A Mountain Biker’s and Railroad Lover’s Day in the High Country

Point Reyes National Seashore

This post was published on Roadtreking : Celebrating the RV Lifestyle today. I thought I would like to share it with my readers without all the ads.

Many years ago I was visiting a good friend in Santa Cruz, CA. He suggested that we go camping at Point Reyes National Seashore. We took his two mountain bikes and biked into one of the campsites near the ocean.

I had never been on a mountain bike before. As we were dropping down the hill to the campsite a huge boulder suddenly appeared in front of my bike. I put on the brakes, hit the boulder, flipped over the boulder, the bike flipped over and landed on top of me. I ended up with whiplash and lots of bruises. As I lay on the ground my buddy, Neal looked at me and said “Wow, Janet that was a great flip.” So much for sympathy and help.

It took some time to recover from that incident. Since then I have had a few minor incidents with mountain bikes. I have religiously avoided them. Until today.

Today I decided to be brave and rode the Hiawatha Trail on a mountain bike. This hike and bike trail is 15 miles long with 10 train tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles. This Rails to Trails path follows the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains on the border of Montana and Idaho.

I rented a mountain bike, helmet and headlamp at Lookout Pass Ski Resort, mile 0 on Route 90. I put the bike on the back of my Roadtrek and drove to East Portal. East Portal is the beginning of the 15 mile gradual descent.

On a beautiful sunlit day I approached the mile and a half tunnel. I turned on my head lamp and began my descent into darkness. I could only see as far ahead of me as my head lamp would allow. The only sounds were of water, my bike and me letting out an occasional whoop. The echos were great.

Entering the St Paul Pass Tunnel

After my mile and a half ride, I came out into brilliant sunshine, incredible blue skies and a water fall. How much more perfect can one get than that. The temperatures were in the 60’s at the start of the ride. By the time I finished the trail, the temps had climbed into the low 80’s. As the temperature heated up I could smell the pines and the damp earth. It is such a fine smell.

Along the trail there were signs to stop and read and learn about the building of this incredible stretch of railroad. Along the way I learned about the “Silks” and the early days of first class travel on the rail.

Here are a few of my favorite interesting facts.

  • The “Silks” were special trains that transported Asian raw silk from west coast ports across the country to the east for processing into finished garments. These trains were fast and were considered top priority.  Raw silk deteriorated quickly, the price of silk fluctuated rapidly and insurance was high. There was also a fear that silk could be hijacked from slower trains so it was important to move it as quickly as possible. In 1928 at the height of the silk trade $452,000,000 of raw silk was transported across the continent. When other ways of shipping took over (the Panama Canal) the “Silks”run faded away.
  • The railroad was one of the great hirers of freed black slaves. They became porters and waiters on the trains. It was a very different lifestyle than anything they had known before.
  • The Olympian line was the Milwaukee Road’s flagship luxury line to the Pacific Northwest. When introduced in 1911, it was the first railroad to offer “all steel” cars. To further define the uniqueness of the line, the cars and engines were painted orange and maroon and were among the first to carry broadcast radio receivers.
  • The section of the route crossing the rugged Bitterroot Mountains was considered the most scenic stretch of railroad in the country.
  • It was named to the hall of fame by the Rail-to-Trail Conservatory, one of only 15 trails across the United States to receive this designation.

Approaching the end of the St Paul Pass Tunnel

As I approached the end of the trail I had two choices. I could turn around and ride my bike back up the trail I had just come down or I could take the shuttle bus. l climbed on the shuttle bus for the ride back to the St Paul Pass Tunnel. The shuttle dropped me and the other riders off a mile and a half short of the trail head. All of us got to experience the ride through the St Paul Pass tunnel once again. It was a great way to finish the day, riding and whooping into the darkness, once again. It was a great finish to an absolutely beautiful day in the high country.

A favorite view of the trestle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now my day is over and I am camped next to Lake Coeur d’Alene in a National forest campground. I have been for a swim to get the trail dust off. The water was warm on top with a bit of chill coming from below. It felt wonderful. Another good finish to a good day.

Here are suggestions and facts regarding this trail.

  • You can boondock  in the parking lot at the ski resort for free. I did this. It was quiet and peaceful. The workers coming in the morning were a good alarm clock for me.
  • Go early. The rentals open at 8 a.m. The Trail opens at 8:30 a.m. I recommend the early hours because it is cool and pleasant. For you photographers, the lighting was good, really good in the earlier part of the day.
  • There is a fee to ride the trail. You can pay it at the ski resort or at the trail head. These fees help maintain this amazing trail.
  • There is a fee for the shuttle. I did not buy my ticket until I got to the end of the ride. I thought I might pedal, back but there was a very patient little kitty waiting for me to return. After bumping along for 15 miles I was ready to give my seat a respite.
  • This is not a breeze of a ride. You do have to pedal. The trail is well maintained, yet it is dirt and rocks. I wore my bike shorts under a pair of regular shorts.
  • Take snacks and water with you. They also sell snacks and drinks at the trial heads. Just remember that what you take in you need to take back out. There are no trash receptacles along the way.
  • Take your time. Read the signs. Take pictures. Be amazed. It was a delightful day.

The Life of a Swamper

As many of you may know, I am spending a part of my summer in Donnelly, Idaho. It is up in the mountains and is, simply, a delightful place to be. I came into the area late in May and have been spending time, first, in Boise (a great medium size town) and now here in Donnelly.

I interrupted my stay for two weeks, so I could travel to northern Montana and join a group of people and raft down the North Fork of the Flathead River. I have never been on a private multi-day raft trip before. It has a very different flavor than a commercial trip. It is work!!! The rafts have to be hauled to the put in, blown up and outfitted. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete this project. It is not easy work. Many items are heavy.  Team effort is a definite must and this group of sixteen excelled in helping others.

I was the swamper of my friend, Mary’s, raft. What, you may ask, is a swamper? Originally the term was used in the logging industry but when it comes to rafting, well, it is a whole different story. Swampers help with everything. Loading the raft?  Yep. Unloading the raft? Yep. Hauling stuff from point A to point B? Yep. Now those tasks sound easy but there is a lot involved. Each item on a raft has a certain place. Everything is double checked to be sure it is strapped down and locks, locked. Does the raft need to be pumped up? Here, let me do that. If anyone needs help in and around the campsite, well there is another job to be done. I decided early on I wanted to make Mary’s and my life easier. I chose to learn quickly so she had less to do with the boat as each day progressed. She could, then, focus on other tasks. By the end of the week, I was pretty much responsible for packing the raft for the day. Mary and I worked well together and made quite a team. I am proud to be called a swamper.  Next trip, if there is one,  I want to learn to row.

At the end of the floating day, my fun began. I set up my tent and took off exploring with my camera. We camped mainly on sand or rock bars on the non-National Park side of the river. Glacier National Park was our east river backdrop. Each day was a beautiful ride. There was always something interesting to explore. I found bear tracks, Sandhill Crane tracks, and we think, wolf tracks. Now how cool is that? One night I camped near a Spotted Sandpiper’s nest. We made good room-mates for a night. I felt honored.

 

I found that the moments of alone time, helped me balance living for a week with sixteen other people. For those of you who have been following my blog, you may recall that being around large groups of people has been an issue for me since Jim’s death from cancer. I enjoyed all of the people I traveled with for the week. It was interesting and fun to watch the group dynamics unfold. Please remember that the majority of this group had already been traveling together for about a week. Some of these folks have been traveling together for many years. They were like one big happy family with all their quirks and fun. I enjoyed getting to know all of them. I enjoyed the stories and laughter. It was fun to join in.

Beaver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I am back in Donnelly, Idaho. I am recovering. I am healing sun burned lips. I have an infection in my big toe. It has given me the opportunity to soak my foot and relax a little. It is a good time to write blog posts.✍🏻 Soak and Write.

I am getting to know the area I am staying in for the next month plus. I take long walks, am hoping to rent a kayak and explore the lakes. I am also catching up on some much needed chores. Daily chores do not go away just because I am leading a gypsy kind of life.

My closest lake.

Sunset not too far from my door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this swamper rests and heals, I can look out the door at the mountains and get ready to hike. Life is an adventure I am glad to take on.

 

Getting Ready To Roll

mapsTwo summers ago I began a new adventure in travel. I bought my cute little Roadtrek RV and traveled the United States for two and a half months. I felt a strong pull to visit as many of the people that supported Jim and myself through three plus years of struggle. I wanted to thank those people for their support and have fun and some adventure along the way. It was a marvelous summer.

Little did I know that this journey would contine on past my travels that summer in my RV. I have been overwhelmed at times and continuously grateful for the ongoing support of all those friends, near and far, older and newer that have continued to love and support me as I have traveled through the uncharted territory of grief. I am blessed.

In two weeks I am packing up my RV and traveling to the east coast and beyond. I am planning to be on-the-road for about three months. Where am I going this time?

EventPhotoFull_horsedriveposter-2015 aI have a date to ride in the Hells A’Roaring Horse Round-up in Gardiner, MT May 21-23.  I am so excited about this. I love to ride horses and you know even though Jim was not fond of horses, he would have done this. Oh my, he did try so hard when it came to horses, yet I know that he was not fond of this activity. It did not stop him from trying. Hmm…there might be a lesson here somewhere.

After spending time in Yellowstone National Park and Montana, I am driving east. When I began to plan my departure, I knew I was attending the wedding of my niece, in July, in Connecticut. Now good friends are getting married in June in North Carolina. If you have been following my blog you may remember my visit to Zoe and Kay in North Carolina in 2013. In early June they are getting married. I am ready for a grand celebration. Does anyone else want to get married while I am traveling? Terry?

In between do I know where I am going? Well kind of, and kind of not. I like the idea of planning my touring from day to day. I want to be spontaneous and let adventure take me where it will. I am hoping to connect with many of my friends and family along the way. Heads up all you northern United States people. The journey of thanking others continues.

Elsie in Patagonia

Elsie

This year I am not traveling alone. Miss Elsie, the cat is going to join the adventure. So far I have had her on two short trips and she did OK. I really did not want to leave her home this time. I will need to consider her needs a bit. I have decided to stay in one place for more than one night. This way she gets adjusted and you know I don’t need to be in a rush. I can enjoy different places and enjoy relaxing and exploring along the way.

I am already so thankful for those friends (6 of them) who are going to love and support my home while I am away. My neighbors are also going to help. For the first time since I have lived here I now have the most marvelous neighbors. There is so much I feel thankful for on a daily basis.

A week from Sunday this new adventure begins. I am opening my heart and mind and am ready to find the expected and unexpected. Please join me as I blog my way through the summer. It will be fun to meet up with some of you along the way.