Into the mountains


It was a cold morning on the Palouse. 36 degrees per the sign at Dissmore’s.

Pullman is at a latitude of 47 degrees and elevation of 2,300 feet.

My destination is Boise, altitude is 2,700 feet, at latitude 43.6 degrees. To get there we must cross several ranges of high hills and reach the foothills of the Rockies. This is the first time I’ve traveled this route.

After arriving at Lewiston Idaho, we start our ascent by following the Clearwater River upstream to the east. However, we don’t stay long with the Clearwater, instead turning south towards White Bird pass ( 4,200 feet). Preceding the pass is a large flat area. On the down slope from White Bird is our lunch stop, Hoots. The area below Hoots is an historical site where the local natives tried to defend their lands against the incursions of the U.S. government in their quest to make the West “safe for democracy.” (Battle of White Bird Canyon – will it ever end?)

Next we find the Salmon River and head upstream. This is a resort area and has been for some time. Above there, following the Little Salmon, the geologically new western foothills are extremely craggy. Much of the exposed rock is glassy and gleams in the morning sun. There is evidence of grazing here, common in many national forests, even though the steep slopes seem like they’d be difficult for the cows.

We stop briefly in New Meadows, one of the high meadow areas (3,900 feet) on the way to Boise. Next is McCall (5,000 feet), a rather upscale resort area on a lake (Payette Lake), and near the high elevation limit of our trip.


Following the Payette River, we begin our descent towards Boise. Now the granite outcroppings are more weathered, signalling geologically older mountains. There are also limestone/sandstone outcroppings here and there, and areas of sandy soil, evidence of a once-huge body of water (the Western Interior Seaway of 100 million years ago).

Some time before we reach Boise, larger human settlements become evident. This is the top of a very well-settled inner valley that extends southeast for hundreds of miles.


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