Monday, May 16, 2016

Weiser River Trail - recreational ride

On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, I went with some friends on a ride down the Weiser River Trail. It's been on the bucket list for some time; last September as we completed our north Idaho riding, we casually discussed doing the Weiser in the spring. We made it happen.

86 miles over 2 days. (43 each day)
Scenery - B+ (Solid "A" for the first 25 miles or so, up in the woods)
Weather - B
Company - A
Amenities along the trail - C
Path surface - D+

Friday was sunny and it got pretty warm in the afternoon... mid-80s. Saturday was overcast most of the day, occasionally with rain in the distance. Not a drop fell on us. It probably got up to the mid-70s. Wind was a minor factor for just a few miles.

Seven people and bikes.  14 tires... one flat in the whole bunch.  Not bad.

In a VERY few places, the path was reasonably smooth.  For probably 75 of those 86 miles, it was covered with rocks 1-3 inches in diameter, abundantly enough that you were bouncing over them, squishing through them, dodging them, etc. Made for a real bone-pounder of a ride. And then there were some places that obviously become a mud-bog on wet days. Dried mud, and we were dodging gulleys and grooves. There were probably 25 livestock gates along the route... half had narrow "courtesy openings" that would allow a hiker or cyclist thru; half had to be opened and closed. (Did the engineer of the train have to open and close those gates, back in the day?)
On the second day, we saw a lot of snakes! Most were gopher snakes... a couple of garter snakes (most likely), and one antisocial rattlesnake. We were happy to part company and go our own ways.

I'm really glad we went... but because of the surface quality alone, I probably won't return, and would have second thoughts about recommending it to other riders. (Or at least I'd give them a heads-up about what to expect.) On both days, it was a HUGE relief to finally get onto relatively smooth pavement.

If it were paved, like the Coeur d'Alene Trail up north, I'd already be looking forward to my next adventure on that trail!

REALITY CHECK: They have VERY little money to work with; I believe the only funding source is a voluntary "Friends of the Weiser River Trail." And maybe a few bucks kicked in from the little towns along the path. We waited in Weiser, at the bottom, for 3 hours while our drivers went up and retrieved the cars. While we were there, a guy stopped who works for the trail. I struck up a conversation; he told me that every spring it's a fairly major effort to get it opened up. Fallen trees that have to be cut away; Landslides that fall across the path; Bridges that need surface reparations on a routine basis; Their budget barely covers those things, let alone any improvements. (Imagine how expensive it would be to just "roll" those 84 miles and lay down some fine, packed gravel, let alone put asphalt down! I guess you get what you pay for.)

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at a place called Mundo Hot Springs, just out of Cambridge, ID. All 7 of us rented the "hostel" facility - which sleeps 7... cost us $12.50 each! Cheap! It was spartan, but clean and comfortable enough. As one would expect, it had a hot-spring-sourced swimming/soaking pool. When I talked to the people on the phone, I told them we'd probably be arriving fairly late in the afternoon, and we'd want to get some dinner... and could they stretch their 8pm pool closing time a little? They assured me they could work with us. But I obviously interpreted that wrong - we got back from dinner (in the next town over) at 8:30. She told me, "Sorry - you're too late.  If you'd been here an hour earlier..." Bummer! Well, at least the showers were warm and abundant. (There was also a bathtub in the "hostel" - just sitting there in the middle of the room! I guess we could've taken turns in the tub! hahahaha!) Next time - assuming there is a next time - we won't expect to use the pool any time but the published hours. (8pm closing on Friday night, when it's still light at 9pm, seems pretty early. But I know those little towns tend to fold up early. Not very "touristy.")

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