I didn’t get too far out of Missoula when the sun started to dip behind the mountains. So I grabbed a small cabin in the cute little town of Darby just an hour outside of the Idaho border and the continental divide.
Eager to spend a little time on the trail of Lewis & Clark. I was nearly 200 years from the day when on September 3, 1805 Lewis & Clark braved up the North Fork of the Salmon River looking for a way to cross the divide:
Tuesday, 3rd Sept. 1804…went up and down rout rockey mountains all day…Some of the horses fell backwards and roled to the bottom. Some placed oblidged to cut a road for to git along thro thickets… Several Small Showers of rain. So we lay down wet hungry and cold came with much fatigue 11 miles this day.
To this date it is a mystery to where the expedition crossed the continental divide. And in 1935 The Montana Georgraphic Board named Lost Trail Pass in recognition of the Lewis and Clark’s expedition. For me I would cross the Continental Divide twice before lunchtime today. On Clark’s return we do know that he crossed the divide at Gibbon’s Pass which until was the primary travel route for both Indians and settlers. And until the 1930’s Gibbon’s pass was the road over the mountains until US Highway 93 was carved out of the mountain sover Lost Trail pass.
Getting to Gibbon’s Pass requires taking narrow dirt roads through rocky forested lands. But I set my sights on the Lost Trail and Gibb
on’s pass. The Ranger at the Lost Trail Pass interpretive center demonstrated some of the tools the expedition might have carried and how they were used. I was fascinated and eager to let my imagination drift and to see the land as Lewis & Clark might have. But what took days if not weeks for them to complete, I did twice in a morning.
Through a dirt parking lot, down a narrow road, pass snowmobile trail markers, up gravelly hills I ventured toward Gibbon’s pass. At one point I took branch road which I thought the Ranger direct me to do. Soon I was on a single track trail going steep up granite rocks. It was quite the task to turn my bike with its big load. But diligence patience and about 10 solid minutes of rocking, pushing and maneuvering I was headed back toward the other forest service road. Whew.
I passed through a huge meadow and then up to Gibbon’s Pass. Perhaps anticlimatic save my imagination of a hundred horses and men crossing that meadow on their way back to St. Louis. I got off the bike and took a short hike.
I eventually connected with highway 43 where I crossed the divide again over Chief Joseph Pass and then winding full circle back to the Ranger station.
For the rest of the morning and afternoon I followed the Salmon River and Bitterroot Mountains through Gibbonsville, North Fork until finally resting in Salmon in the early afternoon. With so much history and heritage in this area I was overwhelmed what to do. Eager to make time to get south of the border, I still didn’t want to simply blast through the western states. Here the home of Sacajawea, the female Indian who served as Lewis & Clark’s guide and interpreter as they made their legendary journey. Then there’s Big Hole Battlefield and the glory of the Salmon River.
I pulled into a BBQ place in Salmon to review the maps, guidebook and come up with a plan. When I reached into my riding jacket to pay for my meal I was struck with an incredible sense of panic and anxiety. I started patting myself down. I stepped outside and patted down the bike. I scratched my head. The owners of the restaraunt called the Ranger station.
For the third time during this trip, I couldn’t find my wallet. But this time it was worse. I was REALLY gone. Fortunately, I had contingency plan. There was only about $50 in the wallet and one credit card. There was my license, but I had a back up of this too. Hate to resort to backups when I’m not even out of the country.
After coming up emplty at the gas station I just fueled I figured I dropped it either at the ranger station or Gibbon’s Pass — the only place I got off my bike save quick stop on the dirt road to take a picture. That dirt road loop was about 50 miles and it was another 60 or so back to the Lost Trail Ranger Station. I was committed. I’m going to find the wallet.
I raced back down that same road. Looking around every bend and along side of the road for a flash of black that might be my wallet. I got to the Ranger Station. Nothing. Then 50 more miles of dirt road. I looked up the road to where I did my u0turn on the single track. Nah. It’s not there. I took the walk around Gibbon’s pass on the continental divide. Nothing. Back over the Chief’s Pass. Nothing.
That would be crossing the continental divide four times in one day. But my wallet was gone. Beaten and abused I took the windy road back to Salmon, Idaho. I sulked in my room and beat myself up at my stupidity and lost wallet. I remembered Ft. St. John and finding my wallet floating in the toilet. Good luck evaded me today. And I’m less than three hours outside of Missoula.