Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Get your expedition on

I often travel to Rosalia, WA (it’s the half-way point between us and my in-laws, we sometimes meet there to trade my son back and forth when he has visited them) and have noticed there is a wonderful gravel rail bed that runs under Highway 195. Once my son and I took the long way to Colfax along Highway 27 (Pines Road) and I noticed this rail bed went through Tekoa as well. I have been intrigued ever since.

I did some research and it turns out this is part of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, and it runs pretty near all the way across the state. While the western part of this trail gets most of the attention (even getting its own state park), the eastern end runs through some of the most geologically interesting countryside in the U.S. So why don’t we talk more about it here in Spokane?

As far as I can tell you can get on at Tekoa and ride uninterrupted at least as far as Lind, WA (I Google Mapped it and followed it as far as I could stand). I know there are some sections on the western end where the trellises are in bad shape and are not passable, but I can’t seem to find any detailed description of the trail here in eastern Washington. I did look at it on Google Earth (better images) and it looks like the trestle just west of Tekoa is not passable, but it would be easy to get around.

Where am I going with this? I want to know more about it the trail and what kind of shape it is in. And if I can’t find someone who knows, I want to get a couple of people together and explore the trail so we can get the word out. If nothing else we’ll have some fun riding gravel through farm country and some really great scablands. Who’s in?


Unknown said...

The section from Pine City to Rock Lake is a lot of fun, as it is mostly treed and has at least one tunnel.

Lucas said...

Nice! Thanks for the info Brent.

Jason Gilman said...

I've been intrigued by the JWT here in Eastern Washington as well. I agree that it's just a matter of getting the word out. Let us know when you're thinking about doing an exploratory ride.

Michael said...

I've ridden the John Wayne trail from N. Bend to Ellensburg, it's lots of fun, has nice developed camping spots (and it's down hill most of the way!). I scouted the JWT east of Ellensburg to the Columbia River, but the sections I saw were way to mountain bikey for me. Lots of sandy spots.

Technically the whole John Wanye Trail is a state park, half being The Iron Horse and the other half being the Columbia Plateau Trail.

You could start at the Seattle waterfront, hit the I-90 trail to Redmond, hop a few smaller trails to N. Bend, and a short road ride to the start of the JWT. You could probably make it from Seattle to Spokane with out cars around 95% of the time.

Anonymous said...

Michael (or anyone), do you know if the JWT crosses the Columbia, or is the RR bridge closed? If closed, I think cyclists would have to cross on I90 at Vantage or elsewhere.

Another low traffic, though paved road, alternative from Ellensburg to Vantage is the Vantage Road. A road alternative toward Yakima is the Canyon Rd. It might be worth going to the road if you have to cross a highway bridge anyway.

Also, is the Snoqualmie Pass trail tunnel still closed?

Pat S said...

I've ridden some of the western Iron-horsey parts, including the 2+ mile tunnel at Hyak (when it was still open). The "wildness" of the central and eastern sections appeals to me. I'll bet there are stretches that people consider well-kept secrets. I'd be down with some exploration.

Doug in Seattle said...

For what it is worth, I have an old book that describes this trail in detail. It is called "Washington's Rail Trails," by Fred Wert, published by the Mountaineers. My copy is from 1992, so who knows what's changed in the last 18 years. Here's some tidbits:

The book calls it the "Milwaukee Road Corridor Trail." It says permits are required, but does not specify if that's to use all of it or some portions. The contact listed (ha!) is James Munroe, 509-925-6131. Some portions are on private property; a key is apparently needed to open many of the gates. Oh, and as of 1992 a majority of the trestles need to be bypassed via adjacent roads. The trail terminates at the town of Beverly, continuing on the other bank as the Iron Horse trail.

Lucas said...

I am thinking of doing a ride soon (in the next couple of weekends, if not this weekend), before the weather turns too much. It looks like most of the trail is pretty exposed, so the cooler weather would be nice.

I think getting the word out is all it takes. I mean, look at the Fish Lake Trail. People rallied behind it and now there is a great trail for all to share. Amazing stuff happens when the cyclists in this area get together and decide they are going to do something.

Anonymous said...

Anyone for a John Wayne day ride tomorrow or Sunday? I don't have a car to offer, but it is just about ridable from Spokane,~35 miles to trail.

I'm thinking of riding my cross bike.

joe said...

I have a copy if that book Washington's Rail Trails
if you would like to look at it... I've wanted to do it for years now so if you end up going in October I'm in

Lucas said...

Nate - I was thinking of doing some of it this weekend and Sunday works better for me. After checking out much of it on Google Earth I think the section from Tekoa to Rosalia is just one big wheat field. From Rosalia west looks much more interesting.

If I rode down there I wouldn't be much use after we got there. I do have space for a couple of bikes on my car and would be happy to drive to wherever we wanna start from. You can ride from Rosalia to Revere then head south to the BLM's Escure Ranch, which has a waterfall called Towell Falls. I've been there and it is awesome.

I think there's a lot of flexibility with this kinda thing. It's 45 miles from Rosalia to the falls. You could make a shorter ride west by going to Rock Lake then back to Rosalia, and if you still have legs ride east toward Tekoa (which is about 20 miles from Rosalia).

I think to get this together we need to do better planning than the comments here will allow. shoot me a message at lucasmcintyre (a t ) em ess enn, you can figure out the rest.

I look forward to hearing from peeps who are interested.

Anonymous said...

Sunday sounds good, as does hitching a ride to the trail. I'll send my email in a moment.

Michael said...

I'm not sure about the getting across the Columbia or exactly where the trail's at until the signs for the Columbia Plateau trail start popping up on I-90. The trail pops out on the west side of the Columbia near the state park south of vantage.

If you contact the state parks and DNR I'm sure they could give you any info you need. I've always had good experiences with them.

Michael said...

Found it!

When I scouted that end of the trail, I was in the wrong place! The JWT crosses the Columbia on the rail road trestle at Beverly.,-119.945962&spn=0.008001,0.01929&t=h&z=16

Anonymous said...

Michael, from various web sources I think the Columbia RR trestle is closed, but I'd be glad to learn otherwise. I know it used to cross the trestle (and it used to go through the Hyak tunnel). I've read (can't find now) also there used to be a ped/bike crossing of the Columbia on a dam as well, but closed now. Columbia bridge crossings on bicycle are often scary, so it would be great to have a bike/ped only place to cross.

It would be good to see the trail made continuous again. I wonder if there are plans/price projections. That should have been a stimulus project.

Btw, check this out:

Apparently the horse people are still riding the Eastern part.

Lucas and I rode ten great miles of the trail Sunday out of Rosalia, I think he'll post some pictures here in a while.

John Speare said...

My first "big" tour was across the state on the JWT. Ancient account of that is here.
At that time (in 2003) you could cross the Wanapum Dam during the week if you provided advanced notice. But you couldn't cross on the weekends since the office wasn't staffed. Not sure if that's still the case. We hired a local dude to haul us over the Columbia in a pick up.
I've since heard that the Beverly bridge is crossable. It's officially closed, but apparently you can get through the fence and walk across. I've not verified this and I wouldn't plan a trip around this w/out checking it out first.
The Yakima firing range is pretty hard core. I was on 32mm tires and I suffered mightily in the deep sand. I also broke a spoke. It was hotter than Hades, but there's one bit of water out in the middle -- meant for horses I think. If I were doing it again, I'd take the Vantage Highway instead of the Yakima Firing Range.

Noah Sutherland said...

A little clarification. The John Wayne Trail is not the same as the Columbia Plateau Trail. The CPT is the continuation of the Fish Lake Trail which runs down to Pasco. The JWT, as you all have mentioned, runs from Tekoa to North Bend (roughly). I'm not sure exactly where they cross, probably somewhere east of Lind. I believe the JWT is actually the same rail line that the Hiawatha Trail is on. There is some work going on the get a trail going up the St Joe River, which could eventually reconnect these. So eventually we could ride from Spokane south on the Fish Lake/CPT, turn east on the JWT and ride all the way into Montana, loop back up over Lookout Pass and down the Trail of the CdAs back to Plummer. Pretty crazy potential.