In our last post we started our journey following the Corps of Discovery when they were attempting to cross the Rocky Mountains thinking that it was just one set of mountains they had to climb. When they first got to the top of the Bitterroot Mountains near today’s Salmon they had a rude awakening--lots of peaks and lots of ranges extending as far to the west as they could see. The Shoshone supplied the Corps with a guide who led them over Lost Trail Pass at about 7000 ft. into the Bitterroot Valley and then to Traveler’s Rest before they would again cross the Bitterroots, as well as the continental divide at Lolo Pass. We visited Traveler’s Rest 2 years ago which you can read about here.
|The Bitterroot plant - 1 inch across|
The Corps named the mountains for a local flower, the roots of which the Indians ate and offered to the Corps to eat. The Corps thought they tasted bitter. One can’t tell the size of the flower or root from a picture. They are actually quite small. The flowers were about an inch in diameter and the roots about ¼ to ½ inch. In length.
We easily crossed over Lost Trail Pass in our RV going north on US Hwy 93. We stayed in Darby, a small town in the upper
Bitterroot Valley. The area is not as settled and crowded as near Missoula and the mountains are taller and more jagged. It gave us a little more of the “feel” of what Lewis and Clark experienced. Had we wanted to really get that experience we could have made the trip on foot, but I’m not that much of a stickler for
In late June there was still some snow on the mountains, but the days were starting to get pretty warm. One hot day we drove to Lake Como (a reservoir), a pretty little lake with a swimming beach. Even though it was a week day, school was already out and the parking lot holding about 20 cars was full so we had to forego a swim. We were amazed at how much water was flowing over the spillway of the dam, ultimately feeding the Bitterroot river.
|Swimming beach at Lake Como|
|The front of the Daly Mansion|
We spent one day touring the Daly Mansion. Marcus Daly was a copper magnate from Anaconda. He bought the land around Darby originally for the
forest to make charcoal for his Anaconda smelter to refine the copper ore he was pulling out of the ground in Butte. After the forest was cleared, he planted the land to supply food for his employees (for a fee, of course). He loved the Bitterroot valley and built the mansion as his summer home and also designed the town of Hamilton where the home is located.
|Nineteenth century opulence|
On another day we drove to the Big Hole Battlefield. We first came across the Nez Perce tribe when we drove over the Chief Joseph Hwy to the Beartooth Hwy our first year on the road as full time
The visitor center at Big Hole
RV’ers. You can find that information here. Last year, when touring Idaho, we came across the Nez Perce National Historic site near Lewiston, ID. Back in 1876, some of the Nez Perce tribe members were trying to escape from the pursuing US Army after some settler conflicts in Oregon. When they came to the area near the Big Hole River, down & east from the Lost Trail Pass they thought they had run far enough that the Army would lose interest and forget about them. However they had run right across the path of another army unit that was on the hunt for them. Early one morning the army quietly snuck up on the indian position and, right about dawn, they attacked. The Nez Perce warriors were taken by surprise, but they were excellent fighters and soon rallied and drove the whites back until the army troops were trapped up against a small copse. While the Army sent for reinforcements, the Nez Perce snuck away again. Ultimately on their journey, however, Chief Joseph had to surrender because they ran out of food and were finally run down a scant 40 miles from escaping across the Canadian border.
The Big Hole Battlefield