Bicycling The Foothills Trail with a Stop by Wilkeson

Nothing takes me back to childhood more than getting on a bike. And nothing keeps me riding today more than my electric bike. That, and a good bike trail!

We found one on a recent sunny day – the Foothills Trail – a 21 mile paved trail built on top of an old railroad bed. We started our ride in Orting – a small town with a big mountain – and headed to South Prairie on the most scenic section of the trail.

Mt. Rainier kept watch over the first leg of our journey,

till we passed through farmland

and intercepted the Carbon River.

The river’s source is the Carbon Glacier on Mt. Rainier, and got its name from the coal deposits found in the area.

We rode the 7.5 miles to South Prairie before returning to Orting, 15 miles roundtrip – not bad for the first trip of the year! By then we were hungry and went looking for lunch in Wilkeson, a short drive up the road.

Established in 1877 and incorporated in 1909, Wilkeson became known for its coal cooking ovens and natural sandstone. The town was recently featured in the Seattle Times and the Carlson Block Pizza was not only recommended but touted to be the best pizza in the state.

We found the pizzeria in the former Carlson Hotel, built in 1910. Unfortunately they didn’t open until 3:00 and we were too hungry to wait.

So we walked the short block through town;

not even stopping by the ‘coke ovens’ – though we did the last time we passed through Wilkeson on the way to Mt. Rainier.

It was here that raw coal was heated at very high temperatures to burn off impurities to make ‘coke,’ refining over 10,000 pounds of coal monthly, during its heyday.

We also didn’t stop by the school; built in 1912 from sandstone, it’s the oldest still operating school in the state. Wilkeson sandstone also provided the material for the Capitol Building in Olympia.

For lunch we went to Wally’s Drive-In in Buckley where the burgers were delivered to our truck fifties style. We could have sat inside and though the burgers were great maybe we should have ‘got ribs?’

We’ll be back to ride another section of the trail and time it right to sample some of that pizza in Wilkeson.

Here’s a link to the map if you’d like to join us! πŸ™‚

~ Susanne

14 Comments on “Bicycling The Foothills Trail with a Stop by Wilkeson

  1. That’s an interesting old town, and a great bike ride. How much of your biking is electric-powered, Susanne?
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • I had to ask my husband the mechanic to answer your question! I definitely pedal and feel it, but I can add ‘assistance’ with a control on the handlebar. I usually select the lowest, a 1 or 2 which Bob estimates at about 30%. There’s even a throttle to get a quick burst of power but I’ve not used it. Having the E bike, lets us ride longer distances and helps with hill climbs.

  2. This is so great. I love these posts especially because as a native Washingtonian, now living elsewhere in a place I do not like, no not one single bit, I’m discovering parts of Washington I either never knew of at all, or had forgotten about. I’d never heard of Wilkeson until this post so thank you! I hope to be able to return to Washington when (a) I retire and of course (b) when the pandemic lessens in every way thus making it safer to travel and scout relocation destinations. Susanne, your posts are daily sunshine for me!

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the tour and I do hope you get a chance to return to Washington at just the right time! πŸ™‚

  3. Nice tour Susanne. That’s not an area of the state I’m familiar with but it looks like there’s a lot of interesting history there. Good luck with the pizza next time!

    • Thanks Graham. There are so many charming towns near the mountain and the bike trail was perfect! And I went back to the article in the Times and they really raved about the pizza so we’ll definitely go back.

  4. That diner reminds me of the one in Cashmere, at the Antique Mall. Can’t wait to hear about that pizza next time!

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