On the Path of Lewis and Clark

We’ve spent the last few days immersed in Lewis and Clark, Steve’s favorite explorers. He studied them extensively as a kid and has always been fascinated by their journey. Our time in and around Salmon, Idaho allowed us to dive deeper into the explorer’s story and legacy while soaking in some of the most incredible scenery we’ve ever experienced.

Our base for this part of our trek was the Wagonhammer RV Park in North Fork. Situated just 20 miles north of Salmon, the park gave us easy access to a number of cool excursions. The best part was that our campsite backed right up to the Salmon River and Bob loved the view! (photo)

Our first excursion was Shoup Road, or Forest Road 30 which took us back the second deepest canyon in the US. Following the Salmon River we watched as whitewater rafters were challenged by the rapids and fishermen were searching for the big catch.

One of the highlights of the 40 mile drive was reaching the confluence of the Salmon and the Middle Salmon, an incredible sight. 

Along the way we saw deer and herds of big horn sheep. It was an all-day journey, and we loved every minute…especially the milkshakes at the Ram’s Head Cafe at mile 31!

Our second day was spent following the path of Lewis and Clark to Lemhi Pass. Here’s Steve’s account of the day:

“Our first stop was the Sacajewea Memorial in Salmon. We learned about her invaluable contribution to the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as the culture and habits of her youth before joining the expedition.

We learned a lot and were excited to see the actual terrain that Lewis and Clark, led by Sacajewea, had to get through in order to complete their adventure and mission. Bob even met Seaman, Lewis and Clark’s dog.

“We roughly followed their path, driving up more than 4,000 vertical feet in the 20 or so miles to the highest point and the Continental Divide.

There at Lemhi Pass, having only seen two cars and some cattle on the road, we were surprised to see a group of Native Americans. It turns out that they were descendants of Sacajewea’s tribe, and each year, they hike from the valley to the top of the pass to memorialize the 1905 forced march of their ancestors up the steep hill and over the other side into Montana before boarding a train for their new home on a reservation in Oklahoma.  Their entire community of men, women and children had to hike the same trails as Lewis and Clark’s expedition. This bit of perspective changed our experience from the history book’s version and personalized the impact of America’s expansion west years after the remarkable journey of Lewis and Clark.

“After speaking with the walkers, we descended a short distance down the eastern side of the pass, into Montana and the eastern side of the Continental Divide. We stopped at a pull-out for lunch and a short walk to a spring that is the ultimate headwaters of the Missouri River. I straddled the headwaters just like Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery over 200 years ago. 

“We returned to the road and descended back to the Salmon River Valley, picking up one of the walkers as she hitchhiked back down after her hike up.  The three of us marveled at and discussed the incredible adventure of Lewis and Clark, but she also shared the hardships of her people at the hands of westward expansion. She shared the tears shed and emotions expressed that morning by the walkers, one of whom was 80 and whose parents had been part of the march.

After dropping her at her campsite, Marnie and I marveled at some of the ranches and concluded that those walkers would have been the owners of that beautiful, rich land had they not been displaced by America’s movement west. Instead, since their forced march, they lived in Oklahoma before being relocated once again to a reservation in Southern Idaho.”

On our final day at Wagonhammer we headed north into Montana to the Big Hole National Battlefield.

The site is a memorial to the people who fought and died there on August 9 and 10, 1877. The Nez Perce Indians were fleeing from US Army troops charged with enforcing the US government’s demands that the natives move to a reservation a fraction of the size of their traditional homeland. At the end of the conflict, 29 US troops were dead and 40 more wounded. Over 90 of the Nez Perce mostly women and children were massacred in the ugly attack.

Steve saw it this way: “This again personalized the impact of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. America’s expansion west is littered with cases where the US Government went back on treaties and forced Native Americans to reservations far from their homelands.

Though the Nez Perce in this battle were not ancestors of those we had met the day before, we better appreciated the emotions this battle site brings out. Natives say you can hear wails of tears of those who  perished in the battle, and, as I walked through the area, the wind through the pine trees certainly made a melancholy sound.”

Visiting sites like this makes us realize just how little we know about our nation’s history and how much we can learn from that story. There is so much these conflicts teach us about the plight of those who lived here before us. Unfortunately history seems to repeat itself, even today.

We are down to one phone as Marnie’s died on the battlefield, literally. All photos now are from Steve’s phone until we can get to an area large enough to carry a replacement iPhone. Might be awhile…

Northern Idaho is the Bomb!

Our summer RV adventures continued this week in northern Idaho and boy were we impressed! This place ticked off a lot of our “must haves” in a destination, and we are excited to share the highlights with you.

First we spent the night in a little town called Laclede which is the home to the Riley Creek Blueberry Farm.

Another Harvest Host property, we were able to stay on their grounds with our membership. Stan and Anita, the farmers and owners of Riley Creek, met us with a big smile and encouraged us to roam the farm. We picked blueberries and bought a blueberry pie and jam.

The best part, however, was the beautiful setting. We parked right in the middle of the blueberry bushes, surrounded by wild blackberries, farm animals, and a beautiful garden. With great weather and a few other very nice Harvest Host members, we enjoyed our overnight on the farm. It was hard to leave.

Oh, and there was a tractor!

Our next stop was Coeur d’Alene, and we were lucky to snag a spot at the Blackwell Island RV Park, right on the shores of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene. This was one of the nicer parks we’ve stayed in with sparkling clean laundry facility and a large beach from which to launch a kayak. We kept busy just at the RV park.

Of course, we did venture into the city several times and checked out the town. One morning we biked into town, watched runners of the Coeur d’Alene marathon, and had a cup of coffee.

Steve would have loved to run but we didn’t realize the race, modified for COVID-19, was being held over a three day period while we were there. 

From Coeur d’Alene we headed east along I-90 until we found the cute little historic town of Wallace, Idaho. We hadn’t planned on stopping here but when we learned about the Route of the Hiawatha, we found this town to be a convenient base.  We had no idea what we were in for! Wallace is an old silver mining town where every building in town is in the Registry of Historic Places. In town there is a mining museum, a railroad museum, and a bordello museum—all commemorating the area’s historic past. I did the Sierra Silver Mine tour and learned about the process and history of silver mining in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley.

Meanwhile Steve ran the Pulaski Trail, a two mile hike that commemorates the 1910 fire that ravaged the town and region. 

The real draw to Wallace these days is biking. Almost everyone at the Wallace RV Park where we stayed was doing the Route of the Hiawatha. Considered the “crown jewel” of America’s rails-to-trails routes, the Route of the Hiawatha follows the abandoned Milwaukee railroad grade.

Over the 15-mile downhill route we passed through ten tunnels and seven sky high steel trestles with sweeping views of the Bitterroot Mountain range. The adventure begins with the 1.7 mile long Taft tunnel which required us to use our lights and traverse through darkness. A little scary, but super fun!

Most do the Hiawatha in one direction and take a shuttle back to the beginning. It’s an easy, leisurely ride with interpretive signs along the way that inform about the development of the railroad and the area. Steve had planned to ride back up, get the car, and then come get me. Once we learned the drive to the finish took almost as long as the bike ride due to the terrain, and after seeing the crowds waiting for the shuttle, I decided to give the uphill return trip a try.

It was a long 15 miles uphill but rewarding to finish. Plus, we got to see the route from the other direction and really savor the experience. We even met a nice deer along the trail–probably because by that time there were few bikers on the trail.

Four hours on the bike over 30 miles was the most I’d done in a while!

Running right through Wallace and adjacent to our campground was the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Another rail-to-trail, this one runs through the Silver Valley from the Montana border to Coeur d’Alene.

Each day we enjoyed this relatively flat paved trail for a few miles in each direction. We keep saying, “Why doesn’t Arizona have trails like this?” 

One other interesting fact about Wallace: it’s the Center of the Universe. Supposedly a few of the locals decided it was so and they say that it is that way until proven otherwise. They even have a manhole cover in the main intersection to declare it. It must be so!

We’re now heading into Montana and then south to central Idaho for more fun. 

Leavenworth to Spokane with Santa’s Reindeer

Sometimes when you travel you stumble upon things you would never expect. Heck, that’s why we travel. But we never expect reindeer to be part of the story. Recently we spent time in Leavenworth, Washington as part of our Pacific Northwest roadtrip. As before we were based at a Thousand Trails campground. This one was quite a drive from the closest town, Leavenworth, but the surrounding area was spectacular. 

While in the area we took a day trip to Chelan, one of Washington’s premier resort towns. On the south shore of Lake Chelan, this town is all about the water. We checked it out, had a picnic, and then found ourselves at a local cidery to try out the local stuff. On our way to this area, about 75 miles from our campground, we drove through miles and miles of nearly ripe apple orchards. The cider, made locally, comes from those fields. Yes, we bought a few bottles to bring home!

One of the big highlights of our time in Leavenworth was a visit to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. While normally a holiday event, the local herd was happy to greet us and the local family that runs the farm told us all about the reindeer. Did you know a reindeer is really a domesticated caribou? We were introduced to each and every member of the herd and given a chance to feed them. These were some very friendly reindeer! We even had a chance to meet the farm’s flock of chickens.

Leavenworth is a German-themed tourist town, and it was packed the day we went to explore. In an effort to avoid the crowds, we just hit the local brewery and a nearby winery. We would definitely return to this area as there is so much to do. 

After a few days in Leavenworth we drove about four hours east to the Spokane area. Our first stop was at Walter’s Fruit Farm, a Harvest Host property, which allowed us to park in their field.  Along with one other RVing couple who parked next to us, we enjoyed the beautiful farm views and visited a local brewery that was just down the road. This area north of Spokane is called Green Bluff and has over 20 farms open to the public. Fruit and vegetables of all kinds were available right out of the ground. Too bad we were only there one night!

We heard there was great biking in the area and it did not disappoint! Twice we drove from our Thousand Trails campground to Spokane to explore the 37-mile, paved Spokane River Centennial Trail. The trail begins at the Idaho border and runs through Spokane to Riverside State Park alongside the Spokane River. First we focused on the downtown Spokane portion and took in Spokane Falls and the many bridges that cross the river.

On the second day we headed to Riverside State Park and jumped on the trail again. Views of Spokane and the Spokane River were incredible, and if we had more time, we would have covered more miles on this gem of a trail.

Some folks have been asking how we spend our “downtime” while on the road.  Well, Steve is sticking to his exercise routine and either biking or running from the campsite every day.  That gives me time to write, clean up, or pursue my newest “hobby,” needlepoint! I type that with sarcasm because I really don’t know what I’m doing but it’s been fun to fiddle with something while icing my foot. I can’t say this is going to be a life-long hobby but it’s kept me busy.

We’re headed east into Idaho next. Stay turned for more pretty scenery pictures and probably more reports of breweries!