Week Three

July 3
July 4
July 5
July 6
July 7
July 8
July 9
Wednesday, July 3, 2002
Awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. When I left for Fort Clatsop, the temperature was 58.

The Fort Clatsop National Memorial is located just south of Astoria and the Columbia River in Oregon. L&C named the Fort after a local tribe that was friendly to them. This is where the Expedition members stayed during the winter of 1805. They started building it on December 8, 1805 from plans Lewis had drawn on an elk skin hide. They were in by Christmas Eve and left on March 23, 1806. The Fort is 50 feet square and has two rows of cabins separated by a parade ground. Opposite the Fort's entrance, at the end of the parade ground, is a guard shack and meat room which was checked once every 24 hours for meat spoilage. There are paths that lead to a spring and a canoe landing. Everywhere was the forest of mighty Sitka Spruce, Cedar, Hemlock (western), and Douglas Fir. Almost all the trees had soft moss-like vegetation hanging from their huge branches. The diameter of some of their bases was around six feet. These trunks tapered very quickly and became quite small near their tops that were about 150 feet from the ground. The soil was a sandy loam with a little bit of clay and was covered everywhere with thick vegetation-mostly in the form of gigantic ferns.

I did some sketching in the fort. I came out to see several large black Labrador dogs that various owners had brought to the fort for demonstrations of obedience training. They were quite large and looked like small bear cubs from certain angles. "Seaman", Lewis's dog that completed the entire journey of over eight thousand miles, was a Labrador. Sketched one of the dogs a few times before the crowd gathered for the demonstration.

The Visitor Center displayed quite an array of books for sale relating to the L&C Expedition. Had lots of Indian artifacts and interesting videos that showed various frontier skills and techniques.

Left Fort Clatsop about 2:30 and stopped in Astoria for a late lunch. While waiting for my food, I decided to travel down highway 101 along the Pacific coast for a while before turning east. Highway 101 was recommended by a fellow motorcyclist that I had talked with at a gas station. I also got out my list of Honda dealers in the Portland area. Made an appointment for the 5th to get the ST's oil and filter changed at Forest Grove Honda in Forest Grove, a suburb of Portland.

Returned to camp and a cold wind. Bundled up and walked on the beach to watch the sunset. It was a molten orange and yellow that was squeezed out between deep purple-gray clouds. Saw what I thought to be many Pelicans. Groups of them flew parallel to the beach in straight lines and flew so low to the water that they occasionally disappeared behind the crashing waves. Rode 84 miles today.

Top

"Bounder", Fort Clatsop

"Foot Vise", Fort Clatsop





Thursday, July 4, 2002
It rained a little last night. Early morning temperature was 56 degrees and mostly cloudy. I packed up the tent wet. Left Fort Canby State Park at 8:45am. Encountered a little rain in the Astoria area as I followed route 101 south along the Oregon coast. The highway hugged the coastline offering up beautiful views of cliffs, rocks, crashing surf, and ocean. Became sunny and warm. There were lots of small towns tailored for tourists. They had the usual antique, boutique, and art gallery shops. A number of the towns were busily preparing for Fourth of July celebrations.

At Tillamook I stopped for a late breakfast at a pancake house. I had to ask for them since there weren't any listed in the menu. The small downtown had numerous vacant buildings that seemed to suggest a less than healthy economy. This was something that I encountered frequently.

Then I headed east on route 6 toward Portland. This took me through the scenic Tillamook State Forest. The road wound through high hills and valleys of thick evergreens and rushing streams. Lots of sweeping curves going up and down. My side of the road had very light traffic but the other side was practically bumper to bumper. Seemed that everyone was headed to the beach for the Fourth.

I stopped at Forest Grove since I had an appointment at the local Honda dealer to have the bike's oil changed the next day. I did 155 miles today.

Top
Friday, July 5, 2002
Forest Grove Honda was quite a small shop. They were servicing two bikes when I arrived at my appointed time. This filled up their shop so they were going to change the bike's oil outside. They also couldn't do it right away. I said that I could do it if they would supply a drain pan. They gave me one and I started to work. I think that it was good I performed the work because I don't believe they service ST1100s too often. The oil draining is a simple matter. It's dismantling some of the body work, to get at the oil filter, that's time consuming and a little difficult. I was on my way in about twenty minutes.

While I was having lunch at a place called "Elmer's", I studied my map and decided to visit Mount Hood. I left the restaurant, which was in a suburb of Portland, and headed east hoping that I would see signs for the roads that were on the AAA map I had. I've never had very good luck with AAA maps when it comes to navigating through large cities. So, of course, I became lost. Stopped at a car dealership and asked directions from two guys who waiting for their cars to be serviced. I made it out of town ok and continued toward Mount Hood. Followed highway 26 southeast. Then followed a secondary road up toward Timberline Lodge. This all-season facility was surrounded by snow. It seemed to be right below the tree line because just further up (about half a mile?) the trees disappeared to allow a fabulous view of the rock and snow summit. I figured that the temperature was around 75-80 and some kids were snow boarding in tee-shirts and shorts. The lodge had four levels and was open in the middle with an atrium. The focal point for this huge space was a massive unit of fireplaces made out of huge stones. Actually, the entire building had an appropriate massiveness from the giant logs and beams to the smaller log handrails on the balconies and stairways. All of this promoted a sense of security and comfort in a, usually, very harsh environment.

Left the mountain and returned down into the heat. Became tired and developed, of all things, a sore throat! Must have been the cold mountain air. Or, perhaps, it might have had something to do with breathing large quantities of exhaust fumes while sitting in a massive traffic jam waiting to enter I-84 east. This highway parallels the Columbia on the Oregon side. Stopped for the night in The Dalles. Wanted to camp by Mount Hood, but all sites were booked. Also need to plan camping more carefully since many of the sites are in isolated areas. Made only 161 miles today.

Top

Mount Hood

Close-Up, Mount Hood

View from Mt. Hood

Stonehenge Replica along the Columbia River

Saturday, July 6, 2002
I left The Dalles after a decent night's sleep. A bright, cloudless, cool morning became an "oven-like" afternoon, but with low humidity. Followed I-84 along the Columbia gorge. The only word I feel that best describes it is "fierce". I am sure some of this has to do with the intense heat and the overall brown color. But, there are no trees, no wildlife, not even birds. In my mind's eye I easily compare it to images I've seen of the Nile. Lots of blue water amidst the parched and lifeless landscape.

I crossed back over to route 14, on the Washington side at the town of Biggs. Route 14 is more fun to ride, has less semi traffic, and offers more places to stop. Like, for instance, Stonehenge. It's a replica that was built out of concrete and erected, I believe, in the 1920s. And, it is a complete structure with all pieces in place - not like the 3400 year-old original Neolithic monument located on the Salisbury Plain in England. On the inner circle of columns were bronze plaques, each with the name and dates of a local boy who was killed in World War I.

I turned off 14 and headed north on I-82/395 toward Pasco, Washington. This is where the Snake River empties into the Columbia. The "furnace-wind" had started its daily routine. Stopped to get gas in Connell and figured I was getting about 42 miles a gallon. Must be the tail wind. Followed route 260 east through a rugged landscape scorched brown. After about 25 miles, I turned south on route 261 which was another wonderful twisting and turning road. Many of the curves could be seen in their entirety as opposed to more dangerous "blind" curves. Arrived at Lyon's Ferry State Park around 2:30 happy and quite thirsty. The park was located at the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers and was divided into two parts by route 261. On one side was a concession stand, swimming beach, and boat launch. This area was well groomed and had green grass and abundant shade under mature Locust and Cottonwood trees. There's a plaque stating that Lewis originally named this river "Drewyers River" after his prized scout and hunter George Drouillard. Both Lewis and Clark spelled it Drewyer repeatedly in their journals. On the other side of the highway were the campsites. Each site was green, thanks to an in-ground sprinkler system. Each also sported a sandy tent area, paved vehicle parking, a picnic table with benches (set in concrete) and a combo firering - grill. Everything else was sagebrush, brown grass, and rocky soil. There were a few trees around the sites but, in the mid-afternoon sun, did not offer much relief. The site I picked had a great view of the Snake and two bridges-one for autos and the other for trains. I don't think that a ferry is used anymore.

That evening I was able to have a small fire made with little sticks I found around the campsite. To start my fire, I had some pieces of newspaper. The fire started but quickly went down. So, I decided to throw some of that dry yellow-brown grass on the fire. It was like poring gasoline on it. I was glad that I hadn't thrown an armload on. I was seriously reminded just how easily and quickly fires can start out west. My fire still didn't last that long. But that was alright because it was still 80 degrees at 10pm. No other campers had a fire going either. Actually, there weren't that many campers that evening. I figured that almost all of them had left after the Fourth.

I took a shower and watched the stars for a while. They were very bright and there was no moon. I could clearly make out the Big Dipper, North Star and the Milky Way. I was about to go to my tent to get my binoculars when I noticed that one of the stars was moving in a straight line. I automatically thought it was a plane. All of a sudden, it stopped for perhaps two or three seconds. Then, it traveled straight up and quickly disappeared. I kept staring at the spot where it had been and saw nothing. Then, I made a mad dash to my tent for the binoculars. Peered up at that area with them and saw even more stars but, of course, none of them were moving. I quickly scanned a larger region around where I had seen it but nothing was moving. In fact, I saw no aircraft at all. I guess that in the east there's just a lot more air traffic. I saw nothing except stars for about an hour after which I went to bed. Laying there, I pondered just what it was I saw. I do believe that there are billions of solar systems in the universe and that some of the systems have intelligent life. However, I just find it hard to believe that we will ever encounter any given the vast distances of space and propulsion limitations. I do understand the potential of anti-matter, ion-propulsion devices, black holes, etc. so maybe… I wondered what L&C would have thought if they had been told, that in the future, carriages would travel at blinding speed without horses, people would fly in tubes that had wings, that one could speak with someone on the other side of the world instantaneously with a little thin box, that another tiny box could record what the world looked like in the blink of an eye, that most ailments could be cured with a pill, etc. So, I wonder. It's a sci-fi sort of thing. Made 256 miles today.

Top

Snake and Columbia Confluence

Pasco, WA

My Camp Near Lyon's Ferry State Park

Sunday, July 7,2002
Left Lyon's Ferry State Park at 7:30am. Temperature 58. Brief but brilliant sunrise. Heavy black clouds came in from the SE where I was heading. I had all my raingear on and encountered a brief shower around the town of Pomeroy, WA. The major part of the storm, complete with spectacular lightening, past to the west before I got there. It wasn't that hot and I got "into" the ride. I was heading for route 12 and intended to camp somewhere along the Lochsa River.

Route 12 was a spectacular ride. I would say that it is one of the best I have ridden on this trip. The rain passed. The sun returned and with it the heat. I mistook a part or location on the map with where I wanted to go so, I had to backtrack about 90 miles. Didn't mind too much since the roads were great. Found a campsite at "Whitehouse" Campground, a State Forest facility. Pit toilet and no water but only $8.00 per night. The campground is named after Corps of Discovery member Joseph Whitehouse who made an entry in his journal stating that after crossing a small pond they ascended a steep mountain. The pond is still there but the only ones crossing it may be just the family of ducks I saw.

I would like to get to the top of these mountains and the L&C Trail. But, I do not think that the motorcycle, with its street tires, could make it. I expect to find out tomorrow.

Top

Lochsa River along Route 12

Horsetail Flowers in Boom

Bitterroot Mountains

Monday, July 8, 2002
I woke up to rain. It was 6:30am. It stopped as I was taking down my tent. There was just light drizzle while I ate my breakfast of pudding, crackers, and an apple. Left the campground at 9am. Stopped up the road, at Powell, for a real breakfast, gas, and trail info. Powell really isn't a town. It's made up of a lodge/restaurant, gas station, cabin rentals, and a ranger station. The power was out but they could still make pancakes and coffee. After breakfast, I asked at the gas station about getting to the top of the mountain and the L&C Trail. Was told to take Parachute Jump road and it would take me to the top. Well, it didn't. The road was blocked by a crane digging it up to replace some drainage pipe. The operator got out and came over and said that the work was scheduled and that the folks below should have known about it. I said that I'd tell them. The road was a nightmare. The rain had made a number of places very slick. There were a number of "tense" moments as my fully loaded and somewhat top heavy street bike slid down the mountain. Went back to Powell and sought advice/help from the ranger station. I asked if there was another way up. I guess that they didn't know about the scheduled work. So, instead of Parachute Jump they suggested Shotgun Road. So, I checked that one out and it did not look good to me - plus it was at least twice as long as the first road. Tried Papoose Creek also but ditto.

I parked the bike alongside this road and decided to go hiking. There was a L&C sign that indicated a foot trail that meandered up into the forest. Since it was raining lightly, I kept my rainpants and jacket on. After a quarter mile, I ditched the jacket behind a tree alongside the trail. It was just too hot to wear. After another quarter mile, the trail made a turn down toward route 12. I was aiming to climb a mountain so I turned and started climbing up the steep grade. At first it was fun, but then the way was blocked by dead fall, branches, and boulders. What began as a whim now became an obsession. I was determined to get to the top. It started raining harder so I put on my yellow poncho which immediately caught on some branches and ripped. After a few more clawed for steps, it was in shreds. So much for "bargain" rainwear. Stopped again to take off my shirt. I had my "art" vest with large pockets for the camera. So, I kept struggling up with my motorcycle pants, hiking shoes, and vest. Never did make it to the top. I finally collapsed on a rock outcrop along the ridge of the mountain. One stretch of the ridge further up was only two feet wide. Once I caught my breath and my heart rhythm became normal, I climbed up along that ridge but there was no top in sight. I turned to the view before me and savored it. Took numerous photos then headed down - picking up my clothes and shredded poncho along the way. There was an ice-cold stream near the motorcycle where I washed off some of the mud on my pants and shirt and the sweat, mud, and blood off me. I meditated on what I had just done and promised myself to count to ten before deciding on anything like this again. Then I headed for Missoula still somewhat disappointed on not reaching the L&C Trail on the top of the mountain.

Checked into a Super 8 in Missoula and later called my wife, Jane. I told her an abbreviated version of my day, my objective, and some options about getting to the Trail. She encouraged me to look into the options. After hanging up, I checked Lolo Trail tours and Car rentals. Rode 78 miles today.

Top

 

 

 

"Mountain Climb" View, Bitterroot Mountains

 

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2002
Called the Lolo Trail Tour people and they charge $128.00 for the drive up, lunch and back to Missoula. There would be a "guide". I did not mention this in my last entry but the rangers told me that most of the trail is blocked with snow. I don't think that I would be seeing much of the trail.

I ended up with renting an all-wheel drive Subaru for $52.00 a day. Transferred all my luggage, including the hard saddlebags to the car and left the bike at the rental company. Stopped at a grocery store for some food and then it was back to the Bitteroot Mountains about 55 miles away. I certainly became familiar with the eastern portion of route 12. I turned up Shotgun Road and encountered quite a rocky surface. In some spots, the mountain rock poked through the road surface. There were piles of sawdust in the road where recently fallen trees were cut and removed. It took 14 miles to reach an intersection with the Trail. I promptly turned onto it and continued up. I was halted, after only a mile and a half by the predicted snow. The drifts across the road were about 3 to 4 feet deep. I very carefully turned the car around, grateful that it wasn't as big as a pickup truck. Returned to the intersection and unloaded the tent, etc. There was a sign that read that the L&C Expedition camped 2/3 of a mile away in a grassy meadow on their return journey. The date was June 28, 1806. Took some of the gear and hiked out to the grassy meadow. What a sight! The mountain meadow was on one side and layers of nearby mountains with snow-capped mountains in the distance on the other side. Explored the meadow for a while then set up the tent in the most level spot. Sun was intense. The altitude was 5842 feet. Hiked back to the car, bundled up the rest of my cameras, food, etc. and returned to the meadow. I started to understand more why people climb mountains. Of course, a major part of it is the challenge of the climb. But, once on top it's something else. It might be described as a closeness with mighty and powerful natural forms and forces. It's also an easy place to pray and meditate. Guess the Tibetan monks figured that out centuries ago.

The sunset was quick but cast an orange glow on the south and eastern mountain ranges. The afterglow lasted a long time and it took until 10:30 before night actually fell. The quiet of that place surpassed any and all my expectations. A cold breeze started to come from the east. It made the small pine outside my tent sway and scratch against it. All sounds were amplified in that total silence. It was a moonless night so the stars were incredibly sparkling bright. No clouds. I started "hearing" things. Were those footsteps? I knew that I was scaring myself. It wasn't too difficult to do since two days before I had read a newspaper account of a tourist who had been shot to death and dismembered. Was that and old pickup truck I heard coming up the mountain? Now I knew just how terrible that ancient punishment of being permanently banned from the clan or tribe really was. To face unknown dangers alone was bad enough, but to deal with ultimate and everlasting loneliness was probably something worse than death. Did not sleep too much.

Top


Week 2       Up       Week 4

A view from near the Lolo Trail

 

Snowdrifts (3 to 4 feet deep) on the Lolo Trail

My camp in the "Grassy Meadow"