©Bert Gildart: As I approached Montana’s Logan Pass this past Saturday, June 1, I was surprised when another cyclist — peddling back down from the summit — suddenly asked my age. “I’m 74,” he laughed. The he began committing on our magnificent surroundings, reflecting on our luck for still being part of it.
Though I never did provide a precise response regarding age, I did remark that, yes, we were lucky we could still bike to this 6,680 foot high pass. It not an easy ride, but it is the only way to reach this pass in early June, for although the road is plowed to the summit, it is not yet open to vehicular traffic, and from the pictures included here, you’d be correct in concluding that it won’t be open for yet a few more weeks. You’d also be correct in assuming that for me, at any rate, seeing this spectacular pass before the hordes of humanity mar the uncluttered winter snows was worth every ounce of energy that I expended. So it must have been for my new friend.
In short this is good news for cyclist. It means that on the weekends you can enjoy this magical part of the world without having to contend with vehicular traffic. During the week snow plows are clearing the road of snow and rocks – and even a few trees that have careened downhill, uprooted by the power of an avalanche. Maintenance crews are now preparing the road for the two million summer visitors that will soon start driving this same road, once it is safe and when visitors can access the restrooms, something they can’t do now (see below).
To bike this segment you must park your car at the Avalanche Lake Parking lot, mount your bike and then peddle along this 16 mile-long section of the Going to the Sun Road that climbs almost 4,000 feet. Saturday, lots did it and though cyclists were mostly “young kids” in their 30s and 40s, a few were more mature.
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L to R: Set up for self portrait near Logan Pass; snows releasing their vast quantities of water near Haystack Butte; sorry, folks,
but toilets (building in foreground) not yet open. Visitor Center shown in rear.
What I’m saying with these thoughts is that Logan Pass (The Polga family — and grandchildren — will remember this great goat outing) seems to represent a challenge on whatever level you strike out, and perhaps that’s because we know it is a challenge just to open the pass. Road crews work closely with avalanche specialists who monitor the 34 avalanche paths along the road below Logan Pass. To assist with safety the park hires an avalanche technician who usually hikes above the road to watch snow conditions and warn the crew below if an avalanche is imminent. Tragically, two people died in 1958 when an avalanche hit the plows they were operating.
It is these very conditions that factor into the opening and closing dates, which usually occurs about the 2nd week of June and then remains open through October. It is these very difficulties that have also created one of the nation’s most exciting (and yes, challenging) all-day bike rides. Along the way I saw a black bear and some of the world’s most incredible scenery. I also remember — and vividly so — that as I approached the top my thighs were really starting to burn!
Because I am a “mature” rider I took about four hours riding to the top. At the summit I then poked around on the pass taking pictures for about an hour. Riding back was, of course, a piece of cake though again I dawdled, simply enjoying the beauty of June 1, 2013 in Glacier National Park. It is something we’ll be able to do for yet a few more weeks before the park officially opens, and if my “new friend” and I can do it, then most anyone can. Believe me, it is worth the scorching sensation in leg muscles, for there is also a real sense of accomplishment that only comes when you have experienced something that is grand.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
BOOKS THAT WILL HELP YOU ENJOY MONTANA AND GLACIER NATIONAL PARK:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy