Before our second visit to Glacier, I did more reading about the park, particularly David Rockwell’s guide book (previously cited) as well as C.W. Guthrie’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, a fine history of the project.
This time, we drove from Pullman, Washington to Bigfork, Montana all in one day, a 5-hour trip. During the summer, we had seen news reports about wildfires that temporarily closed the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road; fortunately, the crisis had passed by the time we arrived, and the road was open.
We were happy to be able to drive beyond the gate at Avalanche Creek, and made our first stop at the small turnout before the tunnel near The Loop. Here we examined the 1.3-billion-year-old stromatolites in the rock wall (fossilized cyanobacteria ‘mats’), as recommended by one of the staff at the Apgar Visitor Center.
We also stopped a few times after the The Loop to take in the stunning views of the Garden Wall, and spent several minutes looking at mountain goats up on the distant slopes (too far away to photograph).
We continued on to Logan Pass, and walked through the visitor center, along with the other late-season tourists from many different countries. We particularly enjoyed making a short hike along the Highline Trail leading out from the parking area, which provided great views.
On the way back down the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, I happened to be playing on the car stereo a piano version of Bach’s The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080), which turned out to be a wonderfully appropriate musical accompaniment to the warm autumn afternoon mountain drive.
A few days later, we drove several miles up the east side of the road along St Mary Lake from the visitor center at St Mary.
Having read several descriptions and viewed videos, the actual experience of driving most of the Going-to-the-Sun Road exceeded expectations—it truly is an “engineering miracle” as described by Christopher White in The Melting World.