Big Stories of GNP
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Big Stories of Glacier National Park: September 8-10, 2018 *All lodging and meals included

Price: $350.00
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Description Course Details

Eastside, Westside, Topside: Big Stories of Glacier National Park

September 8-10, 2018

Denny Olson, M.S.

Glacier National Park is spectacular for many reasons, but the emphasis in this course will be “how all those reasons fit together.” For example, the ecological relationships between fungus and forest, nutcrackers and grizzlies, climate and Glacier’s alpine – and the odd, fascinating, but nearly unknown species of plants and animals in the Park. Glacier’s fine-tuned ecology is the real “story behind the scenery”. This class is an intensive, on-site overview of the Park, with an emphasis on the “bet-you-didn’t-know!” stories. Lodging is included in the course fee.

Meeting Time: Saturday, September 8, 8:00 AM

Meeting Place:  Glacier Park Field Camp Meeting Hall (see campus map).


Day One: Westside, Wetside

  • Meet at 8:00 AM, brief introductions and orientation, course overview
  • Drive to McGee Meadow on the Inside Road to learn about fens and bogs.
  • Short hike to Johns Lake.  Here we will learn about the “little bog of horrors” and pioneer rainforests.  
  • Trail of the Cedars (fungus and forest; swift accommodations; cancer cures)
  • Avalanche Lake Trail (valley of NO fire; log cities; power of ice; Oregon dirt)
  • Dinner at Field Camp
  • Evening Presentation: The Spectacular Birds of Glacier – with special guest Professor Avian Guano, Bir.D. (Clown ducks, ouzels, camp robbers, woodpeckers and fire, etc.)

Day Two: Life at the Top

  • Breakfast 
  • 7:30 AM : Leave for Siyeh Bend on Going to the Sun Road (stop for the oldest recorded life in prehistory, hardrock café geology in the bus)
  • Hike to Preston Park (Whitebark pine keystone: grizz, squirrels, nutcrackers; living in the subalpine world)
  • Lunch overlooking ‘half of Montana’ (plant survival strategies in the alpine)
  • Return hike: (climate, glaciers and the disappearing alpine – Timberline sparrows, ptarmigan, rosy finches and wolverines) 
  • Return, and dinner at Field Camp
  • Evening presentation: Glacier’s Little-known and Seldom-seen (alpine frogs, toads and fire, boreal boas)

Day Three: Eastside Windy Parklands

  • Breakfast
  • 7:30 AM : leave for East side on Hwy 2
  • The newly discovered under-riverbed world
  • Marias Pass stop (the 300 X 50-mile all-time world record bulldozer!)
  • Hike to base of Firebrand Pass (Glacier’s fish – mega-messing with Mother Nature; beaver behavior, wind and where trees live; grizzlies-huckleberries-moths-lilies-and-ladybugs – the ‘Paleo-diet’; a “krummy” place to be a pine)
  • Return hike (the magical physiology of bears; taking a “lichen” to primitive plants; picky butterflies and other endangered species; the value of “quiet”; maybe a moose?)
  • Back to Field Camp (The “Big Picture”, good-byes) 

Food:  Students are responsible for their own meals. The Field Camp kitchen will be available for breakfast, dinner and food storage. Please bring a sack lunch and ample snacks for each trail day.

Required Equipment (all seasons): Warm Layers 

Course Equipment: Binoculars are useful, but optional, as well as field guides that interest you. 

Physical Requirements: Moderately Difficult. The elevation gains on four hikes range from 500 to 2000 feet.

Transportation: We will be traveling in a Glacier Institute vehicle.

Recommended Reading:

Glacier National Park Website, Nature and Science (written by Instructor, Denny Olson) (click on all the sub-categories) 

GLACIER: A Natural History by David Rockwell.