I don’t even know where to start! I guess at the beginning …
Day one! (06.24.2017)
The start to our trip could not come soon enough. We crossed the US border at Eastport and were very clear we had bear spray and nothing was questioned. It was a breeze. We drove through Sandpoint (very beautiful). We stopped in at Couer d’Alene at the local Costco … and I found some tights that are not sold in Canada and bought a few pairs.
After Costco, we continued onto Wallace, ID … tiny little community with a ton of charm. I really liked the town – one of these places that you know everyone. We stayed at the Wallace RV Park and initially booked a camp site … yes we were camping. I love camping, my friend CK, not so much but was willing to sacrifice for $15/night. I was informed the Thursday before we left that a cabin had opened up and it was ours if we wanted it. Oh I took it!!! Such a charming little cabin, tiny but so much room. The inside was just two sets of bunk beds and the bathrooms were just down a little from the cabin. We really enjoyed it! We sat outside for two nights meeting people walking by and having wine – pretty close to perfect …
Day two! (06.25.2017)
So we woke up early, transport was coming at 7:30am to take us to St. Regis, MT to drop off our car and then take us up to the trailhead in Idaho which stradles between Montana and Idaho. Unfortunately, I purchased tickets online and had to pick them up with our turkey lunches at Lookout Pass, which is the local ski area and not the trailhead. A huge shout out to Prime Minister, Rick of the Center of the Universe, Silver Capital of the World for being so accommodating and driving us to Lookout Pass and back to the trailhead just down the road. The transport was fantastic, learned a lot and really, just enjoyed the ride.
Finally, we were at the trailhead at East Portal, so named as it’s by the east entrance of the 1.66 mile long St. Paul Pass tunnel. Prior to starting into the tunnel, there were a couple rules (there were lots but there were two big ones), you must wear a helmet you and must have a light! Period! We started later than what we wanted and knew we had to get down the mountain quickly to make the 11:45am transport back to the summit at East Portal, if we couldn’t, that would put us on the 1:15pm shuttle and that was too late. We were off …
The 15 mile rail trail was amazing, all downhill … honestly, anyone can do this one. It is a gentle grade down following the Old Milwaukee Road rail trail. I lost count of all the trestles and tunnels. The biggest one was the first one, the tunnel is 1.66 miles (2.67 km). It was long and because it was pitch dark, thank god for lights, it was really hard to see.
I have to tell you, CK and I had a conversation about intelligence and smarts … not sure we figured it out but here is an example. The first tunnel was of course long and looked kinda scary, there were other people which made it easier to go through. The second tunnel was shortly after, and not as long. As I started going through it, I said to myself ‘geez, it’s really hard to see. Is my light working? I’m really starting to freak out! Why?’. It was then I realized I didn’t take my sunglasses off. Like holy!
I like to think of myself as semi-intelligent, clearly I am not smart – although I did realize my mistake.
The rest of the trip down was fantastic, the trail is indeed a gentle downhill grade as it meandered through the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, I burnt maybe three calories. Got to the bottom about 11:15 and waited for the 11:45 shuttle. The shuttle was late, why you ask, well some idiot boy (not sure his age), climbed up to the top of the tunnel … I mean, he climbed up to the top of the tunnel and was sitting right at the top. The shuttle was late because they had to get him down. Question?, if he was a young adult, what was he on and if he was a boy, where was his parents?
I lost count as to how many tunnels and bridges we went through … the views were absolutely stunning
We got on the shuttle, no problems at about 12:30. The trip was about 30min so when we arrived at the top, we stopped for food, bathroom breaks and getting bikes ready for part two. We were on the road by 2:30 … before we left, I asked the people at the top (selling Hiawatha trail tickets) about the Olympian and if in fact we could bike it all … I was told that one of the trestles was private property and we might have to walk down and up again as the trestle was in need of serious repairs. Hmmm, wasn’t interested in that but too late to turn back now.
We started from East Portal and now headed East and decided to deal with it when we arrived there if that was an issue.
The road was pretty good, like the Hiawatha, the Route of the Olympian was a downhill grade and a good trail .
You know, it was a nice ride, the grade was awesome, basically enjoying it … until we got to the sketchy bridge. At first I don’t know what is was until we crossed it (no warnings otherwise), I saw the gaps on the bridge and I was like ‘Holy Smokes’. There are no pics because, well, I wasn’t stopping long enough to take one of the many sink holes along the bridge. Note – don’t stand under the bridge either!
As we traveled the trail (which is also used as a road), what seemed like such a great ride, turned into a nightmare, The trail leveled out and the roadbed got soft, like sinking soft. The ATVers that drive this part of the trail really are doing a great job of destroying it. We didn’t see any bikers at all on this trail, only ATVs, a few of them … one guy drove so fast around a bend he almost took us out – but the rest of the tem slowed down and offered a friendly wave and one stopped to chat.
You can tell by the pic how bad the trail was, really hard to bike on.
We ended up coming to a fork in the road (our first). A road crossed our path and there was a big arrow pointing down the road to our left. I asked CK that perhaps we were to go down there. He said that no, the rail would not have gone way as the train would not be able to make a turn like that without tipping. We were to go straight, on this terrible road – the sign on one of the trees said ‘private property’.
The road ended up washed out (near Two Mile Creek) and we had to cut across (to the left, there is a small trail, down and up) to the road we should have actually been on. It took us around the washed out area and back onto the trail.
The road didn’t improve
Eventually we came across a bride, the I90.
As we traveled along, we came upon the second washed out trail. This one was a little more clear on where to go (I guess the arrow wasn’t a clear indication), as there was another trail that kinda indicated ‘you go here!’.
Then of course, another fork in the road.
It is kind of hard to tell but there was the straight away, a left and right turn. The straight part lead to the interstate, we couldn’t go left as that is where we were with the wash out so the only choice was to go right. There is not one sign anywhere on where to go. Yes, it isn’t a well traveled road, but it is a trail and it should have at least one or two signs. Regardless, we went right and that was the correct decision.
Shortly after, we ended up at another road … this one was different as it was paved. I was told by CK that if we continue straight down the trail, we would pass the town of St Regis and then have to back track to the Visitors Centre where the car was (maybe a couple of miles). Or instead, we could travel down the paved road, turn right and head straight to the car (about a mile). At this point, my butt and wrists were sore, I was super tired and I couldn’t ride anymore on this trail … plus, the trail looked to be over grown. I really wanted to take the paved road to the car. CK agreed and that is where we went. Maybe if it wasn’t so late, I could have sucked up up but it was already coming up to 6:30pm and I didn’t want to get suck out there after dark.
Finally, we made it to the car!
After the long day and reflecting back … I can say that I did enjoy the ride and believe, with some work (and signs), this will be an incredible ride – similar to the Hiawatha. It does need a little TLC. For those of you planning on this route, do your research, check out the google maps and make sure you know where you are going. I happened to be traveling with a train buff and he knows his stuff. If anyone does have questions, drop me a line and we will help as best as we can.
Day three! (06.26.2017)
Trip home was great. We discovered that the Road to the Sun was still closed in places so we decided to go straight back up. On our way, we stopped at the bridge in Saltese to snap a few pics, to show how bad this bridge was. You can see the gaps in the bridge.
While traveling on the interstate, we ran into Bert (Roberta), she was quite vocal about being left on the road.
Other than some issues at the Canadian border … they took our seven bottle of extra wine because I didn’t want to pay the $103 duty and taxes (which was more than double what the wine cost) – however, the guy beside me was able to bring bullets into Canada. How is that fair?
We made it home … a little lighter of wine but made it home non-the-less. It was a great trip!