I've finally got 15 minutes to put pen to paper and record some thoughts about the NWOL trip to Montana and Idaho that Nathan Thomas, his friend Patty (from Stehekin WA), the Hubert Family (Kevin and Terrill and their four wonderful children) myself and my two kids embarked on.
Here is the route we did - a long arc through Idaho and Montana, traveling through the Clearwater, Nez Perce, Frank Church and Bitterroots Wilderness areas.
We met up at the Fernan Lake Ranger station in CD'A and rallied to the start of our adventure in Superior MT. We headed south on FR 250 and summited Hoodoo Pass, which marks the border between MT and ID.
Our group included a Toyota Tacoma pickup, a late model Toyota Landcruiser and a classic 1973 Series III Land Rover (88 inch).
We made it into the beautiful Hoodoo Valley and found our first camp spot off a side road near Hidden Creek. It was little cramped. Camp was set, the fly rods came out and trout were stalked in the Clearwater River.
The next morning, we packed up and headed down FR 250, along the Clearwater River. Stops for lunch and swimming punctuated the day. All the kids and the dog swam in the creek and the serene relaxation of a vacation began to set in.
That afternoon, we headed toward Pierce Idaho, where we pulled off the trail for provisions and gasoline. Kevin Hubert encountered transmission problems with the Land Rover - unable to engage a gear. He efficiently tore down the transmission cowling from the interior of the car and diagnosed the problem, which could not be repaired road-side. We flagged down a local in a DeSoto who helped organize a flat-bed transport back to Spokane Valley (their home town). We said our good byes and were back on the trail looking for a campsite.
That evening, we found another side-road camp site in what appeared to be a pasture with a salt lick (elk ? cattle ?) and settled in. My kids gave Nathan a few pointers on archery and a few beers were consumed later that evening.
The next day, we wended our way South toward Syringa ID, re-routing a couple of times due to excessively overgrown trails.
We eventually emerged onto Highway 12 and headed East along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River to Syringa, where we stopped and had lunch at the cafe, and learned about the history of this remote part of Idaho.
We turned South onto FR 651 and ran along O'Hara Creek into the Nez Perce Wilderness. We climbed the Elk Summit Lookout trail, climbed the tower and flew the drone around the 100 foot unmanned lookout tower erected in 1939.
That evening, with the help of some Forest Service workers, we found a warming hut built by the local snowmobile club. We had the structure all to ourselves, and fired up the wood-burning stove and enjoyed the evening.
The next morning, we headed into Elk City, located 175 miles into our route. This is the Westerly end of the fabled Magruder Road, which connects Elk City ID to Darby MT through 115 miles of wild, desolate country and separates the Nez Perce and Frank Church wilderness areas. These two wilderness areas are massive, remote and both amongst the largest in the lower 48. In Elk City, we gassed up and bought groceries for the next couple of days. We visited the local graveyard to pay our respects and then launched onto the Magruder Road (also called the Nez Perce Road, the Montana Road etc etc). A quick stop at Red River Hot Springs was delightful and we found a forest service campsite next to the Red River for the evening. Several nice trout were caught that evening.
The next day, we were back onto the Magruder Road, which climbed high in the mountains and became progressively more remote. You don't want any mechanical issues out there. We took a side trip up Burnt Knob to the lookout station. This trail was steep and technical and was a real adventure.
That afternoon, we worked our way back down Burnt Knob and made our way to Observation Point Ridge at mile 240, which is the highest point on the trip - around 8200 ft. We found a great campsite right on the ridge and watched the fading light play off the lonely expanse of wilderness far below.
The next day, our trip concluded with the remaining 50 miles on the Magruder Road, and ended in Darby MT.
For those interested, I'm planning a trip back to Idaho in 2020, and want to link the Magruder Road and the LoLo road together into a 4-5 day adventure.
I look forward to Nathan's edits, as I'm sure I've left out lot of details...