On August 14, 2010, I created the photo, above, in the meadows above Logan Pass. It wasn’t the first time I spent part of August in the park, but during previous visits, I had never seen Mountain Goat spend so much time along the trail to Hidden Lake. Previously, they’d pass through the area, foraging in the meadows above the visitor center and then moving on, either to higher altitudes, to the area overlooking Hidden Lake, or to the salt licks near Going-to-the-Sun Road. That year, they lingered in the meadows, in some locations for hours at a time.
Glacier enjoyed a bumper crop of wildflowers that year, and I suspect the extra forage encouraged them to spend a greater part of their days in the alpine meadows. But whatever the reason, the presence of the Mountain Goats (along with numerous other species of wildlife) brought me back to Logan Pass day after day, morning and afternoon. I saw several generations of Mountain Goat: Kids born that year, a Yearling accepted only by his mother, Nannies with young of their own to protect, and an older female with broken horns that the Nannies with young were loath to accept into their nursery herd.
It was a gift, spending so much time with them that year. And I thought of them often as I read about the wildfire that sprang to life in late July this year and closed part of the east side of the park.
The good news. As of August 7, the Reynolds Creek Fire was 67% contained and the park service had reopened Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east side of Glacier National Park. (The road from the west side of the park to Logan Pass had remained open during the fire.) Because firefighters still work to further contain the fire, the road opens at 9 a.m. in the morning and closes at 7 p.m for the night.
Rain and snow come early to Glacier National Park, and that usually shortens the fire season. But fires continue to burn through other areas in western North America, particularly in California, Oregon, and Washington, endangering homes and threatening people and wildlife. Will a strong El Niño pattern bring enough rain and snow to the west to end the drought that has raged for the last four years?
Let’s hope so.