The APE is found in the rugged, snow-capped Cascade Mountains, just a short drive from Seattle, where you can walk through the spooky 2-mile-long Tunnel of Light, find one of the oldest caches in Washington, and visit the APE tribute cache. Plus, we hear that Sasquatch and Fen Dweller have been sighted in the area – so watch out!
If you're new to geocaching, you may be wondering: What the heck is an APE cache? Check it out: Mission 9: Tunnel of Light. Alas, our beloved APE cache was stolen and archived in 2011, but we discovered we didn't need the original cache to have a good time – there's so much else to enjoy! (We're keeping the name for sentimental reasons, and it was Groundspeak's decision to retire the cache and icon, so no, we can't bring it back.)
Time & place: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm on Sunday, August 18, at the Hyak trailhead in Iron Horse State Park at Snoqualmie Pass (posted coordinates). We’ll be in the field at the far end of the parking lot. The park and tunnel are open dawn till dusk, so you can hang out all day if you like.
We're a low-key mega: no formal activities, no group photo, and no vendors. This is all about a fun day in the beautiful Cascade Mountains with good friends, a spooky tunnel, and some geocaching.
- Attend this event, and you'll receive the Mega event icon plus a Souvenir created specifically for this event.
- Socialize and sign the logboard (look for Apezilla wearing it). To help us maintain mega-event status, be sure everyone with a caching name signs the physical log. If you sign a group name, indicate the number in your party in your online Attended log.
- Hike or bike through the Snoqualmie Tunnel. This 100-year-old railroad tunnel is 2.3 miles long, pitch dark, and a chilly 50F degrees. You’ll feel the cold breeze before you even see the tunnel entrance, and occasional water drips add to the spookiness. More about the tunnel.
- Find Bloody Fingers, Dirty Diapers inside the tunnel. Watch out for Fen Dweller!
- Find Iron Horse (GC79), 2nd-oldest active cache in Washington, outside the west entrance to the tunnel.
- Find Mission 9: Tunnel of Light Reclaimed, the APE tribute cache. This cache is the same size and in the same location as the original APE cache (the only real difference is the icon), and counts for the APE segment of the Center of the Triad Challenge.
- If you're participating in the Washington State Parks Centennial GeoTour, find the Iron Horse - Hyak cache and stamp your passport.
- Stroll or roll the Iron Horse Trail to enjoy the mountain scenery and find other caches. You can continue west beyond the APE tribute cache, or go south from Hyak around Lake Keechelus. Bookmark list of Hyak-Rattlesnake caches.
- Trade your trackables at the Travel Bug Depot (at the Welcome table).
- Get your exclusive APE event coin and T-shirt, as well as our Washington State geocoins.
Parking & permits: Due to the awesome turnout, we will overflow our main parking area, and you need a parking permit - either Discover Pass or Northwest Forest Pass - to park for this event, regardless of location. If you have either pass (or buy one beforehand), show it to the parking attendant and you won't have to pay. To ensure things go smoothly, please help us and your fellow attendees:
- Carpool if at all possible, esp. if you're local.
- We will have volunteer parking attendants, who can sell you passes and direct you to available spaces. Please follow their directions, as they are tasked with ensuring that all vehicles are parked safely and legally.
- Our main venue at Hyak has 250 spaces, and is shared with other park users. Hyak is part of Iron Horse State Park and requires a Discover Pass (day or annual); our parking attendants will sell you a $10 day pass if you don't have one or you can buy one at the on-site kiosk.
- We will also direct vehicles to the nearby Forest Service lot, which is 1/3-mile down the Iron Horse Trail - a short walk or shorter bike ride away. The USFS lot requires a Northwest Forest Pass; we'll have some $5 day passes available if you need one (there may also be a pay station at the lot).
- If you have a NWF Pass, are biking the tunnel, and/or are a Washingtonian - please park in the USFS lot and free up space at Hyak for our out-of-town guests, who are unfamiliar with the area and our parking passes. Just go directly to that lot, then bike or walk to the event area (2 minutes on bike, 5-10 minutes on foot). Plus, the NWF day pass is $5, vs. $10 for the Discover day pass, so you could choose to park there and save a few bucks - just ask the parking attendant for a NWF pass and then drive down.
Hiking: The hike from Hyak to the APE tribute cache is 3 miles (6 miles round trip, including two trips through the tunnel). The Iron Horse Trail is a broad, flat, packed-gravel trail with little elevation change. It’s an easy hike. Bookmark list of caches.
If you’d like to through-hike, you could leave a car at Annette Lake trailhead (exit 47 off I-90, requires a Northwest Forest Pass to park). The hike is about 5.5 miles, and downhill all the way. The final mile descends 700 feet on the Annette Lake Trail, a typical narrow, uneven forest trail with some roots and rocks to negotiate, a bridge crossing over a waterfall area, and a few caches.
Biking: Bicycles are allowed on the Iron Horse Trail and in the tunnel, so feel free to bring yours. (We don't recommend road tires due to the rockiness of some sections.) Unfortunately, there are no bike rental places near Hyak, so that’s not an option. If you bike, be sure you have a headlamp and watch for pedestrians, especially in the tunnel.
If you’d like to through-bike, you have several options. The most popular is to bicycle 20+ miles down the Iron Horse from Hyak to the Rattlesnake Lake trailhead (exit 32 off I-90), picking up caches along the way. Another option is to leave a car at Annette Lake; bikes are allowed on the lower portion of the Annette Lake Trail. Bookmark list of caches.
Time required: Please plan a half day for this event (or longer, depending on your caching plans). It takes 30-45 minutes each way to drive Seattle to Hyak, and round-trip distance to the APE tribute cache is 6 miles.
Swag: No event is complete without geo-goodies, and we’ll have WSGA-branded T-shirts, caps, and other swag, plus an APE event coin and T-shirt created just for this mega-event.
The flashlight event coin is 3 inches in antique nickel, and the "light" glows in the dark. And you'll really stand out in the tunnel with this year's shirt, which features glow ink on navy blue.
Pre-orders closed June 30, but we will have them for sale at the event. No guarantees how on long they will last, though.
Refreshments: If you hike/bike, you should bring sips and snacks. We’ll also have a lemonade stand (aka refreshments table) with water, lemonade, fruit, and snack bars. There are picnic tables at both ends of the tunnel, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery while you have lunch.
What to wear: You’re hiking 6 miles, so dress accordingly, including footwear. Be sure to check the Weather for Snoqualmie Pass – it could be a cool day or a scorcher, sunny or rainy. The tunnel is quite chilly (50F), so you may want long sleeves or a jacket. Your clothes might get dirty, as the ceiling drips muddy water in places (hats are recommended), and the trail may be wet.
What to bring: You’ll need a flashlight or headlamp for the tunnel, plus a day pack with hiking essentials for your party. Depending on your plans, this may include food, water, camera, hat, bug spray, suntan lotion, first aid, camera, emergency whistle, sunglasses, extra batteries, trekking poles, maps, ibuprofen, camera…. Also bring your Discover/NWF parking permit or cash to buy one.
Directions to Hyak: (Hey, not everyone has auto-routing.) From Seattle, drive east on I-90 to exit 54 (Hyak). At the end of the exit ramp, turn right (south), then immediately turn left on a road that parallels I-90 going east. The road makes a sharp right at a gated maintenance yard. Turn right again at the next road, and enter the Hyak parking lot. We will also have APE event signs to guide you, and you can look for the brown Iron Horse State Park signs, as well. (If you end up at Hyak Lodge or Lake Keechelus, you missed the right turn for the Hyak parking lot, but you'll find the Forest Service parking lot.)
Washington's oldest active geocache: GCD is also at Snoqualmie Pass, and if you find it and Iron Horse (at this event), you'll have the two oldest caches in Washington! GCD is across the I-90 freeway, accessible from the same exit as this event, and you can auto-route to the trailhead, which is a few miles up forest roads (see GCD's cache page). Be aware this is a moderate hike: two miles each way, with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. How long it takes depends on your hiking speed.
If you're an early riser and want to go with a group, GrnXnham is leading a hike to GCD before the APE event, leaving the trailhead at 6:30 a.m. Details here.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed at Hyak and on the trail, but keep them leashed at all times for the courtesy and safety of others. This is especially important in Snoqualmie Tunnel, where visibility is limited; we don't want any bicycle/dog collisions.
Motorized transport: No motorized vehicles are allowed on the Iron Horse Trail, which means no motorcycles, ATVs, golf carts, etc. Motorized scooters or wheelchairs are permitted for users with mobility impairments; park policy requires you to notify the event director (hydnsek) and provide your name. You must have a light to enter the tunnel, for safety reasons.
Carpooling: If you'd like to arrange carpooling with other attendees, post a note to find like-minded souls who want to through-hike to Annette Lake trailhead, bike to Rattlesnake Lake, or just pile into a single car for Hyak.
Trail maps: If you use a Garmin GPSr, Northwest Trails is a tremendous (free) resource, as it adds trails to your GPS maps (a transparent overlay, so you see the trails along with other loaded maps).
Services: We'll have plenty of potties at Hyak. Most other services are 22 miles away in North Bend, but Snoqualmie Summit (2 miles away at exits 53/52) does have a gas station and small grocery, as well as the Summit Lodge (425-434-6300). (‘90s TV trivia: “Twin Peaks” was filmed in North Bend. And “Northern Exposure” was shot in Roslyn, on the east side of the Cascades.)
Accommodations: If you're looking for a hotel, there are plenty of options, plus WSGA has reserved a block of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in Issaquah, which is on I-90 about halfway between Seattle (Block Party) and Hyak (APE event). Deadline for reservations is July 19. For details, including rates and dates, and to book a room, visit the Hilton's International Geocaching Weekend page.
Camping: There are several camping areas in the I-90 corridor between Seattle and Hyak. Here are three we recommend: Snoqualmie River RV Park & Campground (exit 22, coords N 47 33.995 W 121 52.540) in Fall City has both tent and RV camping, with restaurants and shops nearby. Tolt MacDonald Park and Campground (exit 22) in Carnation offers yurts for rent as well as tent and RV sites, and the park has several caches along the trails. Denny Creek Campground (exit 47) has a nice wooded location, but you do hear freeway noise.
Hazards: You should not encounter any scary flora or fauna. The well-maintained trails are free of blackberry, stinging nettle, and devil’s club (we can’t say the same if you bushwhack). We don’t have poison oak/ivy/sumac in the mountains this far north. There are no poisonous snakes or spiders in Western Washington or the Cascades (watch out in Eastern WA, though). We do have wasps, especially in August – careful where you put your hands. We also have coyotes, cougars, and bears – oh my! – as well as mountain goats, elk, and deer, but you are not likely to see them during the day, especially with all these people. Watch out for Sasquatch, though!
Can’t make the event? Stop by the WSGA booth on Saturday during the Geocaching Block Party and say hello.
Questions? Email hydnsek, event director and WSGA president.