On August 12, 2003, I finished a 1,362-mile traverse of the Rocky Mountains.
The journey started on May 12 when I kayaked up the Missouri River from
Gates of the Mountains, which are located 35 miles east of Helena, Montana.
Then I traveled across the Jefferson and Beaverhead drainages of southwest
Montana to Lemhi Pass on the Idaho border. From Lehmi Pass I traversed
a section of the Beaverhead Mountains that lie between Idaho and Montana
on the Continental Divide.
The next section involved floating on the main Salmon River to North
Fork, Idaho. I mountain biked to Lost Trail Pass and across Montana's
Bitterroot Valley to Lolo Pass. For the next leg I mountain biked (with
friends) 150 miles across Idaho's Bitterroot mountain range from Lolo
Pass to Kamiah, Idaho on the Clearwater River. Then with a kayaking
buddy I boated the Clearwater to the Snake, the Snake to the Columbia,
down the Columbia to Wallula Gorge, where Washington's Walla Walla River
debouches into the Columbia. Finally, I mountain biked sections on the
Oregon side of the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
It has been a grand page of mountain script and river lore that I
am privileged to have lived.
What has truly surprised me is how much wildlife I have seen on my
journey. Although I grew up a fifth-generation Utahn and hunter, the
largest herd of mule deer I have seen was at Gates of the Mountains
on the Missouri, and the largest elk herd (other than Jackson Hole
in winter) was on the Salmon River. There are peregrine falcons again
flying over southwest Montana and Idaho. I saw a lynx in the Tobacco
Root Mountains and wolf tracks were evident on the Lolo Trail. (I
know wolf tracks; wolves live in the mountains surrounding my home
in Alaska.) I have had moose and deer foraging near my tent at night.
Often I would awake at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of birds like the belted
kingfisher and red-breasted nuthatch.
And there have been so many kind and generous people I have met along
the way, like the couple from Iowa that said, "We've been following
your mountain bike tire tracks for 100 miles... (across Lolo pass
on FS road #500) Who are you guys?" We ended up hiking a section
of the Lewis and Clark Trail with them and they treated us to lunch
when they saw how light my friends and I were traveling. Or the couple
I met on the banks of the Columbia River where I had stopped to do
T'ai Chi and watch sailing ships. After hearing of my journey they
said, "That is so awesome!"
Read the six-part account of Jerry's trip:
of the Mountains to Lemhi Pass
Pass to the Salmon, float Salmon to the Lost Trail
of the Beaverhead Mountain Range
Trail Pass to Lolo and across the Lolo Pass
the Clearwater to the Snake, Snake to Columbia and Columbia to Wallula
Biking to the Pacific
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