"No words can describe the grandeur and majesty of the mountains,
and even photographs seem hopelessly
to dwarf and belittle the most impressive peaks.
"
Ė George Bird Grinnell, 1901

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Shelby, MT to Helena, MT: US-2 West to Cut Bank to US-89 North to St. Mary to Going-To-The-Sun Road through Glacier National Park, across Logan Pass, to West Glacier to US-2 East to Browning to US-89 South to Choteau to US-287 South through Augusta to I-15 South to Helena. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
Iíve been looking forward to today for quite some time. I canít wait to get to the mountains and thatís why Iíve rushed out here, trying to beat the cold weather. At higher elevations it can snow at any time, but the only way I could even get through Glacier National Park was by visiting it early in the trip. So, Iím up with the sun, heading west out of Shelby with the mountains getting closer as each mile ticks by. Classic Sports Network fans may remember that Shelby was the sight of the Dempsy/Gibbons fight, July 4th, 1923. I know some of you were actually there.

When I get near Browning and turn up route 89, I pass a sign that says "Cross Winds". Theyíre not kidding. I get belted by a 40-MPH breeze that doesnít stop until I reach Kiowa, 12 miles later. The weather channel had predicted some gusty winds in the area, but this is ridiculous. Iím leaning over at a 45-degree angle just to keep the bike going straight! I stop in St. Maryís, the east entrance of the park, for my NPS Stamp and some great Fruity French Toast at the Park Cafe.

The Going-To-The-Sun Road is a scenic banquet, crossing Glacier Park between West Glacier and St. Mary. The 50 mile paved road was built in the 1930ís and is considered a national landmark. Itís narrow, steep and winding with pullouts for viewing every few miles. I stop at almost all of them, taking over an hour to reach the Logan Pass Visitor Center at 6,646 feet. Avalanche chutes look like ski trails, where the rushing snow has snapped trees like match sticks, clearing the steep slopes. The hillsides are home to Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, Wolves and Grizzly Bears. The scenery is the most spectacular Iíve ever seen, and as Mr.Grinell said, it is impossible to verbalize the beauty of the mountains. You need to see this in person to understand.

Logan Pass sits atop the Continental Divide, where all the water on the west side flows to the Pacific and that on the east flows towards the Atlantic, Hudson Bay and The Gulf of Mexico. A storm system is flowing over the top and when I reach the pass, what is rain at lower elevations is now snow! I stop the bike, put it on the center stand to keep it from being blown over, and take refuge inside the very crowded visitor center. The weather station inside says the wind is blowing at 50 MPH and the air temp before the wind chill is 40 degrees! This is not what I had in mind. The weather channel said there was a slight chance of showers in the mountains. They said nothing about a blizzard.

The Going-To-The-Sun road is closed from October until early June, and with good reason. Snowdrifts up to 80 feet cover Logan Pass. The visitor center becomes completely submerged under the snow. It takes months to clear the roads and dig out the building. In 1992, they got a foot of snow here in August!

The storm isnít letting up, but I must go on and head down the western pass. When I get back to my motorcycle itís covered with ice! This is pretty wild, I think to myself, but what the hell have I gotten myself in to? Barely able to see past the parking lot, I descend along the broad face of the "Garden Wall", with 10,000 feet peaks over my shoulder. Under 6,000 feet, the snow turns back to rain. I keep it under 30 MPH as I pass "Weeping Wall" and "The Loop" where the road turns sharply and follows the valley floor.

I reach what I intended to be my campground for the night, Avalanche Creek, but the rain doesnít look like itís going to end anytime soon. I head down the road and stop at Lake McDonald Lodge for a warming by the fire and some hot chocolate. While inside, the weather gets worse, turning to hail, then thunder and lightning. I really was looking forward to camping tonight, but it is just not going to happen. Itís only 3:00 PM, and I canít stay at the lodge, so I decide to do tomorrow today.

I had scheduled two shorter days together, as I had planned to camp. I figure Iíll just ride on to Helena and then have a full day of rest tomorrow. Why not? Itís only about 240 miles and Iíve only ridden about 150 so far. I love Glacier, but thereís not much to do in the rain. SO I RIDE.

I leave the park at West Glacier, heading south and then east along US-2, back towards Browning. At Marais Pass, I cross the divide again, this time at a much more peaceful 5,280 feet. Iíve circumnavigated the park. When I reach US-89 and head south, the rain has stopped, but Iím back against the wind. Iím in that 45 degree lean all the way to Choteau, about 70 miles away.

I reach I-15 near the Holter Dam, and I canít remember why I donít like the interstate. The road is empty, has great sweeping curves, and the speed limit is 75 MPH. As my good friend Austin would say, "Yeah Baby, Yeah!"

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 392.4
Total Miles: 7509
Time on Motorcycle: 7 Hours 35 Minutes
States Visited today: 1 (MT)
Total States Visited: 20
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 1
NPS Stamp totals: 54 Stamps, 17 States
Weather: Clear, Cool, Sunny, Rainy, Windy, Snowy, Freezing, Hail, Fire & Brimstone
Visits to Glacier National Park recorded in 1997: 1,708,887

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
"Range Stock Along Highway" Ė sign right next to several very large cattle on US-89, near Browning, Montana.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
Glacier National Park is actually part of three parks along the Livingston and Lewis Ranges: Glacier is the south end, Waterton Lakes is the park above the Alberta border, and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park fills the space between the Going-To-The-Sun Road and Canada. The 1 million-acre park is considered one of the most ecologically intact areas remaining in the world. If you like the wilderness you need to come here. Dave Matthews and his girlfriend visited the park a few days ago camping out at Many Glacier for a couple of nights. According to a local paper, the rock starís visit caused quite a stir for the local residents: all 20 of them. (To those of you who were at the Dempsy fight and donít know who Matthews is, go ask your kids.)

 


| DREAM | JOURNEY | IMAGES | STATS | PARKS | MAPS | GEAR | LINKS | CREDIT | HOME |

COPYRIGHT © 2000 DANIEL COHEN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
DO NOT DISTRIBUTE ANY OF THESE DOCUMENTS,
OR PORTIONS THEREIN, WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
CONTACT 100DAYS@DANIELCOHEN.ORG CONCERNING QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS.