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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Hails to the Rails!

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

By now you’ve noticed - I really enjoy the rails to trails. It’s the way they wind through so much, connecting it all. The rails are dead; long live the rails!

These days I’ve been focused on those around Bellevue and the “eastside” (i.e. east of Lake Washington and Seattle). These touchstones wind through the history and development of all the villages, now cities, across the region. Here’s a quick glance and simple guide on how to ply them for yourself.

As for history (and you know I love that too!) in 1865 it was a big deal when the Washington Military Road, a mud or log “corduroy road” was initially built to connect Fort Vancouver (now city) and Fort Bellingham (now city). Also, did you know some quite famous (and infamous!) people were responsible for it? Folks like U.S. Grant, Robert Lee, Jeff Davis. Seriously. It’s true!

In any case, the road roughly followed the Sammamish river for a short distance connecting a few communities along the north shore of Lake Washington. This road was only later paved (with bricks!) in around 1915. So, as you can imagine, even in the late 1920s...100 years ago, kids!...eastside communities were connected by rail and ferry.

It’s interesting and important because the region was a little recognized powerhouse - literally, as we will see!

First, about those 1920s connections. Below is a US Department of Transportation map of the rail lines of the time. The thin green line is roughly the course of Interstate 90 (which wasn’t constructed until 1957 or completed until 1993!)

Of course, the rail lines have mostly turned rails-to-trails now, with about half of them gravel and half paved. They’re great for long distance training because they’re regular, wide and go into and out of many towns. That’s important because with Hong Kong Four Trail Ultra Challenge (#hk4tuc) rules, you have to be self supported. No aid stations. No drops. Stores are OK though - purchase timing can be its own penalty, you see.

So, using the transport map below...(the light green line is roughly where I-90 runs today)

Check out these major corridors around the region!

  1. East Rail Corridor + Cross Kirkland Corridor

  2. East Sammamish Trail(s) [One on each side of Sammamish river then along east side of Lake Sammamish to Issaquah]

  3. Issaquah- Preston trail (aptly named for the rail line it totally follows).

  4. Snoqualmie Valley trail

  5. Cascades to Palouse Trail (formerly Iron Horse trail)

  6. Cedar River trail

  7. Coal Creek (a.k.a. Newcastle) trail

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