Sunday, October 5, 2008

Going-to-the-Sun Road

One of the most beautiful parts of the United States is an area in Northwest Montana. My wife and I, and a couple friends from Ohio, had stopped at a lodge for lunch and learned we could board an open top touring car and ride over what was a most spectacular drive. What a surprise we were in for as we viewed soaring mountain peaks, glaciers, deep-blue lakes, and lush forests of spruce, lodge pole pine, cedar, hemlock. All of which was a delight to our senses as we rode on this way on what is called the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park. Many turnouts allowed us to relish vistas of glacier-sculpted mountains and glimpse wildlife which was in abundance.

Animals were sometimes a problem as the road was being constructed. One account describes a deer that became entangled in blasting wires and prevented a blast that would have killed it. There were many stories about the bears that were drawn to the camps by the smell of food. Employees had to watch their lunches; they would hang them in trees along with saws or other tools that would move with the wind and frighten off the bears. At food supply stations contractors would pound nails in the walls with the points outward. One meat house was built on stilts and fitted out with a drawbridge. One black bear even set up a permanent post at the back door of a camp kitchen. Grizzly bears were far more dangerous than black bears and caused serious alarm. When one threatened the Russian crew at Camp 6 on Logan Pass, the contractors called in park rangers for protection.

The building of a section of the road through the extreme terrain and conditions west of Logan Pass illustrates why construction took so long. Because work on all parts of the road progressed at the same time, workers did not have a completed road below them to transport their supplies. The contractors also used pneumatic drills and almost 500,000 pounds of explosives. Construction typically took place in stages. First, the engineering crew marked the way followed by laborers who cut down the trees and did the "grubbing," removing stumps and roots. Then the explosives men moved in. After the explosion broke up the rock, the power shovels cleared and loaded the debris on trucks or on "dinky" railroads.

Laborers came from all over. One group of Russian immigrants set up their own cook tent with their own cook. A number of Italian immigrants worked on the masonry guardrails. One Irish-American contractor tended to hire his fellow Irish from Butte, Montana.
Glacier National Park, which includes over one million acres of Rocky Mountain scenery, was designated as the country's 10th national park in 1910. The Great Northern Railway soon began building a series of hotels and chalets throughout the park.
We, and our friends, stayed at the Many Glacier Lodge where the surrounding mountains made it one of the most beautiful settings I have ever stayed. However, the air in the water pipes was a constant chime all night as we slept.
Going-to-the-Sun Road was the first to carry visitors by the lakes, glaciers, alpine peaks, and meadows of Glacier National Park. The 50-mile route, which connected the east and west sides of the park and crossed the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, was surveyed in 1918, and work began in 1921. Progress was slow, however, due to limited and erratic congressional funding and the difficulties of working under extreme mountainous conditions. This road was dedicated in 1933.

The area is so fitly described by the following Bible verse found in Isaiah 40:4, which says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain”

Heaven is created, built, and ready for His children to come and see, and to live forever. And His children will also come for every corner of the earth to dwell together in everlasting beauty.

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