The rain finally passed and the temperatures stayed cool, so my arrival Into Minneapilis was dry and comfortable. But there was flooding on the St Croix. It's amazing what "rain bombs" can do these days. Fueled by additional water vapor, clouds can dump enormous amounts of water in short periods of time. With increased surface temperatures, there is increased humidity as more water is drawn into the atmosphere, and sudden and violent downpours are increasingly common.
After two days in Minneapolis, I boarded the Empire Builder on Amtrak.
This iconic line has been around since the early days of the railroad and was used to get Easterners out to National Parks around the turn of the 20th Century (think Ken Burns). I am very appreciative of Amtrak's bike boarding service on this line. For $20 one can walk a bike to a baggage car where it is strapped to a special rack. No boxing and no adjustments - a perfect setup for a long distance cyclist. It's amazing how fun train travel can be. People are mellow - they are there because they want to be. Things are not rushed; it's a reach back to a time when we had time, and when traveling on the surface of the earth looking out the window was considered worthwhile. I guess I still have a little kid in me; I like watching out the window.
The Empire Builder begins in Chicago and is timed to pass through Glacier National Park just in front of the sunset. I got out (two days after the summer solstice so daylight hours were long) in East Glacier, Montana.
I had prearranged a place to stay because I would be arriving around 7 pm, and "The Road to the Sun" (more on that later) had just opened so I thought there might be a tourist rush on lodging in this small town. I was wrong but I wasn't disappointed with my digs.
Today was stunning. I pedaled up "Looking Glass Hill" on my way north to St. Mary's, where the eastern side of "The Road to the Sun" begins its long trek up to the Continental Divide and beyond to the west side of the Park. There were many great views along the way.
This Park is massive, and has no fewer than six regions in which one can backpack, boat, and view the 26 remaining glaciers.
The Visitor Center at the east entrance of the park is superb. I spoke to a thoughtful young ranger who was very supportive of my desire to learn more about the glaciers. Some of the facts she verified I have already shared here in a limited form. In 1850 there were 150 glaciers in this park region. Now there are 26. All of the glaciers are smaller then they were in 1970, many of them are up to 80% smaller. Some scientists predict their full disappearance by 2020, although others are estimating 2030 or beyond depending on emission scenarios. Literature (including signage) at the Park says either 2020 and 2030, depending what one is reading. Whatever the reality is, if you want to see the glaciers in this park, plan a visit soon.
The ranger pulled out a notebook full of "repeat photographs". These are contemporary pictures of glaciers in the Park alongside pictures of the same glaciers taken anywhere from 1900 - 1930. All these photographs can be located on the USGS website, and another great website that is similar can be found here.
In closing, please know I think an important solution to the problem of carbon emissions (that are driving the changes here) is the Citizens Climate Lobby. I hope you will check it out at citizensclimatelobby.org.
You can see my route today here.
Thanks for reading. More to come.