Iron Horse Trail – Rattlesnake Lake to Ponderosa Camp OB Tour

Friday Oct 12 Fall City

We drove from the Peninsula to Fall City…too late to ride to a campsite & D was still finishing his packing. Stayed at the Roadhouse and enjoyed a nice meatloaf dinner.

Saturday Oct 13 Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Easton State Park

Up at 7-ish and off to Tweede’s in North Bend for breakfast, made famous by the Twin Peaks show. Temps were cool but was nice to be heading to Rattlesnake Lake and the tour start. Parking outside the gate was free, so we did that and hoped for the best.

We navigated the parking lots to the Cedar Falls trailhead and started the very gradual climb up to the Snoqualmie tunnel. Was a beautiful day and as we left the lower elevations the trees became ever more colorful. Passed a restored snow shed and saw many folks heading in the opposite direction. Seems they shuttle up to Hyak and coast down to another point for pickup. The sound of I-90 is never far away, but otherwise it’s pretty pleasant.

There are two campsites on the way up to the tunnel, Alice Creek at about mile 10, Carter Creek at mile 13. All campsites are primitive, with pit toilets and access to water at nearby creeks.

We reached the tunnel and after putting lights on we navigated the 2.3 mi tunnel amidst quite a few other folks. The surface was flat and hard-packed, with occasional drips and puddles, but amazingly clean and well-maintained. Cool inside at about 40F.

Popped out at Hyak parking area into blazing sunshine – we had made the east side of the Cascades after about 20 miles. Lunch time!

Followed the shoreline of Keechelus Lake for about 5 miles to Lake Easton State Park which is from the dammed Yakima River. Near mile 36 we took the east side trail to the campgrounds, looking for a hiker/biker site. Turned out to be on the far east end of the lake a few miles, but $12/night was better than $30 for an RV spot!

With 40 miles done it felt good to stop. In the trees the temps and light dropped off quickly and we set up tents and made dinner. Took chilly showers ($1 for 6 min) and then walked down to river and dam for a stroll to loosen up.

The temps dropped precipitously…not enough clothes for this! David’s Garmin registered 21F…I was freezing most of the night…seems my dependable Blue Kazoo bag had reached it’s limit after hundreds of nights over 30 years. I need a new bag!

Sunday Oct 14 Lake Easton State Park to Ponderosa Campsite

Chai and Mountain House rice and chicken for breakfast! Much needed warmth from the inside out.

Pretty sights on the way to Cle Elem. Warmed up nicely and the views were punctuated by trees blazing with colorful foliage. We arrived at the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific station in about 12 miles. Right on the trail was Smokey’s BBQ and we got here at 12 when they opened! Enjoyed a yummy bowl of BBQ on the platform.

Met a couple guys on gravel bikes riding east toward Thorp. We had planned to go to Ellensburg past Thorp, but felt a short day was fine and there’s no camping near Ellensburg anyway.

The trail runs pretty straight after Cle Elem and is a little soft for skinny tires under 40mm, which David had, while mine were 80mm and did fine once I let out some air. Came across some horseback riders whose steeds were mighty curious about the llamas in the field next to the trail. Was amusing to watch.

We rode about 6 more miles to Ponderosa Camp east of Cle Elem, a fairly new campsite right on the river, though none of the maps showed where it was. We choose sites that would give us the best possibility for morning sun and hoped it wouldn’t be quite as cold that night.

Across the Yakima River was Highway 10 and train tracks too, so we were never too far from traffic. We took a mile walk further east to take in the views of drift boats and the lazy river. Another freezing night but this time only 26 degrees…I wore more and burrowed into my bag. Up at midnight, the stars and Milky Way were simply amazing.

We kept our trash and food in the bathroom buildings, but none of the nights did we have any critters around. Outside of a few deer, some squirrels, eagles and hawks there wasn’t much wildlife.

Monday Oct 15 Ponderosa Campsite to Roaring Creek Campsite

The next morning we dried all our gear and waited for the sun to warm us up before heading out.

We headed back to Cle Elem and visited Gunnar’s Café for yummy coffee, wifi and breakfast burritos for the 30 miles up to our next campsite! My Champion Flyer sprung saddle was not positioned right and the leather was loose, but I needed a 3mm allen wrench to adjust it. We tried the auto shop, Napa and finally scored at the hardware store. Took some time but was much happier with the result.

Was a beautiful day of meandering west. Such gorgeous fall color! It started to cool off as the sun went behind the mountains and we found a rather exposed site to camp but opted to take the Roaring Creek Campsite in the trees to block the breeze.

David went up to Roaring Creek to get water with his Steripen. I had my MSR filter and we got enough for the evening and next day, about 4-5 liters each. Saw only one guy riding the trail as the sun was setting and he was heading to Carnation – but that would have been quite a haul and he didn’t look overly prepared for hours of night riding; plus no camping gear. We wished him luck.

The campsite tent pads were flat and comfy and temps only got to 29F so was a much more pleasant sleep.

Tuesday Oct 16 Roaring Creek Campsite to Rattlesnake Lake

More chai and waking up to sunshine…Another gorgeous day ahead.

Stopped at Hyak bathrooms and had a snack, no cars in the lot this time and lots of sunshine. We had the tunnel to ourselves and was downhill from the east side all the way back. Now we knew why everyone does the shuttle! Was the most easy day of riding, lots of coasting through the trees and so wonderful. Got much warmer during the day, enough to take off jackets and ride in shorts for once.

Popped out at Cedar Falls trailhead and found the van which was just a little dusty. We made the 3pm ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge. Easily 70F+ in Seattle!

Was a short but totally needed break from daily responsibilities. We rode new places and saw fresh sights, a welcome respite before the wet and dark of winter is upon us! Next time we go all the way to Idaho.

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About Jon Muellner

Jon's Random Adventures. Cycling, Travel, Life and Other Stuff
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