(2006) Snoqualmie

They Ought To Spell it “Snowqualmie”

Just when I think I’m done riding for the year (barring my daily commute, of course) something comes along that I can’t resist. Some guys from ADV posted up that they were going to explore some roads up by Snoqualmie Pass. Who was I to say no?

October 29, 2006
Total Miles: 122 miles, 1 day
Seattle, WA to Snoqualmie Pass, WA

We all managed to make it to Denny’s in Issaquah somewhere between 8 and 9 that morning. Not having a timepiece, I have no idea if we left on time, but when we did leave it was in a steady rain. A quick zip up I-90 to the Denny Creek turn off where we were surprised to see that the rain had turned into a nice fat snowfall. Undaunted, we strolled up Denny Creek Rd (I’m not entirely sure of names here; feel free to correct me!) until we arrived at Snoqualmie Pass, where it was a balmy 31 degrees and yes, still snowing.

And it would only get colder…

Snow (sort of)

After a few mis-guided attempts to find the road that someone thought we wanted (sometimes its more fun to be at the back and not planning and just watch others bungle around… ) we finally headed up a promising-looking road. That’s when Dale (toothy?) had his front end wash out in a corner and took the first spill of the day. Poor Tracy, her first time on dirt on a new-to-her bike saw this, looked at the snow that was starting to show itself on the road surface and declined to follow us fools any further. I think she was the smart one.

Whoops – someone dropped his bike

Bye Tracy!

Tracy left and the remaining fools ventured further. Not satisfied with the groomed gravel under our fine layer of snow we took a detour. Not quite happy with the large slick rocks that we found hidden under the layer of snow we didn’t follow too far up this side trail. Tony explored a bit further ahead and said that it didn’t appear to go too much further either. So we turned around to head out further on the main road.

Looking down the side road

A couple of bikes in the snow.

Tomy comes back from exploring

Catching up on the side road

Looking back down the main road

The main road kept its gentle ascent and the snow maintained its heavy descent. Soon there were no more bare patches and then shortly after that the dirt no longer showed after the tire tread had passed over. We stopped to air down the tires, but that didn’t help me at all. Not more than a quarter-mile later, with my KLR fish-tailing left and right, I stopped and said that I was going to head back down. A brief conference later and it was surmised that the road itself ended a little ways ahead and we’d all head back down.

Unfortunately, I literally headed “down” when my bike slipped out from under me and dumped me in the snow. No harm, no foul (and no pictures!) I got back on the bike and rode the rest of the way without incident.

Airing down the tires

After the fall

Look at the mess I made in the snow!

Yep. It’s still snowing.

After a few short forays on some side roads, we decided that the snow was not going to let up and that we should probably head back. We were at 2,900′ and Snoqualmie Pass is 3,000′ – meaning that we wouldn’t be out of the snow any time soon.

We reached I-90 and crossed under it, amused at seeing a snowplow going down the highway. We were going to explore the Hyak area, but we didn’t get very far before we stopped again, this time for good. Visibility was bad and the snow was getting heavier. We retreated to the gas station at Snoqualmie Summit where Dave had left his truck.

Slick slush while the snow blows

Keeping me dry!

Since we were all at the Summit and it was early, we thought we’d pop into the nearby restaurant for some hot beverages and a chance to warm up/dry off a bit. While we lingered inside the snow was busy outside. It wasn’t getting any better and we still had to get off the Pass. We bundled back up (except for Dave, who had put his bike in his truck, and Kellog, who had also put his bike in Dave’s truck.). Time to head home!

Bikes covered after lunch

Leaving the parking lot at Snoqualmie Pass

We crossed under I-90 to take the entrance ramp on to I-90. What I saw in front of me was a sliding parking lot. Cars were sideways, semis were riding the shoulders, brake lights were everywhere. As I watched a car in front of me tap its brakes it slid to the left, bumping into the minivan next to it, which in turn slid into the car on the other side of it. The truck in front of me to my right was trying to slow down but every time he touched his brakes he slid towards my lane.

Oh, this was going to be fun

The bikes fit easily among the cars and trucks and with a steady throttle hand we passed many of them. The traffic started to clear slightly and I thought that we were making pretty good time when I noticed the semi in front of me slipping from the right lane to the center lane. Considering that I was about to overtake him I thought it prudent to pass him on the side he was sliding away from and moved to the right. That’s when I saw that the cab of the truck was still in the right lane and had efficiently jack-knifed across two lanes. In my efforts to get around him I lost traction and – whoops! – dropped the KLR at a whopping 10 mph. Tony was right behind me and helped me right the bike and get it pointed downhill again. We slipped past the semi and maybe a mile later the snow was gone and we just had hail, rain and lightning to contend with for the rest of the ride into Seattle.

From the WADOT webpage:

Restrictions Westbound:
Traction Tires Required, Chains required on Vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight. Oversize Vehicles Prohibited.

Conditions & Weather:
snow and slush on the roadway. Motorists may experience traffic delays at the summit // snowing

Interstate 90 is closed temporarily from milepost 34 eastbound to milepost 70 westbound due to snow and ice and mulitple collisions. Roadway is closed to assist disabled vehicles..

View from the DOT highway camera

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