Saint Mary to Eureka - Waterton and Glacier - CycleBlaze

June 22, 1990 to June 23, 1990

Saint Mary to Eureka

Over Going to the Sun

We have no journal for this day, but we don’t need it.  This is one of those cycling days we’ll be reminiscing about to the end of days.

The narrow, convoluted fifty mile long two lane highway over Going to the Sun (Logan Pass) is of course one of North America’s most iconic roads, by car or on a bike.  We had been talking about crossing it all spring when we began planning this ride, and it was lurking in the back of our minds ever since we left the car in Eureka.  We measured our earlier climbs against this one yet to come, the most challenging ride the two of us had shared together so far in our young cycling career.  Were we ready for it?

In addition to being a physically challenging climb, it is also a logistical one.  I’m not sure what the current rules are, but when we crossed it bicycles were required to be off the road by 9 AM, before the narrow roads become busy with motorized traffic.  Completing fifty miles over a high mountain pass before 9 is a significant constraint, especially on a fully loaded, slow-moving touring bike.  We should be fine though - by design, we’re crossing in the easiest direction: a fifteen mile climb of 2,200’, followed by a thirty mile descent.

Plus, there’s the small issue of timing, and the snow.  We’re in luck - this is the first weekend this summer that the pass is open.

It was still dark when we woke up and started packing up at 5 AM.  I don’t remember for sure now, but I think we didn’t bother with food - we just hopped on the bikes and started climbing, powered still by last night’s feeding frenzy.  The sun is just breaking the horizon as we start out.  We’re lucky with the weather, and have clear skies all day.  It’s cool out, but with our steady exertion we don’t need any extra warmth and just bike in our shorts.

It is an awesome climb of course, and very quiet.  This early in the day, there are no cars on the road.  Things really couldn’t be any better, except for the lighting conditions.  By setting out so early, the valleys and the base of the peaks are still in shade.  I would love to repeat this climb someday, after the sun is fully up.

At about 5 AM, we begin the climb, with Going to the Sun Mountain beckoning us on.
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Mount Jackson
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Mount Jackson and Jackson Glacier
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Reynolds Mountain
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Clements Mountain
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Clements Mountain
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We keep a steady pace, and reach the summit before seven.  We’ve hardly seen a car, and the snow burden at the summit is tremendous.  I’ve never seen snow drifts (hurled up by snow plows, presumably) anywhere close to this high.

We spend a few minutes exulting in our accomplishment, but don’t hang around long.  It’s too cold, and we have another twenty five miles before we leave the time-restricted zone.  We layer up and get ready to coast off the west side, when a couple drive into the parking lot, hop u0, and offer to take our picture.  They’re commercial photographers, and plan to put our photo at the summit on a calendar.  I’ve always regretted not having the presence of mind to get their contact information so we could see the calendar.

At the summit. This is one of my all time favorite shots. How high do you reckon that is - 40 feet?
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Pretty cold to be sitting around in shorts, don’t you think?
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Layered up, ready for the descent. What luck to find someone else at the top to take our photo!
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Patrick O'HaraYou were fantastic then, and you are fantastic now!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraI don’t know about that, but I was surprised to reread this and see that we completed this fifty mile ride by nine AM. Most days we aren’t even on the road until we’ll past that now.
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1 month ago

The ride down is fast, exhilarating, but cold.  We’re surrounded by peaks, so this early in the day the road is in the shadows.  We’re chilled by the air temperature, but also because we bike past chilling waterfalls and feel the sting of the breeze blowing off of the snow.  The rare patches when the sun breaks through to the road are a big relief, and an excuse to slow down and soak in the warmth for a few minutes.

Twenty five fast miles later we pull in to the lodge by Lake McDonald, for a well earned celebratory breakfast. It’s before 9 still, and we’re out of the controlled zone.

I don’t recall much of note for the rest of the day’s ride, or of the following one back to the car in Eureka the next day.  As I write this, long forgotten images keep flashing before me - coasting for miles along the bank of beautiful Lake McDonald; coasting down to the pretty uninspired campground for the night, I believe in Columbia Falls; and biking alongside increasingly heavy traffic.  It’s not too surprising, really -after the last several days in the peaks and the climb over Going to the Sun in particular, almost anything would be a letdown.

On the western slope - pretty much all downhill for the next 30 miles.
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That scar in the shadows angling across the slope is our road. Cold.
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We come to a small patch of sun and take a break to thaw out. We have company.
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Ron SuchanekTasty! I hope you had a gun!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekOoh! Mean thought!! We’d never do that, even if we weren’t still stuffed with fry bread and cobbler.
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1 month ago
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Haystack Creek Falls
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The Weeping Wall
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McDonald Falls
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Cookie monster
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_____

Elevation gain: today, 5,100’; for the tour, 24,100’

Today's ride: 125 miles (201 km)
Total: 397 miles (639 km)

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Ron SuchanekThis was a great journal to run across. I haven't crossed Going to the Sun on a bicycle yet, but will be doing it on a moto in July.
Next time I see you remind me to tell you about the time my buddies and I closed Glacier Park for the season. If I've already told you, no problem. It gets better every time.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekNo, I’m sure I haven’t heard that story. I’ll put it on the return task list to remind you in December. Be safe on that expedition, easy rider!
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1 month ago