June 25, 2018.
It was a cold night - even though we were at only 4,500 feet, the temperatures dipped into the mid-thirties, making us all acutely aware that we'd expected (and dressed for) warmer weather.
As usual, I was the first out of bed, hoping to catch sunrise, or at least a bit of that early morning light that is so special as it's long rays light up the landscape. And today, as I climbed up above camp, I was hoping for even more - my view through the trees suggesting that I would be in luck.
As I walked up the ridge behind camp, I couldn't wait to see the view of Mt. Adams to the east - I knew it was there as it'd just peeked out the night before and there was a hint of it from camp, but it's always a toss-up when it comes to cloud covers on Washington's massive volcanoes.
As I got to the top of the ridge, I was not disappointed - there was Mt. Adams, in all it's glory, looming up above our camp site, basked in the morning sun. I'm sure I smiled, an extra urgency in my last few steps to the edge - the only one awake, taking it all in.
It wasn't long before @mrs.turbodb was up as well and I beckoned to her from the ridgetop. As she made her way up, I watched her face - knowing that when she turned crested the treeline and looked to the east, it would be a special moment for her as well. And it was.
For half an hour we stayed there unable to snap enough photos, in awe of the grandeur.
Eventually we saw Joe and Daisy stiring from their tent and we headed back down to greet them and get started on both breakfast and breakdown of camp. Still in her tent reading, the promise of breakfast burritos got @mini.turbodb up quickly and once she was out of the tent she immediately started playing with her new favorite 16-month old. It'd been a rough night for Joe and Daisy with their daughter - everyone cold and the tent a new experience for the kiddo.
Hot breakfasts all around helped lift everyone's spirit, and then Joe and Daisy headed up the ridge at our insistence, Joe (a photographer) lugging 60 lbs of camera equipment to capture the views.
Immersed in his hobby, we let Joe be - @mrs.turbodb, @mini.turbodb and I heading out on a short hike to explore our surroundings. We returned 45 minutes later to find Joe still on the ridge, enjoying the opportunity to capture the insane views. Eventually we pulled him away and got everything packed up. It was late - just after 10am when we finally pulled out of camp.
Back on the trail, @mrs.turbodb spent a bit of time evaluating our route for the morning and scouted what she promised would be an amazing stop - Takhlakh Lake and campground.
As we pulled in and got our first glimpse, Joe came over the radio: "We should have stayed here last night!" Of course, there was never any chance of that - @mrs.turbodb and I are nearly allergic to actual campgrounds; a lucky fact in this case - since as we got out of the trucks, the mosquitoes were thick.
But we had to get out of the trucks.
If our view of Mt. Adams had been breathtaking above camp, it was absolutely awesome from Takhlakh Lake. The sun was just right, the winds were calm, and the lake reflected the mountain and clouds splendidly.
The late start and the thick mosquitoes kept the stop breif, and we were back on the road - adventure ahead. We ticked the miles away, keeping our speed up on well-graded forest service roads. The trees here - and frankly along much of the route - were thick, making the roads nearly tunnels, with views only sporatically available along the route.
It was noon when we arrived in Packwood, WA to refuel and discuss our strategy for lunch. Always favoring a secluded spot with a view, @mrs.turbodb and I suggested that rather than eat in town, we continue along the route, looking for something we'd enjoy just a bit more.
Joe and Daisy were game, and their kiddo was too young to vote, so we were back on the road - the next 30 miles or so of the route paved, so we could make good time.
But naturally we didn't. Just southeast of Mt. Rainier, this section of highway 12 is one of the most beautiful in Washington, with views of Palisades and vista's of Mt. Rainier.
We stopped for them all.
Eventually we found ourselves at a historic marker on the edge of the North Fork of the Rimrock Lake (on the Teiton River) and we knew - this was the spot we were meant to eat lunch. The river here was held back by a dam and we broke out the chips and sandwiches we'd prepared earlier as we made our way down to the water's edge.
It was great - the two girls obviously happy to be out of the trucks, playing with each other and throwing rocks into the lake.
After lunch, we completed the last of the day's pavement and turned north again on dirt, up a set of steep switchbacks towards Bethel Ridge.
As we neared the top, Joe called on the radio to say that his map had a waypoint - Bethel Ridge Hidden Viewpoint - marked, but he couldn't see how to access it. Half a mile so ahead at this point, I radioed back, "Keep driving up the road and take the sharp left," I said, "we've just turned onto the access road."
An active logging site, we made our way slowly past heavy equipment and signs warning us to stay out of the way, slowly gaining elevation on a road that was clearly of the "less traveled" variety.
And then - Xterra's. Three of them in fact, fully decked out and parked at what was now the end of the road; blocked by three fallen trees a quarter-mile from the top.
The owners were just back to their rigs from the viewpoint so we said our "hello's" and they asked what we were up to. We weren't too far south of the Leavenworth area, which it turns out is where they were headed, for the Northwest Overland Rally the folowing weekend.
Like campgrounds, @mrs.turbodb and I generally try to stay away from the rally's, but Joe and Daisy (being new to the scene) were considering dropping by for the last day of the rally once we completed the WABDR - to scout gear, truck armor and the hip scene that's sure to make you more expo!
Stories shared, we were anxious to get to the top so we played musical trucks so the Nissan's could get out; we left our trucks at the end of the road and made our way on foot to the summit.
What a view! 360 degrees around it was a sight to behold. The road we'd travelled below us, volcanos in the distance. If we'd had the trucks on top, this would surely have been a candidate for an early evening and camp, even if it was a little breezy.
Some of us were jumping and posing (as usual) it was so beautiful.
By the time we pulled Joe away from his tripod, it was mid-afternoon and we were going to have to go heavy on the skinny pedal if we were to make it past Ellensburg by the time we called it a day.
So we headed back to the road and started along the ridge - but not quickly. The road got progressively worse - bumpy, narrow, and dusty!
In other words - fun!
We each traveled at our own pace - the Tacoma a bit faster than the 4Runner, given our experience, taking in the views over the side of the canyon wall.
By the time we hit Nile, it was clear that we weren't going to make it to Ellensburg (much less past it) by the time we needed to stop for the night. Too many amazing views; too many fun roads - such a tough life!
We decided we'd head up and out of Nile to find a spot with a view where we could camp for the night.
And boy, did we find one. With views of Rainier. (just behind those trees the the right; good job me capturing them with the camera )
We setup camp - as usual, I parked as close to the edge as I could - and got going on dinner - chicken taco's for us, spaghetti for Joe's gang, and roasted marshmellows over the camp fire for dessert - a hit all around, especially @mini.turbodb!
And then, as the light waned and the kiddos were put to bed, the brilliant oranges and subtle pinks and purples of sunset lit up the sky - illuminating Mt. Rainier in the distance - a special evening for sure.
It took a while, but we finally got our fill and made our way back to the camp fire, the temperature dropping - though still significantly warmer than the night before - without the sun to keep it warm.
We chatted about the day - we'd made it 118 miles - not quite what we'd planned, but quite reasonable for Joe and Daisy's second day on dirt, until eventually we called it a night. Joe and Daisy headed into their tent, nestled in the tree edge to protect it from wind; @mrs.turbodb venturing to our perch at the edge of the ridge - excited for the views we'd have in the morning.
As we put in our earplugs in to keep the wind noise down, we were asleep quickly - the truck and tent swaying in the strong winds - unbeknownst to us, just a small preview of what was to come!