The Long Walk
Walking Seattle’s Snoqualmie Valley Trail
The Snoqualmie Valley Trail (map/information) is nothing short of gorgeous. While other rail trails offer views of tree-draped mountain peaks from tall trestles King County’s Snoqualmie Valley trail offers 31 miles of quiet pathway in the shade of a magnificent forest of black cottonwood and red cedar trees.
Day 1 – Carnation to North Bend
Distance: 15 miles
Wildlife: A beautiful garter snake sunbathing in a spot of sunlight on the trail
Trails: Snoqualmie Valley Trail
Exhausted from my long trek from Kirkland the day before, I got a late start. When I eventually packed everything up, I reluctantly made my way back out of the distant reaches of the Tolt-MacDonald Park tenting sites. I was sorry to leave the pleasant town of Carnation. Unfortunately this is the kind of campground that books up for the weekend. “Reserved” slips adorned the posts at every single campsite. I had no choice but to move on.
After stopping at the grocery store to re-supply, I made a detour to the Starbucks. For more than an hour I chatted with the good people of Carnation. I met spoke with two gentlemen, long-time cyclists who have each made multiple cross-country trips by bicycle. I looked at their pictures of the Chatcolet Bridge on the Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes. This is the trail trail I plan to take to cross Idaho. It was also at the Carnation Starbucks that I met a generous woman with a lovely dog. We talked for a while and then she disappeared into the coffee shop and returned with some trail love (in the form of a gift card) that has managed to boost my spirits as far away as Missoula, Montana and Casper, Wyoming.
Forest Bathing – On the Trail
With the pit stops, it was almost eleven before I finally made my way to the Carnation trail-head of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.
There is something to be said for the concept of “Forest Bathing” and the Snoqualmie Valley Trail draws in all of your senses. The air smelled clean and fresh and the trees offered protection from a hot mid-summer sun. From time time to time the trail crossed a deep ravine where the roar of mighty little brooks drifted up to path high above the tree tops.
I passed joggers out with their dogs, walkers out enjoying the day, and a cyclist or two as I walked along the dirt and gravel path. The further I went along the trail, the fewer people I saw. As I neared Tokul Creek, the sounds of gunfire from a nearby firing range replaced those of the birds.
Eventually, a steep set of stairs at a tunnel carried me up to the narrow Tokul Road – the official trail detour around private property to the Reinig Bridge. My feet ached as I joined the Mill Pond Road. My mood dipped with every passing car. Only the magnificence of the Reinig Bridge could raise and the resumption of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail through North Bend could raise my spirits.
There are only two hotels in North Bend Proper, neither of them allow dogs. So I was out of luck for a place to stay unless I wanted to walk an additional five miles to Edgewick Inn – adding an additional 2 miles to the following day’s trip as well.
Bonnie and I stopped to relax at the dog park in the Three Forks Natural Area. While there, I hit several locals up for information about places to stay. In the end I was taken home by Rolf and Uta who let me pitch a tent in their back yard and fed me steak and beer.
I ended the day feeling grateful for the generosity and enthusiasm of the people in Carnation and North Bend.
Day 2 – North Bend to Alice Creek
Distance: 18 miles
Wildlife: A magnificent Bald Eagle soaring over the south fork of the Snoqualmie River – and two very cheeky chipmunks investigating all of the bags at the rock climbing area.
Trails: Snoqualmie Valley Trail, John Wayne Pioneer Trail and Iron Horse State Park
Bonnie and I walked away from Rolf and Ute’s shortly after 8:30 am and wound our way through the neighborhood streets of North Bend. The sun was already out in the force of every brilliant Pacific Northwest Summer ray when we joined the trail. To those who live in this often-gray region, a day like today is priceless. I was concerned, however, about the heat that the sunshine was sure to bring to an exposed trail.
I came upon a crowd just as the trail cut under the I-90 interstate highway. As I neared the crowd, I realized that this was the finish line for a Marathon/Half Marathon event. I lingered in the crowd for a while watching exhausted runners cross the line to cheers and applause before continuing along the side of the trail, well out of the way of any finishing runners.
As the day grew warmer we rested frequently along the eight mile stretch of trail that connects North Bend with Rattlesnake Lake. I paused to watch a bald eagle soar over the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, and to cheer on the many marathoners still making their way down to the finish line.
The day was already hot when we reached Rattlesnake Lake. Bonnie grew tired of walking in the heat and often lay down to rest in any shade she could find. We rested for more than an hour in the shade at Rattlesnake Lake before joining the John Wayne Pioneer trail.
We had to rest often on our way to Alice Creek – the first of the primitive campsites along the trail.The trail often followed the cut of power lines – reducing the protection the forests on either side of the trail might have otherwise provided. Because of the heat, we stopped often to rest. The first time I walked this stretch of trail, the last mile to Alice Creek felt interminable. I was prepared for the mental challenge this time. Nevertheless I felt completely beat when I finally reached Alice Creek at 7pm.
With no energy for cooking, I ate a Cliff Bar for dinner as I set up camp and turned in early.