Escaping the Seattle fog: Blue skies at the Hyak trailhead

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If you’re like me, then this foggy weather is probably getting you down. I improved my outlook last weekend by taking a relatively short drive to Snoqualmie Pass where I pedaled on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail between Hyak and Easton in the glorious sunshine.

The scene at Keechelus Lake in the fall from John Wayne Pioneer Trail.

The scene at Keechelus Lake in the fall from John Wayne Pioneer Trail.

With more fog forecast for this coming weekend, it might be worthwhile to consider escaping to the mountains.

Last Sunday, I faced another dreary day of fog when I noticed in the newspaper that temperatures in Ellensburg and Yakima were in the 60s and low 70s. I checked the Snoqualmie Pass Interstate 90 traffic cam and saw shadows on a dry roadway.

In minutes, I had thrown my hybrid in the back of the car and was on my way to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail trailhead in Hyak.

Overcast skies obscured the views at Issaquah, Preston, Snoqualmie Ridge and North Bend. At Exit 38 on I-90, however, the sky brightened and I emerged from the fog. That’s right in the vicinity of the Deception Crags climbing area alongside the rail-trail.

Leaving the freeway at Exit 54, I followed the brown signs to Iron Horse State Park, hung my Discover Pass from the windshield, and paused at the trailhead for John Wayne Pioneer Trail.

Yellow burst along the rail-trail.

Yellow burst along the rail-trail.

A right turn heads west toward the 2.3-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel. Since I came up here to enjoy the sunshine, I went the opposite direction alongside Lake Keechelus.

This late in the fall, the lake that feeds the Yakima River is nearly bone dry. Hundreds of bleached stumps rise out of the silt. There are many sunny perches on the rocks next to the lake.

The section of trail alonside Lake Keecheelus is flat bicycling. After that, the elevation drops toward Easton at an almost imperceptible rate.

Although evergreens are the predominant tree, occasional big leaf maple and alders showed splashes of bright yellow along the trail.

Tunnel 48 at Easton

Tunnel 48 at Easton

I hadn’t been on this section of the trail since the two short tunnels — 49 and 48 — were refurbished and reopened after being closed in 2009 because of the danger of falling rocks inside. Over the summer, work crews patched the tunnel walls and spread a smooth masonry coat inside.

Gone are the “No Trespassing” signs. Bicyclists are welcome to pedal right on through. Both tunnels are relatively short, and headlamps really aren’t necessary.

The round-trip to the Easton railroad tunnel was about 33 miles. The sunny ride recharged me for another week of dreary weather.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail and tunnels should be open up here until the snows start falling in a few weeks. I hope to make a couple of more excursions here before the snow cats take over.

Casting a shadow onto trailside vegetation while riding the old railroad grade.

Casting a shadow onto trailside vegetation while riding the old railroad grade.

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    • Tia Leber on November 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm
    • Reply

    Wow! I love it! I live in Kodiak, Alaska and often visit my parents in Ellensburg. Is there a bike route from SeaTac to the John Wayne Trail – or a bus that would carry my bike to the trail head?

    1. Yes to both. A combination of bike trails and bike routes can connect you to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at Cedar Falls. Check Google maps, but generally the most direct route is on I-90 trail across Lake Washington, streets to Issaquah, then Issaquah-Preston Trail, then Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, then roads to Snoqualmie, then Snoqualmie Valley Regional Trail to Cedar Falls. Another route uses Burke Gilman Trail to Sammamish River Trail, then Tolt Pipeline Trail to Duvall, where you can pick up the Snoqualmie Valley Trail to Cedar Falls Trailhead.

      Transit can get you from SeaTac to North Bend via the Link Light Rail to the downtown Metro Station, then a couple of King County Metro bus transfers to North Bend. All buses have bike racks. The Snoqualmie Valley Trail passes through North Bend and meets the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at Cedar Falls Trailhead. (Stock up on food before leaving North Bend. There’s nothing on the trail until you reach Easton, on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass. And the 2-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel closes in the winter.)

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