The Great Outdoors Issue

Whether you're in search of a paddler's paradise or looking to scoop up some beta on Glacier National Park, these tips will help make the most out of your outdoor adventures this summer

By Beacon Staff
Illustration by Dwayne Harris

As we emerge from life on lockdown and begin to explore our summer surroundings through the prism of a pandemic, rallying for even the most routine activities requires an additional layer of planning and preparation. Perhaps it’s as simple as adding a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer to the inventory of picnic-packing supplies, or tweaking travel logistics to accommodate the new norm of social distancing.

Either way, denizens of Northwest Montana are made of hardy stock, accustomed to the forces of nature bearing down at inopportune times, and adapting in the face of adversity.

To that end, the Flathead Beacon’s annual Outdoors Issue features tips on how to navigate the summer safely while still having fun.



Essential apps for outdoor adventures, June 26, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Essential Outdoors Apps

Smartphone apps to enhance your wilderness ventures this summer

By Micah Drew

An outing into the wilderness was once lauded as a chance to break ties with civilization and technology. Now, the latter is as much a part of the journey as the year-old Clif Bar hidden at the bottom of a backpack — it’s not exactly what you want to be looking at on a mountaintop, but it can enhance the experience.

In addition to the essential camera, a smartphone can be configured for a host of outdoor-oriented uses. Here are some of the essential apps that, depending on your activity, could be helpful this summer.



Cyclists ride Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park on June 20, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Crowds Flock to Glacier Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road will remain closed above Avalanche over Fourth of July holiday; east entrances will be inaccessible for 2020 season

By Maggie Dresser

Ever since Glacier National Park reopened its gates to the public in early June, locals and tourists have gradually begun flocking to the West Glacier entrance following a two-month closure.



Jim Bob Pierce, executive director and chief pilot of Two Bear Air Rescue, stands next to Two Bear’s helicopter in a hangar at Glacier International Airport on July 25, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Passion for the Mission

Two Bear Air Rescue’s Chief Pilot Jim Bob Pierce has flown dozens of life-or-death operations to rescue stranded adventurers, all with the memory of a deadly avalanche never far from his mind

By Andy Viano

There’s a day that Jim Bob Pierce sometimes thinks about when he pilots Two Bear Air Rescue’s Bell 429 helicopter skyward before swooping down to put an end to the worst day of someone’s life.

The day is New Year’s Eve 1993, and it remains one of the darkest Pierce has ever had.



Kayakers enjoy an afternoon on Flathead Lake. Beacon File Photo

Paddles Up Flathead

Options for river and lake trips to beat the summer heat

By Micah Drew

Every year, boaters, floaters, swimmers and whitecap skimmers take to the waters of Northwest Montana. And sure, chugging around in a pontoon boat or firing up the motor to drag around water skiers can be a great source of summer solace, but nothing really beats bonding with the water by wielding a paddle.

Between the hundreds of lakes dotting the region and the alternating rapids and drifts of the Flathead River, it’s easy to find a watery surface to ply your paddle.



A visitor takes in views of the Aurora Borealis over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park on May 28, 2017. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Science in the Crown

Glacier National Park’s Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center announces 2020 programs

By Tristan Scott

Viewed through the prism of research, Glacier National Park is a vast learning laboratory spanning more than a century of discovery, its lessons touching on everything from lichen to lynx, as well as the geomorphic layers that encompass the park’s 1 million acres.



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