The “Wild” of Wildlife, Wildflowers, and Wilderness in Glacier National Park by Laurie
Where the heck is Glacier National Park and why would anyone want to go there?
Tucked away along the northern border of the Montana Rockies bordering Canada lies Glacier National Park. Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada are joined together to form an International Peace Park, the only national park, which is formed by two countries.
So what makes Glacier National Park so wild? Is it the jagged snow-covered peaks thrusting towards the sky or the turquoise, glacier-fed lakes that seem to pop out at you everywhere? There is a small window of opportunity each summer to explore between the east and the west sides of the Park by driving or taking a glorious Austin Adventures bike ride over Going To The Sun Road. You can only travel after the enormous snowdrifts have been plowed by June, or sometimes as late as July, and before the early fall snowstorms close the road as early as September.
The wildflowers explode in unbelievable numbers and in the most brilliant colors on this alpine landscape during this window of Glacier’s summer. Stunningly wild!
No matter how many times I see the wildlife of Glacier in their natural habitat, I am always struck by the symbolism of wildness. Here is where we can witness what it takes animals to survive. They are living, eating, resting, mating, and playing, and we are lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to observe them.
Currently in Glacier wolverines are trendy. People are interested in them because it is so rare to see one, and the contrast of their ferociousness and gentleness draws people to their mystery. On a spring ski trip at Logan Pass, the highest point of Going To The Sun Road, I had a brief glimpse of a wolverine galloping across a snow-covered slope. Extraordinarily wild!
Glacier is well known for its grizzly bear population. Guests are advised on safe behaviors around grizzlies, and guides always accessorize their hiking fashion with a can of bear spray (94% effective in warding off an attacking grizzly bear while guns are only about 50% effective). On one occasion while hiking with Austin Adventure guests through a magnificent valley to the cirque of Iceberg Lake, we came upon three playful cubs wrestling with each other on a snowfield. We were a safe distance away and able to watch with our naked eyes. Suddenly the sow, who was lying on her back with her paws up, came sliding down the snowfield where the three cubs began pouncing on Mama. Playfully wild!
Glacier is also home to many other large animals. Gangly moose are often seen in wet areas feasting on water plants. Wolves have dispersed down from Canada and now have a strong presence. Majestic bighorn sheep can be seen on the rocky mountainsides bashing horns to show their dominance, and mountain goats leap gracefully among the cliffs with unbelievable agility. Splendidly wild!
In Glacier National Park you will find the solitude of wilderness, the wonder of wildlife, and the splendor of a plethora of wildflowers. Now, why would anyone want to go there?