Friday, July 10, 1981

19. Big Hole Pass, Montana

Day 19:  Friday, July 10, 1981
Sula to Big Hole Pass:  68 miles

It was cold when we awoke this morning, but that didn't stop the mosquitoes.  We settled for a quick, light breakfast, and then we were off.

Zigzag rail fence
Does this fence actually follow the boundary?

The eight miles to Lost Trail Pass (so named because Capt. Clark lost the trail when returning from the west) and Joseph Pass (for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce) took us 1½ hours.  At the top of LTP, I crossed back into Idaho just so I could say I'd done it.  Then we headed east on US 93.  Joseph Pass is on the Continental Divide - this is our first of nine crossings of the divide.

Big frame thingies
We never learned what those big frame thingies were.
Hay stacks
Maybe they had something to do with these hay stacks?

We visited the Nez Perce battlefield monument at Big Hole, at the bottom of the mountain, before continuing to Wisdom.  In 1877, troops under General Howard attacked the fleeing Nez Perce, trying to force them to their reservation.  Although Nez Perce casualties were high, it was technically an Indian victory.

Wisdom is known for its mosquitoes and its long winters.  After a desperately quick lunch (because of the mosquitoes), we journeyed a mostly flat 20 miles to Jackson.  My rear tire gave out between Wisdom and Jackson.  I had only 1000 miles on it.  Luckily, I had bought a new tire in Missoula.

Painter from Kalispell
I stopped to talk with a painter from Kalispell

Jackson has a bar, a lodge with hot springs, and not much else.  We sat on the porch of the bar and talked with the townspeople and filled our water bottles with hot cold water.  Since it was 45 miles to the next water, we also filled our 1½-gallon collapsible jug.  Big Hole Pass is 12 miles out of town, and about 800' up, and one of the locals said it would be good camping up there.  So we left.

A good tailwind pushed us up the hill (although I cussed the water jug all the way up for flopping back and forth on top of my load), and we made camp among the sagebrush, ants, and cattle at the top.  Fortunately, a steady breeze kept the mosquitoes away for the evening, and we were able to relax after supper to do our writing and enjoy the sunset.  On later reflection, I decided that this night was the most pleasant and enjoyable camping night of the entire trip.

Camping on Big Hole Pass
Beautiful evening, camping on Big Hole Pass


  1. Wow, Bret. I have the very same recollection. That night amonst the sagebrush and cowpies on Big Hole Pass was the most pleasant and enjoyable camping night of the entire trip. I hope it's not because Rick wasn't with us!

    1. Oops, I did a comment instead of a reply. Just in case you don't get notification of the comment, Guy, I'm changing it to a reply...

      No, it had nothing to do with Rick. Just the view and the serenity and the feeling of total freedom and relaxation. Rereading this entry reminds me that I should probably pick up a new tire, since I chucked the old worn-out one that got the screw puncture outside of Sisters. I just hate to carry one more item, though, and the tires seem to be holding up just fine.

    2. Speaking of Rick, do you have contact information for him? I don't think I ever did. And Rick Perez is too common a name to use to locate someone. Wasn't he from Santa Barbara?

      If you have info, you can just reply to this message. If there's anything personal in it, I just won't publish it, and it won't appear here.


Feel free to leave a comment. Note that I screen all comments before they will appear here.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.