Sunday was the only day off I would have on this side of the park and since none of us had been here before we decided to drive the Road to the Sun. Everyone who has driven it raves about the experience and conventional wisdom was absolutely right. We drove to the park and saw that admission for a 7 day pass was $30 per car so we finally broke down and bought the America the Beautiful pass. The pass is pricey at $80, but since we would need to spend $30 twice for the two-week stay it made more sense. I have nothing against this pass, which offers free admission to all federal parks and lands for a year and I love the fact that when you hit 62 it’s $10 for life. I just don’t recommend it until you are going to be in some of the more expensive parks. We have been on several federal land areas and most cost $4 or less to enter. The big parks require more maintenance, however, thus the higher fees. We talked to the volunteer who sold us our pass about visibility and she said that it was pretty clear up near Logan’s Pass. We were relieved at least part of the drive would be good and of the group I was the most optimistic overall. It turns out I was right to be optimistic because although the smoke was bad early and late in the drive, in the middle when we hit some of the more spectacular views the conditions were at their best. There is no way though I could do the experience any justice in words, so let me just show you some of the pictures we took. Keep in mind when the picture is a little cloudy that was due to smoke, but overall I was thrilled with what we saw and the pictures I took.
Since there were 6 of us we went in two cars and Steve, who was in the lead, stopped at any pullout that looked good or had several cars parked alongside. The signage is not as good as I have seen in other parks, so plan on stopping a lot along the way so you don’t miss anything. We also used walkie-talkies so we could communicate between the two cars. It worked well and I thought the pace was perfect.
At about the halfway point we stopped at Logan’s Pass. There is a large visitors center with very limited parking and since a couple of popular hikes start near the center people stay parked for a while. We circled for quite a while but all the open spots were taken by smaller cars. Finally Lee said, “You certainly see a lot about humanity in a crowded parking lot” and just then a young man walked by and asked if we would like his spot. It was so sweet and he let us follow him then refused to leave the spot when a smaller car tried to sneak in. So relived we finally found a space I got out of the truck and immediately grabbed my jacket, ready to go. When Lee said, “Are you going to grab your camera?” I thought, somewhat annoyed, “Yes I am getting my camera as soon as I put my jacket on”, when he said, “Turn around.” Directly in front of me, standing at the front of our truck was a Bighorn Sheep. I just stood there for a second and then grabbed my camera and got some shots. I followed, it keeping back what I thought was a good distance when two rangers came running up. I found out later it was 25 yards for sheep and goats and 100 yards for bears and wolves. Apparently on occasion the sheep and goats ram people. It was so incredibly cool…I felt somewhat giddy during and after, and Deb, Steve, and Mario watched the whole thing from balcony of the visitors center. Unfortunately Ellen had already gone inside and missed the whole thing . It was such a great moment and I can say since I was so close they are absolutely beautiful animals. The horns are amazing.
Even though the wait for a spot took awhile, I absolutely recommend stopping at Logan’s Pass and not just for the sheep sighting!! The visitors center has some great educational material, a very nice, great gift shop, and volunteers who talk about the area and answer questions. Workampers maybe?? It’s also the starting point for the Hidden Lake Nature Trail, which has some nice views of the plateau. Bear, Sheep, and Goat sightings are not uncommon and Deb, Steve, and Lee saw some Rocky Mountain Goats. It is a steep climb though at high elevation and Mario, Ellen, and I decided to stop about half way and just enjoy the view. The goats were closer to the end at the lake.
Since it was starting to get late and a little smokier we decided to head back. We decided we would and drive the other half of the Sun Road when we were on the East side of the park next week. On our way back down the mountain there was a little excitement though when a woman on a motorcycle fell over going up the mountain. Luckily she was going slow (which was why she fell) and Lee who was the lead car stopped immediately to help her. She was fine but it was gratifying to see how many people stopped to help and she was embarrassed but gracious about the whole thing.
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We all absolutely loved the Sun Road and it is a MUST do, but take a lunch and be prepared for a long day. It was one huge check on my bucket list and it absolutely did not disappoint. Can’t wait until next week when Steve and I are both on vacation and we can get deeper into the park.