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Reading 2
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Determining the Facts

Reading 1: Surveying Going-to-the-Sun Road

In 1924 Stephen T. Mather, Director of the National Park Service, asked the Bureau of Public Roads for help in designing and constructing the central and most difficult part of the transmountain road through Glacier Park. One of the bureau's highway engineers, Frank Kittredge, was asked to survey a possible route crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. In the reading that follows, Kittredge remembers his seven weeks' work:

On a beautiful fall day (September 16, 1924) Superintendent [of Glacier National Park] Charles Kraebel drove me to the beginning of the proposed operations--along the shores of beautiful Lake McDonald fringed with dense forests of evergreens interspersed with the stately tamarac and clusters of already coloring quaken aspen; thence along McDonald Creek with its falls and tumbling white water as it cascaded through the canyon. And rounding a bend in the road there, squarely across the canyon, stood the great wall, the backbone of the Continental Divide, here called "The Garden Wall."

Schooled in the engineering practicality of things and in the planning and building, nevertheless, this park and this job seemed to me to be the culmination. This great project in Glacier Park seemed to develop more of the exuberance and the challenge of conquest, of pioneering with nature. And how fortunate I was to be here in this, one of the choicest, wildest, and most beautiful areas, and incidentally to be paid for being part of it.

But with the thrill of the country and the job, there was the feeling of awe and humility over the great responsibility of searching out, surveying and recommending the route which would mar the least the stupendous beauty of the Garden Wall, the mountains and the canyons while making available to people the most and best of Nature's creation. How to carry into the roadbuilding these great intangible values for the inspiration of people without sacrificing the very values we came for was the problem of the engineer.

The task was a little bit terrifying, inasmuch as it was already fall and winter closes in very early in this high altitude and far northern climate. But the elements were with us for the first two weeks and during the early reconnaissance period.

[Based on the reconnaissance] the present route following the Garden Wall over cliffs, along rock ledges, across deep canyons, was determined upon. The cost obviously would be heavy but there appeared to be no other route which would adequately show to the public the tremendous spectacle of mountains and canyons, forests and streams, and no other route which would be capable of improvement of alignment and width of roadway if and when traffic should require improvement.

The reconnaissance having been completed, the decision made as to route, the two camps established, and thirty-two men employed, we were then ready to undertake the labors of survey.

At the beginning of the survey every man not only had to walk several miles to work but also had to climb about 2,700 feet vertically every morning before starting the actual work. This would be equivalent to climbing the Washington Monument [987 steps] five times before getting down to the job at hand every morning. If it happened to be snowy or wet with no good footing and perhaps slipping back or falling down every now and then, it was equivalent in fatigue to several more climbs of the Monument. And then the walking along and clinging to the steep mountainside was not easy for anyone and extremely difficult and dangerous for some. Having to cut one's way with axes through brush and make one's way along cliffs, as the case might be, was an undertaking to put even the mountain sheep to shame.

The engineering crew was working along these same cliffs and the resident engineer appealed to his chief for an increase in pay for his assistants because of the unusual hardships and dangers of the job. The reply was no, that engineers were supposed to be hardy and to be able to take the dangers of such jobs. A few weeks later, this man made an inspection of the project and was taken over the cleared survey trail. At one point, the resident engineer walked along the cliff path as was his custom, but his chief cried out for help. Upon turning around, the resident engineer observed his boss clinging to the wall, knees trembling (and I know from personal experience how that feels), and in fear of falling. This seemed like a psychological opportunity, so the resident engineer--while steadying his chief--quietly remarked, "How about that raise for the boys?" The response from the boss--grand man that he was--was quick and effective, "Give them anything you want." ...However, in order to keep thirty-two men on the job continuously, 135 were employed during [the seven week survey] period.

The survey proceeded regardless of rain, sunshine, or snow--within limits, until early November when four feet of snow fell on the east side of Logan Pass and enough on the west side to severely handicap the work.... We had made the survey and obtained the necessary data for preparing the plans and specifications for a spring [road building contract]....

Questions for Reading 1

1. How did the survey crew get to work?

2. What were some of the conditions that made this survey difficult and dangerous?

3. How did the resident engineer manage raises for his workers?

4. What factors did Kittredge take into consideration in selecting the route?

5. Do you think he enjoyed his survey work at Glacier National Park? Why or why not?

Reading 1 was excerpted from Frank A. Kittredge, "The Survey of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway," Driver's Manual, eighth ed. (Glacier Park Transport Co., 1949), 85-89.


Comments or Questions

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