The parking lot at the Logan Pass visitor center was packed on a recent brilliant day in Glacier National Park, thanks to road crews that were able— just in time for the Fourth of July—to patch up missing sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road that washed out in last fall’s floods.
Motorists from all corners of the world were eager to enjoy it, driving their oversized SUVs, Harley-Davidsons, Subarus and mid-life-crisis-mobiles up and over one of the most treacherous roadways in America. It was the latest opening of the road since World War II, thanks to “damage” sustained during last fall’s “Pineapple Express” rainstorm, which dumped 9 inches of rain and caused floods that washed out entire sections of the road.
But we don’t think “damage” is the right word for the import of last November. That storm was a powerful act of nature we think we’re lucky to have observed in our lifetime. Glacier National Park is a monument to falling down, to gravity and erosion on a magnificent scale, and to the park’s unyielding forces of nature. When we a get an event like last year’s floods, hell yeah it’s going to wash out man-made roads, uproot trees, expand scree fields and reroute streams (taking bridges with them).
That’s a bad thing?
It’s those very forces that created Glacier’s magnificence in the first place. It’s the gravity, erosion, water, ice and snow that have, over eons, shaped and formed the park into the living postcard it is today. So who are we to call it “bad” or label those forces “destructive” when they claim one of our creations?
Instead, maybe we ought to consider how much we’re willing to spend to keep an aging and decrepit road on the side of those magnificent mountains that can so easily remove it. This year the National Park Service spent $7 million just patching up last fall’s “damage” before it could even consider putting the first of the $150 million set aside to completely rebuild the road over the next decade to use. As the globe continues to warm, there’s no guarantee that Pineapple Expresses won’t make frequent layovers in Glacier National Park. Is it really a good idea to invest huge wads of cash in trying to preserve a road that will, one day, inevitably succumb to the same gravity that created the park in the first place?
Maybe the forces of nature were trying to tell us something last fall.