In Ellensburg I stayed with Cassie, another warmshower hostess. She cycles a lot, has done the Pacific Coast and provided me with a lot of hints and new ideas. She convinced me that it might be a better option to go through Seattle than all the way South via Yakima and the Yakama Indian reserve to Goldendale and the Columbia valley. Especially because there are no campsites in the reserve, at least on the map. I follow now the so called iron horse trail towards Seattle. It is a gravel road, open only to non motorized traffic (that is humans on horses, on foot or on bikes), that goes along the old Milwaukee (rail) road. It is quite bumpy especially the eastern part due to excessive horse usage I guess, so I got well shaken.
It is not only that the history of the white man over here is very young. It is also very short lived. A goldrush town like Blewett existed not even for 100 years. It was founded around
1880 and passed into oblivion around 1940. The same is true for the Milkwaukee Railway. They built arond 1909 it with its rails, stations, bridges and tunnels around … and it stopped operating in the 1970ies. What a waste if you consider the money it costed. At least it makes for a very scenic trail where we cyclists would otherwise be left to a noisy ride on a crowded highway.
At the peak it crosses the Snoqualmie pass in a tunnel almost 2 miles long and absolutely straight. You can see the light blinking at its end from the very start. I first thought it was a reflection light somewhere in the tunnel but it is the portal.
The western end of the tunnel offers splendid sights. You pause up there look down on the noisy I90 in the valley and wonder how you did gain all this meters in altitude, since I had the feeling of riding flat against the wind.
Along the trail you meet several railway history sites. The first being Cle Elum where you find a nice restaurant in the old station and a lovely bed and breakfast where you can sleep in old locomotives. If I had known of the trail before I would have gone directly to Cle Elum from Blewett pass that saves you 20-30 miles.
There are wonderful iron bridges, avalanche shelters and location sign posts in the middle of nowhere.
Riding East to West makes you face the headwind but the part after the Snoqualmie pass becomes an easy downhill ride down to Cedar Falls where the trail ends and you have to find your way towards North Bend. (There is the Snoqualmie valley trail which takes over, I did choose the road though, it is shorter and there is not much traffic). In principle you can follow the Snoqualmie valley trail into Issaquah. From there the Seattle Metro bus 554 takes you directly downtown. The local buses have bike racks in the front and a friendly driver will help you how to handle these. I found a shortcut on my trail map which I got at the visitors center in North Bend. It was not shorter timewise in the end and I had the pleasure to ride a real single trail fully loaded. You fancy that? Take John Whitaker trail.
Hyak at the tunnel entrance is the last place where you can top off with water until North Bend. There are some campsites west of the tunnel, they have no drinking water, only dry toilets. I stayed in one of those for the night. There was nobody but me and I was quite terrified to get surprised by bears or other wild beasts. And surprised I got in the morning when I went up to the toilet next to the trail. There was a man in there, asleep, he had lit a fire inside to keep him warm. I woke him up, he snatched his bike and run away, I packed my stuff quickly and run away too. Each of us probably as terrifiied as the other.