“To sit around a campfire and poke the glowing embers may be one of the most tangible of all visible mysteries of the universe. I have sat by thousands of campfires in my life and each time, I see God looking back at me. I see life sharing itself. I see living creation burning brightly. I see marshmallows, bubbling stew and hot chocolate waiting to warm my being. I share conversations with friends and strangers that have become my friends. I see Uwe Rothe, John Brown, Gerd Bollig, Gary Hall and Doug Armstrong. I see Robert, Bob, Gerry and Dave. I see Sandi, Sarah, Ashly and Pam. I see the universe glowing with life, light, warmth and fellowship.” FHW, Golden, CO
This morning, I awoke at 5:30 to see clouds hanging low over St. Mary’s Lake and drifting along the ramparts of the mountains. I knew that I would face an astounding if not magical climb to Logan’s Pass. When the Civilian Conservation Corps members built this “Going to the Sun Road” back in the 1930s, they aptly named it. For, as I stood beside of my tent, the sultry rays of the rising sun sifted through the branches of pine and aspen trees, and bounced off the sides of towering gray peaks above me. The sun’s journey lit my adventure through astounding natural bulwarks of water, wilderness, snow and vast canyons cut by glaciers for millions of years.
(Riding into cloud cover peeking in and out to reveal mountains, snow and rivers on “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park.)
Nature works through eternal time to create jaw-dropping beauty. I am so thankful for my eyes to see and my body to push Condor through this magical morning.
With 2,500 miles behind me and 19 passes beneath my wheels, my legs feel like pistons to power Condor toward magnificent heights. After this day’s conquest, Robert and I would travel the last few miles to the Canadian border to complete our adventure.
Bittersweet this day! I neared the end of a stunning bicycle ride up the Continental Divide. The joy of adventure, no matter how long or how short—must eventually come to an end. I can only revel in the memories and pictures.
(Frosty and Robert taking a break and lots of pictures while traveling along St. Mary’s Lake on the “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park.)
“Ready to go, dude,” said Robert as he packed his gear. “Looks like we’ve got a fantastic day of riding.”
“Let’s get on the road before everyone wakes up,” I said. “We’ll shoot some fabulous pictures with the sun and clouds dancing all over the mountains.”
Within 15 minutes, we hit the lone highway meandering through the woods like a lariat out of control. No wires, no lights, no civilization.
“If adventure does not wait on the doorstep, climb through the window”
(Sun Rift Gorge raging out of a narrow cut in the rock, then taking a 90 degree turn, to transgform into raging white water that gave stupendous amounts of energy to anyone near its banks.)
We pedaled along glass-still waters of St. Mary’s Lake. The 9,000 foot snow-covered mountains on the other side reflected like a liquid mirror with the flavors of a wine cellar. As we pedaled, the sun rose higher and played hide-and-seek among the clouds, water and mountains.
“Cloud are not the cheeks of angels you know, they are only clouds…angry sometimes, but you can never be sure….” Rod McKuen
(View from Condor’s perspective while riding the “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park.)
When capricious clouds play on water, forest and mountain peaks, they bring distinctive flavors to the moving kaleidoscope seen by a traveler. We continued through dense, green forest that provided a “tunnel” of beauty via wildflowers, rushing streams and continued glimpses of the still waters and rising sun.
The road serpentined along the lake past Sun Rift Gorge. We stopped to watch raging white water race through a narrow slice of rock less than four feet wide until it crashed into a wall and slide downward at 90 degrees change in angle. From there, it raced under the road and poured into the lake. The splashing energy infused us with vigor, vivacity and vitality.
“Whoa!” Robert said. “This is incredible!”
“I feel that the water injects me with more energy than my cells can handle,” I said. “But that doesn’t stop me from loving it. Man, if everyone could catch a shot of this kind of natural energy drink every day, it would put all the aspirin companies, head shrinks and soda pop companies out of business inside of a week.”
(Right behind Frosty in this shot, Mt. Clements peeks in and out of the clouds as if by magic.)
After 10 miles, we pedaled up and away from St. Mary’s Lake. The road made dramatic climbs that offered us higher views of the lake. The sun played on the peaks as it rose and the first couple of cars passed us. Still, we enjoyed a quiet, solitary road that harnessed our climbing energies.
Soon, we passed Jackson Glacier Overlook, one of the few glaciers left because most of them melted way in the last century. Shrouded in clouds, it gave a glimpse of its glacier fields with each passing minute.
With that, the road began climbing seriously into higher elevations. It carved its way past raging whitewater streams and elegant waterfalls either falling by sheer drops into mist or over rocks to create bridal veils too beautiful to describe.
(Bridal Veil Falls dropping hundreds of feet from near the top of Logan’s Pass and forming a white water river that rages down through the canyon.)
As we rode our iron steeds still higher, a vast canyon, perhaps five miles across and 20 miles long, opened up to reveal splendid peaks to the south. But to the west, the clouds still hid 9,000 foot summits awaiting our eyes. Nature dominated. Dark green from the pines and light green from the aspen—wove in patchwork blankets that covered the mountains thicker than hair on a dog. The trees rolled up the mountain sides until the tree-line stopped their progress, which surrendered to gray rock, sheer cliffs and onward to shark’s teeth peaks biting into the cobalt sky. A tree-line occurs when freezing cold winters kill trees past a certain altitude. The tree-line stands at 12,000 feet in Colorado and less than 9,000 feet in Montana because of the latitude and bitter cold that freezes the sap in trees and kills them at higher elevations.
(Look behind Condor to see Mt. Clements peeking out behind the cloud cover. Just magical moments like these made pedaling up the pass a miraculous ride from every perspective. Notice Frosty powers himself up the pass with peanuts on the pack.)
While we cranked up that mountain grade, we never felt the muscles in our legs strain or stress. I think our eyes beheld such wonder that the pedaling became incidental. We faced nearly six hours of climbing, but it never dawned on us that we gave any effort to the ascent.
With each switchback in the road, enormous mountain box canyons, still loaded with endless winter snows, created Bev Doolittle paintings of water, sky, snow and green shapes. One snowfield resembled a giant bald eagle’s wings flying into the sky. Yet another snowfield resembled an Indian lady’s necklace strung with silver beauty and white wonder.
(Frosty raising his hands as Condor and he stand by a 30 foot snow bank cut away from the road to allow visitors to make the journey along the “Going to the Sun Road” at Glacier National Park.)
“I’m blown away,” said Robert. “This is the most beautiful mountain scenery I have ever seen.”
“I think I said something to that effect yesterday,” I said.
“You still didn’t prepare me for this,” said Robert.
“Hey, dude, it ain’t even half way yet,” I said. “We’ve got more to come.”
At one point, within a half hour of the pass, we sat on the side of the rock wall watching the clouds play pica-boo with mountains.
(Can you believe this view? Just look at the immense amount of space and mountain majesty. Robert and Frosty cannot pedal slowly enough through such wonder, magnificence and elegance.)
Later, we pedaled past a 30 foot wall of snow on the north side of the road. After five hours of mind-bending beauty, we reached 6,646 foot Logan’s Pass. Snow surrounded us. A lot of people scurried all over the parking lot and into the massive building at the top. Flowers bloomed along snow banks. Water everywhere! Snow still covered much of the landscape!
Inside the building, Park Superintendent George Grinnell in 1901 said, “Far away in northwest Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountains, lies an unmapped corner—the crown of the continent—Glacier National Park.”
(Frosty and Robert reach the pass near noon after nearly six hours of pedaling.)
We met a dozen cyclists who had pedaled up from the western side by Avalanche Lake. We talked and shared stories.
Quickly, Robert and I coasted down the other side far enough to view 482 foot Bird Woman Falls and on to the Weeping Wall. Of course, we enjoyed the amazing amount of water pouring out of sheer rock from the spring snow melt.
After taking a few pictures of our mutual triumph, we pedaled back up to the pass for lunch with more tourists from all over the world.
(Robert and Frosty after reaching Logan’s Pass and coasting down to the Weeping Wall and Bird Woman Falls.)
One rather rotund guy in a huge Winnebago walked up to us, “I saw you guys working so hard to get up to the top of the pass this morning. That had to be a hard climb. Heck, we made it in under 30 minutes.”
“It took us nearly six hours,” Robert said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
He looked puzzled. Trying to explain our wonder at our climb would not compute with him. My inner self said, ‘Let it go Frosty and let him be.’
Robert and I sat on the benches talking to people for several hours. Bicyclists engaged us in conversation. Motorcyclists wondered why we chose pedal power instead of engine power. Car tourists cheered us and motor home folks couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t choose the comfort and ease of a traveling house.
Late in the day, we coasted back to Rising Sun Campground. Tomorrow, we would finish our adventure at the Canadian border.
(Robert hoists his mountain bike above his head in a moment of triumph at his wondrous journey from the Gulf Coast in Alabama to the delicious Logan’s Pass high in the Rocky Mountains.)
Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents - from the Arctic to the South Pole - as well as eight times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. In 2010, he cycled 3,400 miles coast to coast across America. In 2012, he bicycled the northern tier coast to coast across America. In 2013, he bicycled 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide, 150,000 vertical feet of climbing and 19 crossing of passes, 10 of the Continental Divide. He presents “The Coming Population Crisis facing America: what to do about it.” www.frostywooldridge.com . His latest book is: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, copies at 1 888 280 7715/ Motivational program: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, click: www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com
Live well, laugh often, celebrate daily and enjoy the ride,
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
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