Gwen and I headed south to Spray Park in Mt. Rainier National Park and
avoided most all of the wildfire smoke. It came back to fill most of
Western Washington for Sunday. I chose an unusual way to get in a smoke
free hike. For years I had said I would get in a hike on a horrible
weather day by hiking the 2.3 mile tunnel with portals below both ends
of Snoqualmie Pass. In October of 2016 during a big storm I finally did
it. I had a dry hike with minimal wind and it was as warm in
the tunnel as outside. I went back and forth twice that day for a 10
mile hike. With the awful wildfire smoke inundating Washington again
the summer I planned a repeat. I was slow getting up and did not arrive
at the Iron Horse State Park lot near Hyak until 9:15 am. The lot is
near the east end of the Snoqualmie Tunnel. By 9:20 I was on my way.
air was already quite smoky. I hoped that the wind would not blow smoke
through the tunnel. That was my only concern.
A half dozen years ago I went for a close to town hike on Squak
Mountain in early spring. It turned out to be the day of a big running
race. I met many dozens of several hundred runners on the trail that
day. One year later I did a spring hike on Squak. Yep, it was the day
of the race. I saw a whole lot of folks that day. Earlier this year we
headed to near Cashmere to do the Devil's Gulch-Mission Ridge Loop.
There was a running race there. Fast forward to now.
Instead of the expected 4 or 5 cars in the lot it was half full. It has
a capacity for 145 cars. It turns out that one of the biggest
get-togethers for geocachers is "Going
I was right at ground zero. So much for solitude in the tunnel. We had
far more solitude at Spray Park the day before. Hard to imaging. I do
have a knack for hiking in someone's big event.
I braved the brown air for a few tenths of a mile to the tunnel. Folks
were already there. The east end has a sharp turn. The tunnel runs
east-west then turns to the south going along Lake Keechelus. That
blocks most light from being seen very far into the tunnel. The tiny
dot of light at the west end can bee seen several miles away. It is
about 50 degrees in the tunnel. Much cooler than out side would be this
day. Long sleeves and long pants were worn for a hike on the first time
in months. My headlamp showed the particles of smoke as I headed in.
For about 10 minutes they remained. I did not escape all the smoke.
Thankfully, they went away as I headed farther into the tunnel. In
fact, only the far east end had any smoke. My main mission was
accomplished. I had a cool and almost smoke free hike on a day when
almost the whole stake had brown air. I also had some new friends.
It was not as bad as Mt. Si. There were long breaks between the groups
of slow walking hikers. There were also bikers in the tunnel. I
expected to reach the west end in about 45 minutes. It is almost
completely flat, losing about 50' heading west over those 2.3 miles. I
did much better than expected. I averaged about 33 minutes for each of
the four legs of the trip. The air was a little less thick at the west
entrance. Still not something I would want to be hiking in. I only
stopped for a few minutes and started back. I met a lot more folks
coming towards me. The geocache event started at 10:00 am so I was
seeing many of them now. There were enough that I could go long
distances without a headlamp. I just used theirs. I did turn it one
when someone neared me. No need to have them run into me.
Back at the east end I decided to go for 10 miles instead of a quick 5
miles. On this leg I was passing folks going in both directions. Even
at the worst, there were some long periods of solitude. Voices do carry
in a concrete tube though. I heard folks I did not even see. About
half way through A guy in a monster suit jumped out of an
inset in the tunnel wall and let out a scream. He was only a bout 5
feet away when I turned my light on him. I'm glad I don't have any
heart problems. For just a moment he scared the crap out of me. Then I
laughed. I hoped I would see him again. I forgot to take a photo of
him. I brought only by phone for a camera and super low light is not
its strength. I have some interesting though often not focused photos
in this report.
When I reached the west end again I took a short break. Time for some
water and to upload a few photos of the hike. Then I went back in for
the fourth and final leg of the journey. The crowd was a little thinner
now but I still kept meeting more folks. I was pleased to have the
monster jump out again. This time I asked him to pose and he was
pleased to do so. At least that's what I believe his grunts meant. He
never broke character and said a word. Just some grunts. And a scary
pose. I came out of the tunnel for the last time at 11:50 am. I took
2:20 to hike 9.2 miles of tunnel with several breaks and lots of
photos. That's 15.2 minutes per mile in the dark including breaks.
That's about as fast as I hike.
The air at the parking lot was even worse now. I could see the ski hill
at Hyak right above me but the ridges across I-90 were hard to see. The
lot was now completely full. Folks were driving around looking for
someone to leave. Which is what I did soon after. I have hiked and
biked through the tunnel a number of times. I never thought I'd see
close to the number of folks hiking and biking through this day. I'm
sure I never will again. Unless, of course, we have more bad smoke next
August and I manage to pick the weekend of "Gong Ape 2019". If anyone
can do it it's me. I'm sure I will have forgotten about the event by
While I did not have a lot of solitude I did escape almost all the
smoke. It was nice also to do a hike at 50 degrees. Especially 50
degrees with no rain. All I had was a few spots where water drips from
the tunnel ceiling. I'm home now looking at trip reports of smoky hikes
around Snoqualmie Pass and I am even more pleased that my lungs did not
have to endure that. It was a cool day for an underground hike.
Smoky Parking Lot
Folks At Entrance
Dot Of Light
Portal In Sight
West End Nears
Smoky At West End
Light On Roof
West End Supports
My Light Is Off
Met A Fen Dweller
Light On Walls
Science Fiction Movie?
End Of 4th Leg
Full Lot, Smoky Day
Ridge Is Very Hazy
Click on thumbnails to get