Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sunny Days in October ......

Twisting Canyon curves on Hwy 2

Golden Tamaracks lighting the hillsides

 November snows have crept down the Foothills in foggy white swirls along the green folds of the lower mountains and now  October is just a sunny memory. Tamaracks turned golden along the mountainsides as I  drove along highway 2 East that lies  south of Glacier Park boundary. This was a perfect drive for another little feet adventure.

Theodore Roosevelt Monument -Continental Divide
Rocky Mountains

Careening thru canyons , through lush meadows teeming with deer and elk finally climbing up to Marias Pass and the Continental Divide where the Theodore Roosevelt monument stands 60 feet of granite mined near Helena. Originally it was to be an Arch structure over the highway. If you look carefully at the mountain north of the highway you will see a layer that is a thrust fault. The rocks on top of the Lewis Thrust  fault are older than the ones below. During the formation of the Rocky Mountains an older sheet of metamophosed precambrian  rock was thrust upon younger and softer Cretaceous material . The Lewis Thrust Sheet originated 50 miles south west of the Glacier Park and was moved here as the Farallon tectonic plate subducted under the Western margin of the pacific coast. Since the upper rocks were heated and now harder they have resisted erosion better than the softer cretaceous rocks below the thin line of limestone.

looking north across Hwy 2 you can easily see the thrust fault line ( thin white area half way up ) that divides the older Precambrian  top rock from the softer and younger Cretaceous  bottom layers.

Entrance to the Blackfeet Nation

This was a well known path by the American Indians. To the east the Blackfeet Nation. It was known to the Blackfeet as Backbone Pass. At 5216 feet , it is the lowest crossing of the continental divide in Montana. To the west were the  Salish and Kootenai tribes who used this pass to hunt bison .It is named after the Marias River that has it's headwaters here before it heads East. The river is believed to be named by Captain Merriweather Lewis in 1805 for his cousin Maria Wood. John F. Stevens was commissioned by the Great Northern Railroad to find a way across the mountains. The pass that had been known to the surrounding tribes for centuries was found by the members of the Mr Steven's party in December of 1889 in 4 feet of snow and subfreezing temperatures. This is determination.  By 1893 they had completed the last rail segment over Marias Pass.  It was almost  another 40 years before a road was forged in 1930.

Finally reaching my destination at Two Medicine Lake one of the eastern accesses of the Glacier National Park . Quiet for the season except for the wind. The crowds of summer tourists long gone. The sun warm on my face but a chill in the air predicted cooler weather to come.

Trains passing through Essex
A nice over the train bridge linking the two sides of the Essex hotel complex , it is about 30 feet over the tracks and you can see through the walkway to the trains below ! Great acrophobia aversion therapy!

Prior to the road between East and West Glacier, motor cars were shipped by train across Marias Pass to their destinations.  Now Highway 2  connects the two small towns that flank the East West borders of Glacier National Park . Essex is a small ski town winter resort with mostly train traffic. Amtrak stops here bringing winter cross country skiers to a snowy paradise during the winter months. Accomodations include the main hotel and rail cars refurbished for eagar winter enthusiasts.

Hotel at Essex

A good feeling after  a day's journey . Time to put up our little feet and say good bye to the sun .


  1. i love learning about your world... the stories, the history, the scenery - and how you relate to it all... thank you -

  2. Thanks I hope you can see it in person some day. It is hard to catch the sunlight !


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