Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Biking the Hiawatha Trail

Okay, I’m going to say this first. Biking The Hiawatha trail was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
No, I’m not taking drugs and my husband has not hijacked my blog.  I honestly had a blast on this trail. It is an experience I would recommend to anyone who happens to be traveling in the North Idaho region.
Yes, it is expensive—mind-numbingly expensive—but it’s worth it. As my youngest son said, “that was something to remember for the rest of my life.”
So what is the Hiawatha trail? It’s a 15 mile bike route located on the border of Idaho and Montana that is part of the rail-to-trail program. On the trail you go through 9 tunnels and bike over several trestles.
Since our family was having a reunion-type vacation near there, we decided to go as a group to the trail. There were eight of us total: my family of four, and my sister’s family.

Here we all are ready to leave. The tunnel you see in back of us is the perfect beginning to our little adventure. It is a 1.7 mile tunnel. Yes, that isn’t a typo. The tunnel is really that long. And it's very, very dark.  You must have some type of light to go through that tunnel, because it is pitch black inside after the first turn.
Talk about creepy yet exhilarating. It is difficult to describe the eeriness that consumed me as I pedaled through the dank darkness. Even though I knew it was ridiculous, there was still an anxiety chewing at my gut that the tunnel would collapse on us, burying us under piles of rubble.

From these photos, you can get an idea of how dark it was in there. I enhanced the photos so you could see a little more of what the sides of the tunnel looked like. The person bending over was my sister’s son, adjusting something on his bike. My husband and I didn’t have bike lights, so we rode through the tunnel with a flashlight in hand.  That actually worked better than many of the bike lights. There were several issues with the bike lights misbehaving. If you are going to go through those tunnels, take my advice and make sure you have lights that work really well.
That tunnel was very cold too. Even though it was late July, we were frozen when we finally rode out of the tunnel. My fingers were cold from clutching the flashlight.

Here I am on the far side of the tunnel.  Can you tell how happy I am to not be buried under tons of concrete?
The path continues downhill at a gentle slope, winding through the forested mountains.  The trail is packed gravel, so I wouldn’t recommend going on it with a road bike.  I had my trusty mountain bike with me. I was grateful too, because I almost bit it one time trying to take a picture as I rode one handed.  Stupid thing to do!
My bony-bummed sister had a wonderful idea. She hooked her camera on top of her helmet. She was able to take some wonderful videos of our ride down the mountain.  Here is a picture of her with her camera.  Doesn’t she look like a Teletubby?

The next group of photos will show some of the trails and trestles that we rode over.  The view was spectacular the entire way. 

This was the remains of an outhouse I saw near the trail head.

Here is a close up view of my bony-bummed sister and her family.

And my skinny little family.

At the end of the trail, we all were in high spirits. My son was so happy he threw his helmet in the air.

That bus you see in the background was the shuttle bus.  They loaded our bikes into the back and drove us back up the mountain to the parking lot where we had left our car.  The shuttle ride back was relaxing. Our driver kept us entertained by telling us fascinating stories about the history of the area and the great fire that swept through there in 1910.
When we got back to the parking lot, we were surprised by how dirty our backs were from the ride. Everyone had a brown stripe up their behinds.

I can’t wait to go back there again.  This time, my goal is to conquer the uphill ride along with the downhill.
For more information, check out the website: http://www.skilookout.com/hiaw/


  1. That was such a fun trip! Thanks for coming with us!!

  2. It was amazing! we will have to come visit you and try some of the trails there in Utah!

  3. This is a great blog. My family and I are heading up there next week and it helps to read your expirence.

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I hope you have a wonderful trip!