Monday, September 07, 2009

Hiawatha Trail

Hiawatha Trail is a trail that runs 15 miles from Montana into northern Idaho. The trail winds through 10 tunnels and over 7 high steel trestles. It's a spectacular trail with beautiful scenery all along the way. Up until 1977 it was part of the railroad system run by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroads until they went bankrupt. One of the engines on the Milwaukee Railroad was called "the Hiawatha" so that's how the trail got it's name. Now this scenic stretch of trail is open for bicyclists and hikers to enjoy. About midway through this first tunnel is the Montana-Idaho state line.

Randy is entering the "big tunnel" which is 1.7 miles long. The first tunnel is right at the trailhead and headlights or flashlights are required because it's REAL dark in the tunnels. It was very unsettling to me when we first went into the tunnel. My flashlight and headlight weren't that great and it took a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the total darkness. And besides that, it was hard to get used to not being able to look ahead to see where you were going like you normally do as you ride along on your bike. But after a few scary moments, I adjusted to just watching the spot that was lite up and riding along in that spot. It was only about 35 degrees in the tunnel and you could hear water running along the edges and dripping from the ceiling and ocassionally a drop or two of water would hit you on the top of your head. It was definitely a new experience!
I was very relieved to make it through that first tunnel . . . only 9 more to go, and none of them were as long as the Taft Tunnel, but you still needed good lighting to be able to ride through them safely. Even though it was a little frightening because I'd never ridden anywhere like that before, it was so awesome!
You can see off in the distance one of the 7 high steel trestles we rode over. From this distance I couldn't tell if the trestles have any sides on them. I was pretty worried because I don't like heights and I was pretty intimidated not knowing exactly what to expect.

Randy is on one of the trestles (and even though you can barely see them in the photo) there are good sides on the trestle . . . which was a great relief to me. This is the longest of the trestles being 850 feet long and 230 feet high. I can't imagine how they were built but they're pretty awesome structures and the view from up there was unbelievable!

This is what the trail looked like. It was a compacted gravel trail and a gentle 2% grade so it was very easy riding. Not much work, you just had to pay attention to not get into loose gravel. The forest and the wildflowers everywhere were beautiful. Riding through the woods on such a beautiful trail was an awesome experience.
Along the trail were beautiful ferns . . . and the forest smelled so good. It was such a pretty setting to have an amazing experience.

Coming out of the tunnels into the bright sunlight took a moment for your eyes to adjust but when they did there was a beautiful sight to behold.

Here is another view from the trestles. Randy wasn't nervous like I was about being near the edge so I took several pictures of him enjoying the view. All along the route there were interpretive signs that told of the colorful history of the railroad and the old mining towns. It was very interesting. And here we are at the end of the trail. The sign says, "You made it!" We felt great having spent about 2 and a half hours enjoying some of the most beautiful country you'll ever see. And the fact that we were able to do it together, sharing in this new adventure on our bikes made it all the more special. It was a wonderful ride!
And when we got to the end of the trail, we started talking about how much fun it had been and what an awesome experience it was, so we got on the shuttle bus and road up the mountain to the start of the trail and did IT ALL AGAIN! The second ride down the mountain only took us an hour because we didn't stop. It was so much fun and a pretty easy 30 mile ride. Not too bad for a couple of 60 year olds! The Hiawatha Trail was such an adventure and definitely worth the trip! Anyone who likes to ride bikes needs to put it on their list on trail to ride!


Kristi Burley said...

Awesome!! I hope to make it to Northern Idaho one of these days. Sounds like a trail I'd love to ride! Kudos to you and dad for being such troopers...and for pedaling on and on.

Tami said...

LOVE IT! We need to venture around doing things like that. BEAUTIFUL! I am impressed you rode so many miles!!! You know what else I'd love to do in that beautiful terrain....? RUN and Bike. Loved the moose encounter...Ilene and I have had one of those together!