In the Shadow of Lewis and Clark

Through the Bitterroot Mountains
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If you choose to make a loop, you could pedal it the way I did on my second time through, beginning in the east at the Powell Ranger Station on Colt Killed Creek (yup, you guessed it; the expedition had horse meat for dinner) and spending a night at the campground there or high on the hog at nearby Lochsa Lodge. The lodge sports rustic cabins and a restaurant replete with hearty food and the Western wall art of bear, fox, moose, Rocky Mountain sheep, and bull elk mounts. I camped out but spent the evening at the restaurant, losing myself in Lewis's journal entries and attempting, unsuccessfully, to hide my steak from the unblinking gaze of all those black glassy eyes.

The next morning my friends and I faced away from the rising sun and began the stiff six-mile climb up Parachute Hill on Forest Service Road 569 and through a deep forest that put me more in mind of Hansel and Gretel than of Lewis and Clark. (FS 569 meets U.S. 12 about three miles west of Powell Ranger Station.) Our road topped out on the ridge line followed by the explorers across the Bitterroot Mountains. There we paused, drained entire water bottles, ate all the provisions we'd intended for our lunch, and turned westward on the one-lane, all-dirt but well-maintained Lolo Trail.

For three days we dipped and climbed along a relatively unwashboarded path, zooming down hillsides and slowly pulling our way back up, enjoying vistas of hundreds of square miles of untouched forest, and now and again stopping to read historical markers and looking up the journal entries made two centuries ago exactly where we stood. "Horse Sweat Pass," "Horse Steak Meadow," "Hungery Creek"—these were the most difficult miles and times of the entire journey, when food was scarce.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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