Lake Washington Loop

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January Picnic

Sunday, January 31st, 2016
January Picnic - NFE at Colman Park

NFE at Colman Park

Sunday January 24th was a splendid winter day. The sun was out, chased around the sky by big fluffy cloud ridges. In the sun I was overdressed and hot but when the sun was behind a cloud it was definitely winter.

January Picnic - Bellevue across the lake and under the clouds

Bellevue across the lake and under the clouds

I wanted to outside, but I didn’t have much of a plan. I left around 11am so I knew that I’d been need lunch. I also wanted to get over to the Eastisde but I wasn’t sure where exactly over there.  Heading to the eastside means the Mountain to Sound Trail so I headed straight there.  At the Mount Baker Tunnel, my plans crystallized and I rode down to Leschi at picked up provisions at the Leschi Market.

January Picnic - Riding up from Lake Washington to the Mountains To Sound trail

Riding up from Lake Washington to the Mountains To Sound trail

I had to get back to the Mountain to Sound trail but I didn’t want to just backtrack. So I road along Lake Washington until I went under the I-90 Floating Bridges and then up the great winding road through Coleman Park. There is a huge P-Patch at Coleman Park and it is a testament to the warmth of this January that there was plenty of work going on there. Getting ready for spring.  This route takes you above the Mount Baker Tunnel and after a short stop for photos, I descended onto the bridge. 

January Picnic - A winter picnic

A Winter Picnic

January Picnic - Coffee Outside

It has become such a routine ride now: across the floating bridge, leave the trail and ride the perimeter road around Mercer Island. Then it’s the second floating bridge and you are on the Eastside. But today I stopped at Luther Burbank Park for a picnic lunch.  I rode down into the park on it’s dirt paths winding around the earthwork The Source to a picnic spot right on Lake Washington. It was warm enough here in the sunlight that I took off my sweater as I unpacked my picnic supplies.

I had planned on making coffee as well on this trip and I brought my Cafflano – an integrated burr grinder, drip filter and drinking vessel.  Instead of boiling my own water I brought a thermos of hot with me. I have to say this worked out well and I had the best cup of coffee I’ve maid out-of-doors.  Lunch was a baguette with smoked cheddar, avocado and an organic honey crisp apple.  Really enjoyable.   The park, like all of the parks I’d go by/through on this day, was quite active as us PNW’ers don’t pass up a warm winter Sunday to get out. Sitting here on the edge of the park I can see out to the Cascades which look tantalizing as if brushed with snow.  I began to feel the stirring in me, drawing me to the mountains.  But I couldn’t go them on this day.

River Snow
-Liu Tsung-yüan
 
A thousand parks: no more birds in flight.
Ten thousand paths: all trace of people gone.
 
In a lone boat, rain cloak and hat of reeds,
an old man’s fishing the cold river snow
 
Translated by David Hinton
from Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, p. 154

January Picnic - Seattle across Lake Washington

Seattle across Lake Washington

I’d decided now that I’d ride the north end of the Lake Washington Loop which provides for a nice ride along the lake with some hills and would take me through Bellevue, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and back into Seattle via the University of Washington. This is a familiar route, but I don’t do it so often these days. It was a great day for this ride and I did take a few jogs off the route for better sights and around more parks. In Bellevue stopped at Cafe Cesura and had them put loose leaf green tea into a tea bag and refill my thermos with hot water.  In Kirkland I turned off the loop to ride up Waverly Way past Heritage Park and on a bluff above the lake. Then it was hill climbs up Market Street in Kirkland and then up Big Finn Hill from Juanita.

January Picnic - Looking South Lake Washington from O.O. Denny Park

Looking South along Lake Washington from O.O. Denny Park

Once again I dropped off the route, dropping all of the elevation I’d just gained back to the lakeside at Holmes Pt.  Down there among all of the McMansions is O.O. Denny Park, a nice big stretch of open space right on the lake with expansive views north and south.  I stopped here and made my tea and did a bit more reading.  After lingering a bit I reached that time where I’d have to leave if I wanted to be home before dark.  I had to climb up from Holmes point but then it was the long descent down Finn Hill.  This take you to Kenmore and the intersection with the Burke Gillman trail at Logboom Park.  I tend to avoid the trail on sunny weekend days, but I the alternatives are a lot hilly and longer, so I decided to just cruise back into the city.  Well it wasn’t so bad — people were definitely out, just like at all the other parks, but it wasn’t packed.

January Picnic - NFE in the distance

NFE in the distance

I made good time one the trail and the times were the lake was visible there was very tantalizing views of the mountains in the distance. The dwindling sun was coloring the sky with soft pinks and purples. Everyone once in a while I could glimpse Mount Rainier which was obscured by clouds when I was in my prime viewing spots.  No good place to stop for pictures when I could see it, so Mount Rainier amidst torn up purple clouds will only remain recorded in my memories. Once I arrived at the U-Distrct it was back on the Lake Washington Loop through city neighborhoods. I left it on my old commute route along the backside of Capital hill, which let me make my way back to the Mountain to Sound Greenway which I could connect to the Beacon Hill Greenway and then back home.

A lovely day of riding with a mix of winter scenery, tea, snow dappled mountainscapes, blue skies, good coffee, mountain poetry, food out doors and 75km of riding.

Full album on Flickr: January Picnic

Pictures from First Rides 2015

Saturday, January 10th, 2015
First Rides 2015 - Atlantis Framing Mount Rainier
Atlantis framing Mount Rainier

The beginning of 2015 found me waylaid by a cold and thus I didn’t get out on my bicycle until January 5th 2015. As per my wont I didn’t get out of the house until late and I ended up doing a fairly standard ride here in the Puget Sound area: South Lake Washington Loop. I rode the anti-clockwise on the loop from the I-90 trail on the west side to the I-90 trail on the Eastside. Then I rode the south half of the loop around Mercer Island before return to the westside.  Two days later I did the North Lake Washington Loop again in between the I-90 trail and this time the north half of the Mercer Island Loop. It has been clear and cold with an inversion layer keeping in fog and smog, which presented some pretty views which I’ll present some photos of here with captions. For more pictures check out my First Rides 2015 photoset on Flickr.

First Rides 2015 - Looking down on SeattleLooking down at Beacon Hill, Seattle and in the distance the Olympics

First Rides 2015 - Atlantis on Lake WashingtonAtlantis on Lake Washington looking at the I-90 Floating bridge
First Rides 2015 - Clouds, Mountain, Lake, BeachAt Seward Park looking at Mount Rainier across Lake Washington
First Rides 2015 - Reflections in the SloughMercer Slough reflecting an overpass
First Rides 2015 - Atlantis above I-90 Floating BridgeAtlantis Above I-90 floating bridge
First Rides 2015 - Looking toward the 520 Floating bridgeAbove Lake Washington with the 520 floating bridge to the left
First Rides 2015 - Smog over BellevueSmog over Bellevue
First Rides 2015 - Finger paintingFinger paint the sky

An epic journey through Snoqualmie Pass – part 1

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

My Atlantis as I set outOn Saturday I did the ride that I meant to do a couple of weeks ago when I discovered that cracked rim.  This was a ride to Issaquah, taking the trails up to Snoqualmie and then to Rattlesnake Lake and finally ride the Iron Horse trail through the tunnel that goes through Snoqualmie Pass.  This is one of my favorite rides and one that I worked out for myself a couple of years back. It involves four different trails, mixed terrain a lot of gradual climbing and spectacular scenery.  However before this day I had never put all the parts completely together and had never ridden through the tunnel. I had done the ride up to Rattlesnake Lake earlier this summer, but on that ride it was quite late when I reached the lake and I would have gotten back quite late. Of course as it turns out that is what happened this time as well…

As I reported earlier my chain broke the day before this ride so the day began with a ride down to the Kirkland branch of Montlake Bicycle Shop on my Safari. I picked up a new chain and some spare powerlinks and returned home to put these on. As I’ve reported before I’m rather adverse to the early start but for some reason I’ve been waking up early on Saturdays. Must be the excitement of not working. Anyway I had gotten up made breakfast did some web surfing, listened to some NPR and replaced my chain before heading out at 10 am. Still late by most cyclists standards, but leaving home before noon is early for me. It was fully overcast and somewhat cool with a chance of showers predicted so I put on wool socks and packed my rain jacket as I set out. This turned out to be a fortuitous choice.

Lake WA Loop signI knew from my earlier ride to Rattlesnake Lake that it would have been over 70 miles to the end of the tunnel (less for the return trip, hooray for loop rides) so I took what I knew was the shortest route there. Pretty much I took the Lake Washington Loop to the I-90 trail, to Issaquah.  This route is pretty suburban, especially the I-90 trail. You have to go through Bellevue on the Loop and then there is a nice section through a wooded area and at the I-90 bridge you turn onto the I-90 trail. This goes through Factoria, which is pretty much suburban hell.  The trail pretty much isn’t a trail through most of Factoria and you ride on the bike lanes in the road and if you followed the signage, sidewalks. Otherwise you make your way through the car dealers, strip malls and parking lots. Eventually you get on a section of actual trail that runs  parallel to the I-90. When going to Issaquah I don’t stay on it long and at a pedestrian overpass I cross over to Newport way. This is a nice downhill from this point which goes past the Zoo Hill climb turnoff, right into Issaquah. It’s about 17 miles total to Front Street about 4-5 miles less then the other route I take (Kirkland->Redmond->East Lake Sammamish Pkwy->Issaquah). It was during my time on the I-90 trail that I discovered that I hadn’t returned my SD card to my digital camera rendering it an expensive paperweight for this trip. Also I saw that I hadn’t recharged the iPhone for a number of days and it was only about half charged. There was not going to be much documentation of this trip. So some of these pictures are from my cameraphone but most of the ones of the trails are from that earlier trip.

A Pomme LambicIt was almost noon now and due to the early breakfast and riding I was ready for lunch. So back to my old friend, the Issaquah Brewhouse. This time I was early enough that there was no crowd. I got an Imperial Porter and ordered Fish Tacos right off.  I followed this up with a Lindemans Pomme Lambic for desert 🙂 Still I ended up spending way too much time here. Service was slow and while I enjoyed the food and beer very much I spent too long here. Especially as I then wandered around Issaquah looking for a place to buy an SD card. I didn’t succeed as I didn’t want to backtrack to the shopping malls. I figured I’d be able to find one in Snoqualmie, or North Bend or maybe the outlet mall up there. So after eating a strange ice cream cone that they squeezed out of a tube, I hit the road.

Wending through the Issaquah streets I made my way to the beginning of the Issaquah-HighpointStart of the Issaquah Highpoint trail trail. This trail starts at an I-90 freeway ramp that they basically have separated the shoulder from the street. It then turns into a very nice pedestrian overpass and a nice trailhead on the northern side. Then the trail proper begins, which is a hard packed dirt and gravel trail that runs through the woods along I-90. As with all of these old railways these constantly climb at a gentle rate. Not sure if I was just tired or what at this point but I found I was not making very good time on this trail. This was to repeat itself on all the trails I would ride this day. This trail runs by a stream and through the woods its short length (about 4 miles) and then ends at a little parking area just off a freeway ramp. From here you ride for another four miles or so on frontage roads until you reach the Preston-Snoqualamie trail. This frontage road opens with a short steep climb and then is rolling hills through some nice countryside, it curves away from I-90 so the freeway isn’t so dominating.

A typical scene on the Preston-Snoqualmie TrailThe Preston-Snoqualmie trail is maybe my all time favorite trail. It is paved, it runs through woods away from the highway and is pretty lightly traveled. It has two distinct sections with a little bit on the shoulder of a road then a single-tracked switchback climb then another paved section through deep woods. The trail ends abruptly near a scenic overlook of Snoqualmie Falls. If one skits around the fence that blocks the end of the trail there is a path that continues for a ways then ends at an old train trestle over a serious gorge. The trestle seems very strong, and stable and I’ve walked a bit of a ways out on it. I’m not a big fan of heights but it did seem like you could walk all the way across it. If only they would continue the trail it would go right to Snoqualmie and would really improve the trip up the pass. As it is one has several options from this point. You can go back on the trail to the last road crossing and head down to Fall City. From their you can get on the Snoqualmie Valley trail up to Snoqualmie or take the Snoqualmie-Fall City road. Either way its quite a bit out of the way. The other option, which I did on this trip (and the previous for that matter) is to take a little hike up to Snoqualmie Ridge.

A trail up to Snoqualmie RidgeSnoqualmie Ridge is this rather horrific housing community built up on a ridge outside of the (much more working class and quaint) city of Snoqualmie. It is centered around a golf course (don’t get me started) and the houses are all of that cookie cutter, same floorplan, different color, exact same sculpted lawn, housing association disaster. Kamazotz was supposed to be a warning not a model! Anyway on the far side of this monstrosity is a small park and a wood area. This is above the Preston-Snoqualmie trail and a number of trails run down through the woods connect the park to the regional trail. These trails are loosely packed dirt and beauty bark and seem to always be wet, heavy and pretty much a steep climb the whole way. So I tend to push my bicycle the bulk of the way which as it’s only a bit over a mile is perfectly fine. Still tough though, it’s amazing how much easier it iWhitaker Parks to ride scores of miles, but pushing you bicycle uphill for a mile is a real corker. The path ends at Whitaker park which is open to Kamazotz on one side but an power line route to the north opens an amazing vista into Snoqualmie Valley. A real stunning view and after that hill a nice place for a break.

After a short time I head out riding through the identical houses of Snoqualmie Ridge, that flank yet another stiff climb. Today it was packed with cars and it turned out that there was some sort of golf tournament going on and as I rode through the development I was flanked by tourists, SUVs and golfers. Horrific. I got out as soon as I could and enjoyed the mile long or so descent into the city of Snoqualmie. Again I tried to find some SD cards and again I failed. Yet more time was lost. Snoqualmie is a cute little town with a train museum and touristy shops but it still contains a lot of its working class flavor. I did see the Snoqualmie Brewing Taproom which I sense will be an upcoming destination…

Between Snoqualmie and the equally quaint town of North Bend is some road riding. You can of course find your way to theThe Mar T Upper Snoqualmie Valley Trail (head toward the falls and turn onto Tokul road) but I find the road route to be quicker, easier and a bit of a break from the trails. Plus I like to ride through Snoqualmie and North Bend. North Bend is where Twin Peaks was filmed and you ride right past the diner that was used for the exterior shots of the Mar T. You ride right through downtown North Bend taking a left at the light kittycorner from the Mar T. The road continues till it eventually intersects with the I-90. However after a bit a paved bicycle path appears on the right and if you follow that it turns onto a much less traveled suburban road. Following this route you end up at the same point as the road you were previously on but with a lot less travel. At the road where turning right takes you to the I-90 you go left and you’ll come right to an entrance of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley trail. It also turns out you can go right cross the freeway and with some stiff clinbing end up at the same place. Better route for the return trip, so it was the trail to me.

The SVTThe Snoqualmie Valley Trail is a gravel surfaced trail that begins in Monroe way at the western end of the valley and slowly climbs all the way up to Snoqualmie. Then you do a bit of road and can get on the Upper Snoqualmie Valley trail, which runs through North Bend and ends at the state park at Rattlesnake Lake completing the trails 29 miles. When I hopped on the trail it was about 4-5 miles to Rattlesnake Lake. Again I was making pretty slow progress, the gravel and slight incline working against me. Also what with the long delay in Issaquah and the hunt for the SD card in Snoqualmie and North Bend I was pushing it for time. Finally I arrived at Rattlesnake Lake at around 4pm. The Iron Horse State Park begins here with the John Wayne Memorial Trail. This park is basically a gravel path along the old Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad route that stretches over a hundred miles all the way to the Columbia River. This parallels in part I-90 as it crosses Snoqualmie Pass. The Iron Horse Trail does that whole climb and then culminates in a two mile long tunnel through the mountain. Once through you have crossed the mountains and are in Eastern Washington.

Stay tuned for the exciting trip through the tunnel and back. Until then check out my Flickr gallery from this ride and my gallery of this route on my cycling site.