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Published: August 17th 2014
After the rigors of the Grinnell Glacier hike, we were ready to take it a little easy, although I frankly felt pretty good the next morning. We had met up with Laura Lee in East Glacier Park Village, and Robbie was staying only a few mies away. We all met up in Browning, and began out trip across the width of Glacier National Park on the famous Going to the Sun Road. This 53 mile traversal is the only road going across the width of the park, and was considered an engineering marvel at the time of its construction. It was completed in 1932 at a cost of $2.5 million (about $43 million in today's dollars). It is considered one of the most difficult roads to plow in the nation, with plowing of up to 80 feet of snow on the eastern side of Logan Pass often progressing only 500 feet per day, despite equipment that can move 4000 tons of snow per hour.
When we came here in 2011, we had the distinction of crossing the road on the latest day that the road had ever opened completely, July 13. This year there was much less snow and the
road was opened on June 26. As a result, the walls of snow through which we drove in 2011 were completely absent this day. The hundreds of waterfalls we saw then were much reduced in number and flow. Despite that, this is a beautiful drive, one of the most spectacular I have ever driven.
At the start you drive gradually upward along the shores of St. Mary Lake, but quickly start climbing more dramatically into the towering peaks. Without their snow pack, these are rocky crags and walls, stark against the too-blue sky. Don't let the distance confuse you - this drive takes a minimum of two hours, usually more. Although switchbacks are uncommon (there is only one, and it is on the western side of Logan Pass), it is winding and narrow and guardrails are often non-existent since they have never found anything that can hold up to the annual snow drift and avalanches. Logan Pass is the crest of the road, and marks the point where the road crosses the Continental Divide. We had hoped to see mountain goats here, since that is the only large mammal of this area we had not yet seen. But none
were visible. I think the lack of snow and dry conditions contributed to that, but have no real reason for that assumption.On the western side of Logan Pass, you descend through another valley, through a single switchback and single tunnel, and emerge onto a level road along the McDonald Creek valley, coming eventually to Lake McDonald.
We had planned to have an experience of viewing 60-90 meteors per hour along the shore of Lake McDonald as part of the Perseid meteor shower. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. Clouds mostly covered the sky, and through occasional clearings we were able to see one or two meteors but not the numbers we were expecting. The next day it was raining, the park accommodations were abominable, and we decided to leave and break up the journey to Seattle into two more manageable days.
Tot: 3.716s; Tpl: 0.052s; cc: 16; qc: 66; dbt: 0.0474s; 3; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb