RIDING OVER THE TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE & CUSHAM TRAIL

Last weekend the Kid and I did a ride we’ve been wanting to do for a while: crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and continuing on to the Cushman trail through Gig Harbor. Starting at the the War Memorial Park in Tacoma, WA, we road over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, an iconic circa 1940 Puget Sound area structure that crosses the Tacoma Narrows straight between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula.

Crossing the bridge by bike in and of itself is a wonderful experience. The bridge offers one-of-a-kind views of the Puget Sound that can’t be experienced in a car at 60 mph. On bike or foot you can stop and soak in the imagery or just let the wind rush through your hair with the sweeping panorama in the background.

The bridge has it’s own two-way bike/pedestrian path, and crossing it is about two miles each way. We wanted to continue on to the Cushman trail which begins about a mile farther north after crossing the bridge. The total distance from War Memorial Park to the end of the Cushman trail is nearly 10 miles. The route looked like this:

To get to the Cushman trail, you simply cross the first overpass after crossing the bridge and head north on 14th Ave. NW for about a mile to where the Cushman trail starts. The trail is very wide and has great surface conditions. It winds through mostly wooded surroundings and has some ups and downs along the way, but all of the climbs are relatively short.

 

About two miles down the trail, you cut back through the streets for a couple of blocks on Olympic Drive NW. You’re back on the trail in no time, which continues for another half-mile until you are back on the streets again. This is a perfect time to stop by and say hi to the folks at Old Town Bicycle (www.oldtownbicycle.com). Old Town is a great shop that offers everything you would want and has a friendly and knowledgeable staff. They even offered to fill our water bottles and let us use their bathroom before setting back out on the ride.

From there, you weave through town for a few more blocks and then are back on the trail again. This portion of the trail is mostly an elevated path above reed-filled marshland below. There are also a couple of climbs through this portion of the trail at 8-10% grade, however, they are relatively short climbs. The scenery is very green, natural, and enjoyable and there are built in stopping points with benches all along the way.

 

The trail ends at Borgen Blvd. where there is a large business park. We decided to duck into the Costco there for a quick lunch before heading back. Much to our surprise, there was no bike parking on the premises, so we improvised with one of their shopping cart corrals.

The Tacoma Narrows bridge and Cushman trail are very fun and scenic rides that can be done independently, but work very well as a continuous route. I highly recommend you put this ride high on your list if you haven’t experienced it yet.

Please share your comments below along with any other bridge crossing stories or recommendations.

COURAGE CLASSIC, GRAVEL TRAIL TO THE SNOQUALMIE SUMMIT

The weekend of August 6th was the Courage Classic ride, a cycling event in Washington that is a significant fundraiser for the Rotary Endowment for the Intervention & Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect. This year it has raised over $500k (www.multicare.org/courage-classic).

The Kid and I decided to take on the Courage Classic Lite ride, which launched from the main starting point in North Bend and followed the Snoqualmie Valley and Iron Horse trails to the Snoqualmie summit. We were to ride up and back down again on the same day for a total of 60 miles.

The trails are rail-to-trail conversions, so they are “rail grade” which is gradual, but a constant grade nonetheless. The trail is packed gravel the whole way. We followed the Snoqualmie Valley trail from North Bend for about nine miles where it ends at Rattle Snake Lake. The Iron Horse trail begins here and continues on for approximately 20 miles until you reach the Hyak Trailhead at the Snoqualmie pass.

The ride was a great opportunity for us to experience this route as well as test ourselves, as 60 miles is the longest continuous ride we’ve done together.  The is our actual ascent as recorded by GPS (I know, we’re not breaking any speed records…)

Rattle Snake Lake State Park is the first major stopping point along the route. It has bathrooms and water available, so it’s a good time to use them, particularly for filling up on water. There are bathrooms on the trail along the way, but the park is the last place to get water directly on the trail until you reach the summit.

There are many interesting features along the trail such as the several trestle crossings that float above creeks and ravines deep below and offer tremendous exposed views of the Cascades and river valley below. About five miles up the Iron Horse trail, you pass many popular rock climbing walls that are likely to be in full use by climbers. There are several hiking trail crossings along the Iron Horse, including the the popular Twin Falls state park trail. If you want a break for riding, you can stop and explore one of these, or simply take a break at one of the many picnic areas with tables and bathrooms. Most of the rest areas are located at nice view points.

 

 

The climax of the ride up is reaching the historic converted train tunnel that takes you though the mountain to the Hyak trail head. It is three miles long and void of light, other than what you bring with you. Riding a bike through for the first time is quite the experience. You really lose the sense of distance, speed, and time and with the constant draft, it almost feels like you’re flying through it. It is virtually isolated from any outside noise, which is another sensory experience since you can only hear your wheels on the smooth packed-soil surface or the occasional water drips. The air is much cooler inside the tunnel, so an extra layer is nice to have when riding through.

The Hyak trail head has a nice bathroom facility that even features a shower, so if you’re so inclined, or if you’re travelling on a multi-day trip, this might be one of your best opportunities for a shower. If you continue east, there are several camp sites along the trail that have received good reviews. We plan on doing an overnight there in the near future.

After a nice lunch and a short break, we mounted back up, and headed right back through the tunnel. Riding back through the tunnel wasn’t as mysterious as the first time, but still feels like an adventure. The view from the west side of the tunnel is breathtaking and there are several picnic benches making it a great spot to take a break and soak it all in.

Although the ride back down is technically downhill, you’re not exactly coasting all of the way down. Nonetheless, it feels fairly easy after the ascent, and of course you can move much faster. We pretty much cruised through all the way down, just stopping for bathroom breaks or to take in the view.

 

After reaching Rattle Snake Lake again, we decided we’d had enough vibrations for the day, and instead of the trail, we took the road down to North Bend. After being on the trail, the road felt so smooth and fast, and we were really flying around some of the hairpin curves. As you reach the bottom, close to the I-5 crossing, it gets pretty straight and flat the rest of the way into town.

We were pretty worn out by the time we finished the ride, but we had a great day, and one that we’ll never forget. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go back with the camping gear and spend a couple of nights out on the trail. We are very fortunate to have this great terrain and beautiful landscape right in our “backyard” and I recommend to anyone to get up there and experience any portion of the trail you are able to.

Please leave any comments about this blog post or riding rail-trails below!