After spending the night at the Summit Lodge at Snoqualmie Pass, we awoke to drizzle and cool temperatures. I'd heard from K that it was raining in Seattle. I fully expected to ride in cold and wet for the next section of the Iron Horse Trail. This section was going to be 47 miles from Hyak to Thorp (just east of Ellensberg). Oh joy.
I had felt completely done after the long and grueling bike ride from the day before. But after a huge, carb-laden dinner and a huge, carb-laden breakfast plus some decent sleep, I felt a whole heck of a lot better. We knew that this section of the trail was going to be easier and I planned on keeping it as easy as possible because I didn't think I'd make it a third day riding if I had another ride like the first one.
I'd had some problems with focus the day before probably because of fueling issues but also because I was by myself the entire ride. I planned on bringing along my ipod to help keep me focused. I'm normally anti-music when running or riding because of safety and rudeness issues. I was on a trail by myself with no traffic and nobody around so this seemed like a good time to break the music rules.
Miraculously, by the time I started riding most of the drizzle clouds had lifted and it wasn't raining. Almost immediately past the trail head, you ride along side Lake Keechelus. It was flat and easy for the first five miles and a complete relief after the uphill grind of the day before. I was totally enjoying the music and realizing that my legs felt great after warming up a bit. After that warm up, the trail took a steady drop all the way to where we would end. It was amazing to be out on the trail with a tail wind and downhill! I was having a blast.
I'd occasionally see a group of bicyclists coming towards me. They were battling uphill much like I'd been doing the day before but they were also slowed by a strong headwind. I cheerily said "Hello!" to everybody as I blasted by them.
I'm embarrassed to admit that even though I have lived in Seattle for over 10 years and consider it my home that I have never been to the eastern side of Washington. I have never been past Snoqualmie Pass. And on this ride, I was finally making it to the Eastern side and I was doing it first by bicycle.
The scenery from Hyak to Cle Elum was really gorgeous. We crossed the Yakima River numerous times and I liked seeing the forest as we rode along. Some early shrubs were just starting to change color. There was no denying that fall was in the air.
This is a former railroad track and there were some very evocative moments for me when I was riding along. We passed a few different former train stations in Easton and Cle Elum. There were four different tunnels along this section. I picture the men who toiled in latter part of the 19th Century to build these tunnels and I get chills. After crossing the river yet again, I came to a high sided rocky chute which was very narrow for a train. Honestly I could smell engine oil and I had to look around to make sure there wasn't a train coming behind me. I got chills again but decided to blame it on the wind this time.
It was just after this point that I started catching and passing other people on the ride. We all met up at Cle Elum around mile 30 to have lunch and take a group photo. After the bonk fest of the day before, I had decided I needed to find a better fuel for lunch on the bike. I had an extra pancake at breakfast and peanut butter and jelly in my room. Voila! PB & J pancakes are now my new food choice for this sort of thing. Bread gets all dry and gross but pancakes stay nice and moist. Try it! I think this would work for events like Ragnar too.
After Cle Elum the scenery changed. It became dryer and more desert-like. There were cool looking rock formations which looked like volcanic activity to my non-geologist eyes.
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful except for some heavy gravel/sand on the trail which made riding very hard. As I was coming in towards Thorp, the wind had really picked up and sometimes would come at you from the side. It's something else being pushing along sideways on your bike by the wind. Coach T was coming towards me on his bike the last mile and was cursing the wind for the short section he was riding. He gave me the keys to the van and I finished my ride. Truthfully, I was sorry to stop. I felt like I could've gone on forever. Shortly Coach T and LB arrived at the van. We loaded up and got a ride into Ellensberg to check into our hotel while Coach T went back to the Thorp trailhead to pick up the rest of the riders.
What a different feeling finishing this ride compared to the day before. It wasn't as far and was far easier and I was better fueled (PBJ Pancakes!).
Dinner was at The Ellensberg Pasta Company and it was quite tasty. Everybody was pretty cheerful after the easier ride and good food makes everybody happy too.