OK, so Issaquah is indeed a pretty good base for some superb bicycle riding.
We are only a month into our one year experiment of living in Olde Town Issaquah so the jury is still out, but overall so far we love it. One thing is for sure and that is that cycling loops starting in Issaquah are fabulous! On Wednesday I was talking to Reg N. about the great rural loops I can do, and I mentioned that heading east was the weakest direction from home. Riding up the I-90 shoulder is the quickest way east to North Bend and that’s not my cup of tea.
But who is in a hurry on a bike anyway? Why would I want to go the fastest way when other routes are so incredible? Well, because I was simply unaware. I thought I had ridden just about anywhere I would care to ride in the entire Metro/King County area. That was before I rode to Snoqualmie, North Bend, and Rattlesnake Lake on Thursday.
I have ridden to Fall City a million times, but living in Downtown Seattle for the last 9+ years meant that this is the farthest due east I would venture. Normally from Fall City I would head north and loop though the Snoqualmie Valley. Living in Issaquah, I am now just a hair under 10 miles from Fall City, so it was time to explore some new cycling terrain (for me).
Up Grand Ridge and over the south end Sammamish Plateau took me to the Issaquah Fall City Road. For those familiar with the Flying Wheels route, this is the last climb as you leave the valley at about the 90 mile mark. (It’s the climb with the false summit that some riders curse at.) The cruise down to Fall City is a delight, and the return trip is actually a great climb almost totally devoid of traffic.
After leaving Fall City on Thursday, I was on Rt. 202 for about a mile before I took a right onto SE Fish Hatchery Road. This road climbs and dips along the Snoqualmie River; the only traffic consists of a few fishermen. Views of the valley and river below abound, and then this road re-connects with 202. Route 202 through these parts has light to moderate traffic and a good shoulder in most spots with a few short stretches of just OK shoulder. After leaving the Hatchery Road, there is a nice climb up to the Salish Lodge.
Just past the lodge I tuned left and discovered a real gem. Tokul Road is hilly and has some stunning views of Mt. Si. I think many Seattleites tend to take Mt. Si for granted, but I think it is a very beautiful mountain, rising as it does some 4000’ out of the flat valley with no foothills. Tokul ties into 396th and then SE Reinig Road. The Si and river views continue, but this time the river is the North Fork of the Snoqualmie. I should point out that there were literally zero cars on these roads. Reinig turns into 428th, which I took south into “downtown” North Bend. I have always loved this little town; I guess the people responsible for Twin Peaks did their homework well.
To cap things off, from North Bend I climbed up 436th to Rattlesnake Lake. Total gain for the climb is about 600’, and other than a few short steep sections it is actually a pretty easy climb. I could see people 1100’ above me on the Rattlesnake Ledge, a precipice that almost seems to hang out over the lake. They were too far away to tell if they were enjoying themselves as much as I was. Again, with only hikers travelling to the dead end at the restricted Cedar Watershed area, I found myself on an almost deserted road. The “Rain Bongos” at the Education Center were a nice bonus, and kind of reminded me of being in the Olympics!
On the way home I took a slightly different route through North Bend. Still nice, but not as sweet as the ride out. Round trip from Issaquah up to Rattlesnake was 57 miles. Most of the roads are quiet and slightly busier roads all seem to have decent or better shoulders. No wonder I saw a few other roadies, as well as some commuters and some folks who just looked to be out on a short fun ride. The scenery is often stunning. This area is just a great place to ride.
I’ll be taking the HOWC up to Rattlesnake on quiet Sunday mornings.
Tracy and I are living in Issaquah as kind of a test to see how we like small town living. While Issaquah is hardly an isolated little town, living in the town center of Olde Town is giving us a little bit of flavor for the lifestyle. In my opinion, one would be hard pressed to find more attractive small towns than Fall City, Snoqualmie, and North Bend. Any one of these towns would be a great outdoors base. Close by there is great hiking and trail running, road and mountain bike cycling, flat water and river kayaking, fly fishing, and even some pretty nice golf courses. If you are feeling lazy, you could always just go to Snoqualmie Falls. It’s no wonder that the Salish Lodge can charge a hefty rack rate for a stay.
It does rain and snow a little more in this area, and you occasionally have some serious down-slope winds from the Cascades, but all in all I could envision a very relaxed life in Fall City, Snoqualmie, or North Bend. Living in Issaquah we are only 30 minutes from the snow sports and hiking near Snoqualmie Pass, and any of these other spots just put you closer to the action. After spending the last nine years living in Downtown Seattle, for us the glamour of the city lights seem to be fading…fast.
Riding around 10,000 miles a year, I don’t expect to find too many pleasant cycling surprises left for me in the metro area. Yesterday’s ride was more than that. I think it just might turn out to be one of my very favorite rides. And to think I thought heading east was the “weak direction” from Issaquah.
I’ve never been big on throwing my bike in a car and driving to go ride. Now that I live in Issaquah there is even less reason to do so. I still have some ground to cover in Snohomish County, and I have a lot better access to that now as well.