Scott Stoll logo world traveler. A bicycle wheel and the globe symbolizes Scott's journey around the world on a bicycle.
Grizzly bear Glacier National Park foraging for grub worms.
Grizzly bear in Glacier National Park, Montana. My girlfriend took this incredible picture. So much for my degree in art. It's pausing from digging up grub worms to give us the stink eye.

Going-to-the-Sun Road on a bike

Does a bear…?

Going to the Sun road from up high
Looking down at Going to the Sun Road. Glacier National Park was full of endless mountains, valleys and waterfalls.

As a birthday present, my girlfriend gave me the adventure of cycling the best road in the country — Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana. There is only a few-week window each spring when cyclists can ride the road free of cars. That’s when the snow plows are still trying to clear the mountain pass over the continental divide. Cars aren’t even allowed to go halfway.

Going-to-the-Sun Road was one of the first roads specifically intended for the automobile tourist. Completed in 1933, it is considered a feat of engineering and an excellent example of how the National Parks have been sensitive to architecture matching scenic features. Rock blasted from the mountainsides during construction was used to build bridges, retaining walls, guardrails, and even the wayside.  

Cinnamon colored black bear
Cinnamon-colored black bear looking right at me. Scary! Then again it could just be a cinnamon bear. Still scary!

It was first built when little more than wagon roads existed. Now in peak tourist seasons, you need a ticket for a timed entrance to span out the 4600 cars per day. But, not today. At the top of the continental pass, the road is still buried in snow. I don’t think I’d even want to try driving. Luckily, I don’t have to. 

Mountains, valleys, glaciers, waterfalls, alpine forests, spring bloom and NO cars, what more could I want?

Yep, you guessed it, the highlight of the trip was bears. I had never seen a wild bear. Though, long ago in Yellowstone National Park, after a day of cycling, my companion Kurt asked, “Did you see that bear alongside the road?” 

Entering grizzly country sign
I find the signs in the National Parks empowering. It reads to me: “We’d tell you to turn back, but fools never do. May Darwin prevail.” Challenge accepted.

“No,” I said disappointed.

“Well, you’re lucky because he saw you.” 

That was the first time I ever got to use my favorite bear joke. “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.” Now, many years later, it’s an overused joke now, but I still laugh even if my girlfriend isn’t amused about being left behind. Haha.

I was thrilled to see not one but nine bears. They seemed to be everywhere. The first bear we saw popped out of the woods right next to our car. It was a cinnamon-colored black bear. It then strode right past my window. I was a bit frantic to roll up the car window but then didn’t want to attract any attention. Next, we saw a lot of grizzly bears near the river. They had come down from the frozen mountain tops to forage for grub worms near the river. After that, we saw a mother black bear and two cubs. And the highlight of the highlight was seeing a black bear in a tree while cycling up Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

Black bear in a tree
Can you see the bear in a tree?

Can you see it?

It’s probably an adolescent eating ants. Cubs climb in trees for safety, and as they mature, they keep climbing trees until they get so big they eventually break the tree branches and fall out. I guess that’s when they become official adult bears. It’s not unlike my strategy in life.

It felt good to be exploring the world on a bicycle again and seeing the world with fresh eyes, and answering some age-old questions: “Does a bear shit in the woods?” Answer: Not always.

I laughed coming back down the mountain, a bicyclist hit this pile of crap going full-tilt and splattered it everywhere. That person is going to need a change of clothes. Haha. 

Black bear poop on Going to the Sun Road
No bears don’t always shit in the woods. This pile must be from the guy in the tree.
And this crazy event happened a few weeks before we arrived here at Glacier Lodge. A mother moose protects her child from a grizzly bear.

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