Friday, August 08, 2014

A Short Trip to the US (3): Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Shining is one of all time favorite movies of mine. I have seen the movie probably at least 7 times so far, not considering the times that I only watched the clips. I realized that the opening scene of the movie and also another scene when Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family are going to the Overlook Hotel is filmed in Going-to-the-Sun Road. Then I watched the movie with The Lady and after just a few minutes she said: What a beautiful place this is. And I said: That's where we are going! 
Going-to-the-Sun Road starts from St. Mary Visitor Center, where you have to get a pass for Glacier National Park. The pass is $25 and is good for 7 days. of course we didn't spend that many days in the park but there is no other pass available. To many it might sound expensive but considering the cost of maintenance, staff, preservation and other things, it's nothing. You need to start your trip early because the lookouts and the main attractions' parking lots get full quickly. There are also construction on the road which slow you down at times. There was only two during our trip and only took us 10 min. of delay in total. There were lots of photography opportunities but due to extreme sunlight we had to pass them. That's why I'm planing to visit the road once again in late Sep. either this year or next. 
Our first stop was Logan Pass, where there is a visitor center, gift shop and trail-head for many hikes. As we were early, we found a spot easily and enjoyed the scenery. Clements Mountain is the closest one to the parking lot and people take the trail which goes by it to get themselves close to Hidden Lake. I was told though that Hidden Lake Trail was closed because of the bears. There were lost of people in the area. From kids to elderly, bikers, cyclists and hikers. What amazed me the most was the obsession of people with bears. Apparently there were a few bear in the area and many were trying to see them through their binoculars and cameras! The park guys were also helping people enthusiastically. I mean it is just so much. There are bears. Why isn't people show the same interest in Elks, Mountain Goats or other wildlife?!
This is part of Going-to-the-Sun Road which you reach Logan Pass. This SUV is turning to the road from the parking lot and is going toward east to St. Mary. You can see Clements Mountain in the back.
The road starts going down after Logan Pass and keeps its beauty until you reach The Loop. There are different places that you can stop and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. After The Loop you see a river on your right with beautiful colour, small waterfalls and bridges. 
We wanted to have lunch so we stopped by Lake MacDonald Lodge and went to Jammers Joe's which is a buffet/restaurant. I was surprised later that I didn't find it in Google Map. Jammer was the name given to bus tour drives of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Those buses are still available and many people take them to move around and also enjoy the road. The reason why the drivers were used to be called Jammer is there was usually a problem with the gearbox of the buses casing gear jams or some story like this! 
Anyways the restaurant is not bad considering its location. The staff are all young Caucasian girls in their early 20s or younger and very polite and helpful. The food is OK and you have to be fair here. I had a Bison Sausage Sandwich with side salad which was not bad. No complain. I'm not sure though if that was Bison and if it was, what part of a Bison it could have been! But it's OK. The Lady had salad buffet and she got it twice and that was good too. 
We wanted to finish the road so we went all the way to West Glacier and got gas and turn around. There are different businesses over there and is a community just like the east side, St. Mary. A later on learnt that Amtrak also has a stop in there which is very good. 
We stopped at several spots on the way back and considering being afternoon used lots of photography opportunities which were not very possible in the morning. The Lady was a bit warm so we also stopped by a little stream and she could get cool down a bit. 
This is the river which eventually flows to Lake McDonald but it is not named in Google Maps which is odd. It might have a name if we look into official geographical documents of the US. It has beautiful colour, small and big waterfalls, bridges and is lots of fun. 
We din't want to be very late for border crossing considering it closes at 23:00 hour so I pushed gas and we headed for St. Mary and then the border. Luckily a heavy rainfall just started after we left St. Mary and while closing to Babb. We saw a long line at the border but it was not as long as the time we were crossing into the States. I guess it took us a bit more than 1 hour. We reached home at approximately 23:45 hours. We stopped once for a dinner sandwich and that was it. The weather was nice and the area was very beautiful but we didn't stop frequently for photographs. 
I think I have to plan for another visit to Montana now but I have to consider feasibility too. I would like to go up Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, Chief Mountain and East Ftattop Mountain and at least one more and I would like photograph Going-to-the-Sun Road while the mountains are snow-capped and sunshine is not to intense to ruin the photos. There are thousand more opportunities in Montana but there's little time and budget of course! 
(Photo, top: Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana)

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