The First 100 Miles…Favorite Ride?

The inevitable question always comes up in conversation with other bikers when they hear I’ve traveled cross country:  What’s been your favorite ride?  Similar to any other “favorite” question, my answer always starts with “Well, it depends…”  It depends on which aspect of the ride you want me to rank highest?  Technicality?  Scenery?  Weather?  Road conditions?  Historical significance?  Traffic?  Additionally, each of those aspects depends on the time of the year and/or a specific snapshot in time of the day I rode it.

Maybe it’s because it was a recent ride, or maybe because I was doing it on a new bike without pulling a trailer, or maybe because the weather was absolutely gorgeous and there was no traffic and the road was well-maintained, but whatever the reason, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in Idaho clicked almost every box for me!

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway through north-central Idaho.

At just over 200 miles in length, this byway not only follows the route Lewis & Clark took through north-central Idaho, it also traces part of the 1877 flight of the Nez Perce from their homelands in Oregon while being pursued by the U.S. Army through Idaho to Montana (Nez Perce National Historical Trail).  US-12 traverses the Clearwater River Canyon along the Middle Fork of Clearwater River, and the Lochsa River.  I rode the route in reverse, starting in Lolo, Montana and finishing in Lewiston, Idaho.   

What a way to break in a new bike!!  The first 150 miles on my new Heritage Classic included the joyous 99 miles of the sweeping, climbing, scenic, historic Southwest Passage Scenic Byway in Idaho! Not a technically challenging ride (ie, minimal hairpin turns), it hypnotizes you with perfectly timed sweeping curves that allow time to take in the scenery, yet still get some decent leans in! 
Lolo Mountain, elevation 9096 feet, as seen from the scenic byway.
Lolo Pass Visitors Center, elevation 5225 feet.
According to the placard behind the visitor’s center: “From Jun-Oct 1877, more than 750 Nez Perce (Niimiipuu) men, women and children, and 2000 horses eluded the pursuing U.S. Army across much of the Pacific Northwest and part of the Great Plans, through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.”  As they made their “heroic, yet futile flight seeking freedom and peace” from settlers and gold-seekers, their 1170 mile journey ended when 200 managed to escape to Canada, while the rest were captured and taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Though, years later, the captured were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, their homeland was no longer theirs.  “Today, many descendants live on the Nez Perce, Colville, and Umatilla Reservations.”
I’m not sure what kind of trees these are, but they were almost magical with the way the sun was streaking through them near Packer Meadow.  The Lewis & Clark expedition encamped here in 1805 and 1806 as they passed through Lolo pass. –NPS website  
Clearwater River alongside US-12, Southwest Passage Scenic Byway.
True to its name, Clearwater River’s water is crystal clear!
“The Nez Perce National Historical Park consists of 38 places throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington states that are important to the history and culture of the Nimiipuu.”  –NPS website 
Every culture has a creation story, and “for the Nimiipuu, or Nez Perce, the story of their people begins with the landmark near present day Kamiah, Idaho, called Heart of the Monster.  It is here where the coyote killed the monster eating all the animals, and created the Nimiipuu.NPS Website

There was so much beautiful scenery and historical markers to stop and take in that it took much longer to complete the 200 mile route than Google maps predicted it would!  But I enjoyed every minute of my short jaunt through Idaho and was thankful that I took the time to explore this route.  I came for the thrill of riding Lolo pass, but I rolled away with one of the most memorable transits of my journey so far 🙂 

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