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Fire Season

As many know we have had a heat wave hit us this summer with record temperatures in the spring time and early summer. This continuous heat with little precipitation has led to extremely dry conditions and extreme fire danger. There has been concern towards the Hay Creek fire further up the North Fork Road. I want everyone to know that there should be no current concern about the fires in our area in regards to the inn, to Glacier, and travel. We are not in the fire zone for Hay Creek and the road up the North Fork still remains open as does the Polebridge Mercantile. For further information of the fire and others in the area you can follow this link: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7712/

I must further ask everyone to please use caution. Fires can begin very easily and the dry conditions with downed wood makes it very difficult to contain. Currently campfires are not allowed, please refrain from driving over dry grass with a hot undercarriage, do not throw out cigarette butts, and please use common sense.
I hope this information can help soothe some concerns and help keep everyone updated on the well being of the area and the inn. 
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Passing of Ownership: a wave goodbye, but a welcome hello. 

We want to say a big hello and welcome to all the Moss Mountain Inn blog readers, website perusers, and past guests. The quaint Inn we know as Moss Mountain so lovingly run by Chris and Dave Hadley passed hands to Marguerite Kaminski on May 7, 2021. We acknowledge the heart and soul the Hadley's put into this very special place and wish to uphold that dedication and love with the new ownership. Writing this to you is Marguerite Kaminski's daughter Callie Ling, who will help run the bed and breakfast and help keep it up with the times online while maintaining the lodge and secret garden atmosphere offline. Currently we have a garden facelift in the process and exciting plans for the future.
Aside from the change in ownership and the moving process we have had a black bear in the area as well as a mamma grizzly and two cubs that have been rambunctious for us and the neighbors. The geese have also been flying over in great swaths filling the air with honking and somewhat coordinated V's. Two geese did land in the spring fed pond and unfortunately tried their hand at fishing goldfish. Luckily, they did not seem to find them overly delectable and left only one casualty. Stay tuned for more updates and hope to hear, see, or entertain you all at a later date. 

Going-To-The-Sun Road Ticketing: The First Day, Grizzlies are Out!

Well, reports are back from the first day of the Going-To-The-Sun Road ticking system yesterday.  Rumor has it that about 10,000 users signed on in the morning.  I talked with someone who logged on at 8:02 and there were about 300 tickets left at that point.  So try to log on at 7:59 and start clicking to buy your ticket close to 8:00 am.  If you don't manage to snag a ticket on the first round, more tickets will be released 48 hours prior to your visit.  
Remember, you only need a ticket for the West Glacier, Camas, and St Mary entrances, no ticket is needed for the other entrances or adjacent Forest Service lands.   No ticket is needed for the West Glacier entrances before 6 am or after 5 pm.  No ticket is needed if you have activities such as a horseback ride or boat tour reserved.
Chris ran into a grizzly yesterday while walking the dogs on McGinnis Creek Road. Fortunately the bear was in a hurry to get somewhere and didn't stick around.  There have been multiple grizzly sightings on Teakettle Mountain also.  Carry that bear spray!
Right:  Falls on Canyon Creek Road near Moss Mountain Inn
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Glacier Implements New Ticketing System from Memorial Day to Labor Day

On March 31, Glacier National Park Officials announced their decision to implement a ticket system for admission to the West Glacier and St Mary entrances from May 28 - September 6, 2021. Below is a link to the press release. If you are going to be staying with us this summer, you will likely want to create an account at recreation.gov and buy a reservation ticket and pass 60 days prior to your visit (2/3 of tickets) or 48 hours prior (1/3 of tickets). As you can see from the press release, there are a number of exceptions, such as entering before 6 am, entering a non-Going-To-The-Sun Road entrance, or having a boat or horseback riding reservation. Nonetheless, having a pass would help make your visit much more enjoyable. We will let you know of any major changes to the plans in the meantime.
Link:  https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/news/media21-5.htm
Left: Big Creek, which should really be called Clear Creek.  Crystal clear water rushing over multicolored rocks makes for a beautiful scene any day of the year.

February 11, 2021

Both Sides of Glacier to open in 2021!

Glacier superintendent Jeff Mow has announced that park and Blackfeet tribal officials have decided to open the east side of Glacier National Park for the 2021 season.  More campgrounds will open and the park shuttle will be operating at 50% capacity, in a change from last year's restrictions.  The west side of the park will be opening in a more normal fashion with some social distancing restrictions.  More details and and a timeline for reopening will be determined over the next few months.

Right:  Subzero temperatures but sunny!  Huckleberry Mountain viewed from lower Coal Creek Road in Flathead National Forest
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Happy Thanksgiving!

Pictured here is our local wild turkey flock earlier this fall.  Unfortunately, the flock is dwindling a bit.  One of our neighbors explained that two wolves started following the flock around.  It took them a couple of days to figure the turkeys out, but eventually they managed to catch one and make a meal out of it.  Apparently the process has been repeating itself.
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October 16, 2020

FALL 2020 BEAR NOTES

In September, Chris and I spent three nights in the Glacier backcountry. We went for a walk after supper the first night at Brown Pass, and watched three grizzlies foraging 300 yards or so away along the trail between Brown Pass and Hole-In-The-Wall. Given their close interactions, it seemed to be a sow and two adult-sized cubs.

We didn't see the bears at all during the next day, but the next night, they spent much of the night growling outside our Hole-In-The-Wall campsite. This caused much worry among the other campers, prompting them to move their tents together. We heard clapping and shouting of "hey bear" throughout the night. Morning came, nobody had been eaten and there was no sign that the bears had entered the campsite. My theory is that the sow felt the area just outside the Hole-In-The-Wall campsite would be a safe place to take a nap while her cubs played. The main predator of grizzly cubs is adult grizzlies, and where else in the backcountry could a sow rest assured that her cubs would not be attacked by another adult bear?

A week earlier, we repeatedly bumped into a large black bear while hiking down from Demmer's Ridge. We had just started to hike back down the ridge when we surprised the bear while he was eating huckleberries 40 ft down the trail from us. He refused to pose for photos, running further down the trail. We stopped and picked huckleberries for 10 minutes to allow him to put some distance between us. Once we resumed hiking, we ran into him again a few hundred yards down the trail. Again, he ran further down the trail and we again stopped for 10 minutes to pick huckleberries. This happened a third time another few hundred yards down the trail, and after this encounter, he finally headed off the trail.

This encounter brings up a recurring theme in our bear encounters. Bears often tend to follow hikers on a trail, not to stalk the hikers, but to keep tabs on a potential threat. Unfortunately, the bears end up getting flummoxed on out and back trails, as the hikers have now reversed direction and are walking toward the following bear. The lesson: you are more likely to have a bear encounter soon after changing your direction of travel on a trail.

A third bear encounter was along the Bowman Lake trail. Looking at wet tracks following swampy spots, we could tell we were not far behind a bear. Finally, we saw the bear ahead as it dodged into some thick brush. As we walked by the brush, we could see the bear hiding 30 ft off the trail in the brush, waiting for us to pass.

Finally, we were out for an after supper walk on North Fork Road just north of Moss Mountain Inn when a guy driving a pickup slammed on his brakes just in front of us and rolled down his window.

"Hey," the guy shouted, "a bear just crossed the road right behind you guys!"

"Yup, happens all the time."

July 16, 2020

Moss Mountain Inn Closes for 2020 due to COVID-19

We have just been informed that a guest staying at Moss Mountain Inn last week was covid positive.  Also, covid cases are spiking in Montana.  Because of this, we are closing Moss Mountain Inn for the rest of 2020.  

Frankly, the experience for tourists coming to the area isn't very good right now.  Large portions of Glacier National Park are closed due to covid and the parts of the park that are open are insanely crowded due to the tourists all being squeezed into a much smaller area than usual.  Many services such as bus tours, boat tours, the Glacier Shuttle, and in-house dining inside the park are not available this summer.  Glacier National Park officials have announced that they will likely implement a reservation system for visiting the park starting in August, issuing about 1,200 tickets per day.  Instead of changing your reservation to another inn, please consider putting off your travel plans for a year, we think you would have a much more pleasant visit.

See you in 2021!

June 15, 2020

Stray Cat, North Fork Style

Late last week I felled a large dead Douglas Fir just behind the back yard, but it got hung up on some nearby trees and sat at a 30 degree angle.  I went back today to see if it fell further and to figure out how to get it down the rest of the way.  Looking up 20 ft into the tree, I saw something big snoozing away.  Once I got around to the other side, the mountain lion had woken up and was staring down at me, trying to decide whether to kill me or go back to sleep.  It chose the latter and when I checked on it again an hour later, it had changed position but was still pretty snoozy.  Let sleeping cats lie, I guess.

Right:  The mountain lion has just woken up.  Look at those huge paws, 5-6 inches, I'm guessing.
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Above:  My initial view of the sleeping cougar with his tail and rear paw hanging over the tree trunk

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Above:  An hour later, the cougar has changed position but still hasn't gotten up the ambition to move.

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June 13, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Glacier National Park has announced that Camas Road, the Camas entrance, and the Polebridge entrance will open Monday, June 15.  As with the West Glacier entrance, the gates will close at 4:30 pm daily but people already in the park can leave at their convenience.  Going-To-The-Sun Road will open to Avalanche Monday June 15 as well, with hiking and biking allowed further up the road to snowplowing areas.  East entrances to the park will be closed at least through June30.  Horseback trail rides from the Apgar Corral are starting today, June 13.

June 4, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Glacier National Park has announced a partial reopening on June 8, 2020.  Beginning June 8, the West Glacier and Camas entrances will be opened, allowing use of Going-To-The-Sun Road to the Lake McDonald Lodge parking lot and biking to the end of plowed road, as well as west side trail access.  The restaurants (likely takeout only) and lodges will undergo a phased reopening over the next several weeks.  East side entrances (Many Glacier, St. Mary, Two Medicine, Belly River and Cut Bank) will likely remain closed until visitation restrictions on the Blackfeet Reservation are removed on June 30.  There is still no opening date for tourism across the Canadian Border.

Boat tours on the park's lakes will not be offered this summer and Red Bus tours are postponed until at least July 15.  Most rafting and horseback riding will be offered, with social distancing precautions.  Grocery stores and restaurants outside the park remain open in the area.  Most National Forest sites are open.

Let us know if you have specific questions about services not listed here or on the park's website, nps.gov/glac.

May 20, 2020

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COVID-19 Update

Yesterday, Governor Bullock announced lifting of the 14 day quarantine on out of state residents effective June 1.  In conjunction, the Montana entrances to Yellowstone National Park will reopen June 1.  Regarding Glacier National Park, the governor's office announced they were "just beginning conversations about reopening the park."  We will keep you updated on further developments here.

Left:  Fairy slipper orchid blooming in the woods near Moss Mountain Inn yesterday

April 26, 2020

Buffalo Lakes and Lubec Ridge

Located about 4.5 miles west of East Glacier off Highway 2 in Lewis and Clark National Forest, Lubec Ridge has a reputation as a good early spring hike as the snow tends to melt off early in the area.  The area is also teeming with moose and grizzly and we saw signs of both.  April 26 may be a bit too early, however, as we ran into 3-4 ft deep areas of snow in spots.  The trailhead is located at a small pull off with a Forest Service gate on the south side of Highway 2 between mile markers 204 and 205.

Right:  Buffalo lakes in the foreground, viewed from the south end of Lubec Ridge.  The low spot in the middle of the mountains is Firebrand Pass.
Below left:  Looking west from Lubec Ridge.  The cleared strip is gas pipeline right-of-way.  Highway 2 and a BNSF train are seen on the lower right.  Above the train is Elk Mountain.
Below right:  Fresh grizzly left hind foot track.  This was an adult bear with a 12 inch long foot.
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April 24, 2020

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Montana Coronavirus Response Update

On April 22, Montana Governor, Steve Bullock, issued a directive for the phased reopening of Montana.  In Phase 1 the stay at home directive will expire on Sunday April 26.  Bars and restaurants will be able to reopen with distancing restrictions on May 4.  Glacier National Park remains closed.

The mandatory 14 day quarantine for travelers from other states remains in effect, and Montana is not slated to open to out of state tourism until Phase 3.  There is, of course, no indication as to when Phase 3 will occur.  At Moss Mountain Inn, we will remain closed until at least May 15, 2020 and will decide on opening and social distancing policies subsequent to that as conditions over the next month dictate.  Don't hesitate to call or email if you have any questions about these matters.

April 8, 2020

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Here in Montana, stay at home orders remain in place and Glacier National Park remains closed.  Flathead National Forest's facilities have also been closed.  Despite the closure of all potential destinations on North Fork Road, traffic on North Fork Road has been quite heavy.  It looks like hundreds of folks have retreated to their family cabin on the North Fork to self isolate.  The SUV's heading north have rolls of toilet paper visible in their windows and tanks of gas strapped to their ski racks or bumpers.

Photo at right:  Mama lynx, baby lynx.  I came across these lynx tracks today in the woods, regular sized tracks, followed by tracks of a 8-10 month old kitty.  Wish I would have been there to see them when they passed through.
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March 29, 2020

Governor Bullock has now issued a stay at home order and Glacier National Park has been closed until further notice to help limit the spread of coronavirus in Montana.  Stay safe!

March 21, 2020

Coronavirus Update

As the coronavirus starts to hit Montana, here is an update regarding the area.  Schools, bars and restaurants are closed (except for take out) for at least the next few weeks while grocery stores, hardware stores and the like remain open.  In Glacier National Park, the Apgar Visitors Center is closed, but the park is otherwise open for winter business.

Right:  Riley and Stella practicing coronavirus sanitation procedures in the North Fork.
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Today we braved the crisis by taking the dogs on a long walk this morning, going on a long hike north of Glacier Rim this afternoon, and hot tubbing this evening, so the crisis hasn't exactly been hitting us hard.  When you live in a forested valley surrounded by mountains, it is hard to get too wound up about anything.

Regarding your vacation plans for this summer, your guess is as good as mine.  May is looking iffy, of course, but things could be getting back to normal by later in the summer.  Your chances of catching the coronavirus on vacation out here would seem low as our inn only has four rooms and one can easily avoid crowds here in the Glacier Area.  Many restaurants around the park don't open until June 1 anyway, so it is hard to predict the impact on dining out at this point.

If you made your reservation via our website, you have until 30 days prior to the first night of your stay to cancel and get a full refund of your deposit.  Cancellations less than thirty days prior to arrival can use the deposit as credit to a future visit.  If you made your reservation via an online travel agent such as Expedia or Hotels.com, cancellations are handled via whatever policies were in place on those websites when your reservation was made. 

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and we will try to keep major developments in the area updated here.

January 26, 2020

An otterly awesome way to move across deep snow.

I was out snowshoeing just south of Moss Mountain Inn this morning, trying to punch out a trail through the woods that our dogs could walk on without sinking in up to their necks.  I came upon these otter tracks that make moving through deep snow look easy.  
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As you can see from the photos, the otter would take a step, then turn his belly into a snowboard and slide 8-10 ft, then step, then slide another 8-10 ft on top of the snow.  I wish I could have been around when he passed through, but here is the address of a YouTube video
< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBB0OLOkvIU > that shows the process.  It looks a lot easier than snowshoeing!

January 24, 2020

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Winter in the North Fork

Summertime guests typically ask, what's it like here in the winter?  In short, there is lots of snow but relatively mild temperatures.  The wind rarely blows in the heavily forested North Fork Valley, and nighttime temperatures rarely drift below the teens.  Snowfall is prolific though, typically 10-15 ft a winter.  At left is our Golden Retriever, Riley, walking in front of Huckleberry Mountain north of Moss Mountain Inn.

January 19, 2020

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The Wich Haus

If you're passing through Whitefish on the way to Big Mountain this winter, or taking in the shops of Whitefish next summer, make sure you stop by the Wich Haus in Whitefish for lunch or dinner.  One visit earlier this fall and we were hooked.  The breads, flavorful fillings and fermented toppings make these sandwiches the tastiest we have ever had.  The menu changes frequently and the vegetarian and vegan sandwiches are exceptional.
The owners, Ellie and Orion have worked in restaurants from coast to coast and fortunately  decided to settle in Whitefish and bless our taste buds with their presence.  Keep up the good work!

The Wich Haus
105 Wisconsin Avenue, Whitefish (on the right side of the road on your way to Whitefish Ski Resort, just north of downtown)
www.thewichhaus.com

October 30, 2019

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

Sunday we hiked the 1,200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail.  We didn't make it to the Pacific Ocean where the trail ends, but got to enjoy a dog friendly stroll in a remote portion of the North Fork Area in Flathead National Forest.  The trail begins in the Olympic Peninsula, traverses the North Cascades, and terminates in the Belly River area of Glacier National Park.  For more information, head to the Pacific Northwest Trail Association website, www.pnt.org
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On the way to the trailhead, along Hay Creek Road, west of Polebridge, we saw this great gray owl, the largest owl in North America.

October 29, 2019

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Ousel Peak

Sure, a couple million of people a year drive by the Ousel Peak trailhead on Highway 2, but only a handful bother to do the hike.  It's not a hike for just anyone.  The trail is probably only second to Mt. Brown Lookout for elevation gain and steepness in the Glacier area.  Sources disagree on the exact distance and elevation gain, but the trail gains somewhere between 3800 and 3900 feet over 3.3 to 3.6 miles.

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The trailhead is easy to miss and starts near mile marker 159 on Highway 2, 6.5 miles east of West Glacier on Highway 2.  There are signs for the trailhead on highway 2, but the trailhead is hidden when driving from the west.  An informal parking spot along a driveway is located on the north side of the road.

The trail ascends the north side of Ousel Peak, and dense forest provides shade most of the way up.  Early on, the trail climbs through a mature lodgepole pine forest with some cedar and hemlock.  After a mile, a sign indicates entry into the Great Bear Wilderness.

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Further up, Douglass Fir dominates, then near the top subalpine fir and even some whitebark pine grow.  When views to the north finally start to open up, seldom seen but huge, Harrison Lake comes into view.  Mt. St. Nicholas dominates to the northeast.

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Views to the south include Pyramid Peak (left side in this photo).  There was about a foot of snow at the top last week and our crampons came in handy.

At the top, a few old wires remain from a fire lookout that stood here from 1931 to 1957.

Oh and what's an ousel? An ousel (also known as the American Dipper) is a songbird that frequents streams in the Glacier area.  Known for its ability to walk along the bottom of fast moving streams, the bird has a beautiful flute-like song.
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September 2, 2019

The Dragon's Tail:  A tale of two trails

It was the best of trails, it was the worst of trails; it was a trail with top of the world views and a trail with 450 ft of cliffs. This week we hiked the Dragon's Tail, a narrow ridge of rock ground away on each side by a different glacier, resulting in a ridge on top of sheer cliffs resembling a dragon's tail (or at least what we think a dragon's tail would look like). When you get to the end of the hike, the trail splits in two: one trail is an easy hike up a ridge, the other is a challenging narrow clifftop trail followed by a 450 ft cliff climb. Being trail reviewers, we just had to do both.

To the true summit, its a round trip of 6.4 miles and gain of 1934 ft from Logan Pass.   But just hiking to the false summit will save you a couple of miles and several hundred feet of elevation gain.
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The common trail starts at the Logan Pass Visitor's Center and follows the Hidden Lake Trail for about a mile. About a quarter of a mile beyond the boardwalk, two ponds are encountered on the left and and in between the ponds, a trail heads off to the left/south. This marks the start of the Reynolds Mountain climbing trail which also takes one to the Dragon's Tail. Follow the trail south along the east side of the small ridge and then onto the saddle between the ridge and the northwest corner of Reynolds Mountain. Continue on the trail across the scree field skirting the west side of Reynolds Mountain to a second saddle, this one being between Reynolds Mountain and the Dragon's Tail.

Looking south from the saddle, you'll see Jackson Glacier on the left and Sperry Glacier on the right. The afternoon we visited, three grizzlies were grazing in the cirque floor just to the southeast.
Above left:  After a left turn off the Hidden Lake trail, the route heads south toward Reynolds Mountain.
Above right:  Crossing the scree field on the west side of Reynolds Mountain.  The Dragon's Tail is visible to the right.

At the second saddle, the trail splits. The first option is the easy one, a hike to the false summit: Head right up the ridge on your right, and you have a pleasant 10 minute walk to the false summit. From here, views to the north are impressive, but the rest of the Dragon's Tail blocks views of the Sperry Glacier basin

Below left:  Trail up the ridge to the false summit
Below right:  View of Hidden Lake and Clements Mountain from the false summit
The second option is a hike and climb to the true summit. You follow a narrow goat trail along the southeast side of the Dragon's Tail, threaded between two sets of cliffs. Watch every step here as along much of the route there's nothing to stop you from tumbling several hundred feet if you lose your balance. After half a mile or so, you stop just short of the first big couloir, then scramble up 450 ft of cliff. Once at the top of the ridge its another 1/4 mile hike to the true summit, 8580 ft, marked by a large cairn with a register on the west side of the cairn. Views to the north, south, and east are amazing, but views of the Sperry Glacier are better if you hike another 1/4 mile south to the end of the ridge top. This second option is not for the casual hiker and should only be attempted by someone with rock climbing experience. A helmet would be a good idea also. This is a trail with two very different hikes at the end!

Below left:  View to the east from the true summit, Going-To-The-Sun Mountain on the left and the St. Mary valley.
Below Right:  View to the south from the Cairn, with Sperry Glacier in the distance
Below left:  Looking down the 450 ft cliff on the route to the true summit.
Below right:  A goat with a radio collar guards Reynolds Mountain

July 17, 2019

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Climbing Mt. Oberlin

Sunday we climbed Mt. Oberlin, one of the easiest climbs in the park.  The mountain looks pretty intimidating from the North (its the peak in the top right of the photo at left), but its really a breeze from Logan Pass, we were up and down in less than 4 hours.
To start, take the wheelchair ramp to the right of the steps to the visitor center and cross over the fence once you see the unmarked trail (in photo, below left) heading north.  It always feels kind of creepy to step over the fence, but don't worry, its okay with park staff.  The trail gently climbs through some alpine meadows, past a water cistern, then follows the rushing waters of Logan Creek for a short distance.  After a bit more ascending, the trail takes a sharp left and starts to climb toward the saddle between Mt Oberlin and Mt Clements.  You want to skirt left and below the snowfields and stay off the scree field above you on the southeast side of Mt. Oberlin.  It took us about an hour to get to the saddle.

Below left:  Start of the trail just north of the Logan Pass Visitor's Center. Below right:  Logan Creek along the trail.  The trail eventually crosses below the snowfield and ascends to the saddle between Clements Mountain and Mount Oberlin just left of the snowfield.
Once you get to the saddle, take in the views and proceed up the trail toward some low cliffs.  Once you are at the cliffs, pay close attention to the cairns.  They will take you to the left side of the cliffs initially, then the trail winds around to the right on the southeast side of the mountain, where it climbs to near the top.  Our guidebook showed lots of landmarks to help guide you through the cliffs, but its a lot easier to just follow the cairns.  If you are careful in your route finding, you shouldn't need to climb over any rocks or cliffs more than 3 or 4 feet high.

Below left:  Once you get to the saddle, just follow the trail toward the low lying cliffs.  Below right:  One of the notches, marked by a cairn, that will take you over the small cliffs.
The trail becomes easier to follow again after the cliffs as you gradually ascend toward the summit via the southeast side of the mountain.  Near the top, the trail peters out, but from here it is an easy scramble to the summit via multiple routes.  From the summit, the views are astounding in every direction.  Make sure you bring a jacket as its often very windy at the top.

Below left:  Looking northeast from the summit toward the Garden Wall.  Below right:  Looking south from the summit with Reynolds Mountain midframe and Clements Mountain on the right.
What hike from Logan Pass would be complete without mountain goats and bighorn sheep?  Both crossed the trail on the hike down the mountain.

July 4, 2019

The Facebook Fire?

Blankenship RFD had its first real wildfire call of the season last night, to a fire north of Polebridge.  Oddly enough, the fire was called in via Facebook, so we wondered if it should be called the Facebook Fire.  The Park firefighters ended up going with Akokala Creek Fire, which fit better geographically.  The fire was located in the Park in the Akokala Creek drainage east of Big Meadow and northwest of Numa Ridge.  Conditions are still cool and moist in the North Fork, so the risk from this little guy will likely be minimal.
Right:  The fire is under that puff of smoke just to the right of the dead tree in the center of the photo.
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June 19, 2019

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Cyclone Lake

We were looking for a short, dog friendly hike with water at the end last weekend and decided to check out Cyclone Lake, a remote lake above Coal Creek in the Glacier View District of Flathead National Forest.  To be more accurate,  the trail to the lake and most of the lake is located within Coal Creek State Forest.

Even though the Cyclone Lake trailhead is less than 20 miles from Moss Mountain Inn, it took an hour to get there.  From North Fork Road, one turns off onto FS road 316, then 317, then 909.  Roads 316 and 317 are in relatively good shape but we were limited to 15 mph or so on 909.  We only saw a few other vehicles on the roads and the area is so remote there weren't even any discarded beer cans laying around.
To find the trailhead, look for a road headed off to the right with the sign 70702.  The gate is locked part of the year but opened up from July 1 - Nov 30.  The 1.5 mile hike to the lake was good for our old dogs with only a few hundred feet of gradual drop to the lake.  Early on, one passes by the area damaged by the 2018 Coal Creek Fire on the west side of the road, then through some forest with old growth Douglas fir, Englemann spruce and even some grand old Western white pine.  The road ends a few hundred feet from the lake, then a narrow trail leads down to the lake.
The west side of the lake is bordered by a boggy area that keeps one from going to the edge of the lake proper.  Our dogs Riley and Stella hopped off the planks (see below) and promptly got stuck in the quicksand-like mud.  Chris managed to pull them out by the collar but by then our Golden Retrievers had turned into mud covered critters that resembled giant rats.  On the happier side of things, the views off to the east into Glacier National Park were nice.
Bottom left:  Trailhead to cyclone lake, FS road 909 on the left, Coal Creek State Forest road 70702 on the right.  Bottom right:  Chris performing a dog rescue

June 11, 2019

Big Cat Update

Although we had seen lynx tracks around Moss Mountain Inn all winter, the lynx managed to avoid our cameras until tonight.  Chris was bicycling about a mile north of Moss Mountain Inn, just short of Glacier Rim when she got a text on her phone.  While pulled over to look at the text, this lynx stepped out of the woods and checked her out.  After a minute of staring at each other, they both decided to move on.  I'm surprised that Chris didn't try to bring it home to be friends with our house cats, Emma and Sylvie. 

Meanwhile, our hiking club hiked to the top of Glacier View Mountain in Flathead National Forest today.  Looking to the east from the top gives a panoramic view of the whole west side of Glacier National Park.  In the foreground is the North Fork of the Flathead River looking up toward Polebridge.
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June 5, 2019

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Spring wildlife on the West Side

Guests Cameron and Kaity got to watch a grizzly at the foot of Avalanche lake last week and took the photos at left and below

Mt. Brown Goats

Chris and I hiked up to the Mt. Brown lookout last week and were greeted by several mountain goats.  Their wool was about four shades darker than normal, presumably from rubbing against all the charred trees from the 2017 Sprague Creek Fire.  Views from the top were a bit hazy from the northern Alberta wildfires but we still had good views of Mt. Stanton to the west, along with impressive views of Floral Park, Edwards Mountain, and Sperry Glacier to the east.  There was still 6-8 ft of snow at the top!

Left:  Goat at the edge of cliffs just southwest of the lookout.  Mountains in the background are the Livingston Range to the northwest of Mt. Brown.

Below left:  From left, to right,  Stanton Mountain, Mount Vaught, McPartland Mountain and Heaven's Peak

Below right:  Edwards Mountain, across the Snyder Creek Valley from Mt. Brown Lookout
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April 21, 2019

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Shoulder Season Biking on Going-To-The-Sun Road

One of the perks of visiting Glacier National Park in the Spring or Fall is car-free hiking and biking on Going-To-The-Sun Road while higher sections are closed due to snow.
Today, for example, Going-To-The-Sun Road is closed to motor vehicle traffic at Lake McDonald Lodge, but the road is plowed and free of snow up to the Loop, some 14 miles up road.  The Park Service allows hiking and biking on the cleared sections up to where the plows are working.  With no cars to fret about and only a few dozen other bikers, you can cruise up Going-To-The-Sun Road without a worry in the world and some of the best scenery in the world to boot.

Below left:  Chris at the Sacred Dancing Cascades
Below right:  Lake McDonald's clear waters and the mountains in reflection

March 30, 2019

The Coyote Who Threw Us a Bone and the Midden Bears

Forest Service Road 10936 near Moss Mountain Inn, is a great place to go for a hike, but it often seems enchanted, like the creatures there are hiding behind trees, constantly watching us, as in some Disney animation. Today's adventure started with us seeing coyote tracks as we ascended up the ridge of the road. We were a bit surprised, as we more commonly see wolf tracks there.
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The tracks were fresh, about 2.5 inches wide, registering perfectly and sets were about 19 inches apart.

After getting to the end of 10936 (about a mile from North Fork Road), we turned around and headed back downhill. About 2/3 of the way down, our golden retriever Riley, found a deer carcass 20 yards off the trail, grabbed a leg, and continued down the road with us. A short distance later, there were now more coyote tracks and another leg from the deer carcass lying in the middle of the trail that had not been there 20 minutes earlier on our way up. Was he watching us the whole time, and why did he throw us a bone?

Below left:  Riley with one deer leg
Below right:  The other deer leg that the coyote left for us

The Midden Bears

Yesterday, we were hiking in the woods behind the Inn and ran into these large piles of pine cone scales (called middens by park rangers and logophiles) created by squirrels harvesting pine nuts. Our neighbor John subsequently appeared (we were on his property, after all) and told us a story about that very pile. One night last summer, John heard his dogs barking quite excitedly and he followed their barks to this area of middens. The dogs had treed a black bear and John thought that was the end of the story. A second later however, a second black bear appeared out of the brush and charged John. He took off running back to his family's tipi nearby and made it without being caught by the bear. Watch out for those midden bears!
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March 23, 2019

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Who was stalking Who?

I was out snowshoeing on some ridges west of Moss Mountain Inn recently, and I was kind of lost, really tired, and finally after trying to head northeast, I ran into the end of Forest Service Road 10936.

On the road, there were fresh wolf tracks in the snow, and as usual, I had no bear spray and even had forgotten my cell phone. I needed to take 10936 back downhill to North Fork Road but the wolf was headed in the same direction, downhill on the road. Had he just been out wondering around there, or was he trying to get away from me? I decided to follow the fresh tracks down the road, but go a bit slow, to give him more time to move away.

The wolf traveled at a pretty steady pace, occasional stopping or meandering a bit to check out snowshoe hare tracks. The snow was quite deep, 3 ft maybe, and I felt sorry for the poor thing trying to move around without snowshoes or skis. As you can see, its body drug a lot between tracks, owing to the depth of the snow. Finally, after about a quarter of a mile, it left the road and I continued on down toward the highway.

On right:  my snowshoe tracks on the left, wolf tracks on the right

I skied back out the next day with my cell phone to take some photos and got a bit of a surprise. Since I had been on the road yesterday, there were more wolf tracks on the lower portion of the road, sometimes on top of my snowshoe tracks. It looked like the wolf turned off the road while in front of me, politely waited in the woods for me to pass, then got back on the road.
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The tracks were 3.5 - 4 inches in both dimensions. Since claw marks weren't always visible, at first I thought I was dealing with a mountain lion. However, mountain lion tracks are wider than long, and these tracks were more symmetric, side to side and front to back. If you can draw an "X" through the middle of the track and not hit any pads as you can with this track, it is a canine track. The size led me to conclude it was a wolf, not a coyote. The size is really impressive; we have Golden Retrievers that weight over 70 lbs and these tracks were twice as big those of our dogs. We had seen these same tracks in the same area last fall also; is it a wide-ranging member of the Camas pack, or a true lone wolf?

March 11, 2019

Flathead Avalanche Training

A great educational service available through Flathead Valley Continuing Education and the Flathead Avalanche Center is avalanche training for both beginners and experienced backcountry explorers, whether you are on skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles. I took the Introduction to Avalanches class recently, which consists of three hours of classroom training and a day of field training at the top of Whitefish Ski Resort.
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Left:  Digging out a (practice) victim

Our instructors, Jenny and Zach are genuine avalanche experts and great teachers to boot. At Whitefish Mountain, we first practiced beacon-directed rescue in the beacon park, which is free for anyone to train on. After that, we practiced locating mannequins, both with and without beacons.

Finally, we dug pits on both the North and South sides of the mountain and evaluated the layers of snow for avalanche risk. I was grateful that my fellow class members managed to hold back their laughter when watching me ski around at the top of the mountain.

Right:  Zach demonstrating an Extended Column Test, which can help predict both avalanche fracture initiation and fracture propagation risk.

If you spend any time in the backcountry in winter, please, please take one of these excellent avalanche courses. Also, check out the Flathead Avalanche Center Website (flatheadavalanche.org) and follow them on Twitter for timely snow condition and avalanche risk updates.
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January 22, 2019

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baking

Peanut Butter Fudge Rolls

In my opinion, there's no better way to start your day than with peanut butter fudge and guests here seem to agree, making this one of the most popular pastries at Moss Mountain Inn