Old Toby, a member of the Shoshone tribe, guided Lewis and Clark over the Bitterroot Mountains and the Lolo Trail in 1805, making it possible for the Corps of Discovery to get to the Pacific. We followed this pass the modern way, along US Route 12 which hugs the winding Clearwater river. Route 12’s signage referred to it as the Lewis & Clark Trail, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway and the Nez Perce Trail, but the only sign that caught my eye was the one that said, “Winding Road Next 99 Miles”. It was a lovely day for driving, with the sun shining, blue skies and gorgeous scenery at every turn. There were rock formations, ranches, interesting wrought-iron bridges, logging trucks, and the ubiquitous espresso shop in view early on in the drive. I don’t understand the Pacific Northwest’s love of espresso, but I can tell you that there are little espresso huts everywhere, even at a cross roads in the mountains. These westerners can’t travel without their espresso.
Soon we were one of the few cars along the winding route and made stops for photo ops and hiking. At one stopped I dug deep into the car for my mono-pod and longer lenses, so that I could take close-ups of the rushing water. It was a relaxing day. We were prepared with a picnic lunch and happily shared it when we arrived at the Lolo Summit on the Idaho/Montana border. It was a easy drive into Missoula where we wandered the University of Montana campus and the downtown, including a stop at the local library. We saw a bumper sticker on a car with Illinois plates that read, “Keep Missoula Weird”. On our walk we saw several drug paraphernalia shops in downtown, loads of young adults whose dress and demeanor seemed stuck in the ’60s-a lot of throw-back hippies, and the admission office on which campus extolled the outdoor opportunities rather than the academic. It was clear that Missoula would be able to ‘stay weird’.