Thursday, May 15, 2008 -- Clearwater Crossing RV Park in Orofino, ID
10pm. Did I mention this morning that we're parked right on the banks of the Clearwater Creek here in Orofino, and that we're probably just 10 or 12 feet above the level of the water? Due to warm temperatures, the snow pack in the mountains east of here is melting fast and the river is rising. This past winter's snows were heavier than normal and the temps the past few days have been warmer than normal -- not a great combination if you live close to a creek or river in these parts. The NOAA hydrograph link I included in this mornings post has a forecast for the next few days -- by Sunday the river here in Orofino should be at "major stage", which is higher than it's been for many years. Major stage is about 10 feet higher than the river is right now, and it'd be real close to coming over the banks here at the RV park. As of now, that crest isn't predicted until Sunday. Did I mention that we're planning to leave on Saturday? If you live close to a wild river it's always nice if your house has wheels.
Today, we went to Lewis & Clarks "Canoe Camp" where the boys, in September of 1805, cut down 5 huge Ponderosa Pines and proceeded over the next 10 days to carve 5 big dug-out canoes from the logs with hand-tools alone. The Nez Perce Indians helped, mostly as process consultants, but the fact remains that the boys (OK, and 1 girl) accomplished this major task in just 10 days. When you see the size of the tree required and what's involved in the canoe-making process, the feat is truly noteworthy.
After Canoe Camp it was off to Weipe Prairie, where the expedition first ran into the Nez Perce Indians after their 11 day trek through the Bitterroot Mountains -- a trek which almost killed them. They were tired, starved, cold, and near death when they stumbled onto this small prairie where the Indians were living, tending their stock of horses, and preparing for the coming winter. The Indians helped them with food and information, and really saved their skins as well as the expedition. Today, there's a marker on the spot of first contact and a very nice interpretive center combined with the local community library -- both of which helped round-out our understanding of the events of that fall from our reading of the L&C journals.
Getting to Weipe is an exercise in driving up the side of a mountain. From the Clearwater River at Greer, just 7 miles upriver from our campsite, the road goes back and forth on switchbacks up the side of the river gorge. You start at about 1000 feet above sea level and get to more than 3000 feet above sea level at the top where the prairie is. The hairpin turns, my reminding Dar that the tie-rods on the old Blazer can't last forever, and a steady stream of loaded logging trucks made the climb tense at times, but the views along the way are incredible. Did I mention I like this part of the country -- very much?
Back home we ordered out a pizza and uncorked a bottle of cheap wine, both of which were savored as we relaxed at our campsite, watching a rising river and toasting another sunset.
Tomorrow, Friday, we're going to stay closer to home and get a few chores done. Then Saturday, God willing and the creek don't rise (too far), we'll be leaving Orofino and attempting our climb up Hwy 12 to the Lolo Pass Summit on the Idaho - Montana border.