Photography: Going to the Sun Road

Here is a free photo you can download for your Windows desktop. I took it in Glacier National Park in 2012. If you're using Internet Explorer or Firefox, just right-click the photo and click "Set as background." Chrome users can download the photo by right-clicking it and selecting, "Save image as."

Prints of this photo can be purchased in my Etsy store.

If you're only going to have one road go through the heart of Glacier National Park, it's only fitting if the project is big and the result is stunningly beautiful. This was successfully accomplished in 1932 with the grand opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

During a three-month road trip out west last summer, I just finished a week backpacking through Glacier National Park. I wasn't looking forward to leaving, but I still had my drive out on the infamous road to look forward to.

Its allure has compelled many filmmakers to shoot footage of the road for their movies. It can be seen in the opening credits of “The Shining,” as Jack is presumably driving to the Overlook Hotel. It also appears in a scene in “Forrest Gump.” When Forest reminisces with Jenny about running across the United States, he says, "Like that mountain lake... it was so clear, Jenny. It looked like there were two skies, one on top of the other." The footage was of him running on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in front of a lake after the sun dropped below the mountains. The sky was that shade of blue that lingers around a bit before turning completely black. A field of golden grasses is swirling around in the wind.

I've seen that movie a dozen times and every time I watched that scene I thought of my own dream of living a nomadic life. I wanted my life to be that simple. Could I find myself in such beautiful places at such the right time?

The road is only 53 miles long, but I stopped so much that dusk loomed with several miles left to drive. I needed one last photo of the sunset. I looked up at the sky anxiously while I drove, waiting for the perfect spot. There wasn't much time left. The road took a bend to the right, then left, and I saw that scene above.

The section of road was under construction, so I parked my beaten down Honda between bulldozers on a makeshift parking lot made for the construction vehicles. I grabbed my camera. Since I felt like I might have been trespassing, I sprinted up the road and through the field until I was standing in a good spot.

I was in the right place, at the right time.

The anxiety of not getting a good photo before sunset melted away. I felt satisfied with the images now hidden away in the camera that I clutched to my chest as I ran back to my car. I drove out of the park that night and headed toward my next adventure.