Now, we often get great comments like this or, frankly, we wouldn’t be in business. To receive them all at once as our participants were finishing up the day’s skate was quite emotional. To think I had a hand in bringing 26 participants from all over the US, Canada, and the UK to the backcountry of northern Idaho and giving them such a praiseworthy experience makes what we do quite worthwhile.
The reason for the high praise, of course, had a lot to do with the 73-mile Trail of the Couer d’Alenes. This trail runs through some amazing country, along a river, next to several lakes, through farmland and forest, and across the panhandle of northern Idaho. There are stretches of 10 miles with no road crossings! Plus, the pavement is pristine and the terrain is flat. This is a skater’s dream.
Our trip started in Spokane, Washington, where we picked up the group from the airport. We shuttled through wheat fields and past small towns to the start of the trail in Plummer, Idaho. Those who elected our Medium Route had the rush of starting the week with a six-mile downhill skate on a forested path that was steep enough to keep us rolling but not so steep as to require much braking. What a start! In Zephyr’s traditional manner of providing options, those who elected the Short Route started at the bottom of the hill with a pedestrian-only bridge over the Coeur d’Alene Lake followed by a 10-mile stretch uninterrupted by even one road crossing. Long Route skaters chose to first skate UP the hill for a workout before heading back down.
That set the tone for the week and it was not difficult for this group of 29 people (including the three guides) to have a great time. We enjoyed a variety of fine meals, swam in the Spokane River, played a game of beach ball volleyball, and skated, skated, skated.
We were even in the local paper, the Spokane Spokesman Review. A business reporter and photographer came out to the trail one day to interview our participants and write a story about the economic impact of 52 people traveling to the area to skate on the trails. (We have two tours running back-to-back, both sold out at 26 participants.)
Perhaps the best aspect of the trip, however, was the bonding that occurred among the group. With 29 people, there will always be a variety of personalities, ages, and backgrounds. That such a diverse group of individuals can form into one family-for-a-week is really amazing. I noticed this time after time. Nancy told me she sat next to new people every night at dinner “because everyone here is so interesting”. When Barb was swimming in the river, I saw people watching her to make sure she was okay. Individuals on both sides of the volleyball net became instant teams, even giving nicknames to players. When Patricia was still out on the trail one day when most had arrived back, several people came up to me and expressed concern.
However, it was when we had to take 20-tour veteran Ralph Clayton to the hospital for a potential heart problem that this bonding really hit home. It turns out Ralph was fine and the hospital visit was just precautionary. While he was there, we toasted Ralph at dinner, visited the hospital, and shared our concern for him. I think many in the group realized that life is finite and the opportunity to spend five days with a group of great people doing something we love is what life is all about.