Going to the Sun Road Part Deux
[Glacier National Park, MT]
We woke up at the crack of dawn (around 6 am) in our tipi. It was cold, but we were bundled up in our sleeping bags and blankets.
Olivia and I had toured the West side of the Going to the Sun Road on our trip in 2015. We took a red jammer car tour of it from West Glacier to Logan Pass. If you want to learn more about this amazing engineering marvel of the road, read that entry. The East side of the road, from St. Mary’s to Logan Pass, was closed at the time due to a fire. Today, we got to rectify the situation, and although we couldn’t get all the way to Logan Pass because the snow plowing hasn’t finished, we got all the way to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
Along the way, we enjoyed many scenic overlooks and short side trails. The views of St. Mary’s Lake and Goose Island were gorgeous.
We lunched at a scenic overlook near the top, then took a little hike into Sunrift gorge. It’s a straight steep canyon formed by water carving its way into the rock. It was amazing how much power just a little stream of water coming down the mountain could have. Going downhill from Sunrift gorge, we passed under the Baring Creek bridge – one of the most beautiful ones on the Going to the Sun road. You can tell from the photo that great care was taken to use native materials that blended the bridge in its environment.
2015 was the warmest year on record for Glacier. Low precipitation, above average temperatures and windy conditions combined to create optimal wildfire conditions. On July 21, 2015, 5 days before Olivia and I arrived in Montana, a fire was reported on the East side of Going to the Sun Road. The Reynolds Creek fire spread to over 4,000 acres in a single day. The East side facilities were evacuated and that portion of the Going to the Sun road did not reopen until August 12, 2015. The cause of the fire is unknown but it is suspected to have been human-caused.
As we continued on to Baring Falls from the bridge, we saw first-hand evidence of that fire. The blackened trees stand out, and the lack of foliage opens up views of St. Mary’s lake. Lush greenery was covering the forest floor, taking over after the fire. The park’s newsletter said that new growth was returning to the burnt area within days of the fire. It’s amazing how quickly nature rebounds.
By the time we returned to our cars after Baring Creek Falls, it was time to leave the park. We took some final photos of St. Mary’s Lake on the way out.
Our next stop was back in Browning, where we picked up our bibs for the race the next day. After all the warnings about bears in this area, it made sense to strike a bear pose for our photo at the Glacier Half marathon sign.
For dinner, we made a second attempt to eat at Serranos, and we were successful this time. The food was surprisingly good. 🙂
We are now back on the porch at our tipi village, trying to convince ourselves to go to bed because it’s almost 9 pm but still very, very much light outside. Wish us luck for our half marathon tomorrow! It will be a cold start and 900 ft of elevation gain in the first 5.25 miles. We were all wondering, why do we keep running races? Why don’t we just go on vacation together since we have so much fun?!?!? 🙂