Glaciers great, but Bear Paws beckonHowdy Beaver
August 1, 2002
Glaciers great, but Bear Paws beckon
Glacier's red buses are awesome, to say the least. We drive tourists up and down Logan Pass from Lake McDonald daily in those buses. Since they were returned to Glacier, they are more popular than even the bears.
In the middle of the 1999 season, the buses, which are mostly 1936 and 1937 Whites, literally went to pieces and had to be scrapped. Glacier Park Inc. then sold them to the National Park System, which gave them to its foundation, which contacted Ford Motor Co., which completely rebuilt all 33 of them at no cost to the park and Glacier Park Inc. And now almost all of them are back in Glacier with their tops pulled back, hauling delighted tourists over the mountains from East Glacier and Many Glacier and Lake McDonald all the way to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton.
It doesn't matter what the weather and what the age of the folks riding the buses is. They always want the tops down, and when cold, they huddle under blankets that are always in the buses. No matter what their ages, everyone wants to get wet when the bus comes under the famed Weeping Wall on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
People like us who drive those buses are called "gear jammers." That term comes from long ago when the buses had manual transmissions and about 10 gears forward instead of the automatic transmissions they have now. Young college students were usually hired to drive the buses in the summer. They had no knowledge about gears and spent most of their time grinding gears and jamming them, trying to find a gear that would get them up the pass. It is said that they could be heard for miles away jamming their gears, hence the term "Gear Jammers."
Two things happen when we haul our 17 tourists over Logan Pass in a red bus. First, there is no end of the awe that the tourists express at scenes like Heaven's Peak, Bird Woman Falls, and the Big Bend. And secondly, no matter how many times we travel over that pass, we never tire of it and always see something new to share with anyone who will listen.
And when we finally do get to the top of the pass, there is Ranger Bill Harbolt from Chinook. Our tourists go off to take pictures of the mountain goats behind the visitor center or visit the bookstore in the visitor center. Meantime we talk with Ranger Harbolt about fishing on Clear Creek or Anderson Creek and he tells us that Hungry Hollow is the most beautiful spot in Blaine County.
And you know, in spite of being in the most beautiful spot in the world, we think that both of us are a little lonesome for good old Clear Creek.