Biking the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho’s panhandle
08.21.2013 - 08.21.2013
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a more than a bicycle path. It’s a byway that bisects the beauty of northern Idaho, a 73.2-mile ribbon of smooth asphalt that laces rivers and lakes, the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation and historic Silver Valley.
The grades are gentle, and it’s easy to get on— there are 20 trailheads. And there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views— 17 scenic waysides with picnic tables.
Our friends and traveling companions, Saul and Valerie Chessin, love to bike and hike and run. So my wife, Sheri, and I thought a spin on the trail would be the perfect outing for their fast-approaching 30th wedding anniversary.
But before biking, we needed some carb and caffeine bingeing. Fortunately, we were staying at the Clark House B&B. So this was not a problem. Gourmet gluttony at its finest on the elegant patio.
We waddled away from the Clark House on Hayden Lake, hopped in the car and headed for Harrison, Idaho, where we planned to hop on the bike trail.
Driving along the eastern shoreline of Lake Coeur d'Alene on Idaho 97, named the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway, we glimpsed inlets and bays through giant cedars, wild flowers and huckleberries. It’s only a 35-mile drive, but it took us almost an hour to reach Harrison due to the serpentine nature of road.
We had planned on just riding a portion of the trail— a 16-mile section from the Harrison Marina to the town of Plummer within the boundary of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. And then we’d ride back to Harrison for total of 32 miles.
We pulled into the parking lot at the Harrison Marina, a trailhead for the bike path, and hot damn, it was a beautiful day. But there was one thing I worried about: Saul and Valerie were in phenomenal shape. They loved intensity in their workouts. The harder, the better.
But when I bike or hike in a beautiful place, I like to slow down, breathe deeply and soak in the scenery. Consequently, I had concocted a plan. I knew Saul and Val had heavy-duty mountain bikes with big tires. So I decided to take our light road bikes with skinny tires. Our bikes were probably half the weight of theirs. If things went according to my scheme, they could bike their butts off while I cruised along the way. Everyone would be happy.
We hopped on the bike trail; Saul and I paired up as we pedaled while Sheri and Valerie rode together talking nonstop.
It was delightful; my plan was working. My bike glided effortlessly allowing me to savor the views. Saul and Val were enjoying themselves, too, occasionally having to stand up on their pedals and push hard to maintain their momentum.
Saul and I continued our conversation, sweating— he more than me— and taking in the vistas of forests and the lake.
To some it may appear as if we were just spinning our wheels. Pedaling but not getting anywhere. It was a round trip. We planned to end our ride where we began— in Harrison.
But I don’t know. Spinning our wheels seemed to enliven our spirit, the sweat serving as a sweet lubricant for a bit of soul searching. “When you pray, move your feet,” says an African proverb.
Or, maybe, we were just accidental tourists: bodies in motion colliding with our own souls. Or, maybe, we pedaled the trail to wrestle with God. We brought our issues, our questions, and our doubts. And we silently shouted at the Divine through the whir of our wheels.
Or, maybe, it was none of the above. Maybe, it was just a beautiful day spinning our wheels.