Two and a Half Passes

Fifteen years ago my wife and I started a cabin project east of Snoqualmie Pass in west-central Washington.  So far we’ve done the vast majority of the work ourselves and I like to joke that our (now adult) kids will be who actually finish the project.  The cabin is now “mostly” finished; it’s nice to have a Snoqualmie Pass basecamp from which to explore the backroads along the Cascade Crest.

It was early July, yet we were all a little chilled as we rolled out of the cabin and headed towards the frontage road that parallels Interstate 90.  The paved road rolls easy for a couple of miles before turning drastically upward on unimproved gravel.  Our mini peloton quickly became five individuals each working his way up the nearly twenty percent grade.

This first climb is steep yet short, and soon we were over the top and heading down a (mostly) smooth gradual descent.  As we neared Lake Kachess, Steve pulled up with a flat front tire.  He’d torn off a knobby and had blown the sidewall.  A tube and two boots got him rolling, but he wisely chose not to continue on the remote route with shaky rubber.  Steve turned right onto Lake Kachess Road and back to civilization while Alex, Randy, Brian and myself turned left and headed north in search of Via Kachess Road where we turned right and pushed a fast pace to the end of the pavement.

A sign at the end of Via Kachess Road notes that the road forward is “primitive,” and it lived up to this label.  Most of the road is shaded by leafy trees and at times the entire road was a pothole; Randy ushered us through it as though we were running a cyclocross course.  After a brief section of hard pack gravel we returned to pavement on Sparks Road and continued over the interstate and into the hamlet of Easton.

Rolling through Easton

I’ve passed the Easton exit on Interstate 90 probably two hundred times over the years, but I’ve never ventured onto the off ramp.  Easton turned out to be a quiet one street town; we quickly rolled through and then made a hairpin turn that led us to the Iron Horse State park and one of my favorite sections of the Palouse to Cascades trail. 

After only a few miles on the trail we turned left and started up Cabin Creek Road.  The bridge at Cabin Creek still stands but the road on either side is non-existent – time for a water crossing.  Randy opted to simply ride across the eighteen-inch-deep water – he almost made it – Brian walked across shoes and all while Alex and I opted for the barefoot crossing.  We continued up some nice double track (it appeared as though there had some motorcycle traffic here but definitely no four-wheel tracks) that led to good gravel all the way to Tacoma Pass.

We descended into the Green River Valley and thus began the long climb up to Stampede Pass.  This was my first time climbing to Stampede from this direction and it was a two-thousand-foot grind.  Thankfully we had a cool afternoon, and we all, once again, found our individual pace and pushed  upwards.

Alex, Randy, Brian and Mike back at the cabin

A quick descent down the other side and then a team time trial up the Ironhorse State Park Trail took us to the Hyak parking lot.  From there it was a ten-minute transport back to the cabin and a refrigerator full of cold beer.

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