Sunday, July 5, 1981

14. Syringa, Idaho

Day 14:  Sunday, July 5, 1981
White Bird to Syringa, Idaho:  63 miles

We intended to rise early for our attack on White Bird Hill, but yesterday's ride did us in, and we slept late.  It was 9:00 before we started the nine-mile climb to the top.  And it was almost noon by the time we made it to the top.  Partly due to Rick's flat tires.

Rick's flats and White Bird Hill
Rick had more flat tires on the way up White Bird Hill.

 In 1877, the government herded the Nez Perce Indians to a reservation.  (No, this doesn't have anything to do with Rick's flat tires.)  Some of them (the Indians) rebelled and started the Nez Perce wars.  One battle, led by Chief Whitebird, was fought below the hill that now carries his name.

The road up White Bird Hill, completed in 1921, is now considered unsafe for modern traffic.  A new road, which is steeper, goes straight up the hill, eliminating the thirteen switchbacks of the old road.  We chose the less-heavily-traveled scenic route.  It was laborious, but well worth the effort.

From the top, the view of the valley to the north of the hill was fantastic.  After descending, we had a gentle climb into Grangeville that was positively easy after White Bird.

The view from White Bird Hill
The view from White Bird Hill

In Grangeville, we decided to stop at the A&W, where we devoured huge hamburgers and root beer floats.  The A&W floats became a tradition for the four of us as long as we rode together.  Outside, Grangeville's third Independence Day parade in three days was forming up; horses must have been 75% of the parade.  We didn't stick around to watch, but skirted the parade route and headed east for the Clearwater River valley.

Grangeville parade
We skipped the parade in Grangeville

As we rounded a turn in the road, the valley seemed to open up before our eyes.  There it was  - a half mile below us, the river rapids showing white against the green waters and the valley walls carpeted with evergreens.  The coast to the valley floor would have been the best downhill of the trip if it had not been for the extremely rough road.  At the bottom, we joined the road along the Clearwater River through Stites and Kooskia, then joined US 12, which parallels another fork of the Clearwater.  The pass through the Nez Perce reservation is not worth mentioning, since we saw nothing out of the ordinary; but Rick and  I cooled ourselves in the clear waters of the river.  It truly lives up to its name.

A tailwind favored us the rest of the day, and the trip to Syringa (named for Idaho's state flower) was a fast one.  Jack had a flat that was soon repaired, and we arrived at the campground early enough to fix a delectable (ha!) Hamburger Helper meal.

We paid $3 each at this campground also.  The ground was softer, but the bugs were terrible:  both mosquitoes and no-see-ums, which are small enough to pass through screens and bite but don't leave welts.  I guess we were spoiled by the cheap Oregon campgrounds.

The temperature was up in the 90s today; yesterday, near White Bird, it reached 105°.  Yesterday's ride became rather miserable during the afternoon, but today's wasn't bad.  Perhaps it's because we covered only 63 miles today, and did our hardest riding before noon.   I like it better that way.

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