I was over on the west side of the Continental Divide yesterday, doing my usual every-other-week-300-mile-round trip to Costco, the farmer’s market, Ace Hardware, and medical-appointment-of-the-quarter.  Yesterday, the dreaded Dentist.  Uggh.  If there is a Hell, its background noise is the whine of the dentist’s drill.

Flathead County has had so much rain it is practically mildewing, and every local I talked to expressed their frustration with the wet weather, a sentiment I echoed as I got soaked in the Target parking lot, and then the Famous Dave’s parking lot, and then the Apple Barrel parking lot.  Finally done with my tasks of honey deliveries and grocery lists, I pointed my fully loaded rig east, expecting to drive Hwy 2 through West Glacier to Browning and then picking up Hwy 464/Duck Lake Road, as I do most of the year.

But as I waited for my enormous gas tank to fill, I idly surfed Facebook on my phone, and there it was – the announcement the East Side has collectively anticipated for days now.  Going-to-the-Sun Road is OPEN, an insider friend declared as her status.  Hooray!  And so I dialed the Park to confirm this information and happily took a left hand turn off of Hwy 2 and onto the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road.  If it’s open and I’m not pulling a trailer, I always drive this twisting ribbon of a road.  Although its puny guard rails and soaring heights scare some friends of mine right out of their seatbelts, I relish the chance for a peek at the Park’s interior, even when I am not able to exit my vehicle to properly enjoy it.  Plus, it takes less than half the amount of gas to go from Glacier County Honey World Headquarters to the Flathead via the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  And I’ve rarely driven the road without seeing a frolicking goat or two.  So, why wouldn’t I drive it?

As I approached the entrance gates to the Park, I expected to wait in line to get in — as per the norm on Opening Day — but perhaps because the Park hardly publicized the famed opening, or perhaps because it was still downpouring, I sailed through the check station and up, up, up I went.

Into the clouds.

What did I see in Glacier National Park yesterday?  Hardly a darn thing.  I nearly got vertigo, driving through the pea soup clouds at 8MPH, and there were plenty of visitors stopped dead in the middle of the Sun road, flashers blinking, glazed panic painted on their faces.  I felt incredibly sorry for all of them, and I hope they’ll come back and visit us sometime when the weather is a bit more temperate.

Crossing Logan Pass, even the sign for the parking lot was completely obscured, though as soon as I descended through the Big Drift into the East/Best Side, the clouds lifted and sunshine sparkled on Little Chief and St. Mary Lake.

The Big Drift.

Descending the eastern side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Going-to-the-Sun Mountain in the left foreground.

St. Mary Lake, Divide Mountain to the far left, Red Eagle to the far right.  That’s my 2001 Glacier National Park pass in the window.  I’m going to laminate and use it as a Christmas ornament.  Lots of good memories tied up in that sheet of paper!

Though my journey was not a photographer’s dream, I still relished my time up in the far high country, and I send my deepest gratitude to the brave men and women who clear the road for us each spring.  It’s not everywhere you can drive to a truly Alpine setting, and I think that is Glacier’s most special gift to its visitors.  Everyone, come see your most beautiful National Park this summer!

And don’t forget to stop by World Headquarters while you’re here.

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