Lemhi Pass, Montana/Idaho  September 6, 2016

Lemhi Pass was the site where the Lewis & Clark expedition (also known as the "Corps of Discovery") crossed the Continental Divide in late August 1805 on their way to the Pacific Ocean.  As they trudged up the east side of Lemhi Pass, Lewis and Clark were hoping – and expecting – to see, at the top of the pass, a level plain towards the west.  But when they reached the summit and saw countless mountains off to the west, they knew they had a difficult journey ahead of them.  And indeed the next few months were difficult.

Lewis and Clark referred to this site as "Portage Hill."  Then for most of the 1800's it was known as "North Pass."  The corresponding "South Pass" was located in Wyoming and was perhaps the most important pass in American history, being the crossing point over the Continental Divide for numerous routes such as the Oregon Trail, the California Gold Rush trails, Pony Express, and the Mormon Trail.  The name was changed in the late 1800s to Lemhi Pass in reference to a prophet in the Book of Mormon.

This was the first time I'd reached the summit of Lehmi Pass.  I had tried once before, in 1998 during my road-trip across America when I followed the Lewis and Clark trail from St. Louis to Oregon.  Earlier that spring, I had read "Undaunted Courage," Stephen Ambrose's epic biography of Meriwether Lewis and was so moved by the book that I decided to retrace their steps that summer.  Unfortunately though, the day before I arrived at Lemhi Pass, a massive thunderstorm had swept through this area and the dirt road had turned into a quagmire that was too much for my little 2-wheel drive truck.  Consequently, I never reached the summit during that road trip.  This time, though, I had 4-wheel drive – and, as it turned out, beautiful weather.

After I reached the summit of Lemhi Pass late in the afternoon, I found what I believed was the same campsite where Stephen Ambrose had camped on the Fourth of July each year for many years with his family, as he described in "Undaunted Courage," and so I decided to camp at the same exact site.  I was glad that no one else decided to camp at Lemhi Pass that evening – but that was perhaps because the temperature dropped below freezing that night.  Despite the chilly temperatures, it was an honor to camp at the "Stephen Ambrose campsite" and staying there that evening has been one of the highlights of my entire trip so far.

  • To see my 360-degree panorama photo, click here.