Archive for the ‘coeur d alene’ Category.

Back to the CdA National Forest

John, Pat, and I had such a good time in the Coeur d’ Alene National Forest in June that we decided to go back this September.  Andre was interested and came along.  To fit the trip into a 3 day weekend Andre and I flew out from Seattle and borrow bikes from John and Pat.  We flew in Thursday night, drove out to the base camp, did a long ride on well established roads on Friday and a short ride exploring side trails on Saturday.  Saturday night Andre and I flew back to Seattle.

Our last trip turned from car camping into bike camping from a conversation that went something like this:

John: How far will we be from the car at the end of the day?
Alex: About 5 miles?
John: Why am I carrying all of this camping gear?  Let’s just ride back here.

This time we didn’t even kid ourselves with bike camping and went whole hog with the car camping.  John and Pat brought along a lot of food for us, two big stoves, a folding table, a pop-up shelter, 4 tents, more sleeping bags that you could imagine, and tons of other gear.  Andre and I just had to bring a little clothing, snacks for the day, and sleeping bags.

Thursday was chilly but it didn’t rain on us.  The first half of the ride used a route that Pat came up with, and took us to the same lunch spot at Magee Ranger Station that we visited before.  We started climbing immediately, but the first half of the climb was a good warm up with about 1000′ gained at 5-7% grade.  The second half was probably twice as steep on and worse condition roads.  The descent into Magee started a bit bumpy, but then we found some nice roads that were great to roll down.

The weather was colder than any of us had expected, but luckily not colder than what we had planned for.  At every stop it seemed like we were adding or removing jackets to keep comfortable. 

After lunch we had planned to follow our June route up to Spyglass Peak.  I was worried about getting that high in elevation and suggested my “wuss route” option.  It looked roughly the same length, but I thought it would keep us 1000′ lower in elevation.  I didn’t check any topo maps to figure that out though, so it ended up having just as much climbing.  It had good views though, and the descent ended about 2 miles from our campsite and kept us off of the only “busy” (meaning 2 cars an hour) road in the whole national forest.

On Saturday we went up what we call “John’s climb”.  We drove out on this road in June and John kept commenting on how nice of a climb it appeared to be.  This time we found it freshly graded and were enjoying the climb up.  Maybe 1/4 of the way up there was an interesting looking spur, so we followed that.  It was gated closed and isn’t used in the summer (only for snowmobiles in the winter), so it was quite grown over and involved some hike a bike.  We found an old building foundation, a tiny dam that must have been used to provide water for the building, and some good riding and hike a bike.  From there we followed a maze of closed roads (some with dead ends) back to camp.  The ride was probably less then 10 miles long, but the slower pace and interesting conditions were a nice change from Friday.

Thanks to John and Pat for loaning Andre and I gear and feeding us like kings.  Andre and I were brainstorming on where we’d take them for similar riding near Seattle and came up empty.  Spokane is lucky to have such a huge and little used national forest just a bit over an hour from downtown.  I’m guessing I’ll visit it again at least once next summer.

Friday’s Route: or GPX
Saturday’s Route: or GPX

Coeur d' Alene National Forest

(photos just in case you don’t have flash)
John, Larry, and I all wanted to get in a good ride this summer, but didn’t have a week to dedicate to something like our 2007 Gifford Pinchot tour. We decided that a long weekend ride would be a good idea. We always make John come west, so this time we headed east and picked the CdA National Forest as our target. John invited Pat along too, bringing the group size to 4.
Way back in March or April we got a personal guarantee of good weather from John with our mid-June riding date. Last week it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen and that rain was likely. The rain changed our parking location from being the corner of the forest to one of the central campgrounds. That made our first evening’s ride to our campsite much shorter.

On Friday morning we woke up to light rain, but as we ate lunch it began to clear and dry out. When I told John that we’d be ending the day about 5 miles from the car again he asked about just ditching the camping gear and turning it into a slightly longer day ride. That seemed like a good idea, so we rode back to the car, ditched gear,and started the loop.

We started near Huckleberry Campground right in the middle of the CdA National Forest. Pat really liked how Spyglass Peak looked on the map,so we concentrated on that part of the original route. The highlight there was a short but steep climb (seen on the map above between miles 25 and 30) followed by a long ridgeline descent.

Getting to Spyglass Peak meant riding to Magee first. The route to Magee is over an easy saddle (Leiberg Saddle) followed by a really nice descent through Tepee Creek and the meadows along it. This creek runs through a narrow valley with a wide meadow that must flood every year. The road is above the meadow and creek, giving you very nice views into the area below. It really reminded me of areas of Yellowstone National Park,only this valley wasn’t overrun with tourists.

We reached Magee around lunch time. Magee consists of 4 historic buildings and a backcountry airport where a ranger office used to be. We enjoyed a nice lunch there before heading uphill towards Spyglass Peak. The climb up towards Spyglass was almost perfect and a marvel of good surveying. It was steep,but not too steep (around 9% grade). The gradient was consistent and the road conditions were excellent. We saw a few moose on the way up. At the top we got to a ridgeline with good views in all directions.

The descent down the ridgeline was fun. The descent was a much lighter grade and just felt like it went on forever (if you look on the map above it looks like we were descending for about 20 miles before the next major climb). Once in a while there would be a half mile climb or so to get some more altitude. Since we were riding along the ridgeline we’d get views to the east, then cross over and get some views to the west. The weather was dynamic up there with areas of rain, sun, and sometimes both at once. The roads were a little damp (good for keeping the dust down) and had no washboard. It really made for some fun riding.

CdA National Forest is a maze. Every few miles we’d come to a N-way intersection and have to figure out our next turn. At Stull Saddle we ran into one thing that really threw us off. Pat looked at his paper map and said “we want to take 812 back to Leiberg Creek”. I looked at my GPS and said “I drew out this red line that we should follow”. It looked like the line might also follow 812, so we trusted Pat’s map and headed down 812. A mile or so down I kept slowing down and looking at the GPS and John asked me what was wrong. We weren’t on the red line, but I decided to trust the map more than the line.

We knew that we made a wrong turn when we got to a sign that said “Magee, 3 miles”. Oops! We turned uphill and did the climb up to Leiberg saddle again. There we found 260 which connected back to Stull Saddle. On the descent down from Leiberg Saddle we found the other 812. That mistake cost us 10+ miles, but they were enjoyable. If you go to the CdA National Forest I’d bring a GPS and the forest map, and still give yourself a little time to get lost.

The road back to our campsite seemed a lot longer on the way out than the way in. We made it back to our car and the camp area around 7pm, 10 hours or so after we left. A good long day on the road: roughly 65 miles and somewhere between 7,500 feet and 11,000 feet of climbing depending on which mapping software you trust. I think the 7,500 number is probably about right.

Saturday morning on the drive out we took some other very minor roads and saw more areas which are ripe for exploring. I really get the impression that you could park somewhere central and setup a base camp and find a new excellent loop every day for a week without duplicating much scenery. That would all be while staying on the labeled roads and ignoring the dozens of unmarked side roads and singletrack that we saw on our route. We made future plans to do exactly that. John and Pat are very lucky to have all of this great riding only a bit over an hour away.

Appendix A: Water Filters
This what water filtering looked like for us in 2007:

Roughly 3 minutes of annoying pumping for every 1 liter of water that you want.

This is what it looks like now:

30 seconds of going by the river to fill a bladder full of water. 5 minutes of waiting for gravity to do it’s work and filter 4 liters of water for you, during which time you can eat lunch, chat, or just enjoy the sun. It is a huge improvement. We brought along MSR and Platypus gravity water filters. Both use the same filter cartridge and technology. The MSR one has a nicer “dirty water” bladder, but doesn’t come with a “clean water” bladder (so it is $20 more expensive once you buy one of those). Either option is great.

Appendix B: CdA vs Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot has better scenery. We didn’t see anything like this, this, or this in CdA. The volcanic backdrop of Gifford Pinchot just adds more dynamic scenery to the picture.

Gifford Pinchot has more pavement.

CdA has more roads. It is a real maze in there, and you can pretty easily build loop routes of almost any length that you’d want. Our route had more out and back than we planned due to taking the “wrong” 812.

CdA seemed to have more wildlife. We saw many moose, a coyote, a few deers, and tons of birds.

Both are great and neither had much traffic.

Appendix C: Making a fender with campground materials

  • Reverse the dummy bolts in the rack mounting bosses on your seatstays so that they stick out a little bit.
  • Tie sticks to those bolts and the seattube.
  • Cut a few holes in a tyvek envelope (I brought this as a saddle cover), freeze dried food bag, or other trash and tie it to the sticks.

Appendix D: We need a name…

This isn’t touring, because we didn’t carry our gear. It isn’t mountain biking because the terrain wasn’t that technical and we went more miles. I guess some people call it “Adventure Cycling”, but to me that is the name of a magazine about bicycle touring. This is my favorite style of riding, and there isn’t a name for it.

Appendex E: Other links