Welcome to the first installment of Hungry Hikers, an occasional series pairing Seattle Times outdoors reporter Megan Burbank and Neighborhood Eats writer Jackie Varriano for an outdoorsy adventure somewhere in the Greater Seattle area followed by some choice eats nearby.
Given the time of year, we opted to drive to the snow for our first outing, pairing a snowshoe hike by Gold Creek Pond with burgers and milkshakes at Herfy’s in Snoqualmie.
Jackie: I have to admit that I fretted over a hike location for a bit before finally settling on Gold Creek Pond. Would it be too easy or obvious? But I was excited to learn that you had never been there before, Megan! Which could be the case for many.
Megan: It’s true! Gold Creek was new to me, and so was snowshoeing! I have cross-country skied since … before I could walk (imprudent!) and can tolerate downhill skiing, but snowshoeing is something I’ve always avoided because it’s “not as fast” as those other winter activities. But it turns out it’s actually just like hiking … in the snow? Which means you can keep hiking through winter and opens up all kinds of heretofore unthought-of possibilities. Snowshoeing! Try it!
Jackie: Located just off I-90, two miles east of Snoqualmie Pass summit, this 1-mile hike is generally busy year-round. To get there, you take Exit 54, heading east on I-90. Cross back under the Interstate and take a right into Gold Creek Sno-Park. You’ll follow the road running parallel to the Interstate for another mile before reaching the trailhead.
In the summer, you can pull farther into the trail, parking right at the pond where the actual hike is a flat, ADA-accessible loop. But in the winter, that road isn’t plowed, so you’ll park right on the narrow access road. Sno-Park permits are required and can be purchased online or at a number of different vendors (full list here).
Megan: I’ve heard very good things about this hike and its relative accessibility — it’s one of the few routes in the region that’s truly ADA-friendly, and popular with hikers who use wheelchairs. I’m sure it’s also easier to navigate without snow — we had kind of an adventure figuring out where to go.
Jackie: Right now there’s a 0.3-mile walk until you get to the “turnoff” for the pond. I’m saying that because we just went charging up the trail, and either it wasn’t marked very well or we were just really into Mother Nature, because I totally missed the turnoff. It wasn’t until we ran into a kind skier with a dog that we realized we weren’t heading around the pond.
Megan: That guy was very helpful! We might have ended up at the mysterious “cabins” had he not come along. A reminder that signage while hiking/adventuring outdoors isn’t always clear, and it’s never a bad idea to just ask other people for casual trail reports along the way.
Jackie: Yes, such a good reminder. Unless you see me. Then I’m probably the person telling you to keep an eye out for two black gloves and if you see them, could you place them on my white Subaru? That would be amazing. (Thanks again, kind trail fairy!) Still, the hike was easy despite the wet, heavy snow, and if you were to journey around the entire pond I feel like it would be quite nice.
Megan: I think so, too. I’ll note once more that this was my first snowshoeing trip and it was totally delightful — this is a good route for beginners, or for those seeking a less grueling outdoor experience.
Jackie: There’s quite a few options in little towns all the way back to Seattle from Snoqualmie Pass, but Herfy’s jumped out at me instantly. It’s hard to go wrong with a burger and fries after a hike, but I was also especially intrigued after reading that Herfy’s was founded in Everett in the ’60s and was one of the Seattle area’s first local chain restaurants. The original owners retired long ago, but there are still a few independently owned Herfy’s kicking around Washington.
Megan: Some personal news: I had ALWAYS wanted to go to Herfy’s before you suggested it. I grew up riding around Snoqualmie as a kid and was always intrigued by roadside burger joints. See: cross-country skiing, which is an embarrassing Wednesday night hobby to have as a teenager, but one I nonetheless pursued! My family had a standing tradition of going to George’s Bakery in North Bend, though, and cross-country skiers tend to be real pack-your-own-lunchers anyway, so Herfy’s remained a mystery until our visit.
Jackie: What a mystery to finally solve! The one in Snoqualmie is totally nondescript. The interior is filled with a jumble of artwork, light-blue pleather booths that might be left over from another restaurant, and a big-screen TV playing a random reality show.
Megan: The vibe is very “this was once a nautical-themed restaurant and we’ve chosen to keep some of the decor.” I’d also like to note the weird coffee corner with the Keurig machine! And the bathroom with the confusing lock. I also love that the building it’s in is called the Milk Barn.
Jackie: I totally missed the Milk Barn, but agreed. Love it. I feel like the menu here is much larger than many other counter serve joints; there’s burgers, seafood baskets, chicken baskets, sandwiches, hot dogs, even salads. There’s regular fries, curly fries, waffle fries and tater tots.
Megan: I love a variety of fry choices.
Jackie: Again — AGREED. It was fry nirvana. I went curly fries with a classic cheeseburger plus the requisite chocolate milkshake. I don’t know if it was the calories expended during the hike or what but I’m a little in love with Herfy’s.
The burger wasn’t necessarily the most photogenic — but the bun was soft on the outside, and buttered and crispy on the inside. The cheese was melty, everything was nicely seasoned. What more can I say; it was a great little burger. The curly fries were terrific. I have zero complaints.
Megan: Hard same. The bacon on my bacon cheeseburger was crisp and plentiful, unlike the weird sad slabs you sometimes encounter when it comes to diner-grade bacon. It wasn’t pretty, but it did look sort of like a baby octopus if you squinted and pretended the bacon strips were tentacles. It was a perfect post-exertion snack. The tater tots were appropriately crunchy on the outside and starchy on the inside, and everything tasted well-seasoned. The chocolate shake was the stuff of fast-food dreams. Even my Keurig coffee wasn’t bad. I’m glad we share the same post-workout burger impulse!
Herfy’s Burgers and Barbecue, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday; 9075 Railroad Ave., Snoqualmie; 425-292-9728, facebook.com/snoqualmieHerfies