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Posts Tagged ‘Glacier National Park’

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 9.10.26 AMThe Pacific Northwest…bounded on one side by the pacific ocean and the other side is the mountainous Rocky’s.

It’s perfect for finding a two-lane crowd-free by-way and rolling past acres of lush forest.  Those acres can turn into meandering hours of riding the countryside on a motorcycle.   In fact, the Pacific Northwest HOG rally will be hosted in the picture-esq Northwest (Portland) in a couple of weeks where we will deliver the aesthetic vision of why we ride!

Welcoming the 1000’s of riders to the adventure will be hot and dry weather.  Not only will they encounter the best weather temps, but they will also have to deal with wildfires.  Yes, the west could be described as being on fire!

Wildfires In Oregon and Washington State

Wildfires In Oregon and Washington State

The fires across the region have forced evacuation, burned down structures and created breathing issues for some.  Twenty minutes outside the Portland metro area the air is thick with particulate and smoke permeates the sky for miles across the region.  In Washington state over a 1000 people have been evacuated in Chelan county.  The Warm Springs fire (Countyline 2 fire) in Oregon has exploded into the largest fire at 36K acres.  U.S. 26 is closed at Oregon 126.

According to NatGeo, on average more than 100K wildfires clear 4-5 million acres each year in the U.S.  In 2014, some 1.2 million acres burned in Oregon and Washington and sadly this year it’s looking like a repeat.

Wildfires In Canada, BC

Wildfires In Canada, BC

In scanning the reports I got to thinking about the last time I’ve taken a motorcycle trip during the summer that wasn’t marred with a wildfire.  Of course it depends on how many miles I’ve traveled, but in a typical week long ride during the summer I realized that it’s been a fair number of years where I didn’t pass near or through a burning wildfire during a ride.  I’ve had multiple trips to Sturgis.  Through Yellowstone Park, through Glacier National Park – both with fires on multiple trips.  There was U.S. Route 550 or the “million dollar highway” that had a San Jan National Forest fire.  There was Beartooth Highway (U.S. Hwy 212) and a lingering wildfire.  I’ve taken a couple extended trips up north to British Columbia Canada and the land of lumberjacks was on fire both times.  In most all cases we were not close enough to see flames, but dark smoke and particles filled the sky for many miles as we navigated across the country.

In Washington and Oregon there are now 31 major wildfires currently burning.  See the map.  In Canada BC, there are even more.

In addition to the economic woes that these fires cause it does makes one wonder whether motorcyclists should even consider traveling the west during the height of the summer fire season.

But, life is for living and I’m not talking about the thrill of a car ride snaking through the marquee Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier.  It’s about feeling small in a very big world and how that is a great thing on a motorcycle.  So, I’ll continue to plan motorcycle trips to ride the west – wildfires and all!  Sure some of my photos will be filled with smoke obscuring the mountain views but, just know that I’ll have a big smile underneath that slightly wetted down dew rag covering my face!

Photos courtesy of the Oregonian and NWCC.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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Reflection

Burning In The Sun Reflection

I’m talking about burning in the sun and the end of summer.

Many consider Labor Day to be the last hurrah of summer. School is kicking off and the football season is launched.

Yet, Labor Day is really just a symbolic end to summer. Traditionally, fall begins at the “time of equal days and nights” or known by many as the equinox which occurs around September 22.

The history of Labor Day seems unimportant for what has become the de-facto end of summer for the American public.  As the carefree days and warm nights of summer come to a close, so do those seemingly unlimited blue sky days of freedom in the wind, riding with friends.

Each summer – on one specific day, at least here in the northwest, you’ll notice the light changes.  Sure, I know that’s not how it works, that the angle of the earth to the sun is constantly changing, but for some reason there’s one specific day it becomes most noticeable, and then you realize – fall is coming.

And it’s at about that same time you realize all those riding trips you thought about doing over the summer are being extinguished. That it’ll be another year before you make it to Glacier National Park or ride the Sawtooths or cruise down Route 66.

Fall is so different from summer. Everybody’s so serious, buckling down and making everything count by Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then the year ends. After that, it’s the January doldrums.

I was reflecting on my motorcycle rides this year during the commute to work and remember that when you’re young the summer is an eternity.  It was long enough to be bored, not realizing those days will fade and never come back.  But, as you age it slides by so fast that if you don’t stop and take it all in, you miss it.  And like many of you, I distinctly remember when summer meant work.  Back then it was all about nights and weekends.  And now, it’s just a season.

So, before we say goodbye to the long days.  Or so long to those nights without a jacket and the optimism of summer…

Let’s remember that we’ve got the new 2015 Harley-Davidson models to ogle at in the dealer.  And here in the northwest we’ve got the Street Vibrations Rally to look forward too.  It happens in Reno in less than a month which from my vantage typically marks the end of consistent riding for the year.  It’s always a good event, especially when there isn’t a club shooting and on even or is it odd years the weather can be awesome through Lassen State Park.

Lastly, please remember that the Labor Day holiday weekend is the second deadliest holiday period for highway travelers in Oregon.  July-August have been extremely deadly this year for motorcyclists so please ride safe as you cruise with the “End of Summer” music blasting.

Photo taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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4-Corners By Harley-Davidson – Part 3

Beartooth Pass Scenic Highway

Gaining Altitude on Beartooth Pass Scenic Highway

This is a continuation of Part-2 HERE, of our 4000-mile journey to 4-Corners that led us through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

Billings to Bear Tooth Pass – Yellowstone – Bozeman, MT – On this morning we said “Hasta la vista, baby” to one of the riders in our group who had to peel off and take a more direct route home to Oregon.

Beartooth Pass

On Beartooth Pass

The rest of the posse was heading to Wyoming’s highest paved primary road…the Beartooth Scenic Byway.

It’s on Highway 212 and runs about 70 miles south and then west from Red Lodge in Wyoming to Cooke City, in Montana. The online data states that the Beartooth Pass summit is at 10,947 feet although our GPS from the top was reading 10,957 feet.

Beartooth Pass

Riding Across The Top Of Beartooth Pass

It didn’t matter because it felt like we were on the top of the world and could see 100’s of miles!

It is an incredible road to ride a motorcycle on and although I’ve never been there, I believe it would compete with riding through the Swiss Alps for excitement.   The road is essentially in two parts – the lower section that rises as you head south out of Red Lodge and the upper part at the higher elevations.

Descending Beartooth Pass

Descending Beartooth Pass

The views on the way up are terrific and it is a difficult decision whether to continue riding or stop every ¼ mile and take pictures.  We did some of both, including GoPro’s mounted on the helmets to video record parts of the trip.  We met other riders along the road and they all had big smiles on their faces as if we had all found a long lost secret riding location.

Some parts of the upper section of Beartooth Pass had gusty winds that were inconsistent from bend-to-bend that required our attention and it was much colder at the higher altitude.  Nothing more than leather jackets, and the slopes were steep and the views were spectacular.  On top there was snow in the shadow parts of the mountain.

Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park

We made several photo stops on the way down as we headed toward the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone Park.

In the summer this is a dramatic entrance with a rich diversity of landscape compared to other entrances to the park.  Traffic was very light and just after we entered the park at 7,365-feet altitude, we cut between the 10,928-foot Abiathar Peak and the 10,404-foot Barronette Peak.

Bison in Lamar Valley

Bison in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is home to large amounts of Bison, some of which we met on the road meandering along without a care in the world.  We exited the park at Gardiner where The Roosevelt Arch is located.  The top of the Roosevelt Arch is inscribed with “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” which is from the Organic Act of 1872, the enabling legislation for Yellowstone National Park.

The Roosevelt Arch

The Roosevelt Arch – Yellowstone National Park

We continued on to Bozeman, MT., and overnighted at the rather nice Best Western Plus Grantree Inn.  There was an upscale sports bar and restaurant in the hotel and we grab dinner there and chatted with some of the locals.

Bozeman to Shelby, MT – The next morning we fueled up early and motored north on US Route 86.  It’s also referred to as the Bridger Range Scenic Drive.

On US Route 86 - Bridger Range Scenic Drive

On US Route 86 – Bridger Range Scenic Drive

It’s about 40miles and intersects with Highway 89 north of the town of Wilsall.  The road follows the eastern flank of the Bridger Mountains.  Once the road enters the National Forest, the views are a bit more limited due to the thick forest, but there are still enough open areas to keep the drive interesting.  The Bridger Bowl ski resort is about 20min from Bozeman.

Smith Valley

Smith River Valley

There are no services along the route, but what an incredible scenic road!  If you ever get a chance ride this route do it.  The road is a nicely paved and provides excellent views of the mountains which dominated the view to the west.

We connected up with US Route 89 which is the “Backbone of the Rockies” and links seven National Parks across the Mountain West.  We rode through the The Smith River Valley.  Stopped for a late breakfast at the Branding Iron Café in White Sulphur Springs.

IMG_3393ADeparting White Sulphur Springs meant we were on the Kings Hill Scenic Byway as it winds through the Little Belt Mountains.  We passed through the Lewis and Clark National Forest and savored the rugged beauty.

As the scenery turn flat there were gravel roads that crisscrossed US Route 89 all the way to Great Falls.  It was hot with a lot of wind buffeting on this day and in Great Falls we stopped at Big Sky Harley-Davidson for a soda break and to look for a t-shirt.

Glacier National Park - Going The Sun Road

Glacier National Park – Going To The Sun Road

We departed and connected with I-15 north and headed toward Shelby.  Several miles up I-15 we stopped at the Mountain View Co-Op in Brady for fuel.  We ran into some old farmers there and spend a good deal of time chatting about various items from how loud the bikes were to the price of wheat.  It was almost like a TV show!

We arrived in Shelby and overnighted at the Comfort Inn.  It was an interesting hotel with part of it being on Indian reservation and had gambling in the lobby, but the rooms in the new section had just opened and they had friendly service.  We walked down the hill and ate dinner at the Ringside Ribs which was full of hungry truck drivers.

Riding the Going To The Sun Road - Glacier National Park

Riding the Going To The Sun Road – Glacier National Park

Shelby to Sandpoint, ID (via Going To The Sun Road and West Glacier) – We departed fairly early the next day and motored out on Highway 2 west bound.  We were headed for the “Going To The Sun Road” at St. Mary and east entrance of Glacier National Park.  We rode through Cut Bank then Browning and when refueling in St. Mary we took some time for refreshments.

If you’ve never driven a motorcycle on the Going-to-the-Sun Road it’s clearly one of the top 10 national park experiences.

Going To The Sun Road

Riding the Going To The Sun Road

There is significantly less traffic (shuttle buses and tourists) when traversing the park east to west and we didn’t have to contend with large crowds at any of the prime viewing pullouts.  The road offers a visual assortment of moutain views that anyone will enjoy.  It’s narrow in places, and in a constant state of repair due to the annual freeze-thaw cycle.

We didn’t pull off at the Logan Pass visitor center.

Lake

Lake McDonald

We’ve been down this road before and the visitor center crowds are not our gig.  The view of the Clements Mountain and the southern tip of the Garden Wall were terrific.  Many of the park visitors motor up the pass aboard a Red Jammer, one of Glacier’s renowned fire engine-red, open-air touring buses that debuted in 1937.  Supposedly they gained their nickname for the way drivers “jammed” their way through the gears.

"Glides" on the Going To The Sun Road

“Glides” on the Going To The Sun Road

We had GoPro camera’s running through much of our way down to West Glacier where it looks like time has stood still in this remote corner of Montana.  The log buildings have changed very little since they were built in 1938.  Any “inappropriate development” has been curtailed and the village has maintain its historic character.  There was a quick break at the village and we were making good time so we continued on to Kalispell.  We motored on and thought about stopping in Libby, but continued on to Bonners Ferry then connected with Highway 95 south for Sandpoint, ID.

Bonner's Ferry, ID

Bonner’s Ferry, ID

We had left the plains-induced sweat running down our backs for cooler temperatures and it was nice riding.  Although I have to admit that the cumulative riding over the previous 11 days had started to wear on me.   We were heading toward home at this point so the time to pull off and take photos were few.  We were really about getting through some miles.

It had been a 345 mile day through some slow going,  RV and tourist ridden roads, but we were in Sandpoint and checked into the La Quinta Inn before 6pm.

Sandpoint, ID at the La Quinta Inn

Sandpoint, ID at the La Quinta Inn

We showered and had refreshments at Connie’s.  We intended to eat at a Thai restaurant, but ran out of patience and instead had dinner at Connie’s.

Sandpoint to Portland – The next morning we were again up and on the road before 7:30am because we had a 430+ mile day and the forecast was searing heat.  We headed out of town and caught a glimpse of the city’s new downtown by-pass as we headed across the Sandpoint Long Bridge.  It was slow going on Highway 95 to Coeur d’Alene, but we pick up speed once we connected with I-90 and then Highway 395 through the Washington State farm land.  We pulled into the Country Travel Plaza for a fuel and refreshment stop as the heat of the day wore on.  We had a late lunch at C&D Drive In at Boardman and then rolled into Portland around 5pm.

After 400-miles the sun sets on the "Glide"

The sun sets on the end of the 4-Corners “Glide” adventure

It’s not often that you get to ride for the pure enjoyment of the open road and the excitement of what’s around the next curve.

We were on the road for 12-days, visited eleven states, made new friends, discovered a part of history and rumbled across 4000 miles of the U.S.  There were smells, wind gusts, moisture hungry lowland desert, tall pines and scented blooms along with blazing sun, searing heat, rugged landscape and mountain peaks that reached up and touched the clouds.  It was a most rewarding trip and riding the adventure with some classy motorcycle buddies was priceless!

That was the 4-Corner’s ride in August 2012.  It is now history forever saved on the internet!

This is multi-part blog post.  Part 1 – HERE and Part 2 – HERE.

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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4-Corners By Harley-Davidson – Part 2

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This is a continuation of Part-1 HERE, of our 4000-mile journey to 4-Corners that led us through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

Cortez to Meeker, CO – When we plotted our original route to 4-Corners, I don’t think any of us imagined riding in such dry, scorching heat through unimaginably desolate terrain.  It seemed like the buzzards were the only thing alive and they were circling patiently overhead for a couple days.  As a result, we decided it was time to head north for some cooler weather.

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass – 10,708 Feet

On this morning’s departure the buzzards had taken the day off. We headed east on Highway 160 toward historic Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We stopped at the Durango Harley-Davidson dealer and picked up a t-shirt and exchanged some information about where to ride with other motorcyclists.  We then headed north on Highway 550 toward Silverton and then Highway 110, over what is also called the “Million Dollar Highway” toward the little the town of Ouray — “The Switzerland of America.”  We allowed for plenty of time to ride this route as the winding roads go through mountains and we knew there would be stops for photos and time to enjoy the vistas, waterfalls, deserted mining towns.

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

The GPS displayed 10,708 feet when we crossed over the summit and started to descend into Silverton.  I’m not sure what the town is like in the winter with its 300+ inches of snow that falls each year. We stopped for fuel and a soda break then rolled onto the main part of the Million Dollar Highway – north from Silverton to Ouray.  I’ve heard a couple  different reasons about why it has its name. It is either because it cost a million dollars a mile to build, or because the fill they used to make up the road has traces of gold and silver contained within it. Whichever is true, it is still a great name for a road.  The road itself is a terrific ride, but there are some parts where you have to pay close attention with steep drop-offs and no guard rails. In other places the road hugs the side of a steep slope of a mountain and in others, it has great bends which are ideal for motorcycling.

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

About 20 miles from Ouray after going around a mountain switch back the weather changed quickly.  We could see dark clouds rolling up the mountain valley, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and it started to spit some moisture.  We pulled over and hunted for rain gear which somehow had relocated to a deeper part of the hard bags in the days of searing heat.  It was a good call, because in less than 15 mins there came lightening and a gully washer.  As we rolled through Ouray it was hailing BB sized hail and the road was literally flowing with a mud/water mix.  We could see blue sky and kept rolling through the weather.  By the time we arrive in Ridgeway it stopped.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

We finally arrived in Meeker and overnighted at the Elk Mountain Inn.  We ate a Mexican dinner at Ma Famiglia which was an extremely satisfying meal with great service.  We discussed riding to Sturgis since we were headed north and needed to start thinking about our return route.  The next morning coffee was on early and the hosts were very pleasant.  We wanted to clean the motorcycles after riding in the mud flow outside Ouray the previous day and they offered us a hose, buckets and cleaning soap.

On Wyoming Highway 70

On Wyoming Highway 70

Meeker to Torrington, WY – We were up early to clean the mud residue off the motorcycles.  Afterward we rolled north toward Craig on Highway 13/789.  Once we passed into Wyoming we headed east on Highway 70 where it passes over the Continental Divide and then descending onto the junction for Highway 230 north.  We picked up Highway 130 east and rode by Lake Marie and Mirror Lake while crossing through the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 - Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 – Medicine Bow National Forest.

In Centennial we stopped for fuel at the Trading Post and then continued east on Highway 130.  At Laramie we got on I-80 east and headed toward Cheyenne.  It was a quick trip to Cheyenne and then we headed north on I-25 and then at Exit 17 is where US Highway 85 (Torrington Road) branches off to the northeast.

We arrived in Torrington fairly late in the day and tried a couple of motels which were full of bikers before ending up at the Motel 6.   It was the only place with vacancy and that should have been a red flag.  It was being renovated or had closed and then sort of reopened, but didn’t know what it was going to be in final form?

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over...

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over…

All the signs were removed from the building and significant remodeling was stalled.  We were fortunate to have A/C and a bed/shower, but I can honestly say don’t stay at this place until they get it finished.  We ate dinner at Deacons Restaurant and the hearty steak meal helped offset the strange motel situation.

Torrington to Rapid City, SD – On this morning we got up early and traveled the 8+ miles for a photo op on the Nebraska state line.  We did a U-turn and headed back onto the route that is known as the “Traditional” way for riders to get from northern Colorado to Sturgis.

We started to notice a lot more motorcyclist as if the NO vacancy signs weren’t a clue the night before.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

We continued on Highway 85 north and headed to the town of Lusk.  Lusk was full of Bikers, and coincidently was having a big parade.  We had planned to get fuel there, there was a long wait at the gas station and one of the law enforcement officers who had traffic block mentioned that we should just head to the next town.

This stretch of road is heavily patrolled, but despite that we witnessed a number of bikers running near 90mph, though I don’t recommend it.  In fact, we came up on the first accident of the trip on this road.  It looked like an overloaded motorcycle dumped their load and skidded off into the ditch.  If anyone had been hurt they were already gone by the time we rolled past as the tow vehicle was picking up the motorcycle.

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

About halfway between Lusk and Newcastle is Mule Creek Junction with a nice rest area and it’s possible to head east on Highway 18 from there into Custer, SD which is what we did.

We rolled through Custer and past the Crazy Horse Mountain Monument and stopped in Rapid City.  We paid double the going rate for a room at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel and spent the remainder of the day and evening enjoying the typical Sturgis activity.

Knuckle-8We were only in town for 24 hours, but managed to hit The Knuckle Saloon for refreshments, One-Eyed Jacks Saloon for dinner, and see plenty of billboards, souvenirs, belt buckles, t-shirts, music and people watching on Main Street well into the evening.

Rapid City to Billings, MT – The next morning was another early rise.  It was a beautiful sun-drenched morning.

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

There was a quick sausage biscuit (yeah, we eat well on the road!) at Burger King and it was on the road again.  It was going to be an “Interstate Day” – all the miles would be on the freeway.  We motored west on I-90 toward Sundance then Gillette and Sheridan.

As the miles clicked by I gazed out over the landscape, it was not hard to imagine the challenges faced by those who struggled to forge a living from this land 150 years ago. It says something about the human spirit that they even tried.  When you’re rolling along on the freeway you soon learn to really hate semi-trucks and RVs.

Buffalo Country

Buffalo Country

These behemoth’s create their own wind patterns and take no issue with trying to out run motorcycles cruising above the speed limit!

Much of this route is prairie with long stretches of straight road.  Just outside Hardin we rolled past the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument at the Highway 212 junction.  We’ve ridden Hwy 212 a couple of times when returning from Sturgis, but this time we needed to make up some miles.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Passing by Little Big Horn I remember seeing the 135th anniversary signs of the battle.  It was late 1875, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians left their reservations, outraged over the continued intrusions of “whites” into their sacred lands in the Black Hills.   They gathered in Montana with Sitting Bull to fight for their lands.  The following spring, two victories over the US Calvary emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876 – the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

A couple years ago I blogged about the Guidon, an artifact found/auctioned off from that battle.

It had been another hot day and we arrived in Billings at the Holiday Inn Express on the edge of town.  It was a new hotel and had all the amenities.  We headed to the pool and then I remember having dinner at a Subway shop up the road followed by some DQ ice cream.  There were a number of bikers returning from Sturgis who overnighted at the hotel and we made some new friends.

This is a multi-part blog post.  Part -1 HERE and Part – 3 HERE.

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Two words:  Rattlesnake Grade!

The editors of American Motorcyclist magazine used their 230,000-members to nominate and vote on members’ favorite roads. Nearly 100 roads made the ballet box, and the magazine published the top 15 roads in the April issue.

Oregon made the top 15 with an amazing piece of pavement called the Rattlesnake Grade. Typically any rider who’s done this twisty piece of paved paradise will just smile and their face will light up when ask about it.

Here are the top 15 routes and I’ve bolded the northwest routes:

15. Washington Route 129 and Oregon Route 3, Clarkston, Wash., to Enterprise, Ore. (Map HERE)
14. Ohio Route 170, Calcutta to Poland.
13. California Route 58, McKittrick to Santa Margarita.
12. U.S. Route 33, Harrisonburg, Va., to Seneca Rocks, W.Va.
11. Natchez Trace, from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville, Tenn.
10. Angeles Crest Highway, California Route 2.
9. U.S. Route 12, Lolo Pass, Idaho and Montana. (Map HERE)
8. California Route 36.
7. Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee.
6. Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana. (Map HERE)
5. California Route 1, Pacific Coast Highway.
4. U.S. Route 550, from Ouray to Durango, Colo.
3. U.S. Route 129 — The Tail of the Dragon — on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.
1. Beartooth Highway, Montana and Wyoming. (Map HERE)

There are more detailed descriptions in the magazine which can be viewed online HERE.

Beside truck drivers, no other group puts in more miles and samples more road than motorcyclists and these are some great rides to consider.

Photo courtesy of AMA.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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St. Mary Lake - Glacier

St. Mary Lake - Glacier

If you’ve never driven a motorcycle on the Going-to-the-Sun road it’s clearly one of the top 10 national park experiences you should have.

We rolled out early on the “Sun Road,” as it’s known, and were treated to views that exceeded the Canadian Rockies.  Largely because the cloud coverage made way for some spectacular open air views in the various pull outs.  There is significantly less traffic (shuttle buses and tourists) when traversing the park East to West.   We didn’t have to contend with crowds at any of the prime view pullouts.

H-D on the "Sun Road" - Glacier

H-D on the "Sun Road" - Glacier

From pockets of thick, forest lining the many lakes to Logan Pass to the mountain-goat-crowded alpine high country and then back down to West Glacier on the park’s western border…  the road offers a visual assortment of outdoor views that anyone will enjoy.  The “Sun Road,” which initially was called the “Transmountain Highway,” rolls through the Crown of the Continent and offers up some road entertainment.   It’s narrow, precipitous in places, and in a constant state of repair due to the annual freeze-thaw cycle.

Glacier Mountain Flowers

Glacier Mountain Flowers

It wasn’t always clear that the “Sun Road” would follow its current path. There were debates over the best routing of a cross-park road. Some wanted it to run all the way to Waterton Lakes in British Columbia, and others were arguing for it to go by Gunsight Pass.  In the end the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (the precursor to today’s Federal Highway Administration) decided the current route made the most sense. Once that decision was made, National Park Service landscape architects worked with Bureau of Public Roads engineers to, as much as possible, blend the road into the mountain environment.  The road is truly an engineering marvel and is a National Historic Landmark.  It spans about 50 miles through the parks interior and winds around mountainsides and cliffs.  Planners insisted that the bridges, retaining walls, and guardrails be made of native materials and to this day that mind-set prevails.

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

We pulled off at the Logan Pass visitor center.  This area is pinched tightly between Clements Mountain and the southern tip of the Garden Wall, and offers up terrific views that carries the Continental Divide through the park’s interior. Farther north are the bulk of the park’s glaciers and you soon realize that it would take a lifetime to really know everything that the park has to offer.  Many of the park visitors motor up the pass aboard a Red Jammer, one of Glacier’s renowned fire engine-red, open-air touring buses that debuted in 1937.  Supposedly they gained their nickname for the way drivers “jammed” their way through the gears.

The Red Jammer

The Red Jammer

We made our way down to West Glacier where it looks like time has stood still in this remote corner of Montana.  The log buildings haven’t changed much since they were built in 1938.  Any “inappropriate development” has been curtailed and the village has maintain its historic character.  There was a lunch break in Kalispell and we had a great drive along Flathead Lake and rolling farmlands.  The weather was comfortable as scattered clouds floated along the mountain range.  We were making good time for a layover in Missoula.

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Just after St. Ignatius we connected with Hwy 200 and about 20 miles prior to I-90 we hit major road construction.  It was as if the contractor won every bid to re-surface the road, rebuild water culverts and widen bridges.  It was massive and to be candid riding a weighted down motorcycle on very loose and deep gravel was intense.  The “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution” was an understatement!

We finally arrived in Missoula and met up with the other half of the posse from when we split paths in Canada.  Dinner and refreshments at MacKenzie River Pizza Company was a great break as we compared riding route and construction stories.

The next morning all I could think of was — No forest fires here!

Road Construction

Road Construction

This is usually the season for hot, dust-dry and smokey air in Western Montana.  Maybe an occasional thunder shower with little rain, but lots of fire-starting lightening.  However, our Missoula departure was met with flash-flood pouring rain.  We’re talking a wet-to-the-bone soaker!  Even with a full-face helmet it was miserable as we experienced 167 miles of heavy rain on I-90.  It didn’t stop until we exited in Coeur D’ Alene and was a half-hour into eating our lunch at a Denny’s!  I experienced for the first time rain gear seepage and damp jeans.  WTF?!  Sure that amount of rain qualifies as a season-ending event to the wildfires, but it was so intense and broad across the state that even I was looking for a culprit… maybe that hydrocarbon use is REALLY to blame for the glacier shortening and sea level rise which in turn effected the rings around the sun and the atmospheric motorcycle riding conditions in Montana?  A quick iPhone WeatherBug scan indicated that Spokane was at the edge of any possible rain and we decided it was time to head as directly as possible to sunnier sky’s.  By the time we hit Ritzville then south on Hwy395 toward the tri-cities it was re-hydration time and the layers started to peel off.  After several more wind surfing riding hours through the gorge we made it home.

Posse Pizza Dinner

Posse Pizza Dinner

A couple of closing thoughts on this great 8-day, ~2000 mile ride. The internet is for sharing.  It’s where we go to reveal our thoughts and describe experiences.  When going on a motorcycle road trip you encounter an array of fascinating landscapes, people and structures.  This trip brought with it some weather challenges for which we were mostly prepared and we adjusted to them.  There was also a lot of terrific riding, fun and now a historical travelogue.  At the end of the day, when you get home, it’s about having a few moments away from the daily routine and being able to share those memories with friends and family.  Thanks to the posse for a great time!

The 107 to 47 Journey — Part One HERE; Part Two HERE; Part Three HERE

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Banff Departure - Wet and Cold

Banff Departure - Wet and Cold

When rain begins flowing off the front and back of your motorcycle helmet you can’t help but have a dampened riding spirit, but there is a saying in Alberta… “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

Well we waited several minutes, but the early morning departure out of Banff didn’t change the hard cold facts.  It was 47 degrees and wet!   Where did this damn winter weather come from?   Indeed there were ominous black clouds circling around the town and after we fueled up and traveled 10 minutes down the road they busted loose.  We were not caught unaware.  Parking under an overpass we climbed into full rain gear.  Yet, the steady downpour seemed to soak everything.

Frank Slide - Frank, Alberta

Frank Slide - Frank, Alberta

We determined our rain gear was worth every penny, but hardly a fashion statement as we fumbled around trying to get it all on.  They are typically a bit musty smelly after being rolled up for months, heavy to wear and somewhat long, but they did the trick and kept us dry.  The good news in all of this?   After about 30 minutes and before we reached Radium Hot Springs the rain was history, the road had dried out and we spent time discussing wildlife (Coyote, Deer etc) seen in route through Kootenay National Park.  Despite being named after a radioactive element the hot springs has none and is has the largest pool of 103 degree water in Canada.  As cold as the day started it was most difficult not to check in and grab a few hours in the hot spring!

Border - Chief Mountain

Border - Chief Mountain

Exiting Radium the posse split up.  Part of the crew wanted to travel more miles and make it to the “Going to the Sun Road” in St. Mary, Montana.  Others wanted to steer clear of any rain and elected to navigate toward a more southerly and warmer route to Cranbrook and then to Missoula, MT.

We were part of the “more miles” crew and the cold weather limited our sightseeing and photo stops, but a couple items stood out.  First was the Frank Slide in Frank, Alberta.  Frank is a coal mining town in the Crowsnest Pass.  Back in the early 1900’s the east side of Turtle Mountain broke free and the slab of limestone rock covered 1.5 miles destroying most of the town and killing 76 people.  It’s now a regional tourist attraction.  The second was tucked away in the rugged mountains — the little town of Fernie, BC.  It is fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains and has a ski resort (Fernie Alpine Resort) with the highest annual snowfall of any resort in the Canadian Rockies.

St. Mary Lodge and Resort - St. Mary, MT

St. Mary Lodge and Resort - St. Mary, MT

We crossed the Elk River, home of the cutthroat trout and forged on toward Pincher Creek, Twin Butte and through the Waterton Lakes National Park.  Finally we rolled into the U.S. border crossing at the tiny Chief Mountain Alberta/Montana outpost on Highway 6 (Alberta) and Highway 17 (Montana).  After riding for hours in very remote, very wooded and very sparsely populated areas, one is reminded that you’re on the world’s longest undefended border. It’s a catchy yet increasingly imprecise term for the U.S.-Canada frontier.  The northern border is mostly out of the spotlight.  As authorities on both sides ratchet up efforts to curb bustling traffic in illegal drugs and guns it’s odd that the U.S.-Mexico border draws far more attention — and more American resources.  But again I’ve wandered…

St. Mary Lodge Cabin

St. Mary Lodge Cabin

At about 6pm local we arrived at the Saint Mary Lodge on junction Hwy89 and the “Going to the Sun Road” which runs through Glacier National Park (Montana).  It was a long riding day.  Fortunately we’d made reservations weeks in advance and secured the remaining cabins vs. a replica Indian tepee.  The place was fully booked!  There was no cell phone service and the Hughes Net Satellite internet was malfunctioning… so, we were off the tweet grid!  Side note: if you plan to go this route an alternative is to stay in Pincher Creek, Alberta where they had several motels and you won’t have to make reservations months in advance for the Park service lodge. Had we known this we would have avoided the rustic cabin adventure.

After grabbing some fairly good grub at the Snowgoose Grill we crashed with four TV channels looking forward to the next days ride through Glacier park.

The 107 to 47 Journey – Part One HERE; Part Two HERE; Part Four HERE.

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