Saturday 17 May 1997 - We planned to see a little new country on our drive to New Hampshire this year. Lolo Pass, the route taken over the mountains by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, had always intrigued me. So, from Gresham, we went east to Walla Walla, Washington, then on to Lewiston, Idaho, and up the Clearwater River to Orofino. It has been very warm (high 80s-low 90s) everywhere this past week, with resultant major snow melt, and rivers everywhere are at or above flood stage.  The Snake at Clarkston was amazing - bank to bank, with tremendous amounts of debris, logs, etc.  Today was sunny; but only in the 70s.

   This is the first time I’ve been in Orofino since visiting relatives in the '50s.  We saw in the phone book that my Uncle Russell still lives in Kamiah.

   Sunday 18 May 1997 - Another sunny, 70s day.  Comedy of errors - after the fact, not while it was going on!  We left Orofino about 0600 and started east through the Clearwater gorge.  The water was very close to the road, and the canyon is very narrow, and I had almost a panic attack driving through.  It was really claustrophobic for me, and I had wild imaginings about washed out roads.  What was especially scary was that we hadn’t seen any other vehicles after leaving Orofino. I kept looking for side roads where we might turn off and gain a few feet of elevation, anyway. There weren’t any. Every mile we went up the canyon, I imagined (or maybe not) the water reaching higher and higher toward us.

   With great sighs of relief, we got through the canyon, but beyond Kamiah we found that the road over Lolo Pass really was washed out. I was too afraid to go back north they way we had come, leaving our only option to go west on Route 13 to Grangeville. From there we thought we could go south to Boise and pick up Interstate 84.  However, when we got to Grangeville, we discovered that the road to Boise was washed out, as well. Again, we were left with one option, to go north on U. S. 95 to Lewiston – in other words, back where we had started yesterday afternoon. 

   Remembering the look of the Snake River yesterday, and the Clearwater today, I had visions of not being able to go north from Lewiston, either, but it was okay and we eventually got to Coeur d’Alene and then on over Lookout Pass to Deer Lodge, Montana.  The only consequences of the adventure were a 200-mile side trip loop from Lewiston to Lewiston, and losing half a day’s travel east (we had hoped to get to Billings).

   Apparently the Lolo Pass washed out last night after we got to Orofino. There may have been warning signs at Lewiston, but none at Orofino. The washout at Riggins (our way to Boise) had  also just occurrred.  The Boise route is expected to be closed 48 hours or so; the Lolo Pass road is completely gone for quite a stretch.

   The hot weather last week has really brought on the vegetation.  Lilacs and other flowering shrubs were at their peak in the Idaho Panhandle, and there were nice areas of blue camas, mules’ ears, etc.  We saw quite a few ospreys yesterday and today; also 1 coyote.

Postscript: Lolo Pass, at last

 Thursday 27 August 2009 – Got away from Gresham about 11:30, and drove to Lewiston, Idaho. Clear, calm, very hot. It was still in the 70s when we left Gresham (eventually got into the low 90s, there), stayed in the 80s to Walla Walla, then warmed quickly and stayed above 100 (mostly 104-105, peak 106) for the next two hours. It was still over 100 when we got to Lewiston. But the Xterra did fine, and it was okay in the car with the air conditioner.

   On the way we saw quite a few ospreys and turkey vultures; nothing else of note.

   Friday 28 August 2009 – Lewiston to Belgrade, Montana, via Lolo Pass. We had wanted to drive Lolo Pass for years, ever since we got turned back by raging water and washed out roads in the spring of 1997. It is a very pretty drive along the Clearwater and Loscha rivers to the summit of the pass, but the summit area itself is a disaster area because of clear-cut logging (and maybe fire damage; hard to tell, it is so devastated). We were delayed about an hour going over that route by miscellaneous construction tie-ups.

  It was in the 60s overnight in Lewiston, mostly 70s on the Lolo Pass road, then 80s and occasional 90s (high of 91) to Belgrade. A few very light sprinkles around Butte. Otherwise, clear and calm.

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