Oct. 12, 2016

141. Bike Hiawatha Trail

As I pulled up to this latest adventure, I had to take a deep breath. I have been at this bucket list thing for awhile now and I have been on some amazing adventures. However, I didn’t know if I was prepared for this one. I was about to ride a bike for 15 miles, down a mountain, by myself. Now, some of you outdoor enthusiasts may not think this is a big deal, but to someone who has never, ever in their life attempted such an undertaking, this was a challenge.

The Hiawatha Trail was originally one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. When the Milwaukee Railroad was in operation they used the trail to cross the Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. In 1998 they opened the Idaho section to hikers and biking. There are 8 open tunnels and 7 high trestles.

The scenery was beautiful, the weather couldn’t have been nicer and I had never dreamed I could do something like this. When all was said and done this was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I pulled into the parking lot at the bottom of the trail. When I first got there, no one was around. There were restrooms and picnic tables situated around the parking lot. The trail posting said the shuttle to take you to the top came in about an hour so I settled in to wait. I had my bike and my backpack and figured I was ready to go. What an amateur! (Smiles)

Pretty soon some of the trail rangers showed up. One of the rangers was quick to ask if I needed help or had any questions. Greg was a truly nice man. I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t exactly sure I knew what I was doing, but he patiently helped me get everything together. He’s been traveling the trail for four years now. He reassured me that four years ago was the first time he had gotten on a bike in 20 years….and look at him now. He rides everyday! I felt a little better.

I definitely wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. Greg gave me some pointers, located me a helmet and bike light. He even helped me readjust my seat. (Make sure your seat is right. One thing that someone who doesn’t ride all the time is going to walk away from this with is sore buttocks. Ouch!!) By the time the shuttle showed up there were quite a few people ready to jump onboard. The shuttle driver was a hoot! He told all kinds of stories about the history of the trail and made the very bumpy ride really enjoyable.

The shuttle ride takes you up to the trail just before Taft Tunnel. From there you are on your own. There were a lot of people up there. I met families with attachments on their bikes so they could take their youngsters, young kids who passed me rather easily (I’m still embarrassed over that), many first timers like me, and one man who was 92 years old! (And yes….he passed me too!)

I rode along without a care in the world. Through tunnels, across train trestles and through trees. Everyone was so nice! It was breathtaking. Looking out across the Panhandle is so amazing tears will spontaneously erupt on your face. By the time I had gone 7 miles my back end was killing me, my legs almost quit working and I found myself stopping way more often than I should have…..and I would do it all again! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. They say go to the mountains and find your peace…I definitely found mine!

Location: Take ID-55 into New Meadows (approximately 121 miles). Turn left onto US-95 N and continue into Spalding. Then merge onto US-12 (right) which will become ID-3 N (approximately 262 miles). Follow until you reach Deary then merge to the left onto ID-9 and follow until that merges with ID-6 (to the right). Follow until ID-6 merges back with ID-3. Then continue on ID-3 until you reach St. Maries (approximately 85 miles). Go through St. Maries and take FS 50 east to Avery (about 45 miles) then proceed north on FS Road 456, also known as Moon pass for 9 miles where you can park at the Pearson Trailhead.

Schedule: The trail is open from May 28th to September 25th depending upon the weather. The trail, trailheads and facilities are open 8:30 am to 5 pm daily.
The shuttle buses operate between the Pearson and Roland trailheads. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. For departure times (and lots of great information) you can go to the website.

Important to know: (I got these tips from Greg – the trail ranger). Bring water but not too much. You don’t need a lot and you will have to carry it. Bring a few snacks to keep up your energy. It is also a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks and Bandaids.

The trail rangers are navigating the trail constantly so if you need help, they will be along. The trail is mostly downhill so unless you are crazy and want to start at the bottom and go up (and I actually saw people doing just that), then it’s a downhill ride.

There are restrooms at the trailheads along with picnic areas. All along the trail are historical markers to tell you about the history of the trail. These are great places to pull off and eat your snacks.

For the Trail – Adult $10 / Child 6-13 $6
Shuttle Tickets – Adult $9 / Child 6-13 $6
Picnic Lunches – Turkey/Ham Sandwiches $9.99
Adult Bike – Comfort Ride (Includes light and helmet) $38
Adult Bike – Mountain Bike (Includes light and helmet) $32
Child Bike – Mountain Bike (Includes light and helmet) $22
Tag a longs (Includes helmet) $20
Burley Trailer (Includes helmet) $24
Helmets $6
Lights $5
You can contact them at 208-744-1301 to reserve equipment or for any questions you might have.

The Trail is on the St. Joe Scenic River Byway so there are many camping spots around the area. For a map of campgrounds in the area go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/ipnf/recreation/camping-cabins/?recid=6762&actid=29

Wallace, Idaho:
The Wallace Inn / 800-643-2386 or email rshaffer@cebridge.net
The Bungalow at 214 Cedar / Vacation Rental / 208-512-7686
The Stardust Motel / 800-643-2386
The Brooks Hotel / 800-752-0469 or www.thebrookshotel.com
The Idaho Building / www.idahobuildingwallace.com

Mullan, Idaho:
The Lookout Motel / 800-685-7240 PIN 1670 / danielw@imbris.com
Mulan Recreational Rental / 509-499-2980 / jameswalde@yahoo.com
The Mullan House / 208-755-6481 / www.mullanhouse.com

Kellogg, Idaho:
Baymont Inn and Suites / 866-999-1111
Silverhorn Motor Inn and Restaurant / 800-437-6437

Avery, Idaho:
Scheffy’s Motel & General Store / 208-245-4410 / reservations@scheffys.com
Cabins by the Joe / 425-773-3724 / www.cabinsbythejoe.com

Dining: There are many restaurants in the above listed towns. If you are camping it would be a good idea to stop in Wallace or St. Maries to stock up before you embark.

Special Notes: Bring the kids! I saw all ages on the trail and the kids were enjoying it as much as the adults. I know I plan on bringing mine next time. Leave the pets at home or at camp. There are no pets allowed on the trail.

This was one of the most amazing things I have ever done and I can’t wait to do it again. Be sure to check it out and let me know how your adventure goes. Oh, and tell Greg I said hello!