Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 25, 6/2/10 - Wallace, ID

Just the Basics: We stayed in Wallace today, as planned - as expected, it rained steadily all day and was quite foggy at higher elevations. We had breakfast at the Red Light Garage (see below), a picnic lunch in our room, and dinner at the Pizza Factory. We shopped for lunch groceries and such; worked on email, bookkeeping, and postcards; did some work-related stuff (Riley); and hiked a bit to and on the Pulaski Tunnel Trail (see below). A great layover day - but we hope the weather is going to be better in days to come so we can make some progress!

Tomorrow: The weather is supposed to be better although there may be rain again in a day or two. We'll do 6 miles on the Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes to Mullan (where we hope to stop at a great coffee house we stopped at during last fall's biking vacation) and then onto I90 for the rest of the day, most likely to St. Regis - about 50 miles.

Today's Picture: Don't have one, thanks to weak batteries and rain. WELL - now we do; we took a picture of the Red Light Garage Thursday morning, and here it is! = )

For Those Who Want More:

The Red Light Garage: We ate at this local institution on last fall's trip and had breakfast there this morning, sharing a plate-sized huckleberry pancake and a Wallace Omelet. YUM!

Better than the food was another great conversation with proprietor Jamie Baker, who remembered us from our last visit. He also owns the Hercules Inn, restored the Hutton Home (May Hutton and her husband struck it rich here and were great benefactors of the town and the Northwest, generally) and has been involved in other restoration work here. The garage was once a real garage and has a charming, crazy, eclectic decor - including a small space vehicle out front! He writes the names of cross-country bikers who pass through on a back wall of the restaurant - ours are now there!

The Pulaski Tunnel Trail: In 1910 hundreds of wildfires were burning all over the dry West, with many in this area. Many of them combined and, aided by gale-force winds, suddenly exploded to become what is known as The Big Burn - it eventually burned 2.5 million acres.

The Forest Service was only 5 years old at the time. Ed Pulaski was a local forest ranger and during the blow-up, saved all but 6 of his 45 man crew by getting them into a local mining tunnel - the Nicholson. 75 men died in the first day of the Big Burn.

The Forest Service's heroic efforts helped institutionalize the Service - and also the aggressive suppression response to range and forest fires that dominated most of the 20th century, but is now being modified. We learned a lot about this fire on our bike trip to this area last year, including reading a book about it (called The Big Burn, we think); in addition, Becky's dad was a Forest Service biologist so we are always interested in stuff like this.

The Pulaski Tunnel Trail leads from a road in Wallace up to an overlook where one can see the entrance to the mine where Pulaski sheltered his men. We only walked part-way up - it climbs 800 feet and we have been getting plenty of exercise! - but it was a lovely trail and very well-maintained. A local resident told us today that Wallace is the wettest city in Idaho, and the trail area was reminiscent of the Olympic Peninsula's rain-forest area - very lush and green with lots of ferns and wildflowers. We saw Trillium, yellow and purple violets, something that was probably a wild strawberry, a yellow composite flower about the size of a balsam root flower but with very different foliage, giant dandelions - and lots of things we couldn't name.

We also really enjoyed walking to the trail from our motel - Wallace is full of early 19th century houses, many of them nicely restored with lovely yards, and much of the way we were along Placer Creek - which Southern Californians like ourselves might well call a river!

The Rain: We have been very fortunate that the days we have chosen as layover days for other reasons besides expected rain, (respite between mountain passes, Memorial Day traffic, or just "time for a break"), have proven to be nearly the only rainy days, while we have experienced less than maybe two or three hours of rain while riding so far. On our layover day today it rained almost continuously all day long - a very gentle fine rain. Looking from our big motel window at the forested mountain beyond, it was if there was a faint, beautiful gauzy curtain of rain before the wall of trees, almost like a continuous very fine snowfall.

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