"The Alpine Bike Club" A new offshoot of the WAC is the Alpine Bike Club!

Washington Alpine Club

Ironhorse Trail Bike Ride!

69 miles from Easton to the Columbia River!

April 03/04, 2004




 The Ironhorse Trail follows the old "Milwaukee Road" railroad bed. The original tracks over Snoqualmie Pass even went through the Washington Alpine Club property. Later they built the tunnel, and still later they electrified the line. Before the days of the Interstate Highway, the train used to make two daily trips to the Pass to bring skiers up. Hyak was built by the Railroad.

Now, it is a railroad no more, but a wide trail that will take riders all the way to Idaho! We rode from Easton (where it was already free of snow) all the way to the Columbia River.

 

 

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After spending Friday night at Guye Cabin a bunch of us headed over to the Trailhead at Easton. I was somewhat shocked to see so many cars there already. We had about 50 participants! Excitement was in the air as folks readied their bikes and gear. There were lots of hellos and introductions as folks got to know each other. Besides the Washington Alpine Club group, there were several related groups. One was Gino Amodei with a group of boy scouts on a "training" ride.

Most of the group at the start of the ride at Easton.

Our first leg was 11.5 miles from Easton to South Cle Elum. This stretch was almost flat, losing 255' along the way. We crossed the Yakima River a couple of times, and enjoyed the mountain scenery. At South Cle Elum, the support teams were waiting when we arrived. It was great to be able to make adjustments to the bikes and enjoy drinks and lunch.
 
The second leg, from South Cle Elum to Thorp was 18 miles, and extremely beautiful. The Trail crosses under I90 and follows the upper Yakima River Canyon. It passes from pine forests to a dry corridor of open country lined by basalt columns and outcroppings and includes the 320-foot Thorp Tunnel. This leg follows the pretty river's riffles and pools east and was the first part of the railroad to become trail.
We went through two tunnels, the second, the Thorp Tunnel, got completely dark for a few seconds before light appeared again. A cowboy told Doerte that during the summer mornings at a certain time the sun is situated in the sky to provide light all the way through the tunnel. But, only for a couple of months.

The Upper Yakima River Canyon. An extremely scenic section, the trail goes through two tunnels. We met Horse Riders, Cowboys, and saw folks fishing.

We also met two horses who were related to our group. The horses did not mind the bikes, remaining quite calm as we rode by. In some places the trail was quite rough, consisting of large gravel. Word on the Trail on this day, was that resurfacing is scheduled sometime in the near future. The Trail leaves the Canyon and crosses the Ellensburg Valley to Thorp.
 
Thorp is famous for an old mill, and is a farming and ranching community. As advertised, the Sag Wagons were waiting. It was fun to have Les Sargent and Kathy Amodei greet us each time. All of the one day riders ended the ride at this point.
 
Another 8.6 flats miles brought us to Ellensburg. John had arranged for us to stay at the Fairgrounds, and they rolled out the red carpet for us. John even had a phone number to call if we needed anything. We had a nice camp on grass, next door to the Aquatic Center. Slowly, all the riders arrived, or were shuttled in the Sag Wagon.
 

Our campsite at the Ellensburg Fairgrounds. Next to the bathrooms, and right across the street was the big Aquatic Center.

John Sargent did a great job arranging all this with the City of Ellensburg.

Some of the group cooked dinner at camp, and others went to restaurants in town. Tim and Chris Sargent had big root beer floats! After dinner, everyone headed to the Aquatic Center for a swim and Jacuzzi.  It was a cool night and we were soon sound asleep with dreams of the next day's ride in our heads. The sound sleep of the just plain tired!
 
On Sunday morning, George Brain joined us for breakfast at the Copper Kettle restaurant. After breakfast we started to ride again. Our numbers were much less, but still numbered 26! From Ellensburg to Kittitas it was an almost flat 5 miles. From here, we began to leave the range and farmland and enter into the desert.

A typical rural scene! The hay truck with the dogs riding on top. Audrey watches George check his tires.

4 more miles brought us to Army West Trailhead. From here it is 23 miles to the Columbia River. This was the most feared stretch for everyone.
 

This is the trestle over I90. We had to detour to the road to get around this. Hopefully they will get it rebuilt soon.

This far eastern leg of the trail is the wildest. It changes into the isolated, rocky and sage-covered scrublands of the Army firing range, in spring a riot of wildflowers and year-round a home to abundant wildlife. The firing range stretch is pretty spectacular because it's unspoiled. There are owls nesting in the old railroad cuts, coyotes, mule deer, game birds like pheasants and quail.  We didn't see any. Chris and John Sargent did see a large snake sunning itself on the trail.  They stopped to check for a rattle, it had none.   

The tread in this stretch has not been upgraded to trail standard. It is sandy and all of us struggled during the 500' elevation gain over 5 miles to Bolyston Tunnel at 2,250'. Much of the time the bikes had to be walked, and we were all challenged. No one, however, turned around! Not even the youngest participants, Sean and Chloe!

The Bolyston Tunnel entrance! We were really happy to this, as the going would be getting easier.

Audrey, George Brain, Amy Sargent, Chris Sargent, and Doerte Mahanay are all ready to get going!

Everyone has their headlights ready!

Just before the cut leading to the Bolyston Tunnel there was a nice spring area with big shade trees and green grass overlooking the sage covered hills below. We rested and recovered from the sand and regrouped to go through the tunnel together.
 
Our headlights did little good in the .5 mile tunnel. They had limited effect in the pitch black. We were all happy to reach the end of the tunnel where we expected an easier ride of 18 miles and loss of elevation of 1703'!

A different group exited?

Amy Sargent, Laura Sargent, Chris Sargent, Our leader John Sargent, Sean Parsons, Lee Perkins, Tim Sargent, Chloe Parsons, and Rachel Parsons!

After the Tunnel, Rachel Parsons was heard to say something like, " as long as there is not anymore sand!" We immediately had to drive through a big mud bog from a spring. Later we had to walk the bikes over rocks and around boulders. But, there was no more of the dreaded sand!

As the trail entered cuts it soon became obvious that there had never been any maintenance on the trail since the bankrupt Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad abandoned the grade in 1980. We often had to walk the bikes through the cuts as they were filled with rocks and boulders.

How is this for a trail! It had been awhile since it had any maintenance, The Arm did not really want the trail on their land. In several places we had to walk the bikes around and over rocks.

Most of us struggled to finish the 18 miles at the Columbia River. John and Chris Sargent were the first to the finish. Amy Sargent, was the first woman, followed by Doerte Mahanay. It was fun to see Gino Amodei and the scouts ride in! Everyone, all 26, made it by dark, all tired, exhausted, but proud of their accomplishment! Gino and the scouts, Audrey, Doerte, and Mike rode the entire route. I doubt there are many folks around that have done this ride.
 
A huge thanks to John Sargent for organizing this big trip! We were taken care of every step of the way. And a really big thanks to Les Sargent and Kathy Amodei for running the support vans. Les worked long days getting folks back to their cars, and still being at the meeting places as the riders arrived.
 

 


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