The Iron Horse Trail

The Rockhopper rolling through the mountains

The Rockhopper rolling through the mountains

Way back in 1911 the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific railroad began rail service across the cascade mountains.  That rail trip included a 2.7 mile long tunnel under the mountains at Snoqualmie Pass.  The route came to be know as the Milwaukee Road.  

These days we know the route as the Iron Horse Trail State Park, and one can ride a mountain bike from North Bend to Idaho along this “Rails-to-Trails pathway.  In 1977 the railroad went bankrupt and the state acquired the land in 1980, and eventually created the Iron Horse Trail.

The west end of the trail

The west end of the trail

So the idea for this adventure came about a week ago when Susan and I were out for a lunchtime walk with our friend Heather.  Heather mentioned she’d like to ride that trail and explore some of the area, so I sketched out a plan.  We’d all drive up to Hyak where Susan would drop us off.  Heather and I would ride the trail through the 2.7 mile long tunnel and continue west for about 15 miles to Olallie State Park, where Susan would be waiting to pick us up.  As a bonus Heather’s friend Holden was coming along and would hang out with Susan at the pick up point.

Heather, Holden, Susan and Kat at the Hyak trailhead

Heather, Holden, Susan and Kat at the Hyak trailhead

I had ridden the Snoqualmie tunnel several times and I knew that deep inside the mountain it was gonna be darker than the inside of a cow.  I rigged a super bright LED tactical flashlight to my handle bars and attached an LED headlamp to my helmet.  I worked out the same setup for Heather’s bike and helmet, knowing that she was actually pretty nervous about heading into the inky black darkness of the long tunnel.

The inky black darkness...

The inky black darkness…

Off we went, westbound through the mountain.  The air temperature was about 55 degrees but the cold water dripping from the ceiling and the steady breeze whipping through made it feel much colder.

We made it through without any real drama.  But we did pause at one point and turn off all the lights to really get a feel for just how far inside the mountain we were.

I think this would be a good place for me to insert the highlight video reel:

Bear scat

Bear scat

Since Heather is a college biology professor, we actually did a little scientific study of the make up of the bear scat.  It was clear some small furry creature had met its demise at the hands (claws) of the this bear.

We noodled along the rest of the trail, enjoying the very slight downhill grade of the old railroad bed.  Stopping for coffee and brownies, taking photos, shooting video, inspecting the secluded backcountry campsites, and just staring off at the stunning beauty of the Cascade mountains wearing their fall colors.

Falls colors

Falls colors

More fall colors

More fall colors

Railroad trestles

Railroad trestles

Long way down

Long way down

Looking down from the heights of the RR trestles we couldn’t help but think what a glorious train ride this would have been 100 years ago.

We didn’t see very many other riders along the route, and there were a few people rock climbing at a popular climbing area, but for the most part we have the trail to ourselves.  Oh the joy of mid-week excursions.

waterfall

waterfall

How'd you like the ride?

How’d you like the ride?

Well that’s about it for this edition of the Adventure Journal.  Thanks to Holden and Heather for coming with us and a huge thank you to Susan, from all of us, for driving the shuttle.  With out your invaluable assistance on these types of trips we never get past the planning stages.  You’re the best!

Kat

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About Jeff Katzer

Welcome friends. I'm a cyclist, hiker, motorbike rider, kayaker, photographer, videographer, ukulele player, snowshoer, XC skier, and BEST of all - a grandpa. Somewhere in that list above you'll find the theme of the Adventure Journal.
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4 Responses to The Iron Horse Trail

  1. Dan says:

    Superb! Uncanny resemblance to the Hiawatha trail here in ID/MT. Long tunnel (and several short ones) and trestles (a bunch). I would have swore you were there. Despite living next to it most my life I finally rode it this year. But your report was so enjoyable and far better done than I could have managed. Thanks for the memories!

  2. John says:

    Wow, that tunnel is wild!

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