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Elevating To The Sky: Road Going To The Sun

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Frosty Wooldridge

 

During the 1930’s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to put America’s youth to work with his Civilian Conservation Corps. During that time, young men and women worked around the country to build trails in our National Parks, constructed bridges, tunnels and a host of improvements across America.

While working, they learned trades of carpentry, welding, road building, construction, electrician work, food preparation and many other valuable tools to bring to America’s workforce.

 

Probably one of the most challenging: a road cut through sheer mountain rock on the west and east side of Glacier National Park to meet at 6,647 feet at Logan Pass.

 

Each day, the western crews blasted, cut, hauled and chiseled the road from sheer cliffs. In the early morning hours, the boys watched the sun rise over the mountains in its extraordinary lighting of clouds, the mountain peaks and the pine trees covering the slopes.

 

One workman said, “This is so incredible…we need to name this “Road Going to the Sun.”

 

One of the superintendents heard about the naming, and that’s what he called it…The Road Going to the Sun.

 

At the same time, it may be a piece of cake for Model T Fords and Chevys hauling people to the top with motors, but for bicyclists, it’s a majestic grind along a mountain cliff pathway that offers extraordinary moments with the wind, sun, rain, waterfalls, flowers, waterfalls, snowfields and hawks.

 

On the western side of the park, David and I camped out in Avalanche Lake Campground with the knowledge that we needed to get up at 4:30 a.m., pack and get our butts out onto the highway for the 20 plus mile ride up to the pass. Rule: you must reach the top by 11:00 a.m. or face a $135.00 fine if you ride a bicycle. That’s incentive enough for touring cyclists who watch their wallets, daily.

 

The alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m., and we popped out of our tents for a quick oatmeal breakfast garnished with bananas, raisins and currents. A cup of hot chocolate soothed our chilled bodies. By 5:00 a.m., we pushed our loaded bikes onto the highway. Quiet, solitary, peaceful.

 

We pedaled through deep, uncut ancient forests. The road quickly met up with a river. Ahead about 50 yards, a grizzly bear walked across the road with two cubs. We kept pedaling. By the time we reached her wet tracks across the road, she and the cubs had walked across the shallow stream. She looked back at us, but didn’t give a second glance.

 

“Glad she walked across the road 10 minutes before we crossed paths with her,” David said.

“No kidding,” I said. “I think we’re reasonably safe to keep moving up the mountain.”

 

Funny thing about riding at the bottom of a steep canyon: you look up to the mountain tops. You see the tundra covering the rugged ramparts. You look up to the tops of enormous pine trees. You look in wonder at the sky beginning to break daylight upon the land. Only the birds chirp and the squirrels chatter. It’s a different time of the day when the night relinquishes its grasp of darkness to the eternals sun’s rays. First it breaks over the entire sky, then, it moves across the summits. From there, it splashes ever so lightly upon every living creature. All life responds to the coming of the day.

 

Quickly, we began a four percent incline, but once we hit that first hairpin to the right, the road began climbing at five and six percent. Thankfully, my legs felt pretty good even with the 80 pounds of gear on my touring bike, Condor.

 

We could see the road in places as it sliced up the side of the mountain. At every mile, the CCC boys had constructed a stone wall guard rail to keep it as natural as possible. At the same time, crews scoured the road daily to pick up falling rocks that fall regularly from high places.

 

 

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We pulled out at several vista points to watch hummingbirds pollinate the flowers along with bees. Hawks flew upon the updrafts on their breakfast patrols. Somebody is always looking for food everywhere in the world. As we continued the climb, our perspective changed with the elevation. With each hour, we road alongside of those trees that once towered above us. The river below became a silver sliver meandering through the wilderness…and then, vanished into the green canopy.

 

“Boy,” David said. “This is pretty good grind.”

“Yup,” I said. “The harder the climb, the more wondrous the beauty.”
“Such a romantic,” David said.

“Bet you wouldn’t trade this for a day across Kansas,” I said.

“Nope,” he said. “This will do just fine.”

 

After several hours, we reached the “Weeping Wall” where water rained down on the highway. Black rock, silver water, beautiful action! Mother Nature knows how to paint a gorgeous moving picture.

 

Beyond, some raging streams cascaded over rocky beds to create white water that raged through green mountain tundra. Mountain daisies in purple, white, yellow and orange ‘cascaded’ alongside the whitewater.

 

“David,” I said. “Can you believe these flowers along that wide the stream?”

“Yes,” he said. “Looks like right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The colors magnetize, the water energizes and the whole sight seems surreal. Guess we’ll have to do the best we can to get to the top. Oh, by the way, we’ve only got 90 minutes. Let’s get to it.”

“Okay boss,” I said.

 

For the next hour, we powered up alongside 560 foot Bird Woman Falls. It resembled a thin silver thread, much like the ear rings on a Hollywood starlit walking down the red carpet to the Oscars. But in this case, a green carpet became the backdrop to Bird Woman’s unfathomable beauty…in fact, just down right “gorgeous!”

 

At 10:45, we cranked the bikes right up to the sign: Logan Pass. Great celebration! Mt. Clemens in the background. Mountain flowers everywhere. White clouds soared above us. Sheer gray rock abounded all the way down the canyon. We saw the road for the first time from our vantage point.

 

“Far away in the northwest mountains, hidden from view by clustering peaks, lies an unmapped corner, the crown of the continent, Glacier National Park.” George Grinnell 1901, Park Superintendent

 

 

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What’s it feel like to bicycle the Road Going to the Sun? While it’s a grind physically, the muscle effort becomes incidental to the spiritual journey that washes over a person’s body while he or she pounds the pedals to the top. It might be described as a ‘spiritual eudemonia’. How can I share it better than in words? I suggest you look up the photographic work by Chris Destefano on FB with his extraordinarily ‘spiritual’ photographs that bring my words into “spiritual” being through his unique photography. He’s a master.

 

The ride down the eastern side? Well, that’s a whole new story.

 

David Christie & Frosty Wooldridge, Road Going to the Sun, Glacier National Park, CCC boys of the 1930’s, Summer adventures

 

 

 

Frosty Wooldridge

Golden, CO

Population-Immigration-Environmental specialist: speaker at colleges, civic clubs, high schools and conferences

Facebook: Frosty Wooldridge

Facebook Adventure Page: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World

Www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com

Www.frostywooldridge.com

Six continent world bicycle traveler

Speaker/writer/adventurer

Adventure book: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World

Frosty Wooldridge, six continent world bicycle traveler, Astoria, Oregon to Bar Harbor, Maine, 4,100 miles, 13 states, Canada, summer 2017, 100,000 feet of climbing:



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