Powell Junction, Idaho to Syringa, Idaho
Day 69. It was a nice night, made all the better because we went back an hour going to Pacific Time Zone. So it felt like sleeping an extra hour.
Dreams distressingly about heading back to work and soon this excursion to Never Never Land will end and the obligations and decisions I have to make will expand exponentially from the ten or so that make up my life now. We all lament that we have about two weeks left as if it is the end now, and remind ourselves with a laugh that two weeks is what most people have for vacation total. And we are feeling like it's over now.
Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
Idaho means Hot Springs and rivers. About ten miles into our long ride (73 miles today) there was a recommended side trip for these rustic springs.
We crossed this beautiful wooden suspension bridge across the Lochsa river and were greeted by the US Forest Service's apparent endorsement or acquiesce that not only may some people taken in the Hot Springs nude, but hike there and back without clothes. Whatever possesses them to hike nude is baffling. I get the soaking in the nude, but it's not as if the typical person's clothes are so heavy and bulky as to constitute a hiking nuisance.
Regardless we met only clothed people on the mile to mile and a half hike along a beautiful hillside forest until we came to a large Hot Springs pool. Hot but not uncomfortable and a lovely and relaxing soak.
Ever since Lolo Pass we've been following the Lochsa River down this narrow valley. It's gorgeous and downhill but very curvy. At the top of the pass we had the same curvy roads ahead sign for the next 96 miles.
It's not quite the Pacific Northwest rainforest we daydream about, but it's definitely more trees packed in a square miles that we've seen since leaving the Ozarks.
It's been hot. Really hot. (Later we learned up to 102 degrees. Then there's a slight headwind which doesn't slow us down that much, but it makes me feel like I'm in a convection oven.
Jim, Bill and I paused after lunch at the Historic Ranger Station. Jim kept calling it the hysterical Ranger Station. Nice grounds, including shady lawns that invited Barry and I to take a small nap.
Later on the road, it was getting hot so Jim, Bill and I took the opportunity to swim in a pool created by a very large boulder. Very refreshing and a great way to get the core temperature.
But it was all too temporary. It was HOT and DRY and there was a breeze but it wasn't refreshing. It was like being in a convection oven. There were a few times when we would pass a creek or brook coming down from the hillsides, and there would be shade and briefly the temperature would drop maybe twenty degrees.
When we got into Lowell, population recently changed from 24 to 23, and went to the cafe. There were tons of bikes outside and inside was our entire group (except of course Tom) plus three other TransAm West to East cyclists.
The staff there must be well acquainted with cyclists because she brought out a pitcher of ice water and we proceeded drink down nearly two quarts of liquids.
Idaho is quickly coming to the top of my list of having the worst roads. The only good thing about it is that the potholes, ravines and cracks are avoidable. The worst, I think was in Kentucky with these cracks that ran across the pavement every eight to ten feet. The front wheel would hit it and "kerchunck" the hands would get hit. Then the back wheel, "kerchunck" and the behind would get it. Then it would repeat and it would be like the Chinese Water Torture.
Seven and half miles to Syrnga, a town named after the Idaho state flower, and the River Dance Lodge - a nice grassy complex of a cafe, a bar, log cabins, and luxury canvas tents, and (for us) places to camp.
Sadly the cafe's vaunted, praised, and highly recommended Huckleberry Pie from all the Eastbound cyclists we talked with, was out. But they brought out Huckleberry Ice Cream and we sat out on the patio, trying desperately but unsuccessfully to arrange the sole umbrella and table and chairs to give four people scurrying around like lizards out of the sun.
Lew spotted the sprinklers and soon all of us were standing by the sprinklers letting the water douse and cool us off.
The ice cream was really good, but interrupted when Bill exclaimed, "Oh my gosh a bear. A two year old black or brown bear was walking across the road from the river and through the property. Bill, who later admitted he did everything Rangers tell people not to do, went over to get a closer look.
It's a nice camp spot, and there is ample shade under the trees and once the sun set, a nice breeze. Tomorrow is looking good - only forty or so miles but part of it is a steep climb up to a plateau where Grangeville, Idaho rests. It's a larger town - population three thousand- so hopefully I will have cell service which I haven't had since leaving Missoula.