In mid-June, 50-plus members of SaddleBrooke Cyclemasters traveled to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for five days of outstanding bicycling. Most of the paths ridden were on abandoned railroad routes in the states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. While the City of Coeur d’Alene was the base and the site of the host hotel, most rides were a 30- to 45-minute drive. Each day had a short ride (16 to 32 miles) and a long ride (up to 42 miles). In the middle of the rides, usually the turnaround point, the groups would stop at a snack shop for refreshments.
The first day’s ride was a gravel trail called the Route of the Hiawatha, which was a former Milwaukee Road rail line that crossed from Montana into Idaho via a 1.6-mile-long tunnel. This tunnel was followed by a 14-mile gradual downhill grade that included nine shorter tunnels, eight high bridges, and scenic views all around. At the end of the trail, there was a choice of riding back uphill or taking a bus back to the long tunnel. It’s no surprise that the Route of the Hiawatha is deemed the Crown Jewel of all the country’s rails-to-trails pathways.
Days two, four, and five were on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a former Union Pacific rail line that was built more than 120 years ago to service the silver and lead mines of North Idaho. This paved trail crossed the southern portion of Lake Coeur d’Alene, followed the shoreline to the small town of Harrison, and then traced the Coeur d’Alene River. Abundant wildlife was all around. Visitors on the trail included deer and moose. The highlight of the last day was a restaurant called The Snake Pit, which is the oldest operating restaurant in Idaho.
The day three ride was on the Centennial Trail, which connects Spokane to Coeur d’Alene. Cyclemasters rode the section of the trail that followed the Spokane River. The turnaround point was Krispy Kreme in Spokane, Wash.
In addition to rides, the group listened to a lecture on the Ice Age Glacial Outburst Floods, which shaped the landscape in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon; had a pizza dinner at a local pizza parlor a short walk from the host hotel; and enjoyed a sunset dinner cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Many thanks to Randy Park and Jim and Gail Thom for organizing the trip.
Cyclemasters is a vibrant and active bicycling group in SaddleBrooke with more than 250 members. The club usually does one long, faraway trip each year and several shorter and closer to SaddleBrooke trips a year. For more information, please visit the club’s website www.saddlebrookecyclemasters.org.