Lolo Pass, Idaho
Day 68. When Lewis & Clark returned from their explorations they reported to President Thomas Jefferson that they were unsuccessful in finding a fabled "northwest" water passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. Instead, Captain Lewis wrote that the "most practical route" to the Pacific included 340 miles of land of which "140 over tremendous mountains which for 60 miles are covered with eternal snow."
That route was Lolo Trail, southwest of present day Missoula, that was so densely forested, that the only way to cross it was with an experienced guide.For fifty years it was accepted as the route to the west.
In 1857, while scouting a railroad route, Lt. John Mullen declared the Lolo Trail as "utterly impractical" and predicted that it "can never be converted to any purpose for use of man."
Starting in the 1920, Highway 12 was built to parallel the Lolo Trail. It took forty years of intermittent efforts, including by WW II POWs, to complete the road. The entire highway was paved and opened to motor traffic in 1962.
Today we bike the near forty-five miles from Missoula to Lola Pass, about 5,200 feet in elevation. It marks three major milestones for us.
First, it means we have officially entered into Idaho and we are here to stay until we cross into Oregon. This means we are on our ninth of ten states.
Second, it means we will be following rivers that flow west into the Pacific Ocean. In fact during the descent, there was a sign that read, "Curvy Roads for the next 99 miles."
Third, we have crossed into our last time zone - the Pacific Time Zone. We are now anywhen from one hour to three hours behind the rest of the country.
The ride up was long and hot, but not miserable. I attribute that more to our improved condition. The ride down was just another thrill ride, well worth the slow ascent at 4 to 5 miles an hour. Down, fast and around curves. Our only complaint was the pavement which was cracked and bumpy in places.
Gone are the bare hills, sprinkled a little with trees - the hills here are densely forested. We are entering the Pacific Northwest - home to Sasquatch and salmon and tall cedar trees.
We stopped at a very peaceful grove of cedar trees, called the Devoto Grove after a local Conservationist and Historian who cherished them. Lovely pathways amount these immense trees, and wonderfully cool and clear river that we sat by or (in my case) in to cool off. A lovely break from the heat of the day.
Tonight we are camping at Powell, in a US National Forest Campground. The Lochsa river runs by our camp site and the sound of rushing water will be heaven to my ears once it's bed time. Predictably there are lots of trees and so I will be in the hammock tonight.
There is a lodge up the road, called the Lochsa Lodge. They have an excellent restaurant so our group ate lunch there. I had the Salmon Salad which was really good.
We invited to our table a young thirty year old woman, Amanda, from West Virginia who is soon a self-contained solo tour west. She left Yorktown May, 15 and has been plugging away taking only three rest days thus far (when we have taken nine.)
She is the recipient of a charitable grant from Warrior Expeditions - a non profit that helps combat veterans "hike out of the war." They have supplied her with the bike, the equipment and the maps which are hers to keep after the ride.
She served in combat six months. She has four semesters left and will return to school in August after biking across the country in West Virginia. She wants to do medicine. We were all quite taken with her, and she is a credit to our country and to the Navy.
I joked to John afterwards when he was marveling at her description of all the weapons training that she had, "She had a plan to kill all of us if need be."
Today is Norm's Birthday so Christine bought him a TransAmerica Jersey and I have hidden it in the woods. We will send Norm out on a "mission" that will require him to go to three different places and gather clues that will lead him to his gift on a stump here in the forest.
This is a lovely Campground. No bugs. Lots of shade from cedar and pine trees. The Lochsa River running by makes a wonderful sound to go to sleep.