Anyone interested in exploring firsthand the mountains and forests Lewis and Clark traversed in 1805-06 in western Montana and the Idaho panhandle will find this guidebook indispensable. Hike Lewis and Clark’s Idaho is a collaboration between writer Mary Aegerter, a frequent contributor to Washington State Magazine, and Steve Russell, a native of the region who has researched its historic trails.
The heart of the book is a set of detailed reviews of 44 trails between Lolo Ranger Station in Montana and Weippe, Idaho, accessible from either U.S. Highway 12, the Lolo Motorway—a primitive road that parallels the highway—or the Selway River. Aegerter rounds out the book with chapters on the history and geology of the area and appendices on additional trails, preparedness, minimizing problems, what to do in case of trouble, dangers one might encounter, equipment, and woodland ethics and etiquette.
Many of the trails Aegerter describes are of historic interest, some because Lewis and Clark traveled them, others because they figure in Nez Perce history or other regional lore. One hike from the Lolo Motorway, for example, leads in turn to Sinque Hole Camp, where Lewis and Clark camped in September 1805, the grave of a Nez Perce teenager who died there around 1895, and to the Smoking Place, where Lewis and Clark stopped in June 1806 to smoke with their Nez Perce guides.
Throughout the book, Aegerter holds forth on trailside plants, local history, animal sightings, place names, and more, often with wry humor. “Both times I’ve hiked up Fish Butte,” she muses, “I’ve seen the same wildlife: vultures. And this is the only hike in the area where I’ve seen them. It makes me wonder what they know about hiking this trail that I don’t.”
She evokes at times a sense of the unexpected beauties—and strangeness—one encounters on the trail. Describing a storm literally passing over her head as she sat on a hilltop on Glover Ridge, she writes, “…[T]he flat, bottom layer of the clouds was just a few feet above my head. Gray tendrils moved tentatively down from it, as if testing whether it was safe for the cloud to drop down a few more feet to envelop me.”
But it’s Aegerter’s thoughtfulness that hikers in the field will most appreciate. She places her discussions of particular wildflowers, for example, exactly where they’ll be most useful: in descriptions of trails where those flowers are most likely to be found. In her chapter on the Colgate licks trail, which she calls “a good spot to sort out the tracks belonging to . . . deer, elk, and moose,” she provides illustrations of those tracks. It’s a small thing to do, but it’s touches like this that make Hike Lewis and Clark’s Idaho more than a simple trail guide.