Ask Jack: My Favorite Flathead Hikes, Supporting Mountain Gorillas

By Beacon Staff

This week I get the opportunity to talk about Glacier National Park, one of my favorite areas. Some folks call it the hiking capital of the world, and I agree. It’s truly magnificent. Keep those questions about hiking, wildlife, conservation and traveling coming to [email protected], and enjoy this week’s discussions!

What are your favorite hikes in the area?

I’m glad you asked! You know those bumper stickers and T-shirts that say “I’d rather be …”? Well, for me and my wife, that thing is hiking. When I’ve been traveling on the road for a while, I daydream about my favorite hikes in Montana. The problem is, there are just so many. Let’s break it down by region.

One of our favorite hikes in the Bigfork area is the Jewel Basin hike up to Mount Aeneas and Birch Lake. It’s the highest point in the Swan Range – about 7,500 feet. Another hike that’s actually more of a walk is the Swan River Nature Trail, a 4-mile stroll along the river that starts right in the village.

As you head north, there’s great hiking in Whitefish. We enjoy hiking up the ski resort at Big Mountain, and we also love skiing at Blacktail Mountain right across the lake.

And then, of course, there’s Glacier National Park, which is just phenomenal. There are hundreds of trails and beautiful scenery filled with creeks and lakes. Here are a few of my family’s favorites.

We like the hike up to Sperry Chalet and Sperry Glacier, and we also love going to Logan Pass and the Going-to-the-Sun Road – it’s one of the most magnificent roads in the world. You go right through Glacier, up to the very top where you cross the Continental Divide. We hike up to Hidden Lake, where we always see mountain goats. In fact, the picture with this column was taken there! And then of course there’s the Highline Trail, St. Mary Falls, Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier … I could go on and on. I look forward to discussing some of these in detail in future columns.

On one hike, a bear kept following us, but it was really my own fault. I always carry too much food in my backpack. Suzi even tried to carry a watermelon on one of our hikes. Talk about a heavy backpack.

I saw your Animal Planet show with Natalie Portman about mountain gorillas. What can I do to help the gorillas?

First of all, the mountain gorillas are extremely rare. In fact, there are only 650 to 700 left in the whole world. With that in mind, if you want to help them, the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio (where I’m based), is one of the biggest supporters of the mountain gorillas. Your best bet is to contact the Columbus Zoo (614-724-3619, columbuszoo.org) and ask them how you can help the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The zoo is aware of the gorillas’ various needs and has contacts for all the different projects you can help support, whether it be veterinary care, the gorilla orphanage, the trackers who take care of the gorillas, etc. If you missed the Animal Planet special, Saving a Species: Gorillas on the Brink, it will air again on Nov. 17, 18, and 19.

Read Jack’s previous column: The Benefits of Pets to Children.