Northern Idaho is the Bomb!

Our summer RV adventures continued this week in northern Idaho and boy were we impressed! This place ticked off a lot of our “must haves” in a destination, and we are excited to share the highlights with you.

First we spent the night in a little town called Laclede which is the home to the Riley Creek Blueberry Farm.

Another Harvest Host property, we were able to stay on their grounds with our membership. Stan and Anita, the farmers and owners of Riley Creek, met us with a big smile and encouraged us to roam the farm. We picked blueberries and bought a blueberry pie and jam.

The best part, however, was the beautiful setting. We parked right in the middle of the blueberry bushes, surrounded by wild blackberries, farm animals, and a beautiful garden. With great weather and a few other very nice Harvest Host members, we enjoyed our overnight on the farm. It was hard to leave.

Oh, and there was a tractor!

Our next stop was Coeur d’Alene, and we were lucky to snag a spot at the Blackwell Island RV Park, right on the shores of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene. This was one of the nicer parks we’ve stayed in with sparkling clean laundry facility and a large beach from which to launch a kayak. We kept busy just at the RV park.

Of course, we did venture into the city several times and checked out the town. One morning we biked into town, watched runners of the Coeur d’Alene marathon, and had a cup of coffee.

Steve would have loved to run but we didn’t realize the race, modified for COVID-19, was being held over a three day period while we were there. 

From Coeur d’Alene we headed east along I-90 until we found the cute little historic town of Wallace, Idaho. We hadn’t planned on stopping here but when we learned about the Route of the Hiawatha, we found this town to be a convenient base.  We had no idea what we were in for! Wallace is an old silver mining town where every building in town is in the Registry of Historic Places. In town there is a mining museum, a railroad museum, and a bordello museum—all commemorating the area’s historic past. I did the Sierra Silver Mine tour and learned about the process and history of silver mining in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley.

Meanwhile Steve ran the Pulaski Trail, a two mile hike that commemorates the 1910 fire that ravaged the town and region. 

The real draw to Wallace these days is biking. Almost everyone at the Wallace RV Park where we stayed was doing the Route of the Hiawatha. Considered the “crown jewel” of America’s rails-to-trails routes, the Route of the Hiawatha follows the abandoned Milwaukee railroad grade.

Over the 15-mile downhill route we passed through ten tunnels and seven sky high steel trestles with sweeping views of the Bitterroot Mountain range. The adventure begins with the 1.7 mile long Taft tunnel which required us to use our lights and traverse through darkness. A little scary, but super fun!

Most do the Hiawatha in one direction and take a shuttle back to the beginning. It’s an easy, leisurely ride with interpretive signs along the way that inform about the development of the railroad and the area. Steve had planned to ride back up, get the car, and then come get me. Once we learned the drive to the finish took almost as long as the bike ride due to the terrain, and after seeing the crowds waiting for the shuttle, I decided to give the uphill return trip a try.

It was a long 15 miles uphill but rewarding to finish. Plus, we got to see the route from the other direction and really savor the experience. We even met a nice deer along the trail–probably because by that time there were few bikers on the trail.

Four hours on the bike over 30 miles was the most I’d done in a while!

Running right through Wallace and adjacent to our campground was the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Another rail-to-trail, this one runs through the Silver Valley from the Montana border to Coeur d’Alene.

Each day we enjoyed this relatively flat paved trail for a few miles in each direction. We keep saying, “Why doesn’t Arizona have trails like this?” 

One other interesting fact about Wallace: it’s the Center of the Universe. Supposedly a few of the locals decided it was so and they say that it is that way until proven otherwise. They even have a manhole cover in the main intersection to declare it. It must be so!

We’re now heading into Montana and then south to central Idaho for more fun. 

Leavenworth to Spokane with Santa’s Reindeer

Sometimes when you travel you stumble upon things you would never expect. Heck, that’s why we travel. But we never expect reindeer to be part of the story. Recently we spent time in Leavenworth, Washington as part of our Pacific Northwest roadtrip. As before we were based at a Thousand Trails campground. This one was quite a drive from the closest town, Leavenworth, but the surrounding area was spectacular. 

While in the area we took a day trip to Chelan, one of Washington’s premier resort towns. On the south shore of Lake Chelan, this town is all about the water. We checked it out, had a picnic, and then found ourselves at a local cidery to try out the local stuff. On our way to this area, about 75 miles from our campground, we drove through miles and miles of nearly ripe apple orchards. The cider, made locally, comes from those fields. Yes, we bought a few bottles to bring home!

One of the big highlights of our time in Leavenworth was a visit to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. While normally a holiday event, the local herd was happy to greet us and the local family that runs the farm told us all about the reindeer. Did you know a reindeer is really a domesticated caribou? We were introduced to each and every member of the herd and given a chance to feed them. These were some very friendly reindeer! We even had a chance to meet the farm’s flock of chickens.

Leavenworth is a German-themed tourist town, and it was packed the day we went to explore. In an effort to avoid the crowds, we just hit the local brewery and a nearby winery. We would definitely return to this area as there is so much to do. 

After a few days in Leavenworth we drove about four hours east to the Spokane area. Our first stop was at Walter’s Fruit Farm, a Harvest Host property, which allowed us to park in their field.  Along with one other RVing couple who parked next to us, we enjoyed the beautiful farm views and visited a local brewery that was just down the road. This area north of Spokane is called Green Bluff and has over 20 farms open to the public. Fruit and vegetables of all kinds were available right out of the ground. Too bad we were only there one night!

We heard there was great biking in the area and it did not disappoint! Twice we drove from our Thousand Trails campground to Spokane to explore the 37-mile, paved Spokane River Centennial Trail. The trail begins at the Idaho border and runs through Spokane to Riverside State Park alongside the Spokane River. First we focused on the downtown Spokane portion and took in Spokane Falls and the many bridges that cross the river.

On the second day we headed to Riverside State Park and jumped on the trail again. Views of Spokane and the Spokane River were incredible, and if we had more time, we would have covered more miles on this gem of a trail.

Some folks have been asking how we spend our “downtime” while on the road.  Well, Steve is sticking to his exercise routine and either biking or running from the campsite every day.  That gives me time to write, clean up, or pursue my newest “hobby,” needlepoint! I type that with sarcasm because I really don’t know what I’m doing but it’s been fun to fiddle with something while icing my foot. I can’t say this is going to be a life-long hobby but it’s kept me busy.

We’re headed east into Idaho next. Stay turned for more pretty scenery pictures and probably more reports of breweries!

North Cascades National Park

In our continuing quest to visit as many national parks as possible, we ticked another off the list–and this one was beautiful!  North Cascades National Park is located in the northern part of Washington State in the middle of the Cascade Range. IMG_0444It’s brimming with old-growth forests, hundreds of glaciers, swiftly flowing rivers, and alpine lakes. You kind of have to want to come here, as it’s not a park you just drive by. Certainly the remoteness makes it all the more special.IMG_8870We visited just one day and saw what we could from the car and short trails. However, the real way to see North Cascades is on foot with a pack on your back. We are not traveling that way these days so we settled for the tourist route and it was still spectacular.  We can’t help but wonder what we missed by not being able to get to the back country.IMG_0461From our campground in Concrete, Washington the park was about a 30 mile drive. Of course the visitor center was closed due to COVID-19 but rangers still greeted us outside with maps and suggestions. Our first official stop was the town of Newhalem. This old village was once the “company town” for Seattle City Light, the power company that has transformed the power of the water in these mountains into electricity for Seattle and the surrounding areas. As such, there are large power lines, old pump houses, and hydroelectric dams throughout the park.IMG_0460Not far from Newhalem we came across the Gorge Dam and Gorge Creek Falls.  While man has certainly altered the landscape here, it is still a spectacular natural site.IMG_8877The most incredible views were found at Ross Lake. We could have spent days here if we were down at water level. Instead, we soaked in the glacial-topped peaks and glacial-green waters. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area, at over 100,000 acres, is a lot to explore!IMG_8884.jpegWe took in a few short hikes that gave us a flavor for what the back country might look like. The Ladder Creek Falls trail features a suspension bridge over the Skagit River, gardens, and a 1920’s powerhouse. IMG_8894

The powerhouse was constructed to produce electricity for homes in Seattle as part of the Skagit Hydroelectric project.IMG_8905The Trail of the Cedars was a short, 0.3 mile loop starting on another suspension bridge and weaving through an old-growth forest along side the Skagit River. Just lovely.

Lunch beside the river in a shady spot and a quick stop at the Cascadian Farms Organic Farm Stand for the best chocolate ice cream on the planet rounded out the day. We left feeling like we saw a lot but left much yet to explore.

IMG_8914Steve also made a habit of picking wild blackberries from the bushes around our campground. With so many berries he made his first pie! We were in this area for just a few days and spent the rest of our time shopping for an internet jetpack, barbecuing, and enjoying the cooler-than-Arizona weather.  From here we begin to travel eastward.