A Snowy Day at Indian Post Office
360° panoramic photo
Photo by Kris Townsend, 4 October 2016
Indian Post Office
Etching its way along the ridge down there is the Lolo Motorway, the rough single lane motorway that was completed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, an agency established during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration to provide jobs and carry out projects to restore and preserve the country's natural resources, especially in the West.
Sometime on September 16, 1805, the Corps of Discovery passed along the brink of this basin, possibly where the Lolo Motorway is now. They were too cold, hungry, and generally miserable to admire the scenery. They couldn't have seen much of it anyway. Snow fell throughout the day, adding a total of 6 to 8 wet, slippery inches on top of what remained of the previous winter's hardened snowpack. "Indeed," fretted Clark, "I was at one time fearfull my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons which I wore."
The journalists didn't mention the "Indian Post Office" on the westward crossing of the Bitterroots; it may have been covered by a combination of old and early-season snow. But on their return in June of 1806, Lewis penned ample details of their guides' stop for a smoke on June 27 at a similar view point, Smoking Place.
The road still continued on the heights of the same dividing ridge on which we had traveled yesterday for nine miles to our encampment of the [17th] of September last. about one mile short of this encampment on an elivated point we halted by the request of the Indians a few minutes and smoked the pipe. on this eminence the natives have raised a conic mound of stones of 6 or eight feet high and on it's summit erected a pine pole of 15 feet long [see panorama above]. from hence they informed us that when passing over with their familes some of the men were usually sent on foot by the fishery at the entrance of Colt [Killed] Creek in order to take fish and again met the main party at the Quawmash [camas] glade on the head of the Kooskooske river. from this place we had an extensive view of these stupendous mountains principally covered with snow like that on which we stood; we were entirely surrounded by those mountains from which to one unacquainted with them it would have seemed impossible ever to have escaped; in short without the assistance of our guides I doubt much whether we who had once passed them could find our way to Travellers rest in their present situation for the marked trees on which we had placed considerable reliance are much fewer and more difficult to find than we had aprehended. these fellows are most admirable pilots; we find the road wherever the snow has disappeared though it be only for a few hundred paces. after smoking the pipe and contemplating this seene sufficient to have damp the sperits of any except such hardy travellers as we have become, we continued our march.
Funded in part by a grant from the Idaho Governor's Lewis and Clark Trail Committee