Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rail to Trail: Seattle to Snoqualmie

warning: this turned out real wordy.

As I am preparing for another foray on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail this July (I hope before yahoos in the legislature give the eastern section away),  here's more on my endeavor last year:

Back to Mid-July 2016:

At the end of the last post (Rail to Seattle - All Aboard!), I was at the start of the I-90 Trail/Mountains to Sound Greenway in Seattle, after an overnight Amtrak journey from Spokane.  Debbie and I had ridden this trail a few years ago, with me hauling the dogs, from Bellevue/Factoria to Seattle and back, so I was a little familiar with it.  I knew there were a couple tricky spots for me to navigate through, but I figured I'd be ok. I had the cue sheet from Chris Rhinehart's Ride with GPS JWPT Seattle Start.  I only had the basic Ride with GPS app on my phone without the navigation capabilities cause I'm cheap, and didn't want to use up phone battery life. (Excuse #1)

I was ok until Mercer Island.  There's a spot on N Mercer Way by the Park and Ride where the trail crosses a street, and I wasn't sure which way to go after that.  Soon I figured out I went the wrong way.  There were a lot walkers and bikers around, so I asked a couple roadies who had stopped to fix a flat.  They said sure, we're heading that way and we think we know, you can follow us.  So I did and we took off at a good pace.  Just before the trail, my left pedal came loose, so I stopped and hurriedly tightened it back up.  Or so I thought.  (Pay attention here, this is called foreshadowing if I remember freshman English correctly).  I raced back up and got on the trail and bid adieu to them.

I made it to Bellevue ok, and after taking a wrong turn up 256th, I met a young couple biking to Lake Keechelus to camp.  I biked with them to find the way to Issaquah.  In a classic why-didn't-i have-the-gopro-on moment, her hat got caught on a tree limb as she rode by, and I deftly snatched it from the tree and saved it for her.

Things were going good, and the rest of the way seemed straightforward biking on Sammamish Rd and Lake Sammamish Trail, so I stopped for a rest and water, and let them bike ahead.  Big mistake.  I rolled into Issaquah, and found the left turn from the East Lake Sammamish trail to the Issaquah-Preston trail. (Mile 17 on Chris Rhinehart's Ride with GPS JWPT Seattle Start).  Patted myself on the back.  Rode about a 100 yards, and arrived at a busy highway interchange, and no sign which way to go.  At this point, I read my cue sheet wrong and was looking for High Point Way, but the street signs were for other highways. (Hint: the trail is across the street on the other side.)

This began the world's worst afternoon in Issaquah.  I rode back to the Sammamish Trail, looked around, couldn't figure it out.  Got out my phone and plugged in Issaquah-Preston Trail into Google Bike Beta apps, and it kept zipping way over to the west somewhere.  I tried to backtrack it to Issaquah, but didn't have much luck on the small screen (Excuse #2).  I found other trails in the area and rode into town to find the Rainier Trail which leads to the Issaq-Preston Trail.

And just where was I going?  From Preston, the route connects to a few rail trails, all with Snoqualmie in their name.  This route goes far north of I-90 whereas the JWPT Trailhead at Cedar Falls near North Bend is south, but it's one of the best ways to get there there as it connects via various old rail trails.  It's a nice nod to the spirit of the JWPT, by taking these other rail trails. You go from the Issaq-Preston Trail, to the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail to the Snoqualmie Ridge Trail, to the Centennial Trail, then the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

The Rainier Trail headed towards a steep hillside, and I returned to town to get my bearings.  I rode through the parking lot of a XXX Root Beer Drive-In and almost stopped for a float.  (It's a regular drive-in, despite the XXX moniker, an old Washington spot.)  In hindsight, I should have.  Maybe I would have figured it out with some rest and food. (Excuse #3) But I kept wandering around, looking for a way to get to Preston.  I couldn't even find a back road, just I-90.  

I went back to the Rainier Trail, hauled my bike up the steep hillside to find the Issaq-Preston Trail.  I peered at the Google Maps Bike Beta version and found a route from the Rainier Trail to Puget Power trail and who knows what other trails (note: the Puget Power Trail leads to Tiger Mountain south of I-90, and I'd love to find a way from Tiger Mountain to Cedar Falls).  Almost a year later, I'm not sure if I took this route by design, or because I couldn't find the Issaq-Preston trail again.  My Garmin froze up somewhere along the line and I didn't get my journey saved, so now I am not sure what trails I took, but I took the Puget Power Trail, and a few others to eventually hook up with the Issaq-Preston Trail.  Looking at maps and satellite, maybe, just maybe I crossed I-90 at 270th Ave to connect to the Issaq-Preston Trail, which would be about mile 20.5 on Chris' JWPT Seattle start.  Anyway, looking at it now, it's not a bad way to go.  Except for hauling who knows how many pounds of bike and supplies up that hillside.

Whew, back on track! Now I'm on the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail.  Back home, Debbie has been following my progress on the phone with interest and some alarm.  She can only see I spent a lot of time in Issaquah, and am way up north of the JWPT.  It's starting to get late, dusk is near.  I stop at probably the Preston-Snoqualmie Trailhead, and there's a map that shows the Whitaker Trail which heads down to the Snoqualmie Ridge Trail.  It's the next trail to get to.  I ride on, see a sign for another trail, go past and come to the end of  the Snoqualmie Ridge Trail.  No Whitaker Trail. Ride back to the Trailhead, and go hmmm.  It's a nice grassy spot, good to camp in.  Mr. Google maps shows some bars and brewpubs nearby.  There's also a warning sign: bears. mountain lions. maybe wolverines, too. Well, there's was some kinda warning about some kinda animal.  I ride on, finally find the unsigned Whitaker trail and head down.  It's not straightforward;  twisty turns, with other trails beckoning to lead me astray.  I finally pop out in a subdivision,  and follow some power lines to a road.

I'm following Google Beta bike directions, and soon I'm in a big parking lot.  It's a golf course, the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge.  Real nice; pleasant summer evening.  I wander around a bit, and google beta directs me to a route to the right of a green, but there's no road.  I don't feel like turning back and going around the course.  I stop at the clubhouse, and charge my phone in an outlet in the entryway.  No one is paying me much attention, a sweaty biker with a loaded down bike.  I'm out of water, so I head in to the bar.  The bartender's friendly, and fills me up with ice and water.  I ask him if he knows how to get to the Snoqualmie Ridge Trail and he checks with some folks at the bar.  First thing a guy says is which Snoqualmie Trail, laughing.  He takes a look at the route on my phone, and says, oh it's trying to send you down a cart path to those houses to the right.  He show me where I can follow the route.  They're friendly, happy folks.  I hang around by the door charging my phone, and they check with me before I leave if I got the route.

I head down the cart path, and run into a snag - there's a locked gate blocking my way to the houses.  I think about it, and head back to below the clubhouse and look at the 18th green.  The Snoqualmie Ridge Trail is directly south according to the maps.

I say what the heck, and head down the cart path on the left of the fairway.  I walk by people grilling, chatting on their decks.  The sound of Led Zeppelin on a very good sound system floats through the air.  The song with Gollum, the evil one, in it.  This seems just a little funny. At the bottom, I hike-a-bike between two fairways through a little marsh, over a short barbed wire fence, and I'm on the trail!

I get to the end of the trail and I'm a little lost.  Now I'm looking for the Centennial Trail into to Snoqualmie. It's starting to get dark, and I'm wondering where to spend the night. Can't find any cheap hotels nearby.  I head back up to the Snoqualmie Fire Department I'd passed, and wonder about camping there.  I head back down the trail, and at the bottom of the hill, before the Snoqualmie Parkway/Railroad intersection, I spy a big green utility box. I settle in behind it, blocked from view by it and some bushes. I get out my sleeping bag and settle in for the night.  What a long day!

This is my campsite in the morning.  Not bad.

I head back up the trail to a shopping center I remember passing.  A perfect spot - Starbucks and a donut shop side by side.  
I charge everything up, get my bearings (and coffee), and realize I was so close to Snoqualmie the night before.  Just need to turn right at the bottom of the hill onto Railroad Ave,, and the Centennial Trail into town.  I'm on track.

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