Published: September 2007
Field Notes: Michael Melford

Best

On September 21, 2006, the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road—which traverses the Rockies and bisects the park—was closed to cars from Big Bend up to Logan Pass due to snow and ice. I decided to drive up to Big Bend and hike along the road to the pass. Although it was wonderful to hike on the road without any cars, I didn't really see anything to photograph. At the pass, I hiked around on the snow and pulled out my camera a few times, but there wasn't much. After a while, I headed back down to the car. Just as I got there, it started to snow those really big, beautiful, heavy flakes. So I popped the back of the SUV and sat there, sheltered by the tailgate, photographing the scene. One of the first pictures I took of the snow falling against a backdrop of trees was chosen to end the article, while a picture taken a couple moments later, of two bighorn sheep as they ran past, made it into the article as well. It's funny—and great—how two photographs taken during an hour spent in the comfort of the SUV wound up in the article, while the hours I spent hiking several miles to and from the summit yielded nothing!

Worst

I was at Glacier in late July 2006, when a forest fire burned out of control on the east side of the park. It started near Red Eagle Lake and went on to burn more than 32,000 acres in the park and the adjoining Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The park's policy is to not put out fires unless they threaten humans, so the fire was allowed to burn, although the town of St. Mary was evacuated for a brief time. The Red Eagle fire was rumored to have been the result of careless or inappropriate human activity, but in February 2007, officials reported that, pending new information, the cause of the fire is "undetermined."

Quirkiest

I wanted to photograph a moose. I had heard that Bullhead Lake, a couple miles up the Swiftcurrent trail, was a good spot, so I headed up the trail from the Many Glacier area. I asked the first people I saw coming down the trail if they'd seen any moose. They told me there was a bull moose in the lake. So, the whole way up to the lake, I kept asking returning hikers if the moose was still there. "Oh yes," I was told. I finally got to the lake—just in time to see him come out of the water and go back into the bush! Of course, everyone there with a camera told me of all the wonderful pictures I'd missed. So I kept my eye on the moose. He went up into the bush not very far away and went to sleep. So I just hung out there and focused in on him with my 500mm lens. All you could see were his antlers. While he slept, I talked with other hikers as they went by, pointing out his antlers because they couldn't possibly see him, not knowing to look there. I hung out there for two hours, and the sun kept getting lower and lower. Then, just about sunset, the moose woke up and came down to the lake—getting into the perfect spot for my photograph! I think it's pretty cool that he waited until just the right light to come and get back into the water for me.