It is evening and I am sitting on the deck of my cozy little cottage high above Coeur D’Alene Lake. The sun is setting on the water, the power is out for the entire region as the result of a rumoured fallen tree, the occasional tune from some unknown rock band is drifting across the bay and I am enjoying the cool breeze and the good feelings that come from spending time vacationing with my best buddy. Yvonne, energizer bunny that she is, has decided that an additional 5km walk down by the lake is necessary to complete the day; as for me, the 120 km ride along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene will have to suffice.
When I contemplate where I want to do a cycling vacation, rail to trail is hardly the first thought that comes to mind; too straight, too flat, too boring. Perhaps it is the 190 lbs I am packing around that made me reconsider the rail to trail option; for whatever reason Yvonne and I decided to check out the Trail of the Couer d’Alene. We have not been disappointed.
We decided to break up the trail into two days with out-and-backs from a place called Bull Run to Plummer on the border of Montana on day 1 and then from Bull Run to Mullen on the Washington border on day 2; this would make two consecutive 120 km days. The trail was built along the Union Pacific line and was a joint project of various governments, the railway, the Coeur d’Alene tribe. The Montana side of the trail runs through numerous mining towns including Wallace, from whose mines came 7 Billion dollars of silver. When the railway was built contaminated waste rock from the mines were used to build the rail bed. The rail to trail was in part an answer to the desire to build tourism, but also a solution to the contaminants leaching out of the rail bed. By covering the rail bed in pavement it help to seal in much of the toxic materials; the result is a fantastic ride that traverses the pan handle and creates a fantastic riding experience through absolutely spectacular scenery.
I have always enjoyed riding along water and the trail essentially follows the Coeur d’Alene River from where it begins as a small fast flowing mountain stream in Washington to where it enters Lake Coeur d’Alene with its many arms. All along the river there are backwaters and swamps filled with water cabbage, water lillies and the occasional moose. The trail can be divided up into four quarters with the western most quarter of the trail being industrial with mining and logging towns, second quarter is a great river for fishing and rafting, the third quarter is along the shore of lake Coeur d’Alene, and the final quarter is a beautiful ride up a mountain through the aromatic pine and cedar forest of the Plummer Indian reservation.
If anyone is looking for more information on the trip, I’ll be happy to share info about where to stay, how to access the trail, etc.