My Executive Office
Cutting through the middle of Glacier National Park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road climbs to the heights of Logan Pass along rocky cliffs divided only by waterfalls gushing in the spring and trickling in the summer. Around every curve in the road the spectacular vistas appear drenched in sunlight. Hiking trails measuring fourteen times the length of the drive offer pedestrian alternatives to the one road bisecting the national park, but this road remains my favorite crossing of the Continental Divide. Whether by car or on foot, no place in the United States (well, maybe Alaska) looks anything like this century-plus national park running along the Canadian border in Montana. Similar to my prevalent sentiment, if you have never seen it, go (see “The Vet” from November 2011).
As my petite car perches on the edge of a rocky ledge of mostly paved roadway, stopped in a short length of cars holding for the segments of summer construction that keeps the mountainous road passable, a young woman with a neon orange safety vest glances over the roof of my car down into the step valley off the roadside with the morning sun rising at the far end of the scenery. She stands with her stop sign, waiting for the oncoming single lane of traffic to pass before allowing those of us parked behind the construction trucks to be allowed to proceed. I look beyond the momentarily vehicle delay into the breathtaking scenery and mention that if she must be working, at least she enjoys a spectacular view. “Yes, this is my executive office,” she says glancing into the sunlit abyss.
Starting on the western end near Lake McDonald, climbing up into the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and then descending again to the meadows along the ridge’s eastern edge into the Great Plains, the Going-to-the-Sun Road allows passage only once the massive snow-clearing machinery finds the road buried beneath a winter’s worth of accumulation. Driving the road marvels its passengers with its civil engineering remarkability, but seeing images of the two snow-covered lanes amazes viewers just to think a path could be blazed through the extreme whiteness.
While my memory serves me well and I recall the numerous images of my day along the winding road to Jackson Glacier, having the opportunity to see this massive slab of ice as it slowly melts into oblivion, and to stand in the shadows as the sun barely peeks over the peaks and casts its white light against the snow-capped mountains fills less than one day of my entire summer. While I acknowledge that spending every day along this road lacks any chance of true feasibility, since my entire lifetime exists along other roads and responsibilities, I keep this day’s drive alive with me for years, every time I log on to the webcams of Glacier National Park and watch the snow fall, accumulate, thaw, and thin. The road reopens again each summer, and through these online images I remember and relive the day I Went To The Sun Road.