Returning to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in fall 2022 furthered my photographic fascination with abstract rock patterns. Shot on slide film in 2002, such an image was enlarged twice on a Calgary skyscraper in 2019, my biggest publication, now at last visited in person during this autumnal RV trip (September 16–October 8). In Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada), vast areas of burnt forest revealed fireweed groundcover blazing with red, orange, and yellow fall colors. Visiting 5 years after the devastating fire, I was cheered by the riot of pine seedlings promising forest regeneration.
Gallery highlights below are excerpted from “2022 Sep-Oct: Waterton-Glacier, Akamina, Calgary“.
Above: A rock image from Glacier National Park by Tom Dempsey is enlarged twice at the base of a downtown skyscraper (SODO Residences, 620 10 Ave SW, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada).
Glacier National Park, Montana
Above: From Dragon’s Tail ridge, see Hidden Lake & Bearhat Mountain in Glacier National Park, in Montana.
The last two days of the Park Shuttle season in Glacier National Park (Montana) carried us to scenic hikes at Logan Pass, including the Garden Wall and Hidden Lake, where I ascended the airy Dragon’s Tail ridge. On Gunsight Pass Trail, I escaped into wilderness for a 3-day solo backpacking trip, culminating above Sperry Campground at wild Comeau Pass, a variegated vista of striated stone exposed by the rapidly-melting Sperry Glacier.
Above and below: Rock patterns, seen along the hike to Dragon’s Tail ridge.
The Garden Wall hike traverses a sheer cliff above Going-to-the-Sun Road starting from Logan Pass, in Glacier National Park.
Gunsight Pass 3-day backpacking traverse
Back on January 10 of this year, I tried to arrange a pricy private room for two, for 2–4 nights in September in the backcountry Sperry Lodge (meals included). Sadly, 700+ people got ahead of us during the couple of minutes required to fill the online application, then weeks later came notification that we didn’t get in. This led to a second option: in a lottery on March 15 ($10 nonrefundable), Tom booked a solo backcountry trip on the 3-day traverse of Gunsight Pass. From September 19–21, I trekked for 29 miles, vertically ascending 9400 feet and descending 8000 feet.
Because RVs aren’t allowed on the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Campground (on Lake McDonald) and the Rising Sun picnic area (on Saint Mary Lake, where Carol dropped me off), I hitchhiked to Jackson Glacier Overlook — the Gunsight Pass Trailhead. I backpacked to Gunsight Lake Campground and Sperry Campground, day hiked Comeau Pass, and finished at Lake McDonald Lodge, where Carol picked me up. Carol chose to stay at West Glacier RV Park (booked in advance) for sewing and walking. Carrying a 3.5-ounce Garmin InReach Mini 2 [Amazon] reassuringly tracked my progress for Carol and allowed Text communication via satellite — a great innovation!
A rainbow shines over the eastern entrance of Glacier National Park, seen from the Blackfeet Indian Memorial on Highway 89, near Saint Mary, Montana.
Above: Deadwood Falls on Reynolds Creek, Gunsight Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana.
Below: Florence Falls, seen later that day.
Above: Borer beetle tracks, Gunsight Pass Trail.
Above and below: Snow dusts the mountains surrounding Gunsight Lake, in Glacier National Park.
Above: A stream descends strikingly striated rock layers above Gunsight Lake.
Above: Fresh snow on Gunsight Pass Trail above Gunsight Lake.
Below: wind-driven rime ice accumulates on pine needles at freezing Gunsight Pass.
Above: Lake Ellen Wilson, seen from snowy Gunsight Pass.
Below: Red rock pattern at Gunsight Pass.
Above: Gunsight Pass is the cloudy gap seen here above sunny Lake Ellen Wilson.
Above: A 4-hour day hike round trip from Sperry Campground reached this panorama from Comeau Pass, along the Sperry Glacier Trail.
Below: Rock pattern vista at Comeau Pass, Sperry Glacier Trail.
Above: Ancient fossilized orange & purple seabed ripples at Comeau Pass, Sperry Glacier Trail.
Above: Akaiyan Lake seen at sunset, along Sperry Glacier Trail, a side trip from Gunsight Pass Trail.
On night 2 and day 3, a herd of mountain goats hovered around Sperry Campground waiting for people to pee — to lick their salts from the ground! National Park rangers in the Backcountry Permit Office had wisely forewarned backpackers to use the provided outhouse instead of peeing in the bushes.
Local residents at Sperry Campground: The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus, or Rocky Mountain Goat) is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America. This even-toed ungulate is in the Oreamnos genus (but is NOT a true “goat,” which would be Capra genus).
Grinnell Glacier Trail, hiked from Many Glacier Campground, Montana
Since the Park Shuttle had stopped running, and our RV exceeded the size limits for Going-to-the-Sun Road, Carol and I drove around 2 hours from West Glacier to Many Glacier, via Highways 2 and 464. We spontaneously stayed 2 nights at Many Glacier Campground (first come, first served in late September). As Carol was fighting off a head cold, I hiked Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail (11 miles, 2000 feet gain). No grizzlies this time, just 2 bighorn sheep. Still some glacier left, but melting fast.
Above: Red, orange, & white rock pattern on Grinnell Glacier Trail, in Glacier National Park.
Below: Sunburst over Grinnell Lake, Grinnell Glacier Trail.
Above: Orange and blue striped rock pattern on Grinnell Glacier Trail.
Below: Another ancient rock pattern on Grinnell Glacier Trail.
Above: Orange rock pattern with yellow lichen on Grinnell Glacier Trail.
Akamina Ridge loop hike from Alberta to BC and back, in Canada
Great hikes in the spectacular Rockies continue in Canada, in Waterton Lakes National Park — just 1.4 hours by car from Many Glacier Campground or Saint Mary (Montana, USA). From Waterton Park village in Alberta, a newly paved road reaches Akamina Pass Trailhead, where I hiked the epic Akamina Ridge loop via Forum and Wall Lakes, in Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park, British Columbia (12 miles with 3440 feet ascent & descent).
Red fireweed fall colors, Forum Lake Trail, Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park.
From Akamina Ridge above Forum Lake (in shadow), see yellow larch needles and distant peaks of Waterton National Park in Canada (left) and Glacier National Park in the United States (right).
Upper Kintla Lake, Agassiz Glacier, Kintla Peak, Kinnerly Peak in Glacier National Park, Montana seen from Akamina Ridge in Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park, BC.
Upper Kintla Lake in Glacier National Park, seen from Akamina Ridge.
Seen on Akamina Ridge, the white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura) is a member of the grouse family.
Larch trees with yellow fall colors contrast with burnt forest, on the flanks of Akamina Ridge above Wall Lake.
Five years after the 2017 Kenow forest fire burnt much of the area, regrowth begins with fireweed (red fall colors) and pine seedlings, along Wall Lake Trail, in Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park, British Columbia.
A line of three Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) cruise the highway in Waterton Park townsite, in Alberta, Canada. Wild sheep crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia during the Pleistocene (about 750,000 years ago) and spread across western North America as far south as Baja California and northwestern Mexico. Genetic divergence from their closest Asian ancestor (snow sheep) occurred about 600,000 years ago.
T. Rex at Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana
Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur skeleton, 60% real bone (darker color), displayed at Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana. It stands 12 feet high and 38 feet long. The skull mounted on the skeleton is a full replica with lighter color indicating reconstructed elements, and brown representing the real elements of the actual skull, which is displayed in an adjacent box at eye level.
Tom’s jagged rock image on a skyscraper in Calgary
Above: A rock image by Tom Dempsey is enlarged in lightboxes at the base of a downtown skyscraper, at SODO Residences, 620 10 Ave SW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The building was completed in June 2019 on the site of the historic Alberta Boot Company in the Beltline District. Tom originally photographed the stone pattern on color slide film in 2002 — “Billion-year-old rock breaks into a jagged pattern in Glacier National Park, Montana, image #02GLA-04-38.” Made of 50 glass tiles, the larger lightbox shown here wraps the building’s southeast corner, 19.6 by 8.4 meters (64 feet wide x 27.5 feet high). Made of 30 glass tiles, the smaller lightbox wraps the southwest corner, 16.3 by 3.5 meters (53.6 feet wide by 11.6 ft high).