This is my kind of "art". Outside Dayton, Washington they have placed metal figures of what it might have looked like to view Lewis and Clark and his men, when they camped at this exact spot on their way back home (they floated the lower Columbia River heading west, and took an established Indian route overland, when they headed back up the Columbia River (They had stolen a canoe when they left their Pacific Ocean camp – – so needed to maintain a good pace!).
Old Timers’ Idaho Road Trip
Monday – June 12, 2006
John spent Sunday night at our house in Yakima so he and I could get an early start on our Idaho road trip. We both had our stuff organized in totes, duffle bags, and day packs so it didn’t take any time Sunday night to prepare.
We were up early Monday morning. My wife organized breakfast for us and then headed out for her usual Monday shopping trip with her Aunt Betty. She assumed when she left that we would soon be on our way.
John and I had agreed Sunday night that his Subaru would be better for the trip than our pickup truck. It got twice the gas mileage; would allow us to have all our gear both secure and out of the weather at all times; and it would ride much nicer. It had all wheel drive so that wasn’t a consideration.
My wife was out and about, John’s Subaru was packed neatly and efficiently (John’s gear on one side in the back and mine on the other side). In short, we were ready to go. Only one problem – – the USA – Czech Republic world cup soccer match was being televised. Both of us like soccer. So we stayed in Yakima for another hour watching the soccer match on TV.
When underway we drove the freeway from Yakima to the Tri-City area. At Pasco we took a back road to Waitsburg and then on to Dayton, Washington. It is lovely farming country – – the start of the Palouse.
We made our first fun discovery of our road trip just outside of Dayton. We drove up Patit Creek to see one of the campsites of Lewis and Clark. Since 2005-06 is the two hundred year anniversary of their epic journey, there has been a lot of interest in their route.
Their camp site was two miles out of Dayton. Instead of just the usual sign board; plaque; or combination there of – – they had placed life size metal outline figures in the exact spot where the Corp of Discovery (as the Lewis and Clark party was called) had camped.
It was a unique and effective display. You could almost hear the conversations going on at the camp site. Well done. We took narrow poorly marked dirt roads on up from the campsite and by reckon and by golly, we made an effective side trip loop that eventually reconnected us to highway 12 and then it was on to Pomeroy, Washington.
We stayed on highway 12 all the way to Clarkston, Washington and then crossed the Snake River (now a lake with all the damn dams) over to Lewiston, Idaho. We then missed a turn for the first time among many. We had intended to go up highway 95 through Cottonwood to Grangeville, Idaho. Instead we ended up traveling highway 12 up by Orofino to Grangeville. No harm done.
At Grangeville we were ready to eat so we had the first of many excellent on the road meals at perhaps the fanciest place we would choose. We went into a steak house at Grangeville and had a hearty and excellent dinner.
After dinner we drove to the foot of Whitebird Hill (site of a major battle between the U.S. cavalry and the Nez Perce Indians – – the Nez Perce won that battle handily). We made our first route choice of many on the trip. We decided that even though it was late we would travel to Pittsburg Landing on a “condition unknown” dirt road before back tracking to Riggins, Idaho.
Since we had our camping gear with us and knew there were two camp grounds next to Pittsburg Landing, we figured we just might camp there this first night out on our trip. It was also getting late in the day.
The Whitebird to Pittsburg Landing road exceeded both of our expectations. The scenery was lovely, deer everywhere, and the view down into the bottom of the Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River, from the high point of the road, was as good as it gets.
We both decided that camping at Pittsburg Landing was the right choice. The camp sites overlooked the Snake River, which ran high and fast from all the rain, even though the Hell’s Canyon dam is not all that far upstream.
Once camp was set, John decided to boil up some tea, while I walked back down to the boat launch. Pittsburg Landing is where many jet boat tours either stop (on their way from Lewiston) or originate. They run all the way up river through a couple of major rapids to the Hell’s Canyon dam.
Deer were everywhere (both mule deer and white-tail deer). The bucks were in velvet. I saw a couple as I walked toward the boat launch area. It was getting dark and I saw an animal beside the road. It turned out to be a large healthy skunk that held his tail up high as I approached. I gave him wide berth then found a foot path where I could hike up to two jet boats moored 100 yards up the river. One was a large Kilgore Tours boat and the other a much smaller but powerful government patrol boat.
When I retraced my steps, my skunk had absconded and a hyper-raccoon had taken his place. The raccoon quickly scampered into the thick willows as I approached. The same deer occupied the same positions as I hurried along the road to get back to our camp before dark.
Rain was threatening, as it would every day and night of our trip, so John and I made a 75 cent bet on whether we would have to crawl out of the tent at night to install the rain fly on the tent. We had opted to leave it off for the ventilation. I won the bet (it didn’t rain) but something besides putting on a rain fly on a camping tent would rudely interrupt the sleep of at least one of the two of us that night.
I fell asleep right away. The sound of the Snake River provided a good sound to sleep by. I woke up at around midnight and was pleased it wasn’t raining. I looked over and Jarvinen seemed to be sleeping well. At about two in the morning I was aware that John was climbing out of the tent and rustling around but I was in the twilight zone between sleep and awake. I was awake enough to register his movement but too tired and on the edge of sleep to want to ask what was going on.
Ten minutes later it was quiet in the tent and I fell back asleep.
Tuesday – June 13, 2006
Early light softly lit up the tent. I might have slept longer had the rain fly been on the tent. I looked over to the other side of the tent and there was no John; no sleeping bag; no therma rest air mattress, nothing but a baseball cap and shirt of John’s. Even in my early morning haze, it registered on me that he hadn’t got up early but had rather abandoned ship late last night. I suspected the culprit. Me and my reputation for loud, uninterrupted snoring.
I climbed out of the tent to greet the new day and saw John sleeping in the back of his Subaru. He looked uncomfortable to me. He was awake enough to acknowledge why he was sleeping there, but I didn’t push further the “good morning” talk for fear that this might be the end of our joint road trip.
The snoring discussion was brief. It wasn’t until we had had breakfast; broke camp; and driven quite awhile before the peace treaty details were established. Separate cabins hence forth OR if camping again, we would cover all of our gear with a tarp so ONE of us could sleep in the tent and the OTHER one of us could sleep in a more roomy back end of the car.
We saw more deer and a wild turkey on the drive back out from Pittsburg Landing to the Salmon River at Whitebird. Once again on paved road we drove on into Riggins, Idaho on the banks of the Salmon River where the river takes a 90 degree turn and instead of flowing west, heads north toward Whitebird.
Riggins has a new life. Kayak, canoe, and rafting enthusiasts now show up in Riggins to float the Salmon River. It is also the float terminus to the more adventurous who float all the way from Salmon, Idaho down the “river of no return”. There are some serious rapids on the main Salmon River. Lewis and Clark wanted to travel through the mountains down the Salmon River, but thought better of it when they explored it a short ways as it entered the canyon. They traveled instead over Lolo Pass to reach the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers.
We spent little time in Riggins. I took a couple of photos of a scow or “sweep boat” next to a city park. These boxy wooden boats had a unique history on the Salmon River. There is a legendary river man called Captain Guleke who pioneered and perfected the technique of running these ungainly looking craft all the way down both the Main Salmon River from Salmon to Riggins, and also on the narrower and more challenging Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
What sweep boat operators would do, was to build one of these crafts of planks in Salmon, Idaho. On each end of this large heavy box like craft was a long “oar” with a huge paddle (sweep) attached to it. The two sweeps were attached to the scow on each end via a metal pin. In the middle of the scow was a platform. It was three or four feet above the flat bottom of the scow. Two men would stand on this platform and each operates one of the huge sweep oars in order to set up the scow to run the rapids.
All kind of supplies; mining gear; and yes even an automobile – – were transported to homesteads and/or mines this way. Once these heavy sweep boats reached Riggins there was no way to get them back to Salmon, so the owner would disassemble them and sell the lumber for building material in Riggins. They would use the funds to return to Salmon and start the process all over again.
As a side story to this colorful history of running the River of No Return (the main Salmon River) with a sweep boat – – there is the story of Glen and Bessie Hyde. Glen learned how to handle a sweep boat on the Salmon River from none other than the famous (and I might add MOST colorful) – – Cap Guleke.
Glen, whose father had settled in Spokane, Washington in 1881, developed a love for taking sweep boats down whitewater rapids. Glen married a tiny free thinking young lady named Bessie Haley.
The two adventurous young newlyweds decided to take a Salmon River designed sweep boat down the Green River and through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado for their honeymoon in 1928. They were wearing no lift jackets all the way through unbelievable rapids like Lava Falls.
The young couple disappeared at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Their sweep boat was found undamaged floating in an eddy but with no sign; no note; or any indication of what happened to Glen and Bessie. The story, including the heartbreaking attempt of Glen’s father to try to determine what happened to them is interesting reading. Read the book “Sunk Without a Sound” by Brad Dimock if you want the whole story.
John and I planned to drive up the Salmon River on a narrow asphalt road which dead ends up the river at a place called Vinegar Creek. There are enumerable stories that crowd that stretch of river. They are stories of miners, homesteaders, river men, sheep men, and trappers. I couldn’t wait to see the country where so much of the history I had read had taken place. John with his talent for photography and top of the line digital camera gear was always looking for “just the right photo”.
Our first lesson on this stretch of road is that the locals have the right away. When we saw a herd of Salmon River sheep coming down the road toward us, 12 abreast accompanied by two crusty looking herders on foot – – there was no doubt about who was going to have the right away.
John pulled his Subaru over and we both got out and climbed among the river boulders at the river side of the road, to document the procession (lots of baaaahs coming and sheep dip going) as it went by. The sheep were cautious, the herders uninterested, but the two Australian border collies that were working the rear of the herd found time to come over and get a scratch behind the ears.
The owner of the sheep followed the entire sheep parade in a pickup truck. In an overhead rack, another collie rode and observed the entire operation with interest. The owner rolled down the window to his pickup truck and we had and interesting conversation (no sense trying to hurry in a pickup truck when the sheep weren’t in a hurry).
As our conversation wound down I looked up at the healthy looking collie riding in the overhead rack above the roof of the pickup. “Why isn’t that collie working with the other two” I asked. He grinned. “That’s my dog and he’s spoiled”. I nodded.
After the herd of bleating sheep passed us we proceeded up river (thankful of all wheel drive with all of the material the sheep had left in the road).
We passed two rubber rafts bobbing down the Salmon River and shortly arrived at the end of the road (Vinegar Creek). We doubled back a few miles where John wanted to photograph a small tumbling creek. There was a picnic table up under the trees, next to a chimney and stone foundation of a previous cabin. So we took a rest. John photographed then we both had an unusual but great mid-day meal.
John brought out bread, peanut butter, and honey – – from which we made sandwiches. And I contributed some excellent smoked Alaska king salmon that a thoughtful neighbor in Yakima had given us. We ate comfortably seated in a breeze in the canvas Coleman folding camp chairs we had brought along.
We doubled back down the road until we came to French Creek. Here our map showed a steep, winding, and narrow little road climbed up out of the Salmon River canyon (on the south side) and headed to Burgdorf Hot Springs. We decided to give it a go.
The scenery on that narrow little sand road was spectacular and every changing. After many miles of slow driving we arrived at the high country meadows and Burgdorf Hot Springs. These hot springs with cabins and swimming pool were rustic to the point of being unacceptable. Still it was interesting to see them.
From the Burgdorf Hot Springs we picked up a paved road (highway 21) that ran us all the way into McCall, Idaho. There in McCall we stopped at a park along the lake and rolled out the map to decide on our next destination; activity; and probable place to stay.
Our destination was Banks, Idaho. We would follow the constant white and roaring rapids of the North Fork of the Payette River (a kayaker drowned in them while we were on our trip) from McCall to Banks. At Banks we would turn east up the South Fork of the Payette River to indulge in the scenery (hot springs; rapids; ponderosa pine forests) and the history of the area.
Banks, Idaho had a surprise for us.
I was driving and John, noticing the ever darkening clouds that seemed to be surrounding us, tuned to a radio station for a report. Boise was having “severe thunderstorm activity” AND was on a tornado watch (unusual for Idaho I thought). The sky was really dark. The clouds were low. The wind was picking up, but it wasn’t raining at the moment.
I pulled up to the store in Banks, Idaho to ask about the condition of the road from Banks to Lowman, Idaho (I wasn’t sure if it was paved all the way, which it is). As soon as I asked about the road conditions I turned to return to the car. The rain started coming down so hard that the rain drops actually hurt as they pelted me while I climbed quickly into the car.
Just then the wind increased dramatically and our hard rain turned to hail not just pea size hail but huge hail stones close to the size of golf balls. Clearly with the force they were coming down there was danger that they would break the windshield or damage the car.
In what seemed like an eternity we abandoned getting under a sizeable tree for protection from the hail and headed quickly to a highway department “sand pile tent” that John had noticed. All cars were pulled off the road. We made the “dash” across a bridge and up under this huge plastic tarped Quonset hut like highway department structure. There were already two vehicles hiding inside and another followed right behind us.
The roar of the hail coming down and hitting the sand pile tent we were under was deafening. The winds were so strong that hailstone managed to hit our vehicles even though we were well inside and toward the middle of the structure.
As fast as it started the hail soon ended and the hail turned to rain. A country sheriff pulled in to gas up his vehicle at an outdoor tank reserved for state and county employees. When he saw us emerge from our shelter he just shook his head as if to acknowledge the obvious. What a storm!
The trip up the South Payette was picturesque. We stopped to take a photo of the section of river where the pioneer, controversial, and legendary kayaker, Walt Blackadar, had met his end when he was pinned in his kayak under a log that was a couple feet under the surface of the river and extended most the way across the river. It was a mistake he shouldn’t have made.
I highly recommend the book “Never Turn Back” by Ron Watters, about the life of Walt Blackadar, a physician who had moved to Salmon, Idaho from back east and fell in love with the Idaho wilderness and running rivers in kayaks. He led a short but most interesting life.
The winds died down. The rain stopped, as we drove up the South Fork of the Payette River road. The scenery and the river were captivating. We decided to gas up at Garden Valley, Idaho (the lady at the store in Banks, told us that there was a gas station there) BUT that wasn’t going to be possible.
When we arrived at the only gas station at Garden Valley, Idaho there were several cars waiting to gas up and people gathered around the lantern inside the store. Though Garden Valley had not got hit by the hail, the high winds had taken the electricity out. There was no way to pump gas, and the locals didn’t have an idea when they would be back in business.
A local inside the store suggested that three miles back down the road and up in the forest was an even smaller town called “Crouch”. There he said was a mercantile gas station that might have power. To Crouch, Idaho we went. We found the gas station operable, so we purchased gas. Next door was a home-style café (and bar) well attended by the locals. We decided that since the car had gas, we were ready for dinner.
After dinner the waitress pointed the directions (two blocks away) to the only motel/cabin place in town. We headed there. The owners of the cabin/motel had decided that nobody was going to want to check into their motel in such a small out of the way place, following a major storm, so they tacked the keys to three of their cabins alongside the porch covered entry way door. The keys were in a paper envelope with the cabin number and the rate on the outside and the keys to the cabin inside each envelope.
A sign read “We are away for the evening, so we are depending on the honor system should anyone need a room tonight. We will be here at the office at seven in the morning for checkout”.
John took one cabin I took another and as promised at 7 am the lady who owned the place was there to accept our payment for the night’s lodging. Only in Idaho.
Wednesday – June 14, 2006
We got underway early the next morning. It wasn’t raining but the pattern of brief (very brief) sun breaks followed by wave after wave of small rain storms, looked like the weather de jour……again.
We passed through Lowman and stopped to take photos of the hot springs that spill into the river along the way. The state of Idaho has done a very nice job of setting up parking; camping; picnic; and restroom facilities at these places. It is a favorite activity of tourists (and probably some locals) to sit in a hot tub like enclosure of hot springs water, while gazing at the roaring South Fork of the Payette River, immediately below them. We stopped and took photos.
Near Valley Creek, just west of Stanley Lake in Idaho, we were crossing high meadow country and came to a long meadow that was filled with white daisy like flowers and bright lavender colored flowers that looked like columbines. They painted the meadow. We parked the car and both headed for the meadows to take photos.
We were frustrated that though the sun hit the forest nearby, a propitious patch of blue sky never allowed the sun to hit our flower meadow. All of our meadow flower photos here were in overcast conditions. Still the flowers were beautiful.
Next stop was Stanley Lake and McGown Peak near the town of Stanley, Idaho. John wanted to get a photo of the 9,500 foot high McGown Peak reflected in the 6,500 foot in elevation, Stanley Lake.
John got his tripod; remote shutter release; and camera out of the car and tried to set up before the next weather system kicked up waves on the lake. I don’t know whether he got the right shot or not, but with my little Minolta pocket size point and shoot digital camera, I got a snapshot of him trying.
A sign at the lake indicated that a local Indian tribe was working with the Idaho fish and game department to restore the sockeye salmon run to the lake, which was destroyed when all the dams were put in. It will be interesting to see if they succeed. It is hard to imagine ocean going sockeye ever making it to this Idaho mountain lake, over a mile in altitude and so many miles by river from the Pacific.
As we were leaving the lake a man asked our assistance with a jump start. He had been camping at the lake with his wife and two sons. His car battery was dead. When we lifted the hood to John’s car to jump start the man’s van, John noticed for the first time several shallow dents in the hood caused by the previous night’s hail storm.
Between Stanley and Challis, Idaho we followed the headwaters of the Salmon River. The water we saw here would within a day or so, be flowing past Riggins, Idaho where we had left much earlier that morning. Kayakers were everywhere drawn to the excitement (and danger) of all these rivers in high water due to snow melt and rain. One group had stopped in full wet suits to warm themselves at a hot springs right next to the river.
Following a now well developed habit, we pulled over in Challis, Idaho (a quaint little town) and asked a local mowing his lawn, where was the best place in town to eat. He didn’t hesitate. “Antonio’s” he said. “Ain’t fancy but the food is real good”. He wasn’t wrong.
After filling up on food at Challis, we drove on to Salmon, Idaho. Salmon is located at the confluence of the Lemhi River and the Salmon River. It is where Dr. Blackadar lived.
Earlier at McCall we had purchased a two day non-resident Idaho fishing license. Besides fishing John had a place on the Lewis and Clark route that he wanted to hike to from the Lemhi Pass area (a saddle in the continental divide that separates Idaho and Montana). It was near Lemhi Pass where Lewis made contact with a Shoshone Indian band who’s chief (Cameahwait) turned out, ironically and fortuitously, to be Sacagawea’s brother.
The Shoshone guided the Lewis and Clark Party back across Lemhi Pass with women and horses to help haul the Corp of Discovery’s equipment to their village in the Lemhi River valley. Along the way one of the Indian women excused herself and stepped into a willow grove along the Indian trail they were following and gave birth. It was this stretch of trail that John wanted to hike and photograph, and I was all for it.
At Salmon we stopped at a BLM/Forest Service information center to get some maps of the area plus up to date information on the road conditions since there had been (and continued to be) so many storms rolling through. Lemhi Pass is over 7,000 feet in altitude.
We met two of the nicest and most knowledgeable women at the information center as you could ever hope to meet. They provided us with maps and resources. One person they suggested that we talk to for sure was an 87 year old lady named Viola Anglin who lived next to and still worked at the Tendoy, Idaho country store.
They also told us that there was no place to stay at Tendoy but there was an excellent bed and breakfast place in Baker, Idaho – – half way between Salmon and Tendoy. Tendoy would be where we would approach Lemhi Pass the next day. When John tried the number at the B & B there was no answer, so one of the helpful ladies called the owner on her cell phone and was told she was shopping but that she would be back at the B & B in 20 minutes.
Out to the Solass B & B in Baker we headed. When we arrived, the well preserved 100 year old “road house” looked appealing. Sharon and Roger Solaas lived in an adjoining house next to the double story B & B.
I went in to negotiate a best “old timer – retiree” rate for two rooms. Sharon offered us $40 a night without breakfast and $45 a night with. We opted for “with breakfast” and we weren’t to be disappointed.
John and I checked into the only two rooms that were made up and ready. John took the “cowboy” room upstairs and I was put in a nice but decorated in feminine fashion bedroom downstairs. Each room had its own shower and bath. My bed had a canopy bed and lots of pinks. John threatened to take a photo of me in my room to “have something on me” if needed in the future. He would later make good on his promise by knocking on my door and taking two quick photos of me in my effeminate room before I shooed him away.
After checking in we got caught up in conversation with Sharon. She and her husband lived primarily on wild game (trout; elk; deer; and antelope). Sharon did all the wild game processing for her and Roger and for locals in the valley. The entry way to the B & B was covered with stuffed big game heads and pelts of wolf and bear.
Roger came in and Sharon introduced us to Roger. He was a laid back fun guy about our age that loved to talk about anything having to do with hunting and fishing. He told us each year he makes a trip up to Alaska (Prince of Wales Island) to fish for salmon and halibut.
As interesting as our discussion with Roger and Sharon Solaas were, we wanted to get out and about. We told them we were going down to the Tendoy country store to talk with Viola Anglin about local history. They thought that was a great idea. When we told Roger that afterwards we intended to fish for trout for awhile, he suggested we couldn’t do better than Williams Lake about 12 miles south of Salmon.
ASIDE: A decade ago I was fly fishing and camping with my oldest son. We had crossed the primitive Magruder Road from Elk City, Idaho to the headwaters of the Selway River to camp and fly fish. On our way home, we decided to go south through Boise instead of north over Lolo Pass to return to our home near Seattle.
When the two of us arrived late in Salmon, Idaho ALL motel rooms were taken and we were tired of sleeping in a tent, so the owner of the motel called the owner of a fishing camp up at Williams Lake. That is where my son and I spent the night ten years earlier.
Viola at age 87 was all she will built up to be. What a charming, lucid, interesting, knowledgeable, helpful, active, and nice person she is. John quizzed her about the local Lemhi Pass and Shoshone history in the area, and it didn’t take much encouragement until she lead us to a wall full of old time “stage coach era” photographs on the back wall of the store. She told story after story, then had to return to work the cash register of the store. A great woman.
After leaving Viola and the Tendoy store we doubled back past the Solass B & B; into Salmon; then south on the Challis road to the turnoff to Williams Lake. The rocky point that Roger recommended we fish at was taken by a knowledgeable local so John plowed the Subaru through rutted muddy roads to the west end of the pretty mountain lake.
Here we found a trail that crossed the inlet creek to the lake and over to a dock moored on the south shore of the lake. It was a perfect place to fish and a short 1/2 mile hike. We hiked to the dock and like all good fishermen, gave it our best throwing lure after lure with our light spinning outfits. We got rained on hard (again) and then it cleared (again). But alas, no fish, no bites, nothing but a great time spent fishing in a high mountain Idaho lake.
We had bragged to Sharon that any fish we caught we would clean and bring back to give to her. Both of us were disappointed when we got back to the B & B and had to tell Sharon and Roger that we came back empty handed. Roger then brought out two frozen two pound rainbow trout to show us. He had caught them ice fishing last winter at Williams Lake.
We chatted with Roger and Sharon for a short while then John adjourned to his cowboy room upstairs and I sought sleep under the lacey canopy of my bed downstairs. Sharon agreed to fix breakfast for us at seven the next morning so we could get an early start on our drive up Lemhi Pass and our hike along the Lewis and Clark route.
Thursday – June 15, 2006
I emerged from my B & B bedroom ready for breakfast. Roger was sitting in the family room in his rocking chair. He had been out since five that morning painting their white picket fence. He had come inside for breakfast. John soon joined us. Sharon was busy at the stove and our places were already set in the sun room dining area.
John and I started talking ice fishing with Roger who enjoyed telling his stories. Sharon suggested that he move his place setting in and join us for breakfast. John and I both got the impression that Roger usually ate in a separate area from guests, but he was quite comfortable with John and me.
John had requested an egg and a couple of pancakes for breakfast the night before. Two eggs on whole wheat toast had been my request. In addition to our requested breakfast Sharon said they wanted to treat us to generous patty of fried elk sausage. She described how she made it and prepared it. It tasted great and we were pleased that their elk sausage addition to our breakfast was a sign that we some how fit in with this independent outdoor loving couple.
John visited with Sharon about her relief work with her Baptist church group in Louisiana following hurricane Katrina. Then we checked us out of the B & B. We then put all of our stuff in the Subaru and were off for Lemhi Pass.
The weather looked the same as it had each and every day of this trip. Mostly cloudy, a few sun breaks, and sheets of rain coming down far to the west indicating a familiar pattern of successive rain showers with short breaks in between.
We drove up Agency Creek (which drains to the Lemhi River; which drains to the Salmon River; which drains to the Snake River; which drains to the Columbia River; which empties into the Pacific Ocean). At the head of Agency Creek is the saddle that is Lemhi Pass. On the other side of Lemhi Pass is Montana and the creeks that have their start there, drain to the Missouri river to the Mississippi and on into the Gulf of Mexico.
The dirt road we followed to the pass was in reasonably good condition considering all of the rain that had fallen the last few days. We drove to the top of the pass and then backtracked down the Idaho side to find the trailhead we were looking for to hike the specific section of the Lewis and Clark route that John had sought.
The sun came through briefly as we trudged slowly up a steep sage covered canyon wall. At the top we could look north for miles and see the route Lewis and Clark had followed (wooden posts with an L & C logo are set every 1/2 mile or so). The countryside would have appeared very much the same as it did in August of 1806 as Lewis, Clark, their men, and the entourage of Shoshone Indians made their way the same direction toward the Shoshone camp of Chief Cameahwait in the valley of the Lemhi River.
The inevitable rain storm hit us on our hike but both of us had rain gear so we just took it in stride. Instead of backtracking on our route which would have required climbing back up to a saddle then the steep drop back down to the car, we followed Flume Creek down until it came to the dirt road up Agency Creek. Thus we completed a nice long loop hike.
We drove back up across Lemhi Pass for the last time and followed the dirt road through lodge pole pine country in Montana. We were headed east.
We missed a back road that would have taken us to Bannock, Montana. Instead we came around a corner and saw I-15 full of speeding vehicles heading north toward Butte and south towards Idaho Falls. We drove north to the nice little small college town of Dillon, Montana.
In Dillon we followed our usual pattern of getting maps at a visitors’ center and asking locals (this time a cute young co-ed working in the visitors’ center) where the best place to eat in Dillon would be. We were directed to a funky café and coffee shop in the old section of downtown Dillon (Sweetwater Coffee) where, as recommended, we enjoyed excellent sandwiches on fresh bakery bread.
We drove a couple of miles south from Dillon on I-15 after lunch and then headed due west on a back road that would take us through Jackson and Wisdom, Montana (past the big hole Nez Perce battlefield) and then back to the highway between Salmon, Idaho and Missoula, Montana.
It wasn’t mentioned, but we were now heading home. We drove over Lolo Pass, stopping to eat an improvised meal in our camp chairs beside the lovely Lochsa River. It was getting dark and we were both tired from all the driving, so at Kooskia, Idaho we pulled up in front of the Clearwater motel.
We had been able to negotiate B & B; cabin; or motel rooms for under $50 each night and now it was Jarvinen’s turn to go in and negotiate (hat in hand, old retiree story at the ready).
Well John won the prize. We each got a room (the last two available) for $35 each. John took advantage of the fact that the manager, a lady who lives at the motel, mentioned that she had just two rooms left, that her favorite TV show came on in 12 minutes AND if we took the last two rooms, she could flip on the “no vacancy sign” and relax for the evening. It worked.
This would be our last night on the road. I was amazed at how much territory we had covered and what all we had seen and done, in the space of just four full days.
Friday – June 16, 2006
We left Kooskia, Idaho early in the morning and drove along the Clearwater River until we got to Lewiston, Idaho and across the Snake River – – Clarkston, Washington. From there it was smooth and constant driving toward home, with one last good road meal at a tiny café (Donna’s) in Pomeroy, Washington.
John dropped me and all my gear off at Yakima, visited for a short while, then headed on to his home across the Cascade Mountains in Duvall, Washington. John and his wife, Ellen, live with two big sled dogs, part wolf, in a large log house that John built himself on five acres. John retired from teaching at the same high school where we had both graduated in the 1960s (Issaquah High School).
John has been a friend since our little league football days back in Issaquah, Washington. He graduated from high school two years behind me with my brother.So from youngsters growing up together in the small Washington town of Issaquah, we had just completed a trip together as retirees now both of us in our late 50’s.
It was a good road trip and one to remember.
June 19, 2006
William Least Heat-Moon, the author of Blue Highways, had stayed at the Solaas B & B with Roger and Sharon, when he was writing his book "River Horse" (A good book but not nearly as enjoyable to read as Blue Highways).
My favorite flick foto friend, fly flipper, sent me an interview transcript made in 2009 by CNN with William Least Heat-Moon. It is about "road trips", a tradition near and dear to the hearts of many of us. So that is what "motivated" me to seine up this old 2006 "road trip" story. So if you want to close the loop on this long story, here is the CNN interview transcript:
Back-road adventurer on American’s Blue Highways:
November 18, 2009 (CNN) — William Least Heat-Moon, best-selling author of "Blue Highways," "River-Horse," and most recently "Roads to Quoz," shared his insights on the American road with CNN. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.
CNN: How have things changed from the time when you took your "Blue Highways" road trip to today?
Heat-Moon: Let me name four different changes that I notice overwhelmingly: two on the positive side and two darker changes. Let me start with the darker side. Almost everywhere I travel, I see an increase in human congestion. Not just automobiles, although that’s mostly what I’m speaking of, but also the sheer number of people milling about.
A quarter of a century ago, towns that still had limits — discernible edges — now can look like they’re getting swallowed by an inoperable cancer. Sprawl is endemic today, and we’ve shown little interest in controlling it and what it does to our lives and to our minds.The influence of mega-corporations has changed the face of the country, both for better and too often for worse.
Corporate-logo franchises have done in so many of what I call Bert and Betty eateries.
Regional food has taken a real hit, and today I have to look harder to find a good and genuine cafe. On the other hand, a lot of so-called greasy spoons have been wiped off the map by franchises where a traveler can often depend on a chain to serve a similar whatever across the country.
Yes, it’s likely ordinary and undistinguished, but it’ll be consistent. But why travel if consistency is all you want? I’m the kind of traveler, though, who would rather take chances — to hell with consistency — and hunt down a place that just might serve up a good original regional meal that I’ll remember for years to come.
Food like that is one of my motivations for traveling. Take away regional foods, and staying home can look like a smart decision. On the positive side, it’s clear that racial harmony is better than it was 25 years ago. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve stopped hearing racial epithets that used to scotch conversations.
We may talk more vulgarly these days, but we use certain derogatory terms far less — at least openly, publicly. I suppose hearing the f-word is better than hearing the n-word.
Accommodations have improved, although today a traveler can roll into many small towns at dusk and be unable to find a place for the night.
Not too long ago, any town of a thousand people or more would have at least one place where a traveler could buy a bed for the night. Now, I can’t be sure even the county seat will have a hotel or motel. And the days of the reasonably priced tourist-home have vanished in the face of expensive bed-and-breakfasts. We need both.
Often, travelers have to get to an interstate exit ramp to find lodging, and there they find themselves remote from the heart of a community and segregated with other travelers.
The heart of the town is somewhere else, and being able to share in it becomes more difficult.
CNN: What do you think it is that draws us to the road?
Heat-Moon: Everybody in this nation, in the Americas, we all are descendants of people who came from the other hemisphere, each of us a descendant of travelers. Movement is in our blood. To speak metaphorically, we seem to carry a travel gene that makes us want to move. And a lot of us also carry an active curiosity gene. We’re bears that go over the mountain to see what we can see.
The second aspect to your question is that we inhabit a large land topographically hospitable to long-distance travel. The great middle of America is generally open terrain that, by comparison with many other countries, lends itself to human movement. Our rivers often run in fortuitous directions for our shufflings, and our mountains tend toward the edges. The horizons of America are often quite distant, and horizons are visual invitations to the curious, the restless, the unsatisfied.
CNN: Do you think that Americans, with the advent of interstates, are missing out on the "Blue Highways"? Is that experience still out there to be had?
Heat-Moon: There are still miles and miles of two-lane roads to take a traveler into recesses of America, where delights and amazements await.The problem with an interstate is not the interstate itself but the speed at which one can move on an interstate. Oh, sure, if you’re crossing Kansas or Nebraska or half a dozen other states, a four-lane can let you see the territory about as well as a two-lane, but you won’t encounter much of the life within that territory.
For that, you’ve got to stop and get out from behind the damn windshield. Otherwise, you’re moving, but let’s not conflate moving with traveling.
CNN: How do you find the places where you want to pull over? Do you research your destinations?
Heat-Moon: I seldom do research beforehand. Typically, I proceed by feel, moving along, looking at the territory until something — person, place, or thing — suggests a stop for a deeper look. Traveling a two-lane road, it’s easy, because towns and villages slow you. And I look for reasons to stop. When I can’t find one, I’ll come to a halt anyway to see WHY I can’t find one.Sometimes it works. Ice-cream parlors, I might add, give a jolly reason, as does a bookshop. In the evening, when my road-work is finished for the day, a local tavern may suffice
In my most recent book, "Roads to Quoz," while I was idling around Camden, Arkansas, I saw a man painting an exterior wall mural. He was up on a ladder, and I started talking to him from the sidewalk. By the time our conversation ended, he had invited me to spend the night at his cabin, a place that turned out to be the former home of his uncle, the founder of Grapette, the soft drink.
We had a delightful evening together over a couple of bottles of soda pop.
The encounter was richly memorable, and if building memories isn’t the purpose of most of my travels, then they tend to be irrelevant.
CNN: What are the things that catch your attention when you’re on the road?
Heat-Moon: The first thing that usually catches my eye is its commercial, downtown architecture. I’m not sure why that is, but I do love architecture. If I’m often horrified by what the World War II generation did to our great 19th- and early 20th-century architecture.
I’m happy when I find buildings that have been restored or left alone to show their time, their honored age.
Certain longevities are beautiful. And encouraging. A number of conversations, over the years, have resulted from my simply standing in front of building and studying it.
In Galveston [Texas], a few years ago, the owner saw me looking at his historic hotel, and he came out to talk, and I ended up that night inside his place in a complimentary room. But it was the conversation with him that was important.
CNN: What advice do you have to the American family setting out on the road?
Heat-Moon: Go with a loose sense of destination. Don’t go farther than your time easily allows, and try to move reasonably slowly. We’re a nation of speeders: speeders in all sorts of things; we invented fast food. But speed and good travel aren’t comfortable or useful companions.Speed is anathema to deep travel. If you want to learn the territory between your place of departure and where you end up, you have to have time and use it wisely.
Speed corrupts travel far more than bad Chinese food.
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