Lawn Lake

October 11

Wednesday I started thinking about where to hike next. At first I was thinking it might be a good time to try Spectacle Lakes. You either climb steep slabs or climb straight up the stream. This late in the season, that stream will be as dry as ever. Then I searched the message boards for trip reports. The consensus is you should have a hiking partner. So Spectacle Lakes is a no go, for now. Still, I haven’t been up towards Ypsilon Lake in a while so I decided Fay Lakes would be a good destination. I could bag three more lakes on one shot, and it’s not a terribly long hike.

The forecast for Denver was good weather, with a high in the low seventies. It rained Thursday night, snowed above nine thousand feet, or so the weather wonks said. Should be a gorgeous day for a hike.

I arrived at the Lawn Lake trailhead about eight and was kitted up and on the trail a few minutes later. It was a brisk, clear morning. Lots of tourists were already in the park, lining the roads watching the herds of elk. Only a few cars were at the trailhead, though.

About thirty five minutes into the hike, I reached the Ypsilon trail junction. I met the two hikers who hit the trail as I was putting my boots on. “You probably already know the bridge is out.” I didn’t. I scouted it out anyway. There were a couple of logs laid across the water. Old, gray, dead logs. I put a foot on them and they moved under my partial weight. And they were covered with frost. I decided Lawn Lake would be a nice enough place for a picnic, so back I went to the main trail.

IMG_0206sThe trail was undercut in a few places by the flooding last September. A few more short stretches of trail have disappeared into the abyss. Other than that, and the bridge, there really isn’t much damage from last year’s floods.

I caught Gail and Glen a bit farther up the trail. We hiked together for a while, chatting. Before long we started seeing traces of snow on the ground. They stopped for a break and I continued. The snow was deeper after a while; not more than an inch, and not entirely covering the trail. There were some boot prints and after a bit I saw the first animal print.

At first I thought it might be a mountain lion. There was just the one print. A few yards along there were a couple more. Claws prominent with each print, so not a cat. Dogs are not allowed in the park and I don’t think we have wolves. These prints followed the trail for two miles or so, never short cutting the switchbacks, never stepping off the trail.IMG_0209fIt struck me as odd until I thought about it. I’ve run into all sorts of animals using the trails. I met a lame moose on the trail near Verna Lake. He wouldn’t get off the trail, I had so shoo him along. Last spring I met that bear sitting in the middle of the trail. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen various sorts of animal pooh. Obviously, animals use the trails too. Trails make travel easier, why wouldn’t animals use them?

Having spotted these nice tracks I began to wonder when the beastie put them down. It had to have been Friday evening. The snow was fairly soft when the prints were made. Many of them were quite well formed. Even at nine thirty the snow on the trail was still quite solid, refrozen overnight. So they had to be put down some time late afternoon or early evening.

I made it to Lawn Lake shortly after eleven. It is clearly no longer summer here at 11,000′. It is clear directly overhead, and to the east. Some gray clouds are sitting on the divide. The wind is shredding the clouds, tearing chunks off and sending them eastward and evaporating them. It happens with such ferocity It doesn’t take a time lapse video to see it.

With it so windy a couple thousand feet overhead, it’s no surprise it’s windy at the lake as well. And there are no trees within a hundred yards of the water. The lake covered a much larger area when it was dammed and even in thirty two years, no trees have filled the void.

Mummy Mtn

I set the cameras up and took refuge on the southeast side of the only large boulder near the outlet. I put the GoPro nearly in the water, right up against the bank and as far out of the wind as possible. I put the SLR on the tripod to the lee side of a rock, but none of the rocks were that big. The camera was still in the breeze. I haven’t looked at the pictures yet, so I don’t know how much the camera moved.

It has always been the case until now that I sat on my rock or log and watched the same sky the cameras were filming. My wind sheltering boulder blocked my sight of everything north and west so I watched mostly to the south. The only gray cloud in the sky was behind me, sitting over the Saddle. Although it was clear overhead, I occasionally had snow fall on me. Not flakes, little pellets. But not quite graupel.

Lawn Lake

It was a bit on the cool side but not bad if you stayed both out of the wind and in the sun. I sat there about forty five minutes, which was long enough for me to be ready to get moving again. Before leaving, I wandered over to the breach in the dam and checked things out. At the other reclaimed reservoirs, there really isn’t much sign that they were ever dammed. At Pear and Bluebird there’s the obvious bathtub ring, but that’s it. Same for Sandbeach. I guess the earthen berm here is too large to bother with.

Heading down the trail I started running into people. I didn’t see Gail and Glen again, but chatted with a couple who said “Are you Dave? We just met Gail and Glen.” The next hikers were headed to Crystal Lakes. I said it was a bit breezy. “Breezy or windy?” They said they didn’t want to fight the wind. I wished them luck; they might get weather in addition to wind.

IMG_1184sOn the way down I couldn’t help but notice how quickly the snow was melting. I’m guessing the snow line raised a thousand feet or so between nine and one. The coyote prints were still there, mixed in with several times as many boot prints as before. I’d been wearing my windbreaker the whole day, finally took it off half way back to the car.

I stopped for a fruit break where I had a nice view of Longs Peak and considered shooting a few more minutes of time lapse, but I didn’t have enough free memory to make it worthwhile. I just need to go out and get a bigger memory card and be done with it.

I made it back to the car before three and headed home. Before leaving the park, I stopped at one of the many overlooks and got a picture of the clouds over the Bear Lake area. When I got back in the car, there was an older guy there admiring it. I said hello, but he just nodded and smiled. I’m guessing he didn’t speak much English.

I keep falling farther behind in putting the videos together. I’d hoped to have the one for Tourmaline Lake done by now. I’m real close, really. So now I “owe” two videos. Stay tuned!

Timetable

 

Up Down
Trailhead 08:08 AM 02:46 PM
Lawn Lake 11:10 AM 11:55 AM

Tourmaline Lake

September 27, 2014

This is the second time I hike to Tourmaline Lake. Last year I hiked here from the Fern Lake trailhead. This time I started at Bear Lake. It’s a bit shorter this way, and downhill a bit as well between Lake Helene and Odessa Lake.

As seems to be the general case, I got a bit of a late start. It was another free day in the park, and traffic was a bit worse than I was expecting. By the time I got to Bear Lake road, the signs indicated the parking lot was full and visitors should use the park and ride. It’s been a while since I used the shuttle and while the route hasn’t changed, there are more stops than I was used to. It was a few minutes after nine before I hit the trail.

A calm, clear morning

The morning was calm and clear. Expecting a touch of fall in the air, I wore jeans rather than shorts. I wasn’t uncomfortable in jeans, but would have been happier in shorts. So it goes. Getting a bit of a late start, I made an effort to make some good time. It’s about four miles to Odessa Lake and I felt I should be able to cover that ground in two hours and arrive by 11:07. Well, let’s just round that down and target Odessa Lake by 11:00.

The trail was pretty busy. I had a trail runner pass me before I arrived at the junction with the Bierstadt trail. At the Flattop junction, I passed a group of five or six hikers headed to the Fern Lake trailhead. A bit later on, it was a guy with fishing gear and his companion who where headed to Fern Lake. I met many others as well, and most people were going from Bear Lake to Fern Lake trailhead.

Just before reaching Odessa Lake, I ran into the trail runner again. He had made it to Fern Lake and was on his way back. I asked how quick a pace he was able to maintain and he said he was doing eight and a half or nine minute miles. Not bad on a rocky and root crossed trail.

I arrived at Odessa Lake ahead of schedule. By now the sky was no longer cloudless – small puffy white clouds were in action, and contrary to normal were moving roughly east to west. I didn’t even pause at Odessa and headed straight up Tourmaline Creek. At the risk of repeating myself, the route from here is more or less straight up the creek. It’s pretty steep at first, mellows out a bit in the middle, then gets steep again. For the top half of the climb, the creek is mostly invisible but burbling vibrantly under rocks and boulders. With no sign of trail or cairns, just rock hop up the creek. It took me about fifty minutes to get from Odessa to Tourmaline, a climb of 560′ in six tenths of a mile.

Knobtop Mountain and Tourmaline Lake

Tourmaline Lake isn’t much of a lake. I’ve been to several unnamed ponds in the park that are bigger. What it lacks in size it more than makes up in setting. It is surrounded by dramatic rock walls, some with interesting spires. Although it wasn’t windy, it’s clear that high winds are a normal aspect of the place. All the trees around my picnic spot were one-sided, having no branches on their west sides.

While I was eating my lunch I heard somebody yell out. I think whoever it was just wanted to hear their voice echo. I responded with my own yell. A short while later I thought I heard voices quite a bit nearer to me but I never did see anybody. On these off trail hikes in solitude I often think I hear people talking. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a trick of the imagination.

It was a very pleasant day and I enjoyed sitting there by this small lake for the better part of an hour. Ate my sandwich and a plum, and a cookie that was in several pieces, chocolate chips beginning to melt slightly. There was never more than a slight breeze, and no pesky insects. The clouds, unusually, went from east to west.

The outlet stream is fairly flat exiting the cirque, going northeast before making a right turn and tumbling steeply downhill. The flank of Flattop is to the right, with Joe Mills Mtn directly in front. I can’t help but think it wasn’t this steep on the way up, but everything looks steeper to me on the way down. There is much less water flowing now than when I hiked in late June, making for easier hiking.

Before returning to Odessa I refill the water bottle and ponder which way to return. I didn’t give it any thought when I decided to go to Tourmaline, I guess my assumption was that I’d hike back to Bear Lake. I got to thinking that because I was parked at the park and ride rather than Bear Lake, I could hike out to the Fern Lake bus stop instead. Of course, I could have done that even had I parked at Bear Lake. Sure, it’s something like 1.7 miles farther, but it’s all downhill.

I decided to make the one way trip. This would be the third time I’ve done it, but the first adding the spur to Tourmaline. And this time, even with the late start and the extra lake, I’d probably get to the car at about the same time as the other times.

At Fern Lake I chatted again with the fisherman and his wife/girlfriend. They were heading back to Bear Lake. Near Fern Falls I ran into the group I met at the Flattop trail junction. Nearer the Pool, I felt the fire damage wasn’t as dramatic as it was last spring, but there’s a good sized landslide there now as well.

Hiking out from the Pool always seems like drudgery to me, I’m tired, it’s usually warm, the trail is crowded. It always seems to take forever. This time, though, it was over quicker than I expected. I covered the eight tenths of a mile from the trailhead to the bus stop in thirteen minutes, which nearly equals the pace of my walks around home. I felt real good.  Then I nearly dozed off on the (36 minute!) bus ride back to the car.

All in all, a very satisfying hike.

I’m still working on the time lapse. Seems each one takes longer than the previous one.

Portland Trip: Time Lapse and Timed Laps

It seems like it’s taken forever, but it’s been only (only?) four weeks. Perhaps I took the wrong path, but I wanted to post all the videos in one shot. And here it is.

Deschutes River

The skies were a clear blue for almost the entire float down the river, so if I wanted to do a time lapse I’d have to get creative. Mark suggested that it might be interesting to see the shadows move on the canyon wall, which I thought was worth a try. The challenge was in the timing. I didn’t know if the movement of the shadows of the rocks would be interesting, so I wanted to also get the shadow of the opposite wall climbing to the sky as the sun set. If I started too early, I’d run out of memory on the SD card. If I started too late, I’d only get part of the picture.

I’m pleased with the result. I did have a technical glitch, though. After a while I noticed that the camera was no longer shooting. The display showed Err: 999, whatever that is. I turned it off and back on and kept an eagle eye on it in case it happened again. It did, but the second time I caught it pretty quickly. So there’s only one significant discontinuity.

The Ridge

For some reason, I can’t get DashWare to use the location data for these sessions. It’s in the file but no joy with the software. That had the side effect of making it very difficult to sync with the video. Because I expect to run faster laps at the end of the day, I save my favorite angle for last – topless center mount.

Portland International Raceway

At PIR, when I launched RaceChrono it gave me a message that my demo copy had expired and telemetry would only last five minutes. But DashWare handled the position data this time, so the map is back and it was easy to sync but no RPM or throttle data. At PIR I had a carried a passenger for my final final session. I think I was driving better, finally putting two and three turns together each lap. Not my fastest time, though – the passenger is nearly a ten percent weight disadvantage.

Oregon Raceway Park

Clearly, I have a setup issue. The telemetry from the OBD-II is working but the position isn’t working. Perhaps it’s a metadata issue. I’d have liked to been able to make two videos for the ORP day, one for each direction. Good data and video from the morning. In the afternoon the lap counter wasn’t working for two sessions and I forgot to start the camera on the third. So it’s just the counter-clockwise lap.

I’m trying to figure out how to make DashWare work. I don’t like the green gauges, but I’m sure I’ll try a lot of things I may not like. I’d like to have the RPM gauge indicate the second cam.

Mt. Hood

Nice clouds on this one. Almost looked like the volcano was steaming at one point. Both cameras pretty much had no choice but to film the same thing, and placement problems for the GoPro to boot.

Grand Tetons

I like the way this one came out, in spite of the exposure issues.

Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons to Denver

September 6, 2014

Immediately on exiting the park I made a wrong turn. On the map, it looked to me like I needed to make a right and within a few miles I’d make a left. Clearly, I was deranged. I stopped at one of the many scenic pullouts for a picture and to ask which way to US 287. A biker had come from where I was headed, but he was unable to tell me where to go. He was from St. Louis, and he was so enthralled by the mountains he didn’t really know where he was or where he was headed.

I got my navigation straightened out. Here, US 287 and US 26 are conjoined, By now, US 26 was an old friend. And, in theory, I could take US 287 to within a few miles of my house. The road in the first 30 miles or so east of the Tetons is quite interesting and scenic. But we are in Wyoming, where most of the interesting bits are on the borders. The terrain quickly transitions to high desert.

The speed limits in Wyoming are a bit higher than in Idaho, but I didn’t really want to chance another ticket so I kept to my 5-8 mph over the limit strategy. Soon a big diesel pickup towing a Wells Cargo trailer passed me, so I sped up and followed him at a respectful distance. We made good time until a construction zone where they were essentially rebuilding the road. I was at the end of a line where we waited for a pilot car. A few miles later we arrived at the junction where US 287 headed south and US 26 continued east. Obviously, I’d be in Riverton well before dark and wouldn’t be stopping there. So the argument could be made that I should have followed 287 to Lander. But the pickup stayed on 26 and I followed him.

I stopped for an early dinner at the Arby’s in Riverton. There was a high school girls athletic team still ordering, so I had a long wait. That’s okay, it was time to figure out my navigation. I didn’t want to backtrack to Lander and didn’t want to follow US 26 to Casper and I-25. So I brought the atlas in from the car. That led to a conversation with a farmer from South Dakota. The unfortunate fellow was in Riverton with his wife when she had to go to the hospital. That left him in Riverton with a few days to kill. We talked about a number of things, but I was curious what he planted, how he decided what to plant, and so on. He has corn and beans now, and rotates his crops with peas or whatever the canner will give him a good price for.

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Seismic Crew Ahead

I decided WY 135 was the way to go. Fuel was the next stop after food, and at the gas station I talked with a local. I asked him if WY 135 was a good road. He said yes, and directed me: right at end of Main St., go across the bridge, make a left turn at the green sign, keep to the right at the junction with WY 136. At the junction with US 287 there’s a rest stop. His directions were spot on, and it was as good a road as he said. It was well travelled but not crowded and passed through some interesting landscapes.

After a few minutes at the rest stop, I continued east and south on US 287. I went slightly under speed limit until a faster guy came along. I tried to keep a good distance from him, a quarter mile or so. We made good time. After a while another car came up from behind, going about five miles per hour faster than me. She wouldn’t pass until I slowed down to about 60, then she sped up to 75 again. Now I’ve lost my pace truck, so I went back to slightly under the limit. To the east, several thunderstorms were in progress, maybe 20 miles away this way, perhaps 25 that way. Not real active, but throwing a nice lightning bolt every few minutes.

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I soon caught up to the last car to pass me. She had caught a truck and was unwilling to pass. I passed them both, and she followed me past the truck. I knew she’d be on my tail for a while as she wanted to go faster but seemed to have difficulty passing people. Luckily I caught another truck and managed to peel her off. The car is so low, tailgaters are particularly annoying after dark.

I arrived in Rawlins not long after dark. I was not tired at all. The drive has been pleasant, interesting to watch, and with little traffic. I won’t stop for the night here and head to Laramie where I’ll again decide whether to stop or continue.

It’s I-80 from Rawlins to Laramie. Now that it’s dark, I don’t mind the interstate so much. I know there’s not much to see, and I already saw it two weeks ago. I find night driving less tiring on the super slab than on two lane roads. There were two 10 mile stretches of construction where we were down to one lane, but otherwise easy. Those stretches were tough, though, as the pavement was so dark as to be invisible.

At Laramie I was still feeling great. I grabbed some munchies to eat while I drive, which I generally don’t do. I could have taken US 287 south to Ft. Collins but decided to stay on I-80. I didn’t want to drive any two lane road at night and if I got tired, there was no place to stop. (Don’t confuse me with the facts that 287 is four lanes much of the way).

Staying on I-80, my next decision point was Cheyenne. There were two more construction zones between Laramie and Cheyenne, also quite black. I was still going strong at Cheyenne, so I kept going. Next stop: home. Sitting on the beach at Leigh Lake, I had guessed that I could be home by midnight if I left the park by two. That turned out to be a pretty danged good guess. I pulled into my driveway at 12:06.

The whole trip was fantastic. I had one day where the weather interfered, but I can’t really complain about one bad day in a two week trip. This will be a hard trip to top. I drove a bit over four thousand miles, had a fantastic time for three days on the Deschutes River, enjoyed the challenge of learning three race tracks in four days, made three very interesting hikes, and even managed to get in a few days at the office.

Next I’ll put together three time lapse videos and at least one video from each track day. I hope to get all this done and posted by next weekend.

Wow. What a blast.

Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons

September 6, 2014

As has been standard operating procedure on this trip, I was up early, had breakfast at the motel, and got a sandwich to carry for lunch. I fueled up and was on the road, Idaho route 33, by seven. The first notable terrain feature is the sight of the Grand Tetons from the west side, near Driggs. The range as a whole looks like a giant set of teeth, and one of them looks like a giant shark’s fin. I probably should have stopped and tried to get a picture, but I was looking pretty much directly into the sun so I didn’t figure I’d get one to come out.

ID 33 continues south from Driggs before turning southeast to the foot of Teton pass. Now in Wyoming, the route is designated WY 22, but it’s the same road. This is easily the steepest pass of my trip, and one of the steepest passes I’ve ever crossed. It’s a 10% grade both sides, with many hairpin turns. At the foot of the pass on the eastern side, we cross the Snake River, circle East Gros Ventre Butte, rejoin our old friend US 26 and wind through Jackson, Wyoming.

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Rolling north towards the park, Jackson Hole Airport is on the left. I missed the Fed’s Economic Policy Symposium at Jackson by a couple weeks, but there’s no shortage of expensive hardware operating here. A sleek Gulfstream was landing as I drove past.

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After entering the park (and crossing the Snake again), I stopped at the visitor center. I had been asking for hiking recommendations for some time. One suggestion was Phelps Lake, but I ended up deciding on starting at String Lake and going north past Leigh Lake and Bearpaw Lake to Trapper Lake. I found an idle ranger standing by a large map.

“Any reports of bear activity on the trail to Trapper Lake?”

“I’ve never seen a bear there.”

“Do you suppose I’ll be able to find somebody to hike with at the trailhead?”

“Who knows? Take your bear spray, make lots of noise, sing. If you’re a bad singer, all the better.”

That wasn’t very helpful. He’s never seen a bear there, but is that never on three hikes or never on thirty hikes? As it turns out, that’s a very heavily travelled trail. I don’t think I went 5 minutes without seeing other hikers, and that was before the trail got crowded. By the time I headed back to the car it was pretty much a conga-line hike.

The weather was gorgeous – a clear, cloudless day, calm and not too warm. The trail runs south to north along the shores of String Lake and Leigh Lake, so there’s no vertical component to speak of. I did take one of the trails that head up the valleys to the west hoping to get to an overlook but turned around before long without success. As I got toward the northern end of Leigh Lake I decided to go no further. The views were going from awesome to somewhat less awesome the farther north I went.

The sky was still cloudless but I set up the GoPro anyway. An occasional wisp would form over Mt. St. John and Grand Teton, but they disappeared very quickly. I hung out on the beach here for forty minutes or so, ate my lunch (the sandwich squashed, now resembling flatbread) and watched the boaters and kayakers on the lake.

My original plan was to hang out here most of the day, then head to a motel in Riverton for an easy day’s drive home tomorrow. Sitting on the beach I started pondering my options. If I left by two, I could probably be home by midnight. Or, I could drive through Yellowstone and see the sights. Having lounged by Leigh Lake for a sufficient time, I headed back toward the car.

Back near the parking lot, where there’s a nice view to the southwest, cloud action had improved over Grand Teton. I decided to sit there for another spell and got both cameras running. Here the trail was about fifteen feet from the shore of String Lake. The SLR clicking off a shot every two seconds caught the attention of most passersby, so I chatted with quite a few hikers. One was a wildlife photographer who had recently retired. We discussed 500mm lenses and I explained my process for shooting time lapse.

Several mentioned that the road to Old Faithful is closed and the traffic in Yellowstone is very bad. I mentally crossed off one of my options. I was wearing my Broncos cap, so another topic of conversation with folks was football. A Seahawks fan gave me grief, and a 49ers fan vowed that the Seahawks wouldn’t win their division. Even with letting the cameras run a good, long time I ended up back at the car a few minutes after two. Having eliminated Yellowstone as an option, I headed toward Riverton.

Portland Trip: Day 14 – Kennewick to Rexburg

September 5, 2014

My preferred breakfast is a bagel and some fresh fruit. This sort of fare is generally available in the “continental breakfast” included in many hotels and motels. Unfortunately, on this trip it has never been available. The motels I’ve been staying in have offered waffles and cereal. This morning they had sausage gravy and biscuits which I found acceptable.

According to Google, my route today would be eleven hours of driving. Add breaks for food and fuel and I could expect to be on the road for more like thirteen hours. Even more, if I found some interesting diversion. With that in mind, I was packed up and out the door shortly before seven.

A few minutes later I crossed the Columbia for the sixth time on this trip. Soon after crossing the Columbia, I cross the Snake just above where it joins the Columbia. My first crossing of the Snake was back on day 1 in Blackfoot, ID. I will cross it a few more times in the next couple of days.

I headed east on US 12 a few miles until I turned east on WA 124. I could have stayed on US 12 but WA 124 meets up with it later, cuts a few miles off and skips a trip through Walla Walla. Being a state route, it should also carry less traffic. This trip has certainly increased my appreciation for the road less traveled. It passes through farmland to start – corn, alfalfa, grape vineyards, and apple orchards. As we climb out of the valley the terrain turns to straw colored rolling hills.

I regain US 12 in Waitsburg and continue east. I find myself back on the Lewis and Clark Trail, which I will follow on US 12 for most of the day. The road is fairly pleasant through this part of Washington. Not heavily traveled, not too straight, not very twisty, with enough change in scenery to remain interesting. I refueled in Clarkston (WA), then crossed the Snake again into Lewiston (ID). I missed a turn here, seeing the route marker too late to change lanes. The road essentially does a 360.

For the first time today I found myself in traffic. Exiting Lewiston, the road crosses the Clearwater River, which US 12 follows to the top of Lolo Pass. That’s not entirely true – the road runs along the Lochsa River the last several miles up to the pass; the Lochsa and Selway Rivers join to form the Middle Fork Clearwater River. Anyway, there’s a fair amount of traffic for a while, but it cleared up gradually while at the same time the canyon become more scenic. The Clearwater River is aptly named – clear water flows through a broad, shallow watercourse with few rapids.

Thinking it’s about time for a break, I grab for my water bottle. It’s lighter than I expected. My backpack, sitting in the passenger seat, is damp. Not a good sign. I almost immediately arrive at the Fish Creek river access and pull over. The passenger seat is soaked so I unpack it and move the car so the seat is in the sun. I didn’t really mean to take an extended break, but so it goes. I rested there for about an hour.

I went down to the river and watched a couple of fly fishermen for a while. Back at the car to see how things are drying out, three motorcycles arrive, one with a passenger. I’m checking my stuff as they pull in. I’m not watching them but hear them get closer. Then there’s a nasty grinding noise. The rider with passenger dropped his bike. She’s sprawled face down, luckily not under the bike. It takes 3 of us to set the bike up. She’s okay, walks it off (with a limp). The bike is a bit scratched up now, but no serious damage.

We chat for a while. The three guys are all 72 years old. One has a pretty thick New York accent. I say “It doesn’t sound like you’re from these parts.” He lives in Reno; his friends call him New York George. “Twenty seven years in Reno, when are you gonna let me in the club?” They ask about my trip, I tell them. New York George tells of his friend currently riding across Russia, westbound from Vladivostok. He’s with a friend, a former Secret Service agent and they’re a month and a half into their planned three month trip. His friend’s previous trip was from Alaska to Patagonia. It sounds to me like a great way to spend retirement.

As they leave, a solo rider arrives. I didn’t get his name, I’ll call him Hank. We talk a bit about fun roads in the area. He recommends the Greer Grade. I’m not sure if I’ll be back in this area in the Lotus, but it doesn’t hurt to take notes. He also recommended a restaurant about ten miles this side of Lolo summit – the Lochsa Lodge. He leaves before I do, but I tell him if he’s still there when I arrive we’ll chat some more.

All trip I’ve been very good about not going more than 5-8 miles per hour over the limit. Here, I was idling along in sixth gear with a posted limit of 50. I found myself at 57 for a while, but it would creep up to 62 and I’d slow back down. I’ll blame it on subtle changes in the grade. I kept doing this, unable to keep to 58. I passed an SUV, then a semi. Around another bend I see I’m catching up to another SUV, who immediately pulls aside. I’m thinking “nice guy, getting out of my way like that.” Until I saw that it’s a State Trooper.

IMG_7453sHe pulled me over and cited me for 63 in a 50 zone. He said he always writes anything eight and over. “I have no doubt your car would easily do eighty, but you never know what’s around the next corner. Could be a truck, could be a moose.”

What I didn’t know until later was that the speed limit on the Montana side is 70, except for the steepest first mile where it is 60. The road is fundamentally the same – the curves are about the same radii, the grade is pretty much the same. If it’s safe to go 70 there, it’s safe to go 70 here. And if it’s safe to go 70, it’s safe to go 63.

I found the Lochsa Lodge, It was a very pleasant day, so I headed for the outside seating. Hank was there in a shady corner, just finishing his lunch. I sat with him and ordered lunch and a tasty local beer. The first topic of conversation was my ticket. He said he went 75 and was passed by other bikes with no sign of cops. He passed westbound bikes but none gave him any warning signal.

We talked about forest fires. Some of his favorite rides have had significant fires the last few years. We exchanged stories of the various desolate routes we’ve taken. He told me about riding with his wife, getting caught in a cold rain, nearly out of gas on a deserted highway in Nevada. I told him about the hundreds of shoes hanging on a chain link fence around a deserted gas station fifty miles from nowhere in the California desert east of Joshua Tree.

Back on the road my first stop was almost immediate: Lolo Pass. It was crossed by Lewis and Clark westbound in September of 1805 and again eastbound in June of 1806. There is much debate about the name. Some insist it is Nez Perce for “muddy water” while others believe it is a Flathead version of “Lawrence”. Those with no imagination say it’s just “low-low” because the traverse is low. But I’ve also heard that it’s a mistranscription of Lieutenant G. K. Warren’s map from 1857. There, it’s actually “LoCo”.

IMG_7457sAfter the summit of Lolo pass it was down the eastern side to Lolo, MT, my next navigation point and pit stop. A good sized area on the north side of the highway was burned. It looked fairly recent to me, perhaps in the last year or two I thought. Then I came across two houses being rebuilt, so it was probably quite recent. Near Lolo there are other burn scars, perhaps 5 or 10 years old. I gassed up and headed south on US 93.

US 93 goes over Lost Trail Pass, back into Idaho for me. Lost Trail doesn’t cross the Continental Divide, which is just a few hundred feed to the west. Although we’re no longer on US 12, we are still on the Lewis and Clark trail. They crossed Lost Trail pass from south to north, entering the Bitterroot valley. I found it a much more enjoyable drive than Lolo pass; it’s steeper and has sharper turns. But like Lolo, it was more fun in Montana than Idaho. As soon as you crest the pass, the speed limit drops significantly. Back in Idaho I kept an eagle eye on the speedometer.

The road flattens and straightens towards Salmon. I had a light dinner at Bertram’s Brewery. I also had a momentary confusion as to the time. I thought it was seven but my phone said eight. I hadn’t realized I’d returned to Mountain time. Heading back to the car I see I was parked 3 spots away from a nice looking Austin Healy. The owners walked up just as I was about to start up. “Is that a Lotus?” “Yes” “What year?” “’06. What year’s yours?” “66. Austin Healy”

Here in Salmon I quit US 93 and head south on ID 28, just after sunset. I pulled off the road for a quick second at a commercial driveway in the middle of nowhere. Over the idling of the car I could hear coyotes.

This was the only part of the trip where I doubted my navigation. I only used the phone’s navigation for finding addresses, not general route finding. Each morning I took notes from the atlas. I rarely noted the distance between points unless it was quite far. For some reason, I was thinking it was only another hour and a half to Rexburg when in fact it was two and a half.

I was quite sleepy as I had trouble falling asleep the night before, which didn’t help with my miscalculation on the timing. On the positive side, I figure I didn’t miss much scenery as the road is dead straight most of the time. Early on, I saw one sign for Rexburg but it wasn’t listed on the next three or four distance signs. I was expecting to junction with ID 33 by 9:30 but was still looking for it at 10:30. By then I was sure I’d missed it. There was no sign of civilization other than the faint glimmer of Idaho Falls over the horizon. I knew I had to be close, as I was seeing signs for INR like I did on US 20 near EBR-I on day 1. Turns out there was no way to miss the junction with ID 33 as it’s a T-intersection. I made the left turn and the next sign tells me it’s 32 miles to Rexburg.

As I pulled in to the motel parking lot, the low fuel indicator lights up.

Almost all of today’s drive was along the Lewis and Clark trail. Parts are Nez Perce trail as well.