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Three Days on the Iron Horse Trail part 1

Saturday, July 11th, 2015
Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Setting off

Loaded Atlantis at Jefferson Park

This year I’m not going to be able to do any extended touring, so I’m attempting to make the most of three-day weekends and overnight trips.  As I’ve noted in these pages it has been quite warm this spring so when Memorial Day Weekend rolled around I finally decided to do a trip I’ve been planning for years: ride a good chunk of the Iron Horse Trail.  Iron Horse State Park is a narrow park that surrounds the trail which runs from Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend to the Columbia River following the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad. More than 100 miles of trail extends from the trailhead at Cedar Falls to the Columbia River.  The railroad of course continues on past the Columbia and so does the trail, though it is not a state park and is run by the DNR. Reportedly it’s quite primitive and more of a horse camping route.

Iron Horse Trail West

Iron Horse Trail Western Side Map (pdf)

I chose to ride to the trailhead though I seriously considered taking the bus to North Bend in order to maximize my time on the trail. It is a pretty decent journey to North Bend from Seattle with much more up and down and steep climbs then on the trail itself. But if I can ride I like to and in the end I decided that it’d be nice to do some road riding along with the many miles of gravel trail I’d be on (for a recent report on a multi-modal IHT trip, check out this Seattle Bike Blog post: Bus-bike-backpacking on the IHT).

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Trolly in Issaquah

Issaquah Valley Trolley

Hobo ArtAs usual I got off a little later than planned, but I still pretty quickly got into touring mode.  I followed the usual route following the Mountains to Sound Greenway to Issaquah where I stopped to eat lunch. I had packed some sandwiches and I stopped at Issaquah’s Depot Park to eat it. Well while I was there I found the Issaquah Valley Trolley up and running and an art exhibit in the Depot Museum from Shaun Doll that utilized the symbols that hobos used to communicate: Hobos and Homelessness. I didn’t end up riding the trolley, but I did spend some time checking out the art and the railroad exhibits. I’ve encountered hobo signs before in various places and interestingly enough had just been discussing come that had shown up near the Columbia St. onramp in Pioneer square near where I work.

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Atlantis on the Preston Snoqualmie Trail

On the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail

From Issaquah I followed the Issaquah-Preston Trail which is a hard packed gravel trail that runs along I-90 to the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail which is paved and heads northeast-ish, both of which I’ve ridden many times. Now the real missing link in the Mountains to Sound Greenway which I’m pretty much following all the way is from this trail to the Upper Snoqualmie Valley trail which connects to the Iron Horse Trail.  There are basically three options: ride along I-90 for a stretch, descend into the Snoqualmie Valley and take the lower Snoqualmie Valley Trail, or work your way up Snoqualmie Ridge and then into Snoqualmie. The short, but steepest, route is up onto Snoqualmie Ridge and this time Google Maps hooked me up with a route through there. You exit the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail at Alice Lake road and ride the very (very) steep road up to the Lake. The road dead ends around the lake but Google Maps had routed me onto a power line trail the connects to a housing development trail network on Snoqualmie Ridge.

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Wetland

Wetlands near Alice Lake

It was at this point that I encountered the only real snafu of the day: I went the wrong way on this trail.  Google Maps was very ambiguous, with just a Turn left off of the road that I was on. But it curved around and it wasn’t clear whether they were including this curve and then the turn on the trail in which case the direction wasn’t clear. I have a strong sense of direction, but since I’d gone on a winding road up to Lake Alice and then perhaps two-third’s of the way around the lake and I didn’t know what GM was doing, I made the wrong choice. I basically took this power line trail, which became increasingly rough, almost all the way back to where the Preston-Snoqualmie trail crosses the Preston-Fall City Road. At that point I consulted a map app and figured out what I’d done wrong and backtracked. Once I got back to where I should have been it turned out to be less than a mile on this trail before exiting onto the nicely paved Snoqualmie Ridge Trails.

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - On a powerline trail

Powerline Trail

PreprohibitionPilsnerThe downside of climbing up to Snoqualmie Ridge is that you have climbed quite hight and then you take a screaming descent into Snoqualmie. This of course is altitude that you will slowly regain as you work your way up the pass. If you take the Snoqualmie Trail from the valley you don’t do this superfluous climbing. But it is more circuitous and longer (and you still descend from Preston into the valley). The trail interests Snoqualmie’s Centennial trail, a short trail that runs almost from the Falls into town. This trail would be the continuation of the Preston-Snoqualmie trail if they were still running a tourist steam engine on the chunk of the line that runs by the falls. I got into Snoqaulmie around 3:30, a bit later than planed, and was tired and hungry enough from the extra riding that I went straight to the Snoqualmie Falls Brewery for some snacks and beverages. I was quite pleased to see that the brewery had their summer beer, a Pre-Prohibition Pilsner, which is one of my favorite beers when I’m really thirsty. I’m not much of a lager fan but there is so much more character in this pre-prohibition recipe which since they brew it with ale yeast might be why I like it so much…

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - River Crossing

Crossing the Snoqualmie River

After recuperating at the brewery it was a pretty quick jaunt around Snoqualmie and the backroads to North Bend (home of the Double R) where I connected onto the upper Snoqualme Valley Trail. From here on out I’d be riding on gravel with a very slight grade.  It’s nicely hardpacked gravel and that grade is slight, but the combination of the two means that you never make as good of time as you think you would. I was needing to make good time at this point as I was well behind my itinerary due to the late start, the wrong turn and the unplanned stop at the brewery.  You ride through some far flung suburb’s, cross the Snoqualmie River and then into the woods up to Rattlesnake Lake. The Cedar Falls Trailhead, the western terminus of the Iron Horse Trail, is on the north edge of Rattlesnake Lake.  Nearby is the Cedar River Watershed environmental center which is the last tapwater you will find until you are across the pass. I filled up my bottles, as well as an extra 2-litre bladder and finally set of on the Iron Horse Trail.

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Major Trestle crossing

Trestle Crossing on the Iron Horse Trail

This was an overcast day in contrast to the last few weeks and as I climbed into the mountains I reached into these clouds which streamed down the spring green slopes.  The light was dwindling and with few exceptions the remaining people on the trail were all heading west back home.  The trail was nicely packed gravel and the large ballast the used to be on all the trestles had been removed and could be found in large piles on either end.  Several sections along this first part of the route are shear rock walls that are popular climbing destinations. Most of these were empty at this late hour, though I saw a few climbers heading home. The trail slowly climbs until I-90, which it pretty well parallels, is far below.  The wash of traffic though was always present, sometimes more distant, but always in the background.

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Clouds rolling down the hills above I-90

Clouds streaming down the mountains above I-90

There are four campgrounds, two on either side of the Pass, each pair fairly close to each other. I’d planned to go to the second campground on the western side, to get a jump on the next days ride, but by the time I reached Alice Creek Campground, the westernmost ‘ground, it was late enough I called it a day. All of the campgrounds are primitive with no running water but are all next to a creek. In this case though it was quite a hike down to Alice Creek. So I did all my cooking and cleanup with the water I had lugged up (and I had lugged up enough for breakfast the next day as well) and as the light truly failed I hung up my food from an old telegraph pole across the trail.  I made it into my tent just a bit after 10pm, after a long day.

Memorial Day Mini-Tour Day 1 - Alice Springs Campground

Alice Creek Campground

 

Grey skies
reach down
envelope green hills

Miles ridden today: 63
Photographs:  this day/all days

Spring Populaire

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Echo, blinded by the setting sun

For various reasons this year I’m going to have extremely limited options for bicycle touring, most likely limited to overnights and three day weekends. For me what I really love about touring is the mindset that you get into, a form of mindfulness where you are in harmony with your surroundings, bicycle and body.  After all my touring I’ve found that I’ve been able to slip into this mindset on longer day rides, where I just let go of the thoughts and concerns of everyday life and just ride. I tend to have no problem coming up with rides that I like to do, but motivating to get up early and do really long rides can be lacking. This is one of the reasons why I really like the PNW summers where you can start late and still be rolling in the twilight well after 9pm.  But it isn’t summer year round and so I’ve finally decided that this is the year to dabble with randonneuring.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The throngs preparing to set off

Almost every time I return from tour, I say to myself that this year I’ll start randonneuring in order to keep my tour fitness. Hasn’t happened.  But for the reasons listed above I finally made a start of it with the SIR 2015 populaire.  Not a brevet, so not quite randonneuring proper, but a good start. A 200k will certainly be in the cards for this spring, but I was happy to do my first organized ride in years.  Another stumbling block for me and randonneuring has been the early starts, but in the last year I’ve completely switched from being a night owl to being an early riser.  Now most rando events start pretty much well after my normal rising time.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Stripped down Atlantis

March 7th was the SIR/RUSA 100k Spring Populaire and it was a beautiful warm late winter day. It was no problem for me to ride to the start at Woodland Park about 8 miles away, arriving a good 30 minutes early.  It proved to be a well attended ride with over a 100 riders pre-registered and plenty more day of registrations.  I wandered around drinking the free coffee and checking out the diverse bicycles. As with any organized event, you are going to see all kinds of ‘cycles from classic 70s steel bicycles, to the au currant low-trail, big boxy bag, 650b machine, to the latest carbon fibre racing machine.  Some lovely bicycles there for sure. As for myself I was riding my venerable Atlantis, but stripped down about as much as I ever had.  While a populaire is not what I’d consider “big deal” distance, even with the ride to and from the start, I knew it’d be much faster than my usual “spacing out” pace.

Seattle SPRING POPULAIRE 2015

The big group set off right at 9am riding along Green Lake in the morning sun. The day was already beginning to warm up and not too long from now I’d have to stop to remove my wool cardigan and switch to short fingered gloves.  The route took us east from Greenlake – including a short gravel stretch through Cowen Park – to the U-District and onto the Lake Washington Loop.  Then it was up to the I-90 Bridge Trail across to Mercer Island.  By this point things had sorted themselves out, with the fast riders jackrabbiting off and the rest of us settling into little groups of similar pace. I ended up riding with a group of guys from Olympia and Seattle who were perhaps just a bit faster than I would ride, pushing me nicely the whole way.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Gravel riding in Cowen Park

I’ve ridden all the parts of the ride many times and had even ridden the reverse of this one last autumn (modified to start and end at home of course) so it was familiar territory. But out on this sunny winter day, pushed on by 100+ riders it was definitely a different experience. Of course there was also the controls which I’ve not had to contend with before. No big deal; you just have a card with a series of locations that you either get signed by a SIR volunteer or you answer a question proving you were at the spot. It does require you to be self-policing for the most part, but really any cheating on the routes or anything is just cheating yourself.  There’s nothing to win, so no real point.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - On the I-90 bridge

The route worked it’s way around Issaquah (where I’ve rarely ridden to without a stop at the Issaquah Brew House!) then out on some more country roads as it worked it’s way to the Cedar River Trail. We had the first Info Control just outside of the (always) quite crowded Tiger Mountain Trailhead, where had to note what was written on a particular sign. Then it was back on the road to take nice wooded roads to the Cedar River Trail.  There was a short stretch here where I was riding alone and of course this was the one place where the sign for a turn was obscured and easy to miss. But I only rode fifty feet or so past it before feeling I should check it out looking back saw the sign.  Glad I did as it was above to do a long steep downhill dive that I wouldn’t have appreciated backtracking on.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Control with snacks!

Where we entered the Cedar River Trail there was another control, this one stocked with snacks and water and such. I got my card signed, refilled my bottles and ate a few snacks. It was about noon at this point and I realized that not bringing some real food with me was a mistake.  Snacks are fine for some quick energy but I’ve found on any decent length ride I need to eat some actual food. I compensated as best I could with peanuts and other snacks with some protein content, but pretty much figured getting to the pizza place at the finish was my best bet.  So back on the bicycle and on the Cedar River Trail.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Cedar River Trail

I figured the Cedar River Trail  was an opportunity for some easy, fast riding to eat up some of the remaining miles before returning to the city and the several climbs to the finish point. It did begin that way, but due to a constant headwind, it slowly wore me down. That and the aforementioned lack of food made for the last few miles on the trail to be kind of a slog.  Once I was in Renton though things perked up a bit. We wound through side roads until we reached the Renton Airfield and were back on the Lake WA Loop route.  It’s a pretty fast ride from here into Seattle Neighborhoods though Rainier Ave is a pretty trafficked and loud route.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Riding on Lake Washington

As we made it to the Rainier Beach portion of town there was a blocked off chunk of road, for some utility work it looked like. I hopped on the sidewalk and through a parking lot of a park to bypass it staying on route.  Past that it was a bit of a climb and then a descent down to Seward Park and we were back on the edge of Lake Washington. A lot more cyclists on this stretch of road, which is certainly on of the more popular Seattle Riding destinations.  It leaves the lake with a classic winding climb up in the Washington Park neighborhood and then across the arboretum.  This route through the arboretum is not one I’d done before (I just typically stay on the main road through) and it was I much nicer option, though a wide paved trail across the park.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Riding into the Arboretum

Once out of the arboretum we cross the I-520 and were back in the U-District. The route took us on a short stretch of the Burke Gillman Trail to Fremont, up Stone Way and then Fremont Ave until we had climbed up Phinney Ridge – always nice to end your ride with a good climb! Phony Ridge featured the Zeeks Pizza where the ride ended.  I had completed my first SIR event at 5’20” – about middle of the pack it appears from the results.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The finish at Zeeks Pizza

I got into Zeeks and immediate ordered a Veggie Thai Pizza (my favorite thing from them) and a beer. Ended up hanging out with a few of the riders I’d ridden with for some of the time, plus several others. Everybody was really nice telling many a story of brevets past and speculating on those of the future.  The 200k was just the next weekend, but alas I had a prior commitment. But I will be back for the next one!

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The Sound, the Port and Mount Rainier (in the distance)

Feeling really well recovered I took a different, slightly longer, route home along the Seattle Waterfront. It was packed with people of course, so I set a nice leisurely pace. The sun was going down and everything was lit with the rich light of magic hour. I was feeling pretty good after this ride, which as I suspected I did at much faster pace than normal. But of course I did have to climb Beacon Hill to get back home – as noted always good to end your ride with a good climb.
Check out all of my pictures from this ride on Flickr: Spring Populaire 2015.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Atlantis in the Leaves

Atlantis in the Leaves

It’s been one of those weeks and as so often is the case there is no better therapy than a nice bicycle ride. I’ve been pining to get back to the mountains and while I set out too late to really get into the Cascades I did make it to the foothills.  I ended up  following the Mountain to Sound Greenway which is a sequence of trails interspersed with road riding: I-90 Trail -> Issaquah-Preston Trail -> Preston-Snoqualmie Trail with a brief sojourn on the East Lake Sammamish Trail. While separating one from traffic (and I-90 which this route parallels most of the time) these trails are usually wedged in where they can and are thus a lot hillier than one might expect. The Preston-Snoqulamie tail is a genuine rail-trail which runs nice and flat except where bridges are gone (such as over the Raging River Valley).

 
An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Looking back down the leaf strewn Issaquah-Preston Trail

reaching out my hand
I catch
a single falling leaf

I wanted to get to the Issaquah-Preston Trail which is one of my favorite mixed-terrain routes.  This trail is a rocky dirt path paralleling I-90 that ends (appropriately enough) at Preston.  From there you an take one of the best paved trails in the state The Preston-Snoqualmie trail which is a rare paved trail in the woods. These are all routes I’ve ridden many times and have reported on more than once in these pages but I think this was the latest autumn ride I’ve done on this route. The paths, especially the more wooded sections were deeply buried in multi-colored leaves which was beautiful but rather buried the many large rocks on these trails.  Still it was great to be in the cool mountain air, with the fog shrouded foothills looming above. I wish I’d set out early enough to ride further into the mountains – the dwindling light always a factor this time of year.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Issaquah Creek

Issaquah Creek

I only rode a couple of miles on the Preston-Snoqulamie Trail and decided to stop at a section of the trail that crosses a gorge above a stream. Of all the times I’ve ridden the trail I’ve never gone down to this stream which I rectified on this trip. It was pleasant here; this part of the trail has turned away from I-90 and I was down far enough that the few other users of the trail were mostly unnoticeable.  After a bit of a break by the pools of water I backtracked down to Issaquah and had a couple of beers and some onion rings at the Issaquah Brewhouse. While I was there, a ‘Thriller’ “flash mob” broke out right in front of the pub which lasted the length of the song and as I returned to my bicycle broke up.  On my ride east I was on the north side of the I-90 following the Mountain to Sound route, for my return west I stuck to the south side on the hillier route on the edge of Newport. But I had to back track on the I-90-Mercer Island-et al bit back home.

An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride - Pools on a feeder creek to the Raging River

 Pools on a feeder creek to the Raging River

I made it it home in the dark around 7:30 having done around 50 miles on this day. An even dozen photos from the ride can be found in my An Autumn Mixed-Terrain Ride on Flickrset on Flickr.

TPMD – Issaquah Brewhouse

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Issaquah Brewhouse logoLast weekend I had an ambitious riding trip planned that I had to abort due to a cracked rear rim. You can read the whole story here but a trip to the Issaquah Brewhouse was always part of the plan.  The first time I ever rode to Issaquah I found this brew house and on discovering it was a Rogue outlet it became a feature of any trip that routed through Issaquah. Rogue is one of the great American brewers with several world class beers. Their Shakespeare Stout is the best oatmeal stout I’ve ever had and when one looks at the amount of nation and international awards that it has won I’m not alone in that opinion. They have a great porter, a hardcore, yet still drinkable barleywine and one of the few lagers I can get behind. But what’s really striking about Rogue is their willingness to experiment. They have dozens of bottled beers and even more on tap. Not to mention an endless stream of one-offs from their brewmaster, John Maier. They are always trying new things and as with all experiments they have a lot of failures. Oddly enough a lot of these failures stick around so I guess they appeal beyond my tastes. They also have a pretty good menu of kicked up pub-fare though I haven’t explored it very thoroughly.

This trip I stuck with some of their limited edition special beers getting a pint of their Brew 10,000 first off. I had seen this bottled in a ceramic 22oz bottle for around US$20.00. That price had kept me from actually trying it so I was pleased to get a chance to sample it at the more reasonable pint price. A strongish ale with a distinct hopping it was kind of like a strong IPA with a bit less hops. Very nice and something I would drink again. It is supposed to be a one-off though to celebrate the breweries ten thousandth brew.  I followed this up with a selection from John’s Locker Stock, an Imperial Porter. Porters are my overall favorite style of beer and it was a big part of how I judge any brewery. Rogue’s excellent Mocha Porter is a permanent part of their lineup but this special brew was suppose to be something special. I have to say it wasn’t bad, but it was not Mocha Porter and certainly not approaching the truly great porters. The recipe for this was even more malty then your average porter and more strongly hopped. It struck me as a beer then didn’t quite know what it was. It didn’t really have the alkaline neutrality that I associate with the best porters and the higher hoppiness just didn’t sit right. It kind of reminded me of an out of balance IPA. Okay but nothing they should add to their line.

The bar

I had intended to get lunch here and I arrived right around when I like to eat lunch. They were quite busy and I was informed as I sat that the kitchen was running around forty minutes. Well I was hungry so ordering right away was key. They took a beer order from me and then preceded to ignore me until this was empty. At that point I was asked if I wanted another beer (which I did, the Imperial Porter) but this was quickly done as my server was carrying out another order. At this point I had decided that I’d drink this beer and head somewhere else for food. The forty minute wait from this point just wasn’t worth it. They were quite busy and I’m sure if I’d been more aggressive I would have been able to order no problem, but that’s just not my style. This isn’t the first time I’ve had issues getting food here – they really seem reluctant to do so. Odd, but they make their money slinging beers. It gave me a chance to finally go to Pogacha which was another think I’d been meaning to do. I think basically when one orders one’s beer here you should state you want to get food (if you do) and not count on them asking for your order. Still highly recommended for the beer selection.

You can find a few more pictures of the Brewhouse here and use this map to find your way to the Issaquah Brewhouse.