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Travel catch up

posted July 14th, 2013 in Trip reports

I just got back from a vacation to New Zealand, which I will eventually post an entirely too long blog about. But in the meantime, to catch up, I suppose I should write about two previous trips that I have been lazy about writing up:

John Wayne Trail, parts 3 and 4

I had decided to make another trip along the John Wayne Trail the day after my Carbon River Road ride, and thought I would save some time by starting a little further up the trail. The last time I tried this, I was going to park just off the east end of exit 38 on I-90 and ride up the Garcia Road, but I overdid the ride and ended up not even being able to make it up to the trail. And, as I would eventually find out, the Garcia Road is actually even steeper than I realized, so I probably would not have made it up even if I hadn’t made myself sick by riding too hard at the beginning. Instead, I parked across from a trailhead that is used by climbers going to the Substation Cliff and Deception Crags area and carried the bike up to the trail. And this was some pretty serious carrying — the trail is definitely not made for riding, basically just winding through trees and in some places very tight with maybe 9 or 10 inch rock stairs. Unfortunately, and probably as a result of the previous day’s ride and the climb, my legs were too tired and I didn’t actually make it very far down the trail. I did, however, discover that you could just park at the intersection of the John Wayne Trail and the Garcia Road. And I rode back down the Garcia Road, which is how I discovered how steep it is at the top — enough that I could clamp down both the front and rear brakes and still actually coast a little just from gravity until I put my feet down to drag.

A week or so later, I went up again and parked at the Garcia Road crossing. I met a large group of people apparently doing the same thing, or maybe just dropping their bikes off from a trailer and then parking elsewhere, but I think they must have ridden west because I never saw them again. They started after me and it sounded like they had a fixed ride plan, but they also probably rode faster than me and so if they had come east I feel sure they would have overtaken me. A sign near the crossing noted that it was just over 10 miles to the entrance of the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Other than that, I had no real idea of where I was or how far I had gone until I came across the intersection of the John Wayne Trail and the Annette Lake (hiking) trail…which also pointed out that the Snoqualmie Tunnel was only 1.5 miles away. At that point, I figured I had to make the full distance. I didn’t ride through the tunnel, since I only had a head lamp with me and also didn’t want to add the extra 2.5 miles to the return trip, but I did ride slightly into the entrance just to say I had. I don’t recall how long the trip took, but the approximately 21 miles is definitely the longest ride I’ve made. Now to do the whole thing in one day? The shuttle that used to pick up at Rattlesnake Lake and drop off at the other side of the tunnel shut down due to changes in WA State Park Concessions law, so I guess I will have to find some other way if I want to just do the whole downhill ride (or do a full 50 mile day, which sounds intense).

Dirty Harry’s Balcony

Finally, success at finding Dirty Harry’s Balcony! The week after the first trip, I made a second trip actually going up the correct trail but it seems I never wrote about it. About halfway up the trail became completely snow covered, although there were bare patches further up where there was enough of a break in the trees for the sun to come through steadily. I remembered reading something about a turn but never found anything that looked right, so after a while I gave up and turned around. On my way down, somebody asked me how far it was to the can, and I said, “Oh, is that what I was looking for?” I had seen it, but all of the footprints only went in one direction so I followed them. The person who asked offered to let me join his group if I wanted to turn around and try again, but I decided I had gotten my fill in for the day.

I looked it up again in a hiking guidebook afterward and confirmed that the fork in the trail is at an old rusty canister, and that while the “official” trail/old logging road goes to the left, to get to the balcony you should turn right. So the week before we left for New Zealand we took another go at it. Now that the snow is all melted, the trail off to the right of the canister is pretty obvious, although even if I had found it I don’t think I would have wanted to attempt it in the snow. As you get close to the balcony, the bare trail still gets a little touch and go to find and has some really steep (or just tall) steps. But when we finally made it out, it was quite a view:

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