Hiking the PCT Without a Car
My adventures in car-free hiking continued last weekend. This time, I planned to hike some of the Pacific Crest Trail.
I've blogged previously about a new shuttle service to Snoqualmie Pass that Washington State Parks started this summer. So it was time to try it myself to get to a trailhead.
It was a scorching hot Friday afternoon when put my bike on the 554 express bus to Issaquah. I had an overnight pack, pared down to the bare essentials at 27 pounds. From the Issaquah Transit Center, I caught the Metro 209 bus to North Bend. Then it was a 5-mile bike ride to the Cedar Falls trailhead near Rattlesnake Lake, to catch the shuttle.
If I'd had more time, I'd have taken the longer and well-graded Snoqualmie Valley Trail. But I was pressed to make the last shuttle of the day (one downside of transit hiking is you've got to be on time!) so I braved the steeper, heavily trafficked Cedar Falls Road. Not exactly pleasant, but I did it.
The shuttle to Hyak was speedy and the driver, Chuck, was very friendly and made good conversation. The shuttle, with a trailer for bikes, dropped me off at Hyak, and then it was a 2-mile ride uphill on backroads to reach the pass and the trailhead for the PCT northbound.
One thing I should point out: the shuttle is primarily meant to serve mountain bikers using the rail-trail Iron Horse State Park, which stretches from Hyak down to North Bend (and continues eastward as the John Wayne Trail all the way to Spokane). The shuttle does not stop at trailheads along the route, although technically they can stop at Twin Falls/Olallie if you request it in advance.
At 4:45 p.m. I locked my bike to a tree and was hiking the PCT. This stretch of trail to Kendall Katwalk and a camp at Ridge Lake is phenomenal, especially in the late evening light. I reached the lake just as a full moon rose over Alta Mountain. Though the lake is popular, I found a spot and enjoyed dinner by moonlight.
The next morning I hiked further up the PCT above Joe and Alaska Lakes. I'd never explored this stretch of the PCT, and highly recommend it. The views are astounding. I had to be back into Seattle by Saturday evening, so I hoofed it back down the trail and back to my bike.
I arrived at Hyak in late afternoon, and had an hour wait for next the shuttle. As I sat there waiting, I noticed the cool breeze flowing out the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Why take a shuttle, I wondered, when I had a my own "shuttle"--my mountain bike--and the Iron Horse Trail to North Bend was completely downhill?
So, changing my plans, I decided to bike the 27 miles from Hyak to
Bend. It was awesome! The former railroad
tunnel is 2.3 miles long,
pitch-black and freaky, but about the coolest place to be on a
90-degree day (just
make sure you have fresh batteries in your head lamp!). The remaining 24 miles of trail is a beautiful 2 percent grade, so you never have to
brake during the descent.
It was a kick to ride past all those I-90 hiking destinations I usually see from behind a windshield: Granite Mountain, Bandera, Annette Lake, McLelland Butte, and finally Mount Si. It was satisfying to breeze downhill at a good pace, knowing I wasn't guzzling gas!
I arrived in North Bend in late afternoon and hopped on the Metro bus back to Issaquah, and then another bus to Seattle. The whole adventure was quite a "triathlon," but it was rewarding to get to another trailhead using only a bike, bus and the shuttle service. Total cost was $5 for bus fare plus $20 for the shuttle one-way. Probably not cheaper than driving, but it felt good hike the PCT without using a car!
Photo: Hikers on the PCT at Kendal Katwalk. Photo by Andrew Engelson.