SnoFalls, SnoPass

(Belated ride report)

The last time I rode to Snoqualmie Pass was nearly two years ago. Then, I started from North Bend’s outlet mall. This time, I started from home for the “additional stimulation.” The intended route was along familiar roads, so I didn’t bring a map.

The route From my house, I took Issaquah-Fall City road to… you guessed it.. Fall City. Flying Wheels follows this road the opposite direction back up the plateau. The 80 miles prior, afternoon sun and crowds make it the most challenging part of FW. Downhill, I could enjoy the serpentine and peaceful descent into the farmlands. About a mile before State Road 202, I passed someone else moving at a decent clip. When I glanced down at my cyclecomputer, I noticed my speed was in excess of 40mph. (For the record: I do not have a death wish. However, on a clear, dry day, the smooth, controlled downhill cannot be beat.)

The bridge crossing Snoqualmie River is a very busy nexus of State Roads 202, 203 and Preston-Fall City. Riding in the center of the road, using hand signals, and making eye contact is essential. I crossed over the bridge, and contineued south to Snoqualmie Falls, where I knew I could avail myself of the facilities. Attending to bodily functions is an important part of the total cycling experience.
I continued through Snoqualmie and North Bend, paralleling I-90 until the truck stop on 468th street. From here, I pretended I was one of those super-efficient biomass-powered vehicles, namely, I took the onramp and stayed on I-90’s shoulder up until the summit, occasionally dodging various highway debris relegated to that side. I saw two bike seats(!), lots of steel strands from (I assume) truck tires, a muffler, misfit shoes, and occasional remnants of accidents.

The closer I got to the summit, the better I started to feel. The energy elixirs were finally kicking in. The actual climb seemed much easier than I remembered it being last time. I continued to the east summit exit, where I could then duck under the freeway and take a break. (Later, I realized that Claire’s suggestion of continuing until Hyak, then taking back routes would be a more pleasant return.)

The first ten miles down the hill went quickly. Riding on a sustained downhill like this gets interesting. As I see the snow grates I stand up on the pedals in an effort to “bunny hop” the bike up and over the uneven parts, making for a smoother ride. It’s easy if they’re evenly spaced and I can anticipate them. Sometimes the joint between a bridge and a slab of the road is more uneven than it looks. Hitting that at 35mph is jarring, though not nearly as much as the rumble strips that lie to the right of the white line.

At mile marker 42, other, more urgent bodily functions beckoned for attention. I held out until the mysteriously labeled “Exit 38” where I left the freeway in search of a discreet alcove. On the north fork is a state trooper and firefighter training facility of some kind. I wasn’t interested in testing the “littering” ordinances in this way, so I went south, finding a road that paralleled the south side of I-90, but with an alcove. When done, I continued along this road to see where it ended up: Olallie State Park. The little map on the info-board showed a trailhead that led to the Iron Horse Trail, an old Milwaukee Railroad path that starts in North Bend, extending to the Iowa border. (*cool*)

The surface of the trailhead entrance was pretty steep. If this were a paved road, I could have managed my way up, but the gravel didn’t offer enough traction and I’d “spin” wheels from the torque I was generating. I wised up and just pushed my bike up the half-mile entrance. The five mile finale of the trail had a slight downhill. Despite the gravel, it was easy to coast at 9-10mph. This would be an excellent ride with a true mountain bike tire. Wider tread + not so firmly inflated = less jarring ride.

The trail ended near the southeast side of Rattlesnake Lake, a block away from the Cedar River Watershed educational center. The parking lot was empty, so I wasn’t expecting anyone there. As I wheeled my bike towards the water fountain (attending to another bodily function), I heard a strange whump whump whump noise. Curious, I walked around and found a rainwater(?) garden. The water squirts onto bongo drums, creating some interesting rhythms. It looked like it might be semi-choreographed, but was very, very interesting. This might be an interesting place to revisit with the chillun.

I had a general notion that I should head north, back towards I-90, where I’d retrace the route through North Bend and Snoqualmie Falls. At Fall City, I turned back towards Preston, hoping to get in another shallow but long hill.
I followed the paralleling feeder through the San Mar business park to Preston, where I got back on the I-90 shoulder for an exhilerating downhill to the first Issaquah exit (#18 – Sunset). On the way up the Issaquah Highlands trail, another biker caught up to me and mentioned he had a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. He’s traveled much more with his bike than I have with mine, yet admitted he has the same reservations about its time in the airport. He was the one suggesting packing was a lot easier if you remove the crank, as I discovered last trip.

Total mileage: 96.3; accumulated ascent was something in the mid 5,000′ range. I felt great when I got home and slept well that night.


2 thoughts on “SnoFalls, SnoPass”

  1. Wow, Jim, that sounds like a sweet ride. And I second the thought on rumble strips: owowowowowowowowow ow. Ow.

  2. I’ll just add that my preferred climb to the summit is on the Denny Creek road, just take Exit 42 – Denny Creek, and follow the signs. Low to no traffic, beautiful scenery on the lower portion, some nice smooth “I’ll pretend I’m in the Alps” switchbacks about mid way, then paralleling I-90 the last section.
    It drops you off just to the north of I-90 before the Alpental road starts.

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