Thursday Howard had to visit a work site up the West Fork of the Bitterroot at the start of Nez Perce road, so we made it an afternoon drive and dinner outing. Although there are still a few green trees spaced here and there, the majority of cottonwoods and quakies are in bold yellow and gold all along the river. It was too early for dinner, so after he looked at the work on the riverside, we decided to continue on and drive up to Nez Perce Pass.
A few miles up, you cross a bridge and the paved road ends. Here is where winter snow plowing stops, so there is a lot of snowmobile activity beyond this point once there is enough snow on the ground. For now, it's mostly outfitters and hunters accessing the woods. The Forest Service has been logging here and there along the road, clearing out some of the many, many dead trees. Past the houses and ranches, the road is paved again. We've always wondered about this paved stretch, so I did a little research, and according to a FS document on the Magruder Corridor "Before the 1980 Central Idaho Wilderness Act was passed, some of the area was prepared for timber sales. This 14-mile section of the road was paved in the 1970’s in anticipation of those sales." We hadn't been up here in several years, and the paved portion is in pretty bad shape in spots; trees growing on the edge, and frost heaves and slumps. Close to the top, some snow was on the hillsides, and in places along the roadside.
Up at Nez Perce pass (6598 ft.) at the trailhead there is a parking lot, bathroom, and helicopter landing pad. The trail runs north/south and on the south side is the stock unloading ramp. We've hiked both north and south sections more than once. On the Idaho side, the paving ends again, with the one lane road continuing west through the Magruder corridor to Elk City. It forms the boundary between The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to the south, and the Selway/Bitterrooot wilderness to the north. In the last two years there have been very large wildfires to the south of the pass, but we couldn't see the burned areas from that vantage point. We've talked about making the 171 mile drive to Elk City, but haven't made that trip yet.
We turned back east, and headed to Bradley O's steakhouse, south of Hamilton, where we had an excellent filet mignon dinner. Nice end to a relaxing outing.