Selected Reports

Hills, seven of ’em

AtlantisA couple of Sunday’s back after a drought of non commuting rides I set out from my house wending through the Kirkland Suburbia.  I wasn’t sure where I was going exactly, but there really are only three directions to go from my house due to Lake Washington and I’d been concentrated more on the eastern and southern directions. As I rode up and down the hills that paralleled the main northern street, I recalled that I had started to ride the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride a month or so back and had cut it short due to breaking a spoke. I was paralleling the start of that ride at this point so after cresting the last hill I turned onto what would be the first descent of the ride. The 7 Hills ride is a classic charity ride that goes one every year.  It packs 3000 feet of climbing into the basic 40 mile (64 kilometer) route with a metric and full century options.  I had no cue sheet, I was just following the Dan Henrys that were still visible. Following old rides via Dan Henry’s is an activity I greatly enjoy, the wayfinding aspects add a lot of pleasure.

I’d of course waited to about 1:30 in the afternoon to start this ride, part of the reason why I hadn’t done the official one (7am start time). It was a great temperature this afternoon, in the mid 60s, with threatening clouds but the promise of sun behind them. The first hill (that I was doing) was Juanita Hill and it is one I’ve done pretty often.  Kirkland’s location between Bothell and Bellevue with Lake Washington on the western side means that to go west you either need to go north and cross via Juanita Hill or South and cross at the I-90 Bridge (or go all the way around via the Lake Washington Loop).  So this was a pretty familiar hill and while it goes on for a couple of miles, it is pretty stair-stepy with no real significant grades.  Before completing the full series of climbs the route takes a sharp left and a really nice wooded descent down to the waterfront.
Juanita Hill
Hill No. 2: Juanita Hill

At the base of the hill is O.O. Denny park which I stopped at for lunch. I had brought a sandwich and a cookie acquired from a convenient Starbucks and I spent a bit of time at the park eating and walking around.  It was pretty empty this day, but with theO.O. Denny Park big threatening clouds that wasn’t too surprising. There were a couple of families there but apart from a little girl playing in the water near where I was eating I didn’t really encounter many people.  After giving the park a nice check-out (I hadn’t stopped here before)  I climbing back on my bicycle and set off for the next hill. The route wends along the shoreline for a mile or so, offering tantalizing glimpses of the water in-between the luxury houses that line the shore. Its nice riding for the most part, as only residents and (the clearly few) visitors to the park using the road.  As the shoulder is pretty minimal at this point the lack of traffic is nice.  Eventually the road turns north and there is a little bit of an ascent.  This levels off for a few hundred feet and then the climb back up begins in earnest.

Seminary Hill
Hill No 3 – Seminary Hill

This is the Hill on the route that I’ve ridden the least.  Before my aborted attempt at this ride a month back I’d never actually taken this route.  Well this is a pretty good hill, last for over a mile and with several sections of pretty descent grades – of course one of these is right at the end.  Its not a killer hill though, totally manageable with just steady grinding. I was glad for the cloud cover as I worked my way to the top which ends with a traffic signal. As I brought it to a stop a roadie came up behind me and as I waited for the light, he checked the traffic and then blew through the light. It changed just as he was finishing the turn so I set off right behind him.  After taking two climbs on pretty much one hill the route now rewards you with a nice long descent. The route goes back down the backside of Big Finn Hill in about a two mile descent.  It bottoms out in Kenmore at the end of Lake Washington where it meets the Sammamish river.  The route turns northeast taking back roads through an industrial till it meets up with the Burke-Gillman Trail.  The route takes the trail for a mile or two turning off the trail at a trestle that crosses the Sammamish River.

Norway Hill
Hill No 4- Norway Hill, lower section

The route then takes these nicely wooded back roads that are mostly flat but with a couple tiny bumps till at last it runs south onto the longest climb of the ride – Norway Hill. This hill is in two parts with a very short flat segment (and a stop sign) in between the two segments.  I’ve ridden both segments before, but mainly the lower section as yTop of Norway Hillou can continue up from there into Kirkland. The lower section gently rises then takes a series of right angle turns, climbing all the while. There are a couple of steep segments here but nothing off the hook.  It is a deeply shaded route through a gap up the valley wall.  The steepest part is right at the final switchback and then it is a gently rising straight segment to the stop sign.  A sharp right and you begin climbing again immediately up the second segment.  This part also twists its way up, up, up with the steepest sections of the whole climb at one point.  It comes to the end with some nice scenic views over the Sammamish valley and out towards Seattle. The descent from Norway Hill is akin to the climb in that it is completely shaded, steep and with several sharp curves. It t-bones into a fairly busy road at the bottom sapping an otherwise screaming descent.  A circuitous roue through suburbia with a mixture of flat easy riding
and some straightforward ups and downs follows this big hill. On a fairly major arterial the road dips down, under I-405 and then begins the climb up Kingsgate Hill.

Kingsgate Hill
Hill No 5 – Kingsgate Hill

This hill is a ruler straight, steady climb with the steepest section right at the beginning and end. Right after you dip down below the interstate there is a fairly steep, short bit to a traffic signal which luckily I made.  Then its pretty steady, fairly gentle climbing for a pace, flatting out almost completely for a short segment then a longer, steeper section to another traffic signal.  After this signal there is a final not too hard of a grade to yet another signal. A left at this signal takes you past a church where, if you were on the real ride, there would be a mid ride refreshments.  I took a swig of water and rode on.  The route follows the top of the valley wall through several neighborhoods and with two major descents back down into the valley.  The second of these is a long, gently curving, well paved road that I hit the max speed of this ride at over 36mph.  The base of this hill is actually only about a mile up from the turn off to Norway Hill  – this route is super compact riding up and down the Sammamish valley wall over and over again.  At a convenience store on this road I bought bottled water and a Key Lime Almond Joy. I love key lime pie and was tempted by this candy bar. It was horrific, not recommended.

Winery Hill
Hill No 6 – Winery Hill

The road is now the Woodinville-Redmond road, a nice flat route through light industrial and the Woodinville Wine region.  At the point where the road curves north, this route turns south and up Winery Hill.  This is by far the toughest hill of the whole route, fairly long but easily the steepest.  It begins with a short, very steep section on beat up asphalt with a railway crossing at the top. The hill then regains its grade curving up and up with a long run-out at the end. But if you take a hard right directly after the railroad tracks you can take a steeper, longer route up. That was the way the 7 Hills planners chose to go.  The section right Redmondafter the tracks crossing is the steepest, something like an 18% grade. There are several hard turns and the roads are really the private roads of a housing development. Eventually you reach the top of the valley walls and there is the climb out in the picture above. On the real ride there is a piper at the top of this section playing you to the top of this tough climb.  The route then parallels the portion of the ride from the top of Kingsgate Hill, past the food stop at the church and then a back hill descent back into the valley.  A nice couple of mile long flat section on Willows Road then follows.  This ends with a bit of a climb to an intersection with Redmond Way. You turn onto this road then a quick right, followed by another right and you are on the start of the Rose Hill climb.

The last section of Rose Hill
Hill No 7 – Rose Hill

The final hill of the official route is Rose Hill, the longest of all the hills. This one goes on for over two miles with three stop lights breaking up the climb.  The first section is the steepest, climbing quickly up from the valley with an S curve at the steepest section.  I ride this hill all the time as it is one of the most direct routes from where I live in Kirkland to points east. So I know every jot and jiggle of this hill and pace myself accordingly.  It was now early evening and the big bad clouds had mostly rolled away without dropping any rain.  I was feeling about ready to pack it in for dinner but I knew I had to ride the one hill I’d sort of bypassed before I’d settled on doing this route.  But I had to get back to the start first and I stuck with the route to see how it’d get there. It turned south before the absolute final gentle climb to the summit of Rose Hill (all the hard parts were done though) and took the nicely wooded roads through the Bridle Trails neighborhood of Kirkland.  These roads take you into the edge of Bellevue and from here the route took a quick jaunt to Lake Washington Blvd and back into Kirkland. Following this waterfront road, the route takes you through downtown Kirkland finally turning into Waverly Park.

Waverly Park
Waverly Park – the Start/Finish line

It was now mostly sunny and the park was filled with people taking in the sun, having a picnic dinner and enjoying the waterfront.  The official ride begins and ends at this park and would be packed with cyclists, food, merchandise and well wishers.  That being a month ago it was just filled with people out enjoying this summer day.  I didn’t linger long but headed out to the beginning of the official ride but the final hill of my version: Market Hill.  Market street is just off the main street of Kirkland and is a long straight not too tough a hill. It goes on for a while and there is often a decent amount of traffic but over all not too hard.  Its a good enough way to start and/or end a hill oriented route. Just past the summit was where I’d joined the route so I took at right at that point and took my circuitous route home.

Market Hill
Hill No 1 – Market Hill

I arrived home at 6:30pm having done just over 44 miles (71km) total.  Overall I have to say this is a great ride and one I didn’t find that tough. Perhaps it’s because I ride in this area all the time, doing some of these hills in my daily commute.  I’ll have to actually do the official ride some year, perhaps doing one of the longer options.

Click here to see my all the pictures from this ride on Flickr.
The official 7 Hills of Kirkland homepage
Bikely map of the 7 Hills route.

Leave a Reply