Days 8 and 9: Trail Mates and Trail Magic

The rain plinked gently on my cooking pot Monday morning as I heated water for my breakfast. It developed into a good soak after I broke camp and began trudging the 12 remaining miles up to Snoqualmie Pass, the gateway to the wet west. It seemed the west had come to meet me today.

For a while I took refuge in the shelter of one of the great new outhouses the state Parks department have recently added to the trail.

The trail was lined with trees, and the going was pretty good with my poncho and my trusty Akubra keeping me dry.

The rain let up a little as I walked past the exposed stumps of Lake Kacheelus…

… and finally into the Hyak trailhead where my friend Herve had started a spectacularly fast 3:17 marathon just the day before in weather very different. The portable toilets brought in for the event still stood witness.

The wind was blowing and the rain was showing no sign of relenting. So I called my friend Roger who was to meet me there and encouraged him to bail. He was already en route and wouldn’t think of changing plans for a little inclement weather. I retreated to the delightfully warm and dry trailhead restrooms to await his arrival. 

As Roger arrived the rain slowed and soon stopped completely. I may not have received a trail name yet but Roger  was designated  “Lucky” by the end of the day because while he was with me we got no more rain.

Less than half a mile west of Hyak is the Snoqualmie  tunnel. At 2.3 miles it is surely the longest trail tunnel in the United States,  if not the world. It was built to cut off to top 400′ of  Snoqualmie Pass for the trains of the Milwaukee-St Paul Railway in 1913. 

It is almost perfectly straight. After you’ve gone less than a quarter of a mile you can see the exit as a tiny dot in the distance. It looks just like an oncoming headlamp.

Out of the tunnel we were properly west of the divide, and the mist competed with the autum colors to put on a show for us.

After about five more miles it was time to camp and choose our color-coordinated scotch cups.

There’s only one thing Roger loves more than the outdoors, and it’s  ultra-light outdoor gear. His stove is ridiculously small, and he has cut off the end of his plastic spoon to save 1/2 an ounce.

But damn! his gear is effective. And when he wants to gets rid of a tent or a pack I often buy it from him, so I shouldn’t make fun of him. I do not think however, that I’ll be buying his spoon when he moves on to an even lighter model in the future.

Tuesday dawned clear, and as we continued our way westward the sun shone through the trees.

The engineering of this old railway line is quite amazing. We crossed a handful of big embankments across small valleys, and four tall trestles over larger ones.

By 12:30 it was time for Roger to leave me. His wife Nancy was waiting at a trailhead a few hundred yards below our trail.

As I parted ways with Roger I started thinking about where I’d have my rather meager lunch, and before I had walked more than 100 yards I was almost run over by a guy on a mountain bike, pedaling hard with his head down.

It was none other than my marathon mate Herve, somehow recovered enough to come surprise me and bring me the best trail magic lunch I could have imagined.

Wow. What a friend. It started with multiple serving of  a chicken-arugula salad

… then moved on to croissants from a really great French backery in Redmond

After we  rested in the sun and digested all this goodness, Herve left me and I walked the last few miles of the Iron Horse Trail into Rattlesnake Lake. 

What a beautiful afternoon it was. My feet still hurt, but I was feeling blessed to have such good friends as Roger and Herve.

Now that I was in the Seattle exurbs, I had to be a little careful where I camped. Camping at Rattlesnake Lake isn’t permitted and there appeared to be enough county employees around to chase me off if I tried it. So I meandered a mile or two down the Snoqualmie Valley  Trail only frequented by bike riders and horse riders.

And here I sit, watching the pink drain out of the sky, and downing the last of my scotch alone. Not lonely, but looking forward to the change of pace ahead. 

Somehow it’s already my last camping night of my trip. Tomorrow and Thursday I stay with friends in Fall City and Bellevue, and Friday I arrive home. It’s all gone very quickly. I will spare you a grand summing up until I actually understand what it all adds up to. 


8 thoughts on “Days 8 and 9: Trail Mates and Trail Magic

  1. Fantastic, David! So glad you’re getting close to home, but sad to think your commentaries will be drawing to a close. We’ll miss them!

    Quick fact check. Longest rail tunnel in the world is the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, logging in at an amazing 35.5 miles. Incredible! Curiously, though, the longest rail tunnel in the US is the Cascade Tunnel at Stevens Pass, at 7.8 miles. Who knew? Cheers!


  2. You are so very accomplished in so many realms, David, but I didn’t know that poetic language was one of them. I vote for a poem or two or three as part of your grand summing up.


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