PEDALS & PETROL
Prospectors of Adventure
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos & Video by Samson “Rides with Wind” Hatae
The Region and History
Located in the northern part of Idaho’s panhandle and surrounded by steep, rugged mountains as far as the eye can see, the region is world renowned for its mining exploits. Miners were originally lured to the area by rumors of gold as far back as the 1880’s, but silver, zinc and lead turned out to be the most commonly found metals. The valley is ranked as one of the top ten mining districts in world history and has produced over $6.6 billion of raw materials.
The mining days weren’t all lined with silver however. As money and riches started to flow, so did the desire for control and riches. Turbulent times resulted in multiple occupations by the US Army, dynamite attacks, shooting wars with spies, brothels, labor strikes and massive death tolls. And these are just some of the stories that have been documented in the last 135 years. This doesn’t include the natural disasters that have killed and injured both people and towns as a result of ground contamination, mud slides and avalanches – all of which were made worse by the ravaged lands that continue to impact the area today.
We experienced some of this first hand during our time in Northern Idaho but it’s not just the toxic land that we saw near abandoned mines that confirmed the areas continuing battle between preserving nature and making money. At several bars and restaurants, we saw posters expressing support for the Lucky Friday Miners. Over 250 miners have been on strike since March 13, 2017.
The Lucky Friday Mine is owned by Hecla, a large firm based out of Coeur d’Alene that has several claims in the region, one of which is the Star mine in Burke Canyon. It was a pretty powerful place to visit and the 300 foot wide canyon was once home to a bustling community of miners and a railroad that ran right through the lobby of the one hotel. As we rode down the narrow canyon from the ruins, we saw the scars of the mining process in the river bed and hillsides leading right to the town of Wallace. The self proclaimed Silver Capital is a very unique town that holds a spot on the National Register’s list as a Historic Place.
Founded in 1884, the town is in immaculate condition with many of the old buildings still looking as they did, which made it a good backdrop for the film Dante’s Peak back in 1997. What made Wallace really famous was their lenient views on prostitution. The sex trade was strong and the Oasis was one of five brothels serving the community up until 1988. Today they run tours for curious visitors.
The New Frontier
While the mining activity was and is an undeniable part of the region, we were there to explore the future of northern Idaho’s recreational offerings. Places like the Gold Creek Lodge and Silver Mountain Bike Park, in Kellogg are prime examples of the area’s transition from resource extraction to tourist importation.
Much like the miners a century before, as we prepared for our trip, we hoped that our hunches would be fruitful. It seemed however that our hopes for hitting pay dirt were in jeopardy as a nasty viral infection had me knocked out 2 weeks before we left! Rather than studying the maps, confirming local info or getting our new Kenda tires mounted up on all eight bikes, four motos and four BMC trail bikes, I slept and bounced between hospital room to doctor’s office to couch. Luckily the rest of the crew was able to help out and our friends at 6 Volt Cycles got the moto tires mounted. Sammy, Matt and Nic packed my gear back and sorted through the last minute shipments and we accepted the fact we were just gonna wing it and use the motos to scout the first couple of days.
Our first stop was Lakeview, Idaho. It was a small mining camp on the far eastern shore of Lake Pend Oreille, but is now an eerie feeling movie set town where a few people vacation in their summer homes. The beautiful lakeside “town” once had a thousand people, but is now home to less than 30 people. Supplies, and mail are brought over by boat. The only other way in is a rough, seasonal Forest Service road. That should give you an idea of the remoteness of the area.
After an hour of dirt road driving and crossed fingers, we arrived at our campsite just after the sun had set. The deep canyon and tall trees meant we were quickly going to lose light, so we got right to setting up. Being that I was just two days into my aggressive anti-biotic treatment program, I was wiped out and after nearly crushing Matt by throwing a dirt bike at him, I crawled into my tent and slept. Since I was in no shape to ride I spent the first two days of the trip being very unhelpful as “director” or idea creator. Instead we put the photo and video collection on hold while the rest of the guys went out in search of mountain bike trails and shooting locations.
It turns out mountains can be too steep for mountain biking. We spent three days exploring this zone and the moto trails were some of the most challenging any of us had ever been on. The miles and miles of logging and forest roads carved around the mountains endlessly, we would turn off to hit singletrack any chance we could, but 9 our of 10 resulted in us having to turn around due to downed trees or the trail just ending abruptly.
After some frustrated scouting missions we would cruise the bikes down to Lake Pend Oreille for a refreshing dip. As we sat on the shore we really got to look out and see how steep, expansive and desolate the region is. It’s tough to explain just how small a person feels out in wilderness like that. We enjoyed the sun and water accepting that we’d struck out on our first stop. There was no way we’d be able to pedal to the good sections of trail with the limited intel we had on the ground. We made the best of it with some killer dirt biking, swimming and epic sunsets, but we knew it was time to move on.
Lake Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho at 43 miles long and up to 1,150 feet deep— the fifth deepest in the nation.
During World War II, the south end of the lake was the second largest naval training ground in the world. The training station is much smaller now, but the US Navy continues to use the lake as its Large Scale Vehicle Range. They test submarine prototypes and top secret underwater acoustics. It’s desirable because the landlocked body is deep enough to mimic ocean depths but keeps secret testing private from foreign military eavesdropping.
The pressure was causing some stress as we only had a few days left and were seriously lacking any mountain biking in our two sport adventure. My sick days combined with the underdeveloped trails of region were not what we needed to be good “content creators” so we headed to a town that was, “Founded by a jackass and inhabited by his descendants.”
Kellogg, Idaho – looking to shed the cloud of lead contamination for the alluring glow of a resort town, Silver Mountain is pushing to be the main attraction. With an ever-growing trail network, Silver Mountain has the longest single car gondola in North America and some seriously bad ass trails. We knew that the lack of mountain bike time would quickly be made up for with a solid day of park laps.
After getting stoked on our pedal bikes in the park we were inspired to find some more local trails and explore the new area for a few days.
It quickly became clear that there was more to explore than we had time for. On our last day we opted for one final moto ride to cover as much ground as possible so we could scout more zones for future trips back to this incredible region.
We rode away from our campsite in the Silver Mountain parking lot and quickly turned onto a dirt road that curved with the mountains for a couple of hours. We found ourselves at the Star mine in Burke Canyon. The remote canyon’s story was pretty amazing and after some history lessons and a snack we made our way to Wallace for lunch. It’s a visually impressive town that looks like it got stuck in a time warp. The buildings are well cared for and instantly made us feel like it was the early 1900’s and we were riding horses into town. In reality it was 2018 and we were riding gasoline drinking horses with 12 inches of travel.
In all honesty the trip wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped it would be. Our dream of scouting for trails on the dirt bikes and then coming back on our mountain bikes didn’t quite work out, but we absolutely had a great time exploring some of the most remote mountains we’ve ever been too. The views, insanely fun bike park and promise of more singletrack only whet our appetite for more time here. The mountains and canyons were as endless as they are steep. Sometimes trips don’t turn out the way you intended when you set out, but the experience is always worth it. Plus we came out of it with some pretty awesome photos and memories.
Just like the miners who returned home from these same mountains less than thrilled with the yields of their claims a hundred years ago, we go to sleep knowing that there is more potential in them hills. And we’re going to go back and find it.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to the following brands for the support make this trip and story happen! Please consider checking them out if you’re in the market for new products.
Kenda Tires | Leatt
BMC Bikes | Maxima USA | Profilter | Joe’s No Flats
Smith Optics | Stance Socks | Factory Effex
Silver Mountain Bike Park
After some backcountry exploring, a solid day in the bike park was just the kind of fun we needed. We sat in North America’s longest gondola and drank huckleberry lemonades during the 20-minute rides back up.
After a few days in the woods and a long day in the bike park, Matt was really excited to clean off. He also felt like doing laundry at the same time.
Now looking back at these photos, it makes us wonder what our lungs look like if this is what our ProFilter air cleaners collected.
U-turn may have left the Harley at home, but that doesn’t stop him from being U-turn.
Nobody ever takes a picture of the photographer. Sammy executing textbook style on this dismount.
Spoiler Alert: Striking out on some of our hopeful locations led to many conversations about pro athletes and content creators and how much of what we think is the sickest trails ever is just BS. While the lighting, backdrop and action may look legit, Drew spent 15 minutes digging his heel into the ground to clear a path for this shot. Three awkwardly hard pedal strokes, a zig zag around some obstacles and a quick pose to get the shot.
As much as we’d love to say we found the raddest trail running the perimeter of Lake Pend Oreille, our 45-minute gamble up a long fire road turned into a dead end with nothing but 25 feet of singletrack. Once again we used our feet, and did what we could. We can’t help but think how many awesome shots of our favorite pros have happened the same way.
With the conditions being so dry and dusty, maintenance was important to keeping things in running order. Amazingly we didn’t have any major mechanicals or flats the entire trip! Especially considering U-turn was there.
A week of hot dust most certainly calls for a milkshake. We heard it brings all the boys to the yard.
Dirt bikes and dinner. Wheels and weiners. Singletrack and sausages…
If you’ve been following us for a while you may remember our Bikes on Bikes story last year. We rode from Bend, OR to Sturgis for the Harley rally before turning and burning for Whistler Crankworx. It was a year later and our crew of two-wheeled fiends were itching for another adventure. We didn’t have plans for another Sturgis trip as that adventure took a toll, but once the images from Sturgis started popping up in our Instagram feeds, the group chat started up again.
The memories of sore backs and the challenges of the road were instantly erased and the planning began. Nic “U-turn” Hall and Sammy were down for whatever but when our fourth member, Matt Locascio, wanted in on the fun, we shifted our focus from Harleys to dirt bikes.
Matt just recently purchased a KTM and the other guys already had plated dirt bikes, so now it was on me. I was able to work out a great deal with CycleBuy.com and scored a new Husqvarna FE350. After that it was just a matter of scouring the maps and figuring out the angle.
As we clicked off the miles on last year’s Harley trip we made a long list of regions we wanted to visit again with a bit more time. One of those spots was the Silver Valley region of northern Idaho. We remembered meeting a young shredder at a gas station right off Interstate 90 who was pedaling home from a local fishing hole. He asked about our trip and we asked him about the local scene, it sounded very promising and we knew we’d be back. Apparently the time was now.