Sunday, June 23, 2024

June 22

 We left ‘Salmon on Hwy 95 N. My  first observation was the terrain. Mountains to the east,west, and north. It was a sure bet we were going to have to do some climbing to get out of this valley. And climb we did. One switchback after another. The road held in place by massive retaining walls. 

My second observation was that we had entered a world of National Forests. Who knew there were this many trees in the world?? My third was the vast number of dead trees. At first it looked like  drought and then insect predation. Still not sure which it is. Whatever it is seems to affect pines more than spruce. The higher we got the less damage we saw. 

Into Montana

We stopped at the Lost Trail Pass rest area. It was somewhere in this area that Lewis and Clark almost gave up. They had not listened to their Indian guides and were stuck, unable to proceed due to weather and terrain. Looking around, I could see the problem. Good Lord, it would be a horrible spot to find yourself in without a map in winter.

From that point it was straight down along a winding path.  Good news: on this side of the pass there was almost no tree damage.

At the bottom we encountered a wide flat valley floor featuring several family farms and a series of small towns linked together with a continuous ugly strip mall:  Darby. Hamilton. Victor.  Stevensville. And finally Lolo.

A sharp turn to the west on Hwy 12 and the climb back up started almost immediately. We saw remnants of an old fire, and then the heaviest stands of timber you can imagine. 

And just like that we were back in Idaho.

The climb up resumed.

Just as we could almost touch the sky, we stopped at Lolo Pass Visitor Center for lunch. What a great stop. I made friends with one of the resident ground squirrels. He liked me well enough to eat the bread crumbs I dropped, but not enough to pose for a picture. 

I did get a picture of the Camas field. They were just beginning to bloom. My pictures do not even do them justice and I can only imagine what this area will look like at the peak of their bloom time. 

Leaving the visitor center at Lolo Pass we saw a sign that promised 99 miles of winding road ahead. And the road made good on its promise. A sprawling web of water had created our path in ancient times as melted snow water made its way down and around creating cracks and crevices carving out the landscape as it rushed to the ocean. Highway engineers simply followed the watery path. 

Beginning at Lolo Pass we  followed  Haskell Creek which soon joined forces with Crooked Fork which wandered away from the road to join up with Colt Killed Creek to become the Lochsa River. For a few miles we had no water on the left or right, but suddenly a much larger body of water appeared. It was the Lochsa River.

We followed it for miles as it continued its sculpting work. We watched it grow ever larger as it was joined by creek after creek like Shotgun, Post Office, Split, and Apgar. At Lowell, the Lochsa was overtaken by the Selway River, changing the nature of our stream and its name. 

Now, the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River was our guide as it continued growing in strength with creeks like Bridge, Three Devils, Big Smith, and Swan, just to name a few.  We drove out of the national forest, but we took the river with us. 

We followed the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River to Clarkston WA where it joined the Snake River. Meanwhile the Salomon River, where I took Stanley’s picture yesterday, had already joined the Snake River through another watery web. 

And now you know more about the Snake River than you never knew you wanted to know. But one more thing just for fun. In 1974 Evel Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon. He failed, but survived with only minor injuries. He died years later due to diabetes. Moral of that story: Eating too much sugar is more dangerous than attempting to jump a canyon on a rocket powered motorcycle.

A quick trip to Albertsons’s grocery in Clarkston yielded a delicious  seafood salad and a bag of  green grapes for dinner.

Someone is bound to ask about wildlife sightings. So far we are at 2 squirrels, 1 chipmunk, 1 elk, 2 deer.  I got a picture of one of them.

¡Buenos Noches!