East, west plows meet at Big Drift

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Vehicle tracks go through snow in the East Tunnel on Going-to-the-Sun Road last week in Glacier National Park. (National Park Service photo)

Snow-clearing operations on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road took a symbolic step forward this week as plows working from the east and west sides met atop the 60-foot snowdrift near Logan Pass.

There’s still a ways to go, however, before the plows reach the pavement currently buried under the Big Drift, and park employees have their hands full with other maintenance work before the pass opens to vehicle traffic.

Wintry weather slowed plowing work around the pass on Friday, according to park spokesman Tim Rains. He added that guard rails were being installed near Haystack Falls while other maintenance workers cleared rockfall debris from the road’s alpine areas.

Vehicles are still restricted to the Avalanche Creek road closure on the 50-mile road’s west side, and motorists can drive as far as Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.

Hikers and bicyclists exploring Sun Road beyond the vehicle closures can make their way as far as Road Camp and Siyeh Bend while plow crews are working.

After hours and on weekends, hiking and bicycling access beyond the gates is unrestricted. Rains warned that recreationists should use caution as they approach Logan Pass, however.

“It’s a little icy when you start to get up there, and wildlife is out and about, so you should maintain a safe distance,” Rains said. “If you’re going to be up that far, be prepared for winter conditions, especially if there are storms coming through. The weather can change in an instant.”

The Inside North Fork Road is now open to its junction with Camas Creek, but remains closed at Logging Creek Recreation Site and Fish Creek due to past flooding events.

The Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, Camas, Many Glacier, Chief Mountain and Two Medicine roads are all open to vehicle traffic, while Cut Bank Road is closed at the park boundary.

According to Rains, the park has not set a date for Sun Road’s opening over Logan Pass, but last week he said crews were on pace to open its full extent to vehicle traffic by mid-June.

Bicyclists are invited to join a sunset bike ride up Sun Road on Sunday as part of Elena Studier’s cross-country “Summer by Rail” trip. Studier, an intern with the National Association of Railroad Passengers, is traveling by rail through 18 cities in 38 days to demonstrate car-less travel options.

Those interested in joining the sunset ride will depart from Avalanche at 4 p.m. The ride is being coordinated by staffers from the park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Reporter Sam Wilson can be reached at 758-4407 or by email at swilson@dailyinterlake.com.

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