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mtn_wanderer
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PostMon Feb 15, 2021 12:38 pm 
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2021 has been a fairly mild winter in our corner of the Rockies. We've gone out scouted many different places in the area looking for snow. We finally decided that we'd travel to the Bitterroots for our first trip of the year. The night before the trip, a storm came through the area and dropped 10 inches of snow in town and even more up in the mountains.  When we got the trailhead, there was no sign of the trail that we had cut in the previous week and there was a foot a new snow that we would have to push through.

Since we had scouted the area the week before, we picked a potential campsite that had plenty of wood for us to harvest to keep a good fire going the whole trip. We were hiking in with our full setups this time though and it was slow going cutting a fresh trail in 12" of snow.

The light was fading as we finally pulled into camp and we quickly strung the tarps and the hammocks and got to work on the fire. We had left a couple trees in camp so we'd have a headstart on the firewood when we got there. In a matter of minutes we had a fire going and we had plenty of wood to keep it going. In our haste to get our tarps and hammocks setup, we didn't think through our setup at all and we strung our tarps way too high.

At some point the night, our clear skies disappeared and a storm rolled it. It started snowing and blowing. By the time I woke up in the morning, I looked down at my boots that were almost directly below my tarp... and they were full of snow. It was a rough start to the morning.

After clearing the snow out of boots and pulling myself out of my hammock, we got some water on the stove and got a fire going. After a couple of rounds of hot drinks, we got started on getting wood for the day. We kept the fire roaring all day but that required us to keep the supply of wood coming. It snowed all day but once the wind died down, it was really nice. As we crawled into our hammocks, the snow was still falling.

At some time in the night the storm broke and we woke up to sunny skies. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining down through the trees and no one was in a hurry to pack up and hike out. Before I was ready to do it, it was time to pack up and leave.

Since it had snowed all day the day before, our trail that we had cut in a couple days before was completely gone. There was another 12 inches of snow for us to push through to get out. The sun went in and out of the clouds as we made our way down the mountain.

In the end we got everything that we wanted out of this trip and a few things that we didn't count on. The 2021 season was officially under way and we had our first trip in the books. We're already looking forward to the next one.

Thanks for watching!

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Chief Joseph
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PostTue Feb 16, 2021 6:56 pm 
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Nice trip and video! Looks like a good place to snowmobile.

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Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
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mtn_wanderer
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PostWed Feb 17, 2021 5:56 am 
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Thanks! It is  a good place to snowmobile for sure. There is a snowmobile parking lot near the trailhead. Most of them head over the pass and into Montana.
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timberghost
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PostMon Feb 22, 2021 5:34 am 
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The Bitterroots are a cool area
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mtn_wanderer
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PostMon Feb 22, 2021 5:42 am 
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I love them!
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cdestroyer
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PostTue Mar 02, 2021 6:32 am 
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The bitterroots host the largest wilderness in the US I believe. I have not been there is a very long time. We usually camped the west fork of the bitterroot. Hunted elk up the blue joint. But there have been some really bad wild fires there and I imagaine all I remember will be long changed.
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Dick B
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PostTue Mar 02, 2021 8:52 am 
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The Bitterroots were the last big obstacle that Lewis and Clark had to cross on their trip west. They thought it would be a downhill run to the Columbia once they crossed the Rockies. Needless to say were somewhat dismayed when they saw a whole new range of mountains to cross. Winter coming on, no food, limited transportation made it a rather daunting experience. Were it not for the Shoshones and Sacajawea, they may not have made it out of the mountains. L & C journals are a good read.
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mtn_wanderer
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PostTue Mar 02, 2021 12:59 pm 
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cdestroyer wrote:
The bitterroots host the largest wilderness in the US I believe. I have not been there is a very long time. We usually camped the west fork of the bitterroot. Hunted elk up the blue joint. But there have been some really bad wild fires there and I imagaine all I remember will be long changed.

There have been some bad fires in recent years. Of course this area has a history of large wildfires with the biggest being the 1910 fire. This campout was not that far from the Pulaski Trail.
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mtn_wanderer
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PostTue Mar 02, 2021 1:00 pm 
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Dick B wrote:
The Bitterroots were the last big obstacle that Lewis and Clark had to cross on their trip west. They thought it would be a downhill run to the Columbia once they crossed the Rockies. Needless to say were somewhat dismayed when they saw a whole new range of mountains to cross. Winter coming on, no food, limited transportation made it a rather daunting experience. Were it not for the Shoshones and Sacajawea, they may not have made it out of the mountains. L & C journals are a good read.

There is a rich history in this area. I would love to know about Lewis & Clark's journey through here.
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Chief Joseph
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PostTue Mar 02, 2021 5:46 pm 
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Dick B wrote:
The Bitterroots were the last big obstacle that Lewis and Clark had to cross on their trip west. They thought it would be a downhill run to the Columbia once they crossed the Rockies. Needless to say were somewhat dismayed when they saw a whole new range of mountains to cross. Winter coming on, no food, limited transportation made it a rather daunting experience. Were it not for the Shoshones and Sacajawea, they may not have made it out of the mountains. L & C journals are a good read.

I think it was actually the Nez Perce who saved them from starving and/or freezing to death while crossing the Bitteroots.

September 11, 1805

"Even with horses and a Shoshone guide named Old Toby, the crossing of the Bitterroot Mountains in Idaho proves to be the most grueling and life-threatening section of the entire journey.

It was only mid-September, but the snow on the western flank of the Bitterroots is already deep and Old Toby gets lost. Horses slip and tumble down the mountain. The men, who have grown accustomed to eating five to seven pounds of meat daily in the game-rich plains, begin to starve. They become so desperate they start eating the colts.

Eleven days later, they stumble out of the forest snow-blind and weak with hunger, and are taken in by a village of Nez Perce Indians. Buckley says that the Nez Perce debate killing the half-dead intruders, who are accompanied by a Shoshone woman, their bitter enemy. But a Nez Perce woman named Watkueis, who lives among white men as a captive, convinces them to spare the strangers and befriend them."

https://www.history.com/news/lewis-clark-timeline-expedition

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Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
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mtn_wanderer
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PostWed Mar 03, 2021 6:54 am 
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Crazy that they were that close to not making it through and not being heard of again...
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Chief Joseph
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PostWed Mar 03, 2021 10:38 am 
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Then for their reward they are driven from their native lands in the Wallowas in 1877 because some prospectors thought there might be a profitable amount of gold. That was about 75 years later but still..

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mtn_wanderer
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PostFri Mar 05, 2021 6:57 am 
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yeah the history only gets uglier.. The Wallowas... another of my favorite ranges!
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > A winter storm in the Bitterroots
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