July 27, 2010- Downstream

Kate Murr

The color has drained from the rocks since we left Montana. Over the continental divide in the Clearwater National Forest, the rocks are more rugged and grey, but cloaked also with an extensive earthen palate of lichens and mosses that deeply animate the banks of the Lochsa (pronounced “lock saw”) and ground the firs and ancient cedars of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

The ride from our thimbleberry oatmeal breakfast down scenic Highway 12 was breathtaking. It drizzled. We met some motorcyclists. Stuart’s red jacket blazed against the wet greens of the trees and river. Falls like silver chains scored cliffs. White water cheered us downstream. The kids sang Christmas songs.

We met a family on an adventure from Wichita at Lowell, and Shelly, the store attendant there gave us some buffalo jerky and wished us well on our journey. She and her husband made the leap from Seattle area to realize their dream of owning a business in a rural community. A cherry tree outside the store provided a yummy treat.

While the stop in Lowell was sunny all around, a few miles down the road things clouded over, literally, and about the time Stuart stopped to fix his flat rear tire, it started to rain again. With 22 miles to go for the evening I was less than enchanted with the rain this time, but it didn’t last long and we eventually made it to Kooskia, where we met Tina and Doug Ulmer, out for an evening stroll.

The pair pointed us in the direction of the town’s restaurant, then invited us to barbeque at their house, then invited us to spend the night. They see lots of bikers pass through town, and sometimes they go talk with them, but they don’t generally have them over.

The Ulmers are very busy. We talked about the shifts in challenges as kids age and the trials and rewards of life and relationships that revolve around schedules of teens.  We had the pleasure of meeting young Garhett, a lifeguard who recently won a national high school inventor’s competition. His team constructed and demonstrated an incinerator burn barrel for inversion zones. He says he got a really big medal. Kyndahl, fourteen, graciously pulled out the old Barbie castle for the kids.

Thank you, Ulmers, for your generous hospitality.

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