Central Idaho Tour

August 1997

8/13/97 Wednesday
Junction 75 & 20 -to- Bellevue (10 mi : 370' climb)

Denise dropped me at the junction of Hwy 75 & 20 south of Sun Valley mid morning. I'm doing a trip through Idaho while she drives back to visit family in Ohio. I wasn't feeling well, bad cold, but could do nothing but start the trip. The weather was nice and I made my way to Bellevue some 10 miles up the road. This section of road is fine, busy but wide. It was flat or a little bit up, no hills. I ate lunch in Bellevue and decided to stay the night. Found a private campground and spent the afternoon sleeping, reading and being sick. At least the weather is great, sunny and warm.

8/14/97 Thursday

I didn't bike today, just rested. I did sew a new flag for my bike, red & white. The old one had seen too many miles and just wore out. I'd picked up the nylon with a needle and thread before leaving home figuring to do this. Would have been easier at home with the sewing machine but no time. Read and rest. I did leave room on top of the flag pole for `Jack', obtained in Boise at Jack in the Box.

8/15/97 Friday
Bellevue -to- Wood River NF Camp (29 mi : 1280')

I didn't sleep well last night. Couldn't get to sleep so I read till my batteries died. At 12:00 two dogs came by, one mixed and another looked to be a black lab/great Dane puppy, he was very big. They both stuck their heads in the tent and licked my face, happy dogs. The puppy came back later wanting his ears scratched. Woke up about 6:30 feeling tired but awake and not sick. SO, I packed up, ate some cereal and was on the road at an incredible 7:30 AM. I usually don't get going before 10:00. It was chilly biking this early.

There is a bike path from Bellevue all the way to Ketchum. I'm sure it goes on to Sun Valley but I didn't travel that portion. The bike path is flat or gradually up to Hailey. It travels through an open valley here, nice views but not spectacular. Very little traffic on the bike path. I had coffee in Hailey. I wanted to pick up a freeze dried dinner or two so I checked the phone book and found two backpacking stores in Ketchum. Also, one of the bike shops in Hailey advertised a Vision recumbent! How things have changed in the last 10 years, used to be there were two or three places in the country one could buy a recumbent.

The ride to Ketchum was nice, same terrain but the path became more crowded. Ketchum is a very up-scale, tourist town. Crowded with squeaky clean people of little friendliness. A lot like upper end city folk, which I guess they are. Cordial as required but far from friendly. I ate a nice lunch and bought some groceries. I then found a backpacking store but they were out of freeze dried food. This turned out to be on the north end of town so instead of going back (never go back) I headed out.

North of Ketchum the country and scenery improve. The roads are great through here, wide shoulders with light traffic. Wonderful biking. It was gradually up from Ketchum. No stores after Ketchum so stock up there. I stopped just inside the National Forest boundary at a nice forest camp. I went for a "swim" in the Wood River, invigorating but I'm clean. There was a head wind all day, bad towards the end. Weather is great though, cool nights with warm sunny afternoons. Touring again, feels good.

8/16/97 Saturday
Wood River -to- Stanley (54 mi : 2660')

I was awake at 5:00 waiting for the sun. Not like me but what can you do. It's cold that early in the mountains. I was up and on the road by 7:00, totally unnatural. They never came around to collect for the camp site so it was free. I went back 2 miles to the visitors center and called Denise at her brothers in Canada, she's fine. It was unexpectedly down hill this 2 miles so I am climbing more than I thought. Nice climbing though, not steep enough to be in the granny. This continued for some 20 miles. I stopped once and made tea and ate. At about 20 miles I came upon Galena Lodge which was just opening for lunch. This is the only chance for a meal between Ketchum and Stanley, but then I didn't expect to find any. Just after Galena Lodge the real climb to Galena summit starts. It's about 5 miles of 6%, not gross but a slow 2nd gear climb. The scenery is nice through here with enough elevation to see vistas. It wasn't hot and even cool by the summit. I rested at Galena Summit while anticipating the downhill.

A mile or two down from the summit I stopped at an overlook. From here the Sawtooth Range can be seen, spectacular. This is near the headwaters of the Salmon River which I'll follow all the way to Salmon. The steep decent lasted some 5 miles. This was fun but the next 20 miles were wonderful. I followed the Salmon River, with the Sawtooths to my left, cruising at 15-20 mph (very fast for me). Good roads all day. The shoulders were a little narrow over the pass but OK. Traffic was heavy, probably because of the weekend.

As I descended it became warmer. Some three miles from Stanley I pulled into a forest camp. One of the first I saw since the summit since most are off the main road. This one wasn't a great campground, dusty with hand pumped water and pit toilets. Now I don't mind this but they charged $9!! Welcome to a high traffic, tourist oriented wilderness. Those Sawtooths are scenic though.

8/17/97 Sunday
Stanley -to- East Fork CG (43 mi : 270')

Slept well and was awake when it got light. It was cold this early. Up for tea and breakfast. I wanted to wait for my tent to dry (dew) but there were enough trees that it would have taken a long time. I packed, put on warm clothes and headed into Stanley for a second breakfast, French toast. Stanley is a very small seasonal town. I'd guess it's supported by rafters, fishermen and tourists in that order. The town is set at the base of the Sawtooths, very spectacular. I bought a very expensive freeze dried dinner to replace the horrid one I ate last night then on towards Challis. I'd left camp around 8:00 and rolled out of Stanley at 9:30.

It warmed quite a bit while I was in Stanley. A wonderful day for biking, crystal clear and sunny. I was told there was a hot spring just outside Stanley so I kept an eye out. Even then I almost missed it. There was just a little steam over the bank towards the river a mile or two from town. There was a square wooden tub some 4' by 4' being filled with hot water coming out of the hillside. This pool was too hot but where it spilled over and mixed with river water was about right. SO, I had to stop and enjoy the hot water for quite a while. Hey, I'm on vacation here. The hot water would spread over the incoming cold river water creating layers. I had to keep moving a little to mix them. A great spot. I got back onto the road about 11:30.

The country before Stanley had few trees in the valley, but more up the mountains. After Stanley there were trees as the road follows the river through its canyon. Arid country, like home in eastern Oregon. I was told there are thick forests towards the mountains as one climbs out of the canyon. All these climbs are on dirt roads that I suspect are steep. I was not tempted to investigate. I'd guess the valley/canyon traveled is in the shadow of the mountains and gets little rain.

There was a second hot spring, well marked as a historical site several miles from the first. I had to stop and try it. It wasn't as nice as the first and I had to share it so I didn't stay as long.

Some 20 miles from camp I came around a bend and hit an ugly head wind. I was not impressed and I told that wind that if it was set on blowing it should be a tailwind. It was a nice wind and said "I see your point, I can do that". SO, the last 10 or 15 miles of the day was downhill with a good tailwind, sunny and warm. It doesn't get any better than this. The roads were great, even besides being downhill. Not too much traffic and a good shoulder.

There was a small store in Clayton, about 10 miles from where I camped. I picked up milk for breakfast and a beer. Then on to camp.

I stopped in a BLM campground by the river around 5:00, very nice for $5. Nicer than the NF camp last night at almost half the price. With the arid climate and the helpful wind my tent dried easily. I hung up the groundcloth and it was dry by the time I got the fly out! I went for a `swim' to get clean and had dinner. A marvelous day.

8/18/97 Monday
East Fork CG -to- Challis (31 mi : 640')

I left camp around 9:00. It wasn't as cold this morning, maybe lower or just later. I followed the river and valley/canyon down to Challis and Hwy 93. A nice ride on continued good roads.

Challis is a two market town, bigger than Stanley. I doesn't seem to be as tourist oriented as Stanley. I'm not sure what the economy is based on, maybe a mix. I washed clothes and bought food. There was a CG with hot pools I decided to stay at. It's within a mile of downtown Challis but one has to backtrack beyond the 75-93 junction for a bridge to the other side of the river, an 8 mile trip.

I spent most of the day at this CG sitting in the hot pools. They had two pools, one too hot and one not quite hot enough. I had to keep going back and forth. The hot pool was an indicator that I got a little sun burned sitting in the pool yesterday. A good lazy day.

8/19/97 Tuesday
Challis -to- Salmon (69 mi : 800')

Packed and on the road about 9:00. Another beautiful day, cool to start then warm and sunny. The road was downhill, again, all day long. Not much wind today.

I talked to a farmer along the way. I asked about the mountains around here and it sounded like there are 4 or 5 ranges, a jumble. The whole trip from Stanley to Salmon is quite scenic but one can't see out of the valley/canyon to the mountain. The river vistas are nice and keep changing. The road, now Hwy 93, is good with wide shoulders. The traffic wasn't bad until some five miles from Salmon. The country opened out into a wide valley and the local traffic became heavy. Good shoulders so no problem but less fun biking.

I set up camp at a private camp in Salmon and went out for dinner. While eating I saw two bike tourists with trailers and a dog go by. Those were the first tourists I'd seen this trip, This must not be a major route. Salmon seems like a mix of tourism and other businesses. This is the largest town near the start of the River of No Return float trips. Salmon, like Challis, is a two grocery town.

8/20/97 Wednesday
Salmon -to- Gibbonsville (34mi : 960')

This morning I finished by book while waiting for my tent and ground cloth to dry. Wasn't on the road till about 10:30. Traffic was thick in an around town (as in Ketchum and Challis) but fine once out of town. The roads are still good with wide shoulders. There was a high overcast when I got up but it cleared nicely. Sunny most of the day.

I continued to follow the Salmon River down hill for 20 miles to North Fork. North Fork is a small town with one gift/cafe/store in a single building. I ate lunch here and watched two hummingbirds for awhile. Pleasant.

I've learned the road up Lost Trail pass is closed on this side to bicycles. There is a lot of construction and they are letting cars through with a pilot once each 2 hours. I guess I'll have to get a ride to the top of Lost Trail pass, oh darn. I'd decided to stop this side of the construction and try to get through it early tomorrow. I found a small motel/cabins close to the construction in Gibbonsville.

From North Fork the highway leaves the river and starts up. It had warmed up to hot, climbing at 6mph with a 6mph tailwind. No shade but lottsa sun. Not a real bad climb but certainly up.

The motel/cabins is about all there is in Gibbonsville. The cabin was $26 ($30 with tax) and I cooked dinner there after a good shower. Well, after two beers I did these things. I did say it was hot. A thunderstorm rolled through after dinner, glad I have a roof.

8/21/97 Thursday
Gibbonsville -to- Hamilton (44 mi : 520')

I was up at 7:30 and went to the lodge for breakfast. Surprise, no breakfast, not open. I must have looked devastated cuz they fed me toast and coffee for $2. I packed up and went out to the road at 9:00. I tried to hitch hike from here since I didn't know what was at the start of the construction. They were letting cars through at 10, 12, 2 & 4. I was surprised no-one stopped. Many empty pick-ups and vans, and they knew there was construction ahead which I couldn't ride through, I standing there with a loaded bike. So much for western hospitality.

At 10:00 I rode 3 or 4 miles to the start of construction. The woman running the pilot car, a pick-up said she'd give me a ride. I waited around for the next flight at 12:00 and was taken the 9 miles to the top without problems. It will be nice when the road is done. It looked to be wide and I'm sure will have good shoulders. A lot of time and expense is going into having a consistent grade or some 5 or 6%. It would be a long climb just the same. The road comes up a canyon and turns more and more forested at higher elevations. It goes over the Bitterroot Range and the summit is very close to the continental divide.

I arrived at the pass at 12:30, the same as if I'd biked it. Coming down the north side of Lost Trail pass is as steep as going up the other side, some 8 miles of 35-40mph flying. Coming down one can see the Bitterroot Range to the west, quite spectacular. I talked to one bike tourist who was going up, he was on a LWB Vangard recumbent traveling from Oregon to Missouri. Turns out this part of 93 (from where 43 joins it at the summit) is on Adventure Cycling's original (Bikecentenial) cross country route. My route and this transcon are the same for the rest of my trip.

After the 8 miles of flying ended it was still a wonderful run down another valley/canyon. Just past Sula a motorhome was stopped in its lane going the other way. Wildlife, maybe deer or a moose? Turned out to be 10 or 15 big horn sheep. I, with my red flag, startled them but they didn't go far. I took pictures.

In Darby I bought food but still can't find cereal, breakfast tea, powdered milk, small package of cookies, etc. Stopped at a cafe/bar some 10 miles on and checked the phone book for a campground which I knew was around. It turned out to be 1/4 mi down the road, more good karma. I camped there and came back to the cafe/bar for dinner, good food.

The roads have been good, newer road coming off the summit with fog line and some shoulder. The traffic was very light to non-existant with the bottleneck of construction. After Darby there was a 6 foot shoulder but the traffic did pick up.

8/22/97 Friday
Hamilton -to- Missoula (65 mi : 600')

I was up about 7:00 this morning. A transcon biker came in late last night and we talked a little. On the road about 8:30. Downhill with a tailwind, not a bad start to the day. Where possible I took secondary roads to avoid 93 (Hwy 269 then 203). The roads were busy but not too bad. Rolling hills, nice riding.

I stopped for coffee & toast in Stevensville, bad coffee and worse service.

Once back on 93 the traffic was nearly one solid line of cars. A lot of people headed from Missoula into the mountains for the weekend? Good shoulders of 5 or 6 feet but noisy traffic. Some 5 miles from Missoula, hungry & irritable, I stopped by the side of the road for a snack. I thought this better than go on into Missoula and try to interact with people. Probably a good choice. With no wind it was very hot, a sign in town showed 93 deg.

Missoula is a small city, or so it seems. I'm sure it would be fine for riding if one knew the routes but I didn't and didn't have a map. But I did find a bike store (patch kit), an outdoor store (bulk white gas), and Adventure Cycling Assoc. Headquarters. I picked up the ACA maps since I was on one of their routes. Picked up food and headed for camp.

I stayed at the KOA in town. They now have "mini-sites" for $7, not a bad deal for a KOA. I washed clothes and went out to dinner. I spent the early evening sitting it the KOA hot tub. Not really hot, more like luke warm but nice none the less.

They are predicting a storm to come through around Sunday. The weather has been wonderful so far, can't last forever I suppose.

8/23/97 Saturday
Missoula -to- Lolo Hot Springs (39mi : 1120')

Another great day. I was up and going by 8:00. This area around the KOA has grown a lot since I was here in 1995. I remember looking around here for dinner and finding little, now there's Windy's, Taco Bell, Perkins, Giros, etc. There's even a giant new electronics store and other such stuff.

Traffic wasn't too bad at 8:00 on Saturday morning but still a pain. It was busy to Lolo and it was a relief to turn up hwy 12. From there the traffic was much better, busy but enjoyable with a reasonable shoulder. It is uphill but not a lot, some 1000' in 20 miles, nice riding. It did get hot around noon or one and I had a headwind the last 6 or 8 miles. All in all a good ride. The country is nice through here. It is forested, or at least was until the loggers massacred much of it.

I'm camping at Lolo Hot Springs. I thought it would be crowded but isn't. The hot springs are nice, one large swimming pool just right for sitting in a long time. A second hotter pool was also there, good for sore muscles. I had dinner at the new motel/restaurant, good food.

After sunset there was lightning and some rain. Thunderstorm or storm front?

8/24/97 Sunday
Lolo Hot Springs -to- past Powell (35mi : 1190')

About 6:00 this morning it started to rain, hard. I read a while trying to decide whether to stay put, go across the road and get a room, or go over Lolo pass to Powell. I decided to take a nap. When I woke at 9:30 it was clearing. It did clear, sun and everything, so I decided to travel to Powell. I slowly packed and got on the road around 11:00.

The climb wasn't too bad, 5% the last 4 miles. The last mile though the clouds came in and it rained, hard drenching downpour. Gortex worked as well as anything in this weather. My feet got wet through my booties, seemed to seep in from the rear seam. At the summit there was a visitors center that had complimentary hot drinks (cocoa, coffee, etc). A wonderful thing to find when cold and wet. I ate lunch and waited an hour or so. The rain finally let up so I put on all my warm clothes, wet rain gear, and headed off the pass.

Some 5 miles of 6% down, it didn't seem to last very long. The country was beautiful with wisps of cloud. Overcast but with patches of sun. A very nice ride down to Powell. I was going to get a cabin there but they were full. Full on a Sunday night? It's the only place from the hot springs to Lowell so I ate an early dinner at 3:30 and headed on.

There are a lot of campgrounds along the Lochsa River. I went into several which each had water pumps, pit toilets and `boil your water' signs. They wanted $8 for these! I decided each time I could do better, I can boil my own water anywhere. After some 10 miles I free camped right by the river. A nice spot.

The roads are good, but with a good deal of semi truck traffic. There are usually shoulders but narrow. However, the traffic was light overall and I didn't think too bad. The ACA maps warn of this semi traffic but it wasn't that bad. I've been on much worse roads.

8/25/97 Monday
below Powell -to- Lowell (54mi : 30')

50+ miles with a total of 30' climbing! Yes, gloriously downhill.

I missed getting the sunrise in my front door by 10 or 20 degrees, canyon wasn't quite in the right direction. Up and going around 8:00. Sunny but cool this early. From the rain at Lolo Hot Springs and the rain yesterday I started with wet shoes, booties, tent, and seat cushion. Glad it was a dry day and I could gradually dry.

This ride down the Lochsa River is wonderful. The scenery is spectacular. It was similar to following the Salmon River earlier in the trip. The gradual downhill makes for easy riding. Fun. I heard and saw several osprey along with fly fishermen. I traveled slowly stopping for the views. It got hot in the afternoon, fine for going downhill but would have been uncomfortable climbing. The climb up this side wouldn't be bad though, a long gradual climb.

I arrived at Lowell around 3:00 for pie. I'm staying in a private camp which has three (3) hot tubs. Very nice and all for $5 per person. For me, $5.

8/26/97 Tuesday
Lowell -to- Grangeville (49 mi : 2370')

Up and on the road at 8:30. The tent was dry (no dew) so I was going early. After Lowell the river and valley widen and it's not as noticably downhill. Not as much scenery, nice but not spectacular. It was a good run down to Kooskia where I ate lunch. Low elevation here, lowest of the trip, and it was hot. Here I turned off hwy 12 onto 13 and lost most of the semi truck traffic.

From Kooskia hwy 13 follows the South Fork of the Clearwater and starts to climb. This was a pleasant climb along the river. After Harpster the road leaves the river (where hwy 14 takes off) and hwy 13 climbs out of the canyon. A steep ugly climb, partly due to it being so hot, some 4 miles of 6+%. Just before leaving the river I did stop for a swim and got cooled off.

The ACA map indicated the road leveled out 6 or 8 miles from Grangeville, at least that's what I got from the contour lines. This is true, partly. After the main climb the terrain, and with it the road, traverse short steep hills. The road was a pain also with its new, sticky tar/chip seal. This last portion was narrower but still with little traffic.

In Grangeville I stopped at the first motel I saw. I heard there were two recumbents on that climb but I doubted it. Later Keith came by my room and confirmed this. He was riding a Bike-E CLWB recumbent cross country. We went out to dinner and talked touring for awhile. I then watched TV and rested. Quite a treat to have a TV and a real bed.

8/27/97 Wednesday
Grangeville -to- Riggins (49mi : 1800')

I was up and moving around 7:00. Keith & I were going to leave together so we got a late start. I bought food & a book, ate breakfast and packed. We were on the road about 10:00. We found the old highway over White Bird Hill. This old section isn't marked on the ACA maps but is much nicer than hwy 95. It was a climb but wandered through the trees where we had some shade and a good view north. From the summit we took the old road down White Bird. This involved many many switch backs. It would be a pain to climb but I think preferable to hwy 95 (miles of 7%) which would be the alternate. The old road is longer but not as steep, also no traffic.

At the bottom, in White Bird, I ate lunch and waited for Keith who had a flat coming down. Ate more lunch at got going around 2:00. There were a couple of large rolling hills which were hot and slow but the road soon leveled out and followed the Salmon River up its canyon. This is the same river I followed to the town of Salmon where it went into the River of No Return wilderness. It comes out of the wilderness at Riggins and flows through White Bird. The Salmon River and its canyon is bigger here. The scenery through here is quite nice. Hwy 95 has good shoulders and not much traffic. A nice ride.

We were into Riggins about 6:00. As we were picking a site two bikers came through and we finally decided to share a site. Don & Ken were traveling cross country to Oregon then down the coast. They must have been chasing Keith because they knew of him and were expecting to see him any day. Don and Ken were as one would expect, long distance tourists in their third month of travel to be, dusty but prepared. They've bike toured before. Keith on the other hand, had learned much about bike touring since his start.

It took forever to get every one together for pizza and beer about 8:30. We got back to camp about 10:00, way too late for me.

8/28/97 Thursday
Riggins -to- New Meadows (32 mi : 2160')

Up and going about 9:30 after sleeping in late. Don and Ken were gone early trying to reach Baker for a mail drop before noon Saturday. Didn't see them again.

From Riggins the highway leaves the Salmon River and follows a smaller river up. Not a bad climb to start but noticeable. It does gain in slope until it's quite steep, 6% or so. The traffic isn't too heavy but quite a bit of semi truck traffic. For much of the route the road is wide with a good shoulder. However, one section had been washed out and replaced, I hope temporarily. Here it was very narrow and winding, with no shoulder. With the semi trucks this was a dangerous section.

The route follows a canyon and is scenic. After a good bit of climbing the road leveled into a large valley. The town of New Meadows is at the southern end. Midway through the valley is Zim's Hot Springs where I'm to meet Denise and end my tour, Keith went on. I set up camp and sat in the hot springs much of the afternoon. A nice swimming pool just the right temperature. The showers were poor though, no cold just scalding hot water. I biked into New Meadows for a dinner celebration and got back just before dark. Wouldn't you know there was a head wind coming back to camp. It's cooler here than Riggins, probably due to the 2000' elevation difference.

All in all a great bike tour. From Ketchum to Kooskia, leaving out the portion around Missoula, is some of the nicest bike touring I've done. Great scenery mostly following rivers. In spite of the passes I'd recommend this tour highly.