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Going-to-the-Sun

Tunnel through the mountain

August 13/Day 27. At my age, I generally need at least day to recoup after a strenuous hike like Cobalt. And to me, a visit to Glacier Park wouldn’t be complete without driving the full length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park. So I decide to spend the day in my truck, “resting” by driving across  and back, about 2 ½ hours each way.

As it turns out, resting and driving the Sun road are not compatible concepts. Starting from the west end, where I’m camped, the first 10 miles of the road lazily parallels the shoreline of 10-mile long Lake McDonald. So far so good. Beyond the lake, however, the road begins a narrow, serpentine ascent toward the Continental Divide and the Logan Visitor Center, an unbroken 12-mile climb.

Wild Goose Island

By narrow, I mean I literally have to fold back my rear view mirrors so I don’t scrape the cliff on one side of the truck or smack an oncoming car with the other. In a few places it’s so narrow that realistically only one vehicle can pass and the line of cars heading each way shuffles through one at a time. The outboard edge of the road has an 18-inch retaining wall built of native stone by the WPA, and beyond that is, well…space. Large, menacing amounts of space, sometime a thousand feet of it, straight down.

The inside, or mountain, side of the road is carved from living rock that’s so jagged and uneven sometimes it’s difficult to judge my distance from it, especially while concentrating on the clearance between me and the vehicle coming toward me.

And serpentine! It seems there’s hardly a straight stretch the whole 12 miles. I go into hairpin turns unable to see who’s coming toward me from behind the cliff.  Because of the tight turns, the maximum allowable vehicle length on the road is 21 feet which, as it happens, is the exact length of my truck.

Notice the Logan Pass visitor center, bottom right

All this navigating happens while passing through the most extraordinarily beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen (too bad the sun’s never in the right place for good photo lighting.) But a furtive glance at the panorama of mountains, waterfalls and verdant valleys is about all I can manage. I have to keep my eyes on the road and my mind on the task. Fortunately, there are many turnouts where I can pull off the road and take a picture. By the end of the day, though,

I realize I haven’t “rested” at all.

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