White Bird ID to Powell ID-68 miles.
Did I mention the our campsite in White Bird was a dump. Not literally (and I've heard the word literally a thousand times in the last two weeks).
Regardless, the climb out of White Bird was one of the most amazing climbs I've ever experienced on a bike. We took Old Hwy 95 through town and quickly started climbing through pastureland. The road was an old two lane highway that followed the contour of the hillside. Over the first few miles, it occasionally switched back and forth as it progressed upward. The view above us captured our attention as we wondered how much further to the top.
Over the middle miles, the switchbacks were the predominant feature of the road. They stacked like layers of cake,with the guardrails forming the icing.
Our eyes were drawn down to the town we had come from. By now, the highway bridge that bypasses White Bird looked tiny and insignificant even though it stretched a quarter mile long. The view of the surrounding hills was breathtaking. They reminded me of California's golden hills but 5 times the size. On multiple occasions Ed and I stopped to take in the view. Again, pictures could not capture the scale or beauty.
At the top, the view was of the mountains beyond and where we had been. We covered about 11 miles and gained about 1750' in elevation in over 3 hours. An added bonus; only six motorcycles and 3 cars passed on the entire climb.
White Bird was too far away to see.
We dropped in on the other side into another world. We gave back about 750 feet in elevation as we descended 6 miles into Grangeville.
The mountains that we could see were shorter and the valley floor was covered with hay fields for as far as we could see.
After lunch our route took us through the hay fields on rolling hills. The downhills were gentle but the ups were steep. The guys got ahead and we could see them riding in perfect formation through the fields. The scene reminded me of the iconic Tour de France picture of the peloton in the sunflower fields.
The hay fields abruptly dropped into the Clearwater River Valley. With little notice, we descended on what could have been a 20% grade for a couple miles. The curves were rated at 10 MPH but it was hard to get the bike to slow to that speed. We all proceeded cautiously and obviously made it to the bottom without issue. We've tackled what is said to be the steepest descent on the entire route!
Our next stop was in Kooskia where the guys were disappointed to find that a known milkshake place was closed. Who the heck closes an ice cream place when the temps are over 100 degrees?
We rested and waited for the temp to drop for about two hours. We consumed mass quantities of water to replenish and prepare for the upcoming 20 miles.
Our final destination for the night was a rustic USFS campground on the river two miles before Lowell. Fortunately, the ride was shaded and flat. We made good time and enjoyed watching people float and swim in the river.
Along the way we passed a Nez Perce salmon stand the sold fresh and smoked salmon. I would have loved to have stopped but adding the smell of fish to the medley of scents coming from us and our gear was not a wise thing to do.
We arrived at Wild Goose Campground to find that our friends Ian (traveling XC to Maine via northern route) and Anthony (aka Ironman - traveling XC to VA via our route) had saved us a couple campsites. Our first stop was the river for a swim and to cool down. An hour later, we were all asleep in out tents.
This was a hard 63 mile day in 100+ degree heat with epic climbs and descents and quad burning rollers. It was a great day.