Every Presidents Day holiday for the past few years I have organized an informal ride with friends. Those of you from the Seattle area should be shaking your heads by now. Why? Well, the average temp range for Presidents day in Seattle are a bit on the chilly side (Hi: 52F, Lo: 36F). Since I typically leave before 8am the temps can be somewhat chilly. In '08 the temp was 27F when I departed at 7:15 am. With this in mind attendance ranges anywhere from 2-15. Suprizingly my luck with weather on this ride has been fabulous: nothing more than fog, typically with lots of sun. This year was not different with overcast skies, slight snow flurries, and some breaks in the clouds.
Each year the ride typically ends up on the I-90 trail from Sammamish to Pac-Med in Seattle. This year we decided to do something different at the request of my son (Boy #1): the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at Iron Horse State Park. With some intrepidation and snow in the forecast we loaded up the car at 7am and headed for the trailhead. Unfortunately I forgot our camera so we had to make do with my cell phone camera (i.e. not the best quality pics/videos).
For those not familiar, Iron Horse State Park is a "rails to trails" park that has one of the best kept secrets in WA state. One of our friends on this ride, a long time WA resident, had heard of the trail but never actually seen it. The trail is a retired rail bed converted into a hiking/bicycle trail (At the time of this writing, 2/23/2011, you could also use it as a cross country ski trail with all the snow received this week). I took a group of Boy Scouts on a 3-day ride on the same trail back in '09. The ride is easy (never more than a 2% grade), well maintained, and quite scenic with views of waterfalls, the Cascade Mountains, high bridges over the canyons, and lots of wildife.
We met up with a couple of friends (bringing the group size to 4) and headed out on our adventure. Some highlights:
- The trail was smooth and frozen: warmer weather would have meant more mud to contend with.
- Although there were a few small sink holes the trail was in great shape.
- Lots and lots of ice on the cliffs and around the running streams but no ice over the trail. On one of the cliffs, where the ice covering the cliff face was beginning to melt, air bubbles were flowing with the runoff under the ice making it look like there were ants crawling underneath (I tried to take a video but it didn't turn out well).
- We had remarkable visibility, despite the overcast skies, which gave us great views of the valleys and mountains.
- Best part of the ride (according to Boy #1): the fast ride down.
- Good conversations with our friends over the course of the day.
- We came across a mountain goat on the Deception Craggs climbing cliff. Very unexpected and cool.
- Did I say it was chilly? BRRRR! (30F when we set out)
- Someone had taken some pot shots at the signs with a shotgun. We saw other rifle/shotgun damage to signs, posts, and rocks as well as some clay pigeon remnants. They even shot the "no shooting" sign.
- We only had 4 hours to do the ride, which meant we covered 8.5 miles before we had to turn around.
- Next time Boy #1 needs a bigger bike: 26" tires would have made a big speed improvement for him.
- Drink more water. Although I brought 2x20 oz bottles, I didn't drink more than 10 oz.
- Breaks needed to be longer in duration for our two younger riders. At 90 minutes Boy #1 struggled a bit.
After just over 2 hours we decided to return. As you can see in GPS ride profile the return trip was a bit faster than the first half. On the way home we stopped in Fall City at "Small Fries", one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall burger joints. That's how we top-off after a great ride in the mountains!