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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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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.

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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!

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Bear with me as this trip (May21-June 4, 2010) encompassed several mini-adventures in one overall fabulous experience.  I’m still flashing back on many of the adorable and intriguing glimpses we caught of this unbelievable country we live in.  Although we travelled the Interstates on the way to TX in order to arrive more quickly, Matt vowed to stay off them whenever possible while travelling home again.  Ergo, from Leakey, TX to Salem, OR, we drove a total of 31 miles of Interstate highways.  The rest were state highways and county roads.  The only qualifier was to remain on pavements in deference to the Bootie being towed. 

Our arrival in Texas, May23, began as usual with a hellacious thunder and hail storm just outside of Fort Stockton.  Highway traffic came to a stop temporarily-for those with prior experience, under overpasses to avoid hail damage.  We weren’t so farsighted but fortunately no obvious damage resulted to our vehicles.  Following this interlude, the fates were kind, and we saw no more storms until after the Memorial weekend/Bird Olympics.

 The Bird Olympics officially began Friday, May 28 as other family members and friends arrive.  Cardboard boat building was the main event at the Bird Olympics this year and was well received -although a lot of work was involved. 

riverside cardboard boat building

matt fixing ears of Frio Fury

Frio Fury red dragon team

competition ready

The races were hilarious!  Most boats lasted 2 races so almost everyone involved got to try.  My team’s boat, The Frio Fury, although beautiful, came in last, sad to say.

 I can’t resist introducing the newest members of the Grummet clan: Layla Jade and Jesinia Lys

jesinia and layla (could be layla and jesinia)

We left Leakey (lay’ key) Monday, May 31 for the Texas panhandle and our planned Rail to Trail excursion at Caprock State Park.  Caprock, or Caprock Escarpment, is used to describe the geographical transition point between the higher and flatter great plains and the lower rolling plains of Texas and New Mexico.  The escarpment stretches almost 200 miles south-southwest from the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle. The escarpment is made of a layer of calcium carbonate (caliche) that resists erosion. In some places the escarpment rises almost  1,000 ft above the rolling Texas plains to the east. The escarpment’s features are formed by erosion from small rivers and streams, creating canyons and arroyos.  The famous Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo is just north of where we rode the old railroad grade off the great plains, down the canyons and onto the rolling plains of Texas. 

It took us ~9 hours to get there and, wouldn’t you know it, we arrived in the middle of another tremendous thunderstorm!  Had to pull off the road again to let the worst of it pass.  The lightning show was unbelievably dramatic and prolonged-beats any 4th of July fireworks I ever saw.  The next a.m. was stormy and windy so we spent the time preparing bikes and selves for an assault on the trail the following morning.  The afternoon was brilliant sun and withering heat; temp in mid-90s and 15-20mph hot winds, so all we could do was hunker down under a shade tree, turn on the fans, undress to bare essentials and wait for sundown.  Good thing I brought lots of books, Sudoku and crossword puzzles! 

Thunderstorms developed that evening again although we didn’t get directly involved.  We did see lightning in the distance and suffered buffeting winds all night long that rocked the Slipper constantly.  Not much sleep that night.  We knew we had to get an early start for the bike trail so we could finish before the brutal heat of the afternoon.  When we got up at 630am, it was drizzly rain but we forged ahead.  So glad we did because the rain stopped, and the clouds helped delay the sun’s intensity through much of the morning.  Fortunately the wind was at our backs as well.  All in all, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

1st mile of caprock rail to trail

The trail started rough at South Plains, TX but improved a bit after a couple miles of bumpy cinder surface overrun with grass clumps.  Most of the trail is cinder-only a mountain bike could manage it-but, oh what a magnificent trip down and over the caprock canyons.

matt on one of largest trestle bridges

It was difficult to make any time because every curve and trestle bridge required a picture-taking stop.  There were so many trestle bridges we lost count-probably 12 or so.

 I saw a horned toad dodge my tires, and Matt nearly ran over a rattlesnake-I don’t know who was the more alarmed!

typical course through caprock

so many canyons; so little time

The main attractions to this section of the trail were the transition from the caprock to the plains and a nearly 600 foot long tunnel filled with Mexican bats. 

approaching tunnel entrance

entering the tunnel

The tunnel was an awesome structure to view up close.   The bats were not visible, but as we walked through we could hear little bat voices softly chittering above us.  One could just imagine mother bats gently soothing and calming their babies.  As we exited the far end, we saw 2 great horned owls that had been disturbed by our presence.  I suppose they are nesting in the tunnel as well, but I wonder if they feed on bats??  As for humans, we saw none after the first mile and only 2 houses in the 17 miles of trail we traversed.

We made the trip in ~ 4 hours and finished at 1130am.  Temp was 91-I had said we needed to finish before temps rose above 90 so we were close.   Didn’t feel bad but we were both ready to stop.  We also felt we had done the best part of this trail.  The remaining 40+ miles are flat and through rather monotonous plains with little shade or land formations.    The biggest problem was we had to endure the blistering hot afternoons and could only bike in the mornings.  Every day was forecast to get hotter until highs were into 100s.  We decided to move on.

J.B. Buchanan windmill park

We headed north and west, with a delightful detour to Spearman TX to see the J.B. Buchanan park devoted to restored windmills.  

We were heading for the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands.  The vistas we had envisioned of endless oceans of native grasses were disappointingly nonexistent.  The land looks to me like mega cattle ranches.  (I suspect a hoax on the American taxpayer).  We did find an unadvertised, little known, poorly marked, cozy little national park hunting camp/campground called the Thompson Grove picnic area.  One would think no one wanted outsiders to find this place-altho it is a federal public park. 

tiny peaceful primitive campground-avoid during hunting season

We had the place to ourselves, and it was a very restful night after the buffeting winds we had at Caprock—that is, until the starlings/grackles started squawking before dawn.  I swear I never heard such noisy birds!  Still, we felt restored and ready to explore Pagosa Springs, Durango and Cortez country in CO.

Pagosa Springs from south

Pagosa Springs-what can I say!  It’s an adorable town.  The mountains and river are spectacular.  We found a small campground, East Fork (San Juan River),  just a few miles out of town that was quiet and practically deserted.  Townsperson assured me that it would likely be full in another day as they were having a bluegrass festival that weekend.

It’s a town devoted to playing-winter skiing/snowshoeing/snowmobiling and summer hiking, kayaking/rafting/dirt biking.  They have even built wave challenges in the river that courses through their downtown for kayakers to test/learn their skills. 

I think I could learn to do that!

Too bad the hot springs are totally and commercially geeked out.  It looked like a great place to vacation, but too much winter for us to live there!   The views of the mountains will stop your breath!

view leaving East Fork primitive campground outside Pagosa Springs

Tooth of Time mountain range outside Pagosa Springs-love the name!

We traveled west  to Durango and tried to connect with the doctor that helped deliver Dan, our son, in AZ (28 years ago)(saved Dan’s life but that’s another story).   Unfortunately he was out of town for the weekend, so we’ll have to try to meet another time.  Durango is big-time city (for this area) with lots of traffic, but the historic downtown is still quite attractive.  Too big for our tastes, we think, so we moved on to Cortez. 

Cortez sits north of Mesa Verde National Park.  We promised a visit there another time as construction issues prevented our little entourage from driving into the park.  At this time we were more interested in the town and surrounding countryside.  The town is small but with the essential amenities for daily living (grocery, fuel, hardware store, restaurant).  Between Cortez and Dolores is a broad river valley with farming-mostly grass and wheat but also beans, corn and squash. 

canyonlands-what more can I say!

breathtaking vistas for miles and miles

West of Cortez lies Utah and the most spectacular country imaginable.  There are surely regions of the world as beautiful, but I wonder if any could be more so than the canyonlands of Utah.  Everyone who lives in the US should drive through southern Utah at least once.   I need weeks to explore and take pictures to my heart’s content

 
 

Indian ruins below and left of rock thumb across the Devil's Canyon

best view of Devil's Canyon

We have a favorite campground outside of Blanding, UT called Devil’s Canyon.  We walked the very short trail from the campground to the canyon then bushwhacked a very teeny bit in order to get the best pictures.  We also found out biking on dirt roads is not fun if 4-wheelers use them also!  I’m still spitting dust when I think of it.

looking into Devil's Canyon from my rock outcropping

 

every curve in the road brings fresh grandeur

rest area in Capitol Reef National Park

 We travelled hwy 95 from Blanding to Hanksville which winds through the heart of the canyonland , then hwy 24 that cuts through Capitol Reef National Park to hwy 50 and into Nevada.

The temptation to stop and hike around this country was overwhelming but each time we tried, tiny biting gnats found us within minutes-very unpleasant unless we were constantly moving.  I felt great sympathy for the wildlife here.

tiny segment of Capitol Reef

Ward Mountain NV

We found a small campground outside of Ely at Ward Mountain where we rested and oohed over a lovely cloud-studded sunset before falling asleep with the surrounding scents of pines and sage and the alluring calls of unknown and unseen birds in the distance.  How sweet moments of life can be!

sunset at Ward Mtn

Next morning we’re on the road again, passing through the tiny but charming town of Eureka (gold!) ,then turning north to Owyhee and Idaho.  

eastern OR country-we're nearly home!

Now we start to see rivers with more water and  greener valleys with larger herds of cattle, sheep, goats and even llamas.  It starts to feel like home again although we are yet in western ID and eastern OR.  Our road more or less follows the Snake River in ID as it becomes a major presence in the landscape, then crosses over to the Malheur River in OR.  Glimpses of potential kayaking excursions begin to dominate our conversations, although we stopped only once for lunch in Nyssa, OR, on the banks of the Snake River.  The river was high and fast and some hatch of insects (nonbiting thank goodness) kept us inside the Slipper.

As we travel west across hwy 20 in OR, we identified an abandoned railroad grade paralleling the highway until disappearing south into Malheur country.  We begin planning/dreaming of a biking/hiking exploration trip along pieces of this abandoned grade as it leaves the highway and winds over the Malheur River.  It could be a stunning rail to trail conversion although the condition of the trestle bridges may be prohibitive.

Our goal for our last night on the road is Crystal Crane Hot Springs between Crane and Burns.  What a luxury to end a day of car travel in a 100 degree hot pond watching nighthawks and swallows in the sky.   A group of women shared the pool with us until one of their beach towels caught fire in their firepit, also poolside.  Quite a blaze it caused.  No harm was done (except for the towel).  The women were entertained; the owners were unfazed.  I marvel at the miracle of alcohol!

 

Do you know whose eggs these are?

While parking our Slipper for the night, we almost destroyed a ground birdnest, but these same women warned us away in time.  Anyone recognize the eggs?  They are ~2” x 1.5”.  The parents share incubating duties and noisily run around nearby if you approach.  I was told they will even run at you, but I didn’t test that.  Next blog I will show a picture of the parent.  Hint: they are larger than killdeer-and beautiful.

Cascade Mtns from eastern hwy 20

Approaching Bend from the east is a stunning view.  Oregon can certainly hold its own in the natural beauty category!

I can’t begin to tell you how travelling this grand country of ours is affecting my perspective on life, my roles during my little chapter in time, the immensity of the universe-so I won’t bore you further!  Let’s just say I’m looking forward to further adventures with Matt on the road, trails, waterways….

 

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Matt’s writing; my pictures but I can’t resist a few words (in parentheses)
:
Well, our three weeks of work before the next trip to Texas and the Bird Family Olympics is over and tomorrow we are on the road again.  This time, towing the Bootie and carrying mountain bikes.  We’ll need the Bootie to do the bike shuttles when we ride the Caprock Rail to Trail I described in the last entry.  We are going to ride it after the Olympics in Texas.  That will probably be my next post unless I decide to torture you with details of the family reunion (a not unlikely occurrence- so beware). (Don’t worry, I fully intend to share the details so brace yourselves! Pam)  Anyway, before we take off for Texas, I wanted to share a couple of rides we managed to squeeze in recently. 
 
A couple of weeks ago we got a run of nice weather and couldn’t resist taking time away from gardening and landscaping (things that just had to be done before we left for Texas again) (I’m the driving factor there. Pam) to ride the bike trails in Corvallis.  For non-Oregonians, Corvallis is the home of Oregon State University (the Beavers of all things) and as such is an all too hip college town with nice facilities, including beautiful paved bike paths perfect for your hybrid bikes.  We rode the path (Hunsaker Bike Trail) that goes from downtown Corvallis to the small neighboring town of Philomath- about seven miles one way.   Urban bike paths are nice in their own way.  You don’t get the big outdoors feeling you do on rail to trail paths, but it’s fun to glide past backyards, along creeks and through little city parks.  This particular path even had a section that was completely landscaped by a local group as a corridor small tree demonstration garden (The Small Tree Arboretum).  All the trees, many of them exotics, and many of the other plants are numbered to correspond to a guide- pretty and educational (especially if you are trying to redo the landscaping in your yard like we are right now).

lovely rural feel once you leave Corvallis

lovely bridgeview from the trail in Corvallis

beautiful violas in the Small Tree Arboretum

another bridge just outside Corvallis

The second bike trip, a mountain bike run, we tacked onto the tail end of a presentation Matt was doing for REALTORS in Baker, Oregon.  Baker is an historic Oregon Trail town in far eastern Oregon very near the Idaho line.  Just over the Idaho line is Weiser (pronounced weezer), Idaho the terminus of the 84 mile long Weiser River Rail to Trail.  The trail begins in the mountains near New Meadows, Idaho and follows an old railroad grade south toward the Snake River.  Weiser is a river town- in fact the last town before the Snake drops into Hells Canyon.  (Actually, there isn’t that much dropping any more because of the hydo dams, but that’s another story that will have to wait until we can get back and do a full scale pedal/paddle).  The Weiser River trail is all gravel with access points every 20 miles or so.  We decided to scout the trail for ride-ability by riding up the trail along the river from the Presley access point just above Weiser.  It turned out to be a beautiful place (understatement).   And, except for riding into a 20 mile an hour down-canyon wind for the first hour and half, it was a great ride.  ( To be honest, the wind was a definite drag-literally as well as figuratively)  The mountain bikes make all the difference on gravel trails (I (Matt) still have scars from the first gravel rail to trail we tried last year on our skinny tire hybrids).   As you can see from the pictures, the Wieser River trail is not developed.  It certainly isn’t crowded.  We were impressed (awestruck, enthused, ecstatic, etc)  and are planning to ride the whole trail this summer in a full scale pedal/paddle trip that includes tamer parts of the Snake.  (Note: the Weiser River is a tributary of the Snake River).
 

cutest little shade marker at trailhead

trailhead parking; trail is right and follows Weiser River

here we go! What a day!

scenery is spectacular

every bend brings another gorgeous scene

I can't help it, it's just all so beautiful

at last our turn around point in the distancetrestle bridge 7+miles from trailhead-it's a coast back.

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Matt is the author today with his take on how pedal-paddle came to be.  Enjoy!

How we discovered pedal-paddle trips.

Like most things, we more tripped over pedal -paddle trips than “discovered” them.  “Discovered” is a little too purposeful.  Last winter, Pam got involved with some kind of dance around exercise program like Jazzercise.  It may have been Jazzercise for all I know.  At any rate, the woman teaching the thing talked Pam into getting in shape to enter a local mini-ironman contest held each spring.  That meant bike riding, swimming, and running.  The next thing I knew, Pam had a bike, an exercise club membership and was planning to ride or swim every day.  This will surprise no one who knows Pam.

The swimming seemed harmless (if boring) enough, but biking seemed to me a seriously dangerous undertaking.  It’s not the bikes.  I’ve owned and ridden bikes since I was six.  It’s the riding alone on city streets or isolated bike paths that is dangerous because now you are talking about unstructured interaction with the public in isolated locations-never a good thing.  So I got a bike to ride with Pam, figuring I needed the exercise and two frumpy baby-boomers are a lot harder target than one.  We also still like each other’s company, but that’s phoofy stuff.

Be that as it may, we started riding bikes and enjoyed it.  About the same time, our neighbors, Suzanne and John (also frumpy baby-boomers),  got some kayaks and started paddling the rivers and estuaries around this part of Oregon.  That sounded like fun, so we got some kayaks as well and started taking day trips around the local area.  We put kayak and bike racks on the Ruby Slipper and my old pickup so we could use either or both vehicles to stage local kayak or bike trips.  Pam came to her senses and blew off the ironman event.

That summer, Pam’s sister, Jackie, and her husband, Will, were planning to visit the Northwest to scout potential retirement spots.  (You guessed it: they’re frumpy baby-boomers too).  Will was scheduled to attend a conference in Bozeman, Montana.  Pam planned to fly to their house in Marquette, Michigan, meet Jackie; and the two of them would load up their Subaru with dogs, camping gear, boats and the like and drive to Bozeman.  Meanwhile, I would load the Slipper with our dog, Jedi, and all our toys; and everyone would meet in Bozeman and then start visiting towns in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.  OK, well, that’s the way the trip evolved.  It isn’t like anyone planned it from scratch.

A week before Pam was to fly to Marquette, Jedi, our 14 year old Husky, had what the vet later thought was a stroke.  The dog was a mess.  End of life issues were right there in our frumpy baby-boomer faces.  So we rushed Jedi to the vet who gave him a massive dose of steroids-then we cancelled the flight to Michigan, called off the trip to Bozeman and settled down to watch our dog die.  But he didn’t die.  In fact, he got better and better.  By the time the Bozeman rendezvous date rolled around the damn dog was back to walking in the dog park and chasing squirrels in the yard.  On the spur of the moment, the day after I was scheduled to start for Bozeman, we decided to load up and head for Jackie and Will’s first Northwest port of call, Sandpoint, Idaho.

We spent the night just north of Walla Walla, WA in a tiny campground at the Louis and Clark Trail State Park on the edge of the Palouse country (where they invented contour plowing so they could have miles and miles of rolling hills covered with nothing but wheat).  Anyway, the park is right on US Highway 12.  Some of you will recognize Hwy 12 as the incredibly beautiful two-lane run across Idaho and over the Lolo Pass to Missoula, MT.  Long distance bicyclists, it turns out, love Highway 12 (just like real bikers, the ones with “colors,” love Highway 212 over the Bear Tooth Pass to Red Lodge, MT).  As a result, Louis and Clark Trail State Park is full of bikers (spandex, not motorcyclists) all summer.  The day of our visit was no exception.  It was impressive to see the heavily loaded bikes manned by skinny kids dressed in spandex uniforms crawling along the narrow two lane road.  Especially impressive given log truck traffic and half-crazed RVer’s racing them for the summit.  Pam and I made a no-bike-riding-on-highways pact right on the spot.

The next day, we called Jackie and Will to tell them we would catch up with them in Sandpoint.  That’s when we found out they’d called off the whole thing when we told them about Jedi.  They were working around the house in Marquette while the Ruby Slipper fully laden with kayaks and bikes roared up the western shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene headed for a campground (Round Lake State Park) just south of Sandpoint where we had a reservation for the night.  In retrospect, the fact that we needed to make reservations should have been a big clue for what we found.

It had been many years since I’d been in this part of Idaho, other than to blaze through on Interstate 90 headed for Montana.  Approaching Coeur d’Alene from the south along the lake on US Highway 95 and then north to Sandpoint is truly a trip from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Small towns and peaceful surroundings give way to the kind of suburban and exurban traffic, crowding, ugliness and shopping mall architecture almost unknown outside of California until well into the last decade.  Halfway between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint is a giant amusement and water park with acres of parking and all the cars and people necessary to fill it.  The NASCAR refugees scene at the campground so scared us when we got there, that we cancelled the reservation and fled south again to a little town, St. Marie’s (pronounced Saint Mary’s) near the far southern tip of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

We fled in that direction because on the way north we’d stopped at a rest area along Hwy 95 near Plummer, ID.  Completely unbeknownst to us, Plummer is the western terminus of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, the longest paved bike trail in the country.  We didn’t even know there were such things, but while Jedi stalked ground squirrels (they were in no real danger), we read all about how these nasty mining companies had been forced to give their railroad right of way to the government as part of a settlement for polluting this part of Idaho with heavy metals.  The government paved the right of way and turned it into a bike path.  Ain’t that America?

According to the rest area signs, the thing runs for more than 70 miles from Wallace, ID down to Plummer.  Along the way, it runs along the Coeur d’Alene River and the lake shore-over old rail trestles and through little towns.  It sounded really neat and we agreed we’d check it out when we got a chance.  We didn’t know “the chance” was later that same day when after wading through hours of urban traffic and development we ended up in that overcrowded campground filled with big RVs, bump-out travel trailers, portable satellite dishes, screaming kids and noisy power generators that apparently make up the general camping experience for many.  Yes, we fled.  We fled all the way to the little town of St. Maries.  Fifty miles from Coeur d’Alene and a world apart.

North of St. Maries, we found a little forest service campground (Benewah Lake Campground, Chatcolet) at the very southern tip of Lake Coeur d’Alene.  It was small and half empty, quite bucolic, idyllic, peaceful-well, maybe it was just a little campground enough off the beaten path to afford some sense of refuge.  Whatever, in St Maries we soon found a great hamburger and biscuits and gravy restaurant to supplement our Slipper fare (I know, I know, but in my mind, at least on vacation, I’m still 17 and, for a day or two, can eat as I please).  We began to relax.

We found another forest service campground (Shadowy St Joe) on the St. Joe River-and we found pedal-paddle.  It was right there to trip over.  The river and the end of the lake were wonderful kayak places.  The lake there was too shallow and weed-choked to be of interest to power boaters.  The St. Joe had long since been forgotten by all but local fishermen.  Birds loved the place.  So did we.

We only had a couple of days.  And we still had an old dog with us.  So we’d kayak for a couple of hours a day.  Then we explored the area.  We took our bikes down to the place where the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes crossed the tip of the lake on an old railway trestle and rode up along the lake to the little town of Harrison, Idaho.  We ate ice cream cones sitting by our bikes looking out over the lake.  It was nice.  The ride back along the lake shore on the paved smooth uncrowded trail was a joy.  That afternoon, we threw our kayaks in the lake for a short paddle.  Literally hundreds of swallows shared space with osprey and Great Blue herons-and us.  It was a perfect blend of discovery, activity and contentment.

That night we started to talk about how we could take pedal-paddle trips all over the United States once we were retired.  We started to think about traveling logistics:  how to find kayak and bike places in one locale; shuttling kayaks and bikes without outside assistance; multi-day excursions or mini-trips of a few hours.   We headed home the next day with a mission:  put together the equipment and techniques that would allow us to leap-frog along any waterway and/or bike trail with the Ruby Slipper as our base camp as we travelled.

Yet to come: the first pedal-paddle trips and the Baby Bootie.

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