Day 7: St. Maries to Plummer. Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - Idaho Trails 2019 - CycleBlaze

September 14, 2019

Day 7: St. Maries to Plummer. Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Up at 8, breakfast next door at Heidi's Cafe. On the road at 10. Today is a short easy day. The weather was somewhat warm, partly sunny.

I pedaled east out of St. Maries, across the river and northeast on ID 3. The first few miles is along the increasingly wide St. Joe river. Then ID 3 abruptly starts to climb big hills. An 800 foot climb at 5-6% grade. The closest thing to a real mountain climb during this tour.

Early fall colors on ID 3, the White Pine Scenic Byway.
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Near the top of the climb I turned left onto ID 97 towards Harrison. No downhill yet. Instead are several miles of rolling hills with farms. The climb is mostly forested but the hilltops are mostly farms.

I stopped to look at an impressive barn. The gate was open and there is no No Trespassing sign. The barn was wide open so I could even go inside. The main center room is 30 feet wide. The peak of the roof is 40 feet high.

Amazing barn.
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Inside the barn.
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A couple miles later I stopped to take a photo of horses huddling under a grove of trees. Normally horses ignore me when I pedal by and quickly walk away when I stop. These horses walked towards me instead. It might have been mere curiosity. The horses didn't seem to be encouraging me to leave their territory.

I stopped to take a picture of the horses.
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And was very surprised to see the horses walk towards me.
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I enjoyed pedaling through the hilltop farms. An unexpected change of scenery. Previously I saw a few farms in river valleys but not on hilltops.

I climb hundreds of feet through white pine forest and find farms on the hilltop.
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After a few miles of rolling hills ID 97 descends 600 feet to Harrison.

Descending to Lake Coeur d'Alene.
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Harrison was very sleepy when I spent the night on Monday. The only visitors in town were cyclists. Today (Saturday) the town is much more crowded because of a car show. I like car shows in historic towns.

Back to Harrison. Today it has a car show.
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Harrison looked very different this Saturday compared to the previous Monday.
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Cycle Haus bike shop in Harrison, Idaho.
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Grain elevator, old brick building, house boat, and an old truck. Strange combination.
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Live music in the lakefront park.
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There were many cyclists in town but today the car show crowd is bigger than the cyclist crowd. I inquired about the big white tent in city park and found that they are serving lunch to a group of MS 150 cyclists on a 2-day charity ride. Harrison is a busy place today. So busy that it was impossible to have lunch at a restaurant. I bought a banana and a tiny burrito at the grocery store and ate it on the trail.

The white tent served lunch to MS 150 cyclists on a 2-day charity ride.
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In Harrison I dropped down to the trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Last time I pedaled east. This time I pedal south and west to see the last 16 miles of the trail. The next 10 miles is the best part, close to the shore of the lake and sometimes ON the lake.

Back to Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.
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As usual I was impressed with the trail facilities. Mileposts 10 and zero have bike repair stations. I had never seen that before on a bike trail.

The usual excellent facilities on Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.
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This rest stop has a bike repair station.
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The best part of Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is at the south end of the lake. During this tour I pedaled deep underground in tunnels and high in the air on trestles. Now I pedal across water on causeways and bridges.

Beginning the over-water portion of the tour.
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Chatcolet Bridge was the last part of the trail to be completed in 2004. The original railroad bridge was very low with a truss that rotated to allow steam boats to pass. Renovation for the trail raised the truss 20 feet to allow boats to pass underneath the now fixed truss. It must have been a very expensive and controversial project.

Chatcolet Bridge originally rotated to allow steamers to pass. Now it no longer rotates and was raised to allow boats to pass underneath.
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Construction of Post Falls dam in 1906 raised the level of Lake Coeur d'Alene by  7 feet. Previously this area straddled two lakes with a narrow channel connecting the lakes. Now the higher water level makes it all one lake.

Looking back.
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Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes stays near the lake shore for another 2 miles after Chatcolet bridge. Then it veers away from the lake and climbs into forested hills on a gentle 1.5 to 2 percent rail grade that climbs 570 feet in 6 miles.

A final couple miles along the lake before the hill climb to Plummer.
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The west end of Lake Coeur d'Alene does NOT have million dollar vacation homes. Most of the land is owned by the Coeur d'Alene tribe and the houses are modest. The westernmost 15 miles of the trail is on land owned by the Coeur d'Alene tribe. The eastern 58 miles are owned by Idaho State Parks. Nothing on the trail changes when the land ownership changes.

The forested hill climb does have one surprise, an 1899 railroad bridge. The bridge has 3 steel beams resting on tall concrete piers. It's not a trestle. I noticed a plaque on one side of the bridge and scrambled down to have a look. The beams were built in Chicago and shipped here by rail.

One final railroad bridge on Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.
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I scrambled to the side of the bridge and found this plaque.
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The Plummer trailhead is 4 miles beyond the railroad bridge. The last 2 miles is mostly in de-forested former industrial areas. The trail crosses under US 95, then ends abruptly at the trailhead park on the north edge of Plummer. The park has a large parking lot, irrigated grass, bathrooms, and many picnic tables.

Having now seen all the regional bike trails it's clear that few visiting cyclists pedal up the hill to Plummer. Most cyclists only go as far west as the Chatcolet bridge. The Chatcolet trailhead had a huge parking lot full of cars. The Plummer trailhead parking lot was nearly empty.

The centerpiece of the trailhead in Plummer is a Coeur d'Alene tribe veterans memorial that names the tribe members who died in various wars.

Indian statue at milepost zero of Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.
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Plummer is very much an Indian town, capital of the Coeur d'Alene tribe. The town has many tribal government buildings but few businesses. There is a decent supermarket and one restaurant. Plummer is less prosperous than St. Maries but more prosperous than some Indian towns I've seen.

I presume the pro-gun sign outside Plummer Bible Church is a reaction to the November 2017 mass shooting that left 26 dead at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

At least this 1905 church doesn't have holes for shooting Indians like the church in Ojo Caliente.
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I arrived at Hi-Way Motel at 5:30 PM and got my $54 reserved room. The room has a kitchen with a full size refrigerator and microwave, but no breakfast. The motel is nearly vacant. I don't see the usual construction workers, truck drivers, tourists, etc.

Dinner was chicken fried steak at the Gateway Cafe a block away.

Today was somewhat hilly but still an easy day. I feel good. Not much accumulating wear and tear. High temperature about 73F (23C). Very pleasant.

Today had the best serendipity of any day of this tour. The car show in Harrison. An amazing barn. Horses approaching me for the first time. Sometimes little things make the biggest impression.

Distance: 37.5 mi. (60 km)
Average Speed: 8.3 mph (13.3 km/h)
Ascent/Descent: +1930/-1304 ft. (+588/-398 m)

Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 298 miles (480 km)

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