Continuing from the last post, another drive through dense forest brought me to Harrison, Idaho. Like most of the little burgs in Northern Idaho, in its youth Harrison supported the timber industry. Its location southeast of Lake Coeur D’Alene (CDA) has aided its survival and transformation into a cutesy tourist town. Again, I struggled to locate the bike trail; although it was at the city marina—right under my prodigious nose.
The Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes is a paved bike path built upon an abandoned railroad line. The trail begins in Plummer Idaho, crosses Lake CDA on a huge bridge and then follows the CDA River for 72 miles to Mullan. At Harrison, I was 15 miles from the official start of the trail, on a portion known as chain lakes, as it passes through marshes that seam a series of lakes into a rich wetland. Storm clouds swirled around the mountain tops that bowl the river valley.
I pedaled a little over 20 miles to the ghost of an old lumber town called Dudley. Once home to 300 rough and tumble loggers and a few hardy women, all that is now visible from the south side of the river are falling-apart wooden lumber slides from which I assume logs were rolled down the embankment to boats waiting in the river.
The experience was worth the long drive and the hunting and pecking that lead up to it. Eyeballing roaming storms in all directions of my horizon, I kept thinking, Ya oughta head back to the car before all hell breaks loose. But I was mesmerized by the rich community of marsh birds on either side of the path. In addition to the mundane ravens, crows, robins, geese, ducks, and sparrows, hundreds of herons, stoically posed, still as stalks of marsh grass, as they waited for breakfast to swim by. Osprey nests graced nearly every power pole in sight. I saw bald eagles, pelicans, swans, grebes, orioles, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, terns, swallows, tanagers and a comical trio of vultures feasting on a fish head in the middle of the path. Actually, I saw so many lost fish prizes dotting the path that I thought it might better be called the Trail of the Lost Lunches.
At one point, an osprey flew over my left shoulder clutching lunch to her belly. If she’d lost her grip, I’d have been stuck with her smelly lunch in my hip pocket! The going was effortless; a small voice harangued me: If it is this easy, the way back will be that much harder. You’re probably benefiting from a slight decline and maybe even a tail wind. But another voice tempted and taunted: Just a little farther, what’s around the bend, on the other side of this rise? Sure enough, after several hours of lazy cycling, frequently interrupted by picture taking and gawking in general, I stopped for a snack at one of many picnic tables beside the trail. Munching an apple and some nuts, I imagined the sights and sounds of Dudley in the 1800’s, before this railroad line even existed. And then it came. I knew it had to happen. The errant storms had gathered. A fierce wind whistled down the path from the direction of Harrison . . . and my car. A fierce rain storm was cradled in the headwind.
Even with water dripping off my helmet and my soaked pants plastered to my thighs, my spirits tread water. The birds, though mostly hunkered down, still trilled and whistled as I puffed against the headwind. Exertion kept the damp chill at bay. In about ten miles, the rain diminished and little shafts of sunlight stabbed the clouds. Birds emerged—back to the business of the day, fishing.
I’d almost given up on seeing a moose on anything but a trail brochure, when I glanced at a distant marsh over my shoulder and there she was! Check! Moose—from a safe distance.During my hours on the trail I saw one pair of local cyclists, a father and son thru-travelers spinning from Butte, Montana to Spokane, Washington, and 12 to 15 college students who may have been part of a cycling club. As a reminder to pay attention, one of them performed an unplanned flip in front of me. Young and rubbery, he got up, dusted himself off and confessed, “I was going too fast.” I think he clipped the guy in front of him.