Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Solstice

We have had a fantastic June here in Seattle. Lush green vegetation all around, blue skies, puffy clouds (in California, I almost forgot how pretty cumulus clouds are, something I used to appreciate a lot as a former glider pilot) and long daylight hours. I have biked trails that challenged me, made me scared and sore all over, as well as excited after finishing a ride (talking about East Tiger Mountain) and met some people via Meetup groups. The first day of summer promised to be a perfect sunny day, but it turned out that people I know either went downhilling at Steven's Pass (not quite my cup of tea) or were planning on actively participating in the Fremont Solstice ride (Warning! these Google images are not exactly workplace compatible, at least not here in the USA).
On Friday night, I kept staring at my list of backcountry epic rides, but frankly felt a little unsure if I wanted to venture to the unforgiving WA wilderness by myself. So I planned a safer alternative: a long gravel exploratory ride. I wanted to check out unpaved trails that connect to the long distance Iron Horse rail trail, which I thought could be a destination of a good overnight bike camping trip.
The route was actually pretty trivial, easy to figure out from online materials, here is the track:

The end of Preston-Snoqualmie trail had a vista point with a mostly obstructed view of Snoqualmie falls.

 The more interesting part of this section was finding a singletrack connector (Whitaker Trail) to Snoqualmie Ridge. It was a rain forest-y, loamy, soggy, steep trail that took a lot of energy to climb. At one moment, I saw a black furry animal leave the trail and disappear in the ferns. After the next bend, a woman runner and her dog got scared, she said she thought I was a bear (!). No, I said, that would be a little further down the trail.
I connected with the Snoqualmie Valley Trail at this tunnel (Tokul Tunnel), but instead going south towards the Iron Horse aka John Wayne Pioneer Trail, I turned north.

 I crossed the Tokul trestle and kept pushing a big gear on a flat, hard packed gravel trail in the northbound direction.
 The scenery changed from deep woods to horse farms and eventually to fields. From this horse ranch ahead, the ride has become a real gravel grinder. The headwind picked up, the trail was straight as a ruler and the sun baked me enough to drip sweat from my arms to the gloves.

 I finished the ride by getting lost first in very manicured yet anonymous developments of Redmond, then on the last half mile in a maze of bicycle paths around the Marymoor Park.
It would be a long trip to ride from home to the Iron Horse trail and see at least a part of it, I estimate it at two 100-mile days, one out, one back.

Then of course, the rain came back and the first Sunday of summer was wet.  Marketa, recovering from a nasty fall on one of her runs, suggested a "short hike". Since West Tiger is off limits to mountain bikes, I thought it may be worth exploring on foot.

 We hiked up Tiger Mountain trail, sweating in the humid warm drizzly weather, but feasting on tasty salmonberries. It got lot colder at the Tiger 2 summit and rained even more at Tiger 3.

 From here, we really wanted to be off this hill fast, so instead of taking the maintained Railroad grade trail, we plunged straight down on the Cableline "trail", ignoring the warning signs about rough and unmaintained terrain.
This trail was really steep, eroded, slippery, with 2 foot drop offs. It is really hard to make a steep trail look scary in pictures. We saw a few really hardcore people running the trail up, which must be some of the hardest three miles uphill around here, but at least they did not have to fear endoing down the slope.
One day, soon, I will try to run these trails. The list of challenges just keeps growing.

1 comment:

  1. Aah, Cable Line. It's only about 1.5 miles up, it just feels like it goes on forever. I usually hike up and then run down the West Tiger 3 trail to save my poor knees.