Monday, June 30, 2008

Iron Horse State Park

Driving passed crowded Rattlesnake Lake you will find a quiet mountain biking trail that extends more than 100 miles east on what used to be part of the path of the Chicago - Milwaukee - St. Paul - Pacific Railroad and is now called Iron Horse State Park. Rich with history, this trail is perfect for a slightly strenuous but totally rewarding weekend bike ride. My partner in crime had walked it at the beginning of the week and found that it was perfectly suited for riding and invited me along to explore further than his legs took him.

It was a hot day here in Seattle and the mountains gave us no reprieve. The trail starts out easy enough, but you start to realize you are slowly climbing up. It's a slow incline, but in the heat and for a long distance it really starts to affect you. All along the first part of the trail the sides are covered in wildflowers. The daisies were plentiful and that made me happy. We were riding pretty quickly so I did not get a chance to snap many pictures on the way up the trail.

Although it was extremely warm, there were many creeks that crossed the trail and as we came upon one the air would cool considerably, almost 20 to 30 degrees at some points. The old rail road signs were still posted along the path and we pulled into a clearing at "Ragnar". The smell of the railroad filled my senses and I felt transported back in time. Del was really excited about this trail and the history of the railroad and town so he had done some research after his first trip here. I felt lucky that he did because all along the way he was able to give me the history of the area, which is cool because usually I don't know much about where we go and end up researching it after. It's nice to know this stuff out on the trail. Check out this page to read a little about it.

After a crazy 2 mile push up a particularly steeper incline, we came across the trail head for Cedar Butte and took a quick water and Power Bar break. Three hikers had just come down off the trail and they stopped to talk for a moment. Apparently there was still a lot of snow on the trail and they had had a few adventures. The climb is about 2 miles up with a gain of 900 feet to about a 1900 foot elevation. The hikers had started their climb at 9 am and it was about 2 pm when they finally made it down. For 2 miles, you know that had to be a harrowing adventure for them! We congratulated them on their descent and continued on up the trail.

Del had been wanting to stick his feet into a stream and about 12 miles in we found a great spot just off the trail. We hid the bikes a bit in the brush and hiked into the trees. Taking off our shoes we each found a spot to sit and cool off our tired feet. The water was ice cold, but felt amazingly good. These falls come from the Cedar River Watershed, which is the City Of Seattle's water supply. We felt adventurous and decided to take a quick sip from the waterfall. It was cold, clean and tasted exactly like snow. Pretty neat drinking from the source of the water that comes out of the tap. Tasted quite a bit different though!

At this point it was getting kinda late, so we decided to head back. I took a couple quick shots of the bikes with the hills in the background, then we were off. The descent was excellent, although very bumpy. Taking the trail at 15-19 miles an hour over very rocky terrain we had to keep our head down the entire way to make sure we didn't hit a rock and go flying over the handlebars. My shoulders and neck today are pretty sore from the effort, and it's pretty jarring riding over rocks...but still a ton of fun flying down the trail at a nice speed.

There are a few points along the trail where you come across a bridge that spans over a stream, waterfall or a gorge. There are quite a few rock formations on either side of the bridges and we saw a ton of climbers scaling the walls. We stopped at one particularly large bridge because Del had taken a moment to look over his shoulder and saw the hillside covered in green sulfur. He took a few shots and since I was waiting, I figured I'd pull out the camera and snap a few of my own. This shot looks to me like the hill is neon green. It wasn't dark at all, but I lifted the camera to the sky to get a little blue in and it darkened the landscape making for a pretty ominous picture.

This is actually a bridge that Del is standing on. They are still covered in dirt and rocks from the railroad tracks, but this particular one is hovering very high over a large run off stream from the water shed. I tried to also capture the stream, but we were pretty high up and it's hard to get a good shot from a camera phone, but I tried anyway!

The final leg down took no time at all and in total we went almost 30 miles. It was another lovely weekend exploring the Pacific Northwest.

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