Clif Read5 Comments

GOING TO THE SUN

Clif Read5 Comments
GOING TO THE SUN

   When the dawn chorus of bird songs broke, our group was already in full preparation mode breaking down tents, packing duffle bags, stuffing sleeping bags and grabbing a bagel, bowl of granola or any other high caloric foods for breakfast.  This was the day that most of our C2C4Charlie group was eagerly anticipating - the climb over Logan Pass on Going to the Sun Highway.  The level of energy and enthusiasm was high among the group which reflected the bright, sunny day that was developing.  

Some of the group had ridden from our campground in Apgar to our original camping destination at Avalanche Campground (changed due to the VERY busy July 4th weekend and lack of available campsites here) or to the Lake MacDonald Lodge.  This crew caravaned to Avalanche to begin the 16 mile ride up to the Pass.  Mark, Luke, Toad and I set out on our bikes from Apgar, cruising along Lake macDonald in the cool morning air and with minimal traffic.  From Avalanche to the Loop, the dramatic hairpin turn several miles beyond, our group began ascending as traffic slowly picked up in volume.  Passing through the west tunnel, the more dramatic views of the surrounding peaks became more available.  The Loop provides a great view of Heaven's Peak to the west, one of the most impressive mountains and most challenging climbs within the Park.   

The portion of GttS Highway from Logan Pass to Avalanche is closed to bicyclists between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. due to the high volume of vehicle traffic along the narrow, winding road.  This deadline weighed on everyone's mind as we pedaled up the continual upward grade towards the Pass.  Knowing the road and its steepness, I was not concerned with everyone's ability to reach the Pass well before 11 a.m.  In fact, everyone did an amazing job and I think surprised themselves with our climbing abilities.  After crossing the passes of the Cascades we were in excellent shape and our cycling that morning reflected this.  Luke and Toad reached the Pass first, arriving before 9.  The rest of us appeared in ones and twos over the next hour, cresting the 6,646' Pass and the Continental Divide to a growing crowd of cyclists who cheered each new arrival.

As we prepared to gather for a group photo, a familiar looking woman approached me and asked "Are you Clif?"  It turns out this was Valerie Kurth, the twin sister of my colleague Ellie who works at Quabbin with me.  She had been keeping track of us through Ellie and sought us out.  She and her husband had traveled up to Logan Pass to go skiing in some of the large snowfield which were still very much in evidence at that elevation.  It was a great connection.  Following photos, we gathered for lunch and late morning activities that included a hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook, visits to the Visitor Center and hanging out at the Pass taking in the spectacular scenery.

The descent down the east side of the Pass is a bit wider and gentler grade, but that did not prevent us from reaching impressive speeds as we dropped in elevation down to the St. Mary's valley, battling the traffic at some of the choke points along the way.  Reaching St. Mary's campground, we spent the afternoon napping, swimming, catching up on emails and basking in the glow of the great accomplishment and the amazing sights of the day.  

Ever since I first visited Glacier and GttS Highway in 1970, I had been captivated by the magic of this national treasure.  Returning to work at Glacier Park Lodge in 1974 and '75, I had additional opportunities to travel on GttS Highway, and began to dream about bicycling up and over Logan Pass.  Several subsequent trips had only reinforced my resolve to check this off my bucket list.  When John, Sara, Mark, Arleen and I began planning our C2C adventure several years ago, there was no question in my mind that Logan Pass was going to be our route through the Rockies.  In my mind, I would ride up Going to the Sun Highway and crest Logan Pass side by side with Charlie.  The scenario ran through my mind dozens and dozens and dozens of times.  When the unimaginable happened last summer with Charlie's death, I felt as though my dream had died along with so many other parts of my life.  This was not the way this was supposed to work out!  How could I possibly do this particular ascent without him?  When we reconvened our C2C group in November, Arleen and I were clear about the focus of our ride this summer.  It was to honor and remember Charlie, and to raise funds to help unlock the mysteries and help prevent the scourge that is SUDEP.  So as I climbed up the west side of GtttS alone on July 2nd, Charlie was with me every pedal stroke of the way.  As I crested Logan Pass I was blinded by the flood of tears that had been building up for me the entire 30 mile ride that morning. Like others, this ascent was the most anticipated day of this trip, but unlike others, it had even greater significance and layers.  I rode for Charlie.  It was not what I imagined, but it was the most fitting thing I could do to honor Charlie's incredible spirit and amazing perseverance.  It was how Charlie would have ridden - one pedal stroke at a time, with a sense of determination and carrying a huge smile on his face!

Thanks to everyone who was riding with us, either in Glacier Park or as virtual riders from afar!!