Sammamish residents trek from mountains to sound
Matt Haynie isn’t a morning person.
But he had to rise bright and early for nine days while trekking from Ellensburg to Seattle with a group of about 60 Seattle area hikers.
“I just thought it would be something really neat to do,” said Matt, 15, of Sammamish. “I had never been on a camping trip where we were moving the entire time.”
But he didn’t realize how tiring it would be until they had to get up at 6:30 a.m. on day eight to hike 16 miles over Cougar and Squak mountains. The constant up- and downhill climbing took it toll, he said.
“That was really the most exhausting day ever,” he said.
Matt was among about 20 youth — a few from Sammamish — and about 40 adults who biked, rode horseback and hiked 130 miles from Ellensburg to Seattle July 2-10 as part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway 20th Anniversary Trek. Held every decade, the trek is meant to celebrate nature and educate people about what the Greenway Trust has done to preserve the wilderness areas along the Interstate-90 corridor since 1990. It also connects people with the trust’s founders and leaders, said Erin Steinkruger, a program associate at the organization.
“This is the reason I-90 doesn’t look like I-5,” said Matt. He quoted the leaders of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which has spent the past 20 years working with governments and landowners to preserve the wilderness areas from Ellensburg to Seattle.
Participants spent about seven hours per day on the trails and spent much of the rest of the time each day exploring around their campsites, making friends or searching for specific plant species for a scavenger hunt, Steinkruger said.
Grace Hung, a Sammamish resident and incoming senior at Eastlake High School, signed up for the trek because she had never been farther east than Snoqualmie Pass and thought it would be quite an experience. Her brother, Teddy, 15, also went. Grace, who doesn’t hike much, noted the easygoing pace of the trek — she was still tired at the end of each day, though.
“Going to Ellensburg was really neat for me,” Grace said. “It was really relaxing. You could just go at whatever pace you want. It was more about enjoying yourself than trying to keep up.”
Participants spent the first two days on bikes, horseback and even riding in wagons, traversing the trails 26 miles from Ellensburg to south Cle Elum. They hit the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, a major cross-state trail that leads all the way through North Bend.
On July 4, the hikers went 21 miles on horseback, bike and wagon to Crystal Springs. They passed through Lake Eaton State Park and then learned about the state’s efforts to build wildlife bridges over and under I-90, to help animals avoid freeway traffic. On day four — their final day on bikes and horses — they trekked 28 miles to Rattlesnake Lake, near North Bend, and celebrated the re-opening of the renovated 2.3-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel.
“My favorite moment of the trek was being the first to go through,” Matt said. “It’s probably one of the most unique parts of the trek. It was very, very dark.”
From Rattlesnake Lake, the group hiked 11 miles to Snoqualmie Point July 6, and then another seven miles July 7 to Preston. All the while, they learned about the various features of the protected areas of the greenway, as well as efforts in the works to preserve more land.
“My favorite part was really meeting all the different people,” Grace said. “It was fun to meet different types of people I never would have met otherwise.”
From Preston, the hikers walked to Issaquah (11 miles). On the eighth day they made it to Bellevue (another 16 miles), via Squak and Cougar mountains, most of the time remaining out of sight from any major roadways. The trek wrapped up with a 10-mile hike from Bellevue to Seattle, where the group and other supporters and event goers celebrated with a party on Pier 58.
Grace said she gained an appreciation for all the rain and gloomy weather we get on the Eastside.
“This was one of the first times I’ve gone hiking in years,” she said. “Even though we complain about rain, that’s kind of what makes these trails.”
Leaders of the Mountains to Sound Greenway said the trek was meant to gather all the partnering members and organizations that made the 20 years of conservation possible.
Due to the complicated logistics, the nine-day trek only happens every 10 years, Steinkruger said.
“It’s quite an undertaking,” she said. “It was definitely a community effort.”
Grace is already ready for the next big Greenway Trek.
“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” Grace said. “If they have a 30th anniversary one, I’m definitely coming back.”