Latest 2020 Season Opening News

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by brindledog »

In recent years (before these closures) our trips have required us to "stay put" more and explore less. When we have arrived at MG in 2018 and 2019 we barely left for fear of not having a place to park when we got back. It's not awful, as we can hike right outside the door, but we used to love to go to St. Mary for an ice cream cone and to quickly check in on family (using cell phone access) during out stay. Last year, if I got up around 6 am, I could drive over to Swiftcurrent to grab cereal and a few snacks for the day and get back without losing parking. No guarantees on parking, even if you are staying at the lodges.

We have not stopped at Logan Pass in a few years - it's a zoo. I guess I will bring more than one book to read, and I might actually finish knitting this sweater I just started! I have a feeling once I park, I will pull up the brake and stay put except early morning and late evening.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by PeteE »

Here's another scenario to consider:
The last 3 years, park attendance was about 3 million visitors per year--most coming in June July and August.
That's roughly 900,000 people a month or 30,000 per DAY!!!
Most of those came in through 3 gates: West Glacier, St Mary, and Many Glacier.
This year ALL visitors will enter and leave through ONE gate--West Glacier(A few may exit via the Camas Road gate)

So again, the key question is:
How many visitors will actually come to the park this year?
Nobody knows for sure so lets make some assumptions for arguments sake.

Let's say only 20% of the average of the last 3 years show up the week the GTTS road opens to St Mary.
So 6000 people and maybe 3 people to a car.
That's 2000 vehicles. Or 40 cars to each mile of GTTS road...minus the parked cars.

Do you see the implications of that number. There's only 2100 parking spaces.
What happens if 15,000 or 20,000 people show up and want to enter the park?
The majority will likely want to be entering before noon.

Imagine the traffic jam at the 4 way STOP as ALL the cars both entering AND leaving must pass through that intersection.

What if the park counted cars entering and limited the number to what they believe would be reasonable?
I can see that happening.
I can also see that causing the MOTHER of all traffic jams and gridlock throughout Apgar and West Glacier out to US2.

Just sayin' 8)
We'll soon find out.
Note to self to bring my Kindle when I go to the park. 8)

pete
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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by brindledog »

Oof. You raise many good points. I can't imagine how they will handle the crowds.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by PeteE »

brindledog wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:41 pm
Oof. You raise many good points. I can't imagine how they will handle the crowds.
I'm certain the park has thought about the problems I mentioned and many more.
It's hard for me to see how they can do much to prevent some level of chaos IF, IF large numbers of people show up and want in.
The "math just doesn't work" if 5-10 thousand people show up, especially in a short period of time.

My best guess is they will do like now and count vehicles.
Then at some point, as X number leave, then Y number will be allowed in.
If they do that, I hope they'll put someone and/or an electronic sign out by the turn in on US2.
Keep people from entering West Glacier unless they are residents. Otherwise I'm afraid it'll be a gridlock mess.

pete :wink:
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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by DavidM »

Am I reading the news reports correctly? East side entrances are closed. Does this mean you can't stay at Many Glacier, or you must have a reservation there or Swiftcurrent to get in? What a crazy year!

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by zozeppelin »

Trying to look at this objectively, some questions/ponderings/updates:

1) GNP facebook statement: "we need time to digest and understand all the impacts and ramifications of the council’s resolution. We are in the process of determining what this means to park operations and what facilities on the east side will be available by accessing from the west entrance."

I assume this means at least GTTSR considerations, such as St Mary's & Rising Sun status, along with traffic pattern. At most, this could include what to do about trail accessible areas that are now cutoff to car traffic (Two Medicine, Many Glacier, Belly River).

2) Blackfeet nation yesterday reported community spread cases of Covid-19 (9 total if I understand correctly).

Now that the line of defense has been penetrated, does the stance soften at all on tourists' through traffic.

3) As I understand it, state and federal highways are accessible under the ordinance. "Motorists on U.S. Highway 2 and Highway 89 may still stop for gas and food in reservation communities such as East Glacier and Browning. Travelers may also get overnight lodging for single nights. But all other non-essential activity such as camping, hiking, or boating is prohibited by the ordinance."

Two Medicine and Many Glacier roads have been closed - ok. Technically St Mary's entrance is on the highway (if I understand / recall correctly), such that there may be nothing to close besides the gate GNP controls. There's about 100 ft of pavement if google maps is correct where GTTSR is in reservation. I am pretty sure it would never happen, but it would be nice to see GNP play hardball to have some concessions with Two Medicine and Many Glaicer while keeping the east gate closed as to limit unnecessary through traffic.

4) What happens to Two Medicine, Many Glaicer, and to a lesser extent Belly River?

Does the park continue clearing trails, installing bridges and opening backcountry sites? I would surely hope so, as there isn't much incremental effort to do so, and now much less preparation needs to be done at the front country / day hiking locations on the east side. Would be an unprecedented time to visit Many Glacier without the crowds. If they don't open Many Glacier, that pretty much cuts off Belly River and only leaves Fifty/Flattop to Goat Haunt (and onwards with all the crappy logistics) as the only 'through' hike. I wonder if they move to open up Bowman and Kintla campgrounds.

5) Continental Divide hikers? Do they have to backtrack to West Glacier because two medicine isn't open or they aren't allowed to hike the 1/2 mile from the highway to the east glacier trail park entrance?

Personally I'm trying to channel my frustration into resolve to make it work, even if that means the long approach into Two Medicine from Park Creek.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by orin »

According to news reports, the NPS pages and the Blackfeet pages, the East side will remain shut down for the remainder of the tourist season. That means no road access to Two Medicine, Many Glacier or Cutbank Creek. And the gate at Saint Mary will remain closed. None of the campgrounds or restaurants or lodging will be open. Obviously that could change at any time but that is the way it looks at the moment.

Now that backcountry camping has reopened, the NPS says walk-in permits will only be available for the West side. They activated the "What is available tonight" page a few days ago. As you can see here

https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/b ... status.cfm

they are only issuing permits for 9 sites today, all on the west side. They have already increased the number of sites from an initial 6 and I assume that they will continue to open sites as they melt out and rangers have a chance to confirm them as ready to use. For the most part these sites are not the popular ones and it would be more or less impossible at the moment to get an itinerary longer than a couple of nights. The trail status pages indicate that some of the backcountry bridge installs and clearing have been completed on the East side in places like the Belly River and the south side of Saint Mary lake. But unless things change they will not be issuing permits for those areas. After GTTSR opens NPS could open sites such as Red Eagle and Gunsight but with parking so tight as Pete suggests, they may not want to let backpackers tie up a space for several days at a time.

I have been thinking about doing the Coal Creek loop for awhile but there has always been somewhere that appealed to me more. Maybe this is the year I will finally do it.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by brindledog »

DavidM wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:28 pm
Am I reading the news reports correctly? East side entrances are closed. Does this mean you can't stay at Many Glacier, or you must have a reservation there or Swiftcurrent to get in? What a crazy year!
This is what Xanterra has posted, which indicates that any reservations in the Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent area will be cancelled and refunded.
https://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/

Glacier National Park Lodges 2020 Operations
The 2020 operations schedule is as follows:
• Cedar Creek Lodge just outside of the park in Columbia Falls, MT is open year-round.
• Lake McDonald Lodge and Village Inn at Apgar inside the park (west side) are open for the 2020 season with reduced services.
• Many Glacier Hotel, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins, and Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins will remain closed for the 2020 Season. If you have a reservation you do not need to take any action – your reservation will be canceled and your refund will be processed. The roadways accessing the east side of the park will remain closed for the 2020 season which has forced us to suspend our operations.
• Red Bus Tours will not run for the 2020 season.
• Two Medicine General Store will remain closed for the 2020 season.
• For the latest information about Glacier National Park and Going-to-the-Sun Road, please visit the National Park Service’s website.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by zozeppelin »

orin wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:21 pm
The trail status pages indicate that some of the backcountry bridge installs and clearing have been completed on the East side in places like the Belly River and the south side of Saint Mary lake. But unless things change they will not be issuing permits for those areas.
Is this something you heard or read somewhere? Thanks.

Edit to add: I don't see any difference between TM and MG with no motorized access this year, and GH last year with the boat closures and GTTSR the year prior with the fire closures - just because you can't drive there doesn't mean the sites should be closed. On the contrary, because staff can drive there (as they have been doing the last month+) there is no excuse not to have them open for backcountry camping and hiking. There are many places in the park most can't day hike to, but that doesn't prohibit trails and sites from being open.

Also, with the staff shortages (number keeps shrinking, now at missing 25% seasonal), the front country and day hiking closures help ease staffing burdens. Even more of a reason to fully open the backcountry with the extra resources.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by PeteE »

zozeppelin wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 6:06 pm
orin wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:21 pm
The trail status pages indicate that some of the backcountry bridge installs and clearing have been completed on the East side in places like the Belly River and the south side of Saint Mary lake. But unless things change they will not be issuing permits for those areas.
Is this something you heard or read somewhere? Thanks.

Looks like Orin got the info from the backcountry page. They probably are putting in bridges if no reason other than for their own purposes, maintenance, safety, emergency use, etc.

Edit to add: I don't see any difference between TM and MG with no motorized access this year, and GH last year with the boat closures and GTTSR the year prior with the fire closures - just because you can't drive there doesn't mean the sites should be closed. On the contrary, because staff can drive there (as they have been doing the last month+) there is no excuse not to have them open for backcountry camping and hiking. There are many places in the park most can't day hike to, but that doesn't prohibit trails and sites from being open.

I know your prime interest in backpacking and backcountry hiking, but trust me...The backcountry is WAY WAY down on the list of priorities for the park service. They are short staffed and will need every available body to deal with all the issues involving travel,parking on the GTTS road , and other areas on the West side. They are NOT going to open areas unless they can adequately patrol them, and they don't have the staff to do that.

Also, with the staff shortages (number keeps shrinking, now at missing 25% seasonal), the front country and day hiking closures help ease staffing burdens. Even more of a reason to fully open the backcountry with the extra resources.
There are NO EXTRA RESOURCES!! I'm not sure how to get that point across. And as is obvious from the current guidance and policies, the backcountry is not a priority this year. And the reason is simple: Backcountry use is a tiny fraction of the overall "visitor experience" in GNP, even in a normal year. So even if there were "extra resources", the won't be going to the backcountry.
"When you're born in this world, you're given a ticket to the freak show.
And when you're born in America, you're given a front row seat."

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by PeteE »

orin wrote:I have been thinking about doing the Coal Creek loop for awhile but there has always been somewhere that appealed to me more. Maybe this is the year I will finally do it.
Ha!!! :)
I was looking at that area just last night with the same thoughts.
Do you think they have done any trail maintenance in the Nyack and nearby areas?
And even if they have, all this rain we've been having(and rain next 3 days) along with the long days, is going to make the vegetation grow like mad.
Bring your own machete 8)

pete :wink:
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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by zozeppelin »

Thanks Pete, always appreciate the insight.

I've been following (stalking) the trail and camp status as well for the month and noticed similar. My question was in regards to the comment that the east side areas wouldn't be open to backcountry camping or hiking - I hadn't seen that. Even if that hasn't been officially communicated, maybe that's a fair conclusion and I'm just being naive or optimistic.

Regarding the staffing, easy for me to say being a long ways away, but I'm just doing the math - front country sites closed: TM, MG, NF, BL, KL, CB, SC, RS, AV ; maybe no SM. No day hikers or support staff needed in MG or TM at a minimum. I have read normally there are 300 seasonal workers (link #1) and they are short 25% (link #2) - so 75 people. Not great, but presumably there are permanent staff as well, so the percent of missing staff is even lower. Now I add that together with the reduced services and closures - I don't see the gap, but I'm probably missing something. It's also really early in the season so I wouldn't expect much to be open.

I also keep reading about the patrol resource need - I've only ever seen a ranger once in 20+ days in the backcountry - and that was when they were squatting in my campsite at Granite Park. As far as I understand it, they have a live in ranger at the backcountry station (Belly River, Cut Bank, Stoney x Kootenai, etc) who patrols, but that's it (a handful of people who would live there anyways), not some huge resource demand. But again, I could be missing something.

And of course I'm biased :) But I'm low maintenance in the park, so that should count for something.

link #1:
https://missoulian.com/news/local/glaci ... 666f5.html

link #2:
https://flatheadbeacon.com/2020/04/22/t ... reopening/

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by PeteE »

And of course I'm biased :) But I'm low maintenance in the park, so that should count for something.
LOLOLOLOL!!
This may surprise you but so am I.

The following is all my opinion OK?

You're thinking is based on "logic" and "common sense".
Meaning that the park should make policy based on logic and common sense...and they do in part.
But...not nearly so much as both you and I would like.

I learned a lot about our federal government from my late older brother who worked for both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives as a Professional Staffer back in the 1980's and 90's. In short, my brother cured me of the notion that logic and common sense had anything to do with governing. 8)

The National Park Service is a HUGE bureaucracy and very political....and acts and reacts accordingly.
One of the results is that the NPS has become very conservative in some respects when it comes to issues regarding safety and legal liability.
And so they have all these rules and regulations that they believe are in the visitors best interests.

Some, maybe a lot, of that behavior derives from a cultural change I've witnessed over the last 50 years of my adult life.
Our country has evolved into what I now call "The Nanny State".
I'm a pretty hard core small "l" libertarian...A Jeffersonian democrat, "Government governs best when it governs least."
One of my favorite expressions is:

"God save me from those who want to save us from ourselves." 8)

So I'm with you on opening up as much of the backcountry as possible.
I just know it's unlikely to happen because too many people, park service folks as well as people here on the chat,
they can find reasons to keep people like you and I from doing what we'd like to do.

Oh they'll always find 7 ways from Sunday to rationalize and justify their position(s).
I don't like it, but I've come to accept the Nanny State partly because I realize we've become a country of timid sheep like creatures.
The sheep need Big Government to make them feel safe.
Sad huh? 8)

look me up if you get out here :D

cheers

pete :wink:
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And when you're born in America, you're given a front row seat."

George Carlin

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by zozeppelin »

PeteE wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:24 pm
You're thinking is based on "logic" and "common sense".
Guilty as charged! I can appreciate a government entity wanting to be cautious as it applies to public health and other impacts. Appreciate the local and inside info. I don't disagree with your assessment and it is completely understandable as it is unfortunate.

I suppose it's just been a rollercoaster of cancelling all advanced permits and the entire park in jeopardy this year, to things starting to open up in all sectors, then the two steps backwards with the east side seasonal closure and no shuttles.

I've done a fair amount of backpacking around the world at the 'famous' locations, but what always stood out to me about GNP was the unsurpassed rawness- both geology and infrastructure for a national park (not handrails everywhere, no massive visitor centers, remote front country locations like NF, etc.). That, in combination with the unparalleled backcountry network and relatively low popularity (compared to Yellowstone, Yosemite, etc) make it the best, and it's not even close.
PeteE wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:24 pm
look me up if you get out here :D
Careful - you may get begged into dropping me off somewhere. Seriously though, some of the off trail stuff you do it pretty cool (dragon's tail, etc).

I'll also add to my ranger patrol skepticism, by stating that the only chainsaw trail crew that I have ever seen looked to be contractors, so hopefully they are not part of the seasonal workers and resource crunch.

Also, a hat tip to ranger #650, putting in some work this year.

Setting up to be an interesting season, with the potential for some great things on the trails if things open. What a great time to see Iceberg Lake or Grinnell or Two Medicine without the crowds.

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Re: Latest 2020 Season Opening News

Post by wnysteve »

zozeppelin wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:44 pm

Personally I'm trying to channel my frustration into resolve to make it work, even if that means the long approach into Two Medicine from Park Creek.
If you actually get the chance to do it, you will find the route into Two Medicine via Park Creek to be very decent. There is the opportunity to visit/camp at Lake Isabel. And the trail up to Two Medicine Pass is comfortable for its elevation gain. The backcountry CG at Upper Park Creek is one of my favorites. And yeah, no people.

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