Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The sometimes hard life of a subalpine fir

with 9 comments

Glacier National Park in winter, especially at high altitudes, is a hard place. On August 30th I saw the enduring consequences of that harshness on some of these subalpine fir trees, Abies lasiocarpa, at Logan Pass (altitude 6,647 ft.). Beyond them is Pollock Mountain, which sits on the Continental Divide.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2017 at 4:54 AM

9 Responses

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  1. But they still live. Isn’t that great?
    Have a wonderful Sunday,


    October 15, 2017 at 6:35 AM

    • Yes, gnarled and broken as some of them are, they do survive. And many grow to be full-size trees and are seemingly unaffected.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2017 at 9:49 AM

  2. It’s great that you were able to reach some of these areas on your trip. This portion of the road’s closed already because fire, which I’m sure you know, and I just saw that the open portions will be closed for the season this coming week. I think I’ve read about snow at Logan pass already.

    It’s neat the way you separated the layers: the striated mountain top, the smoother fallen rock (there must be a word) and the trees. The perpendicular branch at the top of the largest tree looks like it might be thinking about trying to become another trunk.


    October 15, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    • About a week after our visit, fire danger caused authorities to close most of the western half of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Some time later, I noticed that authorities had additionally closed much of the eastern half. When I looked at the Glacier website last week, I saw that all of the eastern half had reopened. When I looked again a minute ago, I found most of the road was closed again, the western half due to construction and fire, and the eastern half due to winter weather.

      I took the portion of the mountain below the striated part to be a broad talus slope:


      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2017 at 9:59 AM

    • And yes, we were fortunate to be able to travel the entire length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (twice). I’d weighed the idea of going north from Calgary to Jasper early in the trip and saving Waterton and Glacier for near the end. If I’d chosen that plan, fire-induced closures would’ve kept us out of all Waterton and important parts of Glacier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2017 at 10:40 AM

  3. […] you scanned the previous picture from Glacier National Park on August 31st, did your glance get caught on the rocky protrusion way […]

  4. In their early lives, that make gorgeous Christmas Trees. But they are no longer available as they do not do well in tree farms, and in nature are the ones that are up in the higher elevations. They have a lovely open symmetry that is not found in the cultivated firs. One of my hopes was to be able to see these growing in the wild. So thank you

    Sue McCann Wiseman

    October 16, 2017 at 10:44 AM

    • Hi, Sue. I didn’t know about subalpine firs having been used as Christmas trees. What I can confirm is that they grow at high altitudes, as shown here. I do hope you’ll get to see them not just in a photograph but in person; Glacier National Park would be an excellent place for you to plan a visit to in warm weather.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2017 at 11:22 AM

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