Part Three of Four
By Mark Bradley
In my journey west along the Lewis and Clark Trail through North Dakota and Montana I found much of the landscape had been radically altered by the hand of man. Dams now harness the power of the mighty Missouri River and modern towns and infrastructure have grown up along it. I’m sure most of it would be unrecognizable to the Corps of Discovery if they were to revisit today.
Then I crossed the border into Idaho on scenic highway US 12, and was amazingly transferred back to the wilderness and wild rivers that remain virtually the same as when Lewis & Clark struggled along the Lolo Trail to enter the state by horseback 200 years ago.
If you wish to travel the Lolo Trail today by horse, I recommend an outfitter to guide you along the very same paths as Louis and Clark. Located in the Clearwater Forest near the legendary Lolo Trail, Triple O Outfitters have operated for over twenty years offering camping, hunting, fishing, biking, horseback riding and snowmobiling in the Bitterroot Mountains any time of the year. www.tripleo-outfitters.com.
However, choosing the comfort of my Oldsmobile over a saddle and after a brief stop at the Idaho Visitor Center, I began the Continental Divide decent by following the Lochsa River. For miles one follows the whitewater rapids and unspoiled Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area comprised of over 1.5 million acres or slightly larger than the state of Delaware. http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/bitterroot/recreation/wilderness/selway_bitterroot.htm
Today, the rugged state of Idaho is nearly 70 percent US government land, most of it in the form of national forests and designated wilderness areas according to Peter Grubb, Founder and President, of River Odysseys West.
Peter and his partner Betsy Bowen would be my hosts at their newly opened River Dance Lodge on the Clearwater River (www.riverdancelodge.com) and offered me the opportunity to experience first hand their specialty- whitewater rafting- all of which I enjoyed and survived as you’ll notice the adventure continues.
I was feeling the affects of this long journey and the friendly staff at the Syringa Café stepped in and answered my prayers with my favorite Idaho food- no, not the famous potato, but fresh rainbow trout. Served blackened and pan fried along with an excellent Spanish wine it wasn’t long and I was in heaven.
At River Dance Lodge, the brand new handcrafted log cabins have private hot tubs and I had just enough time to take a dip before drifting off into dreams of the river adventures on the horizon.
After a breakfast of huckleberry pancakes (carb loading for rafting) we were outfitted in skin tight wetsuits and safety helmets and transported by bus to the put-in spot for our whitewater rafting experience.
River Odysseys West or ROW (www.rowinc.com) have been running whitewater rivers for over 23 years and today ROW runs more Idaho rivers than any other outfitter. They offer top notch equipment and guides and I would soon know how important that was as we entered the first of a series of churning, whitewater rapids.
The first hour or so the Lochsa (Indian word meaning “rough water” surged beneath us at a Level 3. Rapids are rated in degrees of difficulty ranging from 1 to 5 with the lower number being the easiest and 5 being nearly impassable. I quickly found out Level 3 was more than a float trip down a lazy Midwestern River but we were told the real fun lay ahead in the Level 4 rapids.
After we landed our rafts on an island, the guides prepared an excellent lunch of chicken pitas and we all pondered how we would do in the rapids ahead with names like the Grim Reaper and Widow Maker.
We survived the first of the afternoon rapids with only an occasional paddler overboard but then we heard the roar around the river bend and helplessly watched the raft ahead of us swallowed up by the Grim Reaper.
Then it was our turn and, without warning as we hit the deep hole, a massive wall of water swept five of the seven paddlers (including the guide) into the thunderous torrent. I and one other paddled furiously to maintain our position and quickly the guide had scrambled back aboard and was pulling the others back onto the raft.
Besides a few cuts and scrapes and a good drink of river water, none were worse for the wear. This Level 4 rapid had taught us the power of whitewater and provided us with a day none of us would ever forget.
There were still miles to go before I slept that night and cell phone service was not available in the deep mountains nor usually state and national parks, as I emerged on the outskirts of Lewiston ID (across the Snake River from Clarkston WA) I stopped to check my voicemail.
A police officer pulled over to check out my Illinois plates, and asked where I was headed. This was convenient as I needed directions to my hotel.
“No problem- just follow me into town”, he said.
I felt like a slightly soggy VIP as our police escort led us to the Comfort Inn for that night.
Now only one state remained on my Final Four list of states I hadn’t visited- Oregon. I looked forward to finally reaching the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail at Fort Clatsop near present day Astoria OR where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific but I would find Oregon and the Pacific Northwest have much more to offer. My Great Western Adventure reaches a surprising conclusion in the next chapter.
Recipe courtesy Multnomah Falls
* 2 cups flour
* 3 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* 2 tablespoons oil
* 1 cup milk
* 4 ounces huckleberries, fresh or frozen, plus extra, for serving
* Whipped butter and maple syrup, as an accompaniment
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Then, stir in eggs, oil, and milk until mixed. Do not beat the mixture.
Pour 2 to 6 ounce ladles of batter on a lightly oiled griddle. Then, add 1 ounce of huckleberries to each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
Place the pancakes on a large plate. Then garnish with huckleberries, whipped butter, and hot maple syrup.