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TRAIL OF THE COEUR D’ALENES, IDAHO

PREAMBLE

Matt and I are seeking to regain some of the activities that brought us so much pleasure before his catastrophic health experience March, 2011.  The Downhill, Downwind, Fair Weather Cycling Club (DDFWCC) we had formed during our Pedal-Paddle adventures (consisting of 2 founding members) seemed a possible platform.  We solicited new members, and Jim, Patti, Abi, Jac and Will agreed to join us for a Rail to Trail multi day adventure, traversing the entire length of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes (Cd’A Trail) in Idaho.  http://friendsofcdatrails.org/CdA_Trail/index.html                                                                                                              The trail is 72 miles, and we hoped to complete it in 4-5 days.

The Players:

Matt had open-heart surgery performed 3/30/2011 but suffered a massive stroke from a blood clot during the procedure.  5 days later a percutaneous stomach tube dislodged and caused peritonitis, so he had emergency abdominal surgery to clean out the mess.  He has had a long and difficult rehab from these disasters.

Matt had begun to ride a recumbent tricycle last fall, but is still limited by endurance and left sided weakness.  His trike is now equipped with an electric assist motor, installed by Ecospeed in Portland.  www.ecospeed.com   If it weren’t for the cooperation and hard work by these men, he would not have been able to participate in this long distance adventure.  Love you guys!

Pam (me) has not been riding for over 1 year but is back on her mountain bike for this event.  I expect to be the slowest and the sorest rider of the group.

Jim (brother-in-law) and Patti(sister) are riding a tandem recumbent tricycle.  This is a new experience for them as they must coordinate pedaling together.  However, they’ve been an awesome team for over 43 years, so I think they will manage just fine.

Abigayle (Jim and Patti’s granddaughter) is 11 years old and has been in training for this ride.  I don’t think she’ll have any problems keeping up with us oldies.

Will (brother-in-law) is by far the most conditioned athlete of us all-a body builder and weight lifter.  No worries there.

Jac (sister-married to Will) bicycles 12 miles weekly from home to office.  Will and she will be our “anchors.”

tasha travels in style

Minor Player: Tasha.  She doesn’t get to run the trail, but she’s a great traveler and buddy.

The Adventure Begins:

Day 1, Aug 14,2012: Matt and I leave Salem ~ 1pm and stop for the first night at a rest area on WA 385 near Colville, WA.  Rest area is above the Interstate on a bluff that overlooks the Palouse country.  It is a lovely panorama of rolling wheat fields, but the highway traffic noise drifts up significantly.  Breakfast next am is in Ritzville at Jake’s-adequate.  We discover our auxiliary battery that supplies electricity to all the RV equipment when the Slipper is not running is dead!

Day 2, Aug 15,2012:  We drive to Spokane and begin the search for a new battery.  I am unable to find a Camping World so I look for anyone that might help us out.  I exit the Interstate in Spokane Valley at a promising area and start at a Les Schwab.  They look at my battery which is located under the chassis and decide it is a specialty battery, and they don’t have one.  They send us to Interstate Battery who look at it and say they don’t have one either but they call the maker (Deka) distribution center another 10 miles down the expressway.  The Deka distributer has the battery, and they will sell to me but they can’t  install it.  Interstate say they can’t either because it requires a lift.  Back to Les Schwab but they have no lift either.  They send me to an RV repair service, but they have no lift either.   They send me to a truck/trailer supply and service center another mile down the road.  Finally we are with the right guys to do the job we need.

Washington Auto Carriage offers to let us spend the night in their parking lot.  They are going to replace the battery first thing in the morning so we can continue our journey to ID.  We start out in their parking lot that night, but that industrial area develops a distinct odor that quickly becomes nauseating.  We move 4 miles down the interstate to Walmart and spend a comfortable night in their huge parking lot.  True to their word, the Washington Auto Service guys get us on the road by 10am Day 3.  Thank you, Terry and others!  I can’t recommend you highly enough. www.wacnw.com

Day 3, Aug 16,2012:  First contact with Jac and Will is made near Coeur d’Alene, ID; and we rendezvous at Old Mission State Park headquarters to obtain Matt’s special permit.  Cd’A Trail does not allow motorized vehicles, so we have arranged for an exception for his electric assisted trike.  From there, we drive to Shadowy St Joe NFS Campground for the night.  We drive into St Maries for great burgers at Salli’s (fondly remembered from our prior trip to the area.)  We spend a lovely calm and quiet night at the small, fairly primitive campground—water and paved pull-ins but no electricity or sewer service.  It sits on the bank of the St Joe River and has a boat put-in ramp and two new floating docks.  Will swims in the river, and Tasha has what I believe is her first experience with water deeper than puddles.  It looked like she was trying to walk on top of the water until she got back to solid ground.

new docks at St Joe River cmpgrnd

Day 4, Aug 17, 2012:  Breakfast at Salli’s then on to Pinehurst to register at By The Way Campground.  We get a back-in site right next to the only cabin, which Jim, Patti and Abi are renting for the next 5 days.  Finally we have our first shower since leaving Salem!  Will and Jac take a look at the minimalist accommodations and opt to move on to Kellogg where they find a good deal on a very nice room at G&H Guesthouse.

By the time we finish showering, the Texans arrive, and the party begins.  Dinner is in Kellogg at a pizza place below the trams moving up the mountain.  Neither Tasha nor I like those trams or their moving shadows overhead.  They are surprisingly threatening.  Tomorrow will begin the quest to ride the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.  Can we do it???

Day 5, Aug 18, 2012:  Up at 545 am so we can be on the trail by 730.  It’s cold!  Temps in 40s, so we’re bundled up in layers.  By the time we finish, temp is 90+.  This first section is Mullan, ID to Pine Creek Trailhead.  Pine Creek is just steps away from our campground, so we are strategically located for the first 2 legs of our journey, at least.  Total distance today: 22.7 miles in a little over 3 hours!  This segment  is the most downhill of them all, but steady pedaling is still necessary.  For someone like me who has not been biking for over 1 year, and for someone like Matt, who has not ridden for more than 1.5 hours at a time on his trike, we feel exhausted but exuberant that we have been able to do it at all. Aching knees and and a painful butt are the consequences of the ride today for me.  Matt says his throttle thumb gets tired (!!).

DDFWCC: front to back: Jim, (Abi is hidden),Patti, Matt, Jac, Pam.
Photo by Will

This first segment of the trail was one I would not ride again.  It parallels the Interstate for much of it, so there is lots of road noise–lots of road noise!  I did see one deer cross the trail but not much else in the way of wildlife.   The pine forest smells grand.

By 3pm, it is hot, hot, hot.  We get back to camp and collapse-Matt in the Slipper; Tasha and me on the shaded grass.  Nobody moves until it begins to cool ~7pm.  Then Jac and Will arrive and the party begins again.  Dinner and a couple bottles of wine later I level the Slipper on blocks for the night—not too gracefully but it is mercifully dark.  We settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Day 6, Aug 19, 2012:  Up again at 545 am for the start of the second leg.  Although I felt terrible yesterday, I have no knee pain this am and my butt is (initially at least) less sore as well.  Plus Jac has loaned me some padded biking shorts!  This section goes from Pine Creek (Pinehurst) to Black Rock Trailhead and is still downhill but a much more gradual grade than yesterday. Total distance: 17.5 miles.

Will’s pic of baby moose

will’s pic of coyotes

We are done in ~ 3.5 hours.  This leg is much more to my liking as it leaves the noisy interstate and winds along the Coeur d’Alene River.  The terrain is delightfully variable; sometimes pine forests and other times open marshy wetlands and shallow lakes.  Patti spotted a moose and calf.  Others saw a fawn.  Matt and Will saw 2 coyotes.  I saw the moose, thanks to Patti’s sharp eyes, osprey, eagles, and a swallowtail butterfly.  Matt left the rest of us in the dust while cruising on his e-assist trike–only Will could keep up!  Good thing he did or Matt would still be going.

The temp starting out is cool but less cold than yesterday.  It still is over 90 by the time we finish around noon.  Although exhausted and painful again (same areas), I recover more quickly this time, especially after a good solid lunch at Salli’s.  Siesta time back at the campground again until dusk when we all regroup and seek dinner in Kellogg.

I believe we are going to achieve our goal!

Jim & Patti, Matt, Will

Matt, Abi, Jac riding the trail

Day 7, Aug 20, 2012:  Early start again, but I totally mess up.  I leave Matt’s electric assist motor’s battery in the Ruby Slipper, which we leave at the terminus of today’s section, Harrison.  I don’t figure it out until we’re ready to take off at the Black Rock Trailhead.  That means Jac and I have to drive all the way back to the day’s finish to retrieve it and return to the start again-over an hour’s delay!  My name is mud for the rest of the morning.  I make amends by buying everybody ice cream at the end of the ride in Harrison.  They take  full advantage with double scoop bowls.

Another mother and baby moose are spotted today, although by the time I see them, mother is looking upset.   Moose are very big up close—and the mothers have a nasty reputation when they think their babies might be in danger.  I move on quickly.

Another 15.9 miles accomplished:  Today’s ride is long and flat and largely open area marshes and wetlands.  I never thought I would see pelicans in ID but there is a large flock on one of the lakes.   Jac and I stop to check out several mysterious fuzzy creamy fast-crawling caterpillars racing across the trail.  I try to capture them on film but they are too fast!  I swear!

following the Coeur d’Alene River

wetlands along the CdA trail for miles

As we near Harrison, on Coeur d’Alene Lake, swathes of pink and white waterlilies abundantly populate the waterways.  They are so thick it appears you could walk across them.  Overwhelmingly gorgeous!

masses of waterlilies

I suffer a small mishap along the way.  Here’s my story and it’s a good one:   I am riding along the trail, and a moose steps out of the brush.   I swerve to miss the moose and hit a bear, tumble down the hillside and into a tree*.

I have bruises, claw and tooth marks as proof, although they are healing fast and will leave only one small scar.  My bike suffers damage to the rear tire (discovered totally flat the next morning).  The moose and the bear are uninjured.  Don’t you just love nature!

Dinner tonight is steak and salad in front of Patti and Jim’s cabin, and I must say it’s the best meal we’ve had yet.  And only a short walk to our bed in the Ruby Slipper afterwards!

*The story is true, but the names and location have been changed.  A Montana news reported an MVA involving the moose, the bear and a woman driving.  All were uninjured.

August 21, Tuesday:  After much discussion and map perusals the night before (fueled with food and wine), we decided to alter our last day of Cd’A Trail riding.  We had originally planned to ride Plummer to Harrison, reversing our original direction of travel from east to west.  Riding west to east would to maintain our downhill philosophy as that route has 2% grade nearly the entire length.  We could then boast that we had ridden the entire Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes from Mullan ID to Plummer ID.  However, because of the limited road access between these two towns, the logistics of drop off and pick up would have required several hours of road driving before and after the 15.3 mile bike ride.  We compromised by riding an equal distance out and back between Harrison and Heyburn State Park on the other side of the lake.  We can say we rode the full distance of the Trail, although we didn’t see the last 7.5 miles between Heyburn and Plummer (I know, I know; that’s my OCD expressing itself.)

This day’s ride begins ominously as we start during a thunderstorm.  As we unload the bikes, mine has a flat tire.  Thanks, Jackie, for demonstrating and performing the daunting task of tube changing a rear tire.  We are finally on our way by 10 am.  The thunderstorm is over, and the trail is ours.  Spirits are high as we know we will finish our desired goal today!

This ride is entirely along the bank of Lake Coeur d’Alene and is as lovely and peaceful a ride as one could imagine.  Because of the unsettled weather, we have the trail all to ourselves.  There are plenty of distractions such as osprey, painted box turtles, and dramatic scenery to entertain us.  Probably the most interesting time passage is Abi’s list of “the stupidest things I’ve ever done.”  The list is quite long, lasting for miles, and usually involves her brother and her, dangerous heights and precarious physical attempts to defy gravity.  I have no doubt she will continue to add to the list in the future!

trestle bridge, southern end of lake

Matt, Pam and Abi on bridge approach
photo by Will

The turnaround point of the today’s ride is Chatcolet Trailhead in Heyburn State Park.  We cross a trestle bridge over the southern end of the lake.  The long undulating approaches on either end are challenging on the uphill and an exhilarating coast down the other side.   Having crossed the bridge once, we merely turn around and cross it again.  It seems a very fitting little climax to our 4 day trip.

view north from trestle bridge

 

The return ride to Harrison is uneventful, and we have just time enough to load all the bikes and duck into the local restaurant for lunch and victory stories before the next thunderstorm rolls in.  Distance today: 15.6 miles.  Our final evening meal together is steak and salad in front of Patti and Jim’s cabin.  Victory toasts all around!

I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to have been able to return to the outdoor activities we have dearly missed this past 17 months.  It takes a lot more planning, equipment, and support from others for us to be able to do a trip like this, but for us, it’s like stepping back into a real life again, even if only for a short while.  Our heartfelt thanks and love to our family for sharing this “adventure therapy.”

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Thursday, Feb 24, 2011

As usual this time of year, Matt and I have been dreaming of sunshine and warmer temps.  We were intrigued by Death Valley on our last return from the southwest.   Thanks to our great friends, Cathy and Rick, we had read Death Valley in ’49 by William Lewis Manly.   One of our goals this trip was to reconstruct his route as he and the Arcane and Bennett families struggled across Death Valley as gold rush pioneers in 1849.   By the way, Manly’s book is a great read for anyone interested in life as a single male adventurer in our country during the 1800s.

Day one of the trip, or rather, night one, began at 9 p.m. as soon as I got home from work.  We left Salem in driving rain hoping to get to the coast before a predicted late season snow storm decended on the Willamette Valley.  We drove to Bandon, arriving 1am and camped the remainder of the night in a friend’s driveway near Bandon Beach. 

Next morning we had a delightful breakfast at The Minute Café in Old Town Bandon with our dear friend, Bob, and then headed south on 101.  Highway 101 courses through the redwoods in southern OR and northern CA, so it’s a stunning drive even in the rain.  Pushing hard to stay in front of the storm mass close on our heels, we spent our second night in a rest area off Hwy 99 south of Stockton.  The steady rain masked the traffic noise.

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011

We headed east over Tehachapi  Pass with no difficulties, then cut north and east to Ridgecrest along Hwy 14 and Hwy 178 into Panamint Valley.  Our conversations were increasingly about the likely route followed by Manly and Rogers as they hiked out of Death Valley after leaving the Arcane and Bennett families at Furnace Springs.  They promised to return with supplies after finding a route to CA the others  could survive.  Astonishingly, they succeeded and no lives were lost in the Bennett/Arcane party.  Other pioneers in Death Valley at the same time were not so lucky!

 As we entered the southern end of Panamint Valley, we watched a huge sandstorm develop just east of us in Searles Valley.  Its course paralleled ours until we saw the leading edge disappear over a pass through the Slate Range.  As we traveled further north then cut east through the Panamint Valley, the sandstorm reappeared to the south and east of us, funneling up the same valley.  It was an awesome sight as it filled the southern horizon and began to blot out the mountain ranges on each side.

 Fortunately, we were able to stay in front of the growing sandstorm while crossing the Panamint Mountains and descending into Death Valley.  Visibility was poor all around due to the sandstorm behind us, increasing clouds from the west piling up over the Panamints, and clouds moving in from the south over the Amargosa and Grapevine Ranges on our east side.

We settled into Mesquite Springs campground at the north end of Death Valley (not far from Scotty’s Castle). 

mesquite springs campground

scotty's castle in snowstorm

 The winds were quite fierce and cold, and rain began falling sometime in the night.  By morning the rain was alternating with snow and hail.  By the time we got moving from camp, snow was continuous and blanketing the ground.  We drove to Scotty’s Castle for some photos, but, between the cold wind and the slushy snow, we didn’t spend much time out of doors.  Still, it seems very fortuitous that we could see the valley during a snowstorm!

Afterwards, we traveled the highway south to check out Furnace Springs, which is a total geek hole.   We caught some sun in the southernmost part of the valley, and the temps rose to the 50s briefly; but the winds remained so strong that we were either inhibited by the cold or by the dust clouds swirling from the sand dunes.  There would be no hiking today. 

storm edge left and sandstorms valley floor

 

We circumnavigated the valley in a spectacular drive, coming to rest again at Mesquite Springs.  Although it will be cold tonight, the rain and snow should end.  We have high hopes for hiking tomorrow.

Feb 27, Sunday

awesome view from top ubehebe crater

ubehebe crater from western edge

Our first hike was around Ubehebe crater and Little Hebe crater.  Not really a hike but more of a stroll, yet the scenery was spectacular.  Ubehebe crater is a volcanic pit with impressive colored and crevassed walls.  It is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides.  The air feels and looks clean and clear, and the remoteness and  the varied topography are both inspiring and soothing to the soul.  I was surprised by my response to Ubehebe as I thought it would be boring.  Quite the contrary, I felt a release of tension  and a calming sense of “peace and tranquility” (it even looked like a moonscape).

From Ubehebe crater, we drove to the Titus Canyon entrance off Scotty’s Castle Road.  Titus Canyon is a popular hike in the Grapevine Mountains of the Amargosa Range on the east side of northern  Death Valley.  Titus Canyon, however, has a one-way dirt road accessible from Beatty NV, (east of Death Valley),  that traverses its entire length.  We felt there was too much potential for overuse.  However, Fall Canyon just north of Titus could also be accessed from the Titus trailhead, so we headed for it. 

Matt entering Fall Canyon

Matt at 18ft dry fall

Our major hiking guide is Hiking Death Valley by Michel Digonnet, and we highly recommend it to anyone interested in Death Valley.  He describes in good detail many hikes, and he has a special interest in the geology and origins of Death Valley.   Reading about the different rock formations and then finding them for real in your surroundings adds another layer of intrigue while hiking.  This is a good thing, because there are practically no animals to distract you and very little vegetation as well.  You have to admire the sturdy plants and critters that do manage to survive these extreme conditions.

The hike into Fall Canyon was mildly arduous but well worth the effort.  Hiking was slowed by the loose gravel of the canyon floor, as well as our poor winter conditioning.   The canyon is nothing less than spectacular with towering rock walls and lots of twisting corridors and overhangs.   The hike seemed long, and just when we were about to falter, the fall for which the canyon is named appeared.    It’s a vertical 18 ft slick rock that looked too technical for us to free climb, but there is a bypass.  The bypass involved a short but easy free climb,  then a traverse over a narrow ledge that rises gradually about 25 feet, and finally a climb down into the wash above the fall.

rock intrusion looks like prehistoric insect

offset intrusions shifted by earthquake movements (?)

Having accomplished our goal of reaching the main fall, we stopped for lunch and a brief rest.   Above the fall is a narrows where the towering walls pinch in towards each other, deeply shading the canyon floor.   Here we found fanciful white stone intrusions in the  base rock that looked almost like hieroglyphics.

The hike back out of Fall Canyon went a lot faster and easier as it’s all downhill.  Although the slope is gradual, the loose gravel took its toll on our quads and calves.  All in all, it was an immensely satisfying first hike in Death Valley.

Monday Feb 28

Today we began by leaving Mesquite Springs campground and driving to Beatty NV to fuel up, do laundry, buy food, and most importantly, shower.   It’s a long way from Death Valley to anywhere.  We breakfasted in Beatty, did our chores, ate a dynamite lunch at KC’s Outpost and returned to DV in time to hike Desolation Canyon.  This hike was only slightly over 3 hours but was incredible! 

entering aptly named Desolation Canyon

climbing a dry fall

The canyon is indeed desolate of vegetation and living creatures (although we did see a small lizard).  But it is composed of sandstone and clay walls that curve and carve a deep channel winding always upward for a couple miles.  The surface was much firmer than Fall Canyon and easier to walk.  There were a few falls to free climb that were fun but not frightening. 

Death Valley view from top of desolation canyon

 

view south over artist's drive

The real delight was at the end of the trail where we climbed onto a ridge ~1000ft above the valley floor.  The vistas in every direction were indescribable.  This hike only took 3+ hours-just right after yesterday’s 5 hr hike.

Mar 1 Tuesday

matt's looking at waterfall and pool

climbing around the waterfalls

Monarch Canyon was the goal today.  The first hour of the hike is trailess-just head out across the desert, following the advice of our guidebook, Hiking in Death Valley.  It was fun to walk the desert and view the plants, yet easy to avoid the occasional cholla and prickly pear cacti threats.  This hike we saw more wildlife sign than any other hike yet.  Not surprising since the main attraction is a perennial waterfall and spring.  We heard birds we never saw.  We were buzzed by a hummingbird.  We saw several small lizards and one fast little runner we couldn’t identify-a small rabbit or ground squirrel?

massive geologic forces recorded in these rocks

 

beautifully detailed and rich molten patterns

 As we moved deeper into the canyon, the walls became a veritable mosaic of different rocks, tilted and jumbled and marvelously discordant.  There were two short waterfalls to clamber up, then we came to an impassable 110ft waterfall. 

no, we didn't climb past this one

 It’s like magic to see actual pools of water in the desert.  At the bottom of the lowest pool we could see part of a skeletal backbone and ribs and near the upper pool was a partial skull-clearly a bighorn sheep.  We also saw butterflies.  Lots of anthills and communities of ground holes littered the canyon floor and wash.  We could only guess what occupants resided within–rabbits, ground squirrels, foxes—snakes???

4.5 hours in and out with lunch at the waterfall made for a near perfect day.  Desert hiking is hard on the feet and the knees, I’m finding out.  After our canyon hike, we drove over the Panamint Mountains into Panamint Valley to look at Ballarat ghost town as a possible campsite, but we didn’t like the looks of it.  We returned to Wildrose Campground in Death Valley NP where we could camp for free.  Only one other van was spending the night so we were pretty much alone with a gorgeous view through the pass toward the west and the sun setting behind the Inyo Mountains.

Wed Mar 2

charcoal kilns for producing charcoal from pinyon pines

To my dismay, my left knee developed aching and mild swelling after three days of hiking, so we decided a day off was appropriate.   After a leisurely breakfast, we drove to the charcoal kilns located just a few miles from Wildrose.   Charcoal was used to process silver ore. http://www.flickr.com/photos/8524489@N07/536474600
    The kilns are startlingly odd in their beehive appearance and  isolated location in the pinyon pine forest on Wildrose Mountain.  It was just a gorgeously perfect sunny warm day, and the picture taking opportunities here were great fun.

looking towards Panamint Valley from charcoal kilns

mining equipment at warm springs talc mine

We spent the rest of the day driving the length of Death Valley to the south and then west up Warm Springs Canyon Road.  This dirt road to Warm Springs was 10+miles of very rough gravel and rocks.  The Ruby Slipper valiantly plowed on but, at a pace of 10-12 mph, it seemed forever before we reached the Warm Springs site.  It used to be a talc mining camp, and there were abandoned buildings, a large spring, a neglected nasty swimming pool (nice camp in its day)  and some mining equipment to view.  When we arrived, there were 6 motorcycle guys who left shortly thereafter.  Within 10-15 minutes, a caravan of three 4WD vehicles arrived, clearly intent on spending the night, so we rode the dusty trail back to the main highway and returned to Wildrose Campground.  The distances are so extreme, and the roads (except the main paved ones) so rough, it takes a long time to get anywhere.

Thursday Mar 3

My knee feels much better after the rest, so we picked Darwin Springs for our last hike before leaving DVNP.  So glad we did because it turned out to be the best yet!  Darwin Springs is actually in the Panamint Valley (although still part of DVNP) in the Argus Range.  We had concerns because the access road, although gravel, is relatively short (3 miles), and the hike into the first waterfall and springs is rated as very popular and frequently visited.   Fortunately, we started relatively early, carrying our breakfast with us and reached the first waterfall in solitude. 

1st waterfall, pretty as can be

The first waterfall is only a 1.5-2mile hike on pretty nice surface most of the way.  There are a few short crosses over the creek, but they’re easy to make.  We listened to cactus wrens sing and watched goldfinches bathe in the shallow creekbed.    The sound of water is magical in this desolate country.

The real miracle of Darwin Springs lies up canyon from the first waterfall.  There are a couple of boulder climbs necessary.  They are a little technical but not difficult.  Most people don’t climb them.  They have no idea what they missed.

beautiful discoveries past the first fall

Within a very short distance are two back to back waterfalls that drop between steep slickrock boulders and towering walls– absolutely beautiful.  

60ft of breathtaking grandeur directly above falls 2 & 3

 

Beyond these two waterfalls, a tiny spray of water barely visible hinted of even a third.  It was necessary to climb about 60 feet up a loose rock talus, then walk around a ledge and down a short series of rocks to arrive at the top of the 2 waterfalls, where the third towering waterfall dominates in all its grandeur.  It is truly mindblowing.

sand dunes near sunset

There remain so many canyons and hikes we didn’t have time for, and many more we couldn’t access without 4WD.   I feel we had a good introduction to this marvelously unique  world, but now it’s time to say “Good-bye Death Valley.”

What is likely living here?

Recognize the partial skull in foreground?

can you name this butterfly?
Enjoy this little quiz.

desert trumpets

The answer to the challenge picture is Desert Trumpet (Eriogonum inflatum)

The swelling of the stem used to be considered a response to a parasitic wasp but was recently shown toactually be accumulated CO2.  Go figure.
Now I have to correct an error I made in the Iron King-Peavine blog.  My picture of a hiker on top of a granite protrusion did not, in fact, include the hiker!  Unfortunately, I deleted the regular scale view but I do have one of a telephoto just to prove he was not a figment of my imagination.

hiker on a granite peak

Leaving the Iron King rail to trail, we turned north intending to drive through Death Valley National Park on the way back to Oregon.  We also wanted to drive over the new bridge spanning the Colorado River at Hoover Dam.  Our interest in Death Valley had been piqued by friends who visited there and described the valley as an intriguing and unique natural resource.  It was even more impressive than I had expected.  Some things you just have to see to believe.  The complexity and beauty of Death Vally can be so difficult to describe.

Heading north from Prescott, we crossed into Nevada over the new Hoover Dam Bypass bridge.  More info about the bridge:  http://www.hooverdambypass.org/purpose_overview.htm   It was disappointing because of heavy traffic and essentially no good view or place to stop for pictures without risking traffic chaos.  We saw one exit for tourists and picture taking, but it was stuffed full.  There is a hike from a casino parking lot just over the Nevada border I would have liked to have taken but Matt was in no mood by then.  It looked like it could have some spectacular views, but it was just too late in the day to check it out. 

Skirting the south and west flank of Las Vegas in rush hour traffic, we discovered Lovell Canyon in Springs Mountain National Recreational Area only 30 or 40 miles west of Vegas. http://www.sunsetcities.com/lovell-canyon.html   We spent an amazingly peaceful and quiet night just a couple miles from Hwy 160, gazing at the Springs Mountains while eating dinner and then at the brilliant stars after nightfall.  There are no facilities in Lovell Canyon; you just pick out a level spot with a view and claim it as yours (and hope for no motorcylce gangs or other Las Vegas area weirdos). 

Death Valley:barren landscape to the horizon

Death Valley:hard even to walk in this soft sand

Next day we drove hwy 190 through the Death  and Panamint Valleys, and then along hwy 395 and the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas to Hwy 50.  Matt was extremely generous and patient with many stops to take pictures as I became increasingly fascinated with the desert vegetation, the challenges of trying to capture the barren isolation of Death Valley, the colorful topography of Panamint Valley and the towering immensity of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Death Valley:no easier to walk here

Wikipedia has great info on Death Valley NP:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Valley_National_Park

The overwhelming impression of Death Valley for me is that nature here is oblivious to our human sense of self-importance.  This dangerous environment is one we should enter with forethought, because nothing else out there cares if we live or die through our own arrogance, stupidity or bad luck.  I like that. 

approaching panamint valley, hwy 190

overlooking panamint valley

Highway 190 cuts across Panamint Valley which is separated from Death Valley by the Panamint Mountains.  The northern part of Panamint Valley is included in the Death Valley National Park.  The smaller Pamamint valley is 65 miles long but only 7 miles at its widest point.  Panamint mountains are incredibly colorful with a very ancient carved and sharp featured appearance.

Panamint Mtns:so much color and texture

beautiful mountains all the way to the horizon:Sierra Nevadas

Sierra Nevadas, Lone Pine,CA:alpine majesty-breathtaking

After crossing the Panamint Valley, we headed north to Lone Pine and hwy 395- approaching and then paralleling the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west.  Highway 395 would take us almost all the way to hwy 50 where we intended to cross the Sierras to Interstate 5.  The drive is an unforgettable feast for the eyes and spirit. 

Lone Pine, the first real town north of the junction of 190 and 395 is a small but quite adorable town with the Sierra Nevadas as a backyard.  Very alpine!  Big Pine is the next town on 395- it looks like a tourist trap. Then comes the “big” town of  Bishop, California.  Biship is-well-Bishop.

I had a lot of fun this trip taking pictures of desert vegetation.  Lots of familiar cacti and some plants new to me.  Here’s a brief sampling:

makes you pay attention when walking

yuccas, Lovell Canyon

If you know this one let me know (answer next blog)

Fuji and us about to begin our journey

As the weather in Oretgon started to deteriorate this fall, I decided a trip to Arizona would be just the thing- and I found the perfect excuse.   I volunteered to deliver a Pug dog to his owner, now living in Alamagordo, New Mexico, since New Mexico is right  next door to Arizona.   Fuji, the Pug, turned out to be a lovely traveling companion.  His preferred traveling position was front and center in my lap.  He had his own center platform complete with doggy bed, but it was clearly second best for him. 

Fuji's perch in Ruby Slipper

 

His sleeping position at night was a bit more difficult as he felt he could only sleep plastered next to me, wrapped up in my sleeping bag.  I found him adorable even at night; Matt was less amused.  We made the trip to NM in record time, reuniting Fuji with his owner;  then drifted on to Tucson, AZ to regroup with our dear friend, Susie.

sunset in Tucson

Susie’s home in the Catalina foothills above Tucson has a panaramic view of the City as well as three mountain ranges and stunning sunsets.  What a fabulous setting!  We could hear coyotes on the next ridge over as we watched the sun go down.  The next morning we encountered a family of javelinas while strolling between the saguaro cacti behind her house. 

huge barrel cactus and several saguaros

 

We watched a Cooper’s hawk patrol his territory around her hillside.  We are always treated like royalty when we visit with lots of food, drink and good conversation.  No wonder I love to go to Arizona!

With all the food and wine we were consuming, we were badly in need of some exercise.  We tried out Tucson’s very nice, mostly paved city bike trail that travels the north edge of The Rillito River.   The ride is flat with a dry wash below you on one side and a mix of old and new construction to peruse on the other side.  It’s very much a city ride, but safe and easy.  It felt good to be on wheels again.  Right next to the bike path, we entered a Sunday open market that was delightfully full of vendors, locals and tourists.  Fresh fruits and veggies, chips and salsa, music, artwork- all under a clear sunny sky.

After leaving Tucson, we headed north, finding a marvelous Rail to Trail to share. 

it makes you wonder

 The Iron King and Peavine Rails to Trails actually converge from separate starting points into one terminus.  They are located in the Prescott Valley and travel through some of the most spectacular granite rock bluffs and outcroppings I’ve ever seen.  We started at the east end of Iron King off Glassford Hill Road, in the town of Prescott Valley.  Iron King ends in 4 miles at Peavine Rail to Trail near a place called “point of rocks.”  Point of rocks was the location of the railroad terminal buildings.   To the left, Peavine continues to a terminus at the south end of Watson Lake, ~4 more miles.  That was our end destination.  We then turned around and returned to our starting point.  Peavine ‘s other  terminus is about 1 mile from the point of rocks Iron King-Peavine junction, near hwy 89, north of Prescott.   We scouted that section, but it stretched across rather flat dry prairie scenery that was no match for the rest of the trail, so we returned to the junction.

We first entered the Iron King via an underpass that avoids crossing a busy highway.  Because of a recent rain, the underpass concrete surface was muddy and slick, but we made it without mishap.   (We continually congratulate ourselves for buying fat tire trail bikes for these excursions.)   Courtesy mandates that we wait for a horse and rider to walk their way through the underpass before proceeding so as not to spook the horse.  These rail to trails are shared by bicyclists, horseback riders, walkers and runners.

At the risk of boring you with multiple vacation photos, I just couldn’t begin to select the most appropriate pictures.  Trying to illuminate the awesome topography in a few snapshots is a fool’s task.  You simply must see this place for yourself.  It’s easy to get to and so worth the effort. 

matt approaching the entrance to Granite Dells

 

magnify this and you'll see a hiker sitting on top

After a couple miles of rolling rangeland, punctuated by old railroad cars at the mile markers, the trail enters a granite rock wonderland, the Granite Dells.  Riding between granite boulders, outcroppings and bluffs, the landscape is overwhelming.  One hiker passed us with a backpack on and running.    We saw him a few minutes later on top of the highest bluff in the area.  Talk about an ironman!  I wanted to try to find his path up the bluff, but we were not equipped to hike in desert and rock (no boots). 

A couple miles farther on, the junction with Peavine is marked by an informative history marker.  Turn right and Peavine leaves the granite boulders and courses across sweeping broad rangelands to its terminus.  Continue straight as we did, and you soon come to Watson Lake.  A stunning vista of blue-green water, towering granite bluffs and partially submerged granite boulder “islands” fills one with wonder and awe.  It’s also a perfect spot to pause for lunch.  The trail ends at the south end of Watson Lake, jarringly so, next to a major highway.  We did meet a few walkers and bikers around Watson Lake area but most of the time we had the trail to ourselves.

railway car at mile 1

 

rock pile Granite Dells

oasis-I'm looking for cougar

point of rocks

this lake is unbelievable-Watson Lake

dreams are made of this

 

A brisk wind came up by afternoon; fortunately it was behind us for the ride back.  My adventurous husband thought we should try one of the many single track trails that branch from the main route through the granite rocks to the lake shoreline. 

side trails are for walking

 

these are the easy parts!

 

The experience once again confirmed that we are not single track contenders.  We walked our bikes over and through the boulders.  I don’t see how people can ride bikes through that terrain! 

nice trestle bridge

The main rail to trail route is hard packed dirt and easily travelled by hybrids and trail bikes.  Skinny tires would have a pretty rough time of it.  Once we got to Granite Dells,  I could have spent hours just hiking/walking over and through the granite boulders and along the water’s edge. 

 The history of Granite Dells was fascinating as depicted by the trailside sign.  One can only wonder why these fabulous areas lose their appeal.  I suspect they don’t but somebody makes more money selling them to the privileged wealthy.  A few lucky people live among the boulders and bluffs.   The rest of us can only gaze and dream. 

historical granite dells

go for campsite 18

 

We discovered a beautiful, quiet national forest campground for our after trail evening: Yavapai campground in Prescott National Forest, 8.5 miles from Prescott.  Campsites are nestled between slick rock boulders and scrubby trees, offering both privacy and stunning views.  Made me wish I was considerably younger as the boulders were nearly irresistible climbing surfaces.  I settled for the wine and the pleasures of a lingering sunset. 

life at campsite 18

 

I did fall in love with Arizona and its beautiful dramatic landscapes all over again; just as I did the first time I visited 30+ years ago.  Of course the weather was perfect: all sunshine and temps in high 60s to low 70s.  What’s not to like?!?

Matt and I have just returned from riding the Weiser River Trail in southwest Idaho.  The trail ends in the small town of Weiser (wee-zur), Idaho on the Snake River near Ontario, Oregon.  This trail is the longest unpaved multiuse rail to trail in Idaho- 85.7mi.  We completed nearly the entire trail in 3 days.  You can learn more about the Weiser River Trail in Falcon Guides Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest

True to our ethic of downhill-downwind bicycling, we began our journey at the northernmost trailhead, West Pine, just south of New Meadows, Idaho. 

not a fun surface and highway to right

I wouldn’t recommend starting there unless you simply must travel every mile of the entire trail as a point of honor.  This part of the trail is not completed yet and has very rough and uneven terrain. 

unimproved trail surface

gravel road-hated it

A section has been detoured onto a dirt road with the resultant hill climbing over loose gravel and ruts.  Not pleasant!

The switch from the road to the trail again is not well marked.  I was riding ahead and saw the turn off,  but Matt didn’t; so he went one way and I went another.  We lost each other, wasting valuable time and energy before hooking up again.  You can imagine the discussion that ensued.  We now have a pact to maintain visual contact at all times. 

alpine forest-much nicer terrain!

A better place to start if you want to ride the really good stuff is Strawberry Road intersection on the east side of Hwy 95.  The Pineridge restaurant and motel is on the west side directly across.  Just down from Strawberry Road, the trail enters the Payette National Forest. 

Matt liked the trailhead at Evergreen National Forest campground even better, which is just another 2 miles south on Hwy 95.  Either way, you’ll skip the rougher undeveloped trail that simply parallels the highway from New Meadows anyway.  Starting where the forest begins is much nicer, with the pine smells dominating the senses and the welcoming shade of the towering trees.  Have I mentioned how HOT it was?  No? Well, this will be a recurring theme on the Weiser River trail in July. 

The entire trail runs alongside the Weiser River as it winds its way down through the forest, through valley farm and ranchlands, and finally through a high desert canyon to finish in downtown Weiser. The first 2 nights we camped at Evergreen NF Campground between Council and New Meadows.  Evergreen is a tiny rustic campground right next to Hwy 95.  It has very good visual screening from the highway, which is not particularly busy; but, unless you have a Ruby Slipper with cooling fans to provide “white noise,” you will hear traffic sounds.  The camp host says the campground is a magnet for foraging bears, but we didn’t see or hear any.  The big advantage to camping at Evergreen is that it is high enough in altitude to cool nicely at night.  So much so that I was reluctant to start riding early in the morning before the sun could warm the air.  Matt says I’m too sensitive to environmental stimuli.

Once past the trailhead at Evergreen, the trail loops away from the highway quickly and follows the river through an alpine valley. 

trail passes under highway just before leaving forest

what a contrast from the forest!

A significant part of this section of the trail runs along and through meadows and ranchlands.  You definitely feel like you are the only ones out there.  We never saw another soul on the entire 25 mile section.   The guidebook claims a 1200 ft descent from West Pine to Council, so the ride is mostly downhill.  The nice thing about railroad construction is that everything is built to maintain a constant grade. 

I sooo love the trestles!

Trails can include high trestle bridges, tunnels, steep cuts and embankments- whatever it takes to maintain that constant grade.  That makes for some nice bike riding.

Our goal the first day was Council, Idaho, 26 miles south from West Pine.  We left West Pine at 9:45am and rode into Council at 1:15pm.  The temperature by then was 92.  We knew right away we’d need to have an earlier start the next day as the heat builds rapidly in this part of Idaho in July, and we were dropping elevation every day.  We also discovered that trains don’t like trees,  so shade was significantly lacking once we left the alpine forest south of New Meadows. 

After completing the first day’s ride and getting some lunch, we drove to McCall, Idaho just 12 miles from New Meadows, but a world apart.  McCall is an outdoor playland, with a big mountain lake complete with sand beach, hiking biking, off-roading, skiing-the list goes on.  All the amenities one expects in a happy outdoor-oriented town are there.  McCall, with a population of 2554 is also, with the exception of Weiser (pop 5222), larger than the other towns along the trail.  Council, for example, has only about 678  people .  [population data from city data.com] Nonetheless, It does have a great little restaurant, The 7 Devils Café, where we ate breakfast before beginning our ride the first day out.

On day 2 we changed our plans to start earlier.  No more luxury restaurant breakfasts before hitting the trail.  Instead we were up at dawn to eat toasted English muffins, orange juice, tea or decaf coffee in the Slipper- not too shabby a breakfast at all.  Then it was on to place the shuttle car in Cambridge and return to Council to begin the ride.  We managed to start the second section of the trail at 8:30am. 

The second segment of the trail from Council to Cambridge is just 19.7mi.  The trail starts straight and flat across farm and ranch land running right next to the highway. 

water is almost exotic here

mule training--Intriguing concept, isn't it?

We met a rider coming toward us within 1 mile of starting out from Council, and that’s the only person we saw on the trail in the whole 3 days.  

About 3.5 miles south of Council the trail loops away from the highway and drops into a canyon as remote as any we’ve ridden.  We scared a few cows along the trail as we passed by but none threatened us. 

I was relieved he was behind the fence

One bull did start talking ugly, but he was behind a fence so I felt in control and talked ugly back.   We stopped a few times to drink water and eat M&M peanuts and raisins.  We find we do better if we snack while on the trail and eat more heartily once we’re done.  We carry two 20 oz. bottles of water each and have not run out of water on any of our rides yet.

temporary bridge at spring washout

lots of sun and little shade

pretty wild country

Near the end of the canyon, we chased/followed 2 young coyotes that were travelling up the trail toward us until they became aware of our presence and turned and ran.  Although they were clearly panicked, they were reluctant to leave the trail for quite some time.  We were delighted and entertained by their escape antics,  but  I expect they’re still talking about their near-death experience encountering two humans who could “run” the trail almost as fast they could. 

We’ve added front and rear packs to our mountain bikes to carry all the gear, water, repair supplies, jackets, and food we need. 

mile markers on trail are made from railroad spikes-clever!

There is also room for any “treasures” I might find along the way.  I tend to fill both Matt’s packs, as well as my own, with these “treasures” so we end up traveling heavier and heavier as the ride progresses rather than lighter and lighter as we otherwise would.  I get comments, but he always finds room and takes the heavier load.  What a man!

our goal in the distance: Cambridge water tower

We finished the shorter second section of the trail early pulling into Cambridge about 11:30am.  We were glad to finish the segment before noon as the temperature was already 92 degrees.   The flat straight unshaded sections of trail that cross the valleys between the canyons are boring and hot.  We knew we’d need to start the last section of the trial even earlier- much as I hated to admit it. 

After we completed the second day’s ride, we ate way too much food at a great restaurant in Cambridge:  Bucky’s Cafe.  They have great burgers and fries but be sure to distinguish between the chili cheeseburger and the Ortega chili cheeseburger, or you might end up with both.  We did and felt obligated to eat both, in addition to the ham and cheese sandwich Matt ordered.  This was a huge mistake to eat so much food, but it was irresistibly tasty.  Some lessons one never learns.

That afternoon we drove to Brownlee Dam and reservoir in Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River.  The Snake River forms the border between Oregon and Idaho here, and we were interested in what the level of activity and chaos might be on the river in this area.  Turns out not to be a problem because there is no appeal for kayakers.  True, there is a grandeur of landscape with the rounded brown mountains surrounding and leading into the canyon, but the reservoir is without vegetation on the shoreline; and the water is filled with slimy thick green goo, especially along the edges.  No way would I find kayaking this waterway unattractive!   It was too ugly to take pictures.

We spent the night before our last day on the trail at the Presley Trailhead, 11 miles outside of Weiser.  This would be our final destination.  We scouted the trail between Presley and Weiser and decided not to include it.  It runs close to the road through flat farmland and consists of miles of straight, flat, unshaded (think hot and boring) stretches that we felt we could do without.  I’m a “start to finish” kind of person, so it was a bit of a struggle to forego some of the trail; but, for us, it really was the wiser decision.  These flat unshaded sections are just not FUN in July!

heading out from Midvale

pretty typical trail surface from here on

The last day’s ride started at 815am from Midvale.  With that early a start, we knew we could do this section before it got too hot.   We’d already ridden the last seven miles of this 23 mile section (see previous blog) when we first scouted the trail last spring.  

entering the longest, largest and last canyon of the trail

isolation and breath-stopping beauty-such peace

I could ride forever! If it weren't for those *** thorns.

This section enters a long canyon desert running alongside a beautiful rock-strewn river, high hillside walls and jutting rock spines.  No roads and no people!   I suspect no one else travels this trail in the mid-summer heat!  

Half way through the canyon, Matt got a flat rear tire (our first since we began this trip and due to the deadly goat horn seed).  Fortunately, we packed our emergency pressurized tire repair goo.  Matt attached the can it to the tube nozzle, squirted in the pressurized goo and rode a short distance to distribute it.   It held!  We were saved (at least from the loss of time and effort necessary to take the wheel off, remove the tube and either patch it or replace it)! 

Three miles later, I had a flat front tire-also from the dreaded goat horn seed.  We had one pressurized can of repair goo left.   Under Matt’s guidance, I squirted it in and rode on.  We were about 5 miles from the Presley trail head where the Slipper was waiting.  The tire seemed to be holding, but as I rode along, I began to feel droplets of rain on my thighs.  But the sky was clear, and my water bottles weren’t leaking.  I stopped to check my front tire and discovered my thighs were speckled with drops of the fluorescent green goo I’d shot into my front tire.  My tire was leaking green goo from the spokes.   My tire pressure, however, was still good.  We were still ~3 miles from the end.   I tried to speed up, but let’s be real:  I’m not going to go any faster than I have been.  I’m tired and I’m hot.  I became fatalistic.  Que sera, sera. 

This part of the trail was familiar so I knew I could walk out if I had to, or we could take the time to repair the tire and finish the ride in the blistering afternoon heat if it came to that.  But the green goo held, and I finished the trail with honor, if not dignity.  

sweat, dust, mud, grease, green goo-oh and a few bruises. Never felt better!

I cannot remember the last time I have been so dirty.  I was covered with sweat, dust, mud, and fluorescent green goo.  It felt great!    I just couldn’t be seen in public.  Once we returned to our starting point in Midvale, Matt felt compelled to hose me down using a water spigot in the local park.  Someone must have reported us, because one of the locals did a slow drive-by to see what the crazy tourists were up to, but he didn’t stop; as we were done with their hose and about to leave anyway.

My final thoughts about the Weiser River Trail experience and the lessons learned:  don’t let your partner out of sight.  It’s amazingly easy to lose track of each other, and voices don’t carry far in mountains.  I’m going to get a whistle.

Don’t even think about doing this trail on anything but trail bikes. Street bikes or even hybrids won’t cut it.

Pressurized tube repair works.  We’re switching to thicker tubes and liners, etc; but on the trail, cans are fast and effective.  They’re a mess to clean up later, though.  Ask Matt.

Heat is the number one factor in the summer.  On the one hand, the trails belong to you.  On the other hand, you better be done or somewhere with shade and water by noon or so, because it will be too hot to do anything until the sun sets.  You can‘t carry too much water:  we carry two 20 oz bottles/person and usually are into our fourth bottle when we finish.

you see the oddest creatures on these trips! Near Weiser ID on way to Presley trailhead

I love this trail.  I hope to do it again, although I will skip the first couple miles.  The Texas Caprock Trail is still my most favorite, but this is a great wild and scenic experience.  I highly recommend it.

american avocet mother

ground nest of eggs

The answer to last blog’s eggs in nest identification:  American Avocet

June 24,  Matt and I rode the Vernonia-Banks Rail to Trail.  http://www.oregonparks.org/images/pdf/bv.pdf  Vernonia is a small town in the Coast Range of northwest Oregon.  In the past, a train used to transport timber from Vernonia to Banks on the way to Portland.  Now the route is a 21 mile long multi-use path (horses, bikes, pedestrians).  Most of it is asphalt pavement but there is a central section of ~3 miles that is packed dirt with some patches of gravel and ballast.  Our trail bikes were perfect for the trip although we think our hybrid bikes could do it with some brief “portaging” likely on the unpaved section.  Altogether our  17 mile trip took us ~ 3 hours and that included a number of stops for picture taking and exploring bridges, and one pause for lunch.

The drive to Banks and Vernonia is half the fun as we took 99w west of Salem to hwy 47 north .  The scenery alternates from wheat fields, vineyards, and patch gardens to small towns we seldom see otherwise.  It’s a beautiful trip, and we had no traffic issues.

The trail begins at Anderson Park in Vernonia.  However, they have a day fee charge so we parked on a side street a block from the park. 

Blue House Cafe, Vernonia, OR

We found a small café/brewery with Mediterranean menu and chose a gyro sandwich to go.  It made a delicious lunch on the trail.  I worried it would get soggy by the time we were ready to eat, but I was wrong; and it was great. 

We started from Vernonia because we suspected there would be less uphill slogging involved.  Turns out we were absolutely right.

The first segment of the trail, from Vernonia to Beaver Creek access, is the least interesting as well.  It runs alongside hwy 47, and, although there is a small greenway buffer between, the road noise and traffic were somewhat distracting.  It does have the most bridges, but the really spectacular high trestles are farther south.  Bridge count for the trip from Vernonia to Manning equaled 11. (I love the bridges).

The trail has 5 access points- in order, north to south: Vernonia, Beaver Creek, Tophill, Buxton, and Manning.  There is no access at Banks, and the last 4 miles between Manning and Banks was the most populous with mill noise, hwy 47 traffic noise, pedestrians, dogs, and other bicyclists.  We ended our trip at Manning-17 miles total.

From Vernonia to Tophill the grade is very gradually uphill-we had no problems maintaining a steady pace with minimal effort-and we HATE hills. 

mostly asphalt and great condition

typical of unpaved trail

some unpaved areas have small loose rocks

I had to walk the mudhole

The unpaved section, of course, is slower, and the sections that have looser rocks would be difficult on road tires; although they are short, intermittent and could be walked if necessary.  There used to be a fantastic curved high and long trestle bridge at Tophill but part of it burned down and was not restored.  A detour of sorts was built for the trail, and this is the crux of the unpaved section.  The trail descends from the elevated railroad grade down to the highway and back up again on the other side.  As a consequence there is a short but very steep downhill and equally steep (but short) uphill section with a highway crossing between that we walked. 

bridge to nowhere

horseshoe trestle-beautiful!

You can follow a short dirt trail to the remaining horseshoe trestle ruin, and it’s worth the time.  The trail cuts to the left from the top of the uphill section and is marked only by an orange and white post (some sort of utility marker).   The sight of 100 feet or so of wood trestle towering over the trees and highway, ending abruptly without a connection, is eerily stirring.

trail in Stubbs Stevens State Park

After Tophill and the ascent to the railroad grade, there is another 1-2 miles of dirt/gravel.  This seemed the most challenging piece of trail because of tires spitting the loose rocks, affecting speed and balance.  Fortunately it doesn’t last long-perhaps a mile or so.  Then the pavement returns and remains to the end.  This part of the ride is through classic coastal woodlands,  remote, beautiful, serene-stunning.  The grade is downhill all the way!  Passing through Stub Stevens State Park, the trail is brand new asphalt pavement, and it’s an effortless cruise!  We were coasting at 15mph. 

buxton trestle bridge from park below

buxton trestle bridge

At Buxton, there is another huge curved trestle bridge that has been restored and is part of the trail.  You can also reach the bottom of the trestle bridge, either from the trail or from the small state park at the access for a different perspective.  Either view is inspiring.  From Buxton to Manning, the trail passes through farmland and countryside vistas but stays well away from the highway until the access is reached. 

L.L. Stub Stevens State Park has 2 campgrounds, although they looked to us like “California” campgrounds-small sites and no visual buffers.  Anderson Park in Vernonia has camping as well, also small and crowded close together.  We found a primitive campground next to the Vernonia airport (south of town), nestled into a small forested area that looked like it would make a great impromptu  starting point from Timber Road; thus avoiding much of the initial highway distractions. 

This is a great ride and, apparently, not highly used.  We did avoid a weekend just in case.  The shorter ride from Beaver Creek to Manning would include all the best features.  And Tophill to Manning would encompass the largest bridges, the best scenery, the best pavement, and once you climbed up to the railroad grade—it’s all downhill!