Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kooskia, ID

Day 19: Thursday, June 6, 2013
White Bird to Kooskia: 51 miles

I conquered White Bird Hill!

As I mentioned yesterday, among cyclists the town of White Bird is known for its eponymous hill, up which US 95 climbed some 2000 feet in about ten miles, with numerous switchbacks. The old road is still there, but it's used primarily by cyclists. A new highway was built in 1971, and ascends an adjacent hill in one long, steady grade that is shorter, but steeper, and, with all the truck traffic and narrow shoulders, murder for cyclists. So we stick to the old hill.

Well, I'm not the first to conquer the hill. Thousands of cyclists have done it. Jack and Guy and Rick and I did it back in 1981. But not, as it turns out, the whole hill. As you can see from the photos (both here and in the 1981 blog entry), there are two roads. The old road winds up the hill with many switchbacks. It's very scenic. Not to mention hard. The new road goes straight up the hill - shorter, but steeper. And it's the way all the traffic goes. And it's hot and boring. So cyclists don't go that way.

As usual, I got up late - after 7:00. So much for getting up the hill in the cool of the day. On the other hand, I would have missed meeting another couple who were having a PB&H sandwich break in White Bird. Dennis is the publisher of a paper in a small coastal town in Delaware, and 63; Becky is 62; and they're doing the TransAmerica Trail. They said they were setting a comfortable pace - 50-60 miles a day - but I couldn't keep up with them on the way up White Bird Hill. He had just finished reading Stephen Ambrose's book, Undaunted Courage, about Lewis and Clark, and recommended another book, about Northwest pioneers of the mid 19th century, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Dennis, Becky, and the Old Coot
Dennis, Becky, and the Old Coot

Free Use Road
Interesting hill. And I wonder what a free use road is.

roses up White Bird Hill
Some sort of rose. Their scent accompanied us up the hill.

The climb up White Bird Hill was a lot easier than in 1981. For one thing, it was a lot cooler. For another, we didn't have Rick getting another flat tire or two on the way up. And I knew what to expect, and could more easily adjust my mindset. And we had entertainment: a woman walking her bloodhound. But she was driving a pickup, and he was loping along behind. They must have done several miles up the hill, and then back again. She said she usually runs with him, but didn't have time for that today. He seemed to be enjoying it.

nice shot of flowers
I've probably featured these flowers before, but the shot looked nice.

Near the top of the hill, the old road joins the new road for a mile before branching off again. That mile, with the combination of grade and traffic, was agony. In 1981, we decided to stay on the new road after that, because the new road goes downhill. This time, I turned back onto the old road. It continued up for another mile, and then went downhill in the curvy way old roads do. It was lightly traveled, and I think it was a lot more fun than the downhill on the new road was back in 1981.

count the loops
Can you count the loops of road?
The town of White Bird is hidden in that distant grove at the bottom.
The new road goes straight up the hill on the right.

The backside of White Bird hill.
The old road is at the top of that peak.
The new road is on the extreme right.
The other roads just go to private property.

The downhill continued, although at a much shallower grade, all the way through Harpster, Stites, and Kooskia. Shortly before Harpster, there's a marvelous downhill and a marvelous view from the top, which lets you see all the way down to the road along the Clearwater River, along which you'll soon be riding.

I'm going all the way down there!
I'm going all the way down there!

One bear of an uphill, and one long downhill, and then it's time to start thinking about bedtime. There's a city park in Stites; but it, like the town, was decidedly unattractive. So I cycled four miles further to Kooskia.

It was tempting to stay in a motel. I was hot and smelly and sticky. The one motel in Kooskia was not appealing. I asked the desk clerk where I could find camping. She mentioned a place up in the mountains, and another place about seven miles out of town. I told her I'd think about it.

Kooskia (pronounced KOO-skee) has a very nice grocery store. I asked the clerk there about camping, and she said that camping was allowed in the city park. The park turned out to be wonderful. A guy who lives across the street from the park offered me a beer and gave me a guided tour, telling me where the sprinklers were. He almost had it right.

I had picked up a box of macaroni and cheese mix and a can of chili, so the menu tonight was chili mac.

Today's lesson: Never ask a motel clerk where you can go to set up a tent.


  1. Hi Bret!!! Just letting you know we're reading the blog and envying you and your ride!! I hope you're having a wonderful time. Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Congratulations on topping White Bird Hill the second time in your life, Bret! Long but still fun as I recall.

  3. Hi Bret! Guy's sister Cindy here. I am so mad at him. We live 12 miles across the river and up the mountain from Swiftwater RV Park. Where were we when you were here, and why didn't Guy tell us about you! We'd have loved to fly down the hill and meet you, and to bring you a nutritious meal or something. I'm awed that you actually took on Old White Bird Hill again. Every time we drive by on the 'super highway' looking over at the old road we marvel about the first time you and Guy made that hill. Hill?! A misnomer if ever there was one. Those little pink blossoms are the Idaho state flower, the Wild Rose. Did you see any state birds, the Mountain Blue Bird? You'd have NO doubt if you spotted a male. Intense blue feathers all over their bodies. Enjoying following you're adventure. OH! And by the way! What did those mileage sized signs mean, and how do you know? (I've skipped around, but I think you saw them in Wyoming?) Do they indicate a left turn lane coming up? Really enjoying this blog...

    1. Well, darn! It would have been really nice to meet you after all these years! Or was that a different sister in Denver?

      While I'm biking, I hear plenty of bird calls, but I rarely see the birds who are making them. I don't recall seeing any blue birds in Idaho. In Missouri, though, I saw a number of small birds with iridescent dark blue feathers (on their backs, anyway). Someone said they were indigo buntings, but they looked too slender.

      I just posted an answer to the sign question. Look for it near the top of the list on the right.


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