Friday, June 26, 2009

The Big Exhale

Friday, June 26, 2009

The big exhale....Ahhhhh. It is both a sigh of relief and a large gust of wind that characterizes the St. Mary Valley. The relief is that the Blackfoot Confederacy Conference is over. It was an exhilarating ride, but it's nice to be back focusing on our job again. It seemed like everything was paused for four days and now we are back to playing the role of interpreter again. All the interpretive staff are getting their first jitters. They are so excited and so professional that they appear stressed. It's nice to see everyone working hard, but the bottom line is, we all need to have fun too! I think this week was a little of both stress and fun!

I also talk about the characteristic wind of the St. Mary's back. In early June weather reports were stating that the winds were less than average. It was true, there wasn't enough wind. Can that be true? The mosquitoes were bad and the days were hot. It's almost a relief now to have the steady 15-20 mph winds and the strong 30-40 mph gusts that keep the mosquitoes away and the days cool. We also had a very chilly day on Monday. It left a dusting of snow high in the mountains. That's a big exhale for the glaciers...they'll get one more little layer of snow to protect them during the warm summer months.

I guess the big exhale really is just the fact that the season is starting...the interpretive season. Our job is just beginning and it's almost July. But, it's a big sigh of relief to have everyone in a schedule, doing what they need to do, and allowing the lead interpreters to organize again and focus. It's a good feeling.

Oh, and by the way, the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road opens today at 10:30am. It feels early, but I think it's just in time. We get LOTS of questions about the road and LOTS of frustrated visitors. So here's another big exhale....we can answer this question with yes: Is the Road open? YES! Summer must really be here now!

Here are some photos from the Blackfoot Confederacy Conference and a flower photo from my first Ranger-led activity this year: St.Mary Lake & St. Mary Falls trail.

The Color Guard:
I spoke with these kind gentlemen for about 20 minutes while we all waited for show time. Monday was so cold and windy, we hosted the opening ceremonies in the auditorium.

The "Warriors" Riding in from the East:
At the end of the transfer of the straight-up headdress ceremony, the Warriors came riding in from the east.

The Chiefs of each Blackfoot band, after the transfer of the Straight-up headdress ceremony

Sending Down Roots: The Blackfoot Confederacy Conference Lodges & St. Mary Visitor Center

The Continental Divide and St. Mary Falls Trail: A Garden of Flowers

Weather: 40's-50's at night, 50's-60's during the day. Sunny!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blackfoot and new roots

Sunday, June 21, 2009 - Father's Day
Today is Father's Day, a great Thanks goes out to all those awesome Dads out there...and perhaps those potential Dads, too!

I went into work this morning at 8am. It was a good thing I did, we were hosting a Cultural Awareness Training in the Auditorium. Why you ask? Because the Blackfeet are hosting the Blackfoot Confederacy Conference right here in Glacier National Park. This is both good and not-so-good. Good because we get the chance to experience the culture of the neighboring Blackfeet Indians. The Blackfoot Confederacy Conference is held annually to address and assess issues and news with all 4 bands of the Blackfoot Indians (in both the US and Canada). The local Blackfeet tribe is hosting it this year with the theme "Glacier National Park on Blackfoot Land." Without going into it too much, I'll just say, this is still their land, it just happens to have a National Park on it.'s good because I've already learned a bunch about out neighbors.
Another good thing is, we get overtime! Yeah, Money! Today I will have worked 10 hours of overtime...this is an exceptionally good day because I'm supposed to have the day off, but I'm working. It will be good to get some extra spending cash!

It's not-so-good because it throws a wrench in our smooth interpretation operations. In other words, we are pushed to the limits on staffing. This seems to happen at least once a year here in the park. But, we are fully staffed, and hopefully, prepared for hosting this event on park property. There was some great forethought to this season and we decided early on that we would give everyone an extra week to prepare for their interpretive programs (guided hikes, etc). Well, that was the best decision we could have made!! Thankfully, we are only giving about 7 or 8 programs this week.

That brings me to the "new roots" part of the title of this blog. Everyone on our staff is growing new roots in the park. They have learned about the park resources and therefore started to shoot roots into the ground. Now they are growing deeper and deeper into the park and taking hold of their interpretive programs and abilities. Soon the little green shoots will come up from the ground and burst into the light of day! It's so exciting to see everyone grow in confidence and clarity. I can't wait to see their programs.

Last, "new roots" also refers to the plants that are growing FAST! Many flowers are already in bloom and I can't believe it! The water is roaring down the falls to feed those flowers and the snow is melting at Logan Pass to feed those falls! Check out some of the photos below.

Round-leaved yellow violet

Blue Penstemon

Mariposa Lily

Beautiful St. Mary Falls

Logan Pass sidewalk, much less snow than usual. This is about typical for July snow.

Missing Feathers,
I found these on the sidewalk separated from their host, the Mountain Bluebird

Path to Hidden Lake and Mt. Clements in the distance

Many Glacier Valley June 10, 2009- Interpretive Training

Monday, June 8, 2009

Procrastination and Building Character!

Monday, June 8, 2009

You know when you have a deadline, and you try to find everything else to do before completing that deadline...well, that's what I'm doing. I'm giving a presentation tomorrow during our Interpretation training. I'm assigned to report and "flesh out" the results of the Visitor Voices Project. I was deeply ingrained in this project during the time of my Master's school work. I worked with my lead professor to develop and carry out the research project that would assess what comes OUT of an interpretive other words, what does the visitor take away with them. It's pretty interesting if you're into research and the finer details of interpretation...but to the lay person, it's just statistics. I'm hoping to turn it into an enthralling presentation with useful information and fine photos. It's mostly done, but I've got to tweak it a bit. Until then, I will procrastinate and write here!

It's been a busy week here at Glacier. Each week is filled with more and more questions, amazing knowledge, and fun experiences. The last two Monday's have been a rush to complete all the tasks that we ignore during training, such as, payroll, scheduling details, emails, phone messages, and broken things at the St. Mary Visitor Center. It's amazing how much stuff can happen in one week. Can't it just run smoothly? Does the heat have to stop working in our Auditorium? Do light bulbs and door locks have to break? Ahhhh! I think it's the finer details that get me frustrated. In the grand scheme of things, the Visitor Center works's only when you look closely that you see the mistakes and tiny imperfections! I think it's all part of building character...the more imperfections, the more mistakes, the more character you have. It's like an old leather jacket, the imperfections are what make it beautiful and interesting, which make you love the jacket that much more.

The weather here has turned a bit chilly. We've had several days of rain clouds holding down low in the valley. Also, it rained/sleeted/snowed is the usual for St. Mary. It's comforting to know that June lives up to it's expectation of being the rainy season, mixed with some (sometimes) surprising snow. That means the glaciers will live a little longer into the summer season. They will be protected with another layer of snow, as an invested insulator. Hopefully, the glaciers will see less melting this year...but the precip levels need to rise a bit...and every little bit helps, like today! We had Bear Training at the St. Mary Visitor Center and everyone heard the little snow/sleet pellets hitting the metal roof. It was a calming sound, surprising to some, welcomed by others.

That's it for my procrastination. I've finished half of my glass of red wine (a new ritual for me everyday), and it's time to make a pretty presentation, POWERFUL! I promise to post some photos soon. I have an incredible backlog of neat photos, that are dying to be published online! I'll get to it, one of these days! Until then, it's off to Interpretation Training, for another 4 days!

Weather: Mostly cloudy, multiple types of precip. Highs in the 40's-50's and lows in the 30's. It's June, what can I ask for..

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's been a long time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I realize it's been a while since I wrote. It was my best intentions to continue with an everyday update, but I don't think that is possible. I keep planning my blogs, but never find the time to upload pictures and type everything out. So, from now on, I will try my best to update things as soon as possible...which may be a few days. No biggie.

Today, I made history...
Perhaps it was just my own history, but it still meant a lot. I applied for my first permanent National Park Service job. I applied for a GS-7/9 (supervisory position level), Park Ranger- Interpretation job at Everglades National Park. It is a term position, technically not to exceed 13 months, but they are hoping to extend the position to 4 years. I'm not sure how I like the 4 years thing. I've never been locked into a position before and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm some what hesitant to do it, but I might as well drop my resume in the batch. I'd like to see how I do when I compete against other similar people....Ok, I want to know how I match up. Can I get an interview? Or can I even qualify? How will I rate? Either way, I'm somewhat looking forward to the results.

There is also the issue of: When is this job taking place? When would it start? Do I get time off?(to work a summer season?) These questions I hope to ask the hiring official tomorrow. I contacted her today, but only received a voice mail about the job details...crappy cell phone coverage for some reason. Tomorrow I will know more answers.

It's like a rollercoaster here. Our interpretive staff are arriving left and right. The stress of handling training materials, preparations, plans, etc is starting to weigh down. I'm not worried, but I still have so many details I want to figure out before we hit the ground running during training. It is thoroughly exciting, getting to meet everyone for the first time. I think we are going to have an AWESOME season...I can tell already.

Wish me luck! We officially start training on Thursday! One more day til then!

Weather: Cool, Partly sunny, 50's

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bears, bears, bears. Every time I’ve seen a bear outside my apartment, it jostles me just a bit. I’m usually sitting on my phone and all of the sudden I say, “Oh my god, there’s a bear…can I let you go.” It’s not a frequent phrase you hear on the phone, so I’m sure my boyfriend gets a kick out of it when I use it, THREE OR FOUR TIMES! Last night at about 8:40pm, I saw a black bear, of cinnamon color just sauntering across the street.

It didn’t seem to mind that there was a car there or a trailer. It just moseyed around for a bit. I grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos before I yelled and chased it off. It ran behind the trailer and into the bushes. THEN, it came back around the trailer and walked along the brushline. I continued to yell and holler to chase it out of the housing area. It ran parallel to the apartment buildings and into the brush. At this time we had about 5 people hollering and trying to get it out of the housing area. It went around the back of the apartment building and we continued to chase it out of the housing area.

In full motion, running away.

Da Bear!

Now I thought the bear was gone…but NO! About 5-10 minutes later, the bear re-appeared. This time it was walking towards my apartment door. I freaked out because I only had the screen door between me and him. So I tried banging on the metal bottom of my door, and the bear ran for the tree in front of my apartment. I banged and banged and nothing. He peaked around to see what was going on.

Eventually, it ran out to another tree in the center of a circle drive, and treed itself.

In the tree. It was starting to slide down it too, loosing grip.

Now here’s where it gets complicated… An NPS employee arrived and told us to move back to our houses and after the bear comes down—we’ll ambush and chase it off. It kinda worked, but the bear still went toward the housing compound. I chased off with a few employees (all in my slippers). We tried our best to chase the bear up and over a hillside, but he did NOT want to go!

In Glacier National Park we have some management directives that tell us how to deal with bears. The St. Mary housing area is OFF Limits to bears. They can use the Divide creek corridor to travel, but should stay away from housing. In a normal situation we would NOT have chased the bear or even tried to haze it. It is up to specific bear rangers and even on up to the Park Superintendant to decide how to haze a bear. They can collective haze bears by yelling, use rubber bullets, bing-bags, catch and release, but very last euthanasia. Unfortunately, the Indian reservation doesn’t have the same policy. If a bear gets into trash just once, they can euthanize the bear. I’ve lived here in September when a bear family was euthanized on the reservation. It was sad because there was a momma bear and two cubs. Even with hazing and extreme precautions, the bear got into garbage on the reservation and all three were euthanized. I just don’t want to see that happen again…with any bear, anywhere.

Weather: Warm, partly cloudy, but sunny, mid 50’s.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Will Fight for my iPod!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last night we had a “ladies night.” Which only consists of a handful of women bringing food dishes and beer together to hang out and chat. It was great. I took some hummus and bread for hors d'oeuvres. We also had salad, goulash, chili, veggie burgers, and ginger muffins. It was great! This is one of the signs that almost everyone is back. We had about 7 ladies show up. I remember when no one lived near my apartment…and now it’s bustling with 10-12 cars and employees. It’s somewhat comforting to know that I’m not all alone in this apartment building!

We had some stimulating conversation about climate change, why not to buy an iPod…which I don’t agree with. The argument was this: People in 1st world countries rely upon 3rd world countries (or “developing countries” if you want to be politically correct) to build and produce these devices…and before long they are replaced with better, newer versions…and causing more waste than necessary. Well, boo. I don’t think so. I buy less CDs, therefore less waste because of packaging. So I’m saving landfills from filling up. It takes no shipping, so I’m saving fossil fuels. And I’m using a paperless form of purchasing my songs and albums, iTunes. I really enjoy my iPod and I’ll fight for it!

The Park Formerly Known As Glacier National Park

Monday, May 18, 2009

Last night was so warm that I snapped this photo of my thermometer at about 5:30pm.

My thermometer, @ 72!!!

I can’t imagine how warm it was earlier in the day. I even put on a dress! It is nice that we have warm weather, but it’s also very scary. The glaciers in Glacier National Park are few and far between. There are about 25 or 26 glaciers left in the park. Now these glaciers are only alpine glaciers. The have nothing to do with the naming of the park. When they disappear, the name sticks. We will not change the name to “The park formerly known as Glacier National Park.” I get so tired of people asking me that. We are named that because of the beautiful formations that remain from the huge continental glaciers from the ICE AGE!!! The U-shaped valleys, the Aretes, the hanging valleys, the strings of small lakes—Nothing to do with the glaciers we see now. In fact, the glaciers have melted all the way before…so it only seems right that they would melt again…I guess it all depends how you look at it.

The glaciers are said to be “gone” by 2020. “Gone” meaning they will no longer be considered glaciers…they will be too small or too thin to be “moving.” Think of a glacier as a conveyer belt: the snow gets piled on top, it adds up, it gets so thick that it’s own weight forces it to move like a belt…then the bottom part of the belt spews out rock, debris and water as it melts and moves. These are some of the most destructed forces on the planet, and they’re in my backyard—A-MAZ-ING!!

Weather: HOT! Sunny with a pleasant breeze!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

I can’t say there was much to remember from this day….it was another day at the St. Mary Visitor Center. I guess the biggest thing was the wind. It’s always windy in St. Mary. Because the Continental Divide risen so high to the west, all the wind dips back down the valley on the east side. Then it hits the St. Mary Lake and gains full force all the way down the lake. Our visitor center is lucky enough to be at the end of that lake. So we get all the force of that wind. It’s like a funnel that forces everything into a tight space and then bursts strongly towards our building.

One of the reasons I mention the wind is because of our flags. We have two flag poles, one for the USA flag and one for the Blackfeet flag. Don’t ask me why we fly these two, I suppose it’s because we are bordering the Blackfeet Reservation, but I still don’t really get it. Anywho, we put the flag up for half the day on Friday, the whole day on Saturday and today. By the time we lowered the flags the US flag had a 2-3 foot long tear through the stripes. It was crazy! The flags were only up for 2.5 days!! The ends of the flag were shredded, too. It’s also a major pain to crank these flags up and down every day. The wind keeps you working hard to raise the flags, and then blows them when you are trying to let gravity do its work to bring them down. Oh well, perhaps we will we all get huge arm muscles by the end of the summer!

Open for the 2009 Season!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Today we opened the St. Mary Visitor Center for the first day of business of the 2009 season. It was thoroughly exhilarating! The Canadian holiday, Victoria Day, caused our visitation to increase…we ended the day with 170 visitors. That’s a pretty good number considering the park has very few services. Speaking of services, local businesses are opening left and right. Everything at the St. Mary Lodge and Resort is open: Bears Den bar, Lounge, Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Gift Shop, and Rooms are available. The word is out about the Park CafĂ© opening on May 28th! Only a few more days and I’ll be enjoying a Gypsy Burrito and a slice of sweet pie! I haven’t decided what flavor yet.

Everything went smoothly and we were happy to announce to our visitors that the Going-to-the-Sun Road was open for 14 miles of visitor use. This is sorta a big step. The road closure was at Rising Sun, which is only 6 miles up the road…now they can see Jackson Glacier Overlook, Sunrift Gorge, Sun Point, Wild Goose Island and all the mountains along the road.

Myself and another interpreter took an evening cruise up the road and viewed all the huge piles of snow. There was an amazing avalanche shoot that newly ripped through the mountain side, on down over the road, and below the road. It was just above St. Mary Falls Trailhead. It was crazy how many trees were taken down. The easiest way to describe how many trees there were, is to describe how many chainsaw cuts I saw…probably 50-60 cuts. Huge trees and little trees were dragged over the road. The avalanche came off of Goat Mountain, “jumped” the cliffs and blew through 3 fan-shaped shoots. It’s amazing.

Weather: Sunny and warm! 60's-70's!!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wildlife Calling

Friday, May 15, 2009

There were so many things I saw today that I don’t know where to start. I packed up early and headed to Many Glacier to paddle Swiftcurrent Lake. It was amazing. There were so few people, it was awesome. I’d like to give a list of what I saw today:

  • An awesome view of Lake Sherburne,
  • a solitary big-horned sheep ewe (females),
  • the Many Glacier Hotel in all it’s grandeur,
  • a group of roughly a dozen big-horned sheep ewes,
  • tracks that could have been someone’s dog…but could have been a bobcat, coyote or a mountain lion, I'll let you judge. My guess is a coyote. Here is a comparison:
  • an aspen tree freshly eaten by a beaver,
  • lots of moose tracks,
  • several Common mergansers on the lake,
  • the Many Glacier dock…docked on the other side of the lake,
  • ice on Swiftcurrent lake, I even got to kayak on it! Ice Kayaking, a new sport! Just kidding.
  • a big-horned sheep ram (male),
  • a big-horned sheep ram sniffing a ewe’s butt…funny I know, but it happened,
  • about 25 mountain goats sitting up high,
  • and a grey jay sitting on a picnic table.

This is all proof that spring is here! The wildlife are out, the ice is melting and the sun is shining!

Weather: Partly cloudy, low 40’s, wind 10-15mph (roughly), the wind and cold temps together almost convinced me not to paddle the lake! I’m really glad I did paddle!

The Sanctuary of My Country

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I don’t mind living on an Indian Reservation. Technically I live in the park, but just across the creek (within viewing distance) is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. There are some sore subjects between the park and the Blackfeet. I don’t want to go into detail, but in some ways we are inhabiting their land. The U.S. government purchased the eastern side of, the current, Glacier National Park. Since the Blackfeet (& all their different bands) have lived in this area for nearly 10,000 years, I don’t feel like it is really the park. They still have certain rights for hunting and entry into the park. Other than that, they live next to the park. The Blackfeet have given this area the name: “Backbone of the World.” It describes the mountains of the continental divide and it fits nicely.

The only thing I have a slight problem with, is the way outsiders are treated. I have a Toyota Corolla, with Illinois plates. When I drove up to Teeples IGA in Browning, I automatically looked like an outsider. It didn’t help that I still had my kayak strapped to the top of my car…that tends to draw attention. I met kind people inside the grocery store. The cashier kindly asked where I was from. I told him I work in St. Mary, but I’m originally from Illinois. They quickly found common ground—Chicago & the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. I’m not from Chicago, but I know the hockey team. The grocery bagger began to tell me that his team was Chicago, and the cashier told me that his team was the Pittsburg Penguins. They continued to have a conversation about how there were only 3 original teams left, Chicago being one, and another team that Chicago might get to play. I don’t follow hockey closely, but it was neat to see the way they found common ground to talk about.

When I got outside, it was a different story. I had a gentleman standing against the wall right by my car. It only took a few seconds for him to come over and ask for “help.” At the same time, a younger gentleman came out of no where to ask for “help,” too. I’ve seen beggars in Browning before. They are usually at the liquor store begging for a drink. The liquor store is an interesting cultural experience. The store is part bar and part liquor store. The store is really just a small room on the end of the building with shelves of liquor, protected by bars and a sales person behind the counter. I know there are stereotypes of Native Americans, but I’d like to think of a better life. So, it was hard to have beggars asking me for money at the grocery store! Some people have cash ready for situations like this, but I just can’t. The first gentleman had a cane and he looked like middle class. The second gentleman smelled like booze and looked a bit disheveled. I wasn’t going to give money to either of them…so I didn’t. I climbed back into my white-American-girl-car and drove back to the sanctuary of my country.

I wanted to talk about this story because I felt a sense of guilt. Guilty that the U.S. government has come into their lives and changed so many things. I eventually feel better, because not all Blackfeet Indians are doing poorly…some do quite well. I just think U.S. citizens forget that we moved into this land, that was already inhabited. I just want people to remember that these Native Americans are still alive and living their lives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Crooked Elk

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I was happy to share a quick drive down the road with another lead interpreter, to view the elk herds. We saw a total of nearly 100 elk!! The Two Dog Flats area had about 46 elk hanging out, peacefully grazing. The next meadow to the west had about 40 some elk grazing and bedding down for the night. The next meadow to the west had 9 elk grazing in a small group. There were also several others we saw in groups of 2. I’m sure there were more than the elk, so that’s almost 100!! Crazy.

The Rocky Mountain Elk on Two Dog Flats.

I took a photo of one elk that was really pregnant. I think I saw the baby’s leg sticking out from her belly. It’s no wonder that she was staring at us!! She probably couldn’t run very fast from any predators! I didn’t notice she was that pregnant until I downloaded my photos. It inspired me to research elk and their biology.

The very pregnant elk...I think I see a leg sticking out! She was "mid-chew" in this photo!

Elk are one of the largest mammals in North America. They are the second largest in the deer family, only proceeded by moose. In 2004 they found that Elk are almost genetically identical to Red Deer in Europe. I guess that proves Pangaea existed! Amazing. Their range is below:

Only male (bull) elks have antlers. They are made of bone and can grow at the rate of 1 inch per day! A they can have eight or more tines (or points) on each antler and the number has little to do with the maturity of a particular animal. That surprised me! The formation and retention of antlers is testosterone-drive. In early winter, the drop of testosterone causes the shedding. The testosterone level is effected by the drop in pheromones in the environment. I’ve heard two Glacier stories of a bull elk that still had his antlers in the spring—very strange.

During the rut, females (cows) gather around a dominant bull elk (usually around 8 years old) in a group of 20 or more females, called a harem. The estrus cycle of a female elk is very short, only one or two days. Wikipedia says there are often a dozen or more failed attempts. Similar to a Grizzly Bear's delayed gestation, the elk reproduction is effected by their weight. Strangely, reproduction most likely occurs when the cow is 450 pounds. That's a pretty heavy animal! They should be having their young very soon. When they do, they will isolate themselves from the herd until the calf is large enough to escape predators. I’m wondering if the elk that were by themselves were about to have (or had) calves? Mother Nature is so cool! It all takes place every year without any human interfering! That’s awesome!

This one was smelling us from the truck!

I feel very fortunate to experience the wildlife first hand! Thanks Glacier for being protected!

Weather: Mostly cloudy, 40's (Sometimes I wonder if my thermometer is broken, it stays at 40 degrees!)

Chaos Blizzard

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is today really Tuesday? It seems like Thursday or some day that is later in the week—it feels like I’ve done more work this week for it to be a Tuesday. Either way, it’s Tuesday. It was a good day, too. We had a jumbled mess of employees showing up at the St. Mary Visitor Center. We had backcountry rangers, information technology guys, bookstore folks, media contractors, revegetation crews, and a few of our seasonal interpretive staff. By the afternoon things settled into a more calm disoriented mess, but we still got things done. It’s really hard to calm everyone down and get work done, when there are new things happening. New things are happening and new people are arriving. It was a good Tuesday.

The weather did prove to distract us a bit from our work. It decided blizzard a bit. In the St. Mary Valley it’s pretty easy for a rain cloud to come down the Continental Divide and carry snow blowing. The wind comes from the St. Mary Lake. It only makes sense that a sudden drop in elevation from the Continental Divide down to the lake creates a huge tunnel of flowing air. I looked outside and saw the snow blowing horizontally. It stuck to all the post and metal poles outside, but not too much on the ground.

Those were the two big events today: chaos and blizzard…it was a good mix.

Weather: 40’s-30’s Snow, rain and wind. Some random sunshine, too.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Keepin' Up

Monday, May 11, 2009

Today was pretty uneventful. I went to work, worked, and came home. It was raining up the St. Mary valley but didn’t reach the housing area until 5pm. It’s supposed to do this for the next 5 or 6 days. It’s spring.

One event that is notable is this: I was supposed to work on Sunday. Oops! I didn’t have a copy of the schedule for this week so I didn’t know until I came home from work today. I finally took a look at the schedule and realize, hmmmm, I was scheduled to work yesterday. Last season I did the scheduling, and kept up with it pretty well. This year the task was passed to another lead interpreter…so I guess I’m not keeping up with it. Oh well, I’ll figure something out.

Tomorrow is the first day we will have 7 staff members working, instead of 3 that has been the norm for 3 weeks. I think it will be a challenge to find something for everyone to do. Which can be a very good thing! I’m happy that we are so prepared that we are able to offer our staff preparation time for their programs! Last year at this time, I was just arriving for my first day of work. We also didn’t have access to the Visitor Center due to renovations. It’s a big relief to be prepared!

Weather: 40’s Windy. Afternoon rain, but some mist all day.

Three Days in One!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I feel like I fit three days into one. In the morning I got some housekeeping chores completed. By 11:00 I was all packed up with my kayak on my car. I packed a cooler with several beers, a sandwich, cheese curds, and an orange. I hit the lake at Rising Sun boat dock. The forecast said 8 mph winds, from the south. It was warm and mostly sunny. All in all, a good chance to get out on the lake.

This was probably my third or fourth trip on St. Mary Lake. It’s just TOO WINDY to get out and paddle very often. The wind has kept me from paddling very far up the lake, so today I took advantage of the low wind speeds.

Paddling on St. Mary lake.
Mountains Left to Right: Mahtotopa Mountain, Little Chief Mountain, Dusty Star Mountain, Gunsight Mountain (barely visible), Fusillade Mountain (front and center), Heavy Runner (darker, low mountain), Reynolds Mountain, Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.

I made it up to Rainbow Rock, which is a landmark for viewing Sexton Glacier from the boat tours. It’s also rare because the whole valley was carved out by glaciers…so why would their be an island in the lake? The educated guess is this: Limestone. The lower layers of rock are Altyn Limestone, a very resistant rock. So, the glaciers theoretically, could have carved around the islands like Rainbow Rock and Wild Goose Island. Pretty amazing to me. Regardless, Rainbow Rock was a welcomed resting spot. I got out, tethered my kayak to my ankle and enjoyed the view, my sandwich and a beer. It was great.

A Resting spot with a view!
It was a relief to relax and not have to worry about bears either!

Mmm. Mmm. Good.
I'm stylin' in my "Deadly Beauty" bandana. (Go Team Deadly Beauty!)
Enjoying a Bud Light...the freshest beer they sell at the local Grocery.

When I returned I gathered a few hiking buddies and walked down the road, across the meadows (in front of the St. Mary Visitor Center), and walked along the St. Mary lakeshore.

St. Mary Lake Shore and moose tracks in the foreground (darker sand)!!

We saw moose tracks the entire shoreline. We also saw LOTS of signs of the elk herd that usually lives there during the winter. For some reason they have moved on to greener pastures. All we saw of the elk was hoof prints, elk highways (5 lanes wide), lots of poop, and even a few leg bones from the less fortunate elk. We thought of a neat book idea: “If I were an ungulate….” and we filled in the blank. Ungulates are hoofed animals, like cows, elk, deer, sheep, goats and moose. We came up with a few good ones. “If I were an ungulate I would live with other ungulates for safety.” “If I were an ungulate I would poop where ever I wanted!” “If I were an ungulate I would copulate.” Just kidding, but they’d have carry on their genes! Towards the end of the hike we started saying, “If I were a homo sapien sapien, I would walk in the foot steps of an elk.” And that left a good picture in our heads!

The "Elk Highway" 5 lanes wide!

We saw Moss Campion!
(also Pasqueflower & Early Buttercup, not pictured)

The last leg of my day was sharing conversation and a meal with another lead interpreter here in St. Mary. She returned for the first time this season and it was good to see another friendly face. We shared my leftover Serrano’s and had a few beers while we had stimulating conversations about the season to come!

Needless to say, I’m pooped!

Weather: Warm, upper 50’s, partly cloudy/sunny.

A Welcomed Challenge

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Today I was presented with an opportunity to go skiing…well, kind of. I was asked to come along with a group that was going skiing, but I was not offered skis. I decided to go hiking here in the St. Mary Valley instead.

I started off hiking down the Red Eagle trail, which leads to either the Beaver Pond loop, Red Eagle Lake, or Cut Bank valley via Triple Divide Pass. I took the trail to the junction of the Beaver Pond loop, maybe 1.7 miles. This took a considerable amount of time because of the snow and because I was shutter-happy. I walked through a “river” on the beginning of the trail and then on snow packed (deep) through the marshy area before the lake (and the former site of St. Mary Chalet).

The marshy area near the site of the St. Mary Chalet.
The trail traverses the right side of the photo!

I passed a couple that looked like they didn’t hike very much, and the kind gentleman said, “There’s still a lot of snow up there.” I just said, “Great! Sounds good!” He must have thought I was crazy. But I guess that was kinda the point. Sometimes people don’t think positively about things like snow. They see it as a barrier to their “easy hike.” Or a barrier to their dry shoes!

I welcomed the challenge and was happy to get the workout. I was able to observe everything around me because I was walking so slow through the snow. I saw bear tracks, moose tracks, deer or elk (I wasn’t sure), pasque flowers blooming, black-backed woodpeckers, western grebes, an American coot (maybe), Barrow’s Golden-eye, and Mountain blue birds on the way back. It was a nice hike and I enjoyed the exercise and fresh mountain air!

Western Grebes, and an American Coot (right side of the photo),
I wasn't sure it was a coot or not.
This is the best photo I got. They were pretty far out on the lake.

Pasqueflower with some fertilizer! Elk poo! Or are those Whoppers? Mmmm.

These are bear tracks, it was traveling from left to right. The left track shows it's skinny heel, and the right shows some toes. It was probably a black bear, they weren't that big.

The best photo I got of the Black-backed Woodpecker.
I saw both male and female and probably 4 or 5 total.
I took 104 pics of these woodpeckers! It was all worth it!

Moose tracks.
You could even see their dewclaws poking out the back.

I won’t go into much detail, but, I ate at Serrano’s, in East Glacier and it was awesome! I only ate a third of the “Serrano’s Burrito,” and had 2 margaritas on the rocks. It was a good day!

Weather: Mostly cloudy, afternoon showers (that I missed totally!) Upper 50’s