26.08.2014 - 26.08.2014 22 °C
When I was in the Pacific Northwest in June 2009, I really wanted to drive the Going to the Sun Road, in Glacier National Park. It is the only road through the Park, and runs roughly east to west, connecting Montana with Idaho, and crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. It was constructed in the 1930's, and is both a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark (because it basically has to run along and then up and over mountains and back down again). It is fair to say that there is the occasional scenic view. The park itself was first established in 1910, after the railroad had gone past its southern point - to attract people to stay, the railroad company built chalets and lodges throughout the park. It is over a million acres, in the Rockies just before America becomes Canada. Unfortunately for me in 2009, the snow had not quite cleared when I was there (it has been closed by snow as late as mid July, and can then close again in October) so I missed out. Not this time.
We were at East Glacier, which had a very park entry sort of vibe to it, yet we were basically half way between the only two entrances. Although we were heading west after we were done, we decided to go up to West Glacier (where there was an entrance) and go across and back, spending most of the day in the park. There isn't actually very much to be said about our day, as the pictures can tell most of the story.
When the road was first opened in the 1930's, a fleet of buses was set up to carry people through the park, no doubt from one railway station to another. Because the gears were not so great, the drivers came to be called jammers - that name has now switched to the vehicles themselves, which are still in operation, 80 years later (admittedly, Ford took all the bodies and plonked them on modern chassis and repowered them in 2001). They are now for private tours, but the idea of public transit through the park is still in play today, with a fleet of more modern buses. When we couldn't get a park at one stage, I was tempted to use one.
We went out the east exit at a place called St Mary, which is on a rather large lake of the same name. In St Mary, we had the worst food experience of the whole trip - there was a posh hotel of some sort and a cafe which seemed to be selling hotdogs to a large number of people on a bus tour. Neither appealed - so we ended up sitting in the "cafe" in the little supermarket - the cafe was a few chairs in one corner with vending machines to make coffee, hotdogs and the like.
Heading west again, we stopped at Logan Pass and had a wander around. There was a hiking trail, the highline trail, which runs for about 12 miles along the side of the mountain. Heights are not my thing, but I was OK walking this trail while it was carved out of solid rock and had a handrail, but when the trail turned into a bit of a line in the gravel, I couldn't handle it any more. On the way back, we saw the only critters of the entire day.
Our last stop was where we entered, the Apgar visitor centre, which was on the western end of another large lake, MacDonald. It was very peaceful in there, and after seeing snow and ice, a little bit anomalous to find people on the lake. After an ice cream (served by some extraordinarily friendly Romanians) it was time to go.