Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 22, 2018

Travel Bad Luck Lucky Break

I’ve written about this topic before, and all you travelers are familiar with it: Not everything goes as planned when one travels. There are missed connections, museums that are unexpectedly closed, mighty monuments you’ve traveled far to see, only to find them swathed in scaffolding. Like the time we made a long-anticipated trip to Milan, and the facade of the cathedral was undergoing restoration.

Milan Piazza Brad Nixon 073 (640x480)


There’s nothing for it. Go on and make the best of things. It could be worse.

Crawling along in dense traffic? You might get an excellent photograph illustrating life in Los Angeles, as The Counselor did recently.

I405 M Vincent sm

It’s not a particularly appealing scene, but it’s an effective picture of life in the metropolis. Don’t tell me your favorite city doesn’t have traffic like that. I know better. Might as well make the best of an unpleasant circumstance.

Sometimes — rarely, but it happens — that glitch in the travel plans is a lucky break in disguise. Lost on a road in some countryside? You might encounter a place just as interesting as your original destination, although you might miss lunch while you cast about — or perhaps you’ll discover that perfect out-of-the-way restaurant.

Dad and I got a disguised lucky break like that when we visited Glacier National Park. The single road that passes through the immense wilderness of Glacier is named Going-to-the-Sun Road. A significant feat of engineering, completed in 1932, it climbs through 6,646-foot Mt. Logan Pass, and offers spectacular views all along the way. There are occasional turnouts from which to view the scenery, but there are narrow, winding sections that don’t permit stops. The day we were there, all traffic came to a standstill due to road construction. We were stuck in a line of other travelers’ vehicles, got out of the car and walked around, enjoying the additional time to appreciate our spectacular surroundings.

Glacier NP valley Brad Nixon 2746 sm

We did our share of hiking in Glacier, but we’d planned to drive to the top of Logan pass before stopping to walk. As it happened, the interruption halted us within view of a geological feature that’s always fascinated me: a hanging valley.

Glacier NP hanging valley Brad Nixon 2749 sm

Hanging valleys are common features in glaciated mountain settings worldwide. Several thousand years ago, an enormous glacier formed that valley, and it was filled with ice. A subsidiary glacier formed on top of the mountain and scraped out the U-shaped cirque above as it flowed into the valley glacier. As the ice from that era melted away, it left the elevated — hanging — valley, with a picturesque waterfall descending from it.

Traffic started, we moved forward, then were had to stop again, giving us a clearer look at the formation from another angle.

Glacier NP Bird Woman Falls Brad Nixon 2757 (640x480)

The stops were especially lucky for Dad, who was driving at that time. He had an opportunity to get out and take in the scenery, instead of having to focus on the rather demanding route, only glancing at the stunningly beautiful mountainscape.

Not every break’s a lucky one. Bad things happen, and a day or an entire trip can be spoiled. But if there’s a place I’d choose to encounter a traffic jam, I’d pick Going-to-the-Sun road any day.

Do you have a lucky break travel story? Please leave a comment for the readers around the world to see.

Note: The glaciers of Glacier National Park are quickly melting away as the earth warms. So long as it remains protected as a national park, it will be an unforgettable place to visit, but there’s no better demonstration of how fragile our earth can be. Walk lightly.

© Brad Nixon 2018. L.A. traffic photo © M. Vincent 2018, used by kind permission.


  1. Beautiful images Brad! I once was left stranded by a no frills airline in Munich, they supposedly couldn’t get me another flight for 4 days!!! I lecture and it was summer so it wasn’t so bad…except my brothers wedding was in 3 days. I managed to get a flight with another airline and the plane was an A380 (pretty cool!) So made the most of an extra 2 nights courtesy of the no-frills airline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeow. You flew on the BIG one. Nice. There certainly aren’t enough of those negative-to-positive tradeoffs in the annals of air travel, but they happen. Fly often enough, and there’s the occasional bump to first class, a free drink or something. Glad you ended up on the plus side (minus the stress of dealing with it). Thanks for commenting.


  2. Beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hanging valley before.


    • You know, you’re smack in the midst of one of the world’s largest glacial features in northern Indiana, scoured flat during the Ice Age, but the ice didn’t leave many dramatic features beyond some moraines, especially south of you at the borders of the TWO big sheets of ice that successively created all that flat expanse there, as well as over in my home state of Ohio. Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you’re doing well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought about this all day yesterday, and couldn’t think of a single experience. But just now, one came to mind. I’d gone to Magnet Cove, Arkansas, to find the grave of one Etheree Armstrong Taylor — the woman whose poetic form I enjoy. When I got to the cemetery, I was driven out by a pair of very unfriendly dogs. Had it not been for that, I wouldn’t have stopped at the little store down the road and met the locals who gave me some tips on how to get back into the cemetery, and how to get in touch with Etheree’s son. I never got back into the cemetery on that trip, but I’m going to give it another try this year.


    • Thanks for searching the memory banks. Good luck on the return. Take dog snacks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice shot of the 405 in west L.A. Looks like early Sunday morning. Probably on your way to the Getty Museum.


    • Close, but no cigar. We’re actually southbound, having just left the Getty. It’s 6pm, and there’s a bit of a break in the traffic as many cars exit onto Santa Monica to the right, but we’re about to hit the dense mass on the other side of the overpass as MORE traffic enters. You can see that almost all the brake lights are illuminated. The interesting thing about still shots is that they show how much apparent open space there is, even in traffic jams. The most effective traffic jam shots are composed in an extreme telephoto mode that compresses out the apparent space, squeezing everything together.
      You’re right, though, the light could be early light. Both times of day, early and late, are good for photography.


      • And good for driving!


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