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The Clearing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road

UPDATE | 6.21.13: The Going-to-the-Sun Road has officially opened for the season! Happy first day of summer!

If you're not familiar with Glacier National Park, it's a pretty sizable park (spanning over 1 million acres) in northern Montana with a spectacular road that cuts right through the middle of the whole darn thing.

Going-to-the-Sun Road // May 21, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road // May 21, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park

The Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR), as it's called, officially opened to vehicle traffic in 1932. It was no easy task to build as you can see in this handy eTour. Seeing how difficult it was to initially build the road, it doesn't come as much a surprise that it's a huge challenge to maintain and clear every year. 

As I mentioned earlier this week, I spend my fair share of time researching trips. I'm taking it easy on the over-planning this time around, but one of the most awe-inspiring resources I've come across is the Glacier National Park Flickr account. While they post pictures of the entire park, lately the photo feed has been full of photos that capture the clearing of the GTSR. 

Going-to-the-Sun Road // The Big Drift - June 4, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park 

Going-to-the-Sun Road // The Big Drift - June 4, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park 

Going-to-the-Sun Road // The Big Drift - June 4, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park 

Going-to-the-Sun Road // The Big Drift - June 4, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park 

Going-to-the-Sun Road // East and west side crews meet in the middle of the Big Drift // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road // East and west side crews meet in the middle of the Big Drift // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road // Logan Pass Visitor Center - June 4, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park    

Going-to-the-Sun Road // Logan Pass Visitor Center - June 4, 2013 // Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park 

 

We weren't sure if the road would be open during our trip, but it looks like they're getting close to opening! I had the opportunity to chat (via email) with Glacier National Park Management Assistant Denise Germann about what it takes to clear the road year after year. Here's the scoop:

How long does it take to open theGTSR to vehicle traffic every year?

We begin snow plowing many roads in the park, including the GTSR, in early April. However, opening the GTSR is more than plowing snow. There are over 400 removable guard rails that have to be installed by hand each spring and removed each fall. There is also debris along and on the road to clean, removal of snow poles and parking areas and other facility work to open and get ready for use. Access to Logan Pass is usually available anywhere from mid-June to early/mid-July depending on rehabilitation road work, weather, etc. Weather is a major component of access and -- recently and for the next few years -- rehabilitation work on the road affects access too.   

How many people work the plows to open the road for the busy summer season?

We have about 10 crew members plus the avalanche technicians.

How many plows/tractors does it take?

  • Three bull dozers
  • Two large front-end loaders
  • Three large rotary snow blowers
  • One excavator

A section called “The Big Drift” is mentioned in some of the photos posted on Flickr. Can you tell us about that section, in particular? It appears to be a huge undertaking.

The Big Drift is located just east of Logan Pass. A large drift accumulates each year at this location that can be almost 90 feet in depth at times. This is the location that our two crews -- east and west -- meet to complete plowing the 50-mile road.   

What can visitors expect to see along the road when visiting in late-June/early-July that they may not experience later in the summer?

Snow in the high country! 

Anything else GTSR enthusiasts should know before visiting the park?

Always be prepared for changing weather conditions in the park. Drive with care. Know the driving restrictions on the road (length/width of vehicle, access, distance and time requirements) and have awareness of the option to utilize park shuttle service that accesses the entire GTSR. Our website has plenty of helpful information.

There are also two concessioners that provide access along the road: Glacier Park, Inc. has historic red bus tours and Sun Tours provide a tour highlighting Blackfeet culture.

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Many thanks to Denise for taking the time to answer questions during such a busy time in the park! Be sure to check out the official Flickr account for more photos. If you're interested in seeing Glacier National Park through my lens, feel free to follow me on Instagram (@JenSnyder). I'm sure I'll have just a few pretty images to share once we hit the road. 

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Okay, show of hands: who has already visited the park and cruised along the Going-to-the-Sun Road? What time of year did you visit? Want to share your favorite memories in the comment section below? I'd love to read 'em!


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Over-Planning: Guilty as Charged

Sooo... I tend to over-plan things. Just ask anyone I've ever vacationed with. They'll tell you.  

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I read guide books, search the vastness of the internet and get recommendations from friends. If we're heading to an unfamiliar city, I'll get my bearings beforehand via google maps and spend embarrassing amounts of time researching neighborhoods to find the optimal location for our home away from home. For trips to parks and hiking spots, I'll try to scope out both popular and less-frequented trails. I do my best to figure out when to get to the trailhead parking lot and what our alternate options might be should the lot be full of fellow tourists.

I'm not particularly proud of this little facet of my personality and I try really hard to tame the urge to fill every moment. Over-planning has actually ruined vacations. Our honeymoon in Maui? Didn't love it. I over-planned the you-know-what right out of it. Why the heck didn't I just "plan" on snorkeling and reading a book on the beach every day? It was a vacation, after all. 

In short? Because I'm me.

That said, the planner in me has also been a hero on occasion. That grocery store in Boston that just happened to be in the same building as the rental car drop-off and an easy two block walk to our condo? Not an accident. I planned that. The spectacular views of the Teton Range from the Moulton Ranch Cabins. Yep... booked that cabin for a reason.

I enjoying planning, researching and plotting sites on the map. I really do. However, with each new trip, I learn to take one more baby step back from the computer, apps, magazines and guide books. I'm learning that planning is one thing and over-planning is another and, quite frankly, it is not a good look on me. 

I'm trying to let trips "just happen," to a certain extent. And you know what? It's kind of great. We have no clue where we're staying the first night of our road trip to Glacier National Park. We have hikes on our list, but weather and other factors may cause us to pick another trail or a completely different activity. We have our passports ready just in case we make it to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, but we aren't really sure if that's going to happen. Other than the days spent in the car, we have none of the other days mapped out. 

And I'm okay. :) 

Yes, I will always have some sort of plan, but I'm working hard to be more flexible when it comes to the reality of travel. Because sometimes you have a walking tour planned, but you really just want to drink wine and read local alt. weeklies on your rented condo's awesome rooftop terrace. Am I right?

I hereby promise to let the relaxing rooftop terrace option win from time-to-time. You can all call me out if I slip up. Deal? 

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Anyone else trying to become a reformed over-planner? Who thinks I'm crazy for planning until I'm blue in the face? {For the record, I just raised my hand to both of those questions.}


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The American River + Michael Caine + Happy Links

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"Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but alwayspaddling like the dickens underneath." // Michael Caine

Happy Links:

  • I haven't stopped dreaming of an Airstream life after finding the Riveted blog. So. Much. Chrome. {sigh}
  • As I mentioned several months ago, we're in the midst of planning our trip to Glacier National Park. I've been following the park's Flickr stream to keep up with their work as they get the park ready for the spring/summer season. There's still so much snow!
  • Have you all heard of Dear Photograph? The site is based completely on the idea of matching an old printed photograph to the same location in its present form. It's brilliant.

Wrap it Up:

  • I finally wrote about the process my mom and I are going through to get rid of excess and simplify our lives. Spoiler alert: it feels pretty great.
  • A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking thesecret tunnel tours at the Cal Neva Resort on Lake Tahoe. If you're at all interested in history, retro decor and conspiracy, I highly recommend you take a tour.

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I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I'll be spending a few days in the Denver area, so be sure to follow my Instagram feed {@JenSnyder} for updates!

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North Coast Road Trip: Taking the Time

I'm back this week after another trip to visit family in Crescent City, California. You may remember a few photo-heavy posts (here, here and here) about the lovely little town in which I used to live.This time around I decided to mix work and play by taking the time to really appreciate the already long drive. I stopped often to capture fun places to explore along Highway 101 (which I hope to share eventually), had to take a detour along a road I've never traveled and spent some much-needed time with family.

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If you're heading from the Sacramento area to the north coast, I recommend taking I-5 to Highway 20 to Highway 101. That was my plan, but was turned back due to an accident that closed Highway 20. The nice Caltrans worker suggested I take CA 175 to get to Highway 101 instead. The road is pretty dicey in places and goes up (then down) a very steep grade, but the views made the detour totally worth the extra effort:

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Taking the time to stop at some of the beautiful areas along the way was also well worth it. I'm sad to say that I usually just cruise on by, too preoccupied with getting to where I'm going. I hope to stop more often in the future. Here's why:

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I spent some time tooling around Crescent City visiting tourist sites I haven't paid much attention to in years past. Here's a view of Battery Point Lighthouse from Crescent City's harbor (mermaid included):

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On the driest day (it seems we only get one or two whenever we visit), we decided to head to the nearest trail head in the Redwood National and State Park system to spend a few hours appreciating both old growth...

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...and new growth:

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Beautiful, right?

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I look forward to sharing more about the places I know and love in the coming months. So many Californians haven't experienced much of the north coast and I'm hoping to inspire at least a few people to keep on trucking once they get through wine country. I promise it's worth the drive.

What about you? Any north coast adventures you'd care to share? Let's chat about them in the comment section, shall we?

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California Coast + Goethe + Happy Links

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{"As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live." // Johann Wolfgang von Goethe}

Happy Links:

  • I can't get enough of these wildflower photos from Annabelle Mintz. We have our own wildflowers blooming here in the Sacramento Valley and they're absolutely beautiful.
  • Meredith and Michael from Map & Menu blogged about their recent experience as puppy foster parents. I've always thought about fostering a dog, but I'm not sure I'd be able to give him/her up after the foster period ended! This post has me thinking, though...
  • I'm always looking for new music and Kinfolk Magazine's latest playlist post is just what I needed.

Wrap it Up:

  • It should be clear to you by now that I love my home state of California. Just in case, I thought I'd hammer that point home this week with a photo essay of some of my favorite spots.
  • The Tower Bridge in Sacramento finally made it into my "Build a Bridge" series this week. I see that bridge almost everyday and I thought it was high time I showed it a little blog love.

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I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

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