Foothills: Kettle Falls, WA

Friday July 31, 2009, 51 miles (82 km) – Total so far: 4,055 miles (6,526 km)

Ione is one of those towns that’s not quite a ghost town, I suppose because of the grocery store and restaurants.  Who wants to drive 50 miles to buy milk?  It was a logging town at one point, until, like the gold and silver ghost towns, the resource ran out, mechanization took over what was left, and now it lives on for River Days (last weekend) and fall color railroad tours.  We apparently got one of the last five orders of french fries yesterday, and no more potatoes were expected in any of the town’s eateries for two more days.

Today didn’t start cool, like so many days recently.  I’d guess it was between 65° and 70° when we rolled out, which may sound cool, but isn’t really – at least when you’re pedaling.  We had a short jog south of Ione, then started up the ridge.  The profile for this looks dreadful, but it wasn’t too bad.  The road was recently rebuilt (at least sufficiently recently that the cuts had only grass and small trees) to straighten it out and widen the roadbed, so we had good sightlines and shoulders.  Not that we particularly needed them; traffic was almost non-existent.  The grade wasn’t too bad, either, as I managed to avoid needing my granny gear.  The sun was on my back during the climb, making sure I didn’t get cool.  As we left the Pend Oreille valley, we almost noticed.  I’d asked Virginia to wait for me at the top.  She stopped and told me, “I think this is the top unless it goes up some more over there.”

Virginia at the top

It was a little bit cooler up on the ridge, thank goodness!  We rode through a dry western forest for a while, with small lakes, most of them with either campgrounds or vacation houses.  There was one interesting RV park, which I thought was mostly for storage.  It was surrounded by a chain link fence, topped with barbed wire.  Then I saw a few tents, trucks, and a couple of people inside the fence.  I’m not sure if that fence was supposed to keep out bears, or other wildlife like pedestrians and cyclists.

There was a gradual downhill as we came to the Little Pend Oreille River.  (Creek would be generous.)  It was a very gentle hill we had to pedal down to make any headway.  At least until we hit Crystal Falls.  It’s a very pretty falls, and the water flowing through it isn’t big enough to make a dam worthwhile.

Crystal Falls

From there the road headed down, then up, then down again into rolling farmland.

Rolling farmland

The next 10 miles were more rolling road into Colville.  There’s got to be a lumber mill somewhere in Colville, since logging trucks go in full and come out empty, but I’m not sure where.  It was too early for lunch, so we went through town and on towards Kettle Falls.  Again, some very nice agricultural landscapes – horses, hay, and wheat were the visible crops.  Oh, and don’t forget the young white tail deer that saw me, ducked around a copse off brush, then ran off and tried to hide in a drainage ditch.  She’ll need to find a better hiding place before hunting season!

Spanish Prairie Road goes up that valley. What's a Spanish Prairie?

We missed a turn that would have taken us to the south end of Kettle Falls, which made it much easier to find the town and our motel.  It’s over 90 degrees outside as I type this, but we’re hiding in air conditioning to keep cool and rest for the big climb over Sherman Pass tomorrow.  I found wireless at the local library (are all small town librarians this nice?), but the real social scene today in Kettle Falls is at the swimming pool.  Since it’s forecast to hit 100 here tomorrow, the swimming pool will be even busier!

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