An adventuresome bike ride down the Hiawatha Trail in Montana and Idaho with Bev, brother Eugene and nephew Casey Roufs on Sunday, August 8, 2021. Story and photos.
On Sunday morning, August 8, Eugene Kubik, Casey Roufs, Bev and I experienced the renowned 15 miles Hiawatha Rail Trail starting in Montana and ending in Idaho. The weather was perfect. The scenery was awesome. We were all geared up with mountain bikes, helmets as we started the trek down a slight 2% grade of through 10 tunnels and seven very high tressels.
We thank Eugene for hosting this event today.
It all started at the St. Paul Tunnel which is almost two miles long. There are no lights. It is totally dark. On either side of 12-foot wide roadbed is water drainage. The roadbed is crowned with a slight slope to either ditch.
The four of us entered the tunnel with our little headlights on our bikes. The light hardly pierced the darkness but did give a general perspective of the tunnel walls, the crowned road ahead. and the ditches. Casey was the leader, followed by Bev, me with Eugene bringing up the rear. Bev is a brave girl.
Within minutes, Bev became disoriented and she and her bike splashed into the right ditch. As she fell off the bike she banged her head into the wall and lay on the ground with a gashed nose and scrapes on her arms and legs. Casey who is an EMT helped her get become oriented, back on her bike, and determined that this was just a bad start.
So we forged on ahead.
Then a short distance later Bev was following the beam of her headlight that veered left into the left ditch. Same thing all over again. It was a matter of getting disoriented in the darkness, while in motion.
So we carefully tried to have Bev follow Casey whose bike had a flashing red tail light. Bev was to look at that and follow him implicitly.
That seemed to work and we got out the other end.
The other tunnels were shorter. One was a third of a mile while the other only hundreds of feet each
But, again in the next tunnel or two, Bev went flying off the bike as crashed into the left wall. This one did not have a drainage ditch.
We all agreed that Bev and tunnels did not mix well and so she walked through some of the tunnels. But, she looked pretty beat up. But, she did not quit, She did not complain. She wanted to beat this jinx. She never wanted to quit or turn back.
We were concerned about the high tressels because some of them are hundreds of feet above the terrain below. But, she did better there.
That's Bev's story.
About four miles from the end of the trail I had a flat tire. Looking at the rear tire, it was shredded....beyond repair. As a rented bike, it must have already been somewhat damaged. All I could do was walk the bike, but I figured that four miles walk would be healthy and add to my Fitbit steps for the day. After about a mile and a half, Eugene strongly volunteered to walk the bike with me taking his to the bottom. That's where we found the shuttle. We reported Eugene up on the trail and the trail patrol sent a truck up with another bike towards Eugene.
Casey, Bev, and I rode the shuttle bus to the first tunnel that would take us back to the parking lot of our vehicle. So Bev, Casey and I headed out. But, would not have Bev go through the first big long tunnel again. Casey and I left her near the tunnel entrance to wait for Eugene to come down with the disabled bike.
So, Casey and I started through the St. Paul tunnel again. This time the two of us got slightly disoriented. While dark, there were tiny lights ahead indicating other oncoming bikers, but our (mine for sure) footing was not fully solid. But, we got though successfully to the other end.
We got our vehicle, got directions about how to get to other side of the mountain, and headed for Bev and hopefully Eugene. We hoped we could find them.
When we arrived they were both there sitting at a picnic table talking cheerfully.
Eugene then related his story
Other bikers saw him with the disabled bike. A guy called "Yuriy" from places Eastern Europe offered to help. He said that he would ride the bike, but using his "special" skills, would lean way forward and use only the front tire allowing the rear flat tire to not bear any weight. He gave Eugene his good bike. They continued down the trail for some distance. Yuri's circus-like tactic of riding the bike with the flae was working (don't try this at home).
Then they were met by the rescue truck that delivered a bike...a children's bike Why? I don't know. But, Eugene found it welcome and continued on down to the trail end and shuttle.
He took the next bus back to where Bev was sitting. in the meantime, Casey and I drove the vehicle from the parking lot to pick Bev and Eugene and end the adventure and proceed back to Spokane.
THE "CROWN JEWEL" OF RAIL-TO-TRAIL ADVENTURES
The Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike or hike trail is 15 miles long with 10 train tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles. The ride starts with a trip through the 1.661 mile long St. Paul Pass Tunnel, also known as the Taft Tunnel. It is a highlight of the trail that follows the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains near Lookout Pass Ski Area. The best part is.... it's mostly downhill with shuttle buses available to transport you and your bike back to the top. This family friendly trail is easily enjoyed by a wide variety of people from young children to super seniors.
Trail passes, shuttle tickets and mountain bike rentals with lights are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area located right alongside Interstate 90, take Exit 0, at the Idaho-Montana state line. The start of the Hiawatha is a short 7 mile drive from Lookout Pass. Lookout Pass is located just 12 miles east of historic Wallace, Idaho.
The Lookout Pass Lodge and Bike Rental Shop opens at 8 AM (PDT). The trail is open 8:30 AM to 5 PM (PDT) daily starting May 28 through September 19, 2021.