Hike #2 – Still in Grand Teton

I am very much looking forward to hiking in Grand Teton.

Last year, I missed out on any form of hiking as grizzly bear 399 and 610 kept my boyfriend and I occupied with our cameras snapping every 2 seconds. I have never taken so many photos in my life!

Hiking among the majestic Teton backdrop has been a dream, ever since I laid eyes on them one year ago.

Here is the description of the second hike I will attempt in Grand Teton, after the Pacific Creek trail:

Glade Creek (from the book Best Easy Hikes – Grand Teton, by Bill Schneider)

Description: A short, easy hike in the northernmost section of the park (7 miles round trip)

Trailhead: Hwy 89, 4.4 miles west of Flagg Ranch on the Grassy Lake Road (on the left).

The hike: Most people don’t think about this section of Grand Teton National Park, so pan on having Glade Creek and most of the north-trails section mostly to yourself. This hike actually starts outside the park in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, a 24,000-acre area that is more wild than many parts of the park. The trailhead sign says that it’s 3.5 miles to the park boundary, but this is probably exaggerated by at least a half mile and perhaps more.

The trail starts out through a mature lodgepole forest. After about a mile and a half, you cross Glade Creek on a footbridge. Shortly thereafter, you drop down a fairly steep hill to a huge meadow. To the left, you can see the Snake River flowing into Jackson Lake and a huge freshwater marsh, one of two large freshwater marshes found in the park. You can also see Jackson Lake off to the south. This is a wildlife-rich area, so take your time before retracing your steps to the trailhead. You may be able to see some moose, swans, and other wildlife, especially in the early morning or near sunset. Even the mighty grizzly bear frequently roams through this rich habitat. But be forewarned. There is one wildlife species you will see and not enjoy. This is the only section of trail in the park where we had to stop and get out the mosquito repellent and netting.

Yikes. I loved the sound of this hike until the last few sentences. I will be sure to pile on the layers of clothing, bug spray and wear a mosquito net. HATE those little buggers!

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Fantasy Friday – Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

All over the Canadian news this week has been articles about a proposed pipeline to Kitimat, where huge oil tankers would attempt to maneuver their way around treacherous waters to be delivered to Asia.

Please read what this stunning landscape holds, and why I fantasize about vising the Great Bear Rainforest some day to see the abundance of wildlife including the spirit bear, grizzly bear, and orca, as well as the Sitka spruce trees.

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Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range on the west coast of British Columbia. The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world (2 million hectares), and is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals. In this lush rainforest stand 1,000-year-old cedar trees and 90-metre tall Sitka spruce trees. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms that provide food for magnificent creatures such as orcas (killer whales), eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare and mysterious white Kermode (spirit) bear.

Coastal temperate rainforests constitute one of the most endangered forest types on the planet. Rare to begin with, they originally covered less than 1/5 of 1 percent of the earth’s land surface. Coastal temperate rainforests have three main distinguishing features: proximity to oceans, the presence of mountains, and high rainfall. Their ecology is marked by the dynamic and complex interactions between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine systems. Coastal temperate rainforests are primarily found in the coastal regions of North America, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile and Argentina. In addition, they are found in extremely limited areas of Japan, northwest Europe, and the Black Sea coast of Turkey and the Republic of Georgia.

Close to sixty percent of the world’s original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed as a result of logging and

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development. North America’s ancient temperate rainforest once stretched the Pacific coast from southeast Alaska to northern California. Today, more than half of this rainforest is gone and not a single undeveloped, unlogged coastal watershed 5,000 hectares or larger remains south of the Canadian border. One of the largest contiguous tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world is on British Columbia’s mainland coast in the Great Bear Rainforest.

BC’s coastal temperate rainforests are characterized by some of the oldest and largest trees on Earth, the most common of which are Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, amabilis and Douglas fir. Trees can tower up to 300feet and grow for more than 1,500 years. The biological abundance of BC’s coastal rainforests is the result of over 10,000 years of evolution which began when the glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch melted. These coastal forests have evolved to their biological splendour because natural disturbances, such as fires, happen infrequently and are usually small in scale.

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Terrestrial and marine systems in BC’s coastal rainforest zone are inextricably linked. The dynamic interaction between terrestrial and marine systems is described in the Conservation International/Ecotrust paper Coastal Temperate Rainforests: Ecological Characteristics, Status and Distribution Worldwide: ” The forest reaches out to the sea, which in turn furnishes the wind and rain necessary for maintenance of the forest character. This exchange of nutrients and energy creates the base for a complex food chain, rich enough to support numerous migratory as well as resident species.”

” In North America approximately 350 bird and animal species, including 48 species of amphibians and reptiles, 25 tree species, hundreds of species of fungi and lichens, and thousands of insects, mites, spiders and other soil organisms are found in coastal temperate rain forests. Although much remains to be learned about both systems, biological diversity indices for some taxa in coastal temperate rainforests (notably invertebrates, fungi and soil organisms) may compare to those of tropical rainforests. Researchers are just now discovering the number of organisms, particularly insects, living in the canopy of North American coastal temperate rainforests. These woodlands may support the highest fungal and lichen diversity of any forest system.”

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Wild salmon are the most important keystone species for coastal rainforest ecosystems and grizzly bears depend on healthy salmon runs for their survival. Wild salmon are an important food source for a wide array of wildlife as well. Recent research is suggesting that even the ancient temperate rainforests on the coast utilize salmon. Bears drag the carcasses of spawned out salmon into the forest, facilitating a major upslope nitrogen transfer into the forest soil.

Years of industrial logging have left vast holes in this precious forest. Clearcut logging is ongoing, logging roads cut deep swathes across watersheds, and wildlife habitats are permanently destroyed. The provincial government of British Columbia has pledged to protect the area, but it must follow through on its commitments if the Great Bear Rainforest is to be protected.

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I cannot believe all the spectacular landscapes and wildlife thriving in this area. It would be absolutely devastating if Enbridge and the Canadian government choose to build this pipeline through such an ecologically sensitive area.

That is why I am supporting the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition‘s position to divert the pipeline to an already existing line to Vancouver. Compromise!

For more information on the pipeline debate, read the following reports:

For the Record: Pipeline Debate and the Youth Coalition by Simon Jackson

Why not end the Northern Gateway in Prince Rupert by Gary Mason

Is there a better route for Enbridge’s oil? by Robert Matas

For more on the Great Bear Rainforest, this book is what you need:

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Photo of the Day

Griz

Taken in Grand Teton National Park in June of this year. This is grizzly bear #399 when she had her 3 cubs in tow. Rumour is she only has 2 cubs now, as one of them switched mothers halfway through the summer!

My Happy Place

When you are asked to close your eyes and think about a place that makes you so happy and at peace, you often picture a specific place that you have been to before. Somewhere that you feel totally, absolutely, amazingly relaxed. Often it involves a beach, waves, a thunderstorm, sometimes crickets chirping in the background….you get the picture!

One of my favorite places in the world now has to be Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, and that’s the one I picture now when I have to go to my “happy place”.

It starts at the Tower Juction across from Roosevelt Lodge. If you take that road all the way down the valley, you end up in Cooke City (where you will find amazing pizza! But that’s a separate story).  Beyond that, you enter the scenic Beartooth Highway. Not too shabby of a drive!

It just makes me feel so relaxed when I drive through the winding roads, past the meandering stream, herds of bison, and rolling hills. The light seems to be the most beautiful golden shade all day long.

One of my favorite hikes is along this stretch of road too. Trout Lake is a quick jaunt, but the lake you end up in is so quiet and peaceful, I could sit there beside the otters and snap picture after picture as the light changes during the day.

What also entices me to hang around that valley is the concentration of wildlife, especially wolves, grizzlies, pronghorn, and bison. When I was there this summer, I witnessed an amazing show with the bison. They had to cross a raging river with one of their young that could not swim yet. So in order for this baby to cross with the rest of the herd, the older ones started a chain in the river which allowed for the baby to float across and hit this chain of bison, then crawl along beside them until it reached land. What team work! It was fascinating to watch.

Luckily, this section of Yellowstone is one of the quietest places to be. Not many tourists head to the northeast part of the park. So it just seems so much wilder and isolated…the true wild west.

So now that my work day is winding down, I am going to kick my feet up, close my eyes, and picture my happy place – Lamar Valley.