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Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail

The road to adventure is full of holes

The road to this spectacular bridge isn’t so spectacular. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

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Recently, my oldest and dearest friend came home for a visit. She's a fancy city slicker now, hailing from New York City. Not Brooklyn or another borough. NYC proper. Naturally, I usually trek up to Seattle and go to some hip, new restaurant for our annual catch up. But this year I had something else in mind. Something muddier.

Fall and winter provide the best weather for hiking. It's the perfect mix of not too cold, mist and mud to tromp through. One never gets too warm. The trails are quiet. And stomping through mud puddles brings out the kid in everyone. This is what I had in mind when I decided to bring my dear friend back to her damp, mossy roots.

We settled on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail. In the summer, it's insufferable because of overcrowding. The idyllic trail starts with a spectacular footbridge across the river. Then the trail gently ambles along the river and through the woods, offering picture-perfect views of classic PNW forest and surrounding foothills. In the dead of winter, it seemed like the perfect choice.

As we pulled off I-90, it all came flooding back to me. My guidebook says, "go 11.8 miles to the parking area and trailhead." What it fails to mention is that about eight of those miles are over gravel road. "No worries," I tell my city-living companion, "we're in the Subaru."

The weather had not been kind to the gravel muddy road. The potholes were epic. We were rapidly reduced to crawling along at about 5 mph, swerving all over the road to avoid the worst of the holes. As we bounced through yet another series of increasingly large holes, the laughter became uncontrollable. My friend remarked that even the roads in rural Burkina Faso weren't this bad.

At one point, we reached what can be called a small lake. No exaggeration, I swear! I got out to test the waters before the car waded in. I had no intentions of flooding my engine and getting stuck. Luckily, it wasn't deep enough to cause much concern. About halfway there, our journey eased. There is a massive effort to pave the road underway, and the construction definitely improved the pothole situation.

We finally reached the trailhead after more than an hour. Sure enough, the trail was deserted and fantastic. The bridge provided a perfect viewpoint to take in the raging river below. The gently rolling trail showed the wear and tear of recent storms. We climbed over more than one downed tree. The fog obscured our views of the surrounding foothills, but we didn't mind. The forest seemed to be in its element. Moss sparkled with dew; trees peeked out of the mist.

After a great two-hour hike, we returned to the car just before dusk to embark on our long journey out. As we traveled under a hillside that looked ready to collapse at any moment, I reflected on the infamous Emerson quote, "Life is a journey, not a destination."

On our way out, I enviously spied some river kayakers having an epic day on the raging river. Maybe next year ...

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