- Day 3, July 17: 60.5 miles, total miles: 140.1 – bike on regional trails and a few city streets
- Parks, Trails, & Places of Significance: Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, Iron Horse State Park (P2CSP), Snoqualmie Tunnel, Keechelus Lake, Cle Elum (food & showers)
Starting out the day with Alicia and Andy had me feeling a little bit like we were back on the Canyon. It’s a real treat to have one’s friends make you coffee and cook you breakfast before they go to work (and you’re on vacation). Thanks Andy and Alicia for being awesome hosts and being game to store our gear!
We got back on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and in couple of miles made it to Rattlesnake Lake and the Cedar Falls trailhead, the western terminus of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail. The P2C(spt) – as Gabriel and I started to call it – is a nearly 224-mile rail-to-trail gravel path that goes from Rattlesnake Lake out to the WA/ID border.
We started riding east, enjoying the shade and views out to the mountains on the north side of I-90. For me, the view was a new perspective on peaks hiked and snowshoed often in the winter, summer after-hours dashes, and close-to-home summit bivvies. We saw climbers, mountain bikers (going to the new Olallie trail on Mt. Washington) and cyclists along the way. Pretty hoppin’ on the P2C, even on a Tuesday.
The P2C trail slowly gains elevation via the gentle railroad grade of the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. From Rattlesnake Lake, it’s a little over 18 miles and ~2,500 feet to the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Thanks to the railroad grade, you hardly know you are going uphill!
The 2+ mile tunnel is a popular hike or cycling destination, especially on a hot summer day. We had figured there would be maybe a handful of people here on a weekday. But we encountered well over 200 folks. On a Tuesday. Groups of all ages with flash lights and glow sticks enjoying the experience of walking through the chilly, oh-so-dark, echo-y tunnel that goes under Snoqualmie Pass.
On the Yakima River side of the pass in the full afternoon sun, we started to feel the heat of the day. We took extra breaks to stay cool – resting in shade while devouring Trail Butter (less sugar then our old favorite Nutella), resting in the shade and listening to aspen leaves bangle in the breeze, resting in the shade while making motel reservations. There was a lot of afternoon resting.
Originally we’d planned to camp at Lake Easton State Park. But we got there before 4:30 pm. Much too early for our thru-hiking selves to stop in good conscience. So we kept going, knowing any miles made today would make things easier tomorrow around Ellensburg where it is supposed to be above 90 degrees and windy.
East of the mountains, the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is a loose gravel path. Several long stretches from Cabin Creek into Cle Elum must have recently had new gravel added because the going got slower and slippy in places. It made the last 13 miles into Cle Elum A LOT slower. It was kind of a grind, even though we were gently going downhill and had the wind in our favor.
I realized I had to shift points of reference and accept the conditions. While riding on the Burke means it’s easy to sustain 12 mph (or more), it’s not the norm for riding P2C on the Hyak to Ellensburg side. Thankfully the Yakima River, cool breezes, and the shade of ponderosa pines and aspen invigorated us and we made it to town. Time to dust off!