Berry Fun Red Bus

Sun Road 031

I just posted about Three Arches in Glacier National Park, saying that we took the Red Bus Tour. Isn’t this one beautiful bus? The buses were built between 1936 and 1939 by the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio. In 2002, Glacier Park, Inc, the Ford Motor Company, the National Park Foundation, and many others made it possible for the buses to be refurbished so they can continue to run.

Sun Road 167

These are very special buses, first of all because they have a wood frame that creaks when the bus moves. They also have a very classy design, with a roll back roof so passengers can have a view of the mountains soaring above and when stopped can stand to take photos. And most special of all is the beautiful red color. The color was chosen using these red berries that glow in the fall. We were a little too early to see them in Glacier but I took this photo at Mt. Rainier.

mt ranier 142

The buses are driven by “Jammers”, a name pegged to them a long time ago because people could hear them jamming on the breaks. Our Jammer did a great job of navigating the roads while telling us stories of the park and sharing information about the mountains, glaciers, wildlife, and plants. I was so glad we decided to take the tour because even with her competent driving, whenever she would pull over by a cliff I would lean towards her, keeping the bus from going over the edge (I was sitting in the front). I can’t image what I would have been doing if J. had been driving.

Three Arches of Going to the Sun Road

Sun Road 265

The most popular drive in Glacier National Park is Going to the Sun Road – and for very good reason. It is a beautiful drive, at least for the person not driving. The road is narrow, steep, and curvy so the driver needs to keep eyes on the road at all times. Besides that the only thing keeping cars from toppling over steep cliffs is a low stone wall made from the rock that was removed to make the road. We decided to book a ride on the Red Bus Tours because J. gets white-knuckle anxious on those types of drives and I don’t do well keeping my eyes on the road. It was a good decision.

The road was finished in 1933 after 3 decades of surveying and arduous construction. Building this road was challenging, so much so that the lead surveyor had a 300 percent turnover in help in the three months it took to do the survey work. I am frequently amazed and intrigued by the work that goes into building roads in challenging locations. Because I have had a problem with panic attacks in high locations, building roads on the edge of mountains blows my mind.

The road was built despite sheer cliffs, 60 foot snow drifts, a short work season, and mountains of relatively soft stone that needed to be protected. The road winds up the mountain through Logan Pass and across the Continental Divide, connecting the east and west sides of the park. The place where the Three Arches was built didn’t have any ledge or flat surface to begin building the road so the arches and flat surface had to be extended out from the face of the mountain. It was built by men who were hanging out from the surface of the mountain. I find this incredible – and the result is beautiful.  

Sun Road 261

This tunnel was also a challenge to build and provide us with another arch.

Sun Road 068

Here is a link to see a slideshow telling a more complete story of the building of the road and to see some amazing old photographs. It is worth visiting.  http://www.nps.gov/glac/photosmultimedia/etours.htm

Sue has chosen the word “arch” for her “Word a Week Challenge”. You can see her amazing photos and join the fun with your arches at:

http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/a-word-a-week-challenge-arch/

Alien Bovine and Peace

Chief Mountain

Chief Mountain

Yesterday we drove to Canada from St. Mary, Montana, our base camp for a few nights. We have a special place in our hearts for Canada and I am moved that this area is the Glacier International Peace Park.

Flags flying in Waterton Glacier International Peace Park.

Flags flying in Waterton Glacier International Peace Park.

Each country owns a portion of this part of the Rockies as national parks, they fly both flags and there are a number of ways that the two countries work together. They have meetings to work on mutual wildlife and fire management, search and rescue, educational programs and shared publications, ecosystem monitoring, research, and threatened species conservation. They also have staff exchanges.

We had encountered cattle on the drive to St. Mary so we knew to be on the lookout. This is a two-lane highway and we made several stops as cattle were standing in the road looking us over. This is no longer wheat country but cattle country and they have range cattle roaming around.

Waterton 035

We reached Canadian customs and were waiting our turn when I saw two cows quickly moving from Canada to the U.S. with a custom’s officer close behind carrying a big walking stick.

Illegal Bovine

Illegal Bovine

I had heard that cattle freely roam between the two countries so as the custom agent is walking down the hill towards us, I ask if he had some illegal aliens. He said he doesn’t care if they come across the border but they have been pooping by his cabin and he gets his boots dirty. I took note of this technicality, and decided not to take a dump in his yard.

Prince of Wales Lodge

Prince of Wales Lodge

We gave all the right answers at customs and headed towards Waterton, where the famous Prince of Wales Lodge is located, stopping frequently to take photos of yet some more mountains. On the east side of Glacier National Park the mountains meet the prairie because the Pacific Rim went up over the North American land mass when the two collided many millions of years ago. As we drove along I thought about what it would have been like when it happened. I bet the earth shook a few times. Since then many glaciers have changed the look of both the mountains and prairies.

Waterfall in Waterton, slant of rock layers show direction of earth

Waterfall in Waterton, slant of rock layers show direction of earth

Every time I hear about this type of activities over the past kazillion years I wonder what will happen long after we are gone. Makes me feel very small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. To think that so many marvelous events have happened to shape our world, and my God still thinks I am important humbles me.

My earthly existence in this space at this time means that we need to go into the little town of St. Mary to see what we can find to eat as I decided tonight is “date night.” Then I want to go back to a portion of Going to the Sun Road to see if I can get some nice photos in the evening light. Bon Apatite.