Or is it Bannack Pass?

And is this the pass through the Continental Divide northeast of Leadore, in Lemhi County, or the one northwest of Dubois, in Clark County?History has many mysteries. Place names - their origins, meanings and spellings - frequently are among them.

Many area residents have wondered for years why the Beaverhead Mountains between Idaho and Montana have two historic passes with the same name, and either different or identical spellings, depending on the source.

The 7,681-foot-high pass northeast of Leadore is a nice, unexciting drive across the Divide into Montana. The Nez Perce Indians, carrying their wounded, used the pass while fleeing the U.S. Army after a terrible battle in the Big Hole Basin in 1877.

The 7,670-foot-high pass northwest of Dubois is an old stage coach route from Montana into the Medicine Lodge country of Clark County. Some consider it the more scenic and interesting of the two passes.

On its maps depicting the Clark County-Montana pass, the U.S. Forest Service spells the pass's name Bannack. And that's how it's spelled on a sign on the state line at the summit.

But on one of the Forest Service's rare road signs on the Idaho side, it is spelled Bannock. That's how the Indians of the same name, along with the American Automobile Association spell it, too.

"From time to time we get some quirks in either our maps or our signs," says Grant Thorson, chief of the Targhee's Dubois Ranger District. Maybe the person who orders a sign misspells the name of a place, he says. Or it is spelled different ways by different people.

Bonnie Stoddard, president of the Clark County Historical Society, has run into the latter problem many times in her research. Take Beaver Canyon - or is it Old Beaver, or Old Beaver Canyon, or Beaver Cannon, Cayon or Canon?

"In the old record books in the courthouse it's spelled all these different ways," she says, "so I think it was whoever was writing it."

It's common to have more than one place share a name, says Thorson. There is a Birch Creek in Birch Creek Valley, and one along U.S. Highway 26 on the way to Ririe. There are at least two Deer Canyons in his district, and at least two Black Canyons.

The West is replete with creeks named Bear, Deer and Lime, he says. Mountains sometimes share names, too.

But back to Bannock Pass.

Driving from Dubois, you pass through a place called Small on the map. There isn't a Small anymore, really. There is the ranch of Leland Small, which has been in his family for a century.

There is the Small Cemetery, a place bathed in pure sun and country silence. It tells a story that was common among those who settled the West.

You pass isolated ranches. You drive through Medicine Lodge Canyon and past an old schoolhouse sitting in a field not far from the road. It is the Edie School.

Forest Service Road 280 keeps getting narrower. You pass through a gate where cattle congregate, and then climb toward the summit and go through another gate. The panorama around you is of typically Western proportions.

Eventually you're at the top, where the silence is almost total. Golden eagles soar in the clear sky. The highest mountains in the distance are lightly dusted with snow by early autumn.

It's a day-long trek meant for sturdy vehicles and adventuresome folk with good directional sense. But in the end you come out about a mile south of Dell, Mont., on Interstate 15.

Travelers know what that means - the Calf-A Cafe, a swell place anyway you spell it.