After a couple of delightful days in Bend, OR, we set off for an overnight in Pendleton, OR, where we met up with Steve and Jill. We got to visit with Daniela and started planning our next two weeks of adventure. Jill had picked our itinerary after reading a book on Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe but we knew little about what awaited us. Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, kept popping into my mind as we were now on a path that did not include any freeways. Rather, we were mostly on two lane highways and several “Oh my goodness” type roads as we traveled through Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. This was one of the few times Mike and I have driven only backroads and that’s why I kept thinking about the poem. We were truly on the roads less traveled and they were beautiful.
Our first stop was Joseph, Oregon. What a neat place. It is called the Lil Alps because it is surrounded by mountains with this little town nestled in the valley below. It is very picturesque and they even have a Swiss festival at the end of September for anyone interested. It is also home to a bronze foundry and the town has many amazing statures along the main street. Lastly, it is the final resting place of senior Chief Joseph who was the father of the famous warrior with the same name. Our journey had begun.
To get out of this valley there was only one route to our next stop, Kamiah, ID, as it included a road called the Rattlesnake Grade. We discussed at great length what we were getting ourselves into until talking to our neighbor (an elderly gentleman who had traveled a lot in the area). He said, “Well it’s paved!” as if to say–what are you knuckleheads worried about!! We ended up loving this part of the road but the best was yet to come. After the grade we ended up in Lewiston and then began following the Clearwater River to our destination. We were able to follow the river for over 60 miles and it was so beautiful. In Kamiah we were parked right on the river for the night. Next we unhooked our trailers and went to find the two battlefields that were located in the area. These included the first skirmishes between the government and the Nez Perce. It started with the government demanding that the Nez Perce leave their homeland. Before they could comply, a small group of angry young men sought revenge on settlers and killed them. Needless to say, the government was not happy and the Nez Perce decided to move. We left Kamiah following the same path they did. We were again following the river and going up and over Lolo Pass. The Nez Perce had set off on this path to find a better location for the confrontation they knew was coming. That confrontation happened just outside of Wisdom, MT in a place called Big Hole. We stopped at this memorial called the Big Hole National Battlefield – it had a great visitor center with so much information. I’m leaving out a lot of this story but it is definitely worth looking into if you are interested.
After that couple of days of scenic driving and almost running out of fuel, we ended up in Dillon, MT. It was a bit nerve racking because there was not a person or fuel station around for the last 2 hours of the drive. Yikes! But we made it with 3 gallons to spare and we were able to enjoyed a stroll through a ghost town! Bannack State Park encompasses an old mining town that started in 1862 and had inhabitants up until the 1970’s. It was very well preserved and Mike and Steve were able to take tons of pictures before the mosquitoes chased us out. We even found a great restaurant called Sparky’s Garage with such great memorabilia including cars you could eat in. We now readied ourselves for our next backroads trek as we were headed into Wyoming to stay near Grand Tetons National Park. This involved a drive over Teton Pass and it was a doozy. Oh my, this was the steepest road we had taken the trailer on and it was all fine until we started down the 4 mile, 10% grade! We probably will be taking another way out. Stay tuned for Grand Teton pictures to come.