** Note: Sho, Saya and I have not had cell or Internet connection (or access to food and water outside of what I packed in the bike trailer) for the past two days. I continued to write our blog each day, but could not upload it. I’ve just put up three separate blogs, including this one. It was kinda nice to be out of contact with the modern world...
Route: Lemhi Pass to Salmon, Idaho
Quote of the day from Saya (age 6): “Daddy, I just figured out what I want to be when I grow up: A singer, like Bruno Mars. But I also want to be a cowgirl, not like Bruno Mars. I guess I’ll just be both.”
Good for Saya. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Right now, it’s a family adventurer. And we had quite an adventure today. I awoke around 6 a.m., left the kids sleeping in the tent, and spent an hour hiking around Lemhi Pass. The eastern hills were beginning to glow orange, but the imminent sunrise was soon obscured by a line of thick clouds pouring over the pass from the west. I was disappointed to miss what would have been an unforgettable sunrise, but I still appreciated the calming effect of standing alone in a wild place. We all carry a bit of wilderness within us, but its call is usually drowned out by the demands of modern life. Standing alone at the rugged dividing line between east and west, I could almost feel the tectonic movement that had created these mountains. It made me feel small. It made me appreciate how short a human life is, and why I’m trying to slow down time by taking these crazy adventures with my kids.
It was chilly on the pass, and Sho, Saya and I bundled up while we ate a breakfast of oranges, bananas and a few smushed, left-over donuts. We were on our bikes by 8:50 a.m. headed to Salmon, Idaho. The shortest route from Lemhi Pass to Salmon is down a 12-mile gravel road that is very steep and full of switchbacks. I decided that it would be too dangerous for me to try to navigate that with the trailer cycle and heavily-loaded bike trailer, so we took an alternate route along a dirt road that followed the ridge line and climbed perhaps another 1,000 feet over 10 miles before winding down the mountain at a more modest pitch. On the way, the left rear tire on the trailer cycle flatted four times, as each patch I used gave out under the trailer’s weight and relentless attacks of the gravel. My legs were also so fatigued from nearly a month of cycling that I was simply unable to push the heavy load up the climbs. It took us nearly 5 hours to cover those first 10 miles, and all three of us were exhausted by the effort. We enjoyed a pleasant pick-me-up, when a truck stopped alongside us, the first people we had seen since leaving Lemhi Pass four hours earlier. Sandy Christianson and Mike Moulton introduced themselves, chatted for a few minutes, then gave us grapes, crackers and an apple before driving off. Good people.
When the road finally started to wind down the mountain, we held tightly to our brakes, riding very slowly to maintain control over our bikes on the gravel road. We stopped for a rest break at Sharkey Hot Springs, two pools of hot water beside the road, which we had all to ourselves. We finally reached pavement at 5 p.m. and began cycling the final stretch on Highway 28 into the town of Salmon, when the bike trailer’s left rear tire blew out again. As I attempted to fix it, Debra Bradford pulled her truck beside us and offered to drive us the rest of the way into Salmon. We accepted her kind offer and loaded our bikes and gear into the back of her truck. At first, I didn’t think there would be enough room, but she said, “It’s big enough to haul bales of hay. It’ll hold your bikes.” And she was right. On the way into town, she told us about devastating forest fires that have occurred recently – two years ago, a fire burned 10 million acres – made worse, she explained, by government regulations that prevent local ranchers from clearing trees. “The environmentalists want to have more trees, but this approach actually ends up burning more of them. And the fires burn so hot, nothing grows for years on the land afterwards.” As we entered Salmon, where she had grown up, Debra pointed out a bike shop that would have a spare tire for our trailer and gave us several restaurant recommendations. She dropped us off at the local campsite. When I apologized for taking up her time, she said, “Don’t worry about it. The cows will be fine.”
When planning this summer trip, I set out to re-trace the Lewis & Clark Trail with my children, hoping to teach them about the history of westward expansion in the U.S. But perhaps the biggest lesson they’ve taken away has been the remarkable kindness of strangers.
Here are some pics:
Sunrise from Lemhi Pass
Sho and Saya taking a break
Looking toward Idaho
Sandy Christianson and Mike Moulton with Sho and Saya
Sho leaving me behind (yet again) on a climb
Saya strikes a pose
Debra Bradford with Sho and Saya