Going to the Sun Road is the road that climbs to the top of the continental divide in Glacier National Park. It starts about 3 or 4 kilometers from the entrance to the park in West Glacier, MT. One side of the road splits and goes to the Northwest, and the other goes northeast and is Going To The Sun Road.

From the shores of Lake McDonald, which the road follows for around a dozen kilometers, the road turns to climb up through the mountains and hills. From the road, many impressive sights can be seen. I am not going to even attempt to describe what these sights are. You have to go there.

On a more mundane note, the history of the road can be described. It was originally a project of the CCC during the FDR years. It was built during the 1930's with great effort, not surprising since it is a road across a high northern mountain pass about 50 kilometers from the nearest substantial town, that is covered with snow through about 7 months of the year.

One of the most interesting things about the road, to me, is that it passes through about several thousand kilometers of climate on its 3 or 4 thousand meter climb. For example, by the shores of Lake McDonald, you will be driving through a typical northern montane ecosystem, with poplar and birch trees mixed in with pines. Continuing your drive, you will drive into a predominatly pine forest, followed by a small bush and dwarf tree biome, followed at the top of Logan Pass by a grass, lichen and finally bare rock environment.

I am almost ashamed that someone with my meager talents should try to describe the most beautiful drive in the United States. However, I can add very practically, to be very, very careful on this route. It is narrow, icy and twisting. And it is a long way down.

Also, remember that the road is closed during winter, winter meaning anything from September to May.

Going to The Sun Road is not so much a road as a myth. It is the sort of thing Jack Kerouac wrote about. It has the most wonderful name of any road I have yet heard, a name that implies and requires greatness.

The very nature of the road gives it mystery. The road is closed for the winter. And after that, tourists and road repairs make it difficult to summit. It is the sort of road you hear about, and think "that would be the most wonderful drive", but are never able to drive. It has the mythology of US Highway 101, but without the ease of access. And it appeals to our desire to fly close to the sun, too close to the sun.

Most recently, I attempted to drive Going to The Sun Road on 1 June 2001. The road was still closed for the winter. I looked up, saw the road winding up the mountain, saw the snow and the animals, saw the majesty of the mountain. That was enough. Sometime, when I can share the beauty of Glacier with other people, I will attempt to drive to the sun again.

On a family vacation, when I was 8 or 9, or maybe even 10, I went to the top of Going to The Sun Road. It remains one of my most vivid memories of the trip. We were in a rented RV that had had trouble getting up mountains before, though this was probably due partially to problems with driving, coming from the flatlands of Ohio. This mountain, my father said, would be hard. I remember looking up to the top, partially obscured by clouds, wondering how we could possibly make it up there. We began the slow climb up the mountain, and the valley floor gradually became farther and farther away. At times it seemed as though the road might fall off the mountain, or as though we might fall off the mountain, just from my motion to one side of the vehicle or the other. The sheer rockiness of it, the twists and turns of the road, the multitude of tunnels - all of it was amazing, completely different from anything I had seen previously, even in Rocky Mountain National Park. We stopped periodicly to let the engine cool down, and maybe even to enjoy the view. We reached the top, but I can't remember much of what it was, just the accomplishment of reaching the top. And I think that is part of what makes the road so special - that it is, more than anything else, a goal. The name is not "The Road To The Sun" or something similar, rather it implies a voyage in progress.

It is a voyage everyone who is able should attempt.

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