Daily miles – 90. Total miles – 1390.
The Lochsa River – highway 12 was following the Clearwater River. Around Kooskia, the road switched to following the Lochsa. We’ve driven this section before in the car and recalled it being pretty outrageously beautiful. From the bike, it exceeded the memory and totally flipped our wigs! The land north and south of this 70 mile section of road is wilderness for many miles and the river is designated as a wild and scenic river. Unreal!
In planning this trip, we explored several possible routes – desert southwest, Colorado Rockies, and settled on the route we are currently following. Once that decision was made, including a stopover in Lolo Montana, we remembered driving up the Lochsa befoe and, in some real sense, this stretch became the backbone of the trip. We’ve been anticipating it through the whole ride and all the planning beforehand.
The riding started out easy for 23 miles to Lowell. We ducked onto the wilderness cafe for a piece of pie alamode and coffee – perfectly appropriate for 1030 am methinks! They had a home-made blackberry/blueberry/marionberry pie. Fuhgettaboutit! This little break provided the fuel for a totally scenic gradual climb up the river for the next 70 miles.
The climb along the river was totally gradual, allowing us to gently make our way. The wind was calm, although occasionally gave us a push or went against. Traffic was mellow and, despite it being Memorial Day, there were not huge numbers of vacationers and the trucks again remained courteous and never crowded or threatened us. There were quite a few kayaks and rafts out enjoying the big flow. While it was 10,000 cfs and looked big to us, but a kayaker we met told us the week before it had been 20,000 cfs!!!
So throughout the day we soaked it all in. We were told it had rained for 48 hours straight until just before we arrived with our little sun patch still following us. A couple times Earl the weather god coaxed us into putting on our gear, but he was just messing around with us. Maybe he was sipping the bourbon offering brother Joshua kindly gave him last week.. It never rained significantly and we just enjoyed cool, partly sunny skies, light playing off the clouds, trees, and river with its insane hydraulic jumps and turbulence. We passed several campgrounds and settled on the one in Powell, as close as possible to the steepening portion of the climb up and over Lolo Pass into Montana to shorten the riding tomorrow morning.
Powell is among the places where Lewis and Clark camped both on the going and returning portions of their trip. As much as they have become a symbol, justifiably, or the oppression brought to Native people here, it is still amazing that they comleted their journey through this rugged country before the roads, services, maps, all that. Awesome.