Family Fun Idaho Trip with Patrick Flanagan

I had signed up to do a bicycle event ride with my oldest grandson Patrick Flanagan last fall. After anxious months of waiting and a few training rides, it is finally coming to fruition. For readers, click on images to see more detailed views.
Day 0 — Sunday 17July — we woke up fairly early, Patrick staying over at our house in order to get a jump on the road. The day before, we did a short ride together on the Orting trail, and Patrick was having a lot of trouble with the bicycle. I was able to determine that a few things went out of adjustment and fix them. We drove out I-90 all the way to Coeur d’Alene and then south to Plummer, which was the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Everything checked out ok, and we were able to meet a broad span of ages for kids doing the ride, with children as young as 7-8 doing the ride independently on their own bikes. That seemed to help Patrick think that perhaps he could also do it. *Nota bene-the ACA considers this to be day 1.
Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding
The cooks preparing fabulous food
Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don
Day 1 — Monday 18 July — This was the biggest day, with 43 miles to ride. The trail had a mile downhill grade for about 5 miles, and then remained mostly flat. The morning was quite cool, but it became moderately warm by 11 am. We left about 7:45, and arrived at the campground in Cataldo at 12:30. Patrick was doing quite well, even eager to go swimming, in spite of this being his longest ever ride.
Patrick at the beginning of the first day
Approaching the step bridge
Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge
Flat! Beautiful!
On the banks of the Coeur d’Alene.
Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.
Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride
Day 2 — Tuesday 19 July — This was an easy day, with a short 20+ mile ride to Kellogg. Our first stop was the Old Mission, built overlooking the Coeur d’Alene river just outside of Cataldo. The Jesuits were spreading their influence to the indians. The ride was short from there to Kellogg, and Patrick was exceptionally motivated, being that there was a water park in town. He spent four hours in the water park, and had a grand time.
The Cataldo Mission – oldest existing building in Idaho
The Snake Pit?
Day 3 — Wednesday 20 July — This was another easy day with lots of shuttling. At 08:30, we boarded ourselves and our bicycles, hopped on the bus, and traveled across the Idaho-Montana border on I-90 to the east portal of the Hiawatha Trail. It is an old section of the Milwaukie line that has been turned into rails to trails. We proceeded 14 miles down this trail, which included a 1.7 mile tunnel at the start, which passed from Montana back into Idaho. After lunch at the base of the trail, we we shuttled back up to the tunnel, in order to go through the long tunnel in reverse. We were then shuttled to the town of Wallace, and rode back to camp, 11 miles away.
The first Hiawatha Route tunnel
Doug and Dane eager to enter the cave.
Trestles on the trail
Day 4 — Thursday 21 July — Ride from Kellogg to Harrison. This was our second longest day, but it seemed like one of the easier days, being almost perfectly flat. The total distance was 38.5 miles, which Patrick did without any difficulty, save for the heat. We arrived in the camp at Harrison by noon, taking some time to get our tents set up, and then enduring temperature well into the 90’s. It was a lazy afternoon, waiting for the map meeting followed by dinner. In the evening a few of the boys (and girls) went out for a beer, bringing the event to a nice close.
Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Day 5 — Friday 22 July —Harrison to Plummer and then home. This retraced all that we had done the first day for the first 15 miles, going 7 miles to the step bridge across the lake, and then a very gradual 5 mile climb up to Plummer. Though the grade was never over 3%, the persistence became a little challenging for Patrick, who was quite happy to make it to the top and achieve the end of the trail. The drive back home got us to the Seattle/Tacoma area right at rush hour, which took almost as much time exiting I-90 and driving back to Puyallup as the time to drive as the rest of the trip.
Back across the step bridge
Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.
Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.
Day 6 — Saturday 23 July — North Bend to Hyak and Back. Wait a minute! This isn’t a part of the Family Fun Idaho trip, and I didn’t do it with Patrick, but I did it with family, my son Jonathan rode this with me. It seemed only natural to do it, since this rail-to-trail on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and John Wayne (Iron Horse) Trail is simply a continuation of the old Milwaukie line, just before it ends in Tacoma, WA. This is the last big pass that the trail must encounter on its journey west, and includes large trestles, a very long tunnel as well as smaller tunnels (east of Snoqualmie Pass), and a grade/appearance very similar to the route of the Hiawatha. In fact, the tunnel is 2.3 miles long, more than ½ mile longer than the long tunnel on the trail of the Hiawathas. I knew that I would be riding the Iron Horse Trail in two weeks for the Courage Classic, all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum, about 64 miles, so did this 56 mile jaunt as a warm-up. We were able ride at a considerably faster pace than with Patrick, and a considerably longer distance, climbing over 2000 ft from North Bend to Hyak, which is just on the east side of the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel. Oddly, this trip left me a little sore in the buttocks, which usually doesn’t happen to me. I also got my first flat on a mountain bike, though it was quite easy to fix with a spare tube. The bicycles returned home VERY muddy, and with very dirty but happy riders. The Iron Horse trail goes all the way across the state of Washington to the Idaho border, and ends about 20 miles from the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
Historical sign in North Bend
Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike
The Milwaukee Line info-board
west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel
One of the six large trestles on the route
Trestle view from above
Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700’s.
Summary of the Trip:

  1. The ACA gets an A+. They are an extraordinarily great group to ride with, especially as you get to know the staff.
  2. The people on the trip are awesome. I regret that I could not get to know better more riders. It was a little hard avoiding politics, and didn’t wish to contend with those who wished to make profound political statements which were farther left (and thus much stupider!) than my conservative approach to life, politics, religion, and things of that sort.
  3. The route was superb. I wish there was a better answer to the Hiawatha trail day — too much shuttling, but still not a day to be missed.
  4. Once again, the cooks were awesome
  5. My thanks to Tammy Schurr for making this a wonderful and special event for Patrick.