Sunday, July 17, 2011

John Wayne Trail Ride to the Snoqualmie Tunnel

Friday I took a day off to ride the John Wayne Trail to the Snoqualmie Tunnel. This trail starts just out side of North Bend off of I90 and the right of way runs as far as the Idaho border. The John Wayne Trail is within the boundaries of Iron Horse State Park in the Cascades. Since I planned to ride the mountain bike both up and down the trail, I elected to drive to Exit 38 on I 90 and park at the trailhead at Olallie State Park.

The trail is an old abandoned Milwaukee Road railroad right of way. All the tracks, ties and ballast rock has been cleaned off and the remaining trail is like a gravel road. It is open to hikers, bicyclists, horse riders and in the winter, snowmobiles and cross country skiers. Because it was designed for trains, the grade is shallow. Some people I know, will not ride up the trail, but stage cars at the bottom and at the Hyak parking lot on Snoqualmie Pass and will only ride down the trail. I have no problem with riding both ways.

After an early departure from home, I was ready to ride at 0815. The weather was warm and a bit overcast. After a steep climb from the parking lot to the trail, I soon got into a nice rhythm riding up the trail. The elevation at the start was about 1250 ft and the upper elevation is 2620 feet. I was able to ride an average of 8-10 mph. I stopped a few times.

The last time I rode this trail was 1995. There has been several changes since then. The state has set up a few back country campsites. I always thought that would be a great thing. Also, an old snowshed was rebuilt from original material. When I was here before, the showshed was a pile of debris. Also, most of the old ballast rock was gone.

The tunnel is at about mile 15. It was closed since 2001 and was only reopened a couple of weeks ago after repair work was completed. It is about 1.25 miles long and of course, it is totally black inside, lights are needed. When you start through, the far end is just a small pinprick of light that gets bigger as you ride through. The east end of the tunnel opens into a large parking lot. This is also a sno-park site for winter activities.

I turned around, rode through the tunnel again and then rode downhill to the parking lot. The slight grade helped out and I averaged 15-17 MPH. My odometer logged a total of 34 miles of riding. I arrived back at the Bronco at 1145 and after a short stop at the North Bend Outlet Stores, was home by 1430.
The "trail" resembles a gravel road. A lot of rail/trails look like this.
 The trail runs parallel to and above I 90.
The mile posts are all referenced to Chicago.
The west portal of the Snoqualmie Tunnel. The date of the tunnel is 1914.
 Approaching the east portal.
 The east portal.
 Info board at the Hyak Trailhead. From here, you can ride west through the tunnel or east twords Ellensburg. 
 The reconstructed snowshed.
 The reconstructed snowshed.
 One of the many old tressels.

Before I got to the parking lot, this trip almost ended in disaster. I was a couple miles from North Bend on I 90. I heard a bang in the back of the Bronco and I first thought something broke. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the front wheel from my mountain bike bouncing down the road. My roof top bike carrier has separate holders for the bicycle fork and the front wheel. Fortunately, no traffic was behind me and the wheel bounced into the brush on the left side of the east bound lanes. I stopped and ran across the road. I was sure that the wheel was lost, the brush and trees were very dense. But, I found the wheel. And another surprise was that it was straight and not "tacoed"(bent like a chip). I was very thankful that nobody was behind me, the results could have been very bad. I have carried bicycles on roof racks for many years and many thosands of miles and never had anything like this happen before. I need to ensure that the wheel skewer is very tight!