29. Up, Up, and Over!: Up Logan Pass, Down Logan Pass - From the Olympic Peninsula to St. Mary - The First Bite of the Northern Tier - CycleBlaze

June 17, 2018

29. Up, Up, and Over!: Up Logan Pass, Down Logan Pass

We rolled out of the motel at 7:00 am on a Sunday. It was about 50 F, humid with clouds pulling apart in some places revealing blue sky. No rain and few cars that early on the approach to Avalanche Creek, the farthest point cars were allowed. We saw one yearling black bear more focused on the tender green grasses on the road side than us. He minded his own business and we minded ours, albeit with a little faster revolutions of the pedals. After we were through the car barrier, we were on our way. In the first half hour or so, we were a little surprised to be passed by three vehicles that we later saw parked at The Loop. One of the drivers said they were staging to repair a chalet. (Fun fact. The Sperry Chalet dormitory, built in 1913 and destroyed in a forest fire in 2017, is being rebuilt. Senator John Tester arranged for Montana’s Engleman Spruce that was the 2017 White House Christmas tree to be incorporated in the rebuilt chalet, with a commemorative plaque.)

After those three cars, bicyclists had the road to themselves ("whole ting!") with the exception of one pickup and a couple of park employees doing park business. A fair number of road cyclists (skinny tire bikes) were climbing the pass for the workout, along with a few mountain cyclists (fat tires with beefy frames) working their way up. Pulling our weighted panniers, we felt tough and special. Temps were falling the higher we climbed - maybe the mid 40s after passing The Loop, and breezy. But not to worry - climbing for 11 miles on +6% grade keeps you warm. We passed a seemingly endless procession of water falls, even in the tunnel. We were never dry, but not really wet either. Sort of cold humid.

The skinny tire bikes were already meeting us on their way down as we worked through the last miles to the summit. With about a quarter mile to go, a ferocious wind came straight off the pass from the other side and almost blew us to a stop. We hugged the cliff side and avoided the sometimes guardrail-less edge, the price you pay for riding the road without cars. Within maybe 200 yards the road took a sharp 130 degree turn to the left, bringing us out of the wind for the short sprint to the summit. With wind-chill now in the upper 30s and our exertion heat rapidly dissipating, we took the selfie and began pulling on every piece of clothing we had. It was nippy.

The visitor center parking lot was bare of snow. A good sign. As we exited the lot, we were delighted to see bare road on the east side. Rolling down, shivering, we started meeting hikers and bicyclists coming up from the parking lot at Siyeh Bend. They shared the good news that the route was clear all the way down, and we told them the good news they could go all the way over to the west side. That was news to everyone we spoke to. Apparently not many people went from one side over the pass to the other. We saw only one other couple on the east side who maybe had come from the west. As we descended the rest of the way to St. Mary the temps gradually rose, and we took in the profound beauty of the mountains dusted by overnight snow. We are fortunate to live just 45 miles away. We promised ourselves we would be back to hike and perhaps tackle Logan Pass annually. We're thinking it will be easier without panniers and thus more likely to happen.

We had opted for a cheap room at St. Mary Lodge, one of two lodges outside of Glacier Park. It turned out to be a basement room, warm, quiet, and cozy with the added benefit of being accessible by a ramp leading to the sidewalk outside. Bikes aren't allowed through the front door of the lodge, but no one pays attention to the basement. We're way more comfortable with the bikes beside us, protected from the elements and people who might be tempted to appropriate them, especially Scott's fancy-pants bike.

A viewpoint between Avalanche Creek Campground and The Loop on GTSR.
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McDonald Creek follows the road from east of Lake McDonald to Avalanche Creek campground. This photo doesn’t do it justice, you have to see that lovely turquoise up close and personal.
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Still quite a bit on snow on top June 17.
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Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 1,036 miles (1,667 km)

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