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Mingling Past With Future

Sister-that-is and I went to the Sun Wednesday. The trip proved an interesting one for both of us. It was her first time on the trip to the top.

North Fork Welcome Sign

For me it surprised and saddened with its changes.

When a person takes The Going To The Sun Road through Glacier Park for the first time, it really needs to be a leisurely drive. Unfortunately tourism, which maintains the park’s financial health, demands that Leisure be left at

Going To The Sun Road

home along with Patience. 

   Sister and I have already explored the lower realms of the park on both west and east sides since May. But that big boy road wasn’t open then. We had marvelous long distance pics of the higher altitude attractions. But I’ve always loved the total drive and was glad we could finally take that spectacular ribbon of asphalt without further delay. 

This is Glacier Park’s Centennial Year, which means that plenty of events and new stuff are going on. Both more tourists and Montanans are making the journey into the park. Canadians from Alberta–especially–are sharing the International Peace Park with a vengeance this year as well.

After all, It costs less most of the time to stick closer to home for those summer vacations. Plus Montanans and Albertans feel that the park belongs most assuredly to them, and they want to celebrate it. That’s what happens when you live just outside its boundary. I felt that way years ago while living on the edge of Yellowstone.

I mention all of this so that understanding rises about the number of vehicles that wove in and out of traffic like drunken caterpillars following a chalk line. There’s a saying, “You couldn’t stir ‘em with a stick.” That’s how driving the Sun Road was on Wednesday. Not that that description doesn’t always pertain to Glacier in any summer.

Each year the main artery of scenic treasures receives major damage. Two winters ago the weather performed its duty of mayhem to the nth degree. Between avalanches and rock slides and bad late snows following spring thaw, the road took some massive hits. The road is still under reconstruction from the previous year. This year it didn’t open until the week after the 4th of July. A late start even for Glacier.

The park lost much of one entire section of road between the Weeping Wall and the summit with its visitor’s center. Crews were still working on that section as we drove through. In truth, I imagine that section will remain a one-lane only since it had lost the entire right lane to the valley below.

I’m sure that even with my devil-may-care attitude toward heights and hanging my toes over the edges of cliffs, the park service could never have found enough money to pay me to work that site. Those guys deserve medals for going above and beyond for the tourist near you. 

Waterfalls abounded along the drive up to the summit. But the park has changed much from its state in the early to mid-90’s. 


The glaciers that we watched calve off onto the road in the early 90’s are barely hanging onto the mountain sides today–whispering echoes of their former selves. We sat and watched the water dripping from beneath the ice sheets that are thin now and resemble the sheet of ice melting off a roof with the advent of spring.

The sheet of continual water plunging over the Weeping Wall and onto the road no longer gives free car washes to those driving westward. Now it barely splatters that lane of the pavement. I guess the reduced-flow shower    

head has been implemented by nature.

All around the visitor are not-so-subtle clues as to the seemingly permanent changes that are coming soon to this International Park. The Dahl sheep (Rocky Mountain Goat) wanders through the visitor’s center parking lot without seeming concern.

Abandoned cars line the road way, having disgorged their passengers to take advantage of photo ops, clamp on gear and hike a trail, or fish from lake or stream. The fact that the cars are there without their owners isn’t the clue. It’s the number of cars, the filled parking lots throughout, filled pull-outs along the way, filled space everywhere except the air which hangs suspended between mountains. 


The visitors come from everywhere–all over the U.S., Canada, Europe (France and Germany were well represented on Wednesday), and Asia. I’m sure we could have found some Aussies and Kiwis, too, if we’d looked harder.

Those who weren’t here back in the last century can’t see the losses to the park. They still see all of the beauty, all of the majesty that gave Glacier Park its importance.They do get to see some of the fire damage from both the fire that’s roared through this month and the ones from years past. But the overall Damage is hidden from them.

Until, that is, they travel over to the North Fork of the park.

But that, my friends is the next installment. Hope to see you here in a few days when we talk about other issues of our Peace Park. I’ll leave you with one more image–this one from the west side of McDonald Lake.

Until then, a bientot,


Categories: Life
  1. July 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Clauds,

    This is just breathtaking territory! You gals must be so lucky to be surrounded by so much natural beauty. I will look forward to your next instalment.


  2. July 19, 2010 at 7:52 am


    Thank you for posting the photos along with the narrative. Wonderful! (I’ll be chuckling all day over “drunken caterpillars following a chalk line.” You’re a hoot!!)

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