Boy! Did we have an adventure yesterday! One of those things where I became embroiled in the “Mickey Warnock Experience.” In fact, I caused it and it got worse before it got better.
We went to Indian Post Office located on the Lolo Motorway. “Motorway” is a term out of the ‘30s when the road was built with the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corp along a trail used by the Nez Perce. Don’t let the term “motorway” fool you. It’s a clearly-defined but single lane road, very rocky, and not for the faint of heart. The Lolo Motorway makes the Gilbert Grade look like an improved highway. We traversed it in our Dakota, frequently in 4-wheel drive. Realistically, the best option is a 4-wheeler.
Leaving Highway 12, also called the Lewis-Clark Trail or Scenic Byway, we turned onto Doe Creek and proceeded to Indian Post Office, a pile of rocks where the Nez Perce left messages and also came for healing. Mike found a place to turn around so that we could park. After lunch, he set off on his grand adventure – to place a geocache at Indian Post Office Lake. Seeing his walking stick, Nellie waxed excited. “Oh boy, oh boy!” she seemed to say. “I’m up for it, Mike. I’m with ya.” Mike advised me to take reading material.
We walked along the crest of the ridge until we could see the lake far below. Mike said I could go if I wanted to but suggested that I sit on a log and wait. Mike is part mountain goat, and I –well, I am not. I knew that I would really slow him down and that realistically, I might not even make it out again before nightfall. I’m not kidding. So, I sat down on the log. Mike left at 1:10. At about 1:30 I saw him crossing the flat to the lake.
I was looking at a recent issue of “The Quilter” and dreaming over some of the quilt patterns when a wind came up and the sun went behind a cloud. Suddenly, I was chilly. Looking behind me, I could see the road. “Why did I agree to sit here,” I thought to myself, “when I could be walking and taking pictures?” So, I gathered my magazine and the camera and hiked overland to where the Dakota was parked to get my jacket.
As I approached Indian Post Office, an expanded cab, long bed, 2-wheel drive pick-up in Forest Service green pulled in. I figured they would speak to me just to ascertain that all was well with me and my party, but no. The two passengers appeared not to be Forest Service personnel – at least, they weren’t dressed in uniform. The driver attempted to turn around in the same spot we had used, except that he got stuck. The back wheels kept spinning in the dirt until there was quite a rut. One of the passengers waved to me and shrugged his shoulders. I was about to ask if they needed this grandmother to push when the driver gunned the engine and the earth let loose of the vehicle. With another wave from the passenger, they were off. Odd behavior for the Forest Service, I thought.
It was then, as I stood in the middle of the road, that I dropped the camera, and yes, it’s not quite the same. I felt terrible about it, but I grabbed my jacket from the pick-up, left my reading material, and walked down the road – perhaps three-quarters of a mile or so. I really thought it was going to take Mike a while to climb back up to the ridge – but no. Looking toward the spot where he left me, I could see him nearing the top. I quickly headed back to the Dakota – now too warm in my jacket – but when I got there, he still wasn’t there.
Now I was upset about the camera, too warm in my jacket, and worried that Mike would wait for me at the log. Did I think to leave a note at the Dakota? Yes, but I didn’t do it because I was certain I would meet him hiking across the ridge. So, I set off once again to the spot where I knew he would expect to see me, but he wasn’t there. I didn’t see him on the road. I didn’t see him on the cross-country route. And so I knew that he took another route out – but I was standing a good half mile from the Dakota and I knew it would take me ten minutes to walk back.
I started kicking myself for every erring instinct from the time I left the log in the first place. I knew I couldn’t get back to the Dakota fast enough but the overland route was rough and I felt clumsy in my hiking boots. As I approached Indian Post Office I saw Mike moving the Dakota and tried to run. Luckily he saw me. He had worried, he said, and why hadn’t I left a note? He saw the prints of my hiking boots going both ways in the road and couldn’t imagine what I was doing. He had loaded the Dakota, left a note for me under a rock, and was headed down the road to look for me when he saw me coming. All in all, the whole experience reminded me of the time we lost Mike in the Northtown Mall in Spokane.
As for the camera – probably time to replace it, said Mike. And when I told him about the ruts made by the Forest Service, he said, “Thank God! I thought maybe I had done that and didn’t realize it.” Finally it occurred to me that the vehicle was likely a private vehicle -- one previously owned by the Forest Service.
Mike says it took him 22 minutes to descend the embankment and 23 minutes to ascend again. What did I tell you? He’s part mountain goat. I can guarantee that with all my back-and-forthing, it did not cause as much delay as if I had gone to the lake with him.
Tomorrow: Horseshoe Lookout and Fish Creek -- KW