Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes
by Pat Miller
|Karen and Pat’s Outstanding
After several years of saying “You know, we really should”, Karen and I finally made it to Idaho to ride the fabled “Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes”, 77 miles of abandoned rail bed stretching from Mullen on the eastern edge of the Idaho silver mining district to Plummer near the southern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. This ribbon of smooth asphalt that nearly crosses the entire state in car-less splendor features numerous access points, gorgeous scenery and abundant wildlife. Close to the road in some locations but completely isolated in others as these old railroad right-of-ways tend to take the shortest distances (and easiest grades) between two points.
We arrived at our motel Monday afternoon (the Baymont in Kellogg
As an aside I have to tell you about the restorative power of the bicycle. My wife has gone in a few short months from a free-lance product tester for RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris whose idea of exercise was fetching the mail to an animal on the bike as well as becoming a road running gym rat! I have nicknamed her Blanche Armstrong!
Luckily a bolt was sticking out of the newly installed tourist rack
into my leg making necessary a stop in Osborne to find a hacksaw blade
for some on-the-road metal surgery. The trail started to pitch up a bit
toward Mullen and the pace backed off to merely painful.
40 down, 110 to go.
Tuesday morning at 7:00 we were off headed west. The plan was to ride a big chunk of the remaining 110 round trip miles and move on to Plummer or Harrison to stay and finish up the ride on Wednesday. Once past Kellogg and Smelterville the trail finds the river and the scenery and wildlife start to take over. Osprey, songbirds, chipmunks, deer and the occasional moose inhabit the forest, flat lands and literal miles of lily pad filled ponds. Geese, ducks, herons and other waterfowl use the elevated rail bed through the ponds as their setting area and private bathroom. I’ll leave you to conjure up your own pictures.
There were a few other cyclists usually near the trailheads but we mostly had it to ourselves. There are lots of restrooms along the trail but very little in the way of potable water. Years of rail cars carrying heavy metal laden ore have left a scar on the corridor. The trail is safe to travel but camping is discouraged and the ground water a bit questionable. Carry more that you think you’ll need or plan to take a few side trips.
Our first view of the lake came at Harrison and we stopped
for an espresso. Karen’s previous long ride was around 50 miles and we were thinking
of turning around here which would give us 70. Something about the allure
of the first century ride along the beautiful trail and conditions just
made it easy to keep riding. So ride we did- around the lake toward the
end of the trail at Plummer, 54 miles from our start in Kellogg. The
last 7 miles into Plummer gains some elevation, maybe 700 feet and by
now it was hot. Our efforts were rewarded by pictures of a momma and
a baby deer, still with it’s spots! We were hoping for a nice lunch
in Plummer but found it to be a rather disappointing little village neither
clean nor friendly. Just a perception but after locking our bikes to
three different eateries and changing our minds we left the heebie-jeebies
behind and headed back to Harrison. The espresso shop was pleasant and
had FOOD!!!!! We checked earlier to be sure they would be serving into
Now it’s on to Boise to ride the Bogus Basin Hill Climb but that’s