Where Have All the Glaciers Gone?

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The heat wave that descended upon Salem, Oregon, the last week of July, followed our trajectory northeast through Eastern Oregon, Washington and the Idaho panhandle.  Given our destination was Glacier National Park, located in the northwest corner of Montana, we rapidly moved through the region hoping to evade the extreme temperatures farther north.  We did manage a few stops along the way; feeding hungry and strapped for cash Gonzaga students, Ionic Burrito in Spokane came to the rescue; an evening stroll through the little vacation town of Sandpoint, Idaho; a refreshing wade in the Kootenai River. Upon arriving in Glacier, we conducted an early morning stalking of campers at Sprague Creek Campground (a small, wooded area located directly on Lake McDonald), to obtain a desirable lakefront site.  We slipped in as those departing slipped out, and set up our temporary abode before setting off on a hike. 

Not having hiked in Glacier before, I was perhaps a bit too ambitious.  We walked from our campground to the Sperry Trailhead and on to the turnoff for Sperry Lake, but around 2.5 miles into the ascent, we encountered a small stream, which drew more and more insects near.  A lifelong mosquito magnet, I was attacked from all sides, through my clothes, atop my head, and then, subsequently, walked into what I think may have been burning nettles?  After declining the first time John suggested we turn back, I eventually succumbed to the itching and stinging inflicted by the tiny protectors of the forest, and retreated before arriving at Sperry Lake.  (Next time, I’ll carry with me the brand new bottle of insect repellant that was snuggly tucked away in a bag in the car.)

After some benodryll and a dip in Lake McDonald, we drove the Going into the Sun Road, which traverses the latitudinal width of the park.  Glacier alone (not including Waterton, the portion of the park that lies on the Canadian side of the border) is massive.  It encompasses the 400 plus ft. deep Lake McDonald, Rocky Mountain peaks, alpine meadows, and 27 glaciers.  At the time the park was established, 150 glaciers were accounted for; by 1968, only 50 glaciers remained; it is estimated that by the year 2030, no glaciers will remain at Glacier National Park.

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