Biking in Idaho -Phase two , Trail of the Hiawatha on the Milwaukee Road

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July 8th 2011
Published: July 9th 2011
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Ready to goReady to goReady to go

prepared for the cold tunnel
This is the long awaited sequel to the Couer d'alene bike trip. Alert readers will remember we bailed at Wallace on our May trip due to snow on the trail up on Lookout Pass. This prevented us from finishing our loop via the Trail of the Hiawatha. We decided to return after our son's wedding and do the trail as a side trip on the way back to West Hawk Lake in Manitoba. I normally wouldn't post a short trip like this but it is a truly different experience and I highly recommend it to anyone passing through Idaho on I90.

After the wedding experience , we left Ymir on July 4th and crossed into Idaho south of Salmo at Naleway.
Crossing into the USA by car is quite an experience these days and probably must be impacting their tourist industry. It seems inconsistent with what you go through by air (which is bad enough) but probably creates a lot of good paying local jobs in places where options are few. One can safely conclude that OBL won the war on the USA economy given the amounts being wasted on useless wars and strange security programs.

Entrance to the big tunnelEntrance to the big tunnelEntrance to the big tunnel

much darker inside

We drove from Naleway down to I90 and then east to Mangold's General Store in Saltese, which is a rustic town whose main economic activity appears to be the letting off of fireworks. The other occupants of Mangold's motel division (total of 4 rooms-neat place to stay) presumably felt July 4th was important enough to warrant about 3 hours of non-stop blasting from lawn chairs strategically positioned in the middle of the frontage road facing the freeway. In the morning the road was covered in red litter from the ordinance.

We had an excellent sleep (Ymir recovery process etc) and were up at either 7.00 or 8.00 - the time zone change here is a bit confusing - I think we slept in CDT. After a salvage breakfast (what we could find in Mangolds and the car) we headed off to the East Portal of the trail which is about 2 miles off I90 at exit 5.
When we got to the staging area , we thought we were in CDT but apparently the staff were on PDT because they came from Idaho??? In any case we waited 10 minutes until 8.30 PDT and got our
view from the trailview from the trailview from the trail

very high for a railroad
tickets $18 each for trail fee and shuttle)

We then strapped on our headlamps and headed into the tunnel. The first tunnel is just under 9000 feet long and we were the first people through that day. Quite an experience as the temperature was under 40F and it was pitch black. Headlamps are mandatory and we also had red blinkers on the back of our helmets.

This is a trip back in time as well because you pass through the CDT/PDT border part way through the
tunnel. The state line between Idaho and Montana is the halfway point and is also a bit of a peak in the tunnel as water runs downhill in both directions from the mid point. Once you cross over the mid point you can start to see a faint glimmer of light which is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

The exit at the end is quite a welcome site and is the beginning of a 13 mile downhill ride through several more tunnels plus some long and very high trestles. (the highest being over 200 feet above the ground) The whole trail is
trestle off in the distancetrestle off in the distancetrestle off in the distance

still up very high

For us train geeks, the Milwaukee Road was an electrified railway which was shut down in 1980.It ran from Chicago to the coast and the mileage signs along the trail show the distance from Chicago. This is a rail trail and the plan is to extend it into St Regis, Montana.

We did the trip in about 2 hours and then caught the shuttle bus back up. The driver was an expert on the history of brothels and sewage treatment as well as moose locations. We were shuttled to the Idaho BF tunnel entrance and had to ride back through it to the car. It was quite busy but having other cyclists with lights on made it a lot easier.

We then loaded up and were on our way back to West Hawk Lake via Billings, Fargo etc. A long drive...

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


Typical trail ROWTypical trail ROW
Typical trail ROW

Just about at first trestle
The next tunnelThe next tunnel
The next tunnel

Some tunnels had curves in them
tunnel signtunnel sign
tunnel sign

Sturdy supports
Milwaukee Road storyboardMilwaukee Road storyboard
Milwaukee Road storyboard

history in the engines

bus ride probably more nerve wracking than the bike ride

Tot: 2.675s; Tpl: 0.046s; cc: 12; qc: 62; dbt: 0.0479s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb