Helens-Rainier-Seattle-Vashon Tour 2012: The road to Seattle (Sat Aug 18 and Sun Aug 19)

After five days with lots of climbs, the two days of riding to Seattle was a bit of a relief in the exertion department, though a bit underwhelming in the scenery department (to be expected.) Because I’m me, I planned on a long, meandering route that first skirted the Seattle area from the east, then north, then back south into the city. The benefit of this routing was two-fold:

  • I would see a side of the Seattle metro area that I hadn’t seen before, nor had much reason to explore.
  • Because the route was “fat”, I could trim it down a bit if we ended up spending an extra day in the mountains or if I was running behind.

Leaving The Dalles campground, Todd and I were greeted with miles of moderate descent on Route 410, while tons of traffic flew by us in the other direction, bound for the Park. So glad to be out of there! (Not that I don’t love the scenery, but I hate crowds.) The scenery remained decent for a bit, until we left the National Forest and State Park lands, then the route entered private timber lands. Ugly clearcuts dominated the view for the rest of the way into Enumclaw, the edge of the metro area.

At this point, I bid adieu to Todd. He had to be back to Vancouver, Washington by Sunday night and wanted to go his own way. Now I was on a solo expedition. The route now rambled through the periphery of the Metro Area, passing through suburban development interspersed with timber holds, farms, and wilder lands. The scenic highlight on Saturday was crossing the Green River Gorge. While the gorge itself was nice, the neighborhood around it was weird, a mix of shack and trailer park. (Leah had jokingly warned us before we departed about being wary of the sound of banjos in the mountains, but this was the only time I had that Deliverance twinge.)

About two-thirds of the way through the day, I met my Warmshowers host for the night, Matt, on the Cedar River Trail. He rode in with me, guiding me through the area to get to his house. At his house, I met his family, where we had a big taco feast and they put me up in their pop-up camper out in the yard. Such luxury after tenting for five nights!

Sunday morning I woke up to a dripping sound outside. Yep, a little rain. I think it’s a rule when I tour in the Northwest I have to have a little rain, no matter what. After a week of sun-sun-sun and temps pushing 100F, a cool, damp morn was quite the respite. And it doesn’t hurt that I wasn’t in a tent!

After a good breakfast, I hit the road. Originally I had planned for quite the ambitious day, as I would ride north to Issaquah, then east to Snoqualmie Falls, then north along the Snoqualmie River Trail, then west into the suburbs. But I really wasn’t feeling like it: I had ridden 60 miles on Saturday, and the Snoqualmie routing would make for a day in the 75 mile range, with a bit of climbing. After riding into Issaquah, I decided to take the easier route: Lake Sammamish Trail to Sammamish River Trail to the Burke-Gilman Trail into Seattle. A route into the using flat bike paths, how can you beat that?

But first, a brief pause in Issaquah. I was not there because I wanted to see the childhood home of Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, no.* I stopped in to see Kent Peterson, of course! I stopped by the bike shop he works at, and we chatted for about twenty minutes about bikes and bike touring. He told me that the route that I picked to get into Seattle was possibly the flattest way in.

The rest of the day passed by like a breeze. Now I know that some folks don’t like rail-trails, which is what I was riding on. But I like throwing them into the mix if I can. It also meant I didn’t have to negotiate a bunch of suburban roads around Seattle. Since it was a nice Sunday, it meant that there were a lot of people on the trail. But hey, that’s good, right?

The scenery varied between big houses with occasional lake sightings (Lake Sammammish) to open riverine lowlands (Sammammish River) to wooded with a mix of houses and glimpses of Lake Washington (Burke-Gilman). After about 40 miles of riding, I made it to Seattle.

I would be staying at the HI hostel downtown, near King Street Station and the stadiums. I could have chosen a more direct route after I got into the U-District, but I decided to stick to the trail to the bitter end in Ballard so I could visit the Ballard Locks. The locks are one of my favorite places to visit in Seattle, and I knew I might not get another chance to see them this year. The Locks were definitely choked with people, but it was worth it.

The biggest cluster-you-know-what happened further down the road path. Taking the Elliott Bay Trail towards downtown, I happened upon “Hempfest”, which basically blocked any progress further south. I had to turn back and enter city streets a bit earlier than I planned. But it wasn’t much further to the hostel, where I deposited my stuff and my tired body for the night. Another 60 mile day, even after trimming some “fat”!

*Anyways, I know where he currently lives, so I can throw garbage on his lawn any damn time I feel like it.

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