June 26, 2018.
The wind that rocked us to sleep in the CVT kept blowing through the night, perhaps the most continuously windy night we've spent six feet off the ground. Nestled under the covers we were cozy and warm, and it was a struggle to pull myself out at 5:30am to capture sunrise.
But there's only one sunrise each day and it's not every day that you're parked on the edge of a ridge with Mt. Rainier in the distance, so pull myself out I did.
I wasn't disappointed.
Of course, I was up well before the rest of the crew so I took the opportunity to catch up on my light reading - the 15th book in the Jack Reacher series - and evaluate the route in front of us, mapping out where we needed to be by evening. Still a few miles south of Ellensburg, I figured that if we could get north or Cashmere, we'd be in reasonable shape. It'd be a haul, but with some paved sections (through Ellensburg and a few miles along highway 97 as part of the Beehive Reservoir re-route) I figured we stood a chance.
Eventually of course, more life stirred in camp - this morning, Joe, Daisy and their little one up next, out to enjoy the morning light.
Soon everyone was up, @mini.turbodb excited for another day of exploring and rock gathering with her new friend, @mrs.turbodb and I gathering breakfast (cereal and freshly picked cherries) and packing up camp.
People fed and camp packed up, we headed out - a bit earlier than the day before - and toward what I knew to be some awesome views, having scouted the next couple miles of trail in search of our camp site the night before.
As we climbed even higher on the ridge to Clemen Mountain Summit, the views once again opened up, our higher vantage point giving us even more spectacular perspectives of Mt. Rainier and (what would be our last of) Mt. Adams in the distance.
We soaked it in.
And then we plowed forward over a combination of smooth, flat, bumpy, hilly terrain. Down the north-eastern face of Clemen Mountain towards the highway, which we'd take for less than a mile before heading north on dirt.
Just before we reached the highway we hit a shallow water crossing and I had Joe stop so I could catch him making his way through.
Of course, after we'd already gone through, @mini.turbodb wanted to ride in the passenger seat for the excitement and @mrs.turbodb obliged by capturing it all of it's glory.
We crossed the highway and then it was switchbacks up the south-western slope of Baby Head Hill, we were having a great time, Joe continually amazed at what his (mostly stock) 4Runner was capable of, getting more comfortable driving all the time.
And then, we stumbled upon a few wild-land fire fighters, babysitting a burn they'd extinguished two days before to ensure there were no flare-ups, especially with the 20-40 mph winds we'd been experiencing. It was a good reminder of how important fire safety is when you're out on your own - things can get out of control so quickly!
As we ascended the final grade of Baby Head Hill, @mrs.turbodb spotted a fury creature a couple hundred feet up the road. A marmot, we thought - until we were within 50 feet or so - when we realized it was a badger! Our first wild badger ever, we were too excited to get a good picture, this distance one of it's ass-end, all we could muster as it scampered away.
And then, as it was lost to our sight, down swooped a red-tail hawk - obviously on the search for breakfast. Fortunately for the badger, the assassination attempt appeared unsuccessful, the hawk climbing into the sky once again.
Descending Baby Head Hill, we could see Ellensburg in the near distance - our next destination for fuel and flushable toilets!
Naturally, as soon as we hit pavement, we got lost. Actually, I think I got lazy and ended up missing 3 or 4 turns I was suppossed to make through town. Just another reason dirt roads rule IMO. But eventually we made it to fuel, and Daisy decided that they would wait for Leavenworth to get more ice for their cooler, and we were on the road again, headed north to Lion Rock Viewpoint where we planned to stop for lunch.
Much of the road up to Lion Rock is paved - a detail I must have forgotten, and that isn't at all clear on the map - tight switchbacks up the plateau face hinting at more technical terrain. But the road was a fun one and eventually we did hit dirt as we passed through our first major burn.
The area had been totally devastated.
Nearly every tree had been destroyed, campgrounds previously shaded by their needles now baren and closed. On the one hand an amazing sight and healthy for the earth in the long run, on the other hand a bummer for those hoping to escape into the woods close to town.
It was 12:30pm when we arrived at Lion Rock Viewpoint and once again pulled to the edge - perhaps a bit closer than @mrs.turbodb would have liked.
The perfect place for lunch, exploration, and photos, we all enjoyed our chips and sandwiches with a view to the west and wild flowers all around.
It was also evident at this point that there could be some rain in our future - clouds were rolling in from the northeast - the direction we were headed - and a drop or two fell from the sky as we packed up our gear to head out. Undeterred, we set out - the re-route around Beehive Reservoir forking from the main route just after Lion Rock.
For anyone who has driven stage 3 of the WABDR knows, the trail from Lion Rock to Cashmere is one of the most beautiful and fun sections - especially in early fall when the Larches are a vibrant yellow. So, it was unfortunate that we were re-routing around all that, but also nice since @mrs.turbodb and I had travelled that route before, and the re-route would afford us a new adventure through Blewitt Pass.
The re-route did not dissappoint - how could it in that area of Washington? - and after taking Scotty Creek road over the pass, and short stint on 97 to Mill Creek Road, we found ourselves above Leavenworth, making our way down out of the mountains.
And then, train tracks across the road. Mini train tracks, really - less than two feet between the rails. This we naturally had to explore, obviously the remnants of an old mine - for what we have no idea.
But we were parked in the middle of the road, and not knowing how much traffic that road saw, we decided we shouldn't linger - that is, until we came upon two big wooden doors that the train tracks disappeared into! Luckily at that point we could pull over to the side of the road to see just what was going on.
The doors were -of course - locked, surely hiding a mother load of gold or other treasure inside, so after a bit more fun we eventually piled back in the trucks for our final descent into Leavenworth.
As we pulled into town, we beelined for Safeway. Daisy and Joe needed ice, we needed mustard, and we all needed fuel. But that's not really what we remember about the experience in Safeway.
What we remember is just how expo that Safeway parking lot was. Once again, we'd forgotten that the Northwest Overland Rally was just a couple days away, and the the crowds were descending.
Maxtrax, arrays of light bars and pods, vendor stickers, white powder-coated armor, and overland trailers were all around. Oh, and of course the Overland Bound medallions.
But something was wrong. And then I realized - the trucks were all so clean. It was as though this Safeway parking lot was as expo as they got. What a shame.
At least the smallest on the trip was getting her own chance to be expo.
Refueld and re-supplied, we decided to push forward another hour or so to find camp - something Joe and Daisy wanted to do a bit earlier tonight, given our early start to the morning. So we headed east to Cashmere, keen to pick up the trail north at the end of the Beehive re-route.
Back on dirt, we started to climb. In the end, we climbed nearly 5000 feet to the top of Chumstick Mountain - in the process, gaining 30 mph in wind and losing 30°F in temperature!
But it was still a special place and we had to take in the views...
Of course, those views made it clear that weather wasn't going to be our friend this evening, and it only looked worse in the forward direction, so we evaluated the map and decided to head back to a small flat area we'd passed on a saddle part way up Chumstick Mountain.
Close to the road and relatively small, this was "not the best camp site," according to @mini.turbodb - a description I revelled in, realizing that at the ripe age of 7, we've already jaded her to look for awesome views in secluded areas.
Camp deployed, we raced to make dinner before the approaching rain and thunderstorms hit - BBQ'd spicy sausages and corn on the menu. Delicious, and finished just as the first drops of rain started to fall.
We were all tired and the cramped quarters meant no evening camp fire, so we called it a night relatively early and retreated to our tents. At least, most of us did. @mini.turbodb actually retreated to our tent, where @mrs.turbodb read Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back - fabulously entertaining for mini, and fabulously sleep inducing for me!
Eventually, I was awoken and carried mini to her tent, the light sprinkling we'd get that night already past. And then, it was back under the covers, an orange sunset visible through the trees on the saddle sheltering us from the worst of the wind. The forecast for the next day, nicer.
As we drifted off to sleep, we hoped that the forecast was correct - there were several lookouts in our future, and being a first for Joe and Daisy, we knew they'd be better with dramatic vistas.