An August 2003 trip
to Glacier National Park by Lovestogo
Quote: The Glacier N/P 2003 Fires coincided with our highly anticipated vacation. While expecting to see the spectacular grandeur that Glacier is known for, we instead saw history in the making. Travel with us as we experience a natural occurrence, one that revitalizes a forest, but plays havoc with a holiday.
We arrived to find Glacier National Park open, but the circumstances were anything but "normal". All West side trails were closed due to the fires, beginning at Apgar/Lake McDonald, there was a ‘No Stopping’ zone for the first 14 miles, most of the East side trails were closed due to bear activity, and most days the smoke was so thick you could barely see, much less breathe. With these circumstances, it would be extremely difficult to offer advice on what would be the best things to see and do, but. . .
No visit to Glacier would be complete without driving the famous Going-To-The-Sun Road. While on our way to Waterton Lakes, our first drive through Glacier provided one of the best days for seeing the spectacular scenery. Thank goodness we stopped and took some photographs, even though we were pressed for time!!
We do, however, have many memorable moments from our Glacier experience:
1. We were ecstatic because we were able to see mountain goats, big horned sheep and several bears while there.
2. We enjoyed the short hikes we took, especially walking the Garden Wall path for a mile or so since the path is so narrow and overlooks the road. The hike to Hidden Lake revealed a glacier, more mountain goats, and waterfalls.
3. Sunrift Gorge, the area was gorgeous. We spent over an hour just taking photographs.
4. And Sun Point… it was one of my favorites. We stopped there early one morning and the sights were beautiful. I could only imagine what it would look like on a crystal clear day.
5. The Many Glacier area was without a doubt our most favorite area. Perhaps it was the picture perfect day we had while staying there or maybe it was the horseback rides, the canoeing, the rocking chairs overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake or the beauty of Grinnell Lake. Whatever it was, we hope to return soon!!!
If the weather is not cooperating on one side of the park, drive to the other side. Due to Glacier being on the Continental Divide, the weather varies.
Keep a jacket handy. Some days the wind was extremely cold, as were the mornings.
Keep an eye open for wildlife and the camera ready. You never know when the perfect moment will appear.
Fill the car up with gas, get drinks, snacks, etc. before entering the park.
Vehicles over 21 feet in length are not allowed on the Going-To-The-Sun-Road.
We saw two park rangers escort a truck pulling a trailer back towards St. Mary’s from Logan’s Pass.
If you are the driver, keep your eyes on the road while driving the Going-To-The-
Sun Road. I was expecting the road to be totally nightmarish, but Pike's Peak in Colorado was much worse for me!!
Get out of the car and enjoy some of the short hikes. Most folks do not ever see the true beauty of Glacier because they never leave the highway.
Plan your trip early. Nearly all visitors tour Glacier during June, July & August.
When I asked my husband to describe Many Glacier Hotel to me, he replied instantly: "The place with the most wonderful views"!
Many Glacier Hotel sets at the bottom of a hill on Swiftcurrent Lake and has spectacular views of Mt. Gould, Mt. Wilbur and Grinnell Point. On a clear day, the mountain’s reflection can be captured in the lake. To me a perfect setting would be a brilliant blue sky, dark evergreen trees beneath a snow capped mountain and a lake that is a deep aquamarine blue!! What I have described is the setting surrounding you at Many Glacier. No wonder so many people sit in front of the full-length picture windows and stare while absorbed in their own thoughts. After a stressful workday, I come home and say. . . "I wish I were sitting in the rocking chairs at Many Glacier"!! Just the thought takes me back to this August day!!
The rooms at Many Glacier certainly are not luxury rooms, but they are reflective of the time in which they were built. We booked in January for a late August timeframe and found only Value Rooms for $111 available. Once again, the Glacier Park reservationist, Laronda, came to rescue as she kept an on-going search for a lakeside room ($142). We ended up with a lakeside room, which had a double and twin bed with a table and mirror. The bathroom furnishings reminded me of the ‘50s/’60s and the "shower" consisted of a cast-iron bathtub with a metal ring at the top holding the shower curtain. You know the type that was in westerns back in the ‘60s? While the furnishings certainly don’t live up to today’s modern standards, we enjoyed the experience immensely. Of course, there are no televisions, air conditioning or three-prong electrical outlets for your laptop; but the amazing and beautiful scenery makes up for lack of these modern day luxuries.
Huge logs support the Many Glacier lobby and the freestanding fireplace invites you to spend some time. One morning, a hotel guest provided a short concert on the lobby’s grand piano. A gift shop provides your glacier souvenirs, in addition to film or other items needed.
Some tips for staying at Many Glacier:
1. Book early -- It’s only open from mid-June to early September.
2. Wheelchair accessible rooms are available. Ask for these when making reservations. There are no elevators available, so if climbing stairs presents a problem, ask for a first floor room.
3. Restoration work is being done to preserve Many Glacier. Starting in 2001, seven phases were planned with phase III in progress during our 2003 visit.
4. The parking lot is at the top with steps leading to the hotel. We found ourselves stopping to catch our breath every time we went up.
5. The mountainsides surrounding Many Glacier are great for observing wildlife. We spotted black bears, grizzlies with cubs, and female big-horned sheep here.
6. Stop, relax, and enjoy the natural beauty!!!!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 22, 2004
Many Glacier Hotel
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, Montana
The Cattle Baron Supper Club looks totally out of place as you pass through the very small city of Babb, Montana, on your way to the Many Glacier or St. Mary area in Glacier National Park.
Located in what some might call a wide spot in the middle of the road …. is a gigantic, U Shape, dark brown wooden building with massive support posts and diamond shaped windows for its dinner guests to look out at the sprawling Montana vistas!! Needless to say it stands out as you drive by and in the late afternoons/evenings, you will find many vehicles in the parking lot.
When we first saw the Cattle Baron Supper Club, we knew we had to have dinner there one evening while staying at Many Glacier. The inside of the building is even more impressive with the bar area being immediately inside. The half-barreled, red leather bar-chairs saddles you right up to the highly polished wooden bar. The overstuffed white couches serve as a waiting area and the huge cut-in-half log stairs wrapped around a tree trunk takes you to the second floor dining area.
The second floor wood-paneled walls tell the story of the Lewis & Clark expedition and the Native American art collection just adds to the charm. Not to mention the big buffalo head hanging on the wall.
The Cattle Baron Supper Club is well known for its steaks and they say that the secret sauce is the reason why! Guess what we chose from the menu of steaks, pork tenderloin, chicken, salmon filet, Alaskan king crab legs and Australian lobster? Yes, we are beef people with my husband choosing the ribeye ($25.95) and I had the filet of tenderloin steak ($22.95). Each dinner came with a salad consisting of various types of fresh lettuce, shredded cheese, homemade croutons and dressing! The baked potatoes were covered with a crunchy topping, sour cream and scallions. Fresh grilled vegetables consisting of red pepper rings, zucchini, yellow squash, and broccoli completed the meal. The red pepper rings complimented the steaks very nicely. When our server, Mark asked about dessert, I could see my husband withering! Cheesecake is one of his favorite desserts and with the many choices offered, he finally gave in to the New York style cheesecake with butterscotch topping! I did manage to steal a bite from him, however!
The Cattle Baron Supper Club was more expensive than what we normally pay for a meal, however we usually splurge on vacation. The seafood was mostly priced at market value, with the chicken breast being the least expensive at $12.95, the pork tenderloin at $19.95, and occasionally prime rib is available at $22.95. Our total bill was over $60, without tip. The food was delicious and we enjoyed the dining experience, however I wouldn’t recommend it if you are on a tight budget. Reservations are not required, but would be recommended during the busy summer months.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 21, 2004
Cattle Baron Supper Club
Glacier National Park, Montana
The Park Café near St. Mary’s is exactly that - a café located near a national park.
The burgundy-colored building trimmed in white looks so charming and inviting, and since there aren’t many places to eat in or around Glacier, it’s usually extremely busy. The Park Café has a bar area with six or seven stools, and the remaining inside tables seat two to four people. The outside dining area was also a popular place each time we were there.
The Park Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a wide variety of items on the menu, all reasonably priced. Breakfast includes everything from muffins, fresh fruit, cold and hot cereal, to eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, biscuits and gravy, omelets, French toast, and pancakes with fruit. The most expensive item on the breakfast menu was $7.50. The lunch menu has just as wide a variety in sandwiches, burgers, bratwursts, hot dogs, salads, and Mexican burritos, quesadillas, and tostados, with the most expensive item being $8.
We ate there twice during our stay in Glacier, and both times, the food and service was tasty and good. The first time we ate there, we had the fish and chips, which had three pieces of halibut fish and fries, and the "Heavenly Peak" hamburger, which was one half pound of ground beef, with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and thousand island dressing on a giant Kaiser bun. Both were around $8 each. Our total bill with drinks was just over $20. The second time we ate there, we were both just in the mood for small sandwiches. I had the chicken salad sandwich ($5.95), which had shredded chicken, celery, mayonnaise, walnuts, cranberry sauce, and lettuce on raisin bread. I wondered about this strange combination, but it was amazingly tasty! My husband chose the Reuben, which was rye bread with hot corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing ($6.75). Both sandwiches were served with tortilla chips.
One of the sayings at the Park Café is "Pie Rules." My husband was in heaven once again, as he had so many varieties to choose from. He rumbled through the many selections and finally opted for the lemon meringue.
The Park Café is certainly not a fancy restaurant, but it was clean, the food was good, and the people were extremely nice and friendly. It certainly appeared to be a popular place, judging from the number of cars always there. The Park Café has a small ramp, which makes it wheelchair accessible, and has a large restroom area outside that is separate from the restaurant. Every member in your party will find something on the menu that suits their taste buds and it won’t break the bank!
The Park Cafe
Glacier National Park, Montana
While planning our Glacier events, the Glacier Park reservationist Laronda asked if we would be interested in attending the David Walburn Show while we were staying at Many Glacier. Of course, we didn’t have any idea who David Walburn was or what type of show he would be presenting. But the price was cheap enough, $7 per adult, and after all, we had decided that this was going to be a little different vacation!! Why not? So once again, in January, we booked another event for late August.
The David Walburn Show is a contemporary folk multi-media show that is held at the Many Glacier Hotel every night except Sunday. David is a transplanted Montana singer/songwriter and has captured some of his life experiences in original music and photography.
Our first show on Wednesday night was entitled "Lewis & Clarke" (I thought to myself, boy is this going to be a boring hour and a half). Imagine my total surprise when that hour and a half flew by while listening to original music and viewing a slide show that recreated the expedition of Lewis and Clark as they trudged across America in 1804 from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. The imagery created a drama and showed the heroism of an adventure that took over two years as these explorers searched for the Northwest Passage.
We enjoyed the show so much that we tucked away the idea of attending another show on Thursday night, provided we returned early enough from our days adventure. After a day of Glacier horseback riding, hiking and sightseeing, we made sure that we were back to the hotel in enough time to purchase tickets for this night’s story, entitled: "Cabin Song". Cabin Song told of an Alaskan homestead adventure that retraced the path of David and three of his friends from Atlanta, Georgia as they set out on a trip after graduating from college to claim and establish a homestead in the Alaska wilderness. This experience showed how their friendships grew as they continually struggled against the elements and wildlife to succeed in building a home in Alaska. The photography was spectacular and since we are amateur photographers, we were amazed that someone so young would have the presence of mind to record their daily adventures on film.
This show is totally family orientated and runs from mid-June to early September at the Many Glacier Hotel. Tickets can be purchased in advance through the Glacier Park Central Reservations (406-892-2525) or before show time at the Many Glacier Hotel (406-732-4411), but remember Glacier is extremely crowded in the summer months. This is truly a Montana experience that should not be missed!!!
The David Walburn Show
Many Glacier Hotel
Glacier National Park, Montana 59434
Our boat tour at Many Glacier was also booked in January. While it is hard to imagine in January what you will be doing in late August, we are glad that all events were scheduled and paid for in advance, which left us with nothing to worry about except showing up at the scheduled time!
The narrated boat cruises leave from Many Glacier, Lake McDonald, Rising Sun and the Two Medicine areas. Each offers a scenic view while a guide offers a short insight to the history of the beautiful area you are viewing. Cost for the boat ride was $12 for adults and $6 for children (ages 4-12), children under 4 free; however, their 2004 rates have increased to $13 for adults and $6.50 for children. Reservations are strongly suggested, as this is a popular event at all locations. However, if you decide to do the boat tour after arriving at Glacier, tickets can be purchased at the boat docks. All narrated boat cruises are offered by Glacier Park Boat Company and are open from mid-June through the first week of September.
We boarded the "Chief Two Guns" covered boat right outside Many Glacier Hotel. We traveled on Swiftcurrent Lake and then disembarked for a short 300-yard walk over a hill to Lake Josephine, where we boarded the "Morning Eagle" covered boat for a tour of Lake Josephine. From Lake Josephine, we got a closer view of Salamander Glacier and the ribbons of waterfalls that flowed down the mountainside. The day was cloudy and overcast with fog and smoke hanging in the air, so Lake Josephine was not its normal, brilliant aquamarine-turquoise color. However, we still enjoyed the scenery and the boat ride, which was about an hour and a half long.
Glacier Park Boat Company also offers canoe and kayak rentals as well at Many Glacier. Rates were $10 an hour and included lightweight oars and life jackets. We took advantage of this on our last day at Many Glacier. The day was picture perfect, quite a surprise after the previous day. The wind had changed, taking with it… all of the wildfire smoke!! The sky was a brilliant blue, Mt. Wilbur was standing majestically, and Mt. Gould was totally awe-inspiring!! How we enjoyed paddling around in our canoe, stopping occasionally in total silence to take in the natural beauty that surrounded us as we sat in the middle of Swiftcurrent Lake. This day was truly one of our special memories of Glacier, as what we saw before us totally surpassed the many Glacier photographs that we had seen…!! This was pure heaven!!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 21, 2004
Glacier Park Boat Tours
Various Locations within the Park
Glacier National Park, Montana 59903
Attraction | "Mule Shoe Outfitters"
This vacation to Glacier National Park was planned for over 14 months. We decided that we were actually going to do some of the activities that we have always wanted to, but yet never seem to find time for. What better way than to schedule in January and pay in advance? If it’s scheduled and paid for, you feel obligated; plus the fact of not getting a refund…this also makes you want to keep your appointment!!
I vividly remember calling the Glacier Park Central Reservations number (406/892-2525) in January 2003. The young lady that I spoke with, Laronda, was an absolute jewel. We immediately struck up a friendship, and her experience/expertise was very much appreciated. She offered me all the available activities and I set my sights high. I scheduled us for a boat trip, horseback riding, and a show while we were at Many Glacier. We had always commented about the people riding horses in the national parks and I wanted to try my luck…even though it had been over 30 years since I had been on a horse.
With the Glacier wildfires raging as vacation time crept closer, we didn’t know what to expect. We had heard: book early, book early, because if you don’t, you won’t be able to get the events that you want, when you want to do them. I can agree to that statement, even though Glacier was not crowded during the time of our visit. On the morning we went horseback riding, people were turned away because they didn’t have advance reservations. The company stated they had to arrange for additional guides and horses, so advance reservations were crucial.
Horseback riding at Many Glacier is provided by Mule Shoe Outfitters, and reservations can be booked through Glacier Park. Several different trails are available to choose from and vary in length from 2 or 3 hours, half-day, or all-day rides. Two-hour rides start at $45 and are priced up to $175 for all-day rides.
We chose the 2-hour ride to Cracker Flats, which was a trail that circled Lake Shelburne and Governors Pond. It was a relatively flat trail that meandered through some small creeks and up a few mountainous hills, but thank goodness, the hills came towards the end of the ride and I was feeling much more comfortable with my horse. Our morning ride was cool and overcast, with a slight fog hanging over us. We saw fresh bear prints in the dirt path, and our guide, Kathy, stated that the bear had probably just crossed minutes before we arrived. One of the guys in our party stated that he wanted to see a bear…I did too, but not that close, and not on the back of a horse that I would have had no idea how to control!!!
With this new experience under our belts, we plan to include a horseback riding experience in all of our future national park vacations!
Swan Mountain Outfitters
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, Montana 59936
The Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail can start at either end of the Many Glacier Hotel. We chose to start at the south end by the shoreline of Swiftcurrent Lake.
This self-guided nature trail is a very easy 2.5-mile loop that has minimal or no elevation gain. The trail is almost perfectly flat and is a nice way to stroll alongside Swiftcurrent Lake and get a complete view of the Many Glacier Hotel, as well as the lake and mountains. At one point, we saw evidence remaining of the avalanche area that we had observed from the Glacier webcams earlier in the spring. We also got a good view of the Many Glacier Hotel from across the lake.
As we continued on, about halfway around, the path split and another trail began to Lake Josephine and Grinnell Lake. There we had to stop and wait for a team of seven or eight horses that were returning from a supply trip. We continued on around the loop and soon came upon the upper boat dock, which resembled a photograph setting. A small, dark brown, wood-siding cabin complete with metal roof, a boat dock, a canoe, and drop-dead gorgeous scenery!!! It looked so peaceful and tranquil, sitting in the woodland surrounded by the lake and mountains. What a picture-perfect setting!! It could almost be enough to make you want to move to Montana!! After absorbing this sight and doing some wishful thinking, we finally moved along and ended the trail at the parking lot on the north end of the Many Glacier Hotel.
This nature trail would be great for someone who wants to get in some walking, but doesn’t want to deal with the sometimes strenuous hills, rough trails and difficulties from high altitudes. Approximate walking time is around 1 to 2 hours, so take your time and enjoy this easy but beautiful nature trail.
Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail
Leaves from Many Glacier Hotel
Glacier National Park, Montana 59936
We decided to do the Grinnell Lake hike after completing our canoeing on Swiftcurrent Lake. It was a picture perfect day and we wanted to cram as much into it as possible.
We started on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail at the left end of the Many Glacier parking lot. The Swiftcurrent Nature Trail makes a 2.5-mile loop around the lake, but also is a trailhead for the Lake Josephine, Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier hikes. We hurriedly walked this .7-mile from the hotel to the beginning of the Lake Josephine/Grinnell Lake trailhead. The south shore of Lake Josephine is just .2 of a mile away and there is an opening where you can walk down for a gorgeous view of the lake. We didn’t tarry long here, even though it was a beautiful spot. . . just long enough for a few photos.
An eerie feeling crept over us as we traveled westward along the path surrounded by waist high berry patches and tall evergreen trees, as we wondered if there might be a bear buried in there. . . munching to its heart’s content. . . while we were traipsing along!! The sun was casting shadows and it was difficult to see, so these two casual tourists yelled "Hey Bear" a lot. . . in hopes of not surprising one!
We eventually came to a wooden swinging bridge that crossed over Grinnell Creek. Be sure to hang on to the sides. . . it could easily throw you if you’re not careful! A little farther along the trail, huge tree stumps provided us with a path to cross an area, which apparently overflows in spring runoff! Again it was dry, but I had to try my balance on stump walking!!
Within a few minutes the emerald green waters of Grinnell Lake could be seen. Simply magnificent!! The deep cirque contained the snow white "Salamander Glacier" nestled deep within the dark mountain crevices and Grinnell Waterfall flowed down the mountainside into this shimmering emerald colored lake against a bright blue sky as a backdrop. It was quite a breathtaking sight!! When we decided we had captured the moment in photos, we dropped our backpacks and found a tree to sit on so we could spend a few minutes resting. We just sat quietly, totally captivated with what we were experiencing and seeing. This surely beat being at work on a Friday afternoon!
We took the boat ride back to Many Glacier as we were running out of time. It can be picked up at Lake Josephine, with the last boat leaving around 4pm. The cost is $5 per person for the return trip only. There are many options for the Grinnell Lake trail with one of them being the boat ride from the hotel, which goes up Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, thus making the hike to Grinnell Lake 1.8 miles round trip. Ranger led trips are also available, so if interested, inquire about the specific times for these.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 22, 2004
Trailheads at Many Glacier Hotel, Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail and more
Glacier National Park, Montana 59936
Attraction | "Running Eagle Waterfall"
We wanted to see the Two Medicine area in Glacier, but on most days, the smoke from the wildfires was so bad we couldn’t stand to drive through it. However, with time running out, we decided that we had to go for it. . . so we made the trek from St. Mary’s to East Glacier.
Running Eagle Falls is about 1.5-2 miles past the park entrance. The parking lot is quite large and there are restrooms available as well as a few picnic tables.
Running Eagle Falls trail is a very easy, short stroll, which is now wheel chair accessible. There are two entrances to the trail, one in the middle and one that ran alongside the creek bed. We chose to walk alongside the creek bed, which was almost totally dry. The vegetation was dry and brown and we could only imagine how fast the area would burn should the wildfires reach this area.
As we strolled along the path, we were engulfed by total silence. I quickly walked under the huge tree that was growing across the path. . . with my luck, it would choose to fall at this moment!! Soon we were in a wide-open area with gravel and larger rocks. We crossed the wooden footbridge and continued on up the path for a closer look at the waterfall. We could hear the sound of the water and soon the massive dark brown rock cliff side surrounded with evergreen trees on the opposite side could be seen.
At the time of our visit, (early September 2003) water was only flowing from the bottom opening in the cave. In the early spring/summer, water from the spring snowmelt flows over the top sill as well as from the bottom cave opening. Because of this double waterfall, Running Eagle Falls is also known as "Trick Falls".
A rough and uneven path allows you to climb over the huge boulders and get even closer to the base of the falls.
Under normal circumstances, Rising Wolf Mountain and Spot Mountain are visible from this short nature trail. On our visit, due to the smoke, we could only see a faint shadow of the mountains in the distance.
This easy, short nature trail provides a view of an awesome waterfall with little more than walking involved. Definitely try to schedule it into your activities while in Glacier National Park.
Running Eagle Trail
Two Medicine Valley
Glacier National Park, Montana
On our final day in Whitefish and Glacier National Park, we had no particular agenda. We were just going to go with the flow and see what happened. As we left Whitefish, the skies were bright and there was no smoke. However, as we approached Columbia, the smoke picked up and by the time we reached Hungry Horse, the smoke was probably the worst we had seen in our two weeks at Glacier and Waterton Lakes.
We had driven by the fire camp in Hungry Horse every day on our way in and out of Glacier. We had seen the signs thanking the firefighters in store windows, on the marquees, and in area resident’s front yards. We had passed the many firefighters each day as they were bused in and out of the areas, risking their lives to save strangers homes and businesses. We had seen the hundreds of different colored tents pitched near the river in their fire camp, but until we toured the fire camp at the Blackfoot Lake Complex. . . we had no idea what was involved and how much these firefighters risk to perform a service of saving thousands of burning acres of forests.
When we approached the fire camp, our idea was only to take a few pictures of the many tents. We were directed to the Information Officer’s trailer, where we explained that we would like to take a few photos for my vacation journal entry. Robert Rhinehart, an Information Officer from Chattanooga, Tennessee offered to give us a personal tour of the fire camp. Mr. Rhinehart explained that he was on a working two week vacation, and his job was to supply information that was posted each day around the area, updating folks on the size of the fire, how many acres it had burned, etc.; as well as setting up community tours and a tour for the school’s fourth and fifth grade classes. He explained that the Blackfoot Lake Complex covered nine fires in the area and that there were five different fire camps in and around the Glacier National Park area with the number one priority being to save structures and firefighter safety.
Imagine walking into a bare field that has been converted into a firefighter’s city, complete with 10 to 20 trailers that were used as temporary offices for Human Resources, Finance, Compensation Claims, Personnel, Medical, Information, Safety and Air Operations, as well as many others. The fire camp had its own meteorologist that monitored the weather conditions and was constantly updating the ever-changing conditions. The fire camp was self contained and had every service imaginable. There was a commissary that sold anything you could buy in a store, another tent set up as a Supply Station where you could pick up new Nomex clothes or socks and supplies such as chainsaw blades or files. Another tent served as a laundry drop off center where you could drop off laundry by 9pm and it would be ready for pickup by 9am the following morning. This fire camp contained separate showers for women and men, with each shower unit containing 12 showers. And the meal tent. . . the regulations that had to be followed was unbelievable. . . the safe handling of food was paramount, with constant temperature checks on food while it was thawing, while it was cooking and while it was in the ‘holding’ stage. The person in charge of food had to know the nutritional value of food. . . for example, meat with the bone in and meat with the bone out would have a different nutritional value. The amount of calories required to maintain a firefighter is over 6000 per day. Breakfast and supper is eaten at the fire camp and a typical sack lunch taken with them could include a sandwich, bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter, candy bar, fruit or granola bar and lots of sports drinks, water, etc. Dehydration was a major concern for the firefighters in the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park because the area had such low humidity and the firefighters couldn’t see themselves sweating.
We also learned that there are two types of crews. Type 1 Crews consist of very well trained, young, energetic individuals who are sent to the worst part of the fires. Type 2 Crews consist of new firefighters, firefighters from the Forest and Park services as well as older, more experienced personnel.
Our tour of the fire camp also revealed that firefighters certainly do not live a life of luxury!! It is hot, dirty, dangerous and exhausting work. Stamina beyond belief is required to endure the long and strenuous 12 to 16 hour shifts. All in hot, smoky, hard to breathe conditions. The firefighters also become "a family" during their 14 days of eating together, sleeping together and working together. They are divided up into groups of 20 (a crew), with three squads of six people each within that crew. Each crew has a Crew boss, a crew representative and a Squad boss. When it is time for one crew to leave, another crew arrives beforehand so they can be briefed on procedures, status of the fires, etc. It’s hard to imagine, strangers coming together from all states and parts of the world with one common bond between them, to save precious lives, homes, businesses and forests.
While knowing some local firefighters at home, we never had the opportunity to see what they did up close. We knew that they truly loved and enjoyed their jobs and we knew what they did. . . made a difference. . . a huge difference. . . but we didn’t realize how hard they work to make a difference! It truly takes a special person, one filled with love and willingness to give to strangers; one willing to sacrifice many long, hard days to fight fires that run rampant through our national forests.
Knowing that they have a special "job", that they make a difference, and that some stranger respects and appreciates them for saving their lives, home or business is enough for most firefighters. Their hard work and long days are rewarded by a simple "Thank you"!! God bless the people who give so freely of themselves!!