Pulled ourselves together the morning of September 9th, had a hardy breakfast at St. Mary Lodge on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, and headed for the Going-to-the-Sun Road which traverses the Park in a roughly east/west direction. I say roughly, because it has a “few” twists here and there – both horizontally and vertically. This was a most anticipated crossing. Anyone who visits the Glacier National Park region will tell you it is a must-do experience. It would also work out well for us, as the Road continues on as RT 2 on the west side of the Park, along our planned route to Mt. Rainer.
Typical Scene of Livestock Grazing alongside the roads in Glacier National Park
Within minutes of leaving St. Mary Lodge we were at the southeastern entrance to Glacier National Park and the start of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Feeling kind of like one leaving the loading point on a roller coaster ride, but with the added apprehension that we were the ones who had to control of our coaster car, we started the gradual assent through a nicely wood forest and river valley on our journey westward along the Road. The Going-to-the-Sun Road did not disappoint, providing us with a variety of sensations ranging from spectacular views of the craggy peaks and verdant valleys left by preceding glaciers to total disorientation when visibility was fully obscured by a low cloud layer wrapping itself around the mountains as we negotiated the switch-backs at Logan Pass 6,600 feet above sea level. Perhaps it is just as well that we could not see the sheer 1,000 foot drop-off on the side of the road as we felt our way along around (sometimes under) the stone out-croppings on our side of the road at a speed just fast enough to limit the risk of someone coming up behind us and pushing us off the edge.
Tunnel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road – Happy they didn’t decide to go around the outside of this particular out-cropping.
Looking into a valley along the Going-to-the-Sun Road below the cloud layer
The view of the mountains and valleys reappeared as we descended below the cloud layer, providing Jean with spectacular views of the adjacent mountains and valleys below as she clicked away with her i-phone – I was too busy concentrating on not creating the newspaper headline “two people die as their antiquated Jeep plunges off the edge….”
After a long decent (the Jeep’s 72 hp engine appreciated the recuperation time), we reached the Apgar Village visitor area on the southeastern edge of McDonald (not the hamburger guy) Lake. There we found a picnic table near the water and enjoyed our traditional peanut butter (actually sunflower butter) and honey sandwiches. This being Jean’s birthday, I treated her to a Moose Tracks ice cream sugar cone – what a guy.
Schoolhouse in Apgar Village on the western end of Glacier National Park built in 1915
We left Apgar Visitor Center and were shortly exiting the Park’s western entrance to continue our trek westward; our next destination – Mt. Rainer National Park in Washington State. (have you been noticing my creative sentence structure and clever use of punctuation).
Leaving the western entrance to Glacier National Park
Incidentally, with the days all running together for the past month as we leapt from destination to destination with punctuations of “unpredicted adventure”, I had let the occasion of Jean’s birthday slip my mind (I know, I know “how could I”). Fortunately, early on the morning of her birthday, as I sat in the lobby of the St. Mary Lodge blogging, it struck me. In a panic, I ran 20 feet into the gift shop at the Lodge which was just opening, picked out a more-or-less suitable card (had a picture of a moose on the front), signed and dated it, and took it down to our economy abode to present it to her. I later related the circumstances of the gesture to her – she was not surprised.
Among the folks kindly following our journey is an online group of avid Jeep enthusiasts called the Old Willys Forum. Through this forum we have had the opportunity to chat with several interested and helpful followers. We have actually been able to meet up with some of them, the first being Laurie who was kind enough to drive her early Jeep pick-up down to Evergreen, MT to visit with us for a while at the local McDonalds (not the lake). We had a pleasant time exchanging our Jeep experiences. Really nice to see some likeminded folks – provides some reassurance that we are not totally bonkers – or at least the there are other folks out there that are equally as bonkers.
Dan and Laurie with her Jeep Pick-up in Evergreen, Montana
After leaving Laurie, we traveled west for a couple more hours through wooded rolling countryside dotted with lakes and small farms to our evening’s accommodations in Libby, MT. Though a ~ 70’s era single floor motel, it was very clean, well maintained and the rooms fully equipped with conveniences. The owner/proprietor was very accommodating, permitting me to use his facilities to wash the road construction grime off of our station wagon.
We are encountering many road construction projects along this portion of the trek. With most of the roads being two-lane and twisty, this often included prolonged lane stoppages traffic was alternated through lane closures in the construction zones. Winters are hard on the roads in the northwest. The local joke is that there are two seasons up there – winter and road construction.
9 9 13 Starting up Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park from the East
9 9 13 Going over the top of Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park
9 9 13 Continuing West on the Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park