Maybe it’s the feeling of being closer to the sky.
It always makes me feel more alive somehow.
On a recent evening my dog and I rested in the camper as a Bitterroot Mountain thunderstorm sent moody, powerful rumbles cascading down the slopes. Pouring rain pounded the camper van as huge, ancient Ponderosa Pines swished in the wind. Since my black lab is not afraid of thunder and lightning, she dozed through it. To me, the commanding reverberations seemed to say: “Never forget, I am in charge.”
We slept peacefully at Indian Trees campground, 5,000 feet above sea level on the shoulders of Lost Trail Pass. Montana’s Lost Trail Hot Springs is just down the road. It was a short but sweet birthday camping trip to Idaho’s Lemhi Valley. The next day, it was on to Tendoy, Idaho for a tour of the Lewis and Clark Back Country Byway and Adventure Road. Here:
I have been wanting to see the Lemhi Valley for years. The only building in Tendoy is the Tendoy Store, where 96-year-old Viola still helps customers find everything from bolts to clothes to unique postcards. She is a treasure! Give a listen to this:
…here are some great photos of Vi and her eclectic store:
Not far up the gravel byway, among the silent sagebrush, is Sharkey Hot Springs.
I spent most of the afternoon there, lounging and soaking and sunning. Aaaaah! This place is wonderful. The BLM has done a great job making Sharkey Hot Springs clean, serene, and relaxing. There are two hot soaking pools, restrooms, changing rooms, picnic tables, a large group fire ring, and a parking area. It’s named for B.F. Sharkey, an early settler of Lemhi County.
After soaking, I drove up and over Lemhi Pass. I couldn’t do the whole Byway loop, since the camper is not a high clearance four-wheel-drive. I thoroughly enjoyed the ribbon-y gravel road as it wound its way up to the pass. This area is not only part of the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail, it’s also the birthplace of Sacajawea. Up on the pass there is a gorgeous memorial to her. I loved it!
Lemhi Pass is a National Historic Landmark. Here, you can trace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and enjoy the Continental Divide Trail. This is one pass that is still remote and natural, offering travelers a chance to see what the Lewis and Clark Expedition witnessed on foot and horseback those many years ago. The backcountry pass, which marks the boundary between Idaho and Montana, features intriguing signs that help tell the story of the pass. The windswept vistas and historic information are awe-inspiring. There are picnic tables and fantastic hiking. Lemhi Pass, at 7,323 feet above sea level, is a rounded saddle in the Beaverhead Mountains of the Bitterroot Range.
Here, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition first saw the headwaters of the Columbia River, which flows to the Pacific Ocean, and crossed what was then the western boundary of the United States. It was a point of hopeful anticipation, as Lewis and Clark looked forward to meeting the Shoshone and trading for horses to continue their journey. But the explorers faced crushing disappointment as they realized that a navigable waterway to the Pacific would not be found among these rugged mountains that stretch westward as far as the eye can see.
Crossing Lemhi Pass today, the landscape is very much like it was 200 years ago. The native sagebrush and bunch grasses are edged with patches of douglas-fir and lodge pole pine. Looking west from Lemhi Pass, distant ranges of steep, rocky mountains look like an impenetrable barrier. It can snow any time and wicked thunderstorms are likely in the summer.
This is inspiring country, with inspiring thunderstorms.
Just to the south is Bannock Pass, part of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.
Studying the 1877 Flight of the Nez Perce gives me goosebumps. And guess what? The famous Nez Perce Chief, Joseph, was really named Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain. What sort of man must he have been, to have earned that name?
It comes back full circle. There is plenty of inspiration to go around on Lemhi Pass.
Learn more about Chief Joseph here: http://www.biography.com/people/chief-joseph-9358227
Watch and listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBo80i3Md-c
(Please check out Maggie Plummer's unique historical novels under the "Home" tab or on Amazon.com ... thanks!)