According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: I'll Pass On Mountain Snow

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'll Pass On Mountain Snow

Kathleen and I have returned home from our Thanksgiving trip to Montana. I thought about Sam many times during our week apart, especially during our 12-hour marathon drive home, between bouts of driving, reading, sleeping, constantly shifting one’s butt to avoid turning into petrified wood and stopping for food, coffee and toilet breaks.

The drive between here and Montana is incredibly beautiful, but NOT ALWAYS during the winter. Between Olympia, Washington, where we live, and Bozeman, Montana, where Kathleen’s family lives we must cross five mountain passes. I try always to be prepared to drive in the snow – Kathleen is quite amused by all the stuff I bring – because one year early in our marriage, we got caught in a blizzard and had to chain up three times crossing the mountains then nearly perished in white-out conditions driving back through Spokane. I AM NOT fond of driving across snowy mountain passes unprepared.

The first pass we have to traverse on the way to Montana is little Tiger Mountain on State Route 18 in the center of the Issaquah Alps between Interstate 90 on the north, the Issaquah-Hobart Road on the southwest, and State Route 18 on the southeast. Tiger Mountain only reaches an elevation of 1,375 feet - about half the elevation of the other mountain passes - but when there’s snow, Tiger Mountain often gets some and you have to chain up.

Possibly the most daunting pass on our trip is Snoqualmie Pass, which takes us over Interstate 90 through the Cascade Range; its elevation is only 3,022 feet, but if there is snow anywhere in the state of Washington a good deal of it usually falls on Snoqualmie. Since Snoqualmie is the primary commercial artery between Seattle and points east, carrying an average of 27,087 vehicles every day, all of those drivers disobeying the speed limit and the snow traction requirements and jockeying pell-mell around each other makes for a nail-biting little sleigh ride; add to that the danger of rock slides and avalanche.

Just out of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we come to the Fourth of July Pass which was established by Capt. John Mullan, a U.S. Army engineer when he built a rough wagon road across the Idaho Panhandle. The construction crew celebrated their work July 4, 1861, on a high mountain pass east of present-day Coeur d'Alene and the pass became known as Fourth of July (go figure). At 3,173 feet this pass can be treacherous, but fortunately, it is not too lengthy. The only problem here is that you just get over Fourth of July and start to relax and you are quickly faced with Lookout Pass.

Lookout Pass is part of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of the Bitterroot Range in the Rocky Mountains and is on the border between Idaho and Montana, rising to an elevation of 4,710 feet. It is a treacherous, long, winding serpentine. It is not fun when it’s snowing, particularly when you have to pass slow-moving trucks and snow and ice are obliterating most of the road.

Finally, we arrive at Homestake Pass, which sits on the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,329 feet about six miles south-southeast of Butte, Montana. Homestake is encompassed by Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and was discovered by Edwin Harrison McHenry, a civil engineer working for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Homestake is a long and winding pass; probably the worst of the five.

This year the good lord answered our fervent prayers and provided dry pavement through the passes both ways. Kathleen and I were truly thankful for that and are glad to be home with Sam. Now we can settle down to preparing for Christmas. Deck the now

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