TRAIL OF THE COEUR D’ALENES, IDAHO
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.
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.”
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.
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 (!!).
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.
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!
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 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!
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!
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!
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.
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.”