Between wildfires and hurricanes, the past few weeks have changed the landscape at some of America’s most beloved destinations.
Glacier National Park in Montana has been particularly hard-hit by fires, but flames are also flaring at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota and points farther west.
Sperry Chalet, a cherished backcountry hotel in Glacier, was destroyed by fire. The historic landmark was a beacon to hikers. It required a 6-mile hike in, but once there, hikers enjoyed robust dinners, pie included. (Read a story on the destination by Star Tribune reporter Chris Riemenschneider at tinyurl.com/ycjxgce6.)
Threats continue. An evacuation order has been issued for residents of the West Glacier area. Also, parts of Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, which abuts Glacier, have been closed. Fires there are threatening the historic Prince of Wales Hotel.
In California, several fires are burning through wilderness areas in Yosemite National Park, and its Glacier Point Road is closed due to fire.
Fire is a natural part of a forest’s evolution. It clears away dead wood, dried fallen timber and thick brush, bringing sunlight to healthy new growth. But that life-cycle reality bumps up against tourists’ wishes to see acres of uninterrupted trees.
Meanwhile, Irma lashed the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. Homes are gone; trees are denuded and much work is needed before St. John and St. Thomas are fully recovered.
Puerto Rico also endured torrential rain and high winds. But while parts of the island still have no power, resorts are up and running. Tourism is a vital economic engine of the cash-strapped territory.
As for beloved Fort Myers Beach in Florida, it’s no picnic for locals, but it was spared the worst of Irma’s wrath.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.