Back in March a group of local WTF riders (women-trans-femme) planned a trip to Kanaskat Palmer State Park. It looked fun but I couldn’t make it at the time. So without any route planning Jen and I decided to go!
Jen booked us a yurt #GLAMPING for two nights. I did minimal route planning, mostly focusing on how to get to Renton (original plan was to bus), with less focus on the Renton to Kanaskat route, since I saw few turns.
The way out seemed to take FOREVER. We left around 10, headed up through the arboretum and hopped on Lake Washington Blvd, then along the lake until we saw signs for the Mt. to Sound/I-90 Trail. UPUPUPUP through a magical forestland with beautiful lush waterfalls to get to the trail. Some of the grades/turns here were dicey and we had to walk bikes due to our wide turning radi.
We headed east over the lake to Mercer Island, breaking for lunch in the shade before following the hilly trail along the highway. Why do hills always come around a curve so you can’t see the top?
At the I-90/Mt. to Sound split we took Mt. to Sound to the Lake Washington Loop. Here we found a gravel trail parallel to Lake Washington Blvd. It’s not on google yet but I had heard from a friend that it was good! And it was! Be aware of narrow bridge crossings. We just fit walking our bikes (trailer included) but no one could’ve been coming head on. But then it just ended. So we turned around and headed up a block to the road. There’s a nice shoulder here but it looks like it would be narrow with weekend pedestrian traffic.
Google routed us through downtown Renton which was less than pleasant on a HOTHOTHOT day because the massively wide roads radiate heat right back at you and there’s no shade. If I rode it again I’d follow the map below to avoid that section. The trailhead is not well marked and the beginning is actually just roadway. Cars aren’t allowed to cross 3rd from Mill, but we did it and found the trail is a sharp left after the intersection. It looks like they may make a more direct connection to 3rd in the future.
Once on the trail we found it to be lovely! It was relatively shady until we ran up against 169. There it’s quite loud and sunny. And all just slightly uphill which makes you feel crazy – like you’re going way too slow on flat ground.
Where the trail turns to gravel we made our critical mistake. We should’ve take the right fork uphill (be aware steep and very loose gravel) to the Green River Trail, but the sign was behind a pole and the path looked too steep to conquer so we continued straight. Our mistake added about 7 miles, including a less than pleasant bit of highway riding. Had we not missed the turn we could’ve gotten all the way to Fred Meyer on the Green River Trail.
Once at Fred Meyer we walked around in a daze shopping. We had been on the road about 9 hours. Food acquired and lights mounted we forged ahead the last 8 miles. Traffic moves fast but the shoulders are wide and not too debris filled on the main road. Once you turn off onto Kanaskat-Retreat you lose much of the shoulder to collapsed gullies but most drivers passed in the oncoming lane (albeit at high speeds).
Arriving to camp in the pitch darkness was confusing as signage inside the park is lacking. We rode in circles, our sense of direction shot in the inky blackness. Eventually we found our way to the campground and got to our yurt around 10:15.
After a 12 hour day we unloaded and devoured a rotisserie chicken in the darkness on the floor. The next morning the camp host fixed our power issue so we drank coffee on the porch and meandered through the woods.
The Burley trailer had issues with one wheel coming loose and we decided that it just wasn’t safe to ride back with. Jen called for back up and her husband and kids made the drive out (about an hour and a half compared to our 12 hour debacle) to pick up the trailer and extra gear. They also brought a floor pump which was great because it turns out my rear tire was running at only 30 psi! Talk about living #thesupplelife!
The next morning we packed up and headed out around 8:15. Baby H rode in a box mounted Yepp Maxi seat and we constructed an impromptu sun shade with my new Therm-a-rest Z Lite. The ride back made me truly appreciate the grade we had been riding on Thursday. No wonder I felt like we had been doing so much work! We had been doing SO MUCH WORK!
Four our return we followed the western side of the Lake Washington Loop. I was worried about the Rainier portion – but it was okay. It was the Seward Park Ave S portion that was a miserable disaster. People driving large SUVs passing with only inches to spare at high speeds on a marked bike route. The road was narrow with large parked vehicles taking up much of the driving lane. We ended up on the sidewalk and then taking a hilly semi-detour to avoid as much of it as we could.
After a daisy chain break at Seward Park we headed out on Lake Washington Blvd. It’s a signed bike route and posted signs say BIKES HAVE RIGHT OF WAY and yet the speed limit is inexplicably 30 mph. Some people passed with enough clearance but they still drove far too fast for the curvy road conditions. Instead of the arboretum we followed the signed loop route back to the U District.
I don’t think I’d do this again – at least not with baby. Maybe with a group of adults assuming that we were all kid free and brought a back up tent just in case we had to make an unplanned stealth campsite. But it was fun! And it taught me things about myself, plus things to do differently next time. Like bring a paper map because google is not for bikes. And bring good lights. And learn to fix a flat. And water. All the water. And coordinate who is bringing a light stove and coffee supplies so you don’t end up with a heavy stove and two coffee set ups.
Here’s the route I’d recommend for the most pleasant journey: http://www.usatf.org/routes/view.asp?rID=597418