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  1. #1
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    Seattle to the Iron Horse trail (S24O)

    Conceptually, I came up with this over two separate rides that I did this year. The first was on May 10, a "multiple trails" ride was cut short by news that my girlfriend's step mom had been found murdered in the house she grew up in. The second ride was the Roslyn Ramble, which was my first experience riding through the Iron Horse state park. From both of these, a somewhat difficult to achieve, but entirely in the realm of possibility S24O camping trip after work was born. Just a few days ago, management announced that they'd be giving the entire division Friday off; with my girlfriend generally being opposed to me going bikecamping alone I felt like an opportunity like this would not present itself for a while as there's no way she would have wanted to do this route with me.

    This route also served as a scouting trip for a slightly farther away campsite that is much harder to get to; again, S24O worthy, however it would involve an entire day's traveling to get there.

    What I took:
    Sleeping bag
    Thermarest roll
    Hatchet (was lighter than a hammer)
    MSR foldable water bottle - 6L
    iCruiser IMP1000 11000mAh External Battery Pack with micro & mini USB adapters.
    Near-empty Ortlieb Messenger backpack

    What I forgot or didn't bring:
    A change of clothes
    A stove + fuel - I ate at the last town before the campsite instead, as this was still coming in the mail.
    Water purification tablets - the site was next to a stream, but I forgot to bring the tablets.
    A cable lock

    Prospective route: Out and back on this route. Quite frankly, I knew that the campsite existed somewhere along that route, and that it was somewhere between mile 45 and mile 55 on that map, but I wasn't sure exactly where. Also not marked is that I expected to eat dinner in North Bend. I'd set myself the target time of 4.5 hours moving time, including eating dinner; leave at 3pm, get there 7:30pm, which gave me an hour or so to set up camp, take photos along the way, talk to people, etc.
    Last edited by hunter006; 08-11-2012 at 08:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    S24O - Seattle to Iron Horse

    Seattle > Redmond
    Home to Redmond via I-90, crossing over the top of Mercer Island. Frankly, not that interesting, but it is my regular commute to work. I broke a rear spoke on the way to work though, probably from riding up too many stairs or something :P. Luckily there's an on-campus bike shop, so I dropped my bike off with the mechanics.

    Redmond > Issaquah
    Not bad at first. Happy hour with the team was vetoed in favour of leaving for the campsite early. I didn't get to leave as early as I wanted to because I had to wait until 3:45pm for my bike to be repaired at the LBS. Rob, my manager, saw me leaving and said, "Aren't you coming to happy hour?" I said, "Nah, I'm not" but what I was really thinking was, "This is my happy hour, Rob."

    I departed and was pretty happy with the pace I was doing - up near the 17-19 mph mark. I took the route I planned to, and hit the first point I was really worried about. It's a long descent, and I knew that I had disk brakes which have a tendency to overheat under those conditions. I started the descent, managed my brake disk temperatures as much as I could, but with the fully loaded bike it was too much and the disks overheated and began to rub against the brake pads. I stopped, used my multi tool to fix the brake alignment, then continued on.

    When I got to SE Newport Way, I started getting a lot of debris blown in to me by passing cars. Someone had dropped a ton of sand, it had been reported and signs were put up, but no one had fixed it. Because of this, cars had swept it across to the shoulder, where cyclists ride, but were also blowing it up in to my eyes. I really need to get some sunglasses. Ever since I lost my last set, I've been putting it off, but really... I really need some sunglasses.

    Zoo Hill climb out of Issaquah. I did this as part of the Rapha Rising challenge on the same bike. The bike wasn't fully loaded that time though...

    Issaquah > Fall City
    My original intention was to take the Issaquah-Preston trail to the Preston-Fall City trail, then connect up through there. This proved to be impossible as they had closed the Issaquah-Preston trail across one of the trestles, and thus you couldn't enter it from the west end of the Issaquah side. I knew the general layout of Issaquah, so after some backtracking found my way back to the main street, and rode to the east side of Issaquah through the city and re-entered the trail at the other end. This actually wasn't too bad, and was possibly even nicer than actually riding on that portion of the trail - it's pretty boring there, noisy and not very interesting. The only thing that would have been gained would be a little safety.

    I rode down the trail, snapping photos as I went and enjoying the change of scenery. It's amazing how you can ride for 30 minutes and end up in a place where there's no cars, off road, dirt/hardpack, nothing to worry about and generally having a lot of fun. I passed a guy walking his bike, and asked if he was just taking a break; he said he had a flat earlier and didn't want to risk it. I needed to move, and quickly, so I wished him well and zoomed onwards. I used what I'd learned on my birthday ride to navigate through the trails and eventually popped out at the road that led to Fall City. Several cars intentionally buzzed me, but the joke was on them...

    Fall City > North Bend
    When I got to Fall City, someone had driven their car off the side of the road and the entire road was blocked. Blocked for non-pedestrian traffic... and in this case, a bicycle counted as pedestrian traffic. I rode through, and drivers were leaning out their window asking me for an update. Apparently no one told them anything, they'd been waiting there for over 45 minutes, and I'd been told at the other end another half hour or so (it seemed like it would take at least that too). The one good thing here is that this area generally is hard to make a left turn across, but because of the complete absence of traffic, I could do so easily.

    I'm an Aussie. We ride on the left side of the road. It's what we do.

    The people that buzzed me earlier, having a bad day.

    I climbed a steep hill and popped out at the top of the hill. Clearly the Google Maps data was set up for someone on foot, not on a bicycle, because I had to carry the bike up a flight of stairs to get to the Snoqualmie Valley trail. When you have a frame bag, you can't grab it by the top tube, so I elected to use the chainstay. By now it was getting to around 5:20pm, so I was getting worried about a lack of daylight and the fact I hadn't eaten dinner yet. I pulled in to North Bend, rode to McDonalds because I didn't have a lock and didn't want to risk Tweed's Diner leaving my bike outside and not being able to see it, and ate a large Big Mac Meal. I called in that I was in Bend, was safe and heading on to the campsite as that was the last reliable reception, then took off for the hills.

    Action shot! Snoqualmie Valley Trail is pretty nice to ride on. A rails to trails conversion. The biggest problems are the copious amount of horse landmines and the occasional larger-than-average rock.

    One other interesting part here was there is a golf course located across the Snoqualmie Valley Trail here. At Hole #4, there's a ball cleaner that's attached to a water fountain. Could be useful in future ventures; had I known about that, I wouldn't have bothered carrying water all the way up until that point, and would have had fresher legs and less sore shoulders. Or... water purification tablets (then again, I only knew that the campsite was close to the stream, not whether I could access the stream from there).

    North Bend > Iron Horse Trail campsite
    I started to get cramps from the McDonalds. No surprise there... I don't usually eat fast food, so it doesn't digest well. By now I'd drunk 5 bottles of water, one bottle of Nuun and about 40 fl oz. of McCoke to give me an energy boost. I was feeling pretty good apart from being sluggish on the 2.5-3% incline, and stopped at the Cedar Falls trailhead to snap some photos of the bike before it got too dark. By now it was 6:30pm, and I knew that I was probably around 2 hours away from the campsite. This was not good, as the official sunset time was 8:30pm, which meant that I'd be setting up camp in the dark by headlight.

    Cedar Falls. The "start" of the Iron Horse trail (not sure if the section out of Bend is the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, or the Iron Horse Trail...)

    I put some speed on and climbed up the trail as fast as I could. I was carrying 6L of water (13.2 lbs), all the camp equipment (~8 lbs) and some additional equipment (~4 lbs) so I wasn't moving very fast on the 2-3% incline. The incline is 25 miles long, and I figured I had to ride about 20 miles before I'd get to the campsite. My math ended up being pretty spot on, and I arrived at 8:22pm, with no one else around. I was ecstatic - the site was exactly what I thought it was and it was FANTASTIC. I immediately set up camp, lay everything out and generally got things right except for trying to put the tent fly on inside out. I discovered the colour coded tabs on the bottom don't line up if the fly is inside out; good to know for next time. By the time I got that right, it was too dark to really take a nice photo, so I settled in for the night and let it be. I had 1 bar of 3G but when I called LK it dropped out several times, so apparently the data reception in that area is better than the phone reception.

    20 miles of this, up a 2-3% grade...

    The view from the campsite.

    Tucking in for the night.

    Sleep was restful and generally pretty good, although I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. I think something (a bug) was biting me because I woke up the next morning with a series of mosquito-esk type bites all the way down my left side. I had forgotten my change of clothes at work, and this would have made a significant difference to my comfort level.

    C142b (BC001b) by gonxau at Garmin Connect - Details
    Mountain Bike Ride Profile | C142b (BC001b) near Redmond | Times and Records | Strava

  3. #3
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
    Reputation: hunter006's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    S24O - Iron Horse Campsite to Seattle via Woodinville, Day 2

    Iron Horse Trail campsite > North Bend

    Life is hard when you have to wake up to this view.

    Because I did all the climbing the previous day, I got to enjoy the descent first thing in the morning. Decamping was quick and relatively painless; I packed up and was completely decamped and ready to depart in under an hour. I figured out a new way to pack my thermarest pad, which meant I got the space in my frame bag back. I noticed there was someone else located nearby, and because I had plenty of water left after I filled up my bottles, as he was decamping and I was preparing to leave I went over and said hello. I shared my water, which saved him some time purifying his own, and realised he was the same guy that got a flat between Issaquah and Fall City the previous day. He must have rolled in really late at night, because I was moving much faster than he was and had last seen him around 4:45pm, some 3.5 hours before I'd reached camp. The other thing I noticed was neither of us had a stove.

    The descent was fast, and surprisingly warm considering we were in the valley, I was descending and all of my clothes were still wet. The wet clothes didn't last for long, with my body heat and the relatively dry air drying off my gear in the space of ~20 minutes. I started to get hungry right around North Bend, and dropped in to Tweeds Cafe & Diner, which was featured in the movie Twin Peaks. This time the cafe was completely empty, so I tied the bike up out the front and sat opposite a window that faced the bike. It was at this point that I noticed how dirty the bike was; it will definitely need a full clean sometime before Monday. Breakfast consisted of two eggs sunny side up, 4 slices of toast, 4 maple link sausages and hash potato. I also needed an instant boost of energy, so I opted for Coke over the usual orange juice.

    The cool thing about riding in in the evening and out in the morning was a difference in perspective; the previous day, this view had been far less picturesque; in the morning with the light from the east it was a far nicer view.

    Om nom nom... breakfast of champions. I left a very nice tip.

    I had an old inner tube as a third strap to hold the bags in place on my handlebars; the inner tube also served as a way to hold the bike to posts, so if some nincompoop knocked in to it the bike wouldn't fall over. Even if I had a cable lock, I would have thought this to be a good idea.

    Tweed's Cafe reading material.

    I felt much better after eating breakfast than I did after eating dinner the previous night. I navigated several of the back streets and found my way back to the trail, before heading onwards to Snoqualmie.

    North Bend > Snoqualmie
    The golfers were out in force, and I ended up almost getting run off the trail by a golf cart. My original goal was to retrace the steps I had taken to get there and head back that way, but again drawing on inspiration from my birthday ride, I ended up instead taking the Snoqualmie Valley Trail back to the Centennial trail. This was a half-conscious decision as I knew I had won a water bottle from Woodinville Bicycles, because they'd announced a last minute competition in which the person that did the most miles that day would receive a water bottle from them. Centennial trail takes you 80% of the way to Woodinville; you then had to figure out a way over the plateau but once you did that, you were ok. I knew there as the Tolt Hill Pipeline trail, a hilly trail that would otherwise get you to the Sammamish Valley Trail, which would take me to Woodinville bicycles and ultimately home.

    Snoqualmie > Carnation/Duvall outskirts
    I took the Centennial trail and started a high speed blitz down the trail. There were plenty of Horsie landmines (aka horse dung) all over the trail, so you can't let your attention waiver for a second. I did have one funny moment here; I was haulin' and approached a lady who saw me too late. As I zoomed past her, I looked to my right and saw another lady suddenly pull up her pants after she'd been peeing just off the trail. I had a chuckle, said, "I know nuzzin... NUZZIN!" Sgt. Schultz style (Hogan's Heroes TV show) and carried on. Still, part of me is a little disgusted - had she walked another 30 ft / 10m, no one would have been embarrassed, and in Washington indecent exposure, especially around minors, can result in being registered as a sex offender. She's pretty lucky that I'm cool with the whole peeing in the bushes thing. I've done it a few times myself, but I don't just stand there on the side of the trail and pee... I go past the treeline and make sure no one can see me!

    Overall, this navigation choice was a risky move, as an official notice had been put out that they were going to work on the Centennial trail, specifically a section near Carnation where the trestle wood was rotting and the bridge was approaching hazardous conditions. I stopped in front of a sign that stated it would be closed from August 13 to November 2, which was lucky because that would have meant a few days later and I wouldn't have been able to take this route - officially there is no detour, no recourse, and no way around this closure. Unofficially, the unsafe SR203 would have been a suitable detour, but there's no way they could have suggested this without making themselves liable for damages and injury.

    Official closure in a few days; this is probably the last time I'll get to ride this particular trail until next year.

    Carnation/Duvall outskirts > Woodinville
    I didn't make an erroneous decision here, but it wasn't the best of choices. There's a few ways to get over the plateau, and none of them are good. In this case, I elected to take NE Novelty Hill Rd, which starts off with a 370 ft climb in the first half mile with lots of traffic. Fortunately this has a pretty wide shoulder, so it's not a complete loss, but when you've just been riding many miles offroad, it's difficult to motivate the legs to push hard on the uphill, even in the 24Tx36T granny gear.

    I connected with another road and tried to find the Tolt Hill Pipeline trail. Unfortunately I messed up and ended up on a different trail, however that trail ultimately led me to the entrance of the Tolt Hill Pipeline trail. From there, I followed that up and over the top, doing repeated hillclimbs and at several points, bombing down hills at full speed because I didn't want to ride the brakes and overheat them. When I got to the final hill, I turned off half way down the hill to give the brakes some time to cool down; even though they were still very hot, I managed to safely descend the hill without overheating the disks to the point of bluing the metal. From there it was a nice, flat ride all the way to Woodinville.

    Woodinville > Home
    At Woodinville I dropped in to the bike shop to claim my prize. Woodinville Bicycle had announced that any of their followers who did the most miles on August 9 would earn themselves a WB Waterbottle, and that miles on a MTB counted double. Which put me at around 158 miles overall according to their competition guidelines. Even without the MTB bonus, I still beat the roadies. Mitch was working the front desk and was remarkably cool about the whole deal. They also had a decent lookin' sheila working the sales floor, which I always approve of - not so much the decent looking part, but a lady that can work sales is more important than most people give credit to.

    Winner winner, chicken dinner... A little something to remember my first S24O trip.

    I stopped briefly to fill my water bottles on the way out, and headed down the SRT to get home. This is my usual commute route, which is always nice because it means that I don't really have to think about the way home all that much. I was getting pretty sore legs at this point, and the lake was doing its "headwind all the way" thing. Because it acts as a heatsink, on hot days when the water is cool it will generate a high pressure zone over the lake, which forces the air down and creates a clockwise directional wind zone (if the water temperature is warmer than the surrounding air in winter, it generates a low pressure zone which will give you a tailwind the entire way home too). This didn't help as I really wanted to take a break, but I just HTFU'd and got 'er done. I was pretty happy to be home, and jumped in the shower straight away - the built up layer of dust came off quickly and unfortunately left a bit of a pile in the bottom of the shower. Here, some advice from Noodle came in to play - she once suggested a cold beer IN the shower, and apart from the substitution of coca cola instead of beer, that's exactly what I did. There's only one way to describe it: pure bliss. Note: the coca-cola also serves as a quick indicator for whether you have sunburned lips or not, because the acid will create a very painful sensation...

    BC001c by gonxau at Garmin Connect - Details
    Mountain Bike Ride Profile | BC001c near North Bend | Times and Records | Strava

  4. #4
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
    Reputation: hunter006's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Overall, bike camping #1 was a huge success. Some thoughts on the whole experience:
    1) A change of clothes would have made me feel much more comfortable, but more importantly, probably have stopped me from getting all those bites down my unprotected skin.
    2) Water purification tablets would have been a fantastic idea. Water is abundant on this particular route, and I could have let it purify overnight and it would have been fine to use in the morning. However, I didn't know how close the camp site was to the water's edge, so that would have been a bit of a risk.
    3) The back of a hatchet makes for a very good hammer.
    4) However many straps I think I'll need, bring N+1 straps, and at least one should be elasticy. Undoubtedly, the one item that was more useful than anything else was the old inner tube that I made in to an additional strap for the load over the handlebars, as I cold use it to tie the bike to things. This was probably more important than having a cable lock, as thin cable locks are equally useless at preventing theft, but are even worse in that they cannot hold a bike in place up against a pole. Strap wins 10 points over a cable lock here.
    5) -2 mph from the "road" cruising speed when calculating for off road. Also, +1 for fatigue state; this was definitely much harder than when I did the Roslyn Ramble.
    6) Bring oil. My chain was dry but there was nothing I could do about it.
    7) Get the bike serviced prior to leaving. That the bike was in top shape made for a much more enjoyable experience.
    8) It's just S24O. If you screw up, you're only inconvenienced for a single day. Had I done something as bad as forgetting everything except for the tent, I think I would have done OK. This went about as well as I could hope with only half of the gear I wanted to have with me.
    9) I can't wait for next time .

    I wish I had all the equipment I had purchased by the time I left, but because my girlfriend "forgot" to check the mail (aka I think she didn't want me to go without her) I had make do without it. Still, I'd like to highlight here that overall all that was needed to do this were two straps (that are actually made from regular clothing belts, and I sewed them together myself), an old inner tube, a tent and a sleeping bag, and a destination. Definitely a great way to get out and go have a great time.

    Perhaps don't choose a destination nearly a metric century away offroad though.

  5. #5
    Trail Rider
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Great report, that campsite looked great... and the breakfast looked just as good!

  6. #6
    mtbr member
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    Jul 2011
    No Snoqualmie tunnel exploits?

  7. #7
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
    Reputation: hunter006's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Quote Originally Posted by wavejim View Post
    No Snoqualmie tunnel exploits?
    I didn't have to go through the tunnel to get there it was a few miles short of the tunnel.

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