Cul-de-Sacs of My Life (Every Street in Issaquah)
Why would I ever think of running every street in Issaquah, the trail running mecca of Western Washington? This would be a perfectly valid question at any other time throughout the history of trail running. However, in the time of shelter in place and mass closures of federal lands, state lands, regional lands, it is easy to see why I set out on this tedious task. I set out on this journey on March 29th and finished up 17 days later after having covered 203.62 miles with 20,725 vertical feet. Before I describe my journey and disperse all the charts, a brief history of Issaquah is in order.
Issaquah is a 13.18 square mile town that occupies the valley between the Sammamish Plateau to the north and the Issy Alps to the south. Specifically the natural borders are: Lake Sammamish and Grand Ridge to the north, Cougar Mountain to the west, Squak Mountain to the south, and Tiger Mountain to the east. The bordering towns are Bellevue to the west and Sammamish to the north.
Issaquah is an anglicized Native American name meaning either the sound of birds, snake, or little stream. The city of Issaquah was officially incorporated on April 29th 1892 and was a small mining town called Gilman, which serviced the Cougar Mountain area mining operations. After the mines were nearly depleted by the late 1980s, the focus shifted to the lumber industry which satisfied the needs of rapidly growing western Washington. Fast forward to more modern times and Boeing, Microsoft, and Costco have shaped the town’s industry and development.
It has been our home for 22 months and is probably my favorite place that I have ever lived. To add some context to that claim, I have listed the other towns that I have lived throughout my life in chronological order: Issaquah, Washington (2018 to present), Pullman, Washington (2018), Newcastle, Washington (2017), Tonasket, Washington (2016), Shoreline, Washington (2016), Austin, Texas (2013 to 2015), Columbus, Texas (2015), Giddings, Texas (2015), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (2014), Estes Park, Colorado (2013), Leadville, Colorado (2012), Berea, Ohio (2008 to 2012), and Tiffin, Ohio (1989 to 2012).
When I first visited Apryle in Washington when she started her PhD in 2014, we drove from Spokane to Seattle via I90 and she pointed out the exits for Issaquah and said this is where we should aspire to live but we will never afford it. Fast-forward four years later and with a lot of hard work and help from our realtor and friend Adam Braddock, I purchased my first home in a condo complex in Issaquah. We love Issaquah because of the great access to trails right out the back door, but unfortunately due to the recent closing of parks, we have been relegated to the roads. However, instead of being negative about the situation, I decided to create a challenge for myself within a safe bounds of possibility. This was the inception of Every Street in Issaquah.
I tried to create a strava route for every street, but this was way too time consuming and surprisingly frustrating to create a logical path. Therefore, I decided to simply print a city map and subdivide it into neighborhoods. Some of the neighborhoods are official names but others I have just made up based on personal observation (I apologize if there is any misrepresentation, it is not my intent to disrespect any landowners). Here is a comprehensive list of Issaquah neighborhoods through my observation:
1. Sammamish Cove; this is a circuitous series of small streets that are bordered to the north and east by Lake Sammamish and to the the south by I90. The neighborhood is relatively flat with wide streets and is almost exclusively residential.
2. Montreux; this is a very hilly neighborhood that is bordered to the west by Bellevue and to the south by Cougar Mountain.
3. North Cougar Mountain; this is a series of cul-de-sacs that stem from the south side of Newport Way and infringe on the north side of Cougar Mountain. As far as I know there is no official name for this arrangement of streets.
4. Providence Point; this is a another convoluted neighborhood made up of town homes, condos, and apartments. It is built on a slope and is somewhat hilly and is almost exclusively residential.
5. North Issaquah Hills; this neighborhood sets on a slope that is bordered to the north and east by Klahanie and to the south by East Lake Sammamish Parkway. It is hilly and mostly residential, but the southern fringe is commercially zoned with many large department stores.
6. Issaquah Highlands; this neighborhood almost feels like it could be its own town and was perhaps the most difficult to run every street. In addition to looking the newest, it also has the most intricate street design. It is bordered to the east and south by the beautiful Grand Ridge Park and is home to a hospital, a few schools, grocery stores, department stores and series of little downtowns in different regions. There are single family homes, town homes, condos, apartments which each have a unique layout. There are also many retention ponds and gravel trail corridors between developments.
7. Gilman; this area is almost exclusively commercially zoned with grocery stores, restaurants, and department stores. It is mostly paved and flat but there are a few preserved wetlands around Issaquah Creek and near Lake Sammamish State Park.
8. Tibbets Creek Valley; this neighborhood is bordered by Gilman to the north and east, Squak Mountain to the south, and Talus to the west. I consider this neighborhood to include Tibbetts Valley Park, the cascade business park, and the hillside of cul-de-sacs north of Squak Mountain. The majority of the area is residential with small amount of commercial space.
9. Talus; this neighborhood is relatively new and almost entirely residential consisting of single family homes, condos, and apartments. It is very circuitous and also very hilly sitting mostly on the eastern slope of Cougar Mountain.
10. Olde Town; This area consists mostly of the historic downtown and few other gridded out streets with single family homes. It is about half residential and half commercial. It is also home to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and the public library.
11. Squak Mountain; This neighborhood is entirely residential and the hilliest in Issaquah sitting on the north slope of Squak Mountain. There are some very impressive homes with a lot character in this area.
12. Park Pointe; this neighborhood includes several schools and a few small gridded out blocks of houses. There are several condo and apartment complexes as well as single family homes. Also within the bounds of this area is Park Pointe which is a city park on the slopes of Tradition Plateau. This is also the neighborhood that I consider myself a part of in Arrington Place.
13. Sycamore; this neighborhood is quite small consisting of single family homes on the north slope of Squak Mountain and includes the Issaquah Creek floodplain. I believe this neighborhood got its name from the Sycamore trees lining Sycamore Drive SE.
After running through all 13 of these neighborhoods I decided to rank my top 5 based on my personal preferences. I chose these five based on the home architecture, street arrangement, landscaping, location to trails, and the vibes they offer. Here is the list below:
1. Squak Mountain: I really like arrangement of this neighborhood and the fact that it is very undulating. Additionally, I find the houses here to be more diverse and architecturally unique as compared to other newer developments. The landscape seems much more natural and many more old growth trees than other areas in Issaquah.
2. Park Pointe: I find this neighborhood to be situated in a perfect location, which is why we chose to live here. The Tiger Mountain access is less than a half mile away and the Squak Mountain access is less than one mile away.
3. Sycamore: I think that this small neighborhood also has many architecturally unique homes, natural landscaping and great access to both Squak Valley Park and Squak Mountain. The homes seem to integrate very well with the wetlands of Issaquah Creek and the forested slopes of Squak Mountain.
4. Talus: This neighborhood reminds me of a Colorado ski town and even though I would much rather have more Cougar Mountain acreage, this is still a fun area to run if you are stuck on the road. There is a mix of pathways between developments and great views of the valley below and mountains in the distance.
5. Park Pointe is one of the smallest neighborhoods in Issaquah but is home to my home. There is excellent access to Tiger Mountain and includes many miles of city trail to the east of the high school. There is a well preserved wetland that bookends the Rainier Trail and based on the concentration of schools, is probably one of the best educated neighborhoods.
I never really had a long term plan, but took it more day-by-day; and as a result, I never really had any goal for mileage each day or even how many days I wanted to stretch it out for. Frankly I was getting pretty board with the activity after the first week, but I loved the fact that it took my mind off of running on the closed parks (Cougar, Squak, Grand Ridge, and Tiger). Another goal of the project was to discourage people from driving to Issaquah to run trails. I thought if people saw that locals with ready access to trails were sticking to the roads, then maybe others would also just stay in their own neighborhoods as recommended by our governor.
In terms of how I chose routes or which areas I was going to run, if I did not like a neighborhood as well I would usually just press on and gut out the extra miles to avoid going back. That is really the only reason that there are some longer runs and some shorter ones. I found myself looking forward to exploring some areas, while dreading other areas. I was inherently motivated to run some neighborhoods and that kept the excitement alive, but I even grew excited to run the neighborhoods I was dreading because it meant that I was one step closer to achieving my goal of running every street.
Also the acute observer will note that I did not run EVERY single street. Some of the streets were private, some were alley ways, some had children playing in the middle of street, and others I just plain missed. However, I do believe that I was very close and would be willing to bet that I missed less than 5 miles of street total. I am proud of the accomplishment and if someone else is able to get those last few miles, more power to them! Here is my daily running log below:
|3/30||Monday||Olde Town, Park Pointe and Sycamore||10.22||1:29:21||535||8:45|
|4/1||Wednesday||Gilman and Tibbets Creek Valley||9.08||1:25:00||1,007||9:22|
|4/4||Saturday||North Cougar and Montreux||16.74||2:08:29||2,434||7:40|
|4/7||Tuesday||North Issaquah Hills||8.03||1:00:09||1,145||7:30|
|4/8||Wednesday||North Issaquah Hills||12.11||1:49:24||1,601||9:02|
|4/9||Thursday||Gilman and Olde Town||11.34||1:19:40||154||7:02|
|4/12||Sunday||Gilman and Tibbets Creek Valley||12.04||1:53:49||591||9:27|
|4/14||Tuesday||Issaquah Highlands and North Issaquah Hills||4.34||0:47:46||650||11:01|
|Totals||17 Days||13 Neighborhoods||203.62||20,725|
|Averages||11.97 per day||1219 per day|
Since I listed my favorite neighborhoods, I figured I would include a top ten list of my favorite streets that I ran in my quest. It is no surprise that my favorite street comes from my favorite neighborhood. I love Mountainside Drive, it is steep, winding, has large berms, great views, and is forested. Sycamore Drive SE has a very charming bridge over Issaquah Creek and is lined with impressive Sycamore trees. NW James Bush Road is an unused road that is very steep, forested and windy on the way to Talus. NE Harrison Drive has an excellent view to the west of both Bellevue and Seattle as well as the Olympics in the far west. The houses look more like castles and it is very close to Grand Ridge Park. 191st Avenue SE actually changes names several times, but for simplification purposes I will just call it 191st. This hill is a little scary, it has some very tight switchbacks on blind turns without berms. However, it has great views of Lake Sammamish and is heavily wooded.
Slotting in at number 6 on my list is NW Village Park Drive, this is a long, steep hill that leads up to the Montreux neighborhood and the western fringe of the Issaquah border with Bellevue. Newport Way is a long street that goes past the Salmon Hatchery, Tibbitts Park, and Cougar Mountain en route to the border with Bellevue. Wildwood Boulevard SW is another excellent hilly road in the Squak Mountain neighborhood that leads up to the Bullitt Fireplace Trail and terminates at Mountainside Drive. Foothills Drive NW is both an awesome hill and also a disappointment that it is no longer untamed Cougar Mountain (which is why its not higher on the list). This winding steep road offers excellent views of the Cascades to the East and carves its way to the eastern slopes of Cougar Mountain. Front Streets rounds out the top ten and I included this street because it is my home access street and provides access to Ingi Johnson Park and my place of work.
Top 10 Favorite Streets
|Streets||Neighborhood||Mileage (mi)||Elevation Gain (ft)||Percent Grade|
|1. Mountainside Drive||Squak Mountain||1||420||7.90%|
|2. Sycamore Drive SE||Sycamore||0.65||90||2.60%|
|3. NW James Bush Road||Talus||0.35||235||12.70%|
|4. NE Harrison Drive||Highlands||0.4||110||5.20%|
|5. 191st Avenue SE||North Cougar||1.2||600||9.40%|
|6. NW Village Park Drive||Montreux||1.55||680||8.30%|
|7. Newport Way NW||Olde Town, North Cougar, Montreux||4||160||0.70%|
|8. Wildwood Boulevard SW||Squak Mountain||1.3||500||7.20%|
|9. Foothills Drive NW||Talus||0.45||300||12.60%|
|10. Front Street||Park Pointe, Olde Town||2||10||0.09%|
I described each neighborhood earlier, but here are some tangible statistics for each one with mileage and elevation gain of the combined roads. I estimate that Issaquah has about 155 miles of road that tally 17,650 feet of elevation gain. Squak Mountain and Issaquah Highlands have the most miles of road and Squak Mountain, Montreux, and Talus are the steepest per mile.
Issaquah Neighborhood Stats
|Neighborhoods||Mileage||Vertical||Feet per Mile|
|North Cougar Mountain||4||500||125|
|Tibbets Creek Valley||8||1000||125|
|North Issaquah Hills||18||2700||150|
In case anyone is looking for a good road for hill repeats, I tried to uncover some of the steeps streets in the city. Here is a list in order of percent grade:
Steepest Roads in Issaquah
|Road||Neighborhood||Mileage (mi)||Vertical (ft)||% Grade|
|SW Ellerwood Street||Squak Mountain||0.2||170||16%|
|Ridgewood SW||Squak Mountain||0.5||360||13.60%|
|SW Forest Drive||Squak Mountain||0.3||215||13.50%|
|SW Fernwood Street||Squak Mountain||0.15||105||13.20%|
|SE 56th Street||North Issaquah Hills||0.4||275||13%|
|NW James Bush Road||Talus||0.35||235||12.70%|
|Foothills Drive NW||Talus||0.45||300||12.60%|
|NW Talus Drive||Talus||0.6||315||9.90%|
|W Sunset Way||Squak Mountain||0.6||300||9.40%|
|191st Avenue SE||North Cougar||1.2||600||9.40%|
|Mountain Park Boulevard SW||Squak Mountain||1||450||8.50%|
|NW Village Park Drive||Montreux||1.55||680||8.30%|
|Mountainside Drive||Squak Mountain||1||420||7.90%|
|12th Avenue NW/Mt Olympus Drive NW||Tibbetts Creek Valley||1.25||490||7.40%|
|Wildwood Boulevard SW||Squak Mountain||1.3||500||7.20%|
|SE 43rd Way||Providence Point||1.2||425||6.70%|
|Highlands Drive||Issaquah Highlands||0.65||210||6.10%|
|SE Issaquah Fall City Road||North Issaquah Hills||1.1||350||6%|
|SE Black Nugget Road||North Issaquah Hills||1||300||5.60%|
|NE Harrison Drive||Highlands||0.4||110||5.20%|
|Park Drive NE||Issaquah Highlands||1.3||290||4.20%|
|Sycamore Drive SE||Sycamore||0.65||90||2.60%|
This was perhaps the most tedious and difficult project of my life. I love running and most of the miles I have run up until 2017 have been on the road, but living in Issaquah and having run 90% of my miles on the trails for the last 3 years, this project was not the most inspiring to me. I think that because I was not very interested and still maintained motivation to complete the task will give me strength for longer duration ultras moving forward. Even though I miss the parks and trails, I am very happy I had the forced opportunity to pursue this project. Additionally, I feel very fortunate that I am even be able to run outside at all based on the observation that many countries are totally confined to their homes. No matter the situation, there is always a silver lining and a positive, and I refuse to give in to the negative energy and will always find a safe way to challenge myself.