IUA Hiking & Biking Adventure

Canada to Mexico thru Idaho, Utah, Arizona

Bicycling Trip #1

63 days, 2,000 miles, Jun-Aug, 2003

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Day 3 2003-06-14 page 3 of 59

Not long after nightfall, something started snorting in the woods nearby, and kept it up - on and off - for an hour. Probably deer rutting. We slept fitfully. We could not get comfortable because of the shape of the ground, hollow beneath our knees. We packed up and set off at 6:20 am.

We walked slowly at first, with stiff feet and ankles. We followed the road nearly to the highway, then turned left on a paved road leading south. We followed that for a mile, eventually it led down the slope, off the plateau, and down a little-traveled gravel road, to the farm land flood plain of the Kootenai River Valley. This was very green and beautiful country, pastoral, with a wonderful variety of roadside vegetation. We followed this road 5 miles, until it led up to the highway. We crossed highway and found a sidewalk, and walked a couple blocks down to the bridge over the Kootenai River, which was surprisingly wide. This bridge is why we had come this way. On the other side we wandered in to town and found a restaurant, where we ate a hearty breakfast.

My toes were heavily blistered; Jenny's were holding together well so far. We walked west a couple blocks to the Safeway store. They had a great supply of foot care items. We bought a number of things that we hoped would help sore and blistered feet and toes. Across the street at the Sheriff's station we were sitting on a bench outside, when a woman walked up and said, "You look like the lightweight people." We had no idea anyone would recognize us, so we thought she was talking about something entirely different. But no, she meant us, all right. We told her our names and shook hands, and asked her for her name, she was stunned and said she couldn't remember. At last she said Vicky. She knew all about us, said she had read Beyond Backpacking 3 times while highlighting the text. She had also seen our website and knew all about our Arctic kayaking. She also knew that we had not been on a long hike for several years. She and her husband ran a cattle ranch, up somewhere to the north. She also knew a fair amount of local geology, which she shared with us. Funny, she was not even a hiker, but she and her husband had lightweight packs, and she was keenly interested in lightweight gear. She asked how it feels to have started the whole thing. And of course she asked where we were headed. We told her we were headed toward Mexico, but didn't know how far we would get.

We wandered across the railroad tracks and found a faint trail up the hill to the highway. Again on a sidewalk we made our way into the upper lever of Bonner's Ferry, and proceeded about 1.5 miles to a large grocery store. We went in and bought more foot care items, snacks, apples, cheese, crackers, granola bars. While Jenny was in the store, I sat out front on a bench and talked to an Amish fellow. He was very interested in our trip. He wished us well on our journey. Everyone we have met have been very friendly. On the back roads the drivers are courteous and drive wide around us, with a wave.

In another block southwest we stopped at a gas station mini mart for cold drinks, and sat out back in the sunshine, relaxing and doctoring our feet. From there we followed a road leading south, curving around and then east up the hill to the top of the plateau called Paradise Valley. This route had looked good on my maps, but it turned out to be through private property. It didn't lead directly past any houses, at least not inescapably close, and we didn't know of any other options without backtracking a long ways, so we forged ahead and eventually reached the public roads at the top. This was quite a nice route, were it not for the private land.

We walked east half a mile then straight south on the road for several miles. At one point we stopped in the shade of an apple tree at a small cemetery. The reason we stopped here is that land everywhere else was private. Many farms and houses. This cemetery, being a public place, we could sit here without causing suspicion. We don't know if this happens with everyone walking along here, but the horses came trotting up to their fence lines near us. Several times this happened. We are starting to feel like animal magnets.

We continued another few miles south, then southwest, down the slope and then turned on to a dirt road leading up into the forest. This was at the base of the north end of the Cabinet Mountains. This was where we left most of the civilization behind. It was very pleasant walking up this seldom-used road. We had an aerial photo and a topo of this area, but despite these we could not find the proper road. Everywhere we went was some house tucked away in the forest. We had to back-track a quarter mile and follow quite a steep road, almost never traveled, past a gravel pit on the upper slope. Eventually this crossed a beautiful creek. We stopped for a sponge bath and washed a few clothes. We knew where this road was on the map, and it was not the road we needed to be on.

We followed a steep fire-break up the hill in the right direction. Eventually we came to our intended road, which hadn't been traveled in decades. Obviously this road had been closed and the private land was blocking it below. This road eventually jogged southeast across the base of the steep mountainside. This road might have been a good way to proceed, but it was not on our maps, so we followed the old, much smaller road leading steeply up the left side of the creek. The road started bearing left, away from the creek. We continued a ways, as I had planned. Then at the right place, we left the road and began the most daunting task of traversing through very thick forest and under story, across the creek. We kept traversing slowly through some devil's club. The slope above looked impossibly steep, where we had intended to go. One slip could have been disastrous. So we traversed to the right until we found a place where we could start climbing safely.

And so began a most arduous ascent, made difficult mainly by the logging that had left a tangle of sticks and branches and stumps. Sometimes we followed elk tracks on game trails. The climb was very steep and took us about one hour. A few times we had to angle off right to easier ground. Eventually we topped out at an old logging road. I thought this was the one I had meant to reach, so we followed it around to the other side of the knoll, but it dead ended. We hiked east up the ridge 20 minutes and started growing ever more perplexed. I got out GPS and found us on the map. We were 300 yards due west of our intended road. We had been headed in the right direction, we just needed to go farther.

The tarp anchored with rocks.

We continued up the slope to the east and eventually reached the correct road. By correct, I mean that I had planned this route very carefully back home. We walked half a mile southeast down the road, grown-over with grasses and showing zero traffic. We'd been looking for a campsite all afternoon. We finally called it quits right on the road, stopping at 6:45 pm. This was Forest Road 2617.

The story has 59 pages. This is page 3.
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