Going-to-the-Sun Highway

I did a quick two-day trip down to the Going-to-the-Sun highway and Glacier National Park in Montana. It was really a good time (c:

Around 13:45 on Wednesday I left Calgary and headed down Hwy 22 through Bragg Creek and past Longview AB. The weather lately has been really dry and most of the forestry is closed in southern Alberta, the reason became really clear when I got to the Chain Lakes Provincial Park

Waterbombers were doing runs out over the forest and were using the Chain Lakes as a filling station. I actually paced one for a while before he dove down and filled up, there were three right behind him and all they all came in, filled up and were gone again before I knew it. They had attracted a whole crowd of people on the side of the road so I stopped to join in the fun and got some good pictures of it.

Waterton was really nice, I hadn’t been there in a large number of years, I didn’t really spend any time there this time either, but it was good to know it was still there in my absence! In crossing the boarder with the States there wasn’t really a good “Welcome to the US” sign so I got one with the Alberta sign… I figure it works.

Just past the border is a great little town called St. Mary where I stopped for gas and a bite to eat. The restaurant there is the Park Cafe, and if you’re ever in the neighbourhood it’s definitely worth a stop. They were packed with people, mostly older people out of large RVs or packed into large Buicks and all of them wearing white pants… something about old people (+70 for anyone who’s keeping score…) and vacation pants, it’s like iron and magnets – completely unstoppable! Anyway, I ended up with a seat at the counter, which I never do, but it really turned out well. The waitress was a good-looking brunette with bangs over her forehead and a slight twist to her smile that was completely captivating. I was happy to wait while the restaurant buzzed around me like an ant-hill stirred up with a stick and before long a coffee, salad and steak appeared in front of me. These quickly disappeared and in their place was a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie and vanilla icecream, mmmm just perfect!

After St. Mary I headed south again and hit some wonderfully twisty roads on the way to Browning MT. Those of you that know me know that despite my penchant for them maps and I don’t always get along like we should, unfortunately this was one of those cases…. When I arrived at Browning it became painfully aware that I was too far south, the mountains were behind me and the wide open prairie was an amazing vista spread out before me. I had been bewitched by the twisty roads and descending darkness into going far beyond where I needed to be; also, the map I had didn’t show the road I was aiming for… which was definitely part of the problem. I started working my way back north, knowing that I didn’t quite know where to go and ran into a few ladies that were also lost, but they had the fortune of a good map! They were most helpful and in a glance my stomach sank, the turn I needed was right out of St. Mary; I had driven roughly 30 miles away from where I needed to be! The upside was that I could hit the twisty roads again (c:

It was well dark by the time I got back to St. Mary and found a campsite, it was just down the road from where I’d had dinner and the office was closed so I pulled in a grabbed a spot. After declining some help from a well-meaning fellow Calgarian I went about setting up camp by the headlight of the bike. I should mention that I had some difficulty starting it the other day and it required a boost to do so but when I left for the trip it was running well and hadn’t caused me any problems during the day so this earlier difficulty was far from my mind which was totally occupied by my navigational aberration and the promise of upcoming sleep. Not three minutes later the headlight was too dim to see anything and multiple attempts to start the engine were futile! At 11pm it was a problem for tomorrow, and with a clear sky a tent was a luxury I didn’t think necessary. Fortunately this decision turned out well for me, and I laid down beneath the stars and stared up at galaxies and distant suns before falling soundly asleep.

The next morning was bright and clear and had a great feeling to it. I packed up camp, such as it was, and bummed a boost off some RVing neighbors that were also earlier risers. The lady commented “we saw you out there and I wanted to bring you a blanket!” she seemed surprised that I was actually much too warm most of the night. At 8am I cruised out of the campground, half an hour before the office opened 😉 and hit the road!

St. Mary Lake

There a lot of bike pictures, it’s just easier than trying to get ones of me

Looking into a mist shrouded valley

Looking up the road

Cool little waterfall

Looking back where I came!

Balanced the camera on my helmet (c: Pure genius!

The Going-to-the-Sun Highway was amazing, it is ~50 mi long and carved out of the sides of mountains. In many places you look down over the edge with a huge drop, and it’s spectacular! My favourite parts were Logan Pass and the Gunsight Pass area, I’m definitely going to have to find some time to go exploring on foot there. I was tempted to ride back through it in the opposite direction, but I’d already stopped quite a bit and was hoping to be home before it go too late. With a last look back, and a quick breakfast at Eddie’s in Apgar Village (which doesn’t hold a candle to the Park Cafe) I made for home.
The trip back was long, I mean loooong. Montana was nice though and I enjoyed all of scenery on the way. The border guard was great, really young and jovial, which always helps and before long I was back in Canada. Along with the rising sun came rising temperatures and before I knew it it was 36C with wind that felt straight out of the desert. North of Radium a gain in elevation helped a lot and dropping temperatures raised my spirits immeasurably.

Castle Mountain lookin’ good

Jon looking tired

The trip home was a personal bike record for me, 710km in one day. It was worth it though, I enjoyed the trip and look forward to getting back to Glacier and Waterton when I have a chance.

Here is my route, with the really good twisty roads in red (c:


  1. Kris
    August 17, 2007

    Browning? Really Jon, what industry do you work in again? ;^)

  2. JN
    August 19, 2007

    Yeah I know… I almost left it out of the story, but it seemed to good *not* to include it.

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