Met with Ross and Doug C. at the main park on Snoqualmie Ridge yesterday for what ended up being a bit longer of a ride than I expected. I led the three of us down the woodchip trails off the ridge and onto the railroad-grade Snoqualmie Valley Trail up to Rattlesnake Lake. We had to make a brief pit-stop in North Bend so Doug C. could buy a new pair of gloves at the bike shop; fortunately, it's only 2 blocks off the trail and we were back on the bikes not long after. We held a pretty relaxed pace at around 12mph up to the lake where we welcomed the sunshine that was pouring in through the valley. Reaching the lake felt like we were 1/4 of the way done, but it was really only the first 13 miles or so. We had a brief snack (pb&j burrito for me) and were soon pedaling up the Ironhorse trail.
The Ironhore trail leads all the way from the lake to a town in eastern Washington called Vantage. We wouldn't be going that far, but we would be following it roughly 22 miles up to Snoqualmie Pass where a 2 mile long train tunnel is located. The climb is gradual, but nonstop, gaining roughly 2200 feet in 22 miles. We passed several cyclists, lots of rock climbers, and even a couple hikers out on the trail. Best of all, we struck gold! Doug C. found a GPS unit that must have fallen out of someone's pack -- presumably during yesterday's Mountains to Sound race -- and he also found a pair of cheap sunglasses. Ross and I were holding a pretty stiff pace up the Ironhorse trail, keeping it steadily around 12-13mph, but never had to wait long for Doug C. whose back was tightening up a bit.
The tunnel through the mountain pass is pitch black inside and has a curve near the eastern end, so when you're headed towards Hyak you can't see the other end of the tunnel for much of the ride. In fact, other than the water dripping from the ceiling and the sound of your tires on the gravel, there is no sensory stimuli. It's dark, bitter cold, and somewhat spooky. The three of us each intended to bring our bright HID light systems, but Ross only remembered the battery not the lamp, and I hadn't ever recharged my light since the 24-hour race and NiMh batteries lose their charge. Fortunately, Doug C. had his light and the three of us navigated the lengthy tunnel by his light. When we got to the far end of the tunnel we discovered the reason why my light wasn't working: my cables weren't connected.
We exited the tunnel at Hyak, up in the central Cascade Mountains, having just ridden under the ski resort that I used to get my season pass to. Another pb&j burrito was had and after ten minutes of enjoying the mountain scenery and sunshine, we headed back into the tunnel for the long ride home. Although it was just an out and back ride on old railroad grade trails, the nonstop mountain views and walls of salmon berries and lupine made it feel far more epic and wild. It was chilly outside and each of us were a bit more bundled up than we would like for late June, but it was a great day. We wound our way back through North Bend and up Snoqualmie Parkway for a total of about 74 miles and appoximately 3,500 feet of climbing. I forgot to charge my Garmin after my riding over the weekend and it ran out of juice as we were leaving Rattlesnake Lake. All in all, though, the ride took about 6 hours including breaks.
To complete my tour of duty as ride leader, I led Ross and Doug C. back into old town Snoqualmie for dinner and beers at the brewery there where they have some awesome gumbo, delicious sandwiches and, of course, some pretty tasty beers. A long, cold, hard ride, followed by some tasty food and a well-needed shower.