Thursday, July 23, 2015
Chapter 31 - Clarkston to Missoula, Montana
The distance from our campsite in Clarkston, Washington to our new campsite in Missoula, Montana, the Missoula KOA, is 220 miles. Almost the entire drive is on U.S. Route 12 through Idaho. This road which was previously known as the Lewis and Clark Highway, and is now named the Northwest Passage Scenic Highway, has to be one of the top scenic highways in all of the United States. The highway follows for much of its length the Clearwater River and the Lochsa River, and then once we cross the Lolo Pass at 5,233 feet, the highest elevation of todays drive, we followed the West Fork Lolo Creek down into Missoula. The Lewis and Clark Expedition followed these rivers on their famous journey west back in 1805. Also interesting about this route is that a little over a third of the drive runs through the Nez Perse Indian Reservation.
No part of the drive however, is on a road that is straight or even level as the highway follows along the winding courses of the various rivers. Then depending on which direction you are traveling, in our case east, the road rises against the rapidly falling river water that is running to the west ultimately to the Pacific Ocean. The photo of Kathy and Cabo that was taken when we briefly stopped to rest and let traffic pass us by, clearly shows the fast moving rapids of the Lochsa River.
One thing about changing time zones and losing an hour as we drove east, was that we slept in an extra hour (at least by my watch). Actually it was Cabo who alerted us to get up as he needed to find a tree or fire hydrant as soon as possible. It was 6:30 am Mountain Time. I spent a few minutes during breakfast reviewing the various brochures that we had picked up when we registered at the campground office and after discussing the alternatives with Kathy, we decided to drive to downtown Missoula to see what they have to offer. Our first stop was at the St Francis Xavier Church which was built back in 1889. The church was actually easy to find as the downtown area was not large and the high steeple of the church was visible from several blocks away.
Fortunately the door of the church was wide open which is often the case with Catholic Churches. After Kathy spent time inside while I watched Cabo (it was unclear whether dogs could worship inside Catholic churches), I too visited the inside of what turned out to be an incredibly beautiful interior. While the stained glass windows were wonderful they were not entirely unique. What was really special about the entire were the paintings on the walls and ceilings that we were told were painted by one of the brothers of the Society of Jesus who worked for the church as a kitchen worker. The photograph may not show it but this guy was a true Master, apparently with special gift from God. Fortunately his artwork is still shared with visitors more than a century later.
Tomorrow we head for the Butte Montana KOA on the way to next weeks visit to Yellowstone National Park.