6/28/2021 – Glacier National Park to St. Mary, MT

41.35 / 743.52 Total Miles

3819 Ft. Elevation Gain / 39,595 Ft. Total Elevation Gain

Snow plows have been working feverishly for weeks to clear the road at the top of Logan Pass, so cars and bikes could drive to the top.  About a week ago, the Parks Service started allowing bikes to climb the pass, as long as heavy equipment wasn’t on the road.  Then 3 days ago, the road at the top of Logan Pass was finally cleared, and cars were allowed on the road.  Cars with Entry Reservation Tickets, that is.  It is such a well known scenic drive, that the Parks Service had to find a way to reduce the number of cars going up the pass, so they instituted a reservation ticket that you must have to even enter the park, and a small percentage of the people who would like to drive up to Logan Pass get to.  The 3 days the pass has been open have been very busy, per our campground host, Ed.

Our 4 AM wakeup call, this morning, was to ensure we were on the road by 6:30.  The pressure was on to make it up Going to the Sun Road by 11 AM, when bikes have to be off the road.  When I woke up, it was cold and dark and I knew there were evil mosquitos lurking outside my tent.  I did NOT want to go out there.  So I did everything I could to get ready from inside my tent, then I threw myself on my sword and faced the enemy. And the enemy just kept biting me.  

We got on the road at 6:35, and the first 12 miles of the road were somewhat flat, with just a few little rises here and there, as we rode past the northern part of Lake McDonald; jagged, snow capped peaks; cascading creeks and waterfalls; and the raging, roaring McDonald River.  Then the road turned steep, and the climbing began—heavy duty climbing, as in a steady 6% grade, with just a few short sections of 5% thrown in for temporary relief.  The 10 mile climb took us 2.5 hours, and during that time, we were surrounded on all sides by amazing views.  I can’t even guess how many times we stopped to take in the views and snap photos.  Probably a zillion.  

On a bike, you can hear the roaring of the rivers, creeks and waterfalls throughout the climb.  I’m thinking that from a car, you wouldn’t hear most of it, because where cars stop, there are other cars stopping, and the commotion drowns out the sounds of nature.  Also, on a bike, even though you should hug the right side of the road, you don’t want to, because there is a steep drop off, and the barriers are only 18-24” tall.  So we rode out in the lane, and cars had to find their way around us.  We were moving along at 4-5 miles per hour, so pretty much every car on the road had to pass us.  And we appreciated the fact that they were respectful and gave us our space, so we could live to see another day.

We spent a few minutes at the top posing for photos, looking around outside the visitor’s center, talking to folks about our ride, etc., then we hit the road for an amazing descent. 

We met so many people at the various view points along the road, who stopped to ask us questions about our ride or to just encourage us.  At the top, Diane Levy, who rode her bike across the Northern Tier 30 years ago, approached us to reminisce.  She did this ride before the advent of fancy bikes, ultra lite gear, weather aps, with up to the minute weather forecasts and sophisticated maps and GPS’s, which have definitely made these types of ventures easier to succeed at.  I was super impressed.  

Also, at the top, we met a 77 year old gentleman named C.A., from Wichita, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He was a super engaging guy who brought his grandkids on this dream vacation, which I hope to still be doing when I’m his age. I need great examples like him. Thanks for looking after our bikes and keeping us company at the top, C.A.

The US and Canadian flags represent Glacier National Park in the US and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, which are adjacent to each other, divided only by the international border. The Canadian Parliament and U.S Congress together designated them the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

On the wildlife front, I was expecting to see bear, mountain goats and big horn sheep, on the road at some point, but they were hiding out, possibly due to the traffic or heat. I was disappointed to only see one deer, 3 big horn sheep from a distance and some yellow bellied marmots. 

National Park humor.
Crazy Guy on a Bike, Ed Craft, with the closet thing to a wildlife encounter either of us had.
Leaving the parking lot at Logan’s Pass, our destination was St. Mary.

Ed got ahead of me on the descent, because I kept stopping to take photos of the other side of the park and Lake St. Mary.  And as I was pulling out of one of the view points, a little Subaru pulled past me, slowed down, then slowly backed up.  Almost like they wanted to ask me  question.  So I stopped and looked over at the people in the car, and it was people I knew!  Julie and Remington Blackhurst from American Fork, Utah!  It was so amazing to see them here in Glacier National Park on the Going to the Sun Road.  Small World! Julie is a single Mom who does everything she humanly can to see that her son lives the fullest life possible and that he sees and experiences the best things that life has to offer, and today that was Going to the Sun Road. She’s an adventurer, and she’s creating the next generation of adventurers.  Someone has to do it.  I love that girl!  Before we parted ways, she treated me to a few Rainier Cherries and a bottle of cold water, which I ended up needing to make it to the campground in St. Mary.  

Me with Remington and Julie Blackhurst, aka Super Mom
St. Mary Lake
More St. Mary Lake. Wow! It’s beautiful.

When I finally made it down to the bottom, Ed was waiting for me at the Visitor’s Center. We rode up to our campground, and on seeing the scorched earth and lack of shade, made a split second decision to stay in the cheap motel next door.  Temperatures were in the mid 90s, and it was only 1:30 PM.  No way were we going to sit outside for 8 hours, waiting for the sun to set and things to cool down.  The motel rooms didn’t have air conditioning, but being indoors with a fan still beat sitting out in the heat.  We showered, went out to find lunch, then napped and attempted to work on our blogs, which didn’t work, due to lame wifi.  At dinner time, all 3 of the restaurants in St. Mary were overrun with patrons, so eating out was out of the question. We ended up eating another Hungry Man entree from the grocery store and regretting it. Maybe we learned our lesson, this time.

We spent some time today swapping our camping arrangements for motel arrangements for at least the next few days.  To make hot to Maine, we need to avoid heat stroke.

4 thoughts on “6/28/2021 – Glacier National Park to St. Mary, MT

  1. Eileen, you are truly amazing! The people you meet add so much to your trip and mixed with the spectacular pictures you are creating quite a memory. I love your blog……stay safe!!

    Like

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