Getting to Idaho - Heart of Silver, Heart of Bitterroot - CycleBlaze

Getting to Idaho

Not the Native Americans who already lived on the pristine land. 

Not the prospectors who discovered silver there in the 1880s. 

Not the laborers who pushed a rail line through the remote and suddenly prosperous territory. 

Not one of those men and women could have foreseen the day when the mineral wealth of the land would be completely ripped from the mountains, when the boom time would recede, when the population would dwindle, and the Silver Valley would return to peaceful solitude with little remaining but empty mines, an abandoned railroad, and a natural beauty faded by decades without thoughtful stewardship.

Worse, the valley's scenic landscape after a hundred years of rapacious mining bore ugly wounds, and the Coeur d'Alene River flowed with a poison broth of lead, mercury, zinc, and cadmium.

Likewise, not one of those Native Americans, prospectors, or laborers could have foreseen that recreation would replace mining as the economic engine of the valley, or that the old railroad would be converted to a trail for bicycling. Indeed, with the bed of the Union Pacific line from Mullan in the east to Plummer in the west built upon tailings from the mines, thick with dangerous heavy metals, the only way to seal off the contaminated right of way involved paving some 72 miles of the rail line, transforming it into a nearly perfect path for bikes.

Now visitors travel to the Silver Valley not to mine precious minerals, but to pedal through gorgeous scenery and past pleasant little towns, up and down the long, smooth Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, completely isolated from motorized vehicles.

Thus, Jeff and I kissed our wives (one each) goodbye and departed California on Sunday morning, making a two-day drive of about sixteen hours through Redding, Bend, Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Coeur d'Alene to Kellogg, Idaho. Upon arrival at the motel there, we were greeted by a middle-aged couple from Seattle who called out to us, "Look, more bicyclists!" In the parking lot we spotted another SUV with Colorado license plates carrying a Surly and another touring bike. Apparently we weren't the only cyclists drawn from afar to the award-winning rails-to-trails pathway in the Silver Valley, and soon we would meet many more.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The boys goofing around for the obligatory departure portrait.

Heart 0 Comment 0

Along Highway 97 north of Madras, Oregon, Jeff stands by markers identifying a chain of snowcapped sentinels guarding the western horizon.

Heart 0 Comment 0

Upon arrival at our starting point in Idaho on Monday evening, an explosion of gear erupted across the motel room as we prepared to commence riding the next morning.

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 0