Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wallace, ID: Biking to the Center of the Universe

A 15-mile bike ride, downhill all the way, through gorgeous forests with incredible scenery, along the path of a historic abandoned railway route, through 10 train tunnels and over 7 sky-high trestles, with a shuttle to take you back to the top when you're done?  Yes, please!


We drove 100+ miles out of our way just to experience the Route of the Hiawatha, the "crown jewel" of the rails-to-trails project that is converting old railway lines into usable biking and hiking trails around the country.  Being in their Hall of Fame means it is one of their top 15 trails in the country!


Before the beauty, though, comes the shocker: within the first 30 seconds of starting the route, you are plunged into terrifying darkness.  For 8,771 feet -- that's 1.6 miles!!!  We quickly understood that the Route of the Hiawatha is NOT for you if:

you are scared of the dark
you are scared of really long distances in the dark
you are scared of closed-in places in the dark
you are scared of not seeing any entrance nor exit in the dark
you are scared of bats in the dark
you are scared of riding a bike on a severely rutted dirt path in the dark
you are scared of icy cold water dripping on you in the dark
you are scared of crashing your bike in the dark

Other than that, you'll be just fine!!



Yes we had (required) headlights on our bikes ... but those tiny pinpricks of light were no match for a (I cannot emphasize this enough) 1.6 MILE LONG tunnel through a mountain with zero natural light! The first photo was taken using a flash, and the second photo was taken as we exited back into the light!  Otherwise, screw up your eyes tightly, and that blackness is what we saw as we creeped along as slow as a slug for 1.6 miles!



Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but it was really scary!  And yet, completely exhilarating.  We were laughing hysterically at ourselves.  Definitely a memory we will not soon forget! 

We emerged triumphant from the Tunnel of Terror



And though there would be six more tunnels on the route, none were as long (though they were equally as dark)




The scenery in every direction was breathtaking



Looking down on one of seven sky-high train trestles we would be crossing





Now we know where the dripping water in the tunnels is seeping from



Don't look down!  :-)





See Philip?



Gorgeous views as far as the eye can see




The Forest Service had placed exceptionally well-done interpretive signs about the history of the railroad that originally used this route


This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime biking experience!




But if downhill biking is not your thing, the nearby "Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes" offers
75 miles of flat, smooth asphalt completely removed from the highway through some of the most gorgeous Idaho backcountry.  

Philip rode from Plummer, Idaho to Wallace, Idaho, while I drove the RV a different route.


This epic ride has it all!  Riding alongside lakes and rivers ....




Plenty of rest stations for weary travelers  ... (or just drop your bike anywhere, you're all alone anyway)





Bridges and crossings ....



And most importantly, critters!  Deer and eagles and moose, oh my!




Back in Wallace, tired but happy, we journeyed into this old mining town, where every single building in the town is on the National Historic Register.




Wallace is known as the "Center of the Universe."  How is this, you might ask?

This concept had its impromptu origin in 2004 as a sarcastic critique by an international crowd of Silver Summit attendees of the EPA's lead-headed 2002 Record of Decision which said, in essence, that if a thing cannot be disproven, it is thereby proven. The anniversary of the Mayor's proclamation that Wallace MUST be the Center of the Universe because you can't PROVE otherwise has naturally been celebrated ever since.

This location is signified by a fancy manhole cover.  There is also a spot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which claims to be the Center of the Universe based on a certain acoustic phenomenon, but I like this reasoning better:  "Prove It" ... "No, YOU disprove it, neener, neener, neener" -- like kindergarteners arguing on a playground.


Philip has always accused me of thinking I am the Center of the Universe -- now we know it's true!

Our travels onward from Wallace took us to Winthrop, WA.


This is another mining town (think: Tombstone, Bisbee, Deadwood) that has rebranded itself with old-timey Western flair that somehow avoids being corny and is simply charming.




Winthrop's excellent and renowned Shafer Museum is a series of buildings showing what life was like "back in the day", and I don't mean the 70's -- well. maybe the 1870's!



 After a bit of retail therapy and procurement of (not-quite-)necessary baked goods, we're back on the road!  


Next, the Lucky Charm will bask in the glory of 60 miles of the very first scenic highway in the United States, the North Cascades Scenic Highway!   We'll be awfully close to Canada and looking forward to gorgeous, glacier-caused scenery that is similar to what we enjoyed during last summer's trip to the Canadian Rockies.  Thanks for riding along!