Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - Day 1

This past Labor Day weekend we rode the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes from Plummer to Kellogg in Idaho.  The trail is 73 miles total length (to Mullan, ID), but we chose to stop in Kellogg at 54 miles.  After staying the night in Spokane Valley we drove about an hour down to the trailhead at Plummer.  The town is not much more than what you see below in the photo.

The trailhead was a bit of a relief - good parking, open, trail map, water, and restroom.  For anyone embarking on this ride make sure to bring plenty of water as there is a 27 mile stretch with no water.  The Plummer trailhead has a water fountain, water can be bought in Harrison, there is a restaurant in Cataldo (the deli there is closed and for sale), the Snakepit restaurant in Enaville, and then a Walmart along the trail at Smelterville.  There are rest stops every few miles however, most with a table, bench, and composting toilet (we ran into a park ranger even cleaning one on Sunday morning, they were generally clean and stocked with tp).

About 9am getting set up to leave:

Leaving Plummer the 6 miles down to the lake was fairly cool in the shade (~55 degrees) despite a hot forecast for the day (high 80's).  Most all of the trail surface is smooth asphalt, some of the best I've ever ridden on.

It's really all one piece of water, but the south end of the lake is Chatcolet Lake.  Old railway bridge in the background has been converted to the bike trail.

On the Bridge!  (Mileage = 8.5)

The trail has really good signage for flora and fauna, history, and area maps.

We made a quick stop in Harrison, here's an old advertising mural. (Mileage = 16)
Much of the next 20 miles meandered either on the dike along the river or on the dike that supported the railway across the intervening swamps and lakes.  Ducks, geese, heron, eagles, loons, hawks, and osprey were seen regularly.  Bugs buzzed in the grasses as the day heated up, grasshoppers did their best to jump out of the way of occasional cyclist, and dragonflys dodged about.

Typical scenery of the river at around 35-40 miles:

We had several very placid views of the river after passing under I-90 (at 42 miles):

We were running low on water and hadn't had 'real' food since breakfast so we stopped for a late lunch at the Snakepit in Enaville (47.5 miles).  It presents as a biker bar but seemed family-friendly enough.

Jennifer at 50 miles!  We risked it all for this photo by stepping off trail, signs advised staying on the asphalt at all times.  The trail is part of the cleanup from the Bunker Hill superfund site and the railbed was capped with a thick bed of gravel and asphalt to cover the spillage by rail cars.  Through trail signage we became aware of the environmental disaster that was this valley.  Additional signs along the stretch between Smelterville and Kellogg indicated the former locations of mines and smelters.

The photo below pretty much sums up Kellogg - mostly dead and deserted.  Talking with locals we learned that even winter skiing doesn't revive the town much.  It seemed that about 80% of the buildings were vacant.  We stayed at the McKinley Inn Public House, but I could hardly recommend it - the arrival was jarring!  We found the inn locked but the 'open' sign on and message board with a phone number to call - but our iPhones had no service here (and barely any the entire day since leaving Plummer).  I talked with the waitresses smoking across the street outside the Chinese restaurant and they let me borrow their phone to call.  About 30 minutes later the owner arrived.  Any chance at a brew and meal downstairs were quickly dashed.  The room was fine and we actually had the whole place to ourselves. (Mileage = 54)

 With sun setting and Kellogg feeling a bit like a ghost town our next concern was dinner.  We found the Moose Creek Grill, a surprising bit of class and culture. I promptly treated myself to a beer!

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - Day 2

Our return was back the reverse way and we started the day with temperatures in the mid-40's.  The server the previous night suggested the Silverhorn Motor Inn for breakfast.  I had asked since it was a holiday weekend and we weren't running in to many options as it was.  Breakfast was decent enough and gave us a foundation of calories for the day to make it back.

Here is the more upscale lodge with the lift up the mountain (still in Kellogg).

Back down the trail after stocking up at the megastore in Smelterville.

Recently shorn alpaca near Rose Lake.

A grasshopper attempts to hitch a ride during a rest stop.


More typical scenery in the valley:

The photographer at work!