The Trail of the Hiawatha
In the story, Fanned Embers, I get to explore one of the most dramatic moments in US History—the largest fire named The Big Blow Up by the press in 1910. The story is set on the Montana/Idaho border following what’s now known as the Trail of the Hiawatha. This trail used to be a famous upscale train ride through the Bitterroot Mountains. But before that, it was a long chain of mining and train camps full of the roughest hooligans known to man!
Preparing for this book meant a lot of hard research, especially physically. My family rode the Hiawatha by bikes three times. The old train tracks and trestles have been turned into a 16.5 mile bike path that winds down, down, down passing through an astounding amount of train tunnels. One tunnel is about a mile and a half long, dark as dark can be, and c-o-l-d! Headlamps are required.
The old train history, mining camp history, and the story of the Big Blow Up unfold through a series of markers and a few remaining ruins. The ride itself is super easy and took 2.5-3 hours to complete each time at a leisurely pace. Early summer holds a lot of rain—we did it anyway. Mid-summer is hot and the tunnels give respite from the sun. Late summer is much cooler and you’ll see changing seasons. Dry camping is available in a variety of remote sites around the trailhead and throughout the valley.
Tip: Be sure to either go online or stop at the Lookout Pass station to get your Hiawatha permit, check rules of the trail, and you can even rent a bike if you can’t bring your own.
Angela Breidenbach is a history buff, biking enthusiast, and has a deep curiosity of the world around her. Christian Authors Network president and radio host of Lit Up! with Angela Breidenbach, she loves sharing the joy of Montana life!