Airstream Blues

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You see some interesting things waiting in line at the entrance to Glacier National Park. A couple of years ago I saw a bus with a brake problem that was spewing black smoke and looked like it might catch completely on fire at any moment.

Every once in awhile a critter wanders through. This year a doe and a fawn have been hanging around the West Entrance, stopping the show in its tracks.

But the other day an incident brought a smile and tinge of empathy as well. Yes, even crusty old editors have empathy every now and again, but admittedly not very often.

An older fella was in line with an old Airstream camper and a pickup truck. The Airtream had a big old dent in the back already and was about 10 feet high, I’d guess.

Problem was this guy was in the lane that was clearly marked for a 6-foot-6 entrance.

The nice lady at the station put on her safety vest and walked out to the man’s rig.

“Sir,” she said. “You have to move over. You’re camper won’t fit under the roof.”

The guy rubbed his eyes like he was coming back to life and other cars got out of the way so he could shift his truck and camper over the three lanes to the motorhome and high clearance side of the entrance.

It took awhile.

But it gets worse. He made it to the window only to learn that his rig was too long to go over Logan Pass. He made a U-turn and left the park.

I can only imagine how long he’d been on the road. I think he had plates from one of those far-off Midwestern states. His face as he left looked like he’d been in some sort of long foreign conflict, and as someone who has traveled across this country in a pickup and camper, I felt his pain.

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On a more serious note, about a week or so ago, fairly early in the morning, I actually (gasp!) drove over Logan Pass. Most summers I avoid the pass like the plague. I go up on opening day, and if the mood strikes me, later in the evenings, when everyone is leaving to go eat dinner. There are so many other places to hike with no one around that I just can’t stomach the crowds at the pass anymore.

But this was just a quick run over the top to get to a trailhead. The ride went smoothly until I got to the east side tunnel and to my dismay, there was a pile of rocks on the road on the downhill side.

The pile wasn’t as big as what killed the Utah girl earlier this summer, but the rocks were still plenty big enough to go through a windshield or worse. On the way out I saw the rocks were cleaned up and the Park Service had put up a “watch for falling rock” sign.

But I have to openly wonder if there isn’t a bigger problem at the tunnel, though I’m not sure what, exactly, the park can do about a mountain that’s crumbling. A warning sign won’t save lives, however.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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