The Iron Horse Trail: Keechelus Lake

A few years ago, I bought a rack for my car, letting me move a bike and a kayak on the roof of my car.  And, by some stroke of bad luck, I got sick with bronchitis.  😦

In my infinite wisdom, I did the ride anyway;  a friend drove, and hiked off on her own with a book, which let me bring the codeine-laden cough syrup the doctor had given me.  I took it slow, to go easy on my throat … so slow, in fact, that a jogger passed me.  This was not my proudest moment!  😮  It was a long short ride (I took about 3 hours to cover 15 miles!), but it was a happy one.

So far all but one of the rides I’ve described have been on paved roads, and suitable for 23 mm tires.  I was on a cyclocross bike for this ride, with 28 mm cross tires, which were fine for this section of the trail, but just barely enough for others.

A Novara Element CX bike

My bike (at the time), leaning against a metal rod near the trail, with snowy peaks in the distance. Yes, I realize this is a Fredly setup.

Snoqualmie Pass is, well, a mountain pass. I feel like Captain Obvious for pointing that out, but the mountains surrounding the pass (pass being another word for low point) change the local weather systems. Clouds lose their moisture – as rain or as snow – as they climb higher into the sky to cross the Cascade Crest. West of the divide is wet country, the land of thick Douglas Fir forests; east is the dry side. There’s a sharp division, and a very slow fade. You can see it in these pictures, and in some of the other trips I’ve taken recently.

Looking toward Easton and Cle Elum

Looking east, the mountains are more rounded and less jagged, and not covered in snow.

Still water reflecting the mountains

Keechelus Lake has a few peninsulas, and some protected coves, like this one. Here, still water reflects the last snow on the tops of the mountains north of the lake, along with the deeply forested slopes below. This came from the section of the trail below Lost Lake.

Probably Mounts Catherine and Hyak?

Keechelus Lake and the mountains around Snoqualmie Pass in late spring. This photo looks west from the dry side.

The lake and mountains, framed by the bike's frame.

The lake and mountains, framed by the bike. The wiring wrapped around the top tube and down tube is a light, for night riding in Seattle. I still use the pedals shown in this photo - they're the only remnant I have left of the bike.

The trail itself is a bit varied. I rode west as far as the Snoqualmie Tunnel – which is a fascinating place, and, hopefully, will be the subject of a future post – and east to the end of the lake before exploring a dirt forest service road (the one leading to Lost Lake) then doubling back.

At times, the trail departs from the lake entirely, and occasionally the water is hidden away behind trees, small cliffs, boulders, and hills, etc.

Going home

Heading west, to get back to the car, and, eventually, home. These photos were shot in June, which is late spring here, and the thaw was still happening, which means a lot of water trickling over or through many of the cliffs.

All the while, the plant life on the ground reveals the true story. The further east you go, the more stone crop you’ll see. Wenatchee National Forest parts ways with Snoqualmie / Mount Baker National Forest at the pass, with ponderosa pines off to the east, and a temperate rain forest to the west. On the trail, though, smaller plants give hints of the biome changes stretching out over tens of miles.

Me, with bike.

I swear this picture makes me look insane, which I'm not. In the background, though, you can see a section of trail toward the eastern edge of my ride, with no lake views, and some drought-resistant plants poking up through the mosses.

These last two pictures don’t look especially different from the first, but the puffy why clouds make a photographically ideal sky, and, on these ride reports, I’m trying to give a sense of what it’s like to ride particular routes. So I hope these won’t bore you too much.

The shoreline begins to get boggy

The entire lake is east of the divide, and most of the shore tends to be rock or more bare dirty. In some places, though, the line between land and water is less clear.

More lake and nostalgic puffy clouds

Looking west, toward Hyak.

I shot these with a Garmin Oregon 550t, a hiking GPS. You may have noticed that these look a bit different from most of the other photos on this blog – they’re more saturated, almost cartoonishly so, and they’ve got a narrower dynamic range; either the shadows are too dark, or the highlights are too bright.

The Garmin unit stopped working one day when I was hiking at Pyramid Lake in the North Cascades; it began as a hot August day, and then the sky opened up and started to pour. The GPS is supposed to be submersible. 😦 I wouldn’t recommend it as a camera or as a GPS.

This was a nice dirt ride, and the scenery is very pretty in the spring. I rode this on June 5th of 2010 … a long time ago. There’s too much snow to go out and do this ride today (in fact, I dug these pictures up while planning a snow shoe trip to this section of the Iron Horse Trail), and it will be at least several months before that changes.

Sorry if that’s an unfair tease; I posted this because, after digging the pics up, they were fresh in my mind. And because I found myself on the Iron Horse Trail in Easton last weekend, but turned back thanks to my skinny road tires. Finally, I posted this because it’s a good place to ride in the mountains on dirt.

With all that out of the way, I wouldn’t recommend following my tracks exactly. This could be the start to a great ride, but, unless you’re also very much under the weather, you might find yourself wanting more.

If anybody would like to see it, here’s the map and other info about the ride:


3 thoughts on “The Iron Horse Trail: Keechelus Lake

    • Thank you! It was a nice ride, no doubt about it. I went back yesterday with snow shoes, and had a pleasant hike, too … obviously, I made less distance. The lowlands are getting warm, and the snow is disappearing from the mountains, but they’re still caught in a no man’s land between the seasons. I can’t wait to get back into those dirt roads and trails on a bike. 😀

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