Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Packer Meadows

Our day off this week turned out to be beautiful, sunny and clear, a perfect day for a trip. We had been encouraged to travel up to Lolo Pass, the border between Montana and Idaho on Hwy 12, to see the summer crop of camas flowers. On the way we got a great shot of Lolo Peak, elevation 9,143. From Wikapedia: The name "Lolo" probably evolved from "Lou-Lou", a pronunciation of "Lawrence," a French-Canadian fur trapper killed by a grizzly bear and buried at Grave Creek. The first written evidence of the name "Lolo" appears in 1831 when Hudson's Bay Company fur trader John Work refers in his journal to Lolo Creek as "Lou Lou." In an 1853 railroad survey and map, Lieutenant John Mullan spelled the creek and trail "Lou Lou." However, by 1865 the name was shortened to Lolo and is currently the name of a national forest, town, creek, mountain peak, mountain pass and historic trail in west central Montana.

After a quick stop at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center for directions, we found our way, on a dirt road, to Packer Meadows, a gorgeous field bursting with the lovely camas flowers as well as many other kinds of wildflowers. We gazed at a sea of blue in every direction!

Learning that the Nez Perce Indians depended on the camas flower, I looked up the use of the plant. It was sought out by many native peoples in the western U.S. and Canada. The bulb looks and tastes somewhat like a baked sweet potato, but sweeter. When dried, the bulbs can be pounded into a flour. Camas bulbs contributed to the survival of members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805 and 1806. It would fun to have a taste, but I realize digging wildflowers is not allowed in an historical place!

Another view of these gorgeous flowers.

An additional treat for us, as we traveled slowly along a 7 mile, very primitive road to the south of the Pass, was seeing what seemed like millions of spectacular bear grass blooms. They were covering the hillsides along the way. We had an amazing day, filled with not only these two delightful species, the camas and the bear grass, but also many other lovely wildflowers amidst high country forests. We live in a magnificent country!

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