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   This is the Weeping Wall.  On one of the bus rides to Logan Pass I sat by a couple who came from northern Minnesota.  Along with being a wealth of good information about traveling they shared several good stories.  One that stands out was the women recounting how she had a close brush with death.  She said she had come to Glacier National sometime after this happened, and standing here at the weeping wall understood why she had been allowed to live through her ordeal.  This entire park has that effect.

July 16, 2018

Happy 13th birthday Photoblog



      Our photoblog is now 13 years old.
   Pictured is my new tent in Holland Lake Campground in Montana.  The picture was taken 9:30 pm.  While the sun has set there is still plenty of twilight.  In the tent, Wingnut is reading a book and handing near the front of the tent is an LED lantern.  A bit of the dwindling fire can be seen in the pit.
   I had initially planned only to use the tent once on our trip while we were in Nebraska.  The rest of the time I had planned to sleep in the car.  I had designed a system that was supposed to make the setup functional for two people.  However, it turned out the opening between the trunk and front seat was too narrow to comfortably fit two people and the cover I had designed sat too low.  We only used this setup one night, and it wasn't great.  There was only one other time we slept in the car and that was at a rest stop on the trip home.  There we removed everything from the back seats and moved them to the front two seats.  This was more functional, but not as good as the tent.  Sadly, two person travels are going to require external means of sleeping.  This tent is a good option.

July 15, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 10

Map   Wingnut and I arrived back at Elmwood Park around 7:00 pm today, ending our 10 day journey.  We covered 3,954 miles, visited 7 states, and 5 national parks.

July 14, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 9

   All things must come to an end, and so too our Glacier trip.  Today we packed up camp for the last time and started the drive home.  We completed 670 miles of the trip today, stopping briefly at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  We stopped at a rest area in between Glen Ullin and New Salem, ND. The clouds to the south were flickering with lightening but gave us a lovely sunset.

July 13, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 8

Que Reaches to Logan Pass

Que Reaches to Logan Pass

   Today was the day for which I had planned for over a year.  Today I ride the entire 50 mile length of the Going-To-The-Sun road.  I had cycled most of the way up this road last year, but I could not complete the climb because the roads were still being plowed.  Ever since I felt I had to come back and try again.  It went from a goal to somewhat of an obsession, and I planned this entire trip around making this one ride.  Today it would happen.
   I set my alarm from 5:00 am.  I wanted to make sure to get up as easy as I could so I had as much time as I needed to do this ride.  The first segment of the ride would be the longest.  St. Mary Visitor Center to Logan Pass is 18 miles.  The first 11 miles only climb 270 feet while the last 7 miles climbs 1,900 feet.  At 6:19 am my ride began.
   The morning was chilly with the temperate about 47°F/8°C and a light wind from the west.  I started dressed in thermal pants, leggings, my heavy shirt, and ear muffs.  I stopped after a mile or so to add gloves as my fingers were getting cold.  I got to see the sun rise and it began to illuminate the mountains on my left side.  I was riding mostly west and the mountains to my right were casting a shadow.  Although I don't recall where this happened, I noticed a warm breeze coming off the mountains.  Shortly after that I took off the thermal pants, gloves and ear muffs.  The climb began shortly after reaching the west shore of Saint Mary Lake.  I lost the leggings and switched to a light shirt for the remainder of the ride. 
   Initially I was fairly excited and found myself pushing a little too hard.  My heart rate was over 165 BPM and it was becoming hard to push this hard.  A relaxed and allowed my heart rate to drop between 150 and 155 BPM.  I can ride like that all day.  My speeds were somewhere around 5 MPH with a grade of about 5.7%, but I took in the fantastic view all around me and kept pushing forward.  By now I had periodic traffic along the road including shuttles going to Logan Pass, but at this point I was the only cyclist I saw.
   I reached Logan Pass at 8:12 am after 1 hour, 53 minutes and 56 seconds of riding.  The hardest part of the ride was now complete and called for a little celebration.  I walked the Iron Horse to the Logan Pass sign and had a fellow tourist take a picture for me.  I still had 31 miles of road left to travel, but most of this was downhill.  After a snack and a quick rest I got back on the road.  Going down is always fun and I passed several cyclists on their way up.  I either waved or rang my bell as I passed them (there are speeds at which I won't take my hands off the handle bars).  The grade leveled significantly by 11 miles from 8.4% to 2.7% for the next 10 miles.  After that the grade was fairly flat.  It took 1 hour and 35 minutes to complete the 30.9 miles from Logan Pass to Apgar Village.  I had finished the ride at 10:24 am with plenty of time before the 11:00 am bicycle cutt-off began. 
   Hungry after my ride I grabbed breakfast in Apgar Village.  Sadly I was hoping for a better breakfast than what I got.  I then hit the gift shops to find something that mentioned Going-To-The-Sun road.  I picked up a magnet and a pin.  The pin is now mounted on my bike bag.
   After exploring around Apgar Village for awhile I caught a bus back up the mountain.  The first bus took me to Avalanche Creek where I had to switch to a smaller bus for the remaining climb to Logan Pass.  At Logan I still had a good deal of time before 4:00 pm when the road would be open again to cycling traffic.  I decided to hike to Hidden Lake.  The snow cover made the hike slow, but I reached the Hidden Lake overlook.  Before me was another magnificent view which was beautiful to the point of being moving.  Sadly I find such places are harder to appreciate when surrounded by people.  This would be all the further I was allowed to hike as the remaining path down to the lake was closed due to a bear frequenting the area.  I'm not sure I would have hiked the path anyway as there was still a lot of snow cover
   I saw several mountain goats on this hike, including a mother and kid.  They were coming down a fairly steep slope covered in snow, and the kid was not only running down the slope but jumping and doing 180° spins as it went.  Everyone watching was cheering it on as it was an impressive display of agility.
   By the time I got back to the Logan Pass visitor center it was past 4:00 pm and I was free to cycle the roads.  Only took me 53 minutes to make the 18 mile ride.  Once back at St. Mary visitor center I put my bike back on the car, had a snack, and then laid down to take a nap.  I had arranged with Wingnut to meet back up around 7:00 pm and told her I might take a nap.  Using my battery pack to power a fan I was able to get an hour of sleep despite the heat and daylight.
   Wingnut returned and had found the place where she could get a horse ride.  Both of us feeling victorious we stopped at a restaurant on the way back to camp for a victory dinner.  In a strange event of small-world Wingnut met an acquaintance of hers from high school who was working there.  What are the chances of someone from southern Wisconsin connecting with someone they knew in Babb, Montana??!
   Tonight was our last night at Chewing Black Bones Campground.  Although I had picked up firewood, I didn't lite a fire.  After washing up a bit I crawled into the tent and quickly fell asleep.

July 12, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 7

Wingnut Cycles Going-To-The-Sun Road

Wingnut Cycles Going-To-The-Sun Road

   Today the plan was to try out the shuttle system at Glacier National.  Both Wingnut and I had our bikes and while I don't think Wingnut could have cycled up the mountain, I knew she could cycling down it.  Although I had read about the shuttle system I wasn't sure how often they ran and which ones had bike racks.  So today Wingnut and I would do a test run to find out.
   First it was time to switch campsites.  I had initially hoped to do my solo bike ride from Apgar Village to St. Mary.  However, with the time required to travel from the campsite at Bowman Lake I wasn't sure I would have enough time.  I drive takes about an hour and a half, and Going-To-The-Sun Road is closed to cyclists from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  I didn't want to risk not making it to Logan Pass before the road was shutdown.  It was reported that the campground at Many Glacier was open so I decided we would switch.  I could do my ride starting at St. Mary and go to Apgar Village instead.
   After fully fueling up (didn't want to be an idiot this time) I used Highway 2 from West Glacier to go south the park toward Babb which is by the entrance to Many Glacier.  I had hopped maybe to find another campground along the way closer to the west entrance of Glacier, but had so such luck.  We arrived at Many Glacier and although they did have campsites available it was only for those with hard-shell campers.  Turns out there was a grizzly bear frequenting the area.  While they were trying to catch it the campground was closed to tent camping.  That was disappointing and meant we would have to find other accommodations.  On the way back we made a short excursion to the Many Glacier Hotel.  This is the site of another webcam I watch that overlooks both the hotel and Swiftcurrent Lake.  There we saw signs for horseback riding but couldn't locate exactly where to go for this activity.
   Along the drive back toward St. Mary we found Chewing Black Bones Campground.  The campground is run by members of the Blackfeet Nation and is situated along Lower Saint Mary Lake.  The distance from St. Mary isn't far and this made an ideal location.  The people who run the campground were very nice and after setting up a tent along the lake Wingnut and I set out to St. Mary to start the days activities.  Took a little longer than anticipated, but we were now at a good location for the remainder of our stay and no longer had to worry about where we were going to stay.
   At St. Mary finding a parking space took some time.  As happened at Logan Pass, someone signaled us they were leaving and we followed them to their car and exchanged places.  I do like considerate people.  Unlike Logan Pass which is some 6,600 feet high, the St. Mary visitor center is in the valley with plenty of prairie on all sides.  I'm not sure why the parking lot is so small as it makes sense to park at this location and catch the shuttle to all the points of interest after this location.  However, we were parked and soon the bikes were off the rack and ready to move.  At the bus stop we chatted with several other people who were also waiting with us.  This was something I would repeat at all our bus stops and rides, and I got to hear a lot of people's travel stories.
   I was to discover that every main shuttle bus racks for two bicycles.  They were quite easy to operate and on every ride I made, Wingnut and I were the only cyclists who needed rack space.  The ride to Logan Pass took about 45 minutes and since it was after 11:00 am but not after 4:00 pm we would have some time at the pass.  We locked our bikes and suited up for a hike.  We decided to try the Hidden Lake trail.  It quickly turned into snow and made for slow traversing.  In preparation for the hike I grabbed everything.  Two water bottles, sweatshirt, bug spray, sunscreen, bear spray, the bear bell, and both my cameras.  While I was sure we wouldn't need most of it this on this short hike, I wanted to get a feel for traveling with it.  Turns out that almost every person who looked prepared to hike (i.e. wasn't wearing flip-flops or other unsuitable hiking shoes) had bear spray either on their bag or belt.
   Wingnut and I only hiked about a mile over the first hill.  There the path got worse.  More snow with a steeper angle.  So we enjoyed the view and watched a nearby mountain goat before turning back.  It was now past 4:00 pm and time for a downhill ride.  I suited up in cycling clothing and we got under way.  Initially I stuck fairly close to Wingnut as she isn't as seasoned a cyclist as me.  I wanted her to feel comfortable controlling her rig on what was about to be a very serious downhill drop.  But Wingnut got comfortable with the breaking power of her bike pretty quick and would soon be ready to let gravity do it's maximum amount of work.  We then separated.  My bike has better bearings and a higher maximum speed for the same gradient.  In addition, I couldn't just not peddle.  Typical speeds for the first 5 miles were around 35 MPH/56 kph.  As when I had ridden the road before, 36 MPH is about as fast as my bike can be peddled as there just isn't any torque left after this speed.  Still, riding these speeds on a mountain road is a rush.  I was passing cars.  I pulled over at many of the pullover points for pictures and to wait for Wingnut.  She would either stop or just fly by.  I was always able to catch up as her top speeds were around 25 MPH/40 kph.
   The ride was really something.  Soon after The Loop the gradient leveled quite a bit.  I had debated stopped at the Loop for a ride back to Logan Pass, but Wingnut felt she would be fine for the 8 miles or so needed to get us to the Avalanche Creek stop.  Before we departed we asked a bus driver when the last pickup would be.  While not sure he gave us a time he would be at Avalanche Creek and we decided to make that our target.  While much of the ride after the loop was still slightly downhill, there were uphill portions.  Wingnut did a good job for someone who hadn't ridden in awhile.  We made it with about 10 minutes to spare.  Our bus was already there and we loaded up and got to relax for the trip back up the mountain.
   At the top we would just go down the other side toward St. Mary.  I was concerned this 18 mile stretch would be too much for Wingnut as the last 10 miles were be mixed hill.  However she took it slow and we made the entire ride from Logan Pass.  Not only was the ride fun, but absolutely beautiful.  The east side of the divide is like a different place.  On the west the mountain sides are lush green gardens.  On the east is is much more rugged and rocky.  Interesting how the mountains effect the climate in such a short amount of distance.
   That evening I slept well at our lakeside campsite.

July 11, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 6

Started the day with a hot breakfast of soup cooked on my self-powered blower driven camp stove. This was gifted to me last year by Laura and has served me well. In addition it provided hot water for cleaning and washing up. Soon Wingnut and I were back on the road for the remainder of the drive to Glacier National Park.

We arrived sometime around 11:00 am. As I figured all of the interior campgrounds were full. However, many of the other campgrounds still had room. Since I had never been to the northwest side of Glacier before I decided to try Bowman Lake. While this was only 34 miles from the west entrance, it took almost an hour and a half to reach. Much of the road is gravel, and the last 5 miles were in poor condition. The speed limit along this section was 20 MPH, but that was almost impossible to obtain. Numerous potholes, sharp turns and steep paths kept my speeds between 5 and 15 MPH for most of this drive. Nonetheless, Eve Liberty (my car) is part off-road vehicle as I discovered back in June of 2013 when I unintentionally took Eve through two muddy ruts in a field in Wyoming that GPS though was a road. So despite having two people, lots of supplies, and two bicycles strapped on the back Eve had no problem navigating this rough patch.

At Bowman Lake campground we had many empty sites to choose from, pick one, setup our tent and headed back to Going-To-The-Sun road. Wingnut had never been to any of the places we had so visited and now it was time to properly introduce her to Glacier National Park.

We started our drive along the heavily wooded shores of Lake McDonald. We stopped along some rapids along McDonald Creek and I almost had to pull Wingnut back to the car. But I understand, Glacier will do that to you. The sites at this park have to be experienced.

As we assented out of the forest the tall trees began to give away and the giant mountain sides became visible. This is the part of Glacier that won my heart back in 2016 when I visited with the mountain tops disappearing into the clouds. The mountain sides were lush green gardens of enormous proportions. Soon we were high enough to see the U-shaped valley carved by tens of thousands of years of glacier activity. Around every corner was a new vista fit for a postcard. Truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.

Logan Pass is at the continental divide and the highest point on the Going-To-The-Sun road. While I had been to Glacier National 3 times prior to this I had never stopped at Logan Pass. Since October I had been watching the web cameras at this location, observing snow accumulating to over 10 feet high and then slowly melting through the spring. I watched as the lower bathrooms completely disappeared under drifts, and then slowly started to come back. Then the plows clear the parking lot, dig out the bathrooms and remove the chimney cover. So now I wanted to visit the place I had come to know over many months of observation.

Despite having a parking lot over 400x260 feet in side finding a parking spot I knew would be difficult. The webcam showed me the parking lot fills up around 10:00 am which is probably why I skipping stopping the only other time the I visited when the road was fully open. Luckily, a lady signaled us to follow her and let us have her spot as the left and we didn’t have to search long.

Soon I was standing at a location where I could observe first hand the views I had been taking in remote all winter and spring in addition to views the web cameras did not show. The nerd in me located each of the cameras and gave them a mental solute of thanks.

The Logan Pass Visitor Center is an interesting place. There are two bathroom facilities. One has flushing toilets, and the other is a pit toilet. There is a water fountain and a place to fill water bottles, but no sinks for washing. To my knowledge there is no electricity run to the visitor center. Instead a bank of solar panels on the lower bathroom facility provides all the power for the facility. I’m not sure if a water pump is required or if they are tapped into a natural spring. Regardless, all power comes from the sun.

The visitor center has a small nature trail around it and is the start of both the Hidden Lake trail and the Highline Trail. I had initially wanted to hike the Highline Trail but the trail was still marked as closed before I left for the trip. Sadly for me it had just opened up when we arrived and I met several people who had hiked it. I will have to save this trail for another time. All around the visitor center were ground squirrels, dozens of them. Most didn’t seem too shy about all the human activity around them and went about dong squirrel things. I was able to get several good pictures.

Since Eve was unable to drive at night we had to make sure we had returned to camp before daylight was gone. Twilight lasts past 10:00 pm so I figured if we were back by 9:00 pm we should have enough light not to worry. We made a quick stop in Apgar Village to pick up bread. There I found another webcam I had watched many times, but the general store had everything to make sandwiches except bread. So we drove a couple more miles to the grocery store in West Glacier. They did have bread and we were soon on our way. However, I had forgotten about gasoline. While we probably could have made it without fueling up, I didn’t want to push my luck. In the tiny town of Polebridge was a store that did sell gas at $6.00/gallon. It was the price I had to pay for being an idiot, but worth the piece of mind.

With plenty of twilight left Wingnut and I decided to hike a little around the campsite and have a look at Bowman Lake. It is a beautiful site. Wingnut was filled with the urge to swim in it. The water was probably around 65°F/18°C but she wanted the experience. As she swam the clouds started to turn red as the sun set. The place was quite remarkable.

July 10, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 5

   Yellowstone is a magical place.  The hotspot above which one sits has an insane amount of energy trapped benighted the surface.  Geysers, mud-pots, hot springs, and steaming vents abound, but they represent only the smallest fraction of the stored energy available.  It is known that if this supervolcano decides to erupt we are talking an extension event.
   In the morning I took Wingnut to see Old Faithful.  While plagued with people seeing an actual geyser erupt is something everyone should experience, and there is one truth about Old Faithful—it is very reliable.  We did some short hikes to explore some of the hot springs and vents before it was time to get back on the road.  Wingnut only got a taste of Yellowstone, but this trip needs to reach northern Montana and we needed to get on the road.
   We would not make it to Glacier National this day.  With my headlight out of commission I could no longer safely drive at night.  So we drove until we reached Holland Lake just a couple hours south of Glacier National.  There we found a private campground and a site.  I left Wingnut with the tend so I could go register.  When I came back I found her bundled in her hoodie with the hood pulled right and her hands in the selves.  The mosquitoes were out in force.  With some 40% DEET we spray we were able to setup camp without being bothered further.  I have to give credit—DEET is an impressive bug repellent.
   Pictured is the second bear I've ever seen in the wild.  This time the bear didn't disappear as quickly as the first time I saw one, and I was able to capture a couple frames.  I don't mind seeing them from my car, but specifically for this trip I purchased bear spray in case we met by chance when I am less protected.