Wednesday, June 5, 2013

White Bird, ID

Day 18: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
New Meadows to White Bird: 68 miles

What can I say? Today was great! Downhill almost all the way, a decent tailwind, sun - the day was made for biking.

The scenery was pretty much more of the same: hills, sagebrush, pine. But I didn't have to climb the hills. US 95 is a busy highway, with a lot of trucks. But it's not that hard to stay out of their way. As long as you don't act like you own the road (and let me tell you: as a cyclist, you don't), and move to the shoulder- or even off the road when necessary - then things are cool. Of course, there's always that element of uncertainty, but there's nothing for that except trust.

If you're not from around here (Idaho, Montana, etc.), you probably think that the days of staking and working mining claims are part of the old wild west. But individual mining is still very much alive and well. Cycling along the Little Salmon and Salmon rivers, where the stream is on one side of the road and rock cliffs are on the other, I saw numerous tunnels bored into the cliff face, just twenty feet off the highway. Some were wide open, and were probably exhausted; others were walled up, perhaps to be re-opened some day. And then there was the one shown in the photo. An iron gate and prominent "Keep Out" signs lent it an air of forboding, and the piles of rock and gravel around the entrance showed that it was an active mine. I remember seeing, in 1981, some sluicing operations going on in the river, but I saw none this time.

mine tunnel opening
This mine entrance was right off the highway.

You find these Adopt-a-Highway signs all over. I found this one interesting.

one step on the path to salvation

Likewise this sign. It's a word I associate with a coastal Indian tribe, not one from eastern Oregon. On the other hand, the Salish, or Selish, people had a large presence in Idaho/Montana.

Skookumchuck sign
Skookumchuck Creek flows under
both the old and new highways.

I suppose you could call White Bird a destination point on the TransAmerica Trail. Of course, the area is known as the site of one of the battles between U.S. government soldiers and the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) people. White Bird was one of the Nimiipuu leaders. Today, among cyclists, the town is known for its eponymous hill, up which US 95 climbed some 2000 feet in about ten miles, with numerous switchbacks. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll worry about the hill tomorrow.

Tonight, I found a nice little RV park a couple of miles outside White Bird, tended by a cute couple and their two dogs. I set up my tent next to the gazebo, biked into town and back to pick up some supper fixin's, and heated up a can of chili and some other nutritious stuff. I hadn't had a proper bath since Baker City, so the shower felt really good.

cute RV Park couple
My hosts at the Swiftwater RV Park outside White Bird

camping by the gazebo
Roughing it on the banks of the Salmon River

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