Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes: the west end - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 12, 2020

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes: the west end

It’s raining fairly heavily this morning, but we don’t mind.  We enjoy sleeping in a bit longer and listening to the soft patter of rain hitting the roof.  We take our time with the morning, lazing around over coffee and looking out across the lake.   The morning’s forecast indicates rain off and on throughout the day, so it feels unlikely that we’ll get outside for much activity.  We’re hoping for a dry hour or two in the afternoon when we can get out for a short walk and explore the state park.

It’s raining this morning, and looks like it could do so all day. Looks like we may have a cozy day sitting indoors and enjoying the view.
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But then, the forecast gradually morphs as the morning wears on, and by midday it looks like the afternoon could actually be unexpectedly nice.  A large window appears to be opening up, and rains now aren’t predicted to return until after six.  If this holds, there’s plenty of time for a first ride on the famed Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes (hereafter to be referred to as the CdA).

When we started planning our stay here, I broke the CdA up into three roughly equal chunks, suitable for out and back day rides of about forty miles each.  Today we’ll take the westernmost one, starting right from home and heading east.  There’s also another seven miles to the west, back to the beginning of the trail in Plummer, but we’ll probably include that in some longer loop later.  Or not.  From last night’s experience, we’re not really in any big hurry to see Plummer again.

The nearest CdA trailhead is only a few hundred yards away, down by the little Chatcolet Marina.  We coast down, hop on the trail, and start biking north to the nearby Chatcolet Bridge.

Chatcolet Marina, with the Chatcolet Lake Bridge behind.
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Starting out, we enjoy a short coast down to the CDA trailhead.
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CdA is a rails-to-trails conversion of a line that was used to transport  silver, lead, zinc and other cargo west from Silver Valley, the famous mining area in northern Idaho that was the source for much of the country’s silver supply.  The rail history is quite confusing, with several different short and intermediate line companies having a hand in the route, along with the major carriers.  If you’re interested in railroad history in the region, here  is a comprehensive discussion of it.

The line was finally abandoned late in the last century, and through a partnership between the US government, the State Idaho and the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, this amazing trail was created and opened in 2004.  One of the important considerations was and remains environmental cleanup, to address the massive pollution problem created by mining waste leaching heavy metals downriver.  The Bunker Hill Superfund cleanup site remains one of the largest cleanup projects in the nation.

One of the high points of today’s ride comes early, as we cross the lake over the Chatolet Lake Bridge.  High in multiple senses - the bridge is a delight to cycle across, giving a good view of the lake from across its swing span and a fun descent down its rippled, stair-stepped slope.  Also high in the literal sense.  Crossing the span is the only climb at all for the next twenty five miles.  If you don’t count crossing the span twice and climbing back up to the cabin on the return home, I’m sure we climbed less than fifty feet total in over forty miles.  I think this must be the flattest ride of this length I have ever taken.

And, one of the most beautiful.  The quality of the ride is outstanding the entire way - smooth surfaced, outstanding scenery, abundant wildlife, and even conveniently spaced public facilities (hurray, shouts Rachael in the background).

I’m sure we’ll ride this same stretch again before we leave, so I’ll say more about it then.  About the wildlife though.  At one point, Rachael was startled by a moose, slowly walking across the trail and then casually grazing off to the side.  I wasn’t there to see it, but at least she came back with a bit of evidence captured from her GoPro.  Hopefully I’ll get a look myself next time.

The Chatcolet Lake Bridge.
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At the high point of the Chatcolet Lake Bridge. This climb over the bridge span is almost the only climbing we’ll face all day. The next forty miles are almost perfectly flat.
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The trail follows the eastern shore of Coeur d’Alene Lake north to Harrison, where the old railroad right of way cuts through rocky outcrops.
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Wallflowers grow out from the rock walls. From a distance, at first glance I thought these were pink phlox, which also are in bloom here.
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Looking across the south end of Coeur d’Alene Lake.
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From Harrison the route turns east and follows the Coeur d’Alene River. Slow moving, broad, it has a lake-like character.
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Red-necked grebes.
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Jen GrumbyThey may be red-necked, but these grebes are very open-minded birds.

Well-known for their compassion and generosity, actually.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. Liberals in disguise. They’re safe here. I understand the hunters even spare them. They favor the blue winged teals instead, presumably.
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2 weeks ago
We’re biking here through the Chain Lakes area, with the path following the Coeur d’Alene basin and threading between the river and a string of lakes on either side. The route will look more or less like this for the next fifteen miles, which is amazing.
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Eastbound through the Chain Lakes region.
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Not a very good shot of a flock of white pelicans on the far side of the basin. Hopefully we’ll get a closer look before we go.
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The waterways are complex and confusing. I’m not sure if this is the river here, or just a small side channel.
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We must have seen a hundred great blue herons today.
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On the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
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Any turtle experts out there?
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Bill Shaneyfelt"Chrysemys picta" In plain English, painted turtle. Saw some this afternoon here in Dayton, OH too!

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/39771-Chrysemys-picta
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2 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltThey have a characteristic yellow fork on the side of their head, and red on the edges of their shells.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks! I think I can remember that. We see so few turtles out here that I’ve never really studied them.
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2 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekIt looks like a McConnell Mitchus to me.
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6 days ago
Giant steps.
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Wood ducks.
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In the Coeur d’Alene basin.
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Looking south across Cave Lake from Medimont.
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Andrea BrownPast the tree line at the other end of the lake is meadow hill. My brother lives up there.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownHot dog. I was hoping I might capture something you’d recognize.
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2 weeks ago
Now this is the Coeur d’Alene River. I guess that earlier waterway was just a small channel.
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The scenery along the whole route that we covered today is astounding.
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Video sound track: 11:11 O’clock, By Rodrigo y Gabriella

Tundra swan, one of a flock of six.
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Fishing on Cove Lake, near Medimont.
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Homeward bound.
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We’re getting back at the right time. It looks like the rains could return any moment now.
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Ride stats today: Rachael, 52 miles, 200’; Scott, 43 miles, 200’

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Jen GrumbyLove the moose video! I wonder if such sightings are common near the trail .. or if it's a sign of nature's great Pandemic Party (absence of humans).

Looks like a pretty spectacular place for a side trip!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThey must be quite common, so hopefully we’ll see more soon. Andrea’s brother lives in Medimont, and she says he’ll see them from his house.
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2 weeks ago