As we continued our run west on Hwy-2 leaving our hotel in Shelby before 9:00 this morning we continued to be surrounded by vast fields of wheat, hay and ranch land. About half an hour after we started we crested a hill after a long slow climb and before us mountains sprang out of the prairie land. It was very apparent where the Great Plains would end and the Rocky Mountains began. After another half hour we turned north on Hwy-89 at Browning. Soon everything around us began to change.
First the road changed. We left the sturdy two loan with wide shoulders to a rough two lane road with no shoulders that seemed a lot less wide than what we were used to the past two days. Trees bordered both sides of the road as we slowly climbed. We say a sign that said Range Cattle. "Huh," I thought.
A bit later I said, "hey look those cows are outside the fence." As about 4-5 cows were right alongside the road. The girls thought that was pretty neat, I thought that was pretty dangerous. A few turns on the winding road later there was a cow in the middle of the road and several on the side. For the next twenty miles we routinely see cows on the side of the road, in the woods and in small pastures. "Range Cattle" means no fences and cows going where they please.
Around 10:30 we entered Glacier at the St. Mary's gate. Our plan was to take the Going to the Sun Road through the park to the West Glacier gate, a trip of about 50 miles. With slow downs for road construction, traffic and stops to take a look it took us a little over two and a half hours to go through the park.
What a two and a half hours it was. The mountain peaks in Glacier don't seem to be connected. I commented that it looks like a bunch of kids had a mountain making contest and each kid made their own mountain and set it down next to the other kids'. The distance between the peaks seems much wider than I recall from other mountain ranges and the peaks seemingly jump straight out of the valley floors.
The drive is tight with you either hugging the edge of a cliff dropping hundreds of feet down or you hugging a cliff face dropping to the road side and you are worried about scraping off your mirror. All the while trying to take in the incredible beauty you are driving through, without hitting anyone driving or walking.
We had brilliant blue skies and sunshine and the temperatures where in the mid-50's. We climbed as high as just over 6600 feet, when we went through the Logan Pass dropping down to just over 3000 feet when we exited. We intended to stop at Logan Pass where the Continental Divide is however there was no parking--rangers were waving people along and not letting anyone stop, and the nearest parking roadside was about a mile down the road; no we were not willing to climb one mile at 6000+ feet to get a picture. Something I learned about this point in the Divide the water flows west to the Pacific or northeast to the Arctic Ocean via Hudson Bay. Further south in the park is Triple Divide Peak, everything west of this point goes to the Pacific, everything east and north of the point goes to the Arctic via Hudson Bay and everything east and south of the point goes to the Atlantic via the Gulf of Mexico.
After we exited the park we grabbed some lunch in West Glacier at the local diner/restaurant right outside the gate and then headed westward. The Montana we drove through after Glacier was completely different than the Montana we drove through yesterday and this morning. No more vast fields, instead dense forests, large valleys, running rivers and large lakes. No more stretches of one, two even three miles with no turns in the road. Instead we wound up and down mountain sides, through valleys that were several miles wide and among tall pines.
The mountain, forest, lake, river drive continued as we followed the Kootenai River to the former logging town of Bonner's Ferry, our home for the evening. Tomorrow we will finally leave Hwy-2 after a 1,275 mile run from Cass Lake, Minnesota to Spokane, Washington where we will pick up I-90 for Seattle.
Here are pictures from our day:
|Rockies rise from the Plains as we drive Hwy-2|
|The peaks of Glacier as we approach from the southeast|
|Still outside of Glacier National Park|
|Glacier National Park|
|A normal site at Glacier NP|
|You can see the road cut into the hillside|
on the right
|Looking up a rock face, water constantly drips,|
not runs but drips, down this formation
|The Kootenai River looking east, we are about|
30 miles south of Canada
|Kootenai River looking west|
|Main Street (yes it is Main Street) Bonner's Ferry, Idaho|