July 8, 2001

7/8/01 Riggins, ID

48.8 / 4239 miles

Even though the museums were closed yesterday, I did get to see the replica of the mastodon found at Tolo Lake, nearby.

Got a pretty early start today under a cloudy sky. Had a moderate climb up White Bird Hill, but then at the top, the sign read: "7% GRADE NEXT 9 MILES." Most of the time, these steep grades are only part of the downhill. Not this time! This was one steep, winding descent the whole nine miles. Wow!

Sweeeeeet!

Partway down, I stopped at the Nez Perce National Historic Park. You could get a great view of the first battle of the Nez Perce War. The White Bird Battle occurred on June 17, 1877. One of the local volunteer militia is said to have fired the first shots as the Indian and U.S. Army leaders were talking under a flag of truce. Even though the Nez Perce were only armed with bows and arrows and a few firearms, they routed the Army, killing over one-third of the 100 soldiers and chasing the survivors out of the valley. Not one Indian was killed in this first battle. At the lookout, I met Sam -- from Maine, but he moved here several years ago. He was on his way back home after some backpacking in Hell's Canyon.

White Bird Battleground

At White Bird, I got my first glimpse of the famous Salmon River. Didn't seem much different than some of the other rivers I've followed. But, as I meandered along the road as it went upstream, the canyon got bigger and deeper, until I was speechless at every turn. How many times can I say, "words can't describe" on this trip? I even stopped to admire the rafters enjoying the river on a hot day.

Salmon River

Since crossing into Idaho, I'd been on Pacific time. But today, as I crossed the Salmon River near Riggins, I saw a sign instructing me to change back to Mountain time. Although I'm heading more south today instead of west, this time zone reversal has me baffled. Now I wonder where it will change back.

Seeing all the people as I ride into Riggins, I'm reminded of a little boy in Grangeville who told his mom, "There goes Santa Claus." She tried to correct him, but I said, "I was on vacation. Sort of a secret," I smiled.

Riggins is first and foremost a river town, with a half dozen float trip outfitters, at least. The town is built along the river banks and is spread out for a ways. But subsequent parallel streets rise high above on the steep mountainsides.

Riggins, ID

When I met east-bound Steve and his mom, Lorraine, they told me to stop by the Assembly of God church and say hello to Pastor Cliff. At first, he was a little confused because he had heard Bubba (remember the St. Louis policeman I met in Kentucky?) should be here soon. "You're the policeman?" he queried. "No, but I'm looking for him, too," I said, thinking Bubba should be right behind me. Cliff and I talked while he showed me around the church building, also offering the use of the rec room to spend the night. He's been pastor here six years, but also had a church in Dubois, Wyoming, so we also talked about the city and the Wyoming winds.

Thinking of Bubba coming close to catching me again, I'm struck by the fact that no "speed demons" have caught me. I mean, I'm not going that fast. Plus, I wonder what happened to Damian (from Ohio that I met in Colorado).

With free lodging (and nowhere to really cook), I ate lunch at the Salmon River Inn, where the staff are especially nice. Then later, after a shower, some reading, and journal writing, I decided to eat way too much at the Blueberry Patch Drive-in. This afternoon was so hot, the town seemed to be having a Spanish siesta. But, as the sun dips below the mountain tops and the winds pick up, Riggins is truly a blessed place among the hills.