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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Doing the Homework - it's fun!

As Michael has mentioned, I have found at least three ways from shores of the Salish Sea to Snoqualmie Pass. However, I didn’t do it the easy way. What fun would that be?! Oh, no. I went out there and looked! After all, why get in a car to go to a trail, when you can start nearby and steadily leave the city behind?

My initial spark got started by driving along I-90, the main east-west route from Mountains (that’s Snoqualmie Pass) to Puget Sound (that’s the Salish Sea). Along the north side, there’s clearly a wide gravel trail. It comes and goes into view, but it’s unmistakable. I couldn’t help but wonder: “Where does that come from? Where does that go?”

A quick look at a map showed that it started in Issaquah. “How to get there,” thought I. By following these sorts of impulses I found the many routes out of town and up into the mountains. Our usual approach is to do this sort of work. It helps us get physically prepared by going ever farther and faster. Equally, we practice navigation and route finding, even in unfamiliar surroundings. We're also taking on all sorts of weather, and trail quality. All this is terrific practice for the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge! (#hk4tuc)

Here’s what I mean, a simple route from a nearby school, out to Issaquah where I was able to find the trailhead. Not satisfied with the urban route, I also found a way over nearby Cougar an Squak Mountains. These simple explorations weren’t much for pace. I was out exploring - just looking and enjoying.

Ultimately, we used the urban Issaquah route for our attempts towards Snoqualmie Pass.

Specifically, it means following the I-90 Corridor trail to the Issaquah-Preston Trail. The next step was to test that all the way to Preston, obviously!

With the route more sure, and my ability growing, I did more running on the outing towards Preston. It’s mostly downhill from the city, and then uphill again to Preston. That explains the pace I was able to achieve!

I have to say, this is a lovely route. Once you get past the I-90 section, the run through Issaquah is quaint and not too disrupted by traffic. Once you hit the trail, it’s almost like being in another world! Traffic sounds fade away, the mountains loom large. For long stretches it’s just you and trail. And maybe a bear. No kidding! (For even more, be sure to see the gallery below!)

Now we’re in Preston. Where shall we go next? You can turn and go through Lower Preston, near the Raging River and along the south side of Rattlesnake Ridge. Or, you can continue along Upper Preston, then up and over Snoqualmie Ridge. I did both!

I wasn’t initially sure there even was a way to go along the Raging River. So, I started at Rattlesnake Ridge and worked backwards at first. This was a pretty rough trail, so I was back to hiking and looking. And enjoying! It’s part of a “working forest,” owned by We The People of Washington - the Tiger Mountain state forest. So, it’s crisscrossed by power line (trails) and logging roads. That makes it easily passable, but not easily navigable. None of the maps really record all the roads, which are regularly changing. Still, I got enough sense of the place that my next outing I went for it! Leaving lakeside, I make my way to the Iron Horse trailhead, through Lower Preston and the southside of the Ledge.

Since it is a working forest, there aren’t really out exit points once you’re past Lower Preston. It was “all or nothing.” Boy, did it feel like it too! I was nagged with quite a bit of uncertainty, wondering if I was going to find the right roads or have to double back and so on. I got pretty lucky and made it to the bike trails at the end of the ridge, and really only made one wrong turn. As with before, you can see that I started out running. But the roughness of the trail, the uncertainty and ultimately the elevation all slowed me down to a crawl!

This is a very beautiful route! On the day I went, it was foggy and I would have sworn I was walking among Ents and elves. See the gallery below and see if you don't agree! Indeed, it really sold me on the magic my friend writes about in Snoqualmie Strange (check it out!). Even so, I couldn’t imagine attempting a connecting run through here because if something went wrong, you’d have to trouble the King County Search and Rescue. Nobody wants that!

So, I checked out the route through Upper Preston and across Snoqualmie Ridge. This turns out to be an easy-to-follow route and the one we are using for our attempts at Snoqualmie Pass. As we’ve observed, this is something of a “grind” trail. It’s a steady uphill railway grade. It can be boring and therefore more tiring.

Once in Snoqualmie, up and over the ridge, it’s easy (during the day, as we learned!) to get onto the Snoqualmie Valley trail and onwards to Rattlesnake Lake, which is where the Iron Horse Trail connects and goes up to Snoqualmie Pass. So, with that trail a bit more sure, I gave it a run. Well, a jog anyway!

You might think that was enough - there’s the route! However, I also explored a southern route, through Renton and along the Cedar River. This is a beautiful route, even if it is along a busy state highway. There’s plenty of forest, eagles and riverside running. However, it turns out to be a dead end! The Cedar River watershed is owned by the city of Seattle, and is the source of the the city’s drinking water. Therefore, the rail-to-trail ends at Landsburg park. It’s a bit of a pity because the very same “Milwaukee Road” rail used to run right through there, and connect to the other rails at Rattlesnake lake. However, it’s simply closed! Still, I made the journey out there. You know, just in case.

All this homework made for great training, and really prepared us well for our attempts in spring of 2021. Our first attempt ran into a snag, but that was it and it was not really “threatening.” Now that we’ve worked out the get-around at Meadowbrook Farm, I can’t imagine not making it.

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