Trail Bikers

Watch a clip of Kim and Eldon bicycling alongside Priest Lake Windows Media icon
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Though a continuous journey along Idaho’s Centennial Trail is certainly a remarkable trip, there are other options. The route also works for travelers who would rather tackle the Trail one section at a time.

For Kim Heintzman and Eldon Hattervig traveling the Trail in segments is the ideal approach. Another advantage to this tactic is they can use their mountain bikes for many of the areas they plan to explore. The duo decided they’d start their tour of the Centennial Trail at its beginning, the boundary marker on the Idaho-Nevada border.

“Actually approaching what I call the ‘orange tube’ in the middle of nowhere was what really got me excited. Not about the desert segment but the whole trail. This was an experience that I was going to get no other way. And right away, the remoteness of the desert, the remoteness of the starting point, I knew this was going to be something special. Kim Heintzman—Idaho Centennial Trail biker

[Image: Kim Heintzman on the Centennial Trail near Observation Peak in the Sawtooth Mountains]

Kim Heintzman near Observation Peak
in the Sawtooth Mountains

Heintzman and Hattervig’s goal for their first biking segment was Glenns Ferry, over 100 miles away. Much of this section is an old jeep track that follows the Jarbidge and Bruneau Canyons and works well for mountain bikes.

From Glenns Ferry the Centennial trail winds through the Bennett Mountain area and then travels through the Castle Rocks country north of Highway 20. On this section Kim Heintzman did a solo bike ride and was surprised at some of the scenery he found along the back roads that make up much of this section of the Trail.

“You hit highway 20 and across highway 20 which I have traveled for years but I had never gone off. And I went just across highway 20 and hit this area called Castle Rocks which I couldn’t believe. I had been so close for so many years and I had never seen these. These rock formations are a complete surprise and they are just awesome. They are not something you would expect in a high plain desert and I found myself again, hitting one of those many Idaho areas that I didn’t know was there, and would never have seen if it hadn’t been for the trail and then, here it was.” Kim Heintzman

North of the Castle Rocks country the Centennial Trail crosses the South Fork of the Boise River. From there it heads north along Willow Creek toward the Sawtooth Mountains. When Heintzman picked the Sawtooths as his next segment to explore he had to choose between two trail options. On the Centennial Trail East that goes through the Sawtooth Valley he could continue using his bike, but on the Main Centennial Trail through the Sawtooth Wilderness he would have to hike. He chose to do a solo hike in the wilderness.

[Image: Bicyclists on the Centennial Trail crossing the Clark Fork River]

Bicyclists crossing the Clark Fork River

“I wanted to come through the Sawtooth Wilderness and it only allowed hiking or horses so I didn’t have an option. It’s just too gorgeous to miss. There is a route around it on the Centennial Trail on the bikes but I didn’t want to miss this.” Kim Heintzman—Centennial Trail Traveler

Heintzman picked another wilderness adventure for his next trip on the Centennial Trail. He decided to do the Marble Creek/Middle Fork of the Salmon River section through the Frank Church Wilderness. Again, because he was in the wilderness he had to do the trail on foot. This time though, he recruited hiking partner Bill Beleu.

“The Marble Creek to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is a unique section of trail. This segment to me was probably very unique in the fact that I knew very few humans have seen this valley, at least in the past 25 to 35 years. You knew you were doing something that was special. You really get the feeling as you’re going down Marble Creek that humans are just an observer and it starts shortly after the creek itself begins. As you get deeper into the canyon you start seeing an awful lot of wolf prints and you know that you are not in this valley alone. It’s the first time I’ve been in a valley where I felt like I didn’t own it. Somebody else ruled this valley and it wasn’t humans.” Kim Heintzman—Idaho Centennial Trail Traveler

In addition to his trips through the wilderness areas, Heintzman has also explored several sections of the Centennial Trail in northern Idaho. For these trips Kim was able to use his mountain bike again, and he also convinced his original biking partner Eldon Hattervig to join him for his journey up north.

[Image: Hikers on the Centennial Trail relax on the shore of Upper Priest Lake]

Hikers relax on the shore of Upper Priest Lake

The first segment they explored ran along the Idaho-Montana border north of Mullan. On this part of the Centennial Trail the pair biked along a rocky road that runs along the ridges that form the Idaho-Montana border. Along the way they had great views of the Cabinet Mountains to the east and the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the west. From the ridges the Centennial Trail then drops down over four thousand feet to the Clark Fork Valley.

“It was unexpected. Clark Fork to me was idyllic. It was just like being in a fairy tale land or something and that’s probably partially because you are coming off that mountain down into the valley and probably another thing is that Clark Fork, I’d never heard of Clark Fork. It’s a great place to visit. Probably one that we’ll go back to.” Eldon Hattervig—Idaho Centennial Trail Biker

From the Clark Fork Valley the Centennial Trail climbs through the Cabinet Mountains, high above Idaho’s largest body of water, Lake Pend Oreille. Northwest of the lake the trail crosses highway 95 and ascends into another dramatic mountain range, the Selkirks.

Just west of the Selkirk Mountains is Priest Lake, the Trail runs along the east side of the lake and then continues north all the way to Canada. This was the final segment Heintzman and Hattervig chose to bike on their trip to northern Idaho.

“That’s why you deal with the difficulties of this trail. To get to points that you can just sit and admire nature, to enjoy nature. It is so thrilling to see aspects of Idaho you didn’t know were there, you are surprised by them and then just taken away by them. The beaches of Upper Priest Lake are just one of the most beautiful lake beaches I’ve seen. And they are so isolated. It is special. It is worth the effort to get there. This has been one of the beauties of the Idaho Centennial Trail to me. It has really opened up my eyes to the opportunities up here in northern Idaho. It’s an area of the state that I was not familiar with and then I find myself riding the trail and it is just utterly beautiful up here. It’s a whole different world. It’s a place that surprised me, enchanted me and I will be back.”

[Image: Bicyclists cross a stream near the Upper Priest Falls on the Centennial Trail]

Bicyclists cross a stream near
the Upper Priest Falls

North of Upper Priest Lake the Centennial Trail winds through the lush forests along the Priest River. It’s a challenging but ride able section of Trail. Less than a half-mile from the actual Canadian border the Trail officially ends at Upper Priest Falls, a pristine spot in a steep, scenic canyon. Although Kim Heintzman still has a long way to go before completing the entire Centennial Trail, both he and Eldon have now been to both ends of the Trail and seen the amazing diversity. For Kim it’s an inspiration to continue his quest.

“Each segment has its own difficulty and each segment certainly has its own beauty but the more I see the more I know I will finish this quest. Everyone has inspired me to continue on. I think I’ll be able to do it sooner rather than later. It’s worth the effort.” Kim Heintzman—Idaho Centennial Trail Traveler