Bicycling Adventure: Wallace, Idaho

On September 1, hubbie and I took a bicycle trip on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, an old railroad line that is now a popular bicycle path. We got on in Kellogg, home of Silver Mountain Ski Resort and the world's longest gondola.

When I first became acquainted with Kellogg, Smelterville and Wallace, Idaho, back in the mid 1970's, it was an economically depressed silver mining area. The air was polluted. You could see a distinctive, reverse tree-line. Trees would grow above a certain area on the hillsides, but not below it. There were newspaper articles about kids having lead poisoning. Then there was a terrible mine explosion at the Sunshine mine, and the mine was closed for a time, reopened, closed--read its history in Wikipedia. In the community's attempt to revive a dying location, local businessmen got together and built Silver Mountain Ski Resort.

Today, the area has become a tourist attraction. The air is clean. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is something like 70 miles long, all paved.

Hubbie and I rode from the trail head at Kellogg to Wallace and back, a 23-mile (round trip), leisurely afternoon bike trip.

We were thirsty by the time we got to Wallace, so we stopped for a micro brew made by Wallace Brewery.

In addition to an impressive display of animal heads that included a bison, a moose, a wild boar, a brown bear, deer and elk, there were funny signs, such as the one at the left.

Wallace's claim to fame were its brothels, which continued to exist until 1987. More on that, later.

Here, hubbie is standing in front of the oldest building in Wallace. It's the only building that survived the famous 1910 forest fire that took out millions of acres of forests.

Here's a picture of the Oasis Bordello, now a museum. We took a tour and learned some very interesting things about prostitution in the area. This bordello was shut down in 1987. The madam suspected a FBI raid, and so she and her girls fled, leaving absolutely everything (except their money). You can tour the girls' rooms. It's said that they made about $100,000/year. They were on a prostitution circuit, which meant they were rotated out of the area about every four months. They worked a 16-hour shift, seven days a week, and saw up to 40 men each night. Prices for their services were listed. In 1987, for $15.00, a man could spend 5-8 minutes with a prostitute, and have standard sex. Sessions were timed with a kitchen timer. As I glanced in the rooms, I noticed reading material. Any guesses about what that was?

Torrid bodice rippers.

Here's the old Northern Pacific railroad station.

If you look closely between the trees, you will see a gondola making its way back to the terminal, at Silver Mountain Ski Resort in Kellogg, Idaho. It's the longest gondola in the world.

We started our trip with lunch at the Red Robin in Spokane, and ended it with dinner--a Cinnabon--at the West Valley Mall in Spokane.

It was a delightful Saturday in early September.


  1. What a very cool adventure. I love how you found out all about the quirky history of this town!

  2. Oh, I so much enjoyed reading about this, Cathy! I've been to Silver Mountain and have ridden the gondola!! Wow. It was June 2003. Hubby and I were on a cross-country trip (had done two before, first I-70 thru Denver and down 15 into CA, 1997; and I-80 thru Salt Lake City into Reno/San Francisco and down Pacific coast, 2001)--this time we flew from Cincinnati to Minneapolis then drove to Oregon. On way back to Minneapolis we stopped at Kellogg and rode the gondola to the top of Silver Mt. No skiing of course (which was okay with me, I'm not a skier :-) but the view from up there is breathtaking! And there were such beautiful flowers. I felt like I was Maria in the Sound of Music. Thanks for bringing back such great memories. And I loved reading about the history of the area/towns. Fascinating.

  3. Glad you enjoyed this, Heather and Kenda!

  4. You two have the best adventures, Cathy! Beautiful photos, too. :-)

    1. E.J. I've been reading about your new book. Congrats!!

  5. Sounds like you had a great trip and it looks like the weather was lovely too.

    M :)

  6. Just a quick correction on your blog. The Sunshine Mine Disaster was actually a fire not an explosion. The believed cause was spotaneous combustion from products used as sealants. 91 miners lost their lives and every resident of the Silver Valley was touched by this disaster in 1972. The mining in this area actually began a rapid decline in 1982; it had nothing to do with the Sunshine disaster and everything to do with government regulations and low mineral prices. There are many more comments that could be made in regards to you notes about polluted air, etc. But, that could spark a discussion better left elsewhere.

  7. Anonymous, thank you for the corrections. I am not a scholar on the subject, obviously! And my purpose was not to delve deeply into the mine's history, which is well documented elsewhere. But thank you. The area has a very interesting history.


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