Wednesday, June 10, 2015

John Wayne Pioneer Trail (2015-06-06 and 07)

Crossing the Cascade Range by miles and miles of gravel!

Related albums:

After my big tour a couple weeks back, I realized that my free time is mine to spend; I don't need to follow a weekend routine. Thus, I decided to go out on a little Trek.

More after the break…

  1. Day 1
  2. Day 2

Day 1 Intro: To Downtown Seattle

While I know I could've gotten to Easton by riding the whole way, I wanted to enjoy the trip more by taking my time, so I rode the bus from downtown Seattle to Issaquah to cut out the part I like least and save time. I was a bit worried about getting my bike to fit on the bus's rack, but it worked just fine. I left about a half-hour later since that would be perfect to get me on the first run of the route.

Due to the multiple street-wide closures on 2nd Ave, I had to catch the bus at the third stop on the route instead of the second.

While riding the bus, I found out that local cycling legend, Kent Peterson, was going to move to Oregon to work for Bike Friday. I made it a point to try to stop by on the way home, since I would be in Issaquah too early for the trip out.

At some point along the way, another cyclist boarded and we got to chatting. He was heading out into the mountains to hike with some friends.

Day 1: Outbound

Once in Issaquah, I headed straight for the Issaquah–Preston Trail. It was actually in good shape this time, too! It wasn't so nice last time.

And unlike last time, I stuck to it all the way to Preston, so I got to see some new stuff.

Once I got to High Point Way, another cyclist showed up and we chatted for a bit. He was riding a Soma Double Cross (set up differently from mine) and was headed up the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, too. Interestingly, he had seriously considered the Sugino OX601d I had put on mine, but decided against it due to cost.

I stopped for some coffee in Preston, since I was feeling it.

From Preston, I hit I-90 and took it all the way to North Bend, as I've done so many times.

I then passed through North Bend, heading for the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

Once I got to the trail, I saw a tent/booth set up by the King County Parks System and chatted a bit with the folks there. The same guy on the Double Cross zipped by after a while, which meant that I-90 really was significantly faster than other routes since my mountain bike isn't a speed demon.

I then headed up along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. It was pretty uneventful, though I still don't understand how people seem to need music going on all the time when outside. (If you want to see more of this section, see this album.)

Once at the end of the trail, I headed to the Cedar River Watershed Educational Center to top off my bottles for the longest part of the ride away from civilization.

After that, I finally hit the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at the Cedar Falls trailhead, then started heading along it.

I started seeing remnants of the Milwaukee Road's electrification, which "amped me up," so to speak.

When I saw the old Ragnar site, I had to take photos of all the rusted scrap there.

And the old electrification supports.

Here and there along the trail, I also saw some modern power lines and related infrastructure.

The mountains were pretty spectacular, too.

And I-90 made itself known with all the noise it generated.

There were a lot of folks hiking out from the lower trailheads for a while, as well as rock climbers. The old steel trestles were awesome, too!

Fewer and fewer people were around the further up I went. When I did mention the fact that this railroad was electric to those with whom I did talk, they were all amazed.

The campgrounds were mostly deserted, too.

I did see some folks riding mountain and cyclocross bikes, but they were spaced far apart.

Eventually, I came across this old snow shed.

And then I reached the trail's crown jewel: the Snoqualmie Tunnel.

A couple of guys headed the other way stopped to chat for a while. One was on a Novara hybrid with a trailer, and the other was on an On-One Inbred with fat tires. The former really wished he had wider tires for some loose gravel on the trail.

After chatting, I headed into the tunnel.

I was behind an older gentleman and we chatted for most of the length at a slower pace, until I decided to pass him and head for the Hyak trailhead.

After acquiring more water, I was on my way, and quickly hit the loose gravel.

I fishtailed for a while, but never went down. After realizing that I needed to reduce power output, I 'paddled' my way over it.

The scenery was beautiful, as Keechelus Lake was between the trail and I-90.

And every now and then, I saw remnants of former snow sheds. I didn't see, however, many people out here.

Across the lake, I-90 was seeing a lot of construction.

The trail continued through nondescript forest, with tunnels and bridges here and there.

At a couple points, it merged with fire roads.

And eventually, I saw the BNSF line that goes up to Stampede Pass.

As well as the Yakima River, which goes back and forth under the trail.

It also goes through Lake Easton, a reservoir.

Of course, I also saw the infrastructure around said dam.

After some small climbs and descents over hills, I ended up in the town of Easton itself.

The downtown was pretty spooky, as everything was closed. I called the bed and breakfast at which I was staying to alert them to my arrival, and inquired about food options. They gave me driving directions (I-90) before I mentioned that I was on a bicycle, then told me to roll through town to the next exit, as all of the food was there.

By the way, Easton was originally platted by the Northern Pacific Railway (now part of BNSF) as it was at the eastern end of the Stampede Pass tunnel.

I ended up eating at a barbecue restaurant.

While I was there, another cyclist with a full set of four panniers rolled up and we got to talking. He had a lot of energy and was pretty excitable.

We talked with other patrons, including a couple who told us about the hummingbird moth, some species of which look like and fill the same niche as actual hummingbirds. In the amount of time I got all of my food (rib dinner and a plate of pulled pork) and ate it, they still hadn't received any food; just wine.

Once done at the restaurant, I rode over to the bed and breakfast. After getting everything settled, I showered and headed to bed. (While I usually shower in the morning, I learned that it was better to do the opposite when on my big tour.)

Day 2: Inbound

The following morning, I tried to see what sort of radio stations I could get, without too much luck. The house had a metal roof that came down low, which is always a bad sign as far as reception goes.

I spent some time chatting with the husband who owns (and built) the house. He talked about how the property was originally a mink farm, and how water was pulled down from a spring up the hill. Electricity was provided by a turbine spun by that water. Despite all that, the current owners drilled a well for their main water (which was very nice), and only used the springwater for irrigation.

I also learned that most of downtown Easton is currently owned by a man named Rex Fay, who butts heads with other locals quite often. He's barricaded roads with concrete blocks, and even barricaded the main route through town (former US 10) at one point. Nowadays, he mainly keeps downtown shut down, but opens one shop a few hours a day to keep his business license.

I did eventually have to get going, through. After getting everything together, I headed back to and through town to the trail.

The railroad still has a strong presence in the town, despite not having a station.

Coming into town on day 1, I saw a number of ruins near the trail.

After snapping all those photos, I headed out on my way. There was a bit of a headwind, so I wasn't as fast as yesterday here.

I really hate trail gates, by the way.

After fighting the gravel on the section of the trail at Lake Keechelus (though with less trouble and more speed), I hit Hyak again.

I tried to locate coffee without going all the way up to Snoqualmie Pass, but had no luck.

I just headed back to the tunnel and continued riding.

While riding through the tunnel, there were some teenagers (or immature college guys) hooping and hollering the whole time. There were also some folks without any lights, which is a terrible idea when it's pitch black.

Once through, I started gaining a lot of speed down the hill. I eventually got going at 18 MPH for most of the ride, slowing to 16 MPH in places.

Due to the fun I was having banging the bike around with such speed, I wasn't so motivated to stop for photos. Plus, I had already grabbed a bunch the day before.

Some folks riding uphill were taking up the entire width of the trail, so I kept trying to alert them with my bell until they noticed. In the case of folks walking, I slowed down so I wouldn't spook them.

Despite the sign, shooting was quite common.

I made my way down to the Cedar Falls trailhead in much less time than it had taken me to go the other way

Similarly, I bombed down the Snoqualmie Valley Trail to North Bend.

I stopped by the bike shop (which had an awesome-looking touring bike out front) to look for something I wish I had, but had left at home. No dice. They did, however, point me to a place for good coffee: the Euro Lounge Creperia Cafe. While there, a young lady at an adjacent table and I started talking. As it turned out, that was her bike, and she's done a lot of touring. Her trip to France and Ireland sounded especially interesting.

She was headed to Seattle as well, but had the time to take a less stressful route all the way, while I was using I-90 to get to Issaquah and my return bus, so we exchanged contact information and headed on our own respective ways.

Right before leaving, however, I had the privilege of seeing the Northwest Railway Museum excursion train.

From there, I took I-90 all the way to Preston and then hit the Issaquah–Preston Trail, mirroring what I had done before. On the latter, I was going very fast yet again, and the rocky bits were awesome!

Once back in Issaquah, I went over to Kent's workplace to congratulate him on his new employment. I also saw the Issaquah Valley Trolley operating, though I didn't stop to take a photo.

After that, I headed straight to the Issaquah Transit Center for my return bus ride home.

While on the bus, another cyclist boarded and we talked for a while. He was training for the STP, and had just gone around the northern half of Lake Washington.

Day 2 Conclusion: Return Home

The ride home wasn't too hard. I stopped by my local bike shop to talk about some stuff, then stopped at the shop where I have the work done on my Brompton to see how the new aluminum fenders on it looked. I was impressed!

And in just a few minutes after leaving, I was finally home!

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