Biking the Trail of the Hiawatha in Idaho

August 1, 2015

My wife and I had done every interesting mountain biking trail within several hundred miles of the San Francisco Bay area so we headed about 1000 miles north into Idaho.  We researched and found many rather easy but pretty trails, including the Trail of the Hiawatha,

Typical trail scenery

Typical trail scenery

about which I will provide the information below:

How to get there?

Cross the border from Idaho into Montana on Highway 90, go 5 miles into Montana and take exit 5.  There will be a weird gravel road right away that crosses through what looks like a large parking or storage lot and look for signage directing to East Portal Trailhead.  Follow the nice gravel road for about 2 miles till you reach the large parking area at the trailhead.

What to bring?

You will definitely need a helmet and a good strong flashlight for each person to get you safely through the first one mile long tunnel.  After that the flashlight is helpful but is not as necessary as the tunnels are much shorter and you can see the end soon after entering.  You will need cash to pay for the return shuttle and in 2015 $10 to pay for the trail usage if you can find an official to take the money.  We paid our usage fee to the shuttle people when we paid for the shuttle just before boarding.  I would suggest starting before 9am because by noon the temperature goes way up.

Is it ok for kids?

Definitely, unless they freak out in dark, poorly lit places or can’t bike slightly downhill for 17 miles.  We saw several young children and they were doing fine, but it is a 3 to 4 hour trip.

How does one get back to the car?

Most people go just the one way.  Starting at the East Portal trailhead, after  going through the first long tunnel and dropping slowly downhill for 17 miles you reach the Pearson trailhead where shuttle buses (old yellow schoolbuses)  are available every hour or so to take you back.  The shuttle schedules for different times of the year are available online.  The cost in 2015 was $9 per person and it took the bus well over half an hour returning on various roads to take you back to the end of the first long tunnel, which you then have to bike back through to get to your car.

Shuttle bus being loaded

Shuttle bus being loaded

Shuttle bus loaded with bikes for return trip

Shuttle bus loaded with bikes for return trip

What is it like riding the trail?

The trail is easy, long, has beautiful scenery, but to me was not real exciting (except for the initial 8000 feet going through the tunnel).  It was dark and wet and a bit scary – you have to pay attention.

Pretty drk!

Pretty dark

Saint Paul Pass (Taft) Tunnel

Saint Paul Pass (Taft) Tunnel

One of the highlights was the great descriptive information pedestals along the way.  They were fun to read.

Smooth as sILK

Smooth as sILK

Signs, Wires & Whistles

Signs, Wires & Whistles

The scenery was lovely, especially liked the long trail bridge seen from a distance.

 

Long bridge

Long bridge

On and On

On and On

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All good things must come to an

END

END

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Anthony Chabot Regional Park, CA – August, 2008

September 12, 2008

We had been tenting, or “camping” in Fire Lookouts for the past year, so our old Motorhome had just been gathering dust. It was past time for at least an overnight trip, somewhere close by, where we could mountain bike and still check that all the various seals

Wide Brandon Trail

Wide Brandon Trail

and components of our rig were still functioning. Anthony Chabot Regional Park, in the East Bay, was the perfect fit.

Bikes on back, food and clothes for 2 days and 1 night – we were off. The Campground is on the East side of the long and narrow park. We pulled in, found a campsite (quite easy since it was a Tuesday and not the weekend), paid, and started reading the trail map.

We decided to do the 12+ mile Lake Chabot Bicycle Loop Trail. Chabot is a beautiful hilly park, where it seems most of the time you are either pedaling hard up hill, or breaking as you fly down. Starting off on the Brandon Trail with tall eucalyptus shading the wide dirt trail, we could hear the wha-oombb
of the near by riffle range.

The red poison oak leaves were very beautiful – just don’t touch them. You pop out into sunshine and eventually come to where the trail is paved along the entire West side of the Lake. After 6 miles we had an apple and some peanuts, with a cool drink of water. You need lots of water on this up and down trail. Then on past the Marina where the next day we decided to rent an electric boat. (Tuesdays and Wednesdays the rental fee was half price.) But now we circled the lake and eventually were back on dirt trails. Finally, after an extremely steep ascent (pushing our bikes on this 500′ gain) we were back at our Motorhome where we were greeted by Wild Turkeys. Tired but very happy. Definitely must come back here again.

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Beach Train – From Felton to Santa Cruz, California

August 9, 2008

From towering redwoods to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. This was going to be a great day! Lunch packed and bikes loaded,we had reserved our tickets from the Roaring Camp Railroad web site (www.roaringcamp.com), purposely selecting a weekday so there would be no problem bringing our mountain bikes on the train.

The Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway Company started carrying passengers and freight in 1875. They restarted using the line in 1985. The Beach Train,

Beach Train - Felton to Santa Cruz, California

Beach Train - Felton to Santa Cruz, California

with a big diesel engine, now runs on standard gauge track, traveling on the former narrow gauge track bed that once hauled gigantic redwoods, and later limestone used for cement. Leaving from Felton at 10:30AM, we traveled through the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, alongside the San Lorenzo River Gorge, and came to rest in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk one hour later. The Gallery of photos will explain it all.

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Five Fire Lookouts in Ten Days – Robbs Hutt – 1st stop on Fire Lookout Trip – July, 2008

August 9, 2008

Rent Fire Lookouts? Absolutely! It seemed a weirdly appropriate time to visit these former sentinels of our forests with our sky hazy from all the fires burning in Northern California.

The car was full and the mountain bikes hung on the back. Why is it, when one says they are “getting away from it all”, they

Calpine Fire Lookout

Calpine Fire Lookout

seem to bring so much with them? Beauty and peace were awaiting us. Follow along with this and our other Forest Fire Lookout posts.

Aspen Guard Station

Aspen Guard Station

Robbs Hut At Sundown

Robbs Hut At Sundown

Butler Butte Cabin

Butler Butte Cabin

Bolan Mountain Lookout

Bolan Mountain Lookout

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We headed North to Robb’s Hut, a very primitive back-country cabin at an elevation of 6686 feet. But what is decommissioned Fire Lookout?

A Fire Lookout, Guard Station or Cabin, are places where observers watched for forest fires. Now, with the advent of satellites and other heat imaging sources, many of these former sites have been decommissioned and are now for rent. Quite often they are high in the mountains, in beautiful and rugged terrain with 360 degree views. To reach them you often travel on unpaved Forest Service roads where a few, though definitely not all, requite 4 wheel drive. Go to the US Forest Service Recreation Rental of the Pacific Northwest (http://fs.fed.us/r6/recreation/rentals) or check out the Forest Fire Lookout Rentals in your state. Another excellent site is Rex’s Forest Fire Lookout Page (http://www.firelookout.com/links.html).

Since most of the sites are rather primitive, think of it as camping inside. They range from having no amenities but a roof and walls, to having propane lights and a stove. A few even have propane refrigerator. Most do not have water and the toilet facilities is an outhouse, far far away. Ok – it just seems like that at night. Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, here comes the encyclopedia.

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ROBBS HUT

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Robbs Hut is the first Lookout on our trip. Checkout the Gallery of Photos below.


Bolan Mountain Lookout – 5th stop on Fire Lookout Vacation – July, 2008

July 29, 2008

Bolan Mountain Lookout, in Oregon, is what most people think of when they envision Fire Lookouts. Powerful and magnificent, it sits high up on a rugged mountain top. Bolan is a very late opening rental (this year July 9th), due to its annual heavy snowfall.

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Butler Butte Cabin – 4th stop on Fire Lookout Trip – July, 2008

July 29, 2008

Butler Butte Cabin, in Oregon,  is our 4th stop on our Fire Lookout trip. At the bottom of the Butler Butte Picture Gallery there are several pictures of some places we stopped at along the way.

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Aspen Cabin Pictures – Third stop on Fire Lookout Trip – July, 2008

July 29, 2008

ASPEN CABIN

At the third stop, now in Oregon, of our Five Fire Lookout vacation trip we came to an almost fairytale like cabin in the woods. Lovely!

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