Bicycling from Seattle, Washington, to the Northern Idaho/Montana border, along a nearly continuous route made up of 12 rail-trails converted from defunct railroad corridors; a distance of approximately 450 miles.
On a grey, drizzly early-summer morning, we set out from the westerly point of Golden Gardens Park on Puget Sound, in Seattle, Washington, riding the Burke-Gilman Trail (originally the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway) inland along Salmon Bay, Lake Union, and Lake Washington, drawing an undular line through the city. Looping south to Lake Sammamish, we picked up the Sammamish River Trail (a levee trail) to East Lake Sammamish Trail (former section of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad), to the Issaquah-Preston and the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail (both part of the former Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway).
We camped that evening near Snoqualmie Falls, near the western flank of the Cascade Range; in the morning we biked the southern portion of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail (an extension of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road) to Rattlesnake Lake.
Here we picked up the Iron Horse State Park Trail (former western section of the Milwaukee Railroad), climbing 3,015 feet into the Cascades to Snoqualmie Pass, through the 2-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel and down the other side, into the long shadows of evening falling across Keechelus Lake.
We rode for the next couple of days along the Iron Horse, out of the Cascades and into the Columbia River Basin. The trestle across the immense Columbia River still exists but in derelict, uncrossable form. Ferried over the river via I-90, we met the trail in Beverly, Washington, where it transitions to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (though it’s still the Milwaukee rail corridor). We cycled the rugged, rocky John Wayne Pioneer Trail across Central and Eastern Washington and crossed the border into Idaho.
In Northern Idaho we rode the 72-mile paved Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes (former Northern Pacific Railroad), developed as one form of recompense to the Coeur d'Alene tribe and the State of Washington for the extensive damage to the area caused by lead and silver mining in the area. The Northern Pacific Multi-Use Trail (former Northern Pacific Railroad) and a section of the Route of the Olympian (Milwaukee Railroad) connected us to the magnificent and improbable Milwaukee Railroad’s passage through the Bitterroot Mountains, now known as the Route of the Hiawatha (and its complicated allusions), after the passenger trains that traveled the route in the early to mid- part of the 20th century.