Montana Aug 2021

It was like any other morning really, but it was not. Eddy was going to make a new friend today. It had been a hot night and the temperature in the morning was still warm. Eddy had spent the morning down by the Clearwater River just north of Kamiah with 4 of his friends. Around mid-morning Eddy’s friends thought it would be a good idea to explore across the road. Three of Eddys friends crossed before him. Eddy who is not that bright decided he would cross too. Then he saw someone coming toward him. This will be my new friend he thought. After all he is very friendly. Eddy thought to himself how he would introduce himself and ran towards his new friend. Eddy’s new friend was coming very fast. At the last-minute Eddy changed his mind and switched directions. It was too late. Unfortunately for Eddy his new friend was a steel bumper traveling at 60MPH. Rest in peace Eddy, you will be missed.

Crew –
Dan and Sarah
Cheryl and Ryan
Pat and Angela
Curt and Wendy
Shawn and Justin
Butchers Bill
Air intake sensor
Cam positioning sensor
One damaged Diet Coke can
Eddy the Turkey
One Gopro memory card
Two car batteries damaged from heat
Possibly one chipmunk
Split windshield

Day 1 – Run to Orofino ID
Other than a minor issue with an air intake sensor coming unplugged it was a fairly normal run with lunch in the Pullman. Did I mention it was a little hot? We topped out at 114 in Lewiston ID. That is hot and with no AC Shawn and Justin were feeling the heat.

Day 2 – Magruder
Generally, I pre-plan most trips out. This was not a normal year. With fire and smoke everywhere, I instead focused on “possible” trips and runs. Then we could pick which ever run we wished for that day. We wanted to cross the pan handle of Idaho at the Lolo trail (Lolo Motorway). Lolo is north of the Magruder trail and equally as scenic. The week before the trip I called and spoke to a ranger at the Lolo ranger station. She said that most of the Lolo Trail was closed but the Magruder was open. She also said that there would be burning forest near the road, but that part turned out not to be true.
With the Magruder locked into the GPS we crossed the pan handle of Idaho. One of the coolest things was all the purple fireweed. You could see it covering the hillsides from miles away.

The highlight of the 126 mile crossing was the drive up to Burnt Nob. A crazy lookout at the edge of a cliff.

Day 3 – East side of Lolo
Since Lolo was closed to through traffic, we thought we would drive up and look on the east side. We took a trail south of Highway 12 then looped back up to a lookout (in yellow). It was a nice trail with the normal outstanding views, rivers mountains and streams. Along the way there was a logging operation that was halted and some crews digging what turned out to be a fire line.

Near the lookout we stopped to enjoy the view of some alpine lakes before heading up to a lookout. At the top we were greeted by a very friendly Nevada state BLM ranger who was brought in for the fire. After talking for a little while we found out that the road was kind of closed, but he said we were fine. We loaded up and drove back down the hill not wanting to have any chance of being in the way. From there we took the highway back.

Day 4 – Skyline
Skyline was an excellent trail with a little of everything. Not hard per say but harder than the Forest service roads we had been on. Towards the bottom we ran into some slow elk with some odd tags on their ears.

The trail crossed a creek several times before starting a climb. Lots of short loose rock hills before coming to the overlook which has had its own version of “Top of the world.”

We continued the climb until we came to Skyline mine. Although it is no longer in use it has been remarkably unmolested. I am not sure that would have been the case here in Washington.

On the way back down, we took a different road and stopped in an old mining ghost town called Elk Horn

At some point Elk Horn was a pretty happening place.

Day 5 Racetrack road
In the morning we spent a little time in prison where Cheryl spent time with her grandmother and I had too with my father. (ok not sure that sounded right) Located in Deer Lodge the prison closed in the 60s or 70s and operates as a museum. They also have a few Milwaukee railroad engines and an eclectic mix of cars on display.

Then we headed to the hills. Since this part of the trip was not pre planned it turned out that we were one valley over from where we were planning to be. With that said Racetrack Road was still a nice trail aside a cool river.

Along the trail we ran into some locals on a side by side coming back down the hill. After assuring them that we were not from California we learned that there was a large tree blocking the road not far from where we were at. We were told that the tree would be too large to winch out of the way and with the fire danger Chainsaws were not an option. Since there was a good spot to turn around, we did.

Day 6 –
Mostly a road day as we headed to Kalispell along Flathead Lake.

Day 7 – Glacier
Due to covid Parks have been overrun with visitors. As a result, Glacier sells a very limited number of tickets for the going to the Sun road. If you have ever been on this road, you can understand why it is limited. You can still drive the road without a pass by driving in early morning or after 6. So at 4am we headed out into the park and up to Logan pass. This is a nail-biting road in the daytime and we would be doing it in the dark. It is called a two-lane road, but it is more like one and a half lanes in many places. More than one person left pucker marks in their seats and fingernail marks on the dash. We made the top of Logan pass and parked. Within 15 minutes or less the lot was completely filled. I guess timing was on our side.

Day 8 – back to Idaho – Avery

After driving from Kalispell to Kellog we drove out to Avery ID. Avery is an old railroad town and rumor has it the birthplace of Avery labels.

All in all a fun trip despite all the obstacles. I am hoping next time we go we can have less smoke.

See you next time.

Curt Brady