Wednesday morning I walked out of the forest trails and into North Bend. North Bend is on the flood plain of the Snoqualmie River, a fact that you don’t realize until you cross it on foot. Initially I walked through the housing tracts and golf courses that I was expecting, with beautiful Mt Si forming the irresistible background for every shot.
But since this valley floods regularly there are a lot of sandy willow chokes that remain scruffy and undeveloped even when they have views like this.
See that blue plastic tarp on the far beach? Not sure if that person is homeless, but he sure has a great campsite while the water is low.
Further down the valley the river has a number of beautiful oxbows (billabongs we would say in Australia) including this one hard up against a gravel mine.
I was expecting suburbia, but thanks to the wild Snoqualmie I got a lot more wilderness than I thought existed in North Bend.
My reverie on the benefits of an untamed river came to an abrupt end when the trail I was walking, set perhaps 20′ above the flood plain, ended abruptly in a very un-cart-friendly feature.
With some careful step-by-step lowering I was able to continue, and next stop was Snoqualmie Falls. I’ve seen Snoqualmie Falls in all seasons, but not with a cart in tow, so I felt compelled to make a little detour on this beautiful fall day.
I only had about five miles to go until my rendezvous with my friends Jay and Liza, but the detour had taken me away from a trail and I was forced to walk down the very busy and narrow Snoqualmie-Fall City road. With almost no shoulder and trucks hurtling around the corners, it wasn’t a pleasant place to be.
As I neared the bottom I was reminded that not everyone makes it off this road alive.
But thankfully I did, and 45 minutes later I was sitting in my comfy chair half way up the hill to Jay and Liza’s place waiting for my pickup. Up rolled Jay with Tug in the back and my good friend Mino along for the ride. Mino, who I accompanied for a small section of the PCT a few years ago, was going to join me for the final two days walking from here.
Like great trail angels they brought cans of beer to the trailhead, and we sat around for a few minutes drinking it while Jay’s neighbors drove by and stared.
As soon as we were back at Jay and Liza’s place it was time to get into the workshop. Jay was eager to make any repairs the cart could possibly require. He filled my tires back to 45 PSI, and then took his grinder to the metal arms I had attached to my harness, smoothing off the corners so they wouldn’t catch on my clothing as they had been for the last 100 miles.
Jay and Liza currently have three dogs and two kittens, and the kittens have yet to see a cupboard or a package that they don’t try to get inside.
Liza made us a delicious paella and then treated us to a goat cheese scramble the next morning, which really set us up for the long day ahead.
Day 11 was to be the longest day yet. We had to go all the way from the far side of Fall City to the Bridle Trails neighborhood of Bellevue–about 23 miles. Luckily, I had my PCT-strong friend Mino along for whom this wasn’t a problem.
It started poorly. Almost 6 miles of busy road walking was required to get to Preston. After that we had some shady trails between Preston and Issaquah, and by 1pm we had done 13 mile and stopped for lunch at Lake Sammamish State Park. We were fortified by leftover paella and homegrown apples, thanks to the ever thoughtful Liza.
And there was no denying that we really were in suburbia now.
We trudged on through the beautiful afternoon and made it to my friends’ John and Susan’s house by 5:30pm. Beers on the deck with John, followed by a Mediterranean feast and topped off by one of Susan’s famous apple pies. It’s enough to take your mind off your sore feet.
In the morning we left as John and Susan were heading for the gym, but not before we were fortified with another slice of Susan’s pie.
Friday, day 12, was the big day for crossing Lake Washington, and the weather forecast was a little iffy. Winds started off light, but built up as we got to Marsh Park in Kirkland where we were met by Roger (of the tunnel, see day 8) and Nancy carrying the three-person kayak on top of their old Volvo station wagon.
Roger built this wooden kayak himself. It’s beautiful and very stable. He took pleasure in putting me up front with the “child’s paddle” so I couldn’t do too much harm, while he and Mino provided the power to push us the mile and a half across the increasingly choppy water to Magnusson Park.
The wind was coming from the South East, and built up as we got far from shore. I didn’t get too wet in the front, but I think Roger took a few waves in the face at the back of the boat. He didn’t complain about the conditions, just my poor paddling form.
Nancy arrived with the Volvo at the same time as Chris, just as we were pulling in to the dock at the sailing center. We’d made it!
Given that the conditions were a little rough, its a good thing we decided not to try to tow my cart across the lake behind us. That might well have been the end of the cart, and its job was not yet done.
On the rather desolate dock, we had a “boil” (as the old Antarctic explorers used to call it) with my friends Woody and Barbara who had come to meet us and walk the last miles home to Green Lake. Woody insisted on pulling the cart up the steep streets leading west from Magnuson Park, and surely made the first man-hauling ascent of the notorious Mt Wedgewood.
Woody also led us on a detour to see the sundial at University Prep school that he designed in 2001. It is a scaled-up model of a “sheppards dial” design, which were small and portable, the mobile time-piece of their day.
Only two more miles to go, so the four of us struck boldly out for Green Lake and were photographed by Chris as we crossed the final street.
That was Friday. All that then remained was Saturday’s final walk of five miles to Golden Gardens and a sunset gathering with friends to celebrate my successful semi-transit of the state.
As the sun was sinking over the Olympics, I cooled my feet and wheels in beautiful Puget Sound, and tried hard to thank everyone who helped me with this slightly preposterous achievement.
For the record: Neil and Tamara were very generous hosts to me in Ellensburg. Peter flew out there to spend a day and a half with me. Sonja drove up to rainy Cle Elum for a hike with me. Kelli and Curt entertained Chris and I in style, and Curt escorted me back to the trail in the morning. Roger somehow cleared the rain by his presence at Snoqualmie Pass, Nancy came and shuttled him back to his car. Herve brought me a delicious lunch on marathon-tired legs. Jay and Liza took me in, pumping up my tires and my spirits. Mino helped me slog through the toughest day with his usual grace and good humor, and volunteered for innumerable odd jobs before, during and after our walk together. John and Susan plied me with pie, Oban scotch and the best blister treatments I’ve yet had. Roger and Nancy teamed up to get us across Lake Washington, and provided the firewood and the recipe for the restorative Fish House punch we served on the final evening. Finally, Woody and Barbara overcame my poor directions and found us at Magnusson for the march to Green Lake. Wow!
And most of all, I want to recognize the forbearance and support of my darling Chris. She was in the final weeks of preparing for her biggest art opening in a couple of years when all this went down, and yet somehow she managed to get me to the starting line, visit me three times on the way back, and help me with the party at the end. You’re the best, honey!
I sit here the day after the end feeling so thankful that I got this trip done, and even more thankful for all the love and support I got from my friends and wife to make it possible.
I’m still planning on completing the eastern half of my walk next spring. More details in a few months.