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Camas Prairie Railroad Photos (115-Mile Bike Ride)

This July, I took a two-day, 155-mile bicycle trip from Moscow, Idaho, to Lapwai Canyon, to photograph the famous wooden trestles of the Camas Prairie Railroad’s Second Sudivision, a joint Union Pacific–Northern Pacific short line.

I took hundreds of photos and uploaded them to Facebook public albums. No Facebook account is necessary to view these.

Day One—the ride down, plus some views of the trestles from the highway:

Day Two—a nearly 8-mile walk down the unused rails (the rails are not used because a bridge burned in 2011 and is yet to be rebuilt):

I had a 2014 calendar, featuring the best of these photos, on Zazzle (now out of print).

01 Cover

Trip Recap:

I set out, and the only thing I noticed I forgot was my small, bike-mounted water bottle. Not a big deal, as I had my one-liter bottle and five-quart Vietnam-era military-issue collapsible canteen/flotation bladder in my backpack.

I pushed myself over the hill on Blaine road, where I also took Iverson Loop, a nod to Jake, my roommate this school year. Afterward, I came upon Genessee Valley Lutheran Church, a late-1800s building and congregation (no organ, sadly, except for a Hammond spinet that I wasn’t able to plug in). Turned out it was unlocked and open for visitors, so I when in and took pictures, trying out long-exposure tripod shots, which came off perfectly. I topped off my water here.

After leaving GVLC I continued on to and through the town of Genessee. I got a little mixed up in my Google Maps directions, but it turned out well because the way I went was easier. Plus, I found a small airfield with crop-dusting planes—including a biplane and old low-wing—that I had to photograph. After this began the descent into the Clearwater River valley on a narrow, winding gravel road.

I crossed the Clearwater on US-95, stopped at the historic mission/museum town of Spalding for pictures, then went on my way. After stopping for water at Lapwai, I met two bicyclists in Lapwai Canyon who were riding cross country from Virginia to Oregon. At this time I was within two miles or less from the trestles. Shortly thereafter, a screw on the side of the road gave me a flat tire. To my chagrin I noticed that my bike pump’s mounting bracket had broken, leaving me without a pump. Thankfully a couple from Lewiston stopped and gave me a ride back toward town, after driving back and letting me take pictures from the highway. Between Spalding and the river, we passed those bicyclists, and I thought they might have a pump. We stopped, and sure enough they did.

After airing up the new tube, I decided to head back up into the canyon, a 15-20 mile ride, even though the late hour meant I probably wouldn’t see anything. My strength gave out near Culdesac, so I pulled into town and asked an older guy I saw where I might sleep for the night. As an amazing example of how bad things can be good, he had worked on the Camas Prairie railroad for nearly 30 years serving the tunnels and bridges. He offered to take me up to the top of the grade so that I could walk downhill instead of uphill, as well as catch the early morning light. I accepted, even though I was not prepared for a fairly cold night (less than 50 degrees, in shorts no less). I only had a lightweight hoodie, so I grabbed some pine branches as an inadequate blanket. I only got half an hour of sleep, but I got up at dawn (just before 5) to begin walking and photographing the rail line. It went smoothly, except for a treacherous skirting of the brush-filled canyon slope where Bridge 21.3 burned out.

I finished on the rail line around 11:30 or so, then spent half an hour removing grass and weeds from my socks and shoes. The ride to Spalding went well, but I could tell my strength was fading fast, on top of which my phne died early that morning. The ascent up the Coyote grade nearly killed me, as I had to walk the whole nearly five-mile length with 10 percent or higher inclines. I decided going back to try to follow Google’s directions, which was a bad idea because it took me down a dirt road with many hills, and I didn’t have the strength to manage those. After I reached Genessee, I knew I probably couldn’t make the big hill on Blaine road that Google prescribed, so I decided to take Old 95 and Hwy 95 north to Moscow—another bad idea due to rolling hills.

Several hours later, nearly 8 p.m., I rolled into my parking lot completely exhausted. I took a hot soaking bath, then went to bed.