Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes: the miles in the middle - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 16, 2020

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes: the miles in the middle

When we first looked at the 73 mile long CDA trail, my thought was to break it up into three segments, suitable for out and back rides of roughly forty miles each.  After that first ride east from the cabin and through the Chain Lakes region though, we experienced a rude awakening when I looked at the map to plan out the second segment.  Rose Lake, our base for the next ride, is only 25 miles by bicycle but an hour away by car.  There is no remotely direct route.  The shortest is around the south end of the lake and up the Saint Jo river valley through Saint Maries; but it’s about the same driving time to go north through Couer d’Alene and East on I-90.

And this is just to the western end of the middle section.  Picking up the eastern third of the trail is an even longer drive - too far, in our opinion, when there is so much great riding closer in.  Knowing what we know now it probably would have worked best to make a long out and back overnight run that covered most of the trail, maybe staying at a motel in Wallace.

We decide it’s worth one trip east though, so today we’re off to Rose Lake to pick up the middle section.  We drive there on the southern route through Saint Maries, and will return via the northern one through Coeur d’Alene for reasons we’ll reveal later.  

On the way to Saint Maries, we scope out the road to see how it looks as this possible day ride from the cabin: east on Route 5 to Saint Maries; northwest on Route 3 and small roads to Harrison; and then back home on the CDA trail.  It takes us only a few miles however to conclude that the winding, narrow, completely shoulderless Route 5 looks unattractive and maybe dangerous.  A large hay truck coming our way around a blind curve seals it.  We mark that route off the candidate list, happy to know better now.

An hour later we arrive at the CDA trailhead near Rose Lake.  It’s the weekend, Idaho is opening up, and the small parking lot is already full.  We find a parking spot on the gravel shoulder, unload our bikes, and start biking east.

Leaving Rose City, eastbound on the CDA trail.
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What is this plant that blankets the pond? It looks like miniature lily pads, perhaps a half foot across. The ducks like them. They’re too far out for a decent shot but I see a pair of wood ducks and another of cinnamon teals dabbling in their midst.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLikely young fragrant water lilies.

https://inside.ewu.edu/ewflora/nymmphaea-odorata/
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonOh, fragrant water lilies. No wonder I couldn’t place them. I don’t have a sense of smell.
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1 week ago

As usual on rides like these, Rachael quickly disappears in the distance and bikes far ahead.  She’ll turn back at the agreed upon time, and we eventually meet up a bit east of Kellogg.  I keep a reasonably good pace, but there are a couple of spots where I make a lengthy stop - in particular to observe a huge swarm of cliff swallows apparently building their nests.

We’ve gotten so spoiled by the rides here.  After yesterday’s unforgettable loop of Steptoe Butte and the earlier fabulous ride on the west end of the CDA Trail, today’s ride is significantly less interesting, and borders on being boring.  Much of the way is through an evergreen tunnel of green, walled in by Mr. Garceau’s much maligned view blockers.  There’s not that much wildlife in evidence on this stretch either.  I do see a pair of turtles sunning on a log, but the instant I brake to a stop they dive off their log and disappear from sight.  They must have exceptional radar to help protect themselves from predators.

On the first seven miles of today’s ride we climb a total of ten feet as we follow the slow moving, almost glassy river. Beyond that the land slopes up a bit and the river starts showing some current.
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A ponderous old stump.
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One of several short truss bridges crossing the Couer d’Alene. This one was of particular interest for the swallow activity. The skies around the bridge are swarming with hundreds of cliff swallows.
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The swallows gyrate above the bridge and then swoop in at this muddy shoreline. They did this over and over again, and I’m sorry for not thinking to video it. At first I thought it might be a feeding frenzy, and something was hatching out of the mud.
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I eventually changed my mind though. I think they’re gathering bits of mud and building their nests under the girders of the bridge.
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This is a pretty spot on the river. There’s an islet or sand bar, and the river is coursing around and over it. The main channel is on the far side.
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Tunnel of green. Miles like this.
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Gregory GarceauDamn view-blockers!
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1 week ago
As we move further east the valley narrows and we start seeing low cliffs beside the path. We’re transitioning away from the Chain Lakes and into Silver Valley.
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Not the most interesting ride, but this makes it all worthwhile for me. It’s been several years since I’ve seen a yellow headed blackbird.
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Jen GrumbyDid it sing for you?

One of my favorite memories of South Dakota was seeing a fair number of these birds and listening to their call.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYes! It is a beautiful call, quite unlike any of the other blackbirds. Melodious.
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1 week ago
Ron SuchanekWe saw a bunch of them in a wetlands in South Dakota out our trip. Our riding companion Gay asked why they wouldn't be just as appropriately called black-bodied yellow birds. He had a good point.
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5 days ago
Traffic jam at the downfall. I’m unclear on what the situation is with the woman. We passed her earlier running on the trail, pushing what I thought was a stroller. Now though I see that it was an empty three wheeler. Her partner waited here for her to help her across this downed tree. I think but am not sure that she’s been doing this for about ten miles. There have been fresh, encouraging messages chalked on the pavement along the way, presumably for her encouragement. Odd.
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Gregory GarceauANOTHER reason to hate view-blockers.

Actually, I've ridden a fair amount of the CDA Trail and found the view-blockers to be pretty tolerable because you can almost always look up and see a mountain somewhere--unlike most of the bike trails in Minnesota.
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1 week ago
In Kellogg, and the heart of Silver Valley. From the trail anyway, it’s a pretty unattractive scene. There’s a fenced off stream running a few miles through Smelterville (there’s an appealing name for a town, alright) that looks blackish, polluted,, and quite unhealthy.
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Ron SuchanekHow would you like to hear the Smelterville tourism board?
"Smelt your way to Smelterville. Swim in the soothing mineral ponds, now with 6% less hydrogen fluoride, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen!"
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5 days ago
Not exactly sure what we’re seeing here in Kellogg, but it’s associated somehow with the former Bunker Hill smelter.
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Don’t drink.
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Jen GrumbyYeah .. wouldn't want to drink that much.

But do you think it would be OK to inject?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyGood idea! Probably very therapeutic. Looks like it could kill anything.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyA cure to the plague, perhaps?
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1 week ago

Rachael and I meet up just on the far side of Kellogg, after she’s already backtracked a few miles.  The path here and beyond doesn’t seem that attractive, really.  The trail has converged here with I-90, which parallels us on the other side of the river.  It’s fine really - the trail is smooth, quiet, safe, a good ride.  I’m sure if we lived here we’d love this trail and would be out here every week or so.   We’ve just gotten spoiled and have come to expect more.

The ride back goes fast.  We keep a fast pace, and I hardly stop at all.  We’re in a hurry, because it’s Date Night.

Crossing the Coeur d’Alene River. All the bridges on the trail are attractive, and uniform: the same girder architecture, the same gray-green paint job.
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Westbound, on our way to our big date.
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One last reason to stop: this heron is ever so slowly inching his way down the face of this rock, alert to something in the water below.
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Video sound track: Safety in Numbers, by Artie Traum

Are we missing anything?

Every so often I like to step back and evaluate the journal for balance and completeness.  Looking back on this one, it’s feeling well rounded out.  Dramatic vistas, snow capped mountains, evocative road shots?  Check.  Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, flora?  Check.  Horses, cows, barns?  Check.  Diverse weather conditions?  Check.  Small towns, heritage architecture?  Check.  Adversity?  Check, check.  Endloess terrible puns?  Check, check, check, check, check.

So, that about covers it, I think.  Are we missing anything?  Oh yes: food photos!

Looking back through the journal, I see that for some strange reason it doesn’t have a single food photo even though we’re over two months into it now.  You’d think that I could have at least included a bowl of granola or a TV dinner or a serving of sausage and eggs somewhere along the way.  We did have a nice beer shot with our growler from Paradise Brewing, and a roadside snack here and there, but that’s it.  We haven’t had a bona fide food photo since our last meal out in Tucson over three months ago, when Rachael enjoyed “Pan seared salmon swims into winter in Tucson” and I had “Braised lamb shank + Chili Colorado meet Three Sisters”.

Over three months!  It feels nearly that long since we’ve enjoyed a sit-down meal at a restaurant.  The last was on March 15th, when we shared a joint birthday meal with Elizabeth back in Portland, on the final day before Governor Brown shut down Oregon.  We left town a week later, rueing the fact that we’d missed a last dinner at Cafe Mingo that we’d booked a table for a few days earlier.  I hope we haven’t permanently missed our chance there, and that the restaurant will survive the plague and still be there when we return.

Well, for wiser or foolisher, food photos are making a long overdue return to these pages.  Today is the first day that Idaho enters its Phase II, in which sit down meals are once again permitted provided suitable precautions are observed.  Rachael’s done her research and has found the ideal venue: Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery, up in Coeur d’Alene.  They have outdoor seating, take reservations, and have an appealing menu - a fantastic one, compared against the culinary wasteland we’ve been wandering through for the past 70 days.

Coeur d’Alene is a bit far from the cabin to make sense for a dinner run, but it works well with today’s outing.  It’s about the same time and distance coming back from Rose Lake through Coeur d’Alene as it is to get there through Saint Maries.  We’ve paced our ride to make sure that we arrive at Bardenay in plenty of time so we don’t lose our slot.

And how was it?  Oh, my gosh.  Absence makes the stomach grow fonder, and today’s dinner would be hard to top.  We’ll be looking back on the experience with fondness for years, assuming we don’t die of plague sooner.  Everything was perfect.  We were seated at an isolated table outdoors, well away from our nearest neighbor, with a lovely view of a pond and a spouting fountain that in a teeny way made me think of the huge water spout in Geneva.  The masked servers were all upbeat and excited, relieved to be back in action on the first day after reopening.  The weather was lovely for an outdoor meal: nearly seventy, windless.  And there was food.  It’s been a long time, folks.

At Bardenay, surveying the options. Looks as safe as we could hope for, with our nearest neighbors a good distance away.
Heart 4 Comment 2
Andrea BrownWow. It's like waking up from a dream.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownIt certainly feels like it. We’re going to ease our way back into the world pretty slowly and carefully though, because we’re really still in the middle of a nightmare.
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1 week ago
The view from our table at Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery.
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Mackenzie, our warm and personable server. Rachael wants a mask like hers!
Heart 2 Comment 4
Andrea BrownShe's wearing a buff. They are really great for riding in the city, you can pull it up and down according to how much other bike traffic you are encountering. https://www.buffusa.com/ I wore mine every day on our trip, sometimes for dust, sometimes for sun protection.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownYou probably mentioned these in the journal and it just went over my head. I don’t remember hearing the term before.
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1 week ago
Ron SuchanekLove my buff! It's a fleece hat, a headband, scarf, and even a snotrag in a pinch.
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5 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekI’m going to have to find a suitable one when we return to the Willamette Valley. I could hardly cycle with the one I have now.
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5 days ago
So what shall we celebrate tonight?
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We don’t know where this expression came from. Our pear and spinach salad was excellent.
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Suzanne GibsonThat's what happens when you photograph people with their mouth full. I know from experience.
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1 week ago
For her: sea bass over potato gnocchi. Wow!
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For him: charbroiled trout fillet with garlic smashed potatoes. At the end of the meal, Mackenzie asked if there would be anything else. We said we’d be happy to just start over from the top, but we settled for the cheesecake.
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Ride stats today: Scott: 45 miles, 200’; Rachael: 52 miles, 300’

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