Cold and icy were never words I associated with Heaven. I mean when I was a kid, I figured the higher up into the sky you went, the closer you got to the Sun.
Now as an adult, I realize as the elevation as increases, the atmosphere becomes more thin, dropping the temperature and improving our vision. So if there was ever a way to ride a motorcycle to Heaven, "Going-to-the-Sun Road" might be the path.
At 6,646 feet, cresting over Logan Pass, it's still far from being the highest pavement in the world. But yet somehow, the pristine waters of Lake McDonald, the fresh mountain air, the deep blue skies, and the majesty of Heavens Peak, makes me question if the hand of God doesn't in fact touch you here.
It was July 2010 that I rode through Glacier National Park, Montana, where Going-to-the-Sun Road serves as the primary thoroughfare. It's 53 miles of two-lane twisties, but a very narrow two-lane road at that. As you make your way up to Logan Pass, the roads gets tore up, wet with melting snow pack (in the middle of Summer), and fauna crossing your path.
Passing "The Loop", a hairpin switchback that winds its way up towards Haystack Butte, I found a turnout where I could get a panoramic view of half-pipe valleys carved into the Continental Divide by ancient glaciers. I could almost hear the "hum" of the Universe, ringing off the metamorphic rock, channeling down into my thoughts.
I've never believed in Heaven, at least not the Heaven that Christians perpetuate. But with the way the sun shines so brightly through the clean air, reflected by the snow covered mountains, it's almost like finding that brilliant white light that people describe seeing in near-death experiences. How mountain goats and rocky mountain sheep step down to the road to greet travelers, I wonder if here they recognize us as brothers in Nature, as opposed to Human Beings?
Having a spiritual moment just as this is not often common during my travels, for the most part I'm really doing the opposite, thinking and philosophizing. If anything, Glacier National Park makes me feel closer to the Universe, as if I've returned from humanity back into one its children.
Going-to-the-Sun Road was named for nearby Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, which according to Blackfeet Indians, had once been a spirit from the Sun that had come down to teach them to hunt. Before "going back to the sun", he cast his image on the mountain to remind them.
I could only think of how ancient people had once traveled up here, to touch the mountain and draw a piece of that old spirit into their souls. I can understand how they, having never been exposed to organized religion, church bureaucracies, and theocratic governments, could obtain their own sense of spirituality by climbing up the mountain, and allowing the majesty of the land to claim them.
Somehow, there's something pristine and unadulterated about a belief in God, whatever you perceive God to be, if it wells up into you on its own, from the very piece of land you stand on. That's a spiritual connection to something tangible. The Sun, the Air, the Water, the Mountains, all coalescing into a single organism, and then drawing me inside to make me its own, gives me that sense of arrival.
As I crested over Logan Pass, and descended down the other side, it felt like Going-to-the-Sun Road was now sending me away. I would now return to humanity, to my own intellect, feeling the asphalt, and feeling my motorcycle. Views of the trees, lakes, and mountains just didn't seem to interest me anymore. My mind had shifted to exiting out of the Park, and finding a place to sleep the night.
There were no rooms available in the nearby town of Browning, MT. However, a bed & breakfast owner did offer me a camp spot by a small beaver pond out back. I pitched my tent, watched the sun set, and listened to the splash of the beaver's tail. I began scribbling out a journal entry (which you can read here).
I suppose not being religious in the classical sense, yet still very willing to believe, I've managed to develop a sense of spirituality from my motorcycle travels. If I can just remove all ideas of Church, Scripture, and Righteousness from my head, and immerse myself into the grandeur of the land, I feel so much more connected to my creator.