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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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!
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.
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!
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
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