Hooray for AWD

Monday, October 28, 2002 Road Junkies 0 Comments

LEWIS & CLARK, Chapter 8:  
Day 8: Missoula, MT to Richland, WA.  It was 35° when we left Missoula around 8 a.m. to follow the Lolo Trail through the Bitterroot Mountains back into Idaho.  Snow was in evidence on the mountains this morning, and more began falling shortly after we got onto the trail, also known as US-12. (pictured above)
The Lolo Trail was different from other east-west 19th century American trails.  It did not witness a flood of cross-country migration like the Oregon Trail.  There were no covered wagons here.  Unmapped and shifting over time, the Lolo Trail penetrated such formidable terrain that it was passable only with the aid of someone who had traveled it before or with a knowledge passed from one generation to the next.
Long before the Lolo became a route for explorers, it was an American Indian trail.  Lewis and Clark would have been lost on the trail without the aid of their Native guides.  On June 27, 1806, Clark wrote in his journal:  "...Stupendous mountains principally covered with snow like that on which we stood; we are entirely surrounded by those mountains from which to one unacquainted with them it would have seemed impossible ever to have escaped..."
Snow-covered Bitterroot Mountains
As we climbed up toward Lolo Pass, there was more and then much more snow along the roadside, especially at the highest elevation (5,233 feet).  The visitor center at the top was closed for the season.
Visitor center entrance road
Going down into Idaho, the light snowfall changed over to rain.  There was still plenty of snow by the roadside and on the mountains as well as patches of slush on the road.  The rain, thankfully, was very light.  We have certainly been thankful to be in a vehicle with AWD (all-wheel drive) today; it has served us very well.
We have seen several large osprey nests balanced at the tops of tall dead trees along the roadside today.  Autumn was making its presence known in the stunning yellow, gold and orange leaf colors.  Like yesterday, we found the scenery in Idaho breathtakingly beautiful.  One gorgeous vista follows another around the next curve in the road.
The Continental Divide was very evident today when we saw a river in Montana flowing in one direction and another in Idaho flowing in the opposite direction.  Shortly after passing into Idaho, we came upon the DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove.  Named for historian and conservationist, Bernard DeVoto, whose works include edited versions of the Lewis and Clark journals, the old growth cedar forest was here long before the historian or the explorers.  Some older trees in the forest are estimated to be more than 2,000 years old.
Dwarfed by ancient trees in the DeVoto grove
As we descended down the mountains, the road was equipped with "slow vehicle turnouts."  Signs indicated that if three or more vehicles accumulate behind your car, you are obligated to use the turnout to allow them to pass.
Great strategy with gawking tourists & locals using the same road
The Lochsa River was our roadside guide down the Lolo Trail as US-12 parallels its path.  At the Idaho border, we passed into Pacific Time and gained an hour.  Near Kooskia, the river grew much wider but remained quite shallow.  Leaving Kooskia we picked up the Clearwater River, Lewis and Clark's passage to the Snake and Columbia.
Lochsa River, Clearwater National Forest
We stopped at the Lewis and Clark Canoe Camp on the river near Orofino and the nearby Nez Perce National Historic Park visitor center at Spalding.  Both had excellent exhibits. After all the gorgeous scenery, we left Idaho only reluctantly.  Appropriately for this trip, we drove from Lewiston, ID, to Clarkston, WA, on US-12.
The dun-colored Palouse Hills near Clarkston, WA
Because of state budget problems, Lyons Ferry State Park, our first Washington destination, was closed when we arrived.  We parked outside the gate and walked in to have a look at the Palouse River.  Walking in the grass, we noticed an unusual amount of unidentified animal scat.  Ken suspected Canada geese, and sure enough as we walked a bit further we spotted a large flock of these immigrants out for a stroll.  According to the sign, the park closed on October 1, and apparently the geese have taken over since then.
Next on our agenda was Palouse Falls State Park near Lyons Ferry, where we saw the Palouse River drop 198 feet over the cliffs of Lower Palouse Canyon.  Leaving the park, we enjoyed a lengthy beautiful Washington sunset before arriving at Richland for the night.
Palouse Falls
Miles Today:  380
States Today:  3 (MT, ID, WA)
Ken on Lolo Trail roadside
Palouse Hills
Washingtonian expresses opinion about park closures
Camas Prairie, Washington
Palouse River Canyon