Glaciers and Wildfires

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The last few days have definitely been eventful. We are currently staying in St. Mary, Montana near Glacier National Park. If you haven’t heard, there’s been a large wildfire that started a few days ago on the eastern side of the park. We planned to bike up and over Logan Pass two mornings ago, but unfortunately the wildfire started the afternoon before. It began as only a few acres of fire, but quickly grew to 1000 acres by morning and has now quadrupled in size. The fire isn’t predicted to die down anytime soon, so we ended up detouring around and are staying in a hotel tonight. The air quality on the eastern side is pretty terrible and we didn’t feel comfortable camping and possibly damaging our respiratory systems. It would kind of defeat the purpose of biking all day, right? There’s no need to worry, though, as we are a safe distance from the fire and will be heading out of dodge early tomorrow.

views of the wildfire on the eastern side of Glacier National Park

views of the wildfire on the eastern side of Glacier National Park

Luckily, we were still able to bike up very close to the top of the Going to the Sun Road as the western side where we stayed for a few days was not affected. The route was absolutely breathtaking and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The jagged mountain ranges jutted up from the earth with deposits of snow nestled in their crevices. We made it roughly two miles from Logan Pass to where the road was closed. Are we disappointed we didn’t make it all the way to the top? Of course. However, we definitely understand that safety comes first. We feel way worse about the wildlife that’s being destroyed in the fire and are very thankful for the brave men and women risking their lives to keep us safe. We saw a little fox dart across the highway today in the opposite direction of all the smoke and it breaks my heart to think about all of the creatures suffering right now. Our little bit of disappointment at not reaching our biking goal is insignificant in comparison to the bigger problem that is going on. After all, it just gives me an excuse to come back and bike all the way to the top. I’d love to spend a week or two here exploring all of the hiking trails. We feel as if we only scratched the surface for what Glacier National Park has to offer.

skipping rocks on Lake McDonald

skipping rocks on Lake McDonald

more skipping rocks

more skipping rocks

exploring the hiking trails

exploring the hiking trails

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Had a very nice neighbor at our campground in West Glacier named Bobby

Had a very nice neighbor at our campground in West Glacier named Bobby

catching the sunrise on The Road to the Sun. Bikers aren't allowed on certain sections of the road between 11-4, so we had to wake up really early.

Catching the sunrise on The Road to the Sun. Cyclists aren’t allowed on certain sections of the road between 11-4, so we had to wake up really early.

met some other cyclists from California near the top

We met some other cyclists from California at the highest point we could go. They closed the road the “Big Bend” roughly 2 miles from the top.

Heaven's Peak

Heaven’s Peak

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more amazing views!

saw a few marmots on our climb up the road

saw a few marmots on our climb up the road

Anyways, the last time I gave an update we were in Baker City, Oregon. As I talked about previously, we made the decision to drive through Idaho over to Missoula. That ended up to be a very smart decision on our part because the biking route was very treacherous! The majority of the route was through Hell’s Canyon with a very windy road and little to no shoulder. DEFINITELY not good biking conditions. We spent 8+ hours driving in a canyon and only opened up when we got to Missoula. Between my fear of heights and getting a little car sick with the windy road I was extremely thankful to get out of there and see some sky. We then biked onwards to Big Fork, West Glacier, and are now in St. Mary’s. We will pass into Canada tomorrow and can’t wait to get to Banff and Jasper where I’m determined to see a mountain goat or mountain sheep!

Funny story: I also learned a very tough lesson the other day regarding Montana’s insects. Our biking route took us over a few miles of dirt the other day and my dad ended up getting a flat tire right at the end. As we sat down on the side of the road to fix it I noticed a caterpillar a few feet away and remarked on how cute it looked, but as we got to work fixing his tire I quickly forgot about it. Sure enough, about ten minutes later I felt a prickly something on my leg. I looked down to find the caterpillar curled into a ball on my sock/ankle. What the heck?! As a reflex I quickly brushed it away. Moments later my leg and finger that touched the caterpillar started burning!!!!! I jumped up and told my dad that the caterpillar stung me to which he replied, “Caterpillars don’t sting.” Well, apparently there are poisonous caterpillars in Montana. Buckmoth caterpillars are no joke. It left me with a few welts on my leg and finger. Lesson learned; stay away from caterpillars!

the evil Buckmoth Caterpillar that stung me

the evil Buckmoth Caterpillar that stung me

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3 thoughts on “Glaciers and Wildfires

  1. What a bummer you couldn’t go all the way up Going to the Sun road! Wildfires are scary but they’re important for the ecosystem in the west- some species of trees even depend on them for reproduction. We saw lots of evidence of wildfire in the Salmon River canyon and they even do “prescribed burns” in Zion NP!

    Keep posting the photos and don’t listen to your dad- there are stinging caterpillars even in VT!

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