Saturday, July 4, 2015

Route of the Hiawatha

We had a very quiet night in the rest area! Much quieter than any Wal-Mart! We were on the road early this morning, heading for Lookout Pass on the Montana/Idaho border. Lookout Pass is a ski resort and in the summer they run the Route of the Hiawatha which is a rail trail bike path.

I discovered the Route of the Hiawatha on Facebook, through the Rail Trail Conservancy's "Picture of the day" posts. I saw that it was exactly on route and decided I had to plan to ride it! Our plans got a little jumbled when we decided to drive part of the Beartooth Highway yesterday and the bike ride almost got scrapped, but we figured out how to make it work.

Riding the trail has a few crazy logistics. You have to go to the ski resort at Lookout Pass (I90 exit 0) to buy your trail pass and shuttle pass if you want to use their shuttle. Then you drive back east on I90 to exit 5 where you park and start the bike ride. You can buy a shuttle pass to bring you back up, or have another person pick you up. The catch is the pick up place is down several forest service roads and not easily accessible. If you take the shuttle back you have to ride through the Taft Tunnel twice - once on the way down and once on the way back up. So, it's a bit confusing just to figure out how to do the ride.

The ride itself was fun! There are many tunnels on the route, which is what makes it different! The first tunnel is almost 2 miles long! The tunnels are former train tunnels so they are very dark! We had to ride with our headlamps and even then you could only see a little in front of where you were riding! Luckily the trail in the tunnels was smoother than the trail outside the tunnel so that was easier!

Two miles is a long way to ride in the dark! At first I didn't like it much, then I realized my headlamp wasn't on and I put my bike in a higher gear so it was easier to control and it was better. Since the inside of the tunnel never sees sunlight it was very cold and damp in there - this was a sharp contrast to the blistering heat outside. By the end the tunnels were my favorite part!

The trail itself was very rough - basically a dirt road with lots of loose rocks, some rather big. By mountain biking standards it was nothing, but it was a bit rougher than I liked. It was also dusty and very very hot! There was little shade and not a cloud in the sky! There were however, great views! The trail went up into a draw so you went down one side, then it turned and you went down the other side! In addition to the tunnels there were several long trestles.

We finally made it to the bottom and were lucky enough to get right on the next bus! They loaded our bikes in the back of an old school bus and we all piled in! 50 or so hot sweaty adults piled into a non-air conditioned school bus. Ugh. But it was better than riding back up!

When we got back to the top we had to ride back through the Taft Tunnel - that big long, almost 2 mile, dark, cold, damp tunnel! The cold was a welcome change! And it seemed much easier riding it back that it was riding it the first time!

It was almost 3 when we got back to the RVs (and Mom) which we'd left at Lookout Pass. At least we think it was 3...the Montana/Idaho line is where you cross from Mountain to Pacific time so you never knew what time it was. We opted to drive to Post Falls, Idaho, which is right on the border with Washington to stay at the Cabela's there.

It appears that we may be the only RVers staying here tonight. The store closed at 6 and it's been quiet. There are some folks in an RV waiting for a fireworks show - maybe I'll be able to see it from my bed! The sun has gone down and it's beginning to cool off some! I hope I don't have to run my generator all night so I can have AC!



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