the Hiawatha Bike Trail

Here are the rest of the photos for today:

The reason for this trip is a gathering of the clan, with relatives coming from several places to gather with Mo’s brother here in his town. Several of us are camped here at Riverside State Park, sites 1,2, and 3, right along the river. Others are staying at her brother’s home, some in a motel, but we are planning several get together’s. One of these was to ride the famous Hiawatha Trail. The Hiawatha is a great example of what can be done with a rail to trail plan to use abandoned rail road right of ways for bike trails. The Hiawatha is especially interesting because it has such a great history for this area, and is in such magnificent country as well. Here’s a link that tells a bit about the trail.

You can take the fun relaxing easy ride, starting at the top of Lookout Pass, ride downhill for 15 miles on a 1.7 percent grade, and get shuttled back to the top by the trusty shuttle bus when you are finished. However, for us, the timing was a bit off, so we decided to ride up the 15 miles first, leaving from the Pearson trailhead on the North Fork of the St Joe River, meet the rest of the family at the top, then bike down together and drive home while the rest of them did the shuttle.

Mo and I left early, drove 2 hours via I-90 to Wallace, then up the Moon Pass Road and arrived at the trailhead around 10 or so. The ride itself is wonderful, and I had forgotten how beautiful the Idaho Panhandle forests are, with such lush vegetation and thick stands of Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western larch, western redcedar and all sorts of wonderful understory plants that tell the story of the moist volcanic ash soils that support these kinds of forests.

We took it slow, enjoying the views of the mountains, the rides through the tunnels, and the high wooden trestles. The story of the Hiawatha Line itself if fascinating and worth a look. There are several tunnels along the route, the longest one at the top with a length of 1.8 miles. It’s a bit disconcerting riding through them because they have ditches on either side with running water and of course, there isn’t any light. Bike lights or head lamps are needed to see at all, and ours weren’t that bright, but we did fine. The ride up seems long, and the tunnel is fun and just scary enough to be a bit exciting. We waited for the family, who didn’t show up, and decided to start back down around 3pm. The ride down is blissful, a perfect descent with nothing steep enough to require hard braking and gorgeous views. We had the trail almost to ourselves. Between the 2 of us, I am the klutz, but Mo was fiddling with her headlamp while we were in one of the dark tunnels on and smashed head first into the craggy hard rock wall of the tunnel. It was an incredibly scary moment, when I heard her slight oomph, a quick epithet, and then a whack followed by the crunching sound of bikes and bones crashing. The whack was her helmet hitting the wall, hard. We are both incredibly grateful it wasn’t her head, but her body and shoulder took the rest of the impact and she is all banged up with that inner pain that indicates broken or cracked ribs.
Nothing much to do about that in the long run so after some debating she decided that the hospital would be a waste of time to get xrays and a prescription for something and admonitions to rest and not over exert. Don’t need an expensive and long emergency room visit to figure that one out! Mo was in a bit of shock I think, with pale face and green lips but she made it out the rest of the way, more than 9 miles on her bike. Good thing it was downhill! We encountered a couple of really nice women on the trail, and one was an RN so she checked Mo for a concussion, and they helped us out a bit. Nice. Once down, I drove the 3 hours back to Spokane and we settled in to camp, skipping the family get together up at Don’s. Mo slept on the sofa propped up with pillows and helped out by an emergency supply of pain pills supplied by her brothers. It wasn’t a fun ending to what started out as a really great day, but we both felt incredibly blessed and lucky that nothing was any worse than it was.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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