Adventure 02 – Lolo Trail, Idaho pt. 2

This blog entry documents the second day of our Lolo Trail trip & the jPod’s first off-road adventure with Nathan & Erin, Carl, and our family.  If you haven’t read about the trail & the day one report, visit it here:  Part 1

Day 2

Camping at Rocky Ridge Lake
Camping at Rocky Ridge Lake

The morning of day two was a bit cooler than the previous day.  After spending several weeks in 100 degree weather, I welcomed the 60 degree range but still didn’t want to get out of bed.  The queen sized memory foam mattress in the jPod held me for a long time.  Finally, Senior Management with the two dogs (i.e. Cougar Bait) emerged from the jPod.  When we got up, we found Carl’s truck but no Carl.  He apparently went missing.

He came wandering into camp a few minutes later with huckleberries in his stomach and the story of meeting a bear who was also picking berries.  Relieved that it didn’t follow him back to camp, we set our minds to making breakfast.  For Senior Management this meant getting the rice cooking & some eggs.  For me it meant going out into bear country to gather huckleberries.  Once I had about 1/2 a cereal bowl full of berries, I came back to camp & we ate a tasty meal of huckleberry rice with sugar & milk, cantaloupe, coffee, & an egg.  Now that is camping!

When we opened the galley to get to the cooler & food, I found some water had leaked in & stained the counter top.  This was mildly frustrating for me because I knew exactly what had gone wrong.  At one point in the build, I had removed part of the the galley hinge to do some work on the roof trim.  When I reattached that part of the hinge, I forgot to reseal it with some silicone.  Luckily, I packed a case full of tools, including silicone, and repaired the galley hatch that morning.

After breakfast we took our time packing up & preparing for more travel on the trail.  To compensate for the bouncing of the jPod the day before, Nathan & I aired the tires on the jPod down to 14 psi.  Eventually, we had all our gear ready to go & left just as some other people were arriving.   As we traveled down the trail, we would occasionally stop to find dry firewood.  For some reason, none of us brought dry wood or a saw.  Why?  We don’t know.  To make our situation more desperate, the torrential rains the night before had completely soaked any wood we found.  We collected it anyhow and hoped for the best.

Our progress on day two was slower than day one.  The road was much rougher & we had to pass a few people.  Luckily, passing had to take place in some situations where there was enough road for both parties.  We passed a crew of horses, motorcycles & one truck.  The trail is very narrow so getting those people by us without backing up required good timing (which we had).  We held Cal, Nathan & Erin up on this day.  This is when the shocks would have really helped.  We eventually aired down the tires to 12 psi and that really helped.

For lunch, we visited one of the many fire look out towers.  The road up was just rock and slow going (3 mph or less) but the view from the top was spectacular.  Nathan used his secret crime skills and correctly guessed the combination to the door lock on the fire look-out.  We were able to tour it a little before the people who had booked it arrived.  Then we had to bug off.  It would be a really nice place to camp.  All reservations must be made on-line for these towers before visiting them.  Of course when we were standing at the top of the world (approx. 8,000 ft) at a fire tower the Internet is a ridiculously remote & insignificant part of life.

For lunch, Senior Management & I made sandwiches.  We had planned on tomato sandwiches but the tomatoes took a too much of a beating in the back of the jPod.  I had PB&J instead.  It was a great lunch and from there we drove on to the next advertised camping location on the map…Howard’s Camp.

Along the way, we passed the Devi’s Chair.  It is a series of granite columns which rise up out of the mountain hillside.  Nathan and I climbed to the top to get a look around while the others stood below to keep the Cougar Bait company, to shoot pictures, and to give Nathan and me some helpful tips (i.e. “Don’t fall”, “Don’t die”, “Careful”, etc.).  Devil’s chair isn’t very tall from the up hill side but the downhill side is considerably taller.  The view is amazing.  Once our little stop was over, it was back on the road for another few miles.

The road improved on the way to Howard’s camp so progress was finally made at more than a snail’s pace.  Upon initial inspection, Howard’s camp looks like the side of an unfinished highway.  Gravel pits & pretty dirty.  We decided to leave the Lolo Motorway to travel to a lake for the night.  In the morning, we would come back and finish the Lolo Motorway.  About 1/4 mi. down the road through Howard’s camp, the camp suddenly transformed itself into a lush landscape.  So, we stopped there for the night.

Senior Management prepared another amazing meal while fighting off the thick mosquito population.  Carl & Nathan attempted to get a fire going with our wet wood.  It sort of burned for several hours but produced little heat until we went to bed.  Then it burned really well and I’m sure it gave off lots of heat for no one to enjoy.

Howard’s camp is named after General Howard.  Howard camped in the same spot when chasing Chief Joseph & the Nez Perce to Canada.  Apparently, Joseph was doing a proper job of trying to stop Howard.  William Connolly, a private in Howard’s group, wrote the following lines at Howard Camp:

“…our American horses were not used to the fodder of the native Cayuse.  We carried no forage.  If we should change upon one of the little mountain valleys where there should be grass, we found it either trampled down by Joseph’s ponies or destroyed by some other way.  Many is the time we have cut bark from the tree for our horses.”

We saw no damaged trees but I still like the imagery of Joesph leaving a swath of destruction behind him.  This is a quality which indicates his strong leadership & care for his people.

As we fell asleep on the night of Day 2, I had no idea what stories we would live the next day.  I also didn’t know that day 3 would allow me to shoot some of the best photos I have ever taken.

Read Part 3