We arrived at Glacier National Park late in the evening on the eve of a full moon. A somewhat crazy idea had been planted in our heads a few days earlier when we were talking with Phil, a friend of a friend who generously let us stay at his house for a night. Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. After dinner we found a place next to the river to lay down for a few hours. The idea of riding the Going-To-The-Sun Road by the light of the full moon sounded like a fantastic idea when we went to bed, but when our alarms were blaring at 1:30 AM after only 3 hours of sleep it sounded more idiotic than great. We managed to convince ourselves that this ride would be worth a night of no sleep, pulled ourselves out of our warm sleeping bags and were on the road by 2:00. No lights, no traffic, the entire park to ourselves – it was an incredible ride!
Still half asleep, but ready to ride.

The moon was just getting high enough in the sky as we departed to shine its light onto the roadway. Although it didn't completely illuminate our path, it did a good enough job of enabling us to see the outline of the road (most of the time), therefore never having to turn on our headlights. At times it was so intensely bright that our shadows were as sharp and clear as they'd be on a sunny afternoon. Other times it was like riding through a dark tunnel and even though we couldn't see anything our headlights remained off just for the thrill. It was a strange feeling riding in the dark. Depth perception was non-existent, the small rises and dips in the road were big surprises, there was an eerie silence at all times and the mind ran wild thinking about the possible critters lurking a few feet away in the forest. More than once I found myself with a chill in my spine thinking I caught a glimpse of a mysterious object at the edge of the trees, but every time I did a double take I realized the two shining eyes I saw were only bright white wild flowers and the huge outline of a creature was only shadows of the trees, all catching the light of the moon just perfectly to convince me there was something out there. Only once was there actually something there - a huge bird swooped out of a tree right above me and the fright it gave me nearly toppled me off of my bike!

Despite my edginess and heightened awareness of any minor movements or sounds, the visual aspect of this ride is what made it so spectacular. The outlines of the mountains surrounding us were crystal clear, pitch black masses with white snow glowing on their peaks. The Flathead river sparkled with white light while we rode next to it, and once we climbed nearly two-thirds of the way up the divide and looked back down the valley, the w appeared to be a stream of glowing orange lava winding through the mountains. We had to stop in awe for a few minutes to take it all in and we commented to each other just how happy we were that we chose to roll out of bed and have this experience.

After 3 hours of riding in the dark, we reached the summit of the continental divide just as the sun was beginning to lighten the sky. We immediately changed into dry clothes and down jackets, made warm drinks and breakfast and waited for the sun to peak above the eastern side of the Rockies. We shared a spectacular sunrise with each other, a couple of photographers and a herd of at least 30 Big Horn Sheep who apparently congregate at the Logan Pass Visitor's Center at dawn. Mike had a close encounter with one – he was standing at the top of the staircase on his way to the restroom, turned around only to find one walking up the stairs right behind him. He stopped in his tracks and I watched his eyes bulge to the point where I thought they were going to pop of his head. The Ram continued upward towards him, stared him in the eyes, came within 2 feet and then moseyed by over to his friends.
Warm drinks waiting for the sun.

Here come the Rams.

It took over two hours for the sun to finally cast its light and warmth on us, but we were happy to wander around on the top of the Rocky Mountains watching them turn from massive dark gray outlines towering around us to light gray peaks to glowing orange and brilliant red rocks as the early morning light slowly engulfed them from their peaks to their bases. We rode the Going-To-The-Sun Road, one of the most amazing roads in the country, and literally rode to the sun...and it has officially become my favorite ride of all time!


NancyE said...

Oh man, I am SO jealous! First because I wish I could see all those things, too. Second because I fear I am too lazy and scaredy to ever do any such thing. Aaaaawwooooooo!

Stephanie said...

So much fun to keep up with your great adventures. We can picture in our minds the experience of riding in the dark from your writing. Thanks so much for sharing.
We can't wait to see you guys. But don't rush out here because there is nothing but flat land and corn; which I am sure you have seen before. OXOX Steph and Ethan

Mom said...

Again, I am proud of you both and the pictures are beautiful. The time together in Montana meant more than you can imagine!
Love you bunches!

Anonymous said...

Enjoying la buena vista seen through your eyes - and words! :) - Bob