In a world that seems to run on “knowing someone” and having connections, it certainly came through last weekend. I worked for Visual Options for about a year, loved every second of it, great owners, great people and a ton of amazing tools (toys) I had access to. They do a ton of work with plastics like plexiglas and more and more work in print, which is what I was doing. They also build tanks for ships. Or super old schooners like the Adventuress. Visual Options donated their time and materials to replace an aging holding tank that was causing all sorts of problems on board. They were super grateful for the donation and invited a few of us out for a quick tour of Shilshole Bay and then a quick tour of the boat for the five of us.
It was nice to catch up with Neal, Stu and Sawyer on all the happenings at Visual Options since I left over a year ago. I miss them all dearly, so it was nice to catch up while we waited to get the go-ahead to board the schooner. Once we did get the green light, about 30 of us walked out onto the dock, got a quick briefing on how to safely board and then about a 10 minute introduction to some of the crew, what to do in an emergency and some other general information I mostly forgot as I marveled at everything going on with this boat. The ropes, the brass, the wood and the knots holding everything together. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t THAT impressed with the deck, but then later found out it’s being entirely replaced in the near future, so I’m guessing it hasn’t been overly maintained like everything else. I know, weird details I notice.
After the safety of our lives was covered, we got a great history lesson by Taylor (sp?) on the Adventuress. Built in 1913, caught on fire a couple of times. Sunk at least once. The bell most people will see isn’t the original, but the original was recovered by a random collector and given back to the ship and is only brought out for special occasions. By this time, we were out of the harbor and beginning to learn how we needed to work together to raise the sails, including a sailors song I can’t remember a single word of, sorry.
Just as the sails were going up, so was the wind speed and far out on the water, a very dark cloud. As the second sail went up, disaster struck. A loud crack/pop got everyone’s attention and we saw the crew looking at the top of the second sail towards a small rip. The crew and visitors worked together to lower that sail and raise the front, smaller sail to help us navigate directly into the dark clouds in the middle of the bay. At least that’s what it felt like.
About 200 yards away from the ship was a wall of clouds, fog and rain. You could see it and you could certainly hear it. We were dry, for now. Within five minutes, everyone was either down below or on deck, in rain gear. The heavens opened and rained like I haven’t seen in a VERY long time! There was a small river of water on the deck trying to find the sea. We were completely drenched within 30 seconds, there was just no escaping this deluge. But hey, we were sailing, right? Honestly, besides making sure my camera was covered, I wasn’t really complaining. Certainly made for a memorable trip I suppose.
With the rain squall past us and everyone on deck wringing out their clothes, the wind was gone. We had time left on the water, so this gave the captain a chance to give the five of us a private tour below deck. A little time spent on various areas, but mostly to show us the tank Sawyer had built, the difficulties in getting it below deck and how it’s been a great “upgrade” to quality of life in the part of the ship, mostly because the smell coming from the old tank wasn’t very enjoyable.
After the tour, we came back on deck to mostly sunny skies and fresh cookies made in the galley. We joked about the weather since we truly believe we saw Stu at the wheel right before the downpour and that means we get to point the finger at him for our wet clothes. We talked to Taylor a little more about the history of the ship and observed some of the crew doing tasks with the other visitors on board. The captain had switched over to the engine and we were slowly making our way back to the marina. We got a group photo, said our goodbyes and we talked about how soon we could get back on a ship like this, preferably with better weather and maybe even for a day or two.
For the past 6 years, we make the trek down to Pacific City, OR for a super fun jet ski event. Naaaa, not those sit down types that go 100mph. We’re talking about the “old school” type that you stand up on and these days, people do flips and rolls and get just as crazy as any other moto sport. I spent several summers rallying around local lakes and even making it out to the surf a few times and while I never got the courage or ski to try a flip, I absolutely loved being able to jump the surf and be out on the water at the same time.
With a sketchy weather report in the back of our minds, we left Thursday afternoon and eventually made it to our campsite for the weekend, a small camp ground on Whalen Island. Apparently this land was nearly sold off to investors looking to turn it into a place for homes, but was saved by the state and a small portion turned into the camp ground. We camped further away last year and were annoyed with how long it would take to get to camp after watching the sunset in Pacific City. As much as we loved the unlimited hot showers, we wanted the short drive.
We woke up to blue skies and a gorgeous view. We’re close enough to the ocean to hear the waves, but far enough away to see and hear the birds, catch people fishing or clamming in the area and generally avoid the wind you typically find right on the coast. This year would be the first year we’ve done Surf Slam with the RTT. We’re still learning things about it as we go. We figured out that the included pad just wasn’t enough for us. It would work in a pinch, but really, foam pads would need to be purchased to supplement it. We got some new LED string lights I’ll probably post about later, those were insanely helpful for getting around camp. So for Day 2, some time on the beach, but an eventual trip to Tillamook would need to happen for those foam pads.
Dani made some amazing omelettes for breakfast and we made our way to the beach. When we’re in Pacific City it’s a pretty simple way of life. Food, skim boarding, jetskis and people watching. We got right into some skim boarding and we would spend many hours over the next three days on different parts of Pacific City in the surf. We keep talking about surfing, but as of yet, just something we talk about. Looking back, this first full day would have been absolutely perfect for newbies like us. We more or less ignored the jetskis for this first day and enjoyed the weather, sand, surf and people getting stuck left and right. Having enjoyed many days on the coast in the northwest, the weather really is unpredictable and can change drastically from hour to hour. We figured we’d take it easy and just enjoy this weather in case it turned ugly.
Night 2. Speaking of drastic changes. We got back to camp in the dark, I set up the tent while Dani made Fajitas. The wind had started to pick up a little and rain was in the forecast, but spirits were high after the day we just enjoyed and kinda hoped it would pass through without much issue. Nope. We realized we had likely parked the 4Runner the wrong way, leaving the ladder side of the RTT to face directly into the wind. This more or less allowed the wind to hit us full force and create a ton of noise and anything not strapped down was flapping against itself. Around midnight, I knew I had to figure something out, I jumped out, secured the ladder and turned the 4Runner around to face the tent the other way. I figured a quick move would be okay and it worked perfectly. Instant relief from the noise, but just as I was tying down one loose area of the rain fly, the rain started. It was enough to to get us back to sleep and we would deal with the wet tent tomorrow.
Day 3 started off a little more gray than the day before, not surprisingly. The big thing with RTTs is that if and when they do get wet, that you need get them dry within several day to prevent molding and smells from forming. I had read and seen horror stories of people opening their tents to large stains from the mold and knew we would need to open the tent at some point, out on the beach, but would the weather be on our side again? After a quick breakfast and making our way into Pacific City, the clouds would eventually to break. We grabbed a few items and then made our way over to Tierra Del Mar, which is technically where the event takes place. Smack dab between Pacific City and our camp site, 5 minutes to either one. We caught a few pro heats before heading back down the beach to thankfully open the tent and enjoy the scattered clouds and get some more skim boarding in. We had talked about opening the tent back at Surf Slam, but with hundreds of people on the beach and us wandering around ourselves, we didn’t want to come back to find someone had been “checking it out” and maybe crawled inside for a closer look. So back down the beach, away from the event, we popped it open and got enough breeze and sunlight to dry it out enough to feel comfortable.
We hung out here for several hours before heading back to Pacific City to try and catch the sunset. Once over there, something caught our eye and we decided to try and catch the sunset from out on Cape Kiwanda. We were treated with amazing views and a decent tide hammering into the rocks. As many days as we’ve spent out here, I realize how little time I’ve spent just sitting and enjoying this show. In the picture below, maybe you can see the tiny humans sitting on the rock below. There is so much to see and explore on this part of the coast. This time of year is usually pretty good for whale watching and we saw plenty, but honestly, sitting here and waiting for the big waves to crash, watching the sun slowly set and just enjoying the fact that the moment was truly ours and for both of us, thoughts outside of this moment were more or less gone. It was a sunset to remember, easily.
We made it back to camp as it was getting dark. I set up the tent again, while Dani made Fajitas again. We even got a fire going this evening and enjoyed a couple of Coronas before crawling into bed and dozing off. We had new foam pads and even downed a sleeping pill. I slept pretty good that night. The next morning we did another quick breakfast and planned to head out that evening. We had Monday off, but no reservations to sleep anywhere, so with rain in the forecast, we figured we would organize the rig, pack the RTT nice and tight and head over to enjoy the final couple rounds of Surf Slam, hope for big waves during the Big Air Showdown, maybe catch the sunset and then rally home in the darkness.
The event was nuts as usual. We don’t follow the sport too closely, but plenty of familiar names and even faces. I certainly have a few riders I enjoy more than others. I think I enjoy more of a lazy surf style. Big wave slashes, slow relaxed flips, etc. I got to see a little of that for sure. I picked a few favorites to post below. The Big Air Showdown is a quick event after the final pro round. It generally works like this; a rider goes out and a 2 minute timer starts after his first trick. Which, depending on the surf, can work out well, or not. I’m honestly not a fan of how it works as these riders have been siting for a little and you want them to go huck themselves right off the beach. So they maybe do one big warm-up flip, but then can’t find another decent wave in that two minutes and I dunno, just seems like there could be a better way to get these guys/gals to huck themselves and put on a show for us. I’m curious how the riders feel.
Anyways, after the event, we rolled back into PC, set up the tent to get out any leftover moistness (yeah, I know) and enjoy what would be our last few hours on the beach. Every single time we come to PC, we talk about finding property and somehow making it work. This trip only reinforced that idea and come hell or high water, I think we’ll end up out this way eventually. For now, a cold beer, a warm fire and an amazing view. We ended up talking to some kind folks from Alberta for a couple of hours after inviting them to sit around the fire and it was great to trade stories of life in different parts of the world. Seemingly so close, yet not at all. It was crazy to hear about the differences in seasons, people, jobs, healthcare, overlanding, etc. Devin and Sarah, was a pleasure to meet you both!
With it being well past sunset, we optimistically jumped on the road towards home. At 9pm, we figured to reach home by 1 or 2am. As luck would have it, twisty roads and a headache produced some pretty crazy nausea. We found a cheap (and it was) motel somewhere in Oregon, grabbed a hot shower and slept like babies until the next morning. Jumped back in the rig and finished our drive home.
Another amazing trip to our favorite beach in the world. Hopefully we can explore this area more the next time we’re in town, but oh so thankful for the days we got this time around. This little coastal town has exploded over the years and what used to be our little secret beach and has become anything but that. Maybe the next time we check in, we’ll be finding some small piece of land to purchase and one day retire on….
After having plans change days before the OG Gambler in Oregon this summer, I was committed to hitting the back roads of Washington with whoever would have me. I tracked down the event page for the Washington Gambler 500 and put a feeler out there for anyone who needed a co-pilot. A great guy (Russ) outta Salem offered up his passenger seat and we made early plans to meet up a few weeks later. As the event neared, plans were posted, hype was building and it seemed like a ton of people would be in my neck of the woods for a two day party we wouldn’t soon forget.
Then, like clockwork, the event was cancelled due to a bit of miscommunication and the USFS coming down with a heavy hand asking why there was no permit in place. It came out of the blue and while it put a twist in everyone’s plans, my new crew was on their way from parts of Oregon, Idaho and even Alberta, this didn’t appear to slow them down. So bright and early I was meeting a bunch of random strangers in a parking lot in Enumclaw with cars that didn’t look safe for them or anyone around them…
Everyone seemed to have a rough plan. Some bailed, some said they were headed for Crystal Mountain and others figured they would head for the original start point and just gamble from there. Our crew of about 10-15 cars aimed for the start line and would decide on a plan from there. The thing about the Gambler is that they don’t hang out coordinates until you’re on the starting line. Generally speaking, you get a sheet with a list of coordinates and race off while your co-pilot enters them into a app and it goes from there. Early reports had me thinking the camp site would be located somewhere near the start point. I’d leave my truck somewhere and I’d sleep in it after a day of runnin’ the hills and alcohol consumption. We quickly noticed the camp site was 3 1/2 hours away outside of Yakima in the middle of nowhere. So, we ditched my truck, emptied all my stuff in the MPV being piloted by Russ and got on the road with The Fabulous B-Team.
Our first way point involved a decent little hill climb. A couple guys in the crew gave it valiant efforts and a couple even succeeded. The 4WD MPV handled it surprisingly well and I was quickly wondering what the hell I was getting myself into. One of his dogs wouldn’t let me near him, the other wouldn’t leave me and this guy was getting wild in this green “mini-van”. Whatever, I was more or less stuck now and figured it would just add to the weekend, right? Maybe a funny story or something. Anyways, a few of us made it up and the rest turned back down to take a longer route to the next way point.
After a number of wrong turns and watching a 2WD S10 try some pretty gnarly climbs, we ran into a Jeep who said he had seen a bunch of crazy looks rigs and a black/red bus up the road a bit. This would become a continuing theme throughout the weekend, crazy looking rigs and vehicles trying things they weren’t meant to try.
As we all cruised up the mountain, we finally caught up to the crew, only to find out we had a rig down. The old Chevy was having overheating issues and we guessed a bad thermostat. In true Gambler spirit, the person who had been drinking since about 7am, was the person getting the truck back on the trail. We found a half tube of RTV, a cereal box and got to work. Not a big deal really. This means the mobile beer pong rig gets some use, we pick up all the trash in the vicinity, catch up with people, meet people (I was the new guy, hello) and more or less bullshit. They finally got the rig back in a good spot and we all settled on our next way point.
Well, before we know it, we’re down a rig. Oddly enough, the rig that everyone called shitbox. I’m still not sure why we had shitbox in the rear like that, but lesson learned I suppose, hahaha. We made a plan to send a few guys back to check for them and we would wait. One of the guys ran over and asked some of the nearby campers if they had seen a white truck with no hood and a shopping cart basket on top and they had, it went up the hill. So, we bombed for the forest road, completely forgetting about the guy who had gone to look for shitbox the other way. And oddly enough, this new forest road was even more dusty than the previous forest road. Which resulted in the crew getting spread further and further apart. Before we knew it, we were all spread apart, patience was growing thin and camp wasn’t getting any closer. Everyone within CB range decided it was time to fill up the tanks and head for camp.
With tanks filled and some coordinates that almost had us in Oregon, we hit the pavement. It was probably 5pm or so by now and camp was still two hours away. It was a great opportunity to chat with Russ, win over the un-winnable dog and mostly, think about food and eventual sleep. I think we had five cars in this little mini-crew and we eventually made it to a gravel road. Which turned into an old dirt road and then something resembling the Oregon Trail. The MPV continued to make quick work and we eventually rolled into camp to hook up with some friends from earlier in the day and start getting ready for some grub and beers.
I won’t share too many details about last night. Gambler parties are meant to be enjoyed and experienced in person. I will say this, I remember checking my watch at 3am and a few people were still celebrating. I then remember checking my watch around 6am because people were already stirring. Hey, when you’re Gamblin’, #alwaysbegambling I slept in my tent with a sleeping bag and that’s about it. No pillow, nothing on the ground except rocks and yeah, I just figured, gambler style or something. I had a blast, met some people and then crashed. Everyone slowly got up. Cars started to drive out, bacon started to sizzle and we slowly turned the place into the cow pasture it was before we got there. No trash left behind. Most of the crew decided to head back home to Oregon since they were so close and a few of us figured we may as well finish this thing out. I can’t thank Russ enough for driving my ass back to my truck. The guy truly enjoys getting outside and it was fun to spend the day exploring southern Washington. Most of it I hadn’t even seen, so it was exciting to mark some new spots to further explore, bomb roads and get after it without any real commitments. We had a rough plan and we somehow made it from one city to another, generally without using any paved roads. I still can’t believe we made it to Randle and eventually, my truck. The main road is closed at some point and Russ had some random download that showed a tricky way through the woods. He wanted to give it a go, so whatever, lets do it. We either find out it’s bad and have to backtrack or just backtrack, so, let’s send it and see what happens. We ran across another gambler at some point and while talking to them, another came up behind us. So, guess we’re all in at this point. Was a fun road, but I have zero clue how that little CRX gambler made it through and they kept up with us for most of it, wow!
What a trip! I met some great people, we made the most of what I’m sure a ton of people bailed on and it’s got me pretty jazzed on bombing some hills on my own. Because why in the hell not? See ya next time!
With Spartan Race race dropping the ball on two volunteer credits I had earned and then our backup plan being rained out, we looked at the ever-growing list of spots we’ve been wanting to visit. Lonesome Lake hasn’t been on the list very long, but figured this would be a quick and easy adventure, rain or shine. So Saturday afternoon after we each finished up some errands, we hopped in the 4Runner and made our way out along Hwy 410.
Before long, we were hitting forest roads and climbing into the mountains. It was honestly surprising how well this road was maintained. I don’t think this area sees much traffic, so minus some wash boarding early on, there really wasn’t much to avoid, thankfully.
Thinking we had somehow avoided most of the rain, we enjoyed the views as we gained more and more elevation. Turning a corner, we found ourselves looking over a large valley, with much of the opposite side covered in a thin veil of smoke. I didn’t think there were any active fires in the White River valley area. Drove a little further and happened across a couple of USFS guys keeping an eye on the fire. Chatted with them for a bit and he said they were there to watch and make sure it didn’t get too crazy. I had mentioned how we were on the other side of the valley last weekend and heard a ton of thunder and he said it was likely the cause. They said they had dropped a small team in a few days prior without much luck containing the blaze either, so just hoping the rain and temps today would help get it to die down. (I learned later this is known as the Wrong Creek Fire)
Back on the road, we made quick work of the remaining mile or so and found ourselves at Lonesome Lake and a van full of kids on their way out, thankfully. How lucky to have the place to ourselves. We grabbed my fly road, camera bag and Dani grabbed a book and we made our way to the shore. With some slight breaks in the clouds, it really wasn’t that bad. I was getting a few strikes, but they were quick to spit the fly out or I was too slow to set the hook. Either way, we were enjoying the the lake and even thought about jumping in because the water felt surprisingly warm. I ended up catching a smaller guy before eventually succumbing to the mosquitoes and weather (it did start to dump on us).
Upon the advice of some fellow 4Runner homies, we caught a side road we passed on the way to the lake and decided to give it a shot and hope the clouds would break for a nice view of the mountain. Spoiler alert, they never broke. But we did hit some of the most aggressive roads I’ve seen since I’ve had the 4Runner. Got to use the rear diff lock for a minute even, woohoo! It certainly confirmed that it’s time to start a list of items for a lift and much better/more capable tires if we want to get deeper into the woods.
We found the spot for the view, but enjoyed a view of intense clouds/fog instead. As the rain continued to fall, we started our descent towards 410 and as always, got sidetracked with a side road and found ourselves on an abandoned road due to a washout a number of years ago. A fun little side adventure and found at least one killer spot to camp near the river this fall. After looking at the clock, we pointed the rig towards home and hustled out of there. A great day trip indeed and found a couple future camp sites to add to the list!
In an effort to get out and use our new roof top tent, I had been searching for nearby spots that would be far enough away to seem like we were somewhere new, but also close enough to bail if things went south. So mid-week, after work, I shot up 410 past Greenwater and took FS-70 towards the hills. I had a couple of spots I wanted to check, either by using google maps and another via a 4Runner group I’m in. So I checked three spots I found and another via the group and figured if one was being used, we would just move onto the next.
We woke up Saturday to nice weather and decided to go for it. We left the house around 10am and slowly made our way out of town. As always, we forget how long a trip to the grocery store takes when you’re itching to leave, so maybe next time we’ll actually stock up the night before and while we’re at it, fill up the gas tank as well. Those two stops probably held us up an hour. Hindsight or something, right? Anyways, finally got past all the stop lights & bad drivers and got to feel some wind in our hair.
Before long, I finally got to show Dani and fun little secret before the town of Greenwater. A fresh water spring. I’ve met two people here while filling up my own water, that say they won’t drink anything else it’s cured ailments. It kind of makes me wonder if I shouldn’t “test” this water out and see if I would feel any better drinking fresh spring water for a few weeks. Anyways, water bottles filled and finally finding gravel roads, we ascended into the mountains slowly but surely and finally getting to camp around 1pm and mostly setup by 2pm.
This being our second time setting up the RTT, we were more efficient than last time. Though, since this was also our first time setting up our awning, we made the rookie mistake of setting up the awning first. You can’t even get the cover off the RTT with the awning setup. I suppose we needed the practice anyways. So, RTT setup, than the awning and now what?! What do you actually do when you’re out and about, camp is setup, it’s too early for dinner. Well, we read and then every 45 seconds we had to corner our pup Kenji and get something out of his mouth. He’s certainly at that, I want to chew and eat everything I see, on the ground. So we got more reading done as his leash got shorter and shorter. After we had our fair share of reading, we tried to teach ourselves how to play cribbage. And while I’m certain this game is easier than these instructions made it seem, we could not figure it out. So, if anyone is willing, please direct us to the ‘cribbage for dummies’ video. For real though, we got kinda bored pretty quick and realized we needed to come better prepared next time. I’m thinking a couple more card games, a project for the rig and maybe throwing axes. Actually, throwing axes first!
We decided we were hungry enough for Dani to start working on some Fajitas and I figured I’d fly the drone around a bit and wander around the area a little. By the time I had run through a battery and pissed off the local wildlife, Dani was ringing the dinner bell.
Belly full of food, pups fed and the weather starting to drop, it was time to start thinking about bed. With a stage 2 burn ban in effect, especially for elevations past 4,000 feet, we enjoyed the sunset and then crawled into bed. Which, since we skipped the annex this time, we brought the pups into bed with us. That ended up being a slight mistake since they seem to move around a lot more than we anticipated. We made the most of it until the wind picked up and our rain fly started to whip into the tent. Normally there are tension rods to hold it out and away from the tent, but the awning is installed in a way that makes that impossible, so we’ve just let it hang. Well, at midnight, Dani freaks out thinking there is a grizzly trying to get into the tent. I jumped out and fixed the rain fly and then figured I’d try a few quick shots of the milky way, even though there was still plenty of light out at midnight. After about twenty minutes, I crawled back into bed…
The one nice thing about the RTT is how dark it stays, even in full sunlight. We slept through the sunrise, barely and our loyal pups reminded us they were ready for breakfast. I don’t think either of us got more than a few hours of sleep that night, but you really can’t complain when you climb down the ladder and are presented with Mt. Rainier in all her glory.
Knowing this would be a quick trip. We fed the pups, made breakfast and quickly cleaned up camp to try and get a little exploring in before turning back towards home. We had hoped to visit a nearby fire lookout, but with Pita not being much of a hiker these days, we stuck to exploration via 4Runner. It was fun to show Dani some of the other spots I had spot checked earlier in the week and we both talked about coming back, minus the pups, to try another spot and then hike up to the fire lookout. Either way, we had a great evening, learned a few things about camping out of a 4Runner and can’t wait to get back on the road and then right off of it!
Dani and I met a couple at CrossFit who were traveling nurses. They also happened to be doing their first stay during the worst part of the year here in the NW. They left, but several of us put some pressure on them to return, partially because they’re cool people, partially because we feel like the NW had let them down a little, weather wise. So I get a random message from Eric one day that says Ingrid and him were moving back in July and they wanted to get out and see some things.
Fast forward a month or so and Eric and Ingrid want to visit Mt. Rainier for the first time, do a casual hike and enjoy the weather. So after a quick debate about the ocean by ourselves vs the mountain with friends, we told them we’d be ready whenever they wanted. So the next morning at 6:30am, they’re in out driveway and we’re hopping in the back seat.
The drive out was nice. Some time to catch up on their time out of Washington, struggles finding work as traveling nurses and everything else in between. Before we knew it, we were slowly climbing our way into the park and enjoying the views from inside their car. Dani and I talked about how we take the beauty of the NW for granted at times. Growing up with that mountain out our windows, it’s not quite the marvel it is for someone not familiar with the NW, especially coming from somewhere like the midwest where it’s pretty flat.
Anyways, we get to the parking lot and while we had a couple of ideas about hikes we wanted to do, a ranger made quick work of those plans and gave us a limited number of options and even those weren’t complete hikes. Mostly the snow was either too dangerous in some areas or too thin and hiking would cause damage to the fragile network of flowers and plant life underneath. So we went with the Skyline Trail up to Panorama point.
It was pretty busy in the parking area and we quickly got onto the trail to begin our way up the side of the mountain. There were a ton of guided groups making their way up as well and it was fun tagging along with them to get ourselves a mini narrated guide of the flowers we were seeing, but also wanted a little quicker pace, so we left them behind and made our way to our first stop and took in the views. Eric and Ingrid also got to see their first marmots, which is always fun.
After commenting on how the marmots are likely ground squirrels that were fed too many clif bars, we had a chuckle and got back to the hike and set our sights on Panorama Point. The higher we got on the trail, the more it thinned out, which was nice. You’d be asking a lot to expect a quiet hike at one of the most popular trails in MRNP. I mean, I was doing the hike in a pair of Metcons. I’m sure I looked like I was hiking my first hike ever. Zero Fucks Given, right? I will say, we were all quite jealous of the people hiking up with either skis on their back or even the group of guys who all had digger discs (sleds that are kinda like a bowl, high chance of diggers using this device, hence, digger disc) on their backpacks. We ran into that group at Panorama Point.
We enjoyed the views here and there is a nice sign telling us which each of the peaks were. You could easily see Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams and even Mt. Hood far off in the distance, along with all the other peaks in the area. The view of the mountain we were physically on from Panorama Point, isn’t actually the best, so we figured we’d go a little further and get as close as humanly possibly without convincing ourselves the Camp Muir was possible, even in a pair of Metcons. If I were there, alone, I probably would have done it, just because I’m an asshole like that or something. I have heard that last couple of miles is nothing like the miles before it, so probably a good thing we didn’t end up with that idea in our heads.
We eventually made it to a nice spot with some large boulders to sit on and minimal people hanging around and just took it all in. We took the required group selfie up top and got back to work on the descent to our vehicles and hopefully some food. Eric even talked me into sliding down some of the snow. He went all in and was cruising so fast. Must be those fancy hiking shorts. I was in cotton shorts, so figured I’d play it safe and go down on my feet, glissading, kinda…. sorta… Either way, Eric was hauling and everyone got a good laugh. Next time, digger discs for sure!
We made quick work of the mostly downhill trail and even ran into a volunteer who gave us some warnings about hiking to Muir this time of year and being ill-prepared, ooops. She also told us about the crevices on the mountains, which we quickly figured out where basically stretch marks for a mountain and we all got some laughs, including the volunteer and we all assumed would use that line in the future. Once back to the parking lot, we all agreed that our early start was probably a good thing, even if it was for other unknown intentions. We scoured the gift shop, wandered through the mini museum and then grabbed a snack in the cafeteria. A hectic scene for sure with hundreds of people everywhere, most speaking other languages and all with their own agendas. We hopped in their car and made a beeline for Scaleburgers in Elbe. As we passed the entrance to the park, it became even more apparent how smart we were to leave at 630 in the morning. There was a line of cars, easily a mile long, waiting to get into the park. Pure insanity in my opinion. Either way, we got into Elbe and enjoyed some burgers at Scaleburgers. Be warned, CASH only and NO ATMs in the entire town. The guy at the gas station said Mineral was the closest ATM. I shouldn’t be surprised, but luckily we had enough cash to get some food in us. We hit the rest stop in town for a bathroom break and then made our way home. A long day in the sun I’m sure our friends won’t so forget, us either for that matter!
After years of talking about the NorthWest Overland Rally, I was finally talked into purchasing a ticket for this years rally by my buddy Anthony. We then did absolutely nothing to prepare for it until a couple of days beforehand, because that’s how we roll. I spent a couple of hours each night beforehand working on a sleeping platform and then some basic maintenance on the 4Runner the night before and morning of, which basically was checking all the fluids and doing a quick drain/fill on the transmission, which took longer than it needed to.
So we get on the road around noon, make a stop to fill up our new cooler (RTIC 65) with food/ice and press on for Plain, WA. We pulled in around 4pm and quickly got settled. With us using the sleeping platform, we decided to throw a tent up to hold all of our extra stuff. So basically a mobile shed, pretty cool. My sister/brother-in-law has already arrived and saved two other spots, one for us and one for Anthony and his posse. So we had a nice spot on the back row, kinda near some bathrooms and showers. Dani and I did a quick lap of the vendors setting everything up and drooled over all the rigs we would have to walk by multiple times over the weekend. Either rigs brought by vendors or rigs by people attending the event. We got back, had a quick bite to eat and then cruised back over to the vendor area for an evening story/adventure and then raffle time. Our first raffle of the weekend and our first experience with the term, “BurnIt!” What a good time. I won’t give away too much about that because I feel like that’s something you have to experience yourself, but makes for a good time for sure. We all sat around our propane fire (no fires on site) and enjoyed some chat about the upcoming weekend for an hour or so and then we settled in to the 4Runner for our first night of rest.
Wake up and have some breakfast. Bacon and eggs, like every morning on this trip. Perfectly fine with me. Took a stroll to check out the vendors again and new ones showing up. Left the wallet back at camp thankfully, figured I should at least wait until the final day to try and sneak new items onto the rig while under the watchful eye of the missus. I had wanted to take a couple of classes, but the sun was blazing, so we decided we’d all shoot over to Lake Wenatchee and take a dip. We started our search on one side of the lake. Super windy and cloudy, so we thought by some random chance we’d have more luck on the other side, nope, so we go back to the original spot and make the most of it. Which basically resulted in us watching the little ones play in the water and throw sticks at each other. After finally giving in to the wind and clouds, we got back to camp to have some fajitas and get ready for the raffle. I went and talked to ARB about getting an awning and was bummed to find out they didn’t sell direct, but said Mule Expeditions had a rally discount for them and might have one. They didn’t have any either, but offered the discount if I stopped in to the retail location in Issaquah later in the week. That seemed like a good idea until my buddy Anthony suggested seeing if CVT had any with them. Duh! I went and talked to them and while they didn’t have any right there, they had someone coming from Bend the next morning and would bring one with. Score! At the raffle I won a little prize pack with a couple of shirts and a tembo tusk wine tote. The Burn It folks were pretty rowdy this evening and it was a blast to watch it all go down! Having had to dis-assemble the sleeping platform for the drive to the lake, we opted for the “shed” on the second night.
Well, not going with the tent option ever again. When you have a vehicle or camper to sleep in, you kind of forget that people wake up at all different hours, make all sorts of weird noises and honey bucket cleaning trucks will show up at 7am to blast NPR over the noise of the pump. Oh boy, we’re off to a gallop on Day 3! Todays plan involved a drive in the mountains above Plain. We started our way via the highway down to Cashmere. Topped off our tanks, witnessed a nice rear end collision and then made our way to the Nahahum Canyon Road. (47.525549, -120.463343) A nice drive with views of the rolling hills turning into small mountains. The drive is pretty steady and turns to gravel after a good 15 minutes or so. In continues at a steady climb for another 10 minutes or so before you crawl into the forest for a much needed break on the rigs. (47.595772, -120.425292) And of course, after doing a drain/fill on on the transmission before leaving, I get the dreaded transmission light at the top. So we chill for a minute and decide to push on. The light goes off and stays off for the rest of the trip. Thinking back, it was a steady climb, gaining over 2500′ feet in a half hour or so. I’d suggest using that first stop as a place for a nice break and to set a plan for the rest of the trip. But since we didn’t do that, we pushed on and made our way for Chumstick Mountain. I don’t remember how long it took us, but we took turns leading/eating dust and enjoyed the spectacular views. The 4runner had a minute of trouble making the last sharp turn towards the summit, but engaged the rear locker and got through it, the rest was easy stuff. Got up the top and wow, what a view. (47.650536, -120.451199) 360 views of the valley around us and quite a few people up there as well.
After hanging for a few, we decided to push on for Sugarloaf Peak or the Sugarloaf Fire Lookout. We missed a turn and then google maps showed a wildly long detour. Tried the maps app with the iPhone and it showed a much more direct route, so instead of turning around, we pushed on before taking a short rest for the kiddos at a bathroom we ran across. (47.706470, -120.514210) Back on the road towards the fire lookout and what a fun part of the drive and so interesting to see the change in landscape. Kind of eerie honestly with all of the dead trees and the dark clouds that were rolling in. Got to the lookout without too much trouble and spent about ten minutes wandering around and trying to find a place to hide from the howling wind. (47.757654, -120.528295) Quite the busy spot with vehicles coming and going and quite a few motorbikes as well. We discussed back tracking a little to the bathroom from earlier, but decided to keep northward on the Entiat Summit Road until it finally dropped down towards Plain. The last part of the trip had some nice views, but was fairly boring. Would like to have stopped at a few spots, but I think everyone was tired of the off road shaking and wanted to find pavement ASAP!
Once back to camp we all had a quick bite to eat and I walked over to the CVT tent to ask about the awning. They had it, made the payment and got back to camp to get the thing installed. We made quick work, but had to run over to the hardware store for a few carriage bolts, which they had in stock luckily. Including the trip to the hardware store, it probably took us 30 minutes to get it installed on my rack. So stoked! I’m sure I’ll go a little more in depth on the awning once I get a chance to use it a few times. Perfect timing to get some chairs setup and try to win some stuff for our final raffle of the trip. I think three of us ended up getting called up. Nothing super exciting, but fun to win some items regardless. I was confident I was going to win a RTT, but I suppose it wasn’t meant to be, lol. We all made it back to camp, got everything ready for bed and then sat around the propane fire to talk about the trip, the raffle and our plans for the morning. Before long, I was crawling into the back of the 4runner hoping for a little better sleep than the previous night.
Sleep went better and it was mixed feelings all around as we started to break down our mini-camp and start thinking about routes home, etc. I think the organizers wanted everyone out by 11am, but I think Dani and I were on the road by 9. We made our way through Leavenworth and down towards Blewett Pass. We kept talking about stopping for food, but nothing seemed right until we got to Twin Pines Drive In. We had to wait about 15 minutes for them to open, but the shakes were good and the hot dog wasn’t half bad either. After that stop, it was smooth sailing for the next hour or so before pulling in to our driveway with a total of 425 miles on the odometer.
Super glad I finally made the choice to get over to the rally. It was a great time, but I can’t help feeling like I left a lot on the table. I didn’t take any classes, didn’t drive my rig through the course and didn’t really talk to any vendors I wasn’t familiar with. I was busy and had a ton of fun, but may have been a little overwhelmed by everything that was going on. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year and will plan to take a few classes and try to get out and talk to people. Talk to vendors about my rig and what they have going on for it, whats in the works, etc. Also hoping my rig will be better suited for the rally next year. I need to do a little suspension work, get some new tires and just work on making it a little more camping friendly. I think the awning will be a great start! See y’all next year!
Dani was out of town for a bridal shower deal of some sort and while she was supposed to get back, midday on Sunday, I figured I’d give her a little time to catch up on things while I found some way to raise hell in the hills behind Wilkeson. And that’s what I did. Left the house around 11 and got up to my favorite NF road and got moving. Was a gorgeous day and I only needed a hoodie. I was here two or three weeks ago and almost froze with a hoodie, flannel and a thick jacket, dang.
I made quick time up the hills and without any traffic behind the locked gate, I didn’t have much to worry about besides deer or elk. Stopped here and there to let the bike cool down, grab a drink of water and check out the scenery.
My first order of business was an unnamed lake I had seen with google maps that appeared to have decent access by road. Obviously the landscape changes and the aerial maps were probably somewhat outdated, but there was a road at some point. So I made my way towards the lake. With each turn, the road got narrower as the trees closed in and nature began to take over. I eventually made it through and was able to park the bike within 75ft or so. Found a nice game trail down to the water and did a little exploring. Like other bodies of water in the area, not much for fish, but plenty of other life. Lots of frog/toad egg pouches or whatever they’re called. My goal is to cross off each body of water for fish until I’ve been to them all. These first few are the easy ones. The next couple are going to require some effort and a bit of hiking in, but ultimately, a good adventure exploring somewhat unexplored land. I only had a couple photos from the “lake” that I got to, so enjoy that.
So, got outta there and figured I should run up the mountain to the end of the road. Ran into one guy on a mountain bike who was the first person I’ve ever seen behind this gate. Chatted for awhile and then got back moving. Checked out one new spot, found what might be the remains of an old fire lookout or some sort of tower and explored some game trails looking for possible sheds and then got back on my way to the top. Didn’t spend much time exploring up there, but did enjoy the sun for a few before heading back down the mountain. Overall, a gorgeous day for a ride. Can’t wait to explore the last couple of lakes in the area and will keep my fingers crossed that one of them has a fish or two for me to catch!