Day 2: Wallace to Pearson to Wallace, Idaho: The Route of the Hiawatha! - Grampies Go Panhandling - CycleBlaze

July 6, 2013

Day 2: Wallace to Pearson to Wallace, Idaho: The Route of the Hiawatha!

Great graphic on a tee shirt
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Excitment is high today - for both adults and children. The Route of the Hiawatha is someting special that does not need any hype. But on top of that, we have known about and been anticipating this for three years.

A smile for breakfast cocoa
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Gearing up to go
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The  Hiawatha was a name given to various trains running from Chicago and west, from 1935 to perhaps 1990. The major St Pauls tunnel on this line though, dates from 1901. The Hiawatha rail trail began in 1998 and the big tunnel was opened in 2001. The trail is operated under license from the Forest Service by the nearby Lookout Pass ski resort.

Over its 25 kilometers, the trail features ten tunnels and seven trestles. The starting tunnel, the St. Paul Pass Tunnel is 3.1 km long, pitch black, and cold inside. The highest trestle is 230 feet high, as the route wends its way through the Bitterroot Mountains.

In terms of hype, there are Route of the Hiawatha stickers, T-shirts, water bottles, mugs,  and who knows, maybe even bubblegum cards. There are postcards, a web site , brochures... you get the idea. While often there is a thrill in finding and doing something unique and private,  sometimes the hype helps build the experience. How much fun would visiting Graceland be if you were the only one to have heard of Elvis?

Well certainly we were not the only ones to have heard of this route! Up at the trailhead when we got there at 10:30 were parked about 300 cars, all with bike racks, and most with8 their occupants already ahead of us. Plenty of riders, though, were getting ready to hit the tunnel. Doing this involved not only paying the fee to the ranger, but receiving the safety talk as well. One main point - lights are 100% required in the tunnels. This was so true - even in the shorter ones you could see nothing when in the centre.

Kids point to the route sign at the Coeur dÁlene trailhead. We left a car here, but will only start riding that trail tomorrow.
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One of the Route of the Hiawatha tee shirts
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Crowds of cyclists appreciate this route
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The ranger gives the safety talk
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Violet prepares one of her "business cards" for a ranger
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The formal "ready to start" shot
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The second most important safety concern, it turned out, was caused by the dripping watere from the tunnel roof. This created a fine, and slippery, mud on the trail, which was also quite steeply convex. Most riders had no trouble with this, but the WeeHoo arrangement is not the most stable. We rode with a lot of attention to keeping good balance.

Surprisingly, the kids tackled the 3 km long, pitch black, dripping tunnel with total nonchalance. I was glad, because not only was I myself a little spooked, but had they decided they were terrified of tunnels the ride would have been off.

Speaking of terrified, some of the trestles, plus the steep drop-offs at the trailside, gave those of us with any fear of heights thhe heebie jeebies. That would be me, and Laurie. Needless to say, what was scary was automatically and terrifically scenic. On this trail you really feel like you are back in the mountains - because you are. The throngs of people spread out over the route, and though there were often some people around, there was also often no one around.

Into the breach: St Paul's Pass Tunnel
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Inside the tunnnel
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Shuttle buses at the East Portal have come up from the bottom of the trail
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On the route
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Into another tunnel
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In a tunnel with shared use - cowering at the edge
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A view of a trestle we are heading for
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On a trestle, Laurie sticking close
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A rest stop. There are many explanatory signs all along the trail
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The continuous gentle downhill grade made the ride a bit like having an electric bike. At the bottom there is a shuttle back up to the downhill side of the big tunnel. It's a fitting approach for something operated by a ski resort - its like a ski lift. Of course, many opt to cycle back up. It would not be too tough, but since its all uphill it would be like having a headwind. We, took the shuttle. 30 km is lots for the kids, especially on their first cycling day.

Lunchtime
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Part of the tunnel story
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There are really a lot of tunnels
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Wildlife trailside
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Trailside panarama
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Loading the Weehoos onto the shuttle
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Luxury transport
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Back through the big tunnel one more time, to reach the parking lot. Avi is looking a bit trail worn
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He really does not appreciate this spattered tunnel mud
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In fact, rather than beetle off toward Plummer and the start of our long cycle, we dove into a restaurant in Wallace and then the Wallace Inn. The Wallace Inn has a pool! Need I say more?

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Safe at last
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Today's ride: 30 km (19 miles)
Total: 30 km (19 miles)

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