Category Archives: Idaho

Day 6: Kellogg Idaho to St. Regis Montana

Today I hoped would be an easy day. It is the 4th of July. Traffic should be light and the maps said today would be under 70 miles. After doing two centuries, which are 100 mile days, that sounded like a nice change of pace. The goal was to get from Kellogg, Idaho to St. Regis, Montana.

It didn’t turn out easy. Instead, it took so much effort to get to St. Regis that I have fallen asleep numerous times typing this entry.

The first hour or so of pedaling was lovely. I was again on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which is a paved bike path. I even ran into the man who cleaned the path. He was driving an oversized golf cart. Attached as a trailer to the back of the cart was a large leaf blower on wheels. It was noisy, but certainly effective.

Unfortunately the trail ended, but the mapping program said to get on the Northern Pacific Trail, which was also an abandoned rail line. How different could the new trail be? For the first few miles, not different at all. Then the trail started to climb and not at a gentle 1 or 2% grade. Then the road switched from being paved to being hard packed dirt. Finally, it switched to rock and gravel. At a particularly steep part, I braked, got off the bike and switched from bike shoes with cleats to sneakers and started walking the bike up the hill.

I then spent the rest of the day alternating between riding and walking the bike. The map showed a large zig zag, which typically means a very steep part. As I was getting closer to the zig zag my legs started turning to jelly. I was a little concerned, but roughly every ten minutes an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) passed by me so I knew there would be help if I had to flag something down.

I soon discovered why my legs turned to jelly. I rounded a corner and saw that I was near the top of a large mountain and ¾ of a mile up in the air. It turned out I had pedaled and walked to “Lookout Pass” on the Idaho-Montana border. The legs turning to jelly was my feeling altitude queasiness.

Interstate I-90 was far below where I stood at the top of the pass. The signs stated the part of I-90 far below me is the highest elevation the highway ever reaches on its run from Boston to Seattle.

At the pass there even was a ski lodge and lifts (not running) which gave me an idea how high I had climbed. I figured having done the hard part, the easy part was next, the downhill. If the trail was paved or even hard packed it would have been a great ride. However, most of it was loose gravel. In some place the gravel was so loose I had trouble walking with the bike. The rough trail conditions made the ride down as punishing as getting up to Lookout Pass. One nice thing was after 15 minutes of riding downhill, my legs started recovering, which suggests altitude was a big part.

While the ride down was hard, I saw quite a few white-tailed deer. One even raced in front of my bike down the trail for a long way. Another stood in the middle of the trail and we had a staring contest. I lost.

While it wasn’t the easy day I was expecting, I made it to St. Regis without any serious problems to myself or the bike. There are a lot of fireworks going off right now since it is the 4th and the town has a big stand selling them. I don’t think the explosions will hamper my sleep in any way, shape or form.

Day 5: Spokane to Kellogg, Idaho

If you read day 4's post you might ask, “What is the point of cycling across the USA?”  Today answered this question emphatically.

While yesterday had some low moments, today had one long and continuous high moment.  I had this experience during my last 50 miles of the day, while pedaling the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes.

What is this trail?  Imagine a 10 foot wide flat sidewalk that winds its way for 72 miles through some of the most scenic areas in the Northwest.  While pedaling down this trail as added bonuses, you get bathrooms every dozen miles, benches or picnic tables every 2 or 3 miles, almost no road crossing, very few people and amazing wildlife and scenery.

I had no idea what the trail was like.  Nor did I expect to be on it for so long.  Unexpected experiences like this are the reason for traveling and in my case bicycling across the USA.

The trail starts almost at the Washington State border and ends just before the Montana border. It is a joint project of the Coeur d' Alene Indian tribe and the government of Idaho.  The trail runs along an old railroad bed which is why it is almost flat.

Are there downsides of the trail?  It is tough to find something negative to say.  The trail caused my camera to run out of power, because the views were so photogenic.  That is really not a negative.

The single small downside is that the trail has water at the beginning and end, but not in the middle.  In the trail’s defense after riding it I looked at some websites that discuss the trail and they say “bring water” and a camera.

I got on the trail at mile marker 6 and had no idea what to expect.  I was using Google Maps.  It said, “turn left here.”  I turned left and saw a sign “no motorized vehicles.”  I started pedaling and then after a mile pulled over to see what the next set of instructions were going to be.  I scrolled through a couple of screens of going straight when suddenly the screen showed I was supposed to be cycling in the middle of a lake.  I felt a bit confused but Google Maps had done well so far that day so I decided to take a chance.

A few miles later a giant bridge appeared that was open only for walkers and bicyclists.  The bridge crossed a large lake right where Google indicated I should be pedaling.  By the end of the bridge I knew I was on something special, since even the bridge was built to make cycling up it easy, with short flat spots interspersed with up-hills, so you were not continuously climbing.

On the other side of the bridge the trail didn’t just hug the shore.  Instead there were times it bisected inlets and small ponds.  The vegetation kept changing along the side of the trail and the distant scenery kept changing from farms, to alpine meadows, to mountains.

The skies were busy with birds flying about trying to catch insects.  I joined the birds by occasionally swallowing a few bugs too.  The difference was that they were trying to catch bugs and I just opened my mouth at the wrong time.

There were a few other special moments.  I was about 20 miles in on the trail when I saw what I thought was a horse on the trail in front of me.  Another bicyclist coming towards me saw me brake while staring ahead.  He turned to look back and whispered, “Moose.”  We stood there about 20 feet from a teenage moose who was sniffing trees on both sides of the trail before jumping in the water to swim off.

The trail has many interpretive signs.  My goal was to read the heading of every sign as I pedaled past.  I saw one that said, “bald eagle nesting ground.”  A few minutes later I could hear a pair of eagles screeching to each other, but I could not see the actual birds.

Another memorable  experience was about an hour later.  A moose started to crash out of the woods beside me.  Just as his head broke through the thicket I whizzed by.  We looked at each other from about 6 feet away.  The moose sniffed, turned and darted back into the forest.  While I don’t smell particularly fresh, I sill felt a bit insulted the moose darted off that quickly once it caught wind of me.

To top it all off, I booked a motel three blocks off a trail entrances in Kellogg Idaho.  The room is clean, comfortable and quite cheap ($45).  What more can you ask for in one day?