It’s a Big Dam Country — Day 2

There were no dams today. There’s a fab­u­lous one on tap for first thing tomor­row but my plans to shoot at sun­set were over­whelmed by my need for din­ner, a show­er, and sleep.

What there was today was US 12 which fol­lows the Clear­wa­ter Riv­er between Lewis­ton ID and Hele­na MT. Total­ly won­der­ful. Except for the 60 miles that are also I‑90 between Mis­soula and Gar­ri­son. But even that was pretty.

First thing got my morn­ing lat­te and then amazed a cou­ple of  lit­tle boys with the robo-car top down thing. Start­ed from Clark­ston and got hap­pi­ly lost in Lewis­ton — end­ed up dri­ving along the riv­er side park. Found my way back to 12 and start­ed up to Lolo Pass. Had a ter­ri­bly blond morn­ing and for­got to get gas in Lewis­ton. Saved by the Thun­der­bird II Trad­ing Post — which is *not* list­ed in the GPS.

At about Mile Post 12 I was dive bombed again. This time by cliff swal­lows. One of the cool things about dri­ving with the top down and not hav­ing to wear a hel­met is that I get to hear birds sing and water splash, etc. On the down side  I spent a cou­ple of slight­ly nau­se­at­ing miles smelling the greasy her­bi­cide that the Ida­ho DOT was spray­ing on the shoulders.

At first the Clear­wa­ter is a broad flat river.

clearwater river
clear­wa­ter river 

Across the riv­er the rail­road tracks run just above the water line.

railroad tracks on the clearwater river
rail­road tracks on the clear­wa­ter river

Some­where ear­ly on I saw a sign that said Wind­ing Road Next 99 Miles. I assume that 99 is the largest num­ber that they can get to fit on the sign… No I did not stop to take a pic­ture. Every­one already has a picture.

At Kami­ah you cross the riv­er and run along it’s east bank. There was  a lot of road work here. Replace­ments of under-road cul­verts and build­ing riv­er bank. They were using an inter­est­ing fill in place rip-rap sys­tem. My request to take pics was met with blank stares and a mum­bled but we can’t let you stop here.

For many miles on either side of the apt­ly named Syringa most of the yards were filled with lilacs all bloom­ing their fool heads off.

There is also this remote barn and house on the oth­er side of the river.

barn on the other side of the river
barn on the oth­er side of the river

So how do you get there? Um, like this?

this is how you get there
this is how you get there

Well, maybe it’s how some peo­ple get there. Not me. I’m afraid of heights *and* I hate water.

Here are a cou­ple more beau­ty shots from the run up to Lolo.

The riv­er gets con­sid­er­ably rougher as you climb.

rough water on the clearwater river
rough water on the clear­wa­ter river

These are next year’s foxgloves.

first year fox glove rosettes
first year fox glove rosettes

At the sum­mit it was 53 degrees and there was still alot of dirty snow lay­ing about.

lolo pass visitors' center
lolo pass vis­i­tors’ center

There’s anoth­er sud­den state line change when you leave the pass and head into Mon­tana. Instead of being in deep canyons you’re in high shal­low basins. Big Sky indeed. Lots of cows. Just scross the bor­der I saw a kid (15?) ona big red quad with a dog perched on the back and black calf on his lap. He start­ed to wave but set­tled for a nod when he real­ized he’d run out of hands.

By the time I made it to Mis­soula I was pret­ty wind blown and beat. The Not Ter­ri­bly Attrac­tive ™ floopy hat that was keep­ing the sun off of my face had bat­tered against my right ear for so long that it hurt as bad­ly as it would have it I had for­gone the hat and got­ten the sun­burn.  I put the top up, set the cruise for 80, head­ed in for the night.

Today’s Route:

View It’s a Dam Big World Day 2 in a larg­er map

About the Author

Lara Harriger

1 Comment

  1. It’s “Wind­ing road next 77 miles” to be exact. 🙂

    I’ve been through there “once or twice” and it’s my favorite road, well out­side of Col­orado or the Alps!

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