Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back in the saddle

Day 23: Spokane, WA to Harrison, ID: 56.4 miles

Following a rousing weekend of shenanigans and foolery (as every bachelor party should be full of), I got back on the saddle today. The weekend left me with a severely jammed toe, a skinned knee and in need of much sleep, but none of these things hindered my riding much.

Heading south from the northern neighborhoods of Spokane, I rode through Gonzaga University, which is tucked into a bend in the Spokane river right across from downtown. Beautiful landscaping, lots of flowers, and large green lawns characterize the campus, along with a bike path running the length of the river.

Rolling hills of wheat and patches of evergreens dotted the landscape as I headed southeast. I passed through Heyburn State Park after crossing the border into Idaho, and rode over Chalcolet lake on a bridge which used to be a railroad, and is now part of the Coeur d'Alenes trail. The trail is a beautifully paved bike path which runs 72 miles from Plummer, Idaho to Mullan, Idaho, just before the Montana border. I will be crossing most of the Idaho panhandle on the trail tomorrow.

Day 24: Harrison, ID to Kellogg, ID: 47 miles

I have never seen so many lily pads in my life. The Coeur d'Alenes trail follows an old Union Pacific rail line along the Coeur d'Alenes River, gaining only 150 feet in altitude over 40 miles. Swampy lakes and wetlands fill the valley around the river and the tracks, resulting in a tremendous amount of frogs, birds, tall grass and cool, blue water. I must have seen at least a dozen Great Blue Herons, one of which I was finally able to snap some pictures of before it flew away.

I stopped twice to jump into clear, rushing streams as they joined with the river. The air temperature was hot, and the water was cold enough to bring my body heat down fast. I lounged in the shade, cooked up some ramen noodles for lunch, and enjoyed the isolation that being on a lonely bike path brought. Many other cyclists passed in both directions, but none were loaded down with more than a day's worth of gear.

After my last dip in a stream, a boy (going into 7th grade) approached me and asked me which way I was going on the bike path. I told him, and he announced that he was going the same direction, and that he would ride with me. We talked about his divorced parents, who live 4 miles apart in this valley, both easily accessible from the bike path. He said it was a tough hike in the winter, but not so bad in the summer. He wanted me to tell him “your mama” jokes, but I thought better of it. We parted ways once he reached the second parent's house.

Tonight I am couch-surfing at the home of Jessica, who accepted my request to surf before I left for Minnesota. She works for a ski resort, and rents bikes to people riding on the Coeur d'Alenes trail during the summer. I stopped at her work, we chatted for a bit, and then later had a beer at a local bar which overlooks a softball field. The sun lit the hills of evergreens surrounding the valley as we headed back to her apartment east of town. We have been getting along wonderfully well, and have conversed about Buddhism, television and small town living. Tomorrow, she has a few things planned for us, and I am excited to get to know this part of the country a little better.

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