Well, the word is in: It WAS epic. You may recall from my previous post that I suggested that my upcoming adventure might be epic. Forgive me for using a currently overused word, but I think this is an appropriate usage.
As explained in the previous post, I was over in Seattle with our car, having dropped someone off at the airport. Not wishing to waste the $32+ we paid for the privilege of driving onto the ferry and back, I planned and executed a hybrid adventure that saw me driving from SeaTac airport to Issaquah then cycling to Snoqualmie Falls Brewing and back. My route was something I cooked up through research using my go-to tool: Google Maps, and that is, in part, what made this adventure so epic (that’s the last time I’ll use the word in this post – maybe).
See, my plan was to set out on trails, the existence of which I suspected thanks only to Google and the magic of the internet. I had been to Snoqualmie Falls Brewing a couple times before, however it was by car and coming from I-90. I had not been to Issaquah and hope to never be there again, save possibly going directly to the trailhead parking lot then leaving. More on that upcoming.
So off I set from the airport, choosing this new adventure over my past favorite: driving all the way up to Bellingham’s Boundary Bay Brewery.
Driving to Issaquah from SeaTac was a breeze as you might expect. My introduction to this lovely town began early with a traffic run-in with an aggressive Asian punk in a Lexus who honked at me for not turning right on the red coming off the freeway offramp. I accommodated him by going ahead and proceeding on the red, only to find him tailgating me in the 25 mph zone that followed. When I pulled over to let him pass, I found him returning my mean-mug. So, I put myself at risk of a ticket by turning right on a red when I wasn’t sure it was legal only to be aggressively tailgated as thanks. My next tailgater was a dude in a big 4×4 who roared around me to cross over lane markings and get into the turn lane up by Swedish Medical Center. Moments later, as I was making my way through that parking lot, trying to get turned around and back t0 where I needed to be, I enjoyed his stare as he drove by. Nice introduction to Issaquah. Folks, here you see one of the reasons I hate driving.
One thing I noticed during this was the presence of a nice sign that indicated the trailhead that I had planned on using. I recognized the parking lot-like area from my research, but the Google images from 2011 did not show this sign. I was very pleased to find this sign, and what appeared to be some cars parked in the lot. Perfect! I had planned on parking my car in the lot of the supermarket up across the street from the Rogue Issaquah Brew House and hoping I didn’t get ticketed or towed. So park at the trailhead I did. As indicated on the map found at the following link, the trailhead is not at all far from the offramp from I-90 fortunately.
I got my bike out, loaded it up with my cargo and walked over to look at the nice map at the kiosk. There was no “you are here” on the map which made it less useful. It was quite unclear where the trail began which I had planned on using. There is a nice dirt trail leading the direction I needed to go, but it is quite steep and unsuited for cycling with a road-type bike. So as I had suspected, I needed to get out on the sidewalk and start riding.
Right away begins a gradual ascent that lasts for miles. Shortly you cross at a crosswalk and onto an inviting separated sidewalk. This takes you safely to where your trail actually begins. I was still unsure whether I was on the correct path toward my goal, but my concerns were allayed soon by some nice signage which indicated that I was heading toward Preston. I knew I wanted to be, on this initial part of my journey, on the Issaquah Preston Trail.
Before long, the nice paved trail gives way to gravel and rock – yes rock. I’m not sure why but the trail here, and for quite a distance, is made up partly of rocks ranging in size from golf ball to softball and larger. I didn’t expect to be subjecting my poor bike rims to such punishment. I was fully loaded at this point with three sandwiches, five hard-boiled eggs, a full Nalgene bottle and a bike bottle of water, two empty beer growlers and the rest of my gear. Given the foregoing in addition to the uphill nature of the route, it was fairly slow going here at the start of my journey.
After 2.5 – 3 miles the trail crosses a street that leads to an onramp and offramp to nearby I-90. The trail here does parallel the interstate. After about 1.5 more miles, the trail unfortunately dumps you out onto a road (High Point Way). There is a generous shoulder on the side of the road heading this direction, as well as a good one on the other side. You can see that the shoulder was widened at some point. I chose to ride on this side of the road on my return trip in fact. This on-street ride is less than a mile. At 300th Ave the trail begins again on the opposite side of the road. Not far at all after that, at 79th St, the trail takes a left.
Follow the trail past some industrial buildings and businesses and an athletic park. After about 3.5 miles the trail takes a right and once again dumps you onto a road (Preston-Fall City Rd). If you miss this right turn like I did, you’ll simply wind up at a nice bench at a quaint viewing point.
Note: The following paragraph will probably not make sense. You have to be there.
This street-dump is one of the most significant parts of this adventure. Our friendly trail delivers a stiff upper cut to the uncertain pilgrim by going steeply downhill to the busy road where a crosswalk is found, offering as much protection as a cardigan at the running of the bulls. Actually the traffic here on my outgoing trip wasn’t that heavy. On the return trip, however, it was downright thunderous. Once across, the trail goes to the right. Instead, I went left on the road (remember on the outgoing trip, it wasn’t that busy). Soon the trail picks up again, allowing you to get off the road. Why did the trail go right back there at the crosswalk? Because it’s a loop that runs along the road, turns left, and returns you back around to the trail again. I chose to forego this loop and save some distance. In doing so, I noticed that the trail picked up again, on the other side of the low concrete barrier, before long. On my return trip, with the thunderous traffic, I did not ride out on the road but instead got onto the trail, separated from traffic by this wall. After a ways, the trail runs out, leaving you to push your bike on the dirt but you’re separated from traffic by the concrete wall and at some point by the metal guardrail. You are, though, just feet from 50 mph+ traffic. Maybe next time I’ll try the loop you’re supposed to take.
At any rate, you have crossed the road and can continue on your trail. You’ve got it made, right? Yep. If you like to exercise. See, shortly after getting back onto the trail, I noticed some quaint-looking wooden fencing. Oh, I thought, someone’s property where they must keep horses or goats. No, those are wood retaining walls supporting the switchbacks you must climb – on foot unless you’re particularly strong and in the mood. Tip: given what awaits on Lake Alice Rd., walk your bike up the switchbacks.
After climbing that, your trail resumes and you can relax for a while. After about a mile you reach your next major landmark: a parking lot with a porta potty It’s here that I faced a decision. Do I go straight and stay on a trail that according to the map leads toward my destination, but possibly dead ends? Or do I assume it dead ends and go ahead and get out on the road – an unfriendly road – and proceed that way? See, on the map, the trail seems to end quite close to a residential street that would connect me to where I need to be. I figured there was a good chance it would connect, even if unofficially.
I decided to try the trail, that was about three miles long, and figured if it dead-ended, it wouldn’t cost me that much time unless the trail was steep. Fortunately, not long after I got onto this trail, I encountered two nice ladies strolling together with a small white dog. They were coming the opposite direction. As I approached them, I slowed and asked them if the trail dead ended. The provided a convincing answer: yes. They said there is a bench there, and a porta potty and a sort of peekaboo view of Snoqualmie Falls through the trees. Thank you, ladies! You saved me some time. Actually, I spent some of that saved time rolling along with the ladies as we chatted. They were pretty interested in the fact that I was cycling all this way to visit a brewery. We discussed my directions which didn’t really make sense to them. That’s to be expected, as the route is quite possibly original with me, and is passable only by the non-motorized traveler. We finished our pleasant visit, I rolled by the little white dog, bidding him/her adieu, and got out onto Lake Alice Road.
It’s here where I met the most significant event of my journey: a climb up Lake Alice Rd. that I am satisfied with classifying as brutal. Perhaps I would’t quite classify it such if I hadn’t been quite low on sleep, pretty heavily-loaded with cargo, and unsure about my directions, not knowing if all my efforts would be in vain. There I was though, setting off on the roadway, cheerful after my nice encounter with the ladies. It wasn’t long at all until the reality of this road smacked me in the face. I downshifted, stood up and began to pump. The climb, at least until the point I reached a definite landmark telling me my directions were correct, was about 1.5 miles. The road after that awesome point remained uphill, but the experience much more enjoyable. There is no shoulder on this climb, making things considerably tougher. Traffic wasn’t heavy, but sight lines are short. I must admit that I dismounted and walked part of this stretch, and when a car would come up behind me, I would stand off as far to the side of the road as I could, keeping my bike on the road side of me. I had on my florescent, reflective vest, had another one hanging from the left handgrip of my handlebars, and both red blinking lights on toward the rear. My mind was on high alert, and my body dialed up to max.
The discovery of the Y in the road my directions said should be there was a joyful event. I was questioning whether I was going the right direction. As I trudged up the hill, I recognized the intersection ahead, thanks to trusty Google Maps Street View, and when I drew closer, I was able to confirm that the street signs read as they should (note: the map says that the left turn we need to take is 73rd Pl./Lake Alice Rd., but the actual sign simply reads Lake Alice Rd.). As stated, the climb, which if I recall, mellowed a bit by this point, was much more enjoyable as I now knew I was not wasting my time. What’s more, the road now felt more residential which makes sense, as it only serves a limited number of homes and is not a through street. On this stretch, a school bus driver, who had passed me a ways back, gave me an appreciative smile which I happily returned.
I knew that the lake ought to be on my right, and this was finally confirmed when I saw a road leading to the right, and a sign indicating a public fishing area. Before long came my next major landmark: an end of sorts to the road and the beginning of what appears to a gravel driveway. This was a major point of concern for me, as I didn’t know if this gravel road/driveway was passable, or if it was going to lead me uncomfortably and problematically right up to someone’s house (and of course, one never knows how amenable residents are going to be to uninvited visitors). Fortunately, I was pre-equipped with satellite imagery knowledge that this road led to more than one house, which weighed in my favor. I also had seen evidence that this road led to at least some sort of road or pathway that ran along under power lines. It is this path that represented the last key unknown in my journey.
As I rolled along the gravel road, passing a couple of houses, I finally came to a spot that appeared to lead directly to one last house. This was it: Was the brutal climb – and this whole journey – in vain? Just then, I noticed a small trail of sorts to the left that led to a pathway.
It dawned on me that I ought to get off the driveway I was on and try this path. I checked my directions and confirmed that I should turn left. I did so and began to realize that I was probably on the correct path, as there were power lines overhead. Now, it was down to whether or not soon this path would exit into a newer residential development that I had seen in my planning. The expectation, the hope, the tension were all reaching their highest point. This was make or break. Was I on the right path? Was I traveling the correct direction? This is part of what helps define epic. Major disappointment or glory was about to be revealed.
I was happy to see ahead the rooftops of some houses that could fit the description of what I sought. Then it came into sight: The paved path! This was it – I knew it! It was all or nothing here, and I got it all! My adventure would be a success! My mammoth effort rewarded! I rolled onto the welcoming asphalt and soon emerged onto the clean roadway with sidewalks and cookie-cutter houses that I had seen on the computer. What a stark contrast to the territory from which I had just come. From here, I knew, it was just a quick jut over to the right on, Douglas Ave., where I would come to a major intersection, just this side of which would be a nice, official, paved path. This path, the Snoqualmie Ridge Trail, paralleled a busy thoroughfare and lead me into Snoqualmie.
When the trail/road comes to a T at an intersection, go to the right onto another trail (Centennial Trail) and continue along side, and crossing back and forth over, the railroad tracks and going through a park until you reach King Street. As you go along this trail, you are treated to some interesting sights, including old broken down, antique rail cars on the tracks which are on display complete with signs describing them. I didn’t stop to look at this stuff or at the display of a truly massive section of cut tree on a rail car that had a building built around it. This section of felled tree was awesome, and I would normally have stopped to find out its significance, but I was way to determined and plain beat at this point to do anything but get to my destination.
Unfortunately for me, I was so determined that I didn’t feel like stopping and looking at my directions which would have let me know to look for King Street. So I kept going straight, eventially losing the path and winding up out on the roadway – going too far and out of my way. Finally, I stopped, checked my directions, then turned around and went back to where I needed to be. King St. takes you one street over toward the river and Snoqualmie Falls Brewing is not far from there (8032 Falls Ave. SE). From King St. and Railroad Ave., it’s a right turn and just a short distance to our destination which is on the left. It’s a non-distinct building with a custom neon sign in the window and a small sign over the sidewalk.
June 13 update follows:
I locked up to the small bike rack on the sidewalk just a bit over from the front door. The place looked familiar once inside. I recall having a pizza here with my wife on the way back from Walla Walla if I recall (Spring Wine Release Weekend).
I took a seat at the small bar which had room for maybe half a dozen seats. The other patron at the bar was a leathered up biker guy being bikerly, but in a jovial way. I was pleased to note at least one set of apparent tourists taking pictures. (I don’t like to be the only non-regular in a joint).
As I began to scan the offerings listed on the chalkboard, the beertender asked in a less than friendly manner what I’d have. I told her I was still deciding. She provided a beer menu. Thanks!
Not too much later, she came back and checked with me. I asked about taster sizes. She held one up and couldn’t answer my question as to how many ounces they held. Oh well, I ordered taters of Copperhead Pale (5.3%), Summer Beer (5.6%), and Wildcat IPA (6.6%).
The first two were fine, if weak and bland tasting. The Wildcat was good – a nice IPA with a balance of hops and malt.
As I was enjoying these, a rather burly bearded employee emerged from the back. I assumed he would be surly, but the opposite was true. He inquired what I was having, and if I liked it, and was generally very cordial and genuine. After that, the beertender woman was more friendly for some reason. As I was almost done with these tasters, the burly guy asked if I wanted something else. I said I’d be trying the Black IPA and the Powerhouse double IPA before I left. So right away he got me a taste of each – a taste as in a free splash. Perfect!
Both were good. The Black IPA (6.5%) was surprisingly light in color, and interesting tasting. Less roasty than I expected, and a bit sweet but not too malty. A good beer. The Power House (7.5%) is a solid double IPA, heavy on the malt backbone and not very hoppy.
I had brought with me two growlers. When I asked the beertender if she minded if I went out to my bike and got them, and offered to leave her a card, she joked that the card wouldn’t be necessary, as she was a fast runner. Maybe she wasn’t joking? You never know. I filled my growlers with the Black IPA and the Powerhouse Double IPA. I just realized that as I write this I am sipping a glass of the Powerhouse. Hard to believe that I carted this beer from Snoqualmie to Issaquah on steep shoulderless country roads, bumpy trails through the woods, alongside busy highways separated from high-speed traffic by a couple feet and a guardrail, and you name it. It really makes the beer taste better! The price on growler fills was $9.25 plus tax. You never know if a place has tax included in the prices, or if it’s tacked on top. Annoyingly, this place does the latter. To their credit though, the growler fill price is reasonable, and quite notably, they didn’t charge more for the “big” beers than for the non-big beers. You just never know what a given place’s policies are going to be.
Soon it was time to go so that I could wind up back in Issaquah at about the time I wanted.
I reversed my route in order to get back to my car at the trailhead in Issaquah. Best believe the flight down Lake Alice Rd. was more enjoyable and faster than the outgoing trip.
It was very good to get back near the trailhead. I was plenty tired. Back at the parking lot, I quickly got my bike back into the car. There were three young people lounging in chairs next to the car having a plant sale which I might have checked out were these kids not smoking cigarettes.
I made my way into town and decided to go ahead and park in that grocery store parking lot rather than try to find on-street parking. Traffic was pretty heavy on the streets of Issaquah on this Friday afternoon. After parking and running over to the entrance of Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse, my revelatory experience began.
The young woman who greeted me at the door was quite friendly and professional. That’s where it ended. I took my seat at the bar – the bar that had little brass placards at each spot with someone’s name on them. This was indicator number one. I mean, what good can come from labeling spots at a bar? If the person shows up whose name labels the spot your’e occupying the very least you can expect is an attitude. That didn’t happen, but attitude I did get at this place.
Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse is, well, pretty dumpy, or to use a term I learned from my wife: “towny.” I wasn’t expecting this. Rogue is a big name in the beer world as you know. I had a good time at one of their brewhouses in Portland. In restrospect though, that place was a bit rough as well. Across the bar to my left were a couple of loud-talking white collarish types. Just beside me on my right were a duo of backward ball cap wearing toughies, one of whom bumped me as he got up and didn’t acknowledge it at all. I looked at him but he didn’t return my indignant gaze, which was a very good thing, as I am pretty sure the yahoos would have started a fight.
So let me get this straight: I am at a dumpy bar and I also have to put up with attitude. Just smashing. To complete the ridiculous picture, I found out that my beer came to $6.33. Okay, that should by you two beers.
As you might expect after reading this, the bartender provided me an absolute bare minimum of information about the beers when I asked for it, and did so in a huff. Now, here’s the cherry on this little scoop of ice cream: When I cashed out, which was well before I finished that beer, and got my bill for $6.33 I laid down $7. The stinking lump of a bartender kept my change without saying or even gesturing a thing. He just kept it. The fricking gall. Ladies and gentlemen, Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse has it wrong – all wrong. Completely opposite what a beer place, or any place should be. I don’t spend money I can scarcely afford to be spending to receive an experience like this. Live and learn I guess. Oh, and yes, I did flag down the bartender and ask for my change back. He was visibly taken aback by this for a second, and after he delivered it, he glared at me several times as I finished my beer.
I used the graffiti-endowed bathroom then exited that hole of a place like a dog being let out of a crate. I couldn’t get out of that place – or out of Issaquah – fast enough. Traffic was, of course, heavy as I worked my way out of the grocery store parking lot. One shining, confusing moment occurred as I tried to exit the lot: A driver in a jeep in the line of traffic backed up at the red light stopped short so I could exit the lot in front of him once traffic started moving again. I assume he didn’t live there either. Maybe he was an angel sent to restore a minute shred of faith in humanity.
Well, friends, this about wraps up this epic adventure, save getting caught in rush hour (and as I finally found out, Mariner baseball) traffic on the way back to downtown Seattle. I look back on it fondly because I am choosing to ignore the bad parts and remember the good ones. It really was quite an adventure. I do recommend it, and would do it again if I ever had the reason to go to Issaquah again. I would not drive into town at all, rather I would just go straight from the Interstate to the trailhead and take off after my ride.
Thanks for joining me once again. I look forward to our next adventure.
Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!