Northern Tier 2010

July 18, 2010

Gone to the Sun

Filed under: Geology, Montana, Section 02 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm


The only bad thing about today is that I’ve already climbed the highest pass of my entire route and crossed the Continental Divide. Presumably, if I just start coasting from here I’ll either end up in the Gulf of Mexico or The Hudson Bay.


The road over this highest pass is called the “Going-to-the-Sun” road, and it provides visitors access to the park’s interior via Logan Pass at 6,664 feet. Completed in 1932 under the leadership of superintendent Stephen T. Mather, the road itself is impressive. Rather that excavate a series of switchbacks to cross the mountains (the more common and less expensive option), park planners worked with architect Thomas Vint to build a road that feels like it blends into the landscape by following and slowly rising up through a valley, with just one dramatic switchback, before continuing the climb up the other side. They were remarkably successful,


The tilted rocks of the Belt Supergroup are right up against the road’s edge, and streams and waterfalls appear to spill right into the road, only to flow underneath through subtly constructed aqueducts to continue on the other side.

Bicycles are prohibited from being on two key sections of the 32-mile road from Apgar (where I camped last night) to Logan Pass from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., so I got up early enough to be biking by 6:00 a.m. My legs felt great, and I easily made it to the pass by 10, with many photography stops.


I lingered at the pass for a couple of hours to bask in the spectacular vistas of glacial horns, aretes, cols, cirques, U-shaped and hanging valleys, visit the bookstore, and attend a presentation about the rapidly retreating glaciers of Glacier National Park — there are only 24 remaining (well over 100 in the 1800’s), and conservative predictions have them all gone by 2030.

The ride down was wonderful, and I decided to stop at the Rising Sun campground for the night. I got here by about 2:00 or so, and I had plenty of time for a big meal, a shower and some hand washing of laundry. Afterward, I retreated to my tent to read, but felt an overwhelming desire to sleep, and I had the best nap I can recall: birds chirping, with gentle breezes moving air through my tent. (I’ve haven’t been getting quite enough sleep for the past few nights, so I think this was a prudent way to spend part of the afternoon.)


After waking I visited with my campground neighbors for a while — I was pleasantly surprised to learn I had only been asleep for a couple hours, rather than the several days I feared.

I then cooked a simple dinner and watched a ranger program about avalanches and fire; now I’m getting ready for bed and trying to decide what to do tomorrow. I think I may take a break from biking and do some hiking.

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1 Comment »

  1. Henry,

    re: grasshoppers. End Times are coming. One of the plagues, remember?

    Helpfully,
    Jonathan

    Comment by Jonathan Nashel — July 29, 2010 @ 3:07 pm


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