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?