The quote "Go west, young man", wrongly attributed to Horace Greeley, is a
statement that implies romantic adventure and exciting opportunity lie in the
direction of the setting sun. Perhaps this was true in the era of Manifest
Destiny and westward expansion, when wagon trails were the superhighways and
choosing the correct route was the difference between life and death. Today
however, going west is all wrong for the adventure rider based out of the Puget
Sound region. East of the Cascade Crest, young rider, is where the adventure
really begins. The further east you go, the more the population density
decreases and the more forest road network increases. These are the roads to
seek where taking the correct route is usually not the direct one.
As adventure riders, we are not satisfied with the safe and sane green dot
scenic highway routes adorning our official Washington State transportation
system map. We expect more from our riding experience than knowing that the next
Denny's or Super 8 Motel is just around the corner. We want a route somewhat
less "civilized." Fortunately, a casual inspection of any good back-road atlas
hints at the possibilities left behind by our timber legacy: countless miles of
forest road constructed to extract natural resources. With resource extraction
now a relatively minor interest, the forest and back roads have become a new
recreational paradise for the adventure rider. They beckon to those of us who
have the desire and skill to occasionally leave the pavement behind and take the
long way around.
In this series of articles, I illuminate some back road byways and
off-pavement diversions hidden in the forests of the Cascade Mountains. You will
discover there are alternatives to droning along with the SUV clones on the
superslab. These sections can be used in two different ways: first, you can use
them as a quick diversion to spend a few miles off the highway or to bypass a
traffic jam, then rejoin the highway for the rest of your trip, or second, you
can put the described sections together into a true adventure Gelandestrasse
tour and just use the highway to connect sections together as needed.
Forest Service road 4832 runs parallel to I-90 on Kachess Ridge on
the east side of Keechulus Lake. It extends from Hyak to Kachess Lake road. This
route is a welcome relief from one of the poorer sections of I-90 pavement that
is due to be demolished and reconstructed in the next few years. You may find
this section very useful to bypass road work projects and its inevitable brutal
backups and orange barrels. This is also a great route for fall foliage viewing
and has some magnificent vistas of Keechulus Lake.
Directions: Eastbound take exit 54 off I-90 (Hyak), turn left at the stop
sign, go under the freeway, then turn right at the first opportunity. Continue
onto single lane pavement, then a groomed gravel road to Kachess Lake road where
you can either turn right and rejoin I-90 at exit 62, or turn left and continue
on the Via Kachess route described below. Westbound take exit 62 off I-90, turn
right off the exit, then left at the first opportunity onto Forest Service road
4832. Rejoin I-90 on Exit 54 at Hyak or continue on SR-906 to the Central
Snoqualmie Summit area.
Road Type: Single lane pavement and groomed gravel. The gravel road has some
sections of severe washboard. There are private homes near the Kachess Lake road
so watch out for local traffic.
em>Via Kachess Road
Forest Service road 4828 begins at the end of Via Kachess
Road and parallels Kachess Lake in a southeasterly direction, taking you all the
way to West Sparks Road in Easton. This is a secondary dirt road with creek
crossings and is not well maintained, thus perfect for off-road excursions.
During the winter season it is a snowmobile route. Sections of this route
present a nice challenge for the more hardcore adventure rider. There are
several spurs off road 4828 that you can explore as well, providing lake access.
Primitive camping is available at the Kachess Lake campground. Combining this
route with the Rocky Run route allows you to avoid I-90 from Snoqualmie Pass all
the way to Easton.
Directions: Eastbound take Kachess Lake road (exit 62 off I-90) towards
Kachess Lake. After about two miles, turn right onto Via Kachess Road, a paved
county road. Follow it to the pavement end, and you will find the beginning of
Forest Service road 4828. Continue straight onwards, ignoring all spurs, all the
way to Sparks Road in Easton where you can rejoin I-90. Westbound take Exit 70
at Easton off I-90, turn right off the exit and then left onto West Sparks road.
Continue straight until the pavement ends where you will pick up the start of
Forest Service road 4828. You will immediately encounter a "Y", take the left
branch (follow the arrow painted on the tree.) You will encounter several more
"Y" spur roads, merely follow the main route marked by orange diamond route
markers to the pavement again at Via Kachess Road. Continue to Kachess Lake
road, turn left, and rejoin I-90 at exit 62, or continue to Hyak on Forest
Service road 4832 as described above.
Road Type: Via Kachess road has many private lakefront homes, so use caution
as there is pedestrian traffic. Forest Service road 4828 is a secondary dirt
road and can be rough and muddy after winter snow melt. There are several small
creek crossings to contend with.
strong>Cabin Creek Road to Easton via Forest Service road 4823
This route runs
parallel to I-90 and the Yakima River for several miles between Cabin Creek Road
and Easton, providing an alternative to the Via Kachess route described above.
Near the eastern terminus of Forest road 4823, there is a route to Easton via
spur road 114. This is a very challenging off road route only for the true
adventure rider who doesn't mind getting dirty.
Directions: Eastbound take exit 63 off I-90, turn right at the stop sign and
continue on Forest Service road 4823 approximately four miles, almost to its end
at the Yakima River (some maps show the road crossing the river, but it
doesn't.) At four miles, turn left onto spur road 114. Go under the power lines
after one mile bear right at the "T" junction. Stay on the main road, ignoring
all spurs, heading east. You will run into the pavement again at West Sparks
Road. Turn right, and rejoin I-90 at exit 72 in Easton. Westbound take exit 72
off I-90 in Easton, turn right off the exit then immediately left at the "T"
onto West Sparks Road. Just before the pavement ends, near the "Dead End" sign,
turn left onto a unsigned paved road and go under the freeway. At the first "Y"
you encounter bear right and continue approximately two miles to a "T" where you
turn left. Go under the power lines. The road will end at a "T" at Forest
Service road 4823. Turn right. Travel approximately four miles on gravel Forest
Service road 4823 and rejoin I-90 at exit 63 (Cabin Creek Road).
Road Type: 3 miles of very rough dirt road with rocks and rip-rap, and 4
miles of groomed gravel with pervasive potholes.
strong>West Nelson Siding Road/West Side Road
While not off-pavement, these county
roads provide a relaxing and scenic alternative to the never ending congestion
on nearby I-90. By utilizing this section, the adventure rider can bypass the
freeway entirely from West Nelson Siding (exit 74) all the way to Cle Elum . You
will pass through historic railroad sites of Nelson Siding and South Cle Elum.
The old railroad power plant for the electrified but now defunct Milwaukee Road
rail facilities in South Cle Elum is worth making a stop for. It is being
restored and eventually will be a vintage railroad museum celebrating the
westward push of the railroad.
Directions: Eastbound take exit 74 off I-90, turn right at the stop sign and
continue on West Nelson Siding road. Turn right onto Westside road and continue
to South Cle Elum and Cle Elum. Rejoin to I-90 in Cle Elum. Westbound from
downtown Cle Elum on Main Street, turn left onto South Cle Elum Way which goes
under the freeway and crosses the Yakima River to become 4
in South Cle Elum. Turn right on Madison Street then left on 6
Street and continue onto West Side Road. Turn left on West Nelson Siding road,
rejoining I-90 at exit 74.
Road Type: Standard two lane pavement county road.
Useful resources for this area:
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Wenatchee National Forest
Easton Gas RV Turtle Town - Easton, I-90 exit 72.
Milwaukee Road's South Cle Elum Restoration Project
Until next time, get out there and get your adventure bike dirty!
Mitch Comstock/Summer 2005
DISCLAIMER: Routes described herein traverse
public roads and may be primitive single lane roads with minimal or no warning
signs. You will experience varying road surfaces ranging from broken asphalt to
groomed gravel to rough dirt. Road and weather conditions can change at any time
without notice, so check with the appropriate travel authorities for current
conditions. You are responsible for your own safety.