Glacier National Park – part 5

FIRE!After a good night’s rest, i got up and headed out fairly early. I wanted to get breakfast and be in the park early so that I could take my time on the ewast-to-west traversal. I again took MT-49 north towards the junction with MT-89, and found some horses wandering around to west side of the road, maybe they were displaced by the fires, I don’t know. They allowed a couple of pictures and then decided they’d had enough of my intrustion and headed for parts unknown. From almost the same spot, I saw a small pond and the angle of the sun and the terrain behind it was prefect for one of those reflection pictures.

Where Mt-49 joins MT-89, there was a sign that said 38 miles to Canada. I didn’t realize I was that far north. I headed towards Canada and around one of the bends on MT-89 I stopped literally in my tracks. Fire! Smoke! You see pictures, you see video, you read news stories, but none of that prepares you for smoke covering the road in front of you. Maybe people that live with this are more accepting of it, but I had not personally experienced anything like this before. I tentatively rode closer and just like fog it appeared less like a wall. I stopped, looked around, and took several pictures of the woods with the mountains of Glacier National Park in the background. Continuing on I got to St. Mary and had breakfast.

As I was leaving to enter the park, the visibility was still low. As I entered the park, East Flattop Mountain was barely visible through the smoke and the wisps of smoke over Lake Saint Mary were a reminder of what was happening just a few miles to the east. The Going To The Sun Road, as it clings to the mountainsides along the shore of Lake Saint Mary reminded me of European alpine images I have seen. The road climbs slowly and surely towards Logan Pass and there were a couple of opportunities for pictures of waterfalls and of the road itself. There is some construction work on the road and signs indicated the delays could be as much as 30 minutes but I was spared any lengthy waits. After seeing where the power shovel was sitting, I don’t think I would like that job.

Glacier National Park – part 4

Lake St. MaryI exited the park on the east side, into the town of St. Mary. As I mentioned earlier, I found a room at the Mountain Pine Inn in East Glacier, which is a short ride south on MT-89. The ride south on MT-89 was an eye-opener but in a very different way than the sights in the park. You could see where the wildfires had burned and were still smouldering, you could see where the fire had flashed over the roadway and the guardrails were floating in midair, the wooden posts that had held it in place having completely burned away in many places. You could smell and taste the smoke. There were camps along the roadway, maybe command posts, maybe places for firefighters to get some food and a brief rest. It’s difficult to imagine the work that lay ahead for them, and also to imagine the work they’ve already done for the people of the surrounding communities.

A bit further south on MT-89, I saw a turnoff for MT-49 that was signed to East Glacier, so I took it. Signs indicated that this road is closed in winter, but it was a great ride along the Two Medicine River down to town, gasoline for the bike, a bite of dinner, and a clean room for the night. Mountain Pine Inn is a nice, clean, quiet place to rest and I’m glad I stayed there instead of a nondescript room in a chain hotel.

I had ridden over 400 miles today, not a really long distance but some folk’s standards, but when you’re stopping every 500 feet to take another picture it makes for a long day. Tomorrow I will ride through the park east to west. Different perspectives, different sunlight, and another difference I didn’t even know about.

Glacier National Park – part 3

019_13AThe Going To The Sun Road takes you to places that, sadly, most US citizens won’t see. IT’S WORTH THE TRIP, JUST GO. The Loop, where the road switchbacks with a turn radius of just a few feet is an amazing necessity given the work of the glaciers a few years ago. It is also one of the reasons that vehicles longer than 21 feet including bumpers are not allowed on the road between Avalance Creek and Sun Point – they simply could not negotiate the turns.

Triple Divide Peak is the geographic center of North America. As the park’s brochure states: the width of a human hand can determine whether a drop of rain will ultimately join the Columbia River drainage, the Mississippi River drainage, or the Saskatchewan River drainage. Logan Pass is where the Going To The Sun Road crosses the Continental Divide. Logan Pass is northwest of Triple Divide Peak, both on the Continental Divide. On the way up to Logan Pass, the road runs beside the Weeping Wall, a section of the Garden Wall that is constantly wetted by drainage from above.

Siyeh Bend gives you a great view of Mount Siyeh, one of the highest peaks in the park. Just past Siyeh Bend you can see Going-To-The Sun Mountain a high peak with an elevation just about 400 feet below Mount Siyeh. Then you come upon Sunrift Gorge and Saint Mary Lake on the east side of the park.

The wildfires burning in Montana have threatened the town of Saint Mary and can be clearly seen from the road as you leave the park headed east. The images are both scary and reassuring at the same time – people are risking their lives fighting to save residents and structures from the fires and yet nature decides when to start most of these fires and will recover from the burning without man’s help. It’s been that way for millennia and will continue in the future.

Glacier National Park – part 2

015_11After starting out seeing the tranquility of Lake McDonald, McDonald Creek along the north side of the Going To The Sun Road is a sparkling jewel of colors and sounds. The images can’t convey the sounds of rushing water, coming from glacial snows thousands of years in the making. The colors are as vibrant as those in Lake McDonald, but they’re different. The water isn’t as deep so the colors are not as dark. They reflect more of the colors of the stones at the bottom of the creek. Every opportunity to stop and make pictures is worthwhile, and on a motorcycle I can stop where cars cannot. This isn’t the type of scenery to live in, this is the type of scenery to visit and visit again.

North of McDonald Creek, you can see Heaven’s Peak, although I think the best picture I got of Heaven’s Peak was taken on Sunday when I was going east-to-west. The sun just wasn’t right for a good picture today. Doesn’t matter though, you can feel the mountain’s presence anyway. I read and learned about aretes, a sharp ridge formed by two separate glaciers carving out valleys and leaving a ridge of mountain in between them. I also learned about hanging valleys, a term I first read in a book by Zane Grey. A smaller glacier cuts a valley and then joins with a larger glacier moving roughly perpendicular to it. The small glacier’s valley stops at the side of the larger glacier’s valley. It’s left hanging. There are many images of hanging valleys.

As you work you way east on the Going To The Sun Road, you are constantly amazed at the work it took to construct the road itself. There are many pictures of the road where you can see how it was notched into the side of the mountain and I read that the road was constructed in the early 1930’s. I also read that Mother Nature doesn’t like guardrails, as the people plowing out the road in the spring and summer would find the guardrails in the valleys, having been ripped off the mountain presumably by avalanches.

There are turnouts where cars can park and see the scenery, but one great advantage of a motorcycle is that I can stop and turn around almost anywhere. I was able to get some pictures that would take a lot of walking if you were going through the park in a car.

Glacier National Park – part 1

Flathead LakeI headed out early, knowing I had miles to burn. I had been over the initial part of the route a couple of weeks ago on my Idaho-Montana ride, but I did stop and take some pictures along the way to supplement the ones I took earlier and to make up for some I should have taken. I did take a picture at Paradise, MT. I was on MT-200 for a while and then took a right turn onto MT-28 – if you remember my earlier post about the decision I made at the MT-200 and MT-28 intersection. At Flathead Lake (which was much larger than I expected) I took MT-93 towards Kalispell.

MT-93 towards Kalispell seemed to be to be a guided tour towards northern Montana with the mountains to the west and the east forming a funnel leading towards Kalispell. As I went through town, I saw a Harley dealer having a cookout and since there were a number of bikes there I decided to stop. It was an opportunity to get a soda and walk around a bit to shake off the aches of the road. I headed on through town and took MT-2 which I thought would get me to MT-40. I got to Coram and stubbornly knew this couldn’t be right as I had not seen MT-40. Going west on MT-2 (the wrong way), I eventually came to the intersection of MT-93 and MT-40. Whitefish was to the north and I should nat have been that far west. I stopped at a gas station on the southeast corner of MT-93 and MT-40 and looked at a map. OK, Magellan, you should have just continued east on MT-2 throuh Coram and the next town would have bee West Glacier. I got back on the Dyna and headed east, more than a little irritated at my apparent lack of navigation skills. Finally, I got to the west entrance of Glacier National Park. I paid my $12 entrance fee and went into the park. Little did I know what the Going To The Sun Road had for me.

The first clue should have been the almost indescribable colors of the water in Lake McDonald. Crystal clear at the edge, showing the gold, silver, and copper colored stones, gradually changing to a deep aquamarine blue that could have come straight from the Caribbean. Absolutely stunning. However, I needed a thesaurus because the word stunning would quickly be overwhelmed by the sights around every turn. What word do you use when stunning or breathtaking just isn’t enough? There were a couple of places that allowed a picture of the mountains reflected in Lake McDonald and looking at the pictures now it almost seems artificial, but it wasn’t. This was as real as it gets.

Glacier National Park – planning

I knew this was going to be a long ride, but everything I had seen and read about Glacier National Park told me that it would be well worth the trip. I also knew that I had called every hotel in the area trying to find a room for Saturday night so that I could stay reasonably close to the park. My fallback plan was to stay in Kalispell, MT. I finally called some dear friends of mine that owned a home in the area and they suggested that I call Mountain Pine Inn in East Glacier, MT. My friends knew the owners and thought they just might have a room available. And I lucked out – even after I told them that Fran and Jane said hello, they STILL had a room for me.

OK, trip planning complete: motorcycle, clothes, toiletries, camera, film, leathers, helmet, a vague idea of how to get there, cash, and a good weather forecast. I just hate starting a ride in the rain.

Biking in the Idaho Panhandle – part 2

FH000019Since I already had the bike today, I was able to be on the road by 6:15am – a much cooler time of the day. Today my trip was 350+ miles or so, in a loop from Coeur d’Alene through St. Regis, MT, Plains, MT, Paradise, MT, Noxon, MT, Sandpoint, ID and back with a few side trips thrown in for good measure.

The departure was great, cool enough for the occasional shiver in while in the shadows but a welcome change from yesterday. I told myself that I would long for a shiver later in the day and to just accept it as a gift. I stopped at a couple of turnouts along I-90 to take some pictures, just couldn’t pass them by. It was a really scenic ride through Fourth of July Pass and Lookout Pass, you just don’t see that kind of terrain in northern Illinois. Tractor-trailers inching down the east side of the pass at 20-25 mph is just not a common sight in the flatlands of Illinois. There were a couple of lakes along the south side of I-90 with mountains in the background that just begged for pictures so I reluctantly accomodated them. Hopefully they will turn out.

My first stop since leaving Coeur d’Alene was in Wallace, ID. I decided that I needed a cup of coffee since my last coffee was in the hotel lobby as I was leaving. A small, sleepy on Sunday morning kind of town, I found the Briggs Hotel and got a cup of coffee. I took it outside and sat at a table on the sidewalk relaxing and watching things wake up. I could be at home in a place like that. The coffee cup was empty and it was time to saddle up and get going.

The next stop was in St. Regis, MT at the MT-135 exit. Time for fuel and a stretch. I met a couple of bikers from Washington, they were headed for Colorado, then New Mexico and finally Arizona. Quite the adventure, I’m sure. I headed north on MT-135 looking for MT-200. From the signs I was on 135 for about 20 miles or so, nice scenery, elevation changes, and the river (at least initially) was on the right. I made some pictures along the way. Got to MT-200 and turned west. Fairly soon after turning west I was in paradise. Paradise, MT to be specific. The town looked to be easy to miss, but I guess Paradise is only for those folks paying attention. The next town was Plains, and just before town was MT-28 that heads towards Glacier National Park. I stopped at that intersection and seriously considered turning on 28. Ultimately, I chose to skip Glacier and continued on 200. Several reasons, primarily distance, heat, and time. I may rent again the next weekend I’m out here and if I do will probably head to Glacier on Saturday, stay the night, go through the park and return on Sunday. Much more reasonable riding schedule and I wouldn’t feel rushed if I did it that way. From all accounts, Glacier is worth taking the time.

The Clark Fork river is really nice on the south side of 200. On the north the terrain rises quickly and there was a turnout describing a trail from the 19th century and continuing to describe the Thompson Falls mountain sheep herd. I didn’t see one but didn’t really expect to given the heat. I did see a warning sign the likes of which will never be necessary in Illinois – “Watch for Big-Horn Sheep”. As you get closer to Thompson Falls the Clark Fork widens and appears to slow down. Past Thompson Falls towards Noxon the reservoir is much larger than I thought it would be. You can go to the lower side of the dam and see the resulting water flow on towards Lake Pend Oreille.

I’m a little confused about the river’s name. Signs called it “Clark Fork” out by Plains, but as I got closer to Sandpoint, the signs were calling it “Bull River”. Maybe I missed something.

I stopped and read the signs describing the glaciers and melting that created the lake, very interesting. The volume of water that must have flowed when the ice dams melted would be breathtaking to witness. On northwestward around the lake to Sandpoint, and the intersection with 95. The temperature seemed to rise 20 degrees or more from the lakeshore temperature, the ride south on 95 was brutally hot. The news had the temps topping out at 105 and I believe it. I was glad to get back and relax in some cool air in the hotel.

I still have to get pictures developed (taken using my trusty Rollei 35 TE). I’ll post an album when I get them back.

Biking in the Idaho Panhandle – part 1

Lake Coeur d'AleneWell, I picked up the HD Fatboy at Shumate’s in Spokane and headed east on I-90. It was later in the day than I had wanted to get started (and hotter too) so I decided on the shorter ride around Lake Coeur d’Alene. I was thinking of going past the hotel to leave a couple of items, but the traffic on 95 north from I-90 changed my mind and I just got back on I-90 east. East for a ways, then I-90 turns southerly along the eastern side of the lake. A really nice ride with the lake on the right, changes in elevation give you different perspectives as you move around.

I got off I-90 at ID-97, towards Harrison. The ride on ID-97 is much closer to the lake and more twisty; you see much more of the homes and people from that road. It was HOT. By the time I was on ID-97 it was at least 97 – no joke. Even with your own generated 20-30 mph wind it was still HOT. I stopped in Harrison and found some ice water and a really good mint ice cream sandwich. I sat on a shady bench on the sidewalk and ate and drank and watched people come and go from the town beach. There were a few bikers on the road, and if they were as warm as I was they were hoping for some shade. Continuing on ID-97 I turned right on ID-3 towards St. Maries, where I took ID-5 west. On 5, I went through the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. In Plummer I took 95 north back towards Coeur d’Alene and the cool temps in the hotel.

A few side trips and look-sees added a few miles, plus the miles from Spokane to get started – I wound up riding about 210 miles today.

Biking in Idaho – planning

I’m renting an HD the weekend of July 22nd and I’ve been asking some other bikers about suggested rides, places to go, places not to be missed, and I’ve distilled their suggestions down to a couple of routes.   One is basically directly east out of Coeur d’Alene, around Lake Fernan, ultimately winding up back on I-90 –  I don’t have a exact route on this one yet.   The second is the trip around Lake Coeur d’Alene.   This should be a really nice, scenic ride and will probably take me 5-6 hours to do.   If I was just riding and not stopping to take pictures, etc. it would take 2-3 hours or so.   I’m not in a hurry on either of these rides, that’s the point.

More parts arrive

While I was away on business, UPS must have thought Christmas came early. I received black powdercoated handlebars, black replacement grips, GPS mounting hardware, a sun shield for the GPS, a document stash tube, and a helmet bag. Most of this translates into work to do, but in the long run the updates should be well worth it.

I’m going to replace the handlebars, grips, and risers. Mark gave me a set of riser blocks off his Retro and I’m going to remove my Neo bars and risers. I intend to run the wiring through the bars, and replace the grips with all-black HD grips. The GPS mount will require some drilling and tapping so that the mount is clean, but it should be fairly simple.

The document stash tube will mount below the headlight on the front of the lower triple tree. It’s intended to hold registration and insurance papers so that I don’t forget them if I leave the saddlebags at home.