Sunday evening I camped on the grassy bank of the Jefferson River. In the middle of the night I woke up. With no tent over me the Milky Way swept across the sky, crossed by the bright streak of a meteor.
I’d walked about 22 miles on Sunday, not too bad on a hot day and being partially out of hiking shape.
As soon as it started getting light I began packing. Dawn comes over an hour later now compared to eastern Montana, hundreds of miles way, and now weeks after the solstice. It was chilly, I wore both my jacket and balaclava.
Lewis and Clark Caverns was a well developed park but I was there hours before opening. Instead I filled my water bottles at the campground and kept walking.
There was a huge amphitheater-like cave down the road a way. I hiked up a drainage and then up and over a ridge to check it out the cave. On the way back I spotted a small cave that went all the way through the bottom of the ridge, a shortcut back to the road. I had to crawl through it.
The canyon along the Jefferson was beautiful, with the steep cliffs, mostly still in the shadows, with the road running between the cliffs and the river.
I was surprised to see a black bear walk out of the willows and along the river. When he heard a car coming he melted into the willows where he appeared to be eating some kind of red berries.
There was very little traffic. Deer fed or watched me from their beds. Somehow in all the years I’d visited this area I’d never been down this very scenic road.
There wasn’t much left of the town of LaHood Park except for an old, giant, shaggy white dog who greeted me with mild interest before crossing the road to lie in the shade where he could watch the world go by.
At Cardwell I got a large coffee and a breakfast sandwich, breakfast burrito and a Dove Bar. What a treat.
For the rest of the day I was in familiar country I’d seen many times fishing with Jim Griffin. There were wonderful views of the Tobacco Root and Highland Mountains.
There were many shady ranch houses along the way with irrigated hay fields with stacks of huge bales. There were also considerable stretches of shadeless road, a considerable factor on this increasingly hot day.
I paused on a bluff, high over the Jefferson, a spot members of the expedition surely stood, as well as numerous Indian tribes for thousands of years.
A rancher drove up from behind me with an ATV with two cattle dogs in the back.
“Are you hiking the Continental Divide Trail?”
“Close, I’m actually doing the Lewis and Clark Trail.”
“Do you need anything? Water maybe?”
We had a good chat. His was a well known name with a road and bridge named after the family. He told me about an Indian cave I could access from his land, as well as some tipi rings.
I got two quarts of river water, filtered one and climbed up to the cave, a steep hike on this hot afternoon. There were several red pictographs, including a man and a track from a sandhill crane or similar bird. There was also modern names scratched onto the walls dating back to 1914, at least.
I ended up sleeping on a trail on the mountainside. It was quite comfortable, actually. There was a nice orange sunset over the Highlands, with backlit irrigation water, and fields and cottonwoods. Colter
Lewis: August 1st 1805 At half after 8 A.M. we halted for breakfast and as had been previously agreed on between Capt. Clark and myself I set out with 3 men in quest of the Snake Indians. the men I took were the two Interpreters Drewyer and Sharbono and Sergt. Gass who by an accedental fall had so disabled himself that it was with much pain he could work in the canoes tho he could march with convenience… our rout lay through the steep valleys exposed to the heat of the sun without shade and scarcely a breath of air… I found myself almost exhausted before we reached the river. I felt my sperits much revived on our near approach to the river at the sight of a herd of Elk of which Drewyer and myself killed two. we then hurried to the river and allayed our thirst…
Trip overview and route map with position updates: