I Will Survive – Cycling to the Loop on the Sun Road

Click here to listen to ”I Will Survive” while reading this article. Link opens in another window.

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Rain and an additional 35 inches of snow that had to be plowed, delayed the scheduled opening of the Going to the Sun Road. It was our good luck that it turned out that way (if you call the opportunity to make your legs nauseous, lucky). My family and I had been planning a bike ride to the Loop, but other commitments kept getting in the way. If the road opened to vehicular traffic and we didn’t go for our bike ride, we would have to postpone it for another year. Thus, the later opening of the road gave us the chance to prove to ourselves that “we are wonderful” (like the family that made the hike to Apgar Lookout and wrote that very message in the log), and could cycle the grueling ascent of the Sun Road.

 

As with any tough hike, there is always some trepidation with taking a long and challenging bike ride. The previous year when we had cycled to the West Tunnel of the Sun Road, I felt like I was going to die. Literally. Obviously I survived, and was prepared to return to the park and tackle the ride to the Loop where the Sun Road makes a u-turn and zigzags to Logan Pass.

 

You may be asking, “What kind of nut case would put themselves through such torture?”

 

The short answer is that I have grown to love the challenge, but to put it more bluntly I have grown to love the feeling I get when the hard work is over. I have come to appreciate the meaning of “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.

 

Also, there are three things that I have this year that I didn‘t have last year.

 

1. A better bike – I love my Trek. This baby does a lot of the hard work for me.

2. Pearl Izumi bike pants – These diaper pants save my tush.

3. Improved strength – This comes from working out and riding my bike uphill on a regular basis.

 

All I wanted to do was make it to the Loop, although bike riders had the opportunity to ride farther.

 

When I reached Packer’s Roost where I thought I was going to die a year earlier, I was feeling smug about how well I was doing. I didn’t get any engrams, and the short, but steep ride to the West Tunnel was taken in stride. David, the girls, and I rested at the tunnel. The respite was re-energizing and gave those of us in need an opportunity to “flip our amygdala”.

 

West Tunnel – Going to the Sun Road

 

It was only half a mile more to the Loop where we would eat our snacks and experience the thrill of victory. But before we got there, a couple cycled by. If I hadn’t seen the wrinkled face of the woman on the bike, I would not have known she was older. I guessed her to be in her late 60’s or early 70’s; she looked fit, and her legs were buff. Wow! She had the body of a much younger woman. She was an inspiration and her destination was Bird Woman Falls. That was three miles farther and entailed a much steeper grade.

 

Heaven’s Peak – the scenic attraction at the Loop

 

Over snacks, we had to decide – to go or not to go. David suggested if anyone needed to, they could walk their bikes the rest of the way to Bird Woman Falls. It was agreed that that could be done.

 

Bird Woman Falls to the left of the sign

 

We pressed onward and up the winding road, starting and stopping as necessary.

 

I was taking pictures when a man on a arm-powered bicycle passed. I took note of him as he rode by. He used only his arms to propel his bike. Obviously he was a powerful human being in both mind and body. I admired his fortitude and had every intention of passing him, and catching up with my family – after I finished taking pictures.

 

McDonald Creek Valley

 

I put away my camera, got on my bike, and began to climb in low gear. I could not overtake the man, but finally reached my husband where we watched a family sharing lunch with a deer. A fed deer is a dead deer, and I do believe the woman heard our comments in that regard. She came over to explain how it came to be that the deer had joined their picnic. They were not feeding the deer. The deer was attracted to their sweat and was licking the sweat from her husband’s hand. Wild animals are known to do this as we have experienced in “Attack of the Marmots” at Piegan Pass.  I am not a tattletale, and had no intention of telling the rangers. But I do believe people should avoid feeding the wildlife.

 

Family having lunch with a deer

 

It was not until the end of the line where signs warned hikers and bikers to proceed no farther or be fined, that I met the man with the arm-powered bicycle.

 

I wonder how much the fine is?

 

“Tell me you have done this before,” I said. He smiled and answered, “A couple of times.” I was impressed.

 

David and me talking to the man with the arms of steel.

 

I offered to take his picture and took two shots of him. One in the direction of the mountain goat and the other pointing to the better lighting and mountain scenery.

 

The mountain goat

 

He then asked if we had seen the bear on the way up. We hadn’t, we had only seen the bear poop. He showed us a fantastic picture of the bear.

 

This pile of bear poop looked like fresh meatballs meaning the bear was black and had recently been in the area.

 

My family and I had walked and cycled up 11 demanding miles. We had surpassed our goal of reaching the Loop and went all the way to the “STOP” sign at Bird Woman Falls.

 

The end of the line

 

It felt good to be in that number and now it was time to reap the rewards of our efforts. We said good-bye to the ranger chicks, and the man with the arms of steel.

 

The Rangers

 

We got on our bikes and away we (flew) went! The exhilaration of descending down the steep Sun Road is indescribable. I could hardly wipe the smirk off of my face. But the best part were the looks on the faces of the people coming up as we were going down. Some looked tired and grumpy, others discouraged, while a few shot back knowing smiles. I could identify with them all.

 

“How much farther,” could be heard as we whizzed by.

 

It took us 4 long hours to ascend the Sun Road. We descended in less than an hour. It was worth it – a definite thrill factor on the way down.

 

Two people inspired me that day. The older woman who obviously knows that age is a state of mind ( I concur), and the gentleman that refused to let a handicap prevent him from his personal best. I also realized that “we are wonderful” too!

 

With a little preparation, any person or family can take a long and successful bike ride. We see families riding together all of the time, many towing kiddie bike trailers, like this one: Aosom 2in1 Double Baby Bicycle Bike Trailer and Stroller

 

Plan ahead before hitting the trails:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Check your bike to ensure that it is in good working order
  • Prepare or purchase snacks that will keep your body energized
  • Prepare yourself mentally for a good time
This last one is very important. You can either choose to have a good time or not. It’s up to you.

 

Everywhere you look, life is an adventure!

 Marlene

 

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