(Guest blog from Brother Dear.)

It is summertime.  I know that statement is true because in the afternoons I can hear my attic fan cut on, pushing hot air out towards West Shore Road, where it dries out the dirt tracks to ageless dust; the dust is picked up and blown into my neighbors open windows and against their homes by every passing car, truck, fourwheeler, boat trailer, propane-laden semi, backhoe, tricycle, and cattle carrier and is thence carried out over Duck Lake, past Browning, and is propelled at incredible speeds through the streets of Cut Bank, where it is either swallowed by Floridian tourists fueling up their RVs or finds a thermal and hits the atmosphere, eventually cascading back to earth to be deposited in the wastelands of North Dakota.  I love the dust.  I’ve missed it.  The folks living on the east side of the road generally offer a contradicting opinion, but that is their business.

Of course, there are other ways to determine the arrival of true-summer around Babb besides attic fans and dry, dusty, gritty, wonderful breezes.  Some people go by dandelions, or the arrival of the valley’s dry herd, or when Hook’s Hideways has its first ropin’, or the opening of the Sun Road.  This year, I know it is summer because I’ve gone hiking without my -40 degree boots.

The first real hike of the season, with Natalee to Iceberg Lake, saw me not only leaving my winter boots at home, but also my hiking boots!  Trudging through miles of snow in sandals is really not that great, but you’ve got to make the most of warm sunny days!

We saw a little moose pretending to be an anteater.

And baby fox kits gnawing on each others necks.

And cloudy, stormy, sunny skies.

Later, I went hiking with Dad up toward Grinnel Glacier.

We saw SEVEN loons at one time.  Wild stuff.  Interweb Loon Experts (ILEs):  Please explain this behavior to us.

Wondered, with the sheep, why these stupid tourists refused to get out of the way.

Hung out with this fella for a little while, before booting him off the trail.  I will not suffer a surly or insouciant ungulate.

Then the next day, I traveled up to Gunsight Lake.

Ran across (and nearly int0) this carefree fellow jay-walking around the Sun Point area.  More on his day later.

Saw this little clown hanging around near Reynolds Creek, begging for scraps.

I followed the trail up to Gunsight Lake, and got within a few hundred yards when I blundered into this avalanche chute.  I came around a corner to discover a 15 ft tall wall of snow and rocks and pulverized trees blocking the path.  The trail crew gang has their work cut out for them.

There’s a trail under here somewhere…

There were bear and moose tracks everywhere.  Never did see the bear, but I did eventually find the moose.

I saw a single person on my hike out, and it just happened to be my friend Eddie, the fella in charge of trails on the east side of the park.  He’d suffered through meetings with “suits” the previous day and was taking the opportunity on his day off to hike out and check out the avalanche that everybody was talking about.  On his day off!  How great is that.

As I headed back down the sun road, windows down and Guy Clark blaring on the radio, my left arm getting a good sunsoaking and my mind in exactly the right place for such a perfect summer day, I noticed that the pullout for Lost Lake was empty of tourist vehicles.  Lost Lake is a lost love for many longtime park employees and locals.  It is one of the few bodies of water in the park that isn’t fed by a glacial stream.  It is more of a pothole, albeit a lovely one, that I assume has a spring and is also fed by early season snow melt.  When I was younger, everybody on the east side “in the know” would spend lazy afternoons fishing and swimming and gallivanting about the pebbled shore and in the (relatively, this is still NW Montana) warm waters of Lost Lake.

Then, tragedy struck the little pond like a sudden swift gust to an old windmill (hate it when that happens).  The news came crashing down in a hail of bitter confusion that some jerk scientist discovered some stupid rare jerk snail.  Swimming was prohibited.  Touching the water, actually, was now against the rules.

I bet that stupid snail is probably dead by now.  I sort of hope it is.  Lacking human contact with hippies, fishermen, drunks, and other assorted local types, I doubt the environment still enjoys suitable conditions for the survival of that miserable, lazy-day wrecking shell-covered grub.  Anyways, as you may have figured out from my general and specific vitriol in the matter of said stupid snail, I haven’t gotten over being denied my god-given right to swim in a pristine pond in a national park populated by an endangered, oft-threatened, and defenseless animal.

Luckily, bears don’t play by the rules.  Good for you, bear.  You made my day.

(No jerk snails were harmed in the making of this long and drawn out blog post.)