Geology, Natural History, and the Layers of Change in Glacier National Park
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Geology, Natural History, and the Layers of Change in Glacier National Park: August 21 - 24, 2017

Price: $325.00
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Description Course Details

Geology, Natural History, and the Layers of Change in Glacier National Park

Monday, August 21 - Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jeff Kuhn, M.S.

In many ways, Glacier Park is a living laboratory for people from around the world to view a natural ecosystem existing in a near natural and undisturbed state. This course will take participants on a walk through Glacier’s breathtaking geologic history. Three full days of excursions into Glacier’s high country will take you through time to observe the awesome forces of nature that uplifted and later carved Glacier’s Precambrian strata into their present form. Discussions will focus on recognition of glacial processes and landforms, Precambrian stratigraphy and sedimentology, and the radical glacial recession wrought by climate change. The class is oriented for those with a beginning level of knowledge of Earth Sciences.

Other topics will be discussed, such as the Park’s wildlife and plants, and the management of these resources by the National Park Service, as these subjects are all related directly or indirectly to the Park’s geology. Students will also observe how present geologic forces continue to shape the landscape of Glacier National Park. Come and learn about Glacier’s amazing geologic history!

Meeting Time: Monday, August 21, 2017 at 8 AM

Meeting Place: West Glacier Field Camp (see enclosed map). 

Accommodations: We will be staying at the Many Glacier Campground in Many Glacier. The campground has flush toilets, running water, lock boxes for food, fire pits and picnic tables, but no shower facilities. If you would prefer to stay elsewhere, the Many Glacier Hotel is a short drive from the campground or the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins are within walking distance.

Students and their families, who wish to stay at Field Camp the nights before or after the course, may reserve a spot in advance by calling (406) 755-1211. See enclosed Field Camp description for facility information. 

Food: Please bring your own food for lunch and trail snacks for the first day.  We will eat dinner out together in St. Mary the first night. We’ll shop in St. Mary for groceries the first night as well. While in Many Glacier, students will have the option of eating out at nearby restaurants or cooking in camp on their own. Please bring extra money for groceries and meals. We will bring a cooler in the van for lunch food. However, we can only store a very limited amount of refrigerated food, so please bring non-spoilable food and snacks. If you’d prefer to save money by bringing your own food, you may want a cook stove to prepare your meals and your own cooler to keep food in.

Equipment: For camping you’ll need to supply your own tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Basic gear list included under the ‘course details’ tab. While we will hope for great weather, Glacier Park can dish out just about any combination of wind, rain, sun, or even snow- be prepared for all possibilities. Bear spray can be purchased or rented in Glacier Park. Optional gear: camp stove, cookware/mess kit, utensils, etc. Please contact the Field Camp Manager for any questions or hardships related to equipment.  

Physical Requirements: Strenuous. The Hidden Lake Overlook hike is 3 miles round trip, 460 feet elevation gain. The Iceberg Lake trail is 9.6 miles ascending 1400 feet. Grinnell Glacier is 11 miles with 1600 feet elevation gain. Apikuni Falls is a 2 mile, 700 feet elevation gain hike. In order to thoroughly enjoy the backcountry of Glacier and the hikes in this course you will want to be in good physical condition prior to arriving. Although the Grinnell hike is quite strenuous, we will keep a very reasonable pace and will be making lots of stops. If you have particular questions about physical fitness, don’t hesitate to call the Institute office.

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

 Recommended Reading:

Geology Along the Going-To-The-Sun Road, Raup, Earhart, Whipple & Carrara, Glacier Natural History Association, 1983

The Roadside Geology of Montana, Alt and Hyndman, Mountain Press Publishing Co., 1986

Weather: Glacier Institute classes will not be canceled due to weather. 

Tentative Itinerarymay change due to weather, trail conditions, or other factors.

Monday, August 21 (Day 1):  

8:00 AM: Meet at Field Camp for introductions to the class and each other. Brief slide show to introduce basic geologic concepts for Logan Pass. Discuss the roadside geology observable en route. Arrive at Logan Pass: discuss Precambrian stratigraphy and glacial action at Logan Pass. Hike to Hidden Lake Overlook (2.7 mi. round trip, 540’ elevation gain) and discuss the glacial landscape features visible from the overlook. Return to the Visitor Center. Lunch – bring your own sack lunch and beverage. Alternative hike: From Lunch Creek parking area to the waterfall at the head of the Lunch Creek cirque basin.

Depart Logan Pass for Many Glacier Campground. Dinner in St. Mary en route to Many Glacier (please bring money for dinner).  Additional time will be allowed to shop for food for lunch for Day 2. Return to camp at Many Glacier Campground.

*Optional evening naturalist programs are held nightly at Many Glacier Campground or Many Glacier Hotel.*

Tuesday, August 22 (Day 2): 

7:00 AM: Optional breakfast at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (bring money for breakfast). Pack lunches for the day. Hike to Iceberg Lake (9 miles round trip) and/or Ptarmigan Tunnel, depending on weather conditions and trail access. Trail to Iceberg Lake is a gradual ascent of approximately 800 feet to the glacial cirque basin filled in historic times by the former Iceberg Glacier. The trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel is more rigorous and gains approximately 1,194 feet of elevation. Return to camp. Dinner at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, Many Glacier Hotel, or in camp.

Wednesday, August 23 (Day 3):

7:00 AM: Optional breakfast at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Hike to Grinnell Glacier (approx. 1600’ elevation gain and 11 miles total), discussing sedimentology, tectonics, and glaciation en route to the glacier. Return to camp in the early evening. Dinner at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, Many Glacier Hotel, or in camp.

Thursday, August 24 (Day 4):

7:00 AM: Optional breakfast at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Break down camp, load up the vehicles and depart for Apikuni Falls (approx. 650’ elevation gain and 1.7 miles roundtrip). Discussion of Precambrian algal formations and the Altyn Limestone. Return to vehicles. Depart for St. Mary, discussing glacial features of the St. Mary valley. Stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center to have lunch and view the museum. Drive over Looking Glass Highway, stopping to observe uplift features, glacial outcrops, and the pre-glacial surface of the Great Plains. Drive to East Glacier with a brief stop at Glacier Park Lodge.  Depart for West Glacier over Hwy 2, discussing the overthrust and the tectonic history of the Rocky Mountains. Stop at Marias Pass, the Goat Lick, and other roadside geology stops en route to West Glacier. Class adjourns at West Glacier in the late afternoon. 

Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2017 Academic Credit’ Link on our website to learn about OPI credit and FVCC and UM credit for our courses.