…and Back Again

Returning from the Sun

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is well worth experiencing in both directions as the view going east is different from the view going west. And, since it’s later in the day, we are able to stop and get out of the car to take pictures of what we missed before.


We pull in to the turnout for Goose Island and I notice these clusters of pink flowers on long loose stems with narrow leaves.

Fireweed… from the Evening-Primrose Family

Wild Goose Island sits in the middle of St. Mary Lake surrounded by mountain peaks almost 4,000 feet high. (plaque at viewpoint)


A Montana Legend, retold by S.E. Schlosser, tells the story of 2 tribes living on either side of the lake who simply avoided each other.

But all that changed one day when a handsome warrior on the near shore saw a lovely maiden from the other tribe swimming toward the small island in the middle of the lake. He was so taken by her beauty that he leapt into the lake and swam to the island where they met and fell in love. After promising to meet at the island on the morrow, the maiden and warrior returned home to their individual tribes.

Neither tribe was happy about their meeting and all were determined to keep the 2 lovers apart. So in the early hours of the morning the warrior and the maiden swam back out to the little island and made plans to leave together for a new land where they could be together.

As soon as they were discovered missing, however, both tribes set out to bring them back.  But the Great Spirit was watching over the young couple and approved of their love for each other. He transformed them into geese, which mate for life, so they could fly away and be together forever.

When the 2 tribes reached the island they only found 2 geese who stroked their necks together and flew away, never to return again. (americanfolklore.net)



We continue driving west…

The next turnout we stop at provides a view of Jackson Glacier. But first we are greeted by these lovely lavender Asters.

Most of the glaciers in the Park are not visible from the road, but Jackson Glacier is easily seen at this overlook. At 10,052 feet, Mount Jackson is the 4th highest peak in the Park. (plaque at viewpoint)


According to the Glacier National Park Official Summer 2019 Newspaper

In 1966 the Park had 35 named glaciers. By 2015, 9 of those were already inactive. Snow avalanches, ice flow dynamics, and variations in ice thickness cause some glaciers to shrink faster than others, but one thing is consistent — all the glaciers have receded since 1966.


We continue west toward the setting sun…

Absolutely gorgeous!


Logan Pass is the highest elevation reachable by car at 6,646 feet. Clements Mountain, at 8,760 feet, hovers above the Visitor Center where the parking lot is always full. Logan Pass crosses the Continental Divide. (Glacier National Park Official Summer 2019 Newspaper)


I wish I could be more specific about what we see… There’s a hiking trail and the rest of the Going-to-the-Sun Road down below.

The alpine valleys are dramatic…

The Weeping Wall…

Haystack Falls…

This may be a preview of Heavens Peak…

The road narrows and hugs the rocky slopes…

Heavens Peak at 8,987 feet…

What a contrast of landscapes…


The second tunnel, West Tunnel…

Somehow I missed the East Tunnel which, traveling in this direction, is before Logan Pass. This 408-foot tunnel passes through Piegan Mountain. (A week before we visited Glacier National Park, a young girl was killed by falling rocks as her family’s car approached the entrance to the East Tunnel from the west.) Yikes! How awful and devastating!


We head toward Avalanche Creek…

Mc Donald Creek as it approaches its namesake lake…

And we’re back at the Western Entrance to the Park after a very full day of exploring!


Some notes I took…

Two mountain ranges, the Livingston Range and the Lewis Range, run through Glacier National Park from the northwest to southeast. The Continental Divide follows the crest of the Lewis Range.

Elevation varies from a low of 3,150 feet in the Lake McDonald valley to a high of 10,466 feet on Mount Cleveland. There are 6 peaks over 10,000 feet and 32 peaks over 9,100 feet. (nps.gov)


And 2 postscripts…

 

Going-to-the-Sun

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50 mile scenic drive that bisects Glacier National Park east and west.

It is significant as a unique engineering accomplishment of the early 20th century, and as the first product of a 1925 cooperative agreement between the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads. (Library of Congress, loc.gov)

This paved 2-lane highway was completed in 1932. Spanning the width of the park, the road passes through a glacial lake and cedar forests in the lower valleys, crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, and descends the alpine meadows of summer wildflowers into water-carved gorges, forested valleys, another glacial lake, and a native grassland community. (visitmt.com and Glacier National Park Official Summer 2019 Newspaper)

Picturesque viewpoints, overlooks, turnouts, trailheads, 2 tunnels, shuttle stops, and restrooms line the highway to the sun.

letsgetdealstoday.com

We get an early start. All of these pictures are taken from the car while we drive from west to east. Not expecting great pictures, I am pleasantly surprised at how well I have managed to capture the flavor of the iconic Going-to-the-Sun drive. So, buckle up and enjoy…


After driving past Lake McDonald and Avalanche Creek, we pass through the West Tunnel. In 1926, technology, manpower, and time bored through 192 feet of mountain. (Glacier National Park Official Summer 2019 Newspaper)

The only switchback on this road affords this view of a hanging valley. (Unlike rivers, glaciers erode into steep-sided, wide-bottomed, U-shaped valleys.) Hanging valleys remain where a small mountain glacier once joined a larger valley glacier. (National Park brochure)


Let’s stop and talk about how earth history formed Waterton-Glacier National Park. The Park is the result of 1.6 billion years of 3 geological forces happening in the following sequence:

  1. Sedimentation of rock
  2. Uplift of mountains
  3. Glaciation that carved out mountain valleys.

It all started some 150 million years ago when tectonic plates of the earth’s crust collided on the western edge of North America. This collision began a process of mountain building that continued for another 90 million years. Then, about 75 million years ago, the Lewis Overthrust Fault cracked and lifted over 60 miles of rock. The Overthrust Fault explains the sudden mountain-to-plains transition and the narrow width of the Rocky Mountains here at barely 35 miles. (I had no idea that over 1800 square miles of the Rockies lie within the boundaries of Waterton-Glacier National Park.) (nps.gov)

Meanwhile, as the newly formed mountains trapped clouds, draining rain and snowmelt became streams that fed into 3 river systems. Over time, the mountains collected so much moisture that snowfields became glaciers that grew and spread and carved out the landscape of the Park today. About 12,000 years ago the last of the great glaciers melted back, leaving today’s younger glacier ice surviving in only the highest, coldest places. (National Park brochure)

To this day, some of the oldest rocks in North America, still retaining their sedimentary characteristics, are found in Waterton-Glacier National Park.

Below, the Triple Arches Bridge, is a 3-span, 65 foot long half-bridge designed in 1927 as a less expensive and less imposing solid masonry retaining wall. Known locally as the Garden Wall, it is constructed of reinforced concrete and was built to span the deep rifts in the mountainside where the road traverses the Continental Divide. (Parkitecture in Western National Parks, nps.gov)

Did I mention, it’s crowded all day here? And the turnouts are usually full? That’s why I have to snap my pictures fast when we’re on the go.

Glaciers that lie against mountains erode ever-steeper cliffs by repeatedly freezing and thawing and prying rocks loose. Where glaciers surround the peak, they may eventually erode it into a tooth-like horn. (National Park brochure)

Bighorn sheep resting in an alpine meadow…

Weeping walls…

A water-carved gorge…

St. Mary Lake, like Lake McDonald, is a vivid blue glacial lake that fills the bottom of a large glacial valley.

I discover a UFO hovering over the mountain peaks…

Clouds are cool!

We arrive at St. Mary and exit the park.