Day 23: Lowell, Idaho to Powell, Idaho

I stayed in the motel unit in Lowell, Idaho, because there was talk of temperatures near freezing, but it didn’t get quite that cold. It was cold enough in for the morning departure that I did wear all my heavy clothing and I didn’t regret having the motel room. The WiFi there was useless, but that was becoming the norm.

Keep in mind that most of the places I’ve mentioned in Idaho are very small towns, if a town at all. Lowell had a sign in front of the cafe that showed a population of 24 that was scratched out and 23 written over it. I was afraid to ask what happened to #24.

20160804_080657
Population change in Lowell, Idaho.

My destination for the day was Powell, Idaho, 66 miles away. There would be no cafe stops or stores along the way, it is all wilderness. The road follows a river upstream, which to a bicyclist, means an uphill ride all day. It wasn’t a big climb, but it is a constant uphill with no break. The total climb for the day was 1944 feet (592 m).

My plan was to ride the entire distance. The fall-back plan was, if I tired, to camp somewhere along the way. The road, which is also the path that Lewis and Clark took on their expedition, runs through the Bitterroot Wilderness and is stunningly beautiful.

Lewis and Clark sign.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, in 1804-05, passed through this same trail, both on the way west and the return to the east.

One advantage to riding a bicycle is the animal life doesn’t hear you approaching so there are many opportunities to observe deer, badgers, moose, Colombian ground squirrels and other natives of the area. I hoped to see a Canadian Lynx, they’re endangered, but failed to do so.

The route, for most of the day, was a bit monotonous: pedal up grade, turn corner, take in breathtaking beauty, repeat.

20160804_104502
66 Miles of beauty, fish, moose, deer and outdoor life.

It wasn’t all lonesome. Along the way I would chat with people pulled over at the numerous “turn-offs,” as they call them here. See photo above. Fly fishing seemed to be the main event of the day and I saw dozens of people trying there hand at it, although, I don’t recall anyone with a fish.

Most of the bicycle traffic I have been seeing over the weeks has been headed west. Today, Wendy, and east-bound rider, passed me and accelerated away. Ah youth, to be young again. I would see her later at the campground.

I arrived in Powell late in the day. Actually, I arrived at where Powell is on the map. As near as I could tell there isn’t actually a town of “Powell.” There is a popular vacation lodge there which hosts cabins, campsites for bicyclists and a very nice restaurant. After a long day without a real meal, I was ready.

As I rode down the dirt road into the cabin area I came up behind a tanker truck spraying water on the road to keep the dust down. It was only moving about a walking pace so I kept my distance behind it to avoid getting wet. I spotted a nice group of folks sitting out in front of their cabin and pulled over to ask how far it was to the restaurant.

With all the noise of the truck spraying, and the people yelling instructions to me, a dog that was sitting on one of the people’s laps decided she had had enough and sprung loose from her leash and charged at me and sunk her teeth into my foot, which was still clipped to the bike pedal.

It all happened so fast that it really didn’t register at first, then I felt my toes being squeezed. Even though I was wearing sandals, it did get my attention. I lifted my foot and the poor animal went flying, maybe six or seven feet.

I’m certain the owner was horrified to see her black schnauzer sailing through the air, but I was relieved to know that my foot was fine. Surprised, the dog limped off back to her owner. There was a second dog there, but he was big and didn’t seem in the least bit interested. Thank goodness.

Starving as I was I didn’t give much thought to the incident and got instructions to the restaurant. After a monstrous turkey club sandwich, with salad, I returned to put up my tent and check on the dog. I really didn’t want to hurt her, being a dog lover.

The group greeted me and the dog, Sophie, kept a wary eye on me. The other dog, a big friendly thing, became my immediate friend. Sophie and I kept an uneasy truce and all was well. She wasn’t hurt, other than perhaps her dignity. They were a nice bunch of folks and invited me for a drink, but I figured I would pass out if I had anything. All I wanted to do was put up the tent, shower and get to sleep. Hopefully, someone in the group will send me a nice photo of Sophie.

 

Bike camping at the Lochsa Lodge is free for bicyclists and of course use of the bathroom facilities. The lawns are lush and green and a welcome sight at the end of long day. The showers are $5.00 and well worth it. They supply you with a towel, shampoo, soap and a very nice private shower room. I highly recommend this place. They are open year round and the restaurant is exceptional. Try the Moose Drool beer. Additionally, they have a very well stocked camp store.

Watch for a little black schnauzer on the way there, she has an odd way of greeting you.

Day 18: Woodhead Park, Idaho, to Cambridge, Idaho

Only 26.39  miles (42.5 km) today, for a grand total of 639 miles (1028 km).

There was one serious climb over Brownlee Pass, 4131 feet (1259 m). Actual climbing from the campground was something like 2400 feet (732 m). The first 2/3 of the climb wasn’t too bad. I had stopped for breakfast at the cafe/general store two miles from the camp. I had pancakes that were way bigger than I could finish. Fueled with a big breakfast and extra Gatorade, I was off around 09:00 am.

As the altitude and temperatures started to climb, I started to look for shady places to take breaks and have a drink. The drill is pretty simple, look ahead for shade, pull over and rest the bike against something secure, take out the liquids, check the shady area for rattlesnakes and then sit and cool for a while.

I spotted a cattle loading dock right next to the road. They locate them there so the truck doesn’t have to get too far from the pavement. I decided to pull over and take a break and then changed my mind. It wasn’t rattlesnakes:

Dogs that beat me to the shady spot. One is under the ramp.
Dogs that beat me to the shady spot. One is under the ramp.

The dogs just gave me a sideways glance and I suspect I could have taken up┬áspace next to the brown one and he wouldn’t have cared, it was too hot. They didn’t even bark. I wasn’t about to tempt fate, I moved along.

Up the road, I eventually found a cement wall the Forest Service had built and took shelter there. You can see by my face that it is hot out.

20160730_092918

Eventually, I did summit and had a mostly downhill ride to Cambridge, ID, and air conditioning.

20160730_121414~2

It always feels so good to see that elevation sign, this means it is time for some well deserved downhill.