Snoqualmie Tunnel - Dirty Harry

The previous weekend I planned a trip to the Snoqualmie Tunnel to escape the wildfire smoke. Each day, a place opened up with no smoke. On Friday we had rain for the first time in over 3 months. On Saturday I headed to the Snoqualmie Tunnel to avoid all the rain. There was some snow overnight above the pass. Not at Snoqualmie Pass level. Just six days earlier it was 88 degrees in Seattle. It was 37 degrees when I started out. Quite a difference. I did not get a really early start as the Tunnel hike is fast. On the drive east, it rained much of the way. After the long dry spell, the rain brought up the oil on the road and it was slick. I drove slow in the right lane and did fine. I  arrived at the Hyak state park parking lot just before 10:00 am. There was a truck and a van in the big lot. At the far end I saw several more vans and a whole lot of young people. They were jumping around trying to stay warm. I saw "CWU" on the door of a van. It looked like the  cross county team at Central Washington University. I was on the trail at 10:02 am. The mob of runners suddenly headed my way. Uh Oh... About 30-40 runners zoomed on by me. Okay, they were off for the tunnel and I would not see them again until they passed me coming back. Well, not quite. They stopped near the tunnel entrance and I had to get through them all.

I entered the tunnel and headed west. A few minutes later a few runners zoomed by. The rest went on by in small groups for the next 15 minutes. After that, thinks quieted down. I set a good pace heading west through the tunnel. I reached the west end  in 35 minutes. This is just under 4 mph. The college kids were all near the outhouse beyond the tunnel exit. It was not raining but the clouds were very low. I could see well down the valley towards North Bend but all the peaks were hidden by the clouds. Granite Mountain was just across the valley from me but I could only see the bottom near the highway. I headed back into the tunnel and tried out the cell signal on a very cloudy day. I had no trouble getting hold of Gary, I was considering heading up to  Snoqualmie Summit for a hike up the Pacific Crest Trail to Lodge Lake. I would finish my 5 miles in the tunnel and add the hike to the lake for some elevation gain. Gary checked online and reported the trail to the lake was 3.7 miles round trip with 950' of gain. That sounded good. A check of the Doppler Radar showed rain was still down by North Bend. The future radar suggested drain would be to the pass before I made it there. I chose to stay in the tunnel.

I reached the east end and took a very short break. Heading west I had a cold headwind. Coming back east there was no wind at all. It felt much warmer. I started hiking at 37 degrees. In the tunnel it as 43 degrees. That was about 10 degrees cooler than on a 90 degree summer day but still warmer than outdoors this day. The college kids passed me on my first return trip and I did not see them again. I did see some folks hiking on each leg of the trip though not many the last two legs. I saw far fewer bikers than normal. The tunnel closes for winter on November first to there was not much time left to use it.

I was still feeling good as I finished my third leg of the trip. One more quick break and it was time to head back. By now I realized that it was not raining at the west end and so was not raining on the PCT. I could have made it up to Lodge Lake before the rain arrived but I would have made it back dry. The last leg was another warm one but the hard tunnel floor was getting to be a little bit of a pain on my feet. I was glad when I reached the east end for the last time. There were more cars in the lot now but not a lot of them. My times for the four legs ranged from 35 minutes to 40 minutes. All in all, it was a good 10 mile workout. It was only 1:25 pm when I headed for home. It rained lightly as I drove over the pass and down the west side. By exit 42 the rain had stopped. at exit 38, mile post 40, I decided to exit the highway.

The trail up to Dirty Harry's Balcony and Peak gains elevation at a steady grade. I could still get in the elevation gain I missed on a trip to Lodge Lake. The small lot is full all spring and summer. This day there were 6 or 7 cars in the lot. Not crowded at all. I grabbed my pack and hit the trail. I have done the new Dirty Harry Trail a couple of times since it was opened. The trail quickly reached the road and I turned left and crossed the car bridge. The Snoqualmie River was very low after the dry summer. Across the bridge I picked up the trail. On my other times on the trail I recalled a trail with one or two signed short trails to viewpoints I was not ready for  6 or 7 of them in just the mile I hiked. Most were signed. A few were not. Most were on my Gaia map and some were not. I used Gaia to make sure I did not get off trail. Most of the trail was covered with freshly fallen tree needles. I had no trouble coming down but the map helped me to stay on route.

At first the trail was wide and smooth but that gave way to narrow and with may rocks in the tread. They were a bit of a pain in the knees coming down with all the rocky steps. The cool weather had me invigorated. After 10 flat miles I had no trouble with the elevation gain. The rain held off all the way up and down. At 1 mile I reached what I recalled as the first signed viewpoint. That is where I turned around. The wet needles looked to be a slick danger coming down but I had no traction problems. I retraced my steps back to the parking lot. I arrive at 3:02 pm. Now my day was done. I hiked a total of 12 miles with 800' of elevation gain. 700' of it came on that one mile hike up at the end.

It rained for much of the drive home. I stayed over in the right lane as cars zoomed by me. When I reached I-405 the freeway signs said that Highway 520 bridge was closed westbound and I-90 had a 6 mile backup just ahead. Some of those fast folks found out how slick the roadway is after over 3 months without rain. That added about 20 minutes to my drive home. The exit to I-5 NB was backed up so I took the downtown tunnel. A smart move, right? It was until I neared the Aurora Bridge where a bad accident had the two right lanes closed. The roads are slick after a long dry spell, right? Two bad accidents, one after the other, is not much fun.

After two trips in a row where I planned to hike the Snoqualmie Tunnel to escape the smoke but did not need to at the last minute, I hiked the tunnel to escape the rain. I even added a second hike to get in a little elevation gain. The drive both ways was mostly in the rain. My hiking was completely dry. It is great when things work out as they are planned. It is now about time to do some hikes in the rain.

Fresh Snow
Runners Starting
Tunnel Entrance
Runners With Lights
Nearing West End
Runners At West End
Misty Day
There They Go
Heading Into Darkness
2+ Miles To Go
East End Arrival
Third Leg Begins
Hikers Approach
Granite Mountain
More Fall Colors
Long Shadow
Back At The East End
On The Grade
SF Snoqualmie River
Dirty Harry's Trail
Big Mushroom
Getting Rocky
Mossy Rocks
Even Rockier
Very Nice Colors
Big Rock
Some Sunshine
Smooth River Reflection
Lot Not Crowded
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Trips 2022