Sunday, November 04, 2012

Halloween Ride: Rattlesnake Lake to Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel

Wednesday, 10/31/2012

Halloween is a spooky holiday, so I thought a spooky ride was in order. The plan:

  • Drive to Rattlesnake Lake
  • Ride the Iron Horse Trail to Snoqualmie Pass
  • Ride through the Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel to Hyak
  • If time permits, explore the Hyak area a bit before returning

The reality:

  • Drive to Rattlesnake Lake
  • Ride the Iron Horse Trail to Snoqualmie Pass
  • Ride only about 1/2 mile into the tunnel due to a maintenance crew working inside
  • Head back

The tunnel closes officially November 1 to April 30, although the spring opening is often delayed due to snow conditions in the pass.

The weather was wet (as usual) and the trailhead parking lot was empty (as expected). After a few minutes of preparation, I headed towards the pass.

Near Cedar Falls Trailhead

The ride from the lake to the pass averages about 1.5% grade, but it's non stop climbing (on gravel, mud, and wet leaves) for 18 miles. It's a bit of a grind, but it makes for a rather pretty elevation profile.

Elevation profile

Of course, Mother Nature was displaying her finest fall colors and the recent rains have recharged the waterfalls.

I love the way the trees embrace the clouds

Constant rain provides great waterfalls

The long and not-so-winding path

Yet another waterfall

Since the Iron Horse Trail is a "Rail Trail" (it follows an abandoned railroad grade) there are numerous trestles along the way. Some are quite spectacular.

One of many great trestles along the trail

There are many stream crossings along the trail. During the summer months, these act as natural evaporative coolers (a.k.a. "swamp coolers") and provide welcome (if brief) relief from the heat. On this particular ride, though, they lowered the air temperature below the dew point and produced localized fog.

Fog on the trail

More fog on the trail

Nearing the pass, I entered Avalanche Alley.


Avalanche Alley

After about 2 hours or so of grinding uphill. I reached the tunnel.

Why go over or around when you can go through?

I entered the tunnel and stopped after 1/4 mile or so to snap a photo. The following photo was taken without camera flash; it is illuminated by my two Light & Motion Stella 300 handlebar lights. (I don't normally ride with two headlights, but when planning to ride through 2.3 miles of absolute darkness, redundancy is a Good Thing.)

Inside the Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel

See the orange glow in the distance? Initially I thought that was light entering from the far end of the tunnel. It turned out to be a maintenance vehicle. I rode about 1/2 mile into the tunnel, up to the point where I could hear the crew working. At that point I decided it was best to turn around and stay out of their way.

As always, the ride down hill was much more fun than the climb uphill.

It was a great ride. I look forward to the reopening of the tunnel in the spring. I suspect my next visit will include some "hike-a-bike" over the snow.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

There's only one word, Wow. Looks a stunning ride & I've never seen an elevation profile that neat before.