June 24 – July 26, 2021
With a three-hour drive to the midafternoon start of the bike tour in Heyburn State Park just outside of Plummer, Idaho, we hung out in the room until checkout at noon. Plummer is the largest city within the Coeur d’Alene Reservation and knowing we had a busy last day of the tour, planning to make the seven-hour drive to Boise, we gassed up before heading to camp. Right outside the convenience store some locals had set up a tent and were selling fry-bread and other foodstuffs.
From there we drove the five miles to the state park and found our group, the start of Adventure Cycling’s Idaho Trails Relaxed Tour, five days on the bikes following the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s. This is a 73-mile rail trail that follows the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, westward to Plummer, generally following the Coeur d’Alene River. The rail line was abandoned in 1991 and the trail officially opened in March 2004.
This would be our fourth tour with Adventure Cycling (Blue Ridge Bliss, Ragin Cajun, and Arizona Sunsets) and due to its fairly easy route (almost all of it flat), would have the most people participating with fifty in total. The first day is always interesting as you meet folks and begin to get an impression of their personalities and wonder who you will eventually bond with.
It would turn out that the couple who catered the Ragin Cajun tour were in charge of that duty this time as well so we knew the food would be plentiful and tasty, if not always a gourmet treat. Then again, anything is better than doing it yourself as when we did on the Arizona Sunsets Van tour. The next day we set out to complete 37 flat miles finishing in Cataldo at the Kahnderosa Campground, a not so charming venue with facilities that barely made standard.
Unlike prior years, when the weather in July is temperate in this area, global warming and other environmental factors raised the daily temperatures by five to ten degrees, with days pushing into highs of the low 90’s. Add smoke from fires to the west and the first couple of days were brutal, made harder by the fact we were camping, so there was no escape from the heat. Because we were in the first group of riders into camp, we were able to choose one of the few campsites with some measure of shade, a minor measure of relief.
The next day’s ride to Wallace would offer the same weather conditions and although a bit shorter in mileage at 31 miles, we’d be gradually climbing the second half of the day which would have us finish again suffering from the heat. On the way out of camp we rode a seven-mile loop that took us out to Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission Park.
A heritage-oriented state park, it preserves the Mission of the Sacred Heart, or Cataldo Mission. The Park contains the church itself, the parish house, a visitor center, and the surrounding property. Built 1850–1853, it is the oldest standing building in Idaho and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
In 1831, the Nez Perce Indians and Flathead Indians had heard of the white man’s Book of Heaven and wanted more information. They sent six men east to St. Louis and in 1842, Father Pierre-Jean De Smet responded to the request and came to the area, followed later by Fr. Nicholas Point and Br. Charles Huet. An initial setting along the St. Joe River was subject to flooding and in 1846, the current location was selected.
In 1850, the church was taken over by the Italian Jesuit missionary Antonio Ravalli, who began designing the new mission building. He had the building constructed by the Indians themselves, so they would feel part of the church. It was built using the wattle and daub method and finished without using any nails.
Miles later, we arrived in Wallace which is the county seat of Shoshone County in the Silver Valley mining district. Founded in 1884, it sits at approximately 2,730 feet above sea level with a population of 784 in the 2010 census. It is the principal town of the Coeur d’Alene silver-mining district, which produced more silver than any other mining district in the United States. Plentiful recreation options (the Route of the Hiawatha (rails-to-trails) and the Lookout Pass ski area) make it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Just on the outskirts of town is the Wallace RV Park, where we snagged one of the few sites with shade, set up camp, showered, and made a beeline for the park’s immediate neighbor, City Limits Brew Pub. Besides serving decent beer, the pub offered two positive attributes, that is air conditioning and robust Wi-Fi. With our switch to T-Mobile from Verizon earlier in the year, we’ve noticed a significant difference in coverage between the two, with Verizon the clear winner. Indeed, in the remote areas we were traveling in, our phones were virtually useless while we would observe others with different carriers having conversations and using the web.
We enjoyed a couple of beers, cleared emails, did some research on the rest of the trip, and enjoyed sitting in delightful coolness. As the temperature began to moderate outside, we took leave of the pub knowing we’d return the next day and gathered with our fellow travelers to enjoy an evening of conversation and a few more beers. We’d be spending two nights in Wallace and get shuttled to the trailhead for the Route of the Hiawatha in the morning for what would prove to be an exciting day on the bikes. More on that in the next post.
Heyburn State Park: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/heyburn/
Trail of the Coeur D’Alene’s: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/trail-coeur-d-alenes/
Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission Park: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/coeur-d-alenes-old-mission/
Wallace RV Park: https://wallacervpark.com/
City Limits Brew Pub: https://citylimitspubandgrill.com/