“Fireweed” by Robin Conover
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35 mm, 2.8 L IS USM lens at 16 mm
ISO 1000, f14 at 1/40 second, Gitzo tripod
Driving up Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park for the first time is an awe-inspiring, white-knuckled, 50-mile adventure. The narrow two-lane is considered an engineering marvel as it snakes along the contour of the landscape, sometimes hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. It traverses east and west across the park from West Glacier to St. Mary’s, giving visitors incredible views and countless opportunities for exploration. The road’s elevation peaks at 6,646 feet along the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
Located in northwestern Montana and stretching north into Canada, the landscape is wild, unforgiving and beautiful. It is a living, breathing, constantly evolving environment with visible scars from recent forest fires and mountain peaks carved by the movement of ancient glaciers and rushing rivers.
For me, this particular iconic view encapsulates my brief experience in Glacier. The overlook is from one of the pull-offs along Going-to-the-Sun Road just west of Logan Pass. The thick patch of purple fireweed flourishes now where a wildfire destroyed the stands of subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce several years ago. The peaks of Mount Oberlin, left, and Mount Cannon, center, show patches of receding glaciers on their slopes. Water flowing from these glaciers and melting snowpack forms Bird Woman Falls at the center. The ribbon of white cascades down some 560 feet.
To the right, Going-to-the-Sun Road is barely visible on the landscape. President William Howard Taft established Glacier as the 10th national park in 1910, but it would take until 1932 to complete the entire length of the road.
I returned to this spot three times, hoping the smoky haze from ongoing wildfires to the north would clear for at least one visit. It never did, but the overcast haze adds a quality of light that’s a natural part of the environment and enhances the story of the image.
For most visitors passing through Glacier this particular day, this was a perfect spot to shoot pretty purple flowers. For me, it told so many stories.