One moose, a dozen turtles, and way too many bugs

After we left Spokane we spent a night in the home of another Warmshowers host just a few miles from the border to Idaho. Then we took the Centennial rail trail out as far as we could. On the trail we met four people on bikes: An older woman with a elementary-aged girl on a tag-a-long, and a pair of twin teenage girls on a tandem. The youngest cheerfully pointed out that they were going to Montana! We saw them several times after that for the next few hours, as we passed each other at various points.

My thoughts on riding through the city of Coeur d’Alene: I had no idea it was a big tourist town. It was a bit of a shock.

After a short stint on the I-90 (not the worst highway ever, but not exactly fun) we decided to make a shorter day of it and stay at Beauty Creek campground, where we met the rest of the group we’d seen earlier. Turns out it’s four adults, two of which had their five daughters with them, which included two sets of twins–nine people total. Their goal was riding a bunch of rail trails: the Centennial, the Coeur d’Alene, and the Hiawatha. They don’t really connect, but they’re fairly close together.

Beauty Creek was a nice campground, all told. There was a lovely babbling creek, the mosquitoes were minimal, and there were these gorgeous butterflies everywhere. They were small, and when they were flying all you saw was this flutter of bright lavender/light blue color that bordered on ultraviolet. When they landed, you saw the outside of their wings, which were white with grey spots, and furry bodies the same color as the inside of the wings. They seemed to love landing on my sneakers; after I’d taken them off I had about a dozen of them perched on my sneakers, and if I walked too close they all took off and flitted around for a few seconds before landing again. Shawn and I got some pictures, but I don’t have them up yet. I’m not sure if they liked the color or the salt from my sweat.

The next day we rode around Coeur d’Alene lake some more, which was swervy and fairly rolling but pleasant–lots of scenery. Lots of rich people’s houses and lake resorts, too; there was very little public access to the lakeshore. Oh well.

We stopped in Harrison to grab a few things and get on the Coeur d’Alene rail trail, and re-found the big group again, outside an ice cream shop. So, I don’t eat dairy. I’m mostly vegan and lactose-intolerant anyway. I was prepared to be disappointed, but I saw that they made root beer floats so I figured I’d just get a glass of that if that was all I could have. It had been fairly warm that day (in the mid-70’s F), and I was starting to get a little hungry, and gosh, a frozen dessert sounded good. I looked at the menu: they had a blueberry-pomegranate sorbet, which sounded promising. I asked the woman working there, and sure enough: dairy free! I just about started jumping up and down, causing the woman to laugh and say, “I wish it was that easy to make everyone’s day!”

It was delicious. And the serving was huge. The Creamery in Harrison, Idaho: They always have a dairy-free option. Also, they’re very bicycle-friendly: the owner used to have an on-street bike rack but the city made her remove it, and she’s fighting to get it back. She’s pretty confident she’ll win. I signed a petition on the subject.

After picking up a few more things in town, we got on the Coeur d’Alene rail trail. Much like Idaho so far, it seems to combine both amazing beauty and some pretty depressing stuff.

The bad stuff first: The reason for the railroad (that the trail now uses) was for mining, which is still a big industry in Idaho. And it pollutes. A lot. Every little place to stop on the trail, there’s a sign with a map and maybe a local note, and a bunch of warnings: don’t get in the water near the trail. Don’t drink it, even if you filter it. Wash your hands and face before eating. Eat only at picnic tables. Because, you see, the railroad grade was made of stuff left over from the mine, and they were mining lead. So between the heavy metals in the grade itself, and lead that leaked off the rail cars, the railroad was really polluted. The asphalt of the trail itself, and the gravel on either side, which were put over all that, exists in part just to contain the lead and other pollution from the old railroad.

The trail also goes through a few economically depressed places. I don’t know how much of the mines decreasing is from running out of what they were mining (other mines were for silver and zinc), or from stronger environmental regulations. But a lot of towns are clearly trying to switch to tourism as an industry, with varying results.

And now for more positive things! Much of what we’ve seen is just plain gorgeous. And the wildlife! Oh man. We saw:

A few garter snakes, sunning themselves
Probably a dozen turtles, some of which were trying to cross the trail. I helped one of them out by picking it up and carrying it across, but after that I realized that they’re easy to see from a distance and likely wouldn’t get hit by other cyclists. Still, picking one up was kinda fun, even if I probably mostly confused it. Shawn startled another one just on the edge of the trail later, who promptly pulled in all his legs and his head, and the sight was just so funny!
A couple of blue heron
A bunch of grebes
Lots of other birds, too: redwings and mallards and geese and a bunch I don’t know the names of
One salamander, running furiously down the trail. I wonder if he thought we were chasing him?
A couple of deer

And! Best of all! A MOOSE!! Moose, and my joking wish to have one, are an old family joke that would take too long to share here (this post is getting long enough already!). But a couple months before leaving on this trip, there was a bike show in Portland, and a man was there representing the trails in Idaho. The map for the Coeur d’Alene trail had photos of moose on the trail, and I got all excited and asked, “Am I going to see a moose?” and the guy laughed and said, “Oh, you probably have about a 40% chance of seeing a moose.” Since then, every time we’ve talked about this trail, I’d say, “I want to see a moose!”

So there we are yesterday, riding along at a fairly fast speed, when something catches my eye, and just as we pass another shady swampy spot, I spotted a moose not fifteen feet away! I shouted “MOOSE!” as we passed, which caused Mr. or Ms. Moose to raise their head in surprise as if to say, “Huh?” and then we were gone. Shawn and I thought about going back to get a better look or take a picture, but apparently moose are creatures you don’t want to piss off, as they are very large, and Mr. or Ms. Moose was awfully close to the trail. *sigh* Oh well. I got my wish, I should be happy.

In terms of other wildlife: the bugs. Oh god, the bugs. Especially as the day turned into early evening, the trail had many clouds of bugs. Bugs seem to have a curious affinity for me and my face. I’ve had a few fly into my mouth, a bunch bounce off my glasses, and lots more whiz by my ears or bounce off my arms. I even sometimes find one getting caught in my cleavage.

But on the way to Harrison yesterday, we were riding down a hill at a good speed when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in part of my butt, just like getting an injection. Yes, something bit or stung my butt cheek, just an inch away from the part on my saddle. I’m proud to say I kept my bicycle under control, but I did shriek, come to a stop off the road, drop the bicycle against a tree, and promptly yank down my bike shorts asking Shawn to see if there was a stinger there. There wasn’t. I still don’t know what bit my ass or why.

And then! Later that day I rode straight into a cloud of bugs. I thought they must be gnats at first, but something had landed directly in my eye in a rather painful manner, which caused another panic stop while I tried to rinse out my eye with my water bottle. It took me a few seconds to realize, no, I’d ridden right into a cloud of mosquitoes, and there I was, standing right in the middle of them with a lot of exposed skin, which caused me to flail my arms around for a bit and then get moving as fast as I could. But I was too late: My legs, especially, had been feasted upon. I have, easily, half a dozen bites on my right leg and a few more on my left and one on my right shoulder. And they’re all the really itchy kinds of bites. Gaaah!

Last night we rode through the town of Enaville, which near as we can tell has one business: The Snakepit. Which is, I’ve been told, the oldest building in the county, but the county won’t acknowledge that, because it “was a whorehouse before and it’s a bar now,” according to one person we met. A charity bicycle ride had ended there just as we showed up, which meant lots of people with bicycles, putting them on cars or hanging out, and meanwhile we still felt like weirdoes because our bikes are so loaded up and we’re so unwashed. Also, hungry and tired. We ended up at a privately owned campground/RV park for the night, where when I asked “which spots are least buggy,” the guy laughed and said, “Motel 6.” Yeah, I hate DEET, but it definitely came in handy. I’d been eaten enough already. We were the lone tent in a land of RV’s. C’est la vie.

How to make sure Shawn and I get out of bed on time: Pitch the tent somewhere where the sun will beat down on it starting at about 7:15am. Holy moly did it turn into a sauna quickly.

Today was hot. Well, okay, it was hot for us, who aren’t used to it. It got up to about 85F and boy, did we feel it. We took a lot of long breaks, and gave up fairly early in the day when we got to Wallace. Wallace is an awfully cute little town, and Shawn and I splurged on an inexpensive hotel for the night. It has A/C. Luckily it’s only supposed to be in the mid-60’s tomorrow. Whew. I’ll say more about Wallace tomorrow, I think. Tonight I’ll leave you with a haiku:

Bike sits in the sun:
Saddle burns through padded shorts!
Next time, park in shade.

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4 Responses to One moose, a dozen turtles, and way too many bugs

  1. Jennifer says:

    Sounds awesome ‘pril! I’m so happy for you! I’m so glad you saw the MOOSE!

    If you go anywhere near a town named Forsythe, Montana (it’s near a bigger town named Rosebud) you should go there. The whole town seems like it’s haunted and they have an awesome 24 hour diner, though I’m not sure how much of the food there is vegan.

  2. Robin says:

    Sounds great April!

    Mosquitoes can certainly be brutal out there. My county was mosquito controlled so it wasn’t as bad, but when I’d cross the county line to see friends I would get devoured. I hate using deet too but it’s better than getting west nile and being covered head to toe.

    I look forward to readying more about your trip.

    • I think we traveled through parts that were controlled, I saw signs saying “No spray, owner maintained” as we went around the lake. But then, that’s when I got bit on my butt, so who knows?

  3. Todd says:

    …remember that Coleman makes a tent fan. 🙂

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