake McDonald Lodge, right?

Michael: Yeah, in between Apgar and Sprague Creek Campground, which is just before the lake meet on the lodge. So if you're coming in to the west entrance during the day, you could expect delays because there are one way traffic restrictions through these construction corridors. But the thing you really need to know about is that at night, those construction restrictions turn into a hard closure. So between Apgar and Sprague Creek Campground, there's a hard closure between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.. And if you get caught on the wrong side of that.

Daniel: You're stuck.

Michael: You're stuck.

Daniel: Okay.

Michael: I already know if you park rangers, you've gotten stuck on the wrong side of that closure. So save yourself the time and trouble and gas money and just plan to not be on the wrong side of that closure after 10 p.m..

Daniel: What else do I need to know? Like, I mean, I guess I should know that the road is actually not even open right now. Fully.

Michael: Yeah. At the time of this recording, the Going to Sun Road is closed between avalanche and rising sun for road plowing. The snow plow crews are still hard at work, way up high. We've had a lot of spring snowfall at high elevations, which has been a bit of a setback for those crews. But we know that going to the Sun Road won't be fully open to vehicles until at least July 13th. The park made that announcement to try to give people better information to plan around.

Daniel: So if I'm here on July 12th, I can just know that the road won't be open yet. Right. But if I come on July 14th, it might be open. But it's dependent on how far the plows get. There's a lot of snow up there.

Michael: That's not a guarantee. They're still hard at work. And even after all the snow is gone, they still have to reinstall guardrails that are removed every fall in avalanche paths. So there's a ton of work going on. Be sure to check the park website if you're not here yet for the latest information or check in at the visitor center as soon as you get here.

Daniel: Yeah, I guess it's kind of an unusual year. A lot of moisture, a lot of snow. So it's just best to keep checking the website following the park on social media, that kind of thing, because it's a dynamic situation.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. But while this might be a smaller window of access to the high country for vehicles, it's a longer window of access for hikers and bikers. Oh, sure. I genuinely think one of my favorite things to do here in the park is hike or bike up. Going to this on road as far as you are capable of or until you reach the hard closure up high.

Daniel: Sure, they have closures for safety and for the plow crews to be able to do their work.

Michael: Yeah. To get to see that place without cars is is pretty special and to try to help more people do that. There will be hiker biker shuttles running throughout early July until the road is fully open to cars to try to enable people to get better access to that.

Daniel: Okay. Yeah, this is Glacier National Park's free shuttle system. You can use it to get around if you're worried about finding a park. Oh yeah.

Michael: It could take people around both sides of the park. On going to Sun Road.

Daniel: Some of the shuttles have a trailer that you can load your bike on. Mm hmm. Okay, cool. Yeah, I think it's good and important to know that, like, just because the road isn't open. All the way to Logan past doesn't mean that parts of going to this sun road aren't open and that there's not like still a ton of open awesome stuff to do here. I like this time of year, actually.

Michael: Yeah, it's great. For more info on vehicle reservations, road conditions, construction and more, you can check out our website at nps.gov/glac, or follow the links in our show notes. Now we've made it to the end. I can answer the trivia question about wildlife related traffic jams, which is something that we keep track of here in the park, at least all the ones resolved by park rangers this June. There have been 26 traffic jams caused by wildlife like bighorn sheep, deer and mountain goats. But there have been 74 jams caused by bears as of June 20th, 2022. That's nearly four bear jams per day and 100 wildlife jams overall in June alone. Thank you for listening and thank you to the Glacier National Park Conservancy. With their support, we're able to bring you short episodes like this throughout the summer and are hard at work on season three right now.

What is it like in Glacier right now? The answer has been: Rainy.

In this bonus episode, a quick look at current conditions in Glacier, and some helpful trip planning information if you're coming to the park soon.

Vehicle Reservation Information: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gtsrticketedentry.htm

Current Conditions & Construction: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

The Glacier National Park Conservancy: https://glacier.org/

Podcast Bonus

Huckleberries - Visiting Glacier in July 2022

Transcript

Lacy: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Peri: Could you tell me what it's like in Glacier right now?

Voice #1: Beautiful, but buggy.

Voice #2: It's very hot and dry.

Voice #3: Buggy, and hot.

Voice #2: But then, depending on where you go, you can also be hiking over snow within the same hour.

Peri: It's July in Glacier, and after a pretty cold and wet spring, it's finally getting warm -- it's going to hit 90 this week. And so for some people, the true arrival of summer means hiking in the high country or going paddleboarding or canoeing on the lakes. But for me, it means one thing: huckleberries.

Peri: [distant] They kind of like to hide on undersides of the plants. You have to kind of flip them over to find what you're looking for. [gasps] There's one!

Peri: Huckleberries usually ripen in early- or mid-July at the lower elevations of the park, like where we are here in Apgar on the bike path, and then at higher elevations they're usually ripe into August.

Peri: My first huckleberry of the year. Mm. Little tart, probably a little on the early side.

Peri: They look a lot like blueberries and they are actually in the same genus, which is vaccinium, so even if you've never seen one before, you'll probably recognize them if you see them when you're out in the park. But they're a little bit more tart and they just taste a little bit different overall. But unlike blueberries, they are really difficult to domesticate. So if you eat a huckleberry, someone picked it.

Peri: This one's a little darker purple, so maybe it will be a little sweeter. Still pretty tart. Maybe the first huckleberries of the year are always pretty tart.

Peri: Generally everyone that comes here knows to bring bear spray and snacks and plenty of water on hikes in the park. But during huckleberry season, I always bring one other thing, and that is a yogurt container. [sounds of berries dropping into a pail]

Peri: These are the perfect containers for picking huckleberries because they're exactly the right size. In Glacier, you're allowed to pick one quart of huckleberries per person, per day. And so once you fill up your yogurt container, you're good to go. You can take them home and bake them into pies or muffins or make jam if you're really industrious. Or you can freeze them to eat over the winter. Or if you're really impatient, you can just eat them right on the spot.

Peri: [gasps] Here's a nice, dark one. Hmm. That's more like it.

Peri: Huckleberries have always been a big deal here in Glacier. In our Two Medicine episode of Season One, we learned about traditional foods and how the Salish and Blackfeet people have used huckleberries since time immemorial. But by 1910, when the park was established, they were starting to become big business. Local canneries were buying and selling huckleberries, so there was a year round demand for them. And so for families throughout northwest Montana and beyond, huckleberry season was like a gold rush. People would take working vacations during the summer and go to the mountains and pick as many huckleberries as possible. Selling to canneries and to grocers paid really well, and it got a number of people through the Great Depression. In 1932, these pickers collected an estimated 20,000 gallons of huckleberries from the neighboring Flathead National Forest. And this trend was so noticeable that it sparked some debate within the Forest Service over whether huckleberries would be a more profitable use of Forest Service land here than timber.

Peri: And people still love huckleberries today. Wherever you go in Montana, you'll see huckleberry liquor, huckleberry syrup, huckleberry ice cream, even huckleberry chapstick. But they're also really important to wildlife. At least six different species of bumblebees pollinate huckleberries in Glacier, snowshoe hares and deer eat their leaves, and dozens of animals eat the berries. From small mammals to wasps and coyotes and of course, blackberries and grizzly bears. It's estimated that during peak season, huckleberries can make up over half of a grizzly bear's diet. And there's still a lot to learn. Researchers in the park are trying to figure out some huckleberry mysteries, from where they grow in the park, how they're responding to climate change, and figure out how huckleberries can influence human beer conflicts.

Peri: I love picking huckleberries. First of all, they're delicious. And they're also a convenient way to force everyone to take a break on a long uphill hike when you maybe need a break but don't want to ask for one. Oh, look at these huckleberries that we have to stop and pick. But most of all, I just find it really satisfying. I'm not trying to get anywhere. I'm not trying to accomplish anything. I'm just spending time out in the park, collecting food to enjoy and share with my friends.

Peri: I'm seeing a ton of unripe green berries on these bushes, so I'm hoping for a berry good berry year.

Peri: So that's a taste of what it's like in Glacier right now. Up next, we have some practical trip planning information. And if you stick around, we'll have the answer to a trivia question, which is: what percentage of visitors to Glacier come in the summer months?

Peri: So the big news as of today is that going to the sun road is fully open--.

Michael: Hooray!

All the way from West Glacier to St Mary.

Michael: That is wonderful news. I love biking up there when it's not open to cars, but it is nice to also not have to pedal so hard to reach it.

Peri: I feel like it also means that summer is finally here.

Michael: Summer's here. Okay. So I can drive up to Logan pass now and hike around.

Peri: Yes, you can go all the way over the pass and you can park at Logan Pass if you can get a spot. I recommend getting there early or just being patient, but definitely having a plan B.

Michael: Yeah, it's always busy up there.

Peri: Yes. And once you get a spot, you can go to the visitor center, which is now open and you can potentially go on a hike. That said, both the Hidden Lake trail and the Highline trail are sometimes late to open even once the road has opened.

Michael: Right. Just because we spent several months clearing all the snow off the road doesn't mean that the snow has been cleared off of the Highline, Hidden Lake and things.

Peri: Exactly. We definitely recommend checking the park website for current conditions before you come. Stopping at a visitor center to see what current conditions are. Or there's a new system that you can sign up for that will give you text alerts about openings and closures for the park roads, trails and campgrounds.

Michael: Yes, I was meaning to ask you about this. They're called Glacier National Park updates. How do they work?

Peri: So for each of those different categories, you send a text to 333111 to sign up. So for the trails, it's GNPTRAILS, for campgrounds it's GNPCGS, like campgrounds, and for road openings and closures, it's GNPROADS. And so you just send that to 333111 and you'll get those text updates.

Michael: Just a short little update like this trail is closed. So if you're coming soon, that would be really helpful.

Peri: Exactly. The service isn't always great in the park ,and it's good to know ahead of time there's no service in places like the North Fork and Many Glacier and Two Medicine. But especially if you're on the way here or driving around the park, you'll probably get a text here and there and it would be great to know.

Michael: Yeah, always nice to know before you get to the trailhead and find that it's closed.

Peri: Ideally!

Michael: Great. So that's the Glacier National Park update system. That's a good way to learn about current conditions in real time. Is there anything else you should know now that the road's fully open?

Peri: Well, a big change now that the road is fully open is that... So we have this vehicle reservation system for both the Going to the Sun Road corridor and for the North Fork. And now that the road is fully open, you need a vehicle reservation to enter the Going to the Sun Road both from the west side and from the east side.

Michael: So before it was fully open, you only needed a vehicle reservation if you were entering West Glacier, but now on the east side you need to show one... Where does it start over there?

Peri: So it's at Rising Sun, so you can still access the first several miles of Going to the Sun Road on the east side without a reservation. But to go past Rising Sun, you need a vehicle reservation.

Michael: Okay. They're valid for three days of entry along going to Sun Road corridor.

Peri: Right. And the North Fork ones are valid for one day of entry.

Michael: Gotcha. Okay. It's intended to help manage congestion in the park and help people be able to plan around more concrete dates for their trip. So how do you get one?

Peri: So to get one you go on to recreation.gov at 8 a.m. mountain time.

Michael: Mountain time.

Peri: ...the day before you want your reservation.

Michael: Gotcha.

Peri: And make sure you log on right at 8:00, maybe 7:50, 7:55 to make sure you're in there and you understand the system to make sure you get one when they're released at 8:00.

Michael: Okay, that's how you snag one. But if for whatever reason you can't get one, you can still access Going to the Sun Road outside of like peak hours, right? What are those?

Peri: Exactly. So the Going to the Sun Road vehicle reservation is in place between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Michael: Okay.

Peri: So outside of that, you can access the road.

Michael: Gotcha.

Peri: One thing to be aware of is that they're doing construction during the night on the west side of the Going to the Sun Road between Apgar and Sprague Creek Campground.

Michael: So the road is fully open to vehicles, completely open for the season, and yet there is a nightly construction closure that would make it very difficult to get back if you're on the wrong side at 10 p.m.

Peri: Yes, it's between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Okay. So definitely plan for that and don't get stuck on the wrong side because you can drive around. But it is a ways.

Michael: Turns what is a 20 minute drive into a three hour drive.

Peri: So not recommended.

Michael: Not recommended.

Peri: So if you've got all that down, you have your vehicle reservation or you know where to get one, you know how to avoid the construction closures and you know where to get current information about road and trail closures, you're ready to go.

Michael: Yeah. You're an expert!

Peri: Ready to enjoy summer in Glacier.

Michael: Totally. Links to all of this information will be in our show notes if you need them. But this is a cool time during the summer because if you can get to Logan in early, mid, late July, there's still some snow around. And, you know, walking on snow in the middle of July is pretty crazy.

Peri: Pretty unusual.

Michael: But also, I would warn pretty dangerous because the worst sunburn I've ever gotten was from sunlight beating down from above and also reflecting off the snow. So that was a lesson I don't need to learn twice.

Peri: And whether or not you're on snow, it is peak summer here. So just be prepared with sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses. Make sure you're drinking lots of water, eating salty snacks. Make safe choices.

Michael: Yeah. Come prepared and have a great trip!

Peri: That's our show. Thanks for listening. If you made it this far, you know that our trivia question was what percentage of visitors to Glacier come during the summer months? Which is May to October for us. And the answer is 95%. So if you come during the winter, you're pretty special. Thanks, as always, to the Glacier National Park Conservancy, who makes these mini episodes possible as well as season three, which we're hard at work out right now. If you haven't already, check out season one and season two. And enjoy your visit to Glacier.

The park is opening up, and Montana's most famous plant is ripening. In this bonus episode, a quick look at current conditions in Glacier, and some helpful trip planning information if you're coming to the park soon.

Vehicle Reservation Information: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gtsrticketedentry.htm

Current Conditions & Construction: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

The Glacier National Park Conservancy: https://glacier.org/

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