Snoqualmie Tunnel

So far this summer has been pretty good. I had not had a trip through the Snoqualmie Tunnel yet. The main times I do hike in the tunnel is when it is over 90 degrees or wildfire smoke fills the air. I missed an after work hike when we had six consecutive days over 90 degrees. The guys had a cool hike underground. Now into September we are having our first wildfire smoke on the west side of the mountains. The east side is not much better. With westerly winds Seattle was in the unhealthy category. I was up early to catch up on the Ukrainian blitz of the Russian army. By 9:45 I was on my way. It was white sky all the way up to Snoqualmie Pass. It was a bit lighter at the pass as I drove on to Hyak. When I pulled into the state part lot a sucker hole had formed. Overhead, I had some blue sky. I had a face mask but I did not need it to walk to the tunnel. The lot was about 90% full when I started. More crowded than I expected. There were some signs for a race and a folded table with a big water jug near the tunnel opening. I hoped I had not stumbled into another race. I put on my headlamp and headed in at 10:57 am.

I passed a couple folks as I set off at a good pace. The tunnel turns immediately then is completely straight for 2.3 miles. Unlike the west end, the turn cuts off much of the light coming in the east end. It gets very dark very quickly. About 6 minutes in I heard a big group talking very loudly. Sound can really travel in the tunnel. I was in on the entire conversations. I expected them to be on bikes and catch up with me quickly. That did not happen. Eventually they did pass and the din died. I could see lights of people heading towards me. It is very hard to tell distance. Sometimes they were still quite a long way from me. I stopped for some photos and to mess with the "night" mode on my camera. With just a little headlamp light, it made the tunnel look much brighter than it was.

The darkness led to some long exposures and shots of moving bikes took on a long blur look. I made it to the west end at 11:28 am. 2.3 miles in 31 minutes was pretty fast for just hiking. It was my fastest leg of the trip though not by much. As expected, it was quite smoky at the west end. I put on my face mask. I used the outhouse and had a little to eat and drink. Granite Mountain was visible though just barely. I headed back into the tunnel. On the first leg, I was hiking at just over 4 mph and felt no wind. On the way back I was hiking at almost 4 mph and felt a very cold wind in my face. The wind was blowing at about 3 mph but the apparent wind I felt was the wind speed plus my speed or about 7 mph. That felt cold. On previous trips, I have recorded from 52 to 55 degrees in the tunnel. Even on the day when it was 100 degrees outside it has not been over 55 degrees inside away from the ends. The tunnel was less busy on the second segment. I did pass a van driving through this time. There was a sign for the race in the tunnel that was not there this time. I'm sure the van removed it. I popped out on the east end to find the blue sky was all gone. It was a little smoking but much less than at the west end. A little water break and I headed back inside.

The hard surface of the tunnel makes for pretty easy walking. There are a few spots where water drips from the ceiling and there are puddles but for the most part it is easy walking. It is also a bit hard on my feet. By about 6 miles I was feeling it a bit. Since my plantar fasciitis has gone away it is not nearly so bad now. I was passed on this segment by two girls on tiny bikes. They were probably about 7 years old but a bike beats a hiker almost every time. When I have biked through the tunnel I have done it in about 10 minutes. I did segment three in about 33 minutes. Still a pretty good time. Lots of smoke once again. This stop was quite short. I did notice a cell tower just below the railroad grade not far from the end. There has been a tower farther down the hill nearer to I-90. for years. I did not recall seeing one by the tunnel. I had very strong reception as expected near the tower.

I headed into the tunnel for the last segment. I took a movie and then stopped about 150' inside. The tower was directly in line with the tunnel. For fun, I experimented by trying to pull up the WSDOT traffic app. It worked perfectly from well underground. I went another 150' and refreshed the page. No problem.  Now I was really intrigued. I called Gary. He answered. It sounded perfect. I explained where I was calling from and started rapidly hiking once again. I kept walking and we kept talking. Since I had noted my times on the first three segments I could guesstimate where I was in the 2.3 miles tunnel by the time I took. At about 17 minutes we could figure I was about half way or 1.15 miles into the tunnel. The signal was still quite strong. Past 1.25 miles Gary came in great but I was breaking up a little. The phone was on speaker and I was holding it in front of my body. When I raised to my ear and had a direct line to the tower my voice broke up much less. Then I stopped and turned around holding the phone level I had a very good connection sending and receiving.

We kept up the experiment until the east end began to get pretty close. At about 1.8 miles the call was dropped. When I popped out the east side I immediately had a very strong signal and called Gary back. He suggested that the tower had a strong signal and that is why I could hear him clearly right up until the signal was lost. I had just a fairly weak phone and my transmission broke up much earlier. At least with Verizon I had phone and Internet most of the way through the tunnel, even when I was 600' underground. The experiment made the last segment much more interesting. The inside of a tunnel in the dark is not the best scenery seen on a hike in the Cascade Mountains. The trip including four segments adds up to 9.6 miles. I wanted 10 miles so I went back into the tunnel to get the last .40 miles. I made it back to the trailhead at 2:00 pm exactly. I took 3:03 to hake 10 miles with stops at each end. That will be my fastest hike of the year. I may have had to round up to get the tip up to 100' of elevation gain. It is virtually flat.

This trip gave me just what I was looking for. A chance to get in a 10 mile hike without breathing in smoke. There was almost no place else I could have found it outdoors. I saw a stream of people in the tunnel but it was not as crowded as I feared with the nearly full lot at the start. The lot was a bout half full at 2:00 pm. Hiking through the tunnel would normally not by my choice on a summer weekend but when it is way to hot or smoky it provides a rare spot to get in a hike.  Hiking underground is better than not hiking at all.

Only Blue Sky Seen
On RR Grade
Tunnel Entrance
Bikes Zoom By
Race Sign
West End Light
Nearing West End
West End
Tunnel & Fall Color
Smoky Mountains
Heading Inside
Long Shadow
Pitch Black
Lit Arch
Tiny Light
East End & White Sky
Big Group
Light Around Corner
Two People
Me & My Shadow
Small Bikers
Break Time
Last Leg Begins
Bicycles Coming
End Of Phone Service
Done With Tunnel
Smoky Alta Mt.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022