Photo Friday: Dodging Fires in Glacier National Park

Last Sunday, August 12, I had the opportunity to hike the Grinnell Glacier trail at Glacier National Park in Montana with my father to witness the rapidly shrinking Grinnell, Salamander, and Gem glaciers. Today’s Photo Friday showcases just a few photos of the vulnerable glaciers I captured from the strenuous trail.

A 11.4-mile (18.4 kilometer) hike to and from the glaciers, this demanding all-day trip allowed us to witness not only the receding glaciers but also a range of rich and thriving flora and fauna, including a grizzly bear encounter! But outside of my hike, a lightning strike near Lake McDonald on Saturday night sparked three raging fires that led to the evacuation of part of the park and the attraction of journalists, including Eric Holthaus of Grist, to cover the spreading flames and the record-breaking 100 degree heat that occurred the day before I arrived.

Despite the fires on the west side of Glacier NP, where we were staying at Many Glacier, also on the west side, was not directly impacted by the fires. On the Going-to-the-Sun Road, where we stopped to view the Jackson Glacier from afar, we drove up to Logan’s Pass where rangers and barriers blocked off visitors from traveling further. Despite our distance from the evacuation zone, we noticed that the typically crisp blue sky of Big Sky country in Montana was much hazier than visitors normally experience.

As mentioned in this week’s Video of the Week post, all of the glaciers in the park are rapidly receding due to anthropogenic climate change. From an estimated 150 glaciers in the park around 1850 to a mere 50 by 1966 and a remaining 26 today (many of which are merely a fraction of their original size), it’s only a matter of time before the ice is gone and the glacier’s geological imprint is all that remains.

For more on my experience at Glacier NP this summer, keep an eye out for my personal reflection next week.

Trail sign near the start (Source: Natalie Belew).

 

On the trail, early in the hike (Source: Natalie Belew).

 

View away from the glaciers. Skies in Glacier NP aren’t normally so hazy, but visitors could see the ash and haze from fires on the other side of the park (Source: Natalie Belew).

 

View toward the glaciers. Grinnell and Gem in sight (Source: Natalie Belew).

 

Obligatory pose in front of the glacial backdrop (Source: James Belew).

 

Image of the Salamander Glacier (Source: Natalie Belew).

 

Satisfactory (albeit depressing) photograph of Grinnell Glacier, the larger ice form near the glacial lake, and Gem Glacier, the hanging glacier in the rocks overlooking Grinnell (Source: Natalie Belew).

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