Doe Run on the Naches Trail Jul 2010

Doe Run 2010 – An Historical Journey
So – was that historical, or hysterical? Well – there was some hysteria reported – but first – a little history lesson. What is so incredibly cool about heading up over the Naches Trail for the Doe Run – is that in some ways, we commemorate some people who apparently were made of much stronger stuff than even we are. It was 1853 – even before the Civil War – that settlers were pushing their way out east to west – to find a place to call home. A lot of settlers up to this point had been going to the Oregon Territory via the Oregon Trail – but once the Oregon and Washington Territories were divided – the only way to get to the Puget Sound from the east was to head to Portland, then come up the Cowlitz River. Without rail and wagon roads – it meant for slow travel from the east to get to the Puget Sound. Then Captain George McClellan (later a Major General in the Civil War) being charged with finding transcontinental railroad routes to the west, suggested the Naches Pass over a few other more well known routes in use today. One report I read had the following to say about his investigation:
During this assignment, he demonstrated a tendency for insubordination toward senior political figures. Isaac Stevens, governor of the Washington Territory, became dissatisfied with McClellan’s performance in scouting passes across the Cascade Range. (McClellan selected Yakima Pass without a thorough reconnaissance and refused the governor’s order to lead a party through it in winter conditions, relying on faulty intelligence about the depth of snowpack in that area. He also neglected to find three greatly superior passes in the near vicinity, which would be the ones eventually used for railroads and interstate highways.)
This lack of winter scouting may in part explain the fun we have doing the Red Eye run at the end f the wheeling season.
In any case – upon incomplete preparation of a wagon road by McClellan – (of whom Ulysses S. Grant commented at the end of the Civil War, “He is one of the great mysteries of the war”) the Longmire party had come up from Oregon through Yakima by way of Ft. Walla Walla to head west to Greenwater and then Puget Sound at Ft. Steilacoom. We think we have a tough time – even on the Red Eye, but t was nothing compared to what the Longmire Party had ahead of them. McClellan had not finished road preparations for the Longmire Party. So one group headed out from Puyallup to prepare things on the west side of the pass. On the east side, the other party received mistaken information that the Longmire was NOT on their way from Ft. Walla Walla – so they quit. (D’OH!!!)
Well – quit or not – Longmire was not to be deterred. He had a wagon train of oxen and wagons, and settlers, and it was mid-September. They were expecting McClellan to have prepared “The People’s Road,” – only to find that the improved road ended at an old Indian Trail. And the trail was not really enough to run wagons across. But no matter. They were committed. Winter was coming, and they knew that they had to get to the west of the pass. So – they continued on, cutting their way through the forest.
Not much is reported of the trip up to the pass from the east – except to say that there were over 60 (!) crossings of the Naches River. This with 53 wagons! It starts to make sense why they rested for 3 days at the top of the pass at Government Meadows. If they’d known what was to follow, they might have just stayed put – although winter at 5,000 ft altitude on the Naches might be a tough place to stay for a season.
While I haven’t seen it (but may have to go looking someday) near the turn off the 70 road up to the start of the wheeling trail, is a cliff off to the right. It is an 800’ to 1000’ drop over less than a mile – almost 45 degree grade – that those wagons had to be lowered down. They Longmire Party did not have enough rope to fully lower the wagons – so a number of oxen were butchered, and their hides cut into strips and braided together to make straps to lower wagons down the grade. (It would make one almost effusive to only have to get out and be a modern day winch bitch by comparison….) I’d like to see it with my own eyes – but I have seen a picture at “the Cliff” where the wagons were lowered on ropes with their wheels locked. There are grooves in an old tree where the ropes rubbed while lowering 53 wagons down hat staggering grade. Finally – the party made it to Ft. Steilacoom in mid-October.
So this trip we take over and back in a leisurely day due to well built rigs and engines and a little gasoline – were certainly a test of strength, skill and mental endurance for the first party through. (Of course – that could also be said of the Red Eye runners, dependent on the year.)
Three weeks after the Longmire Party came through – a second wagon train also travelled the pass – but it’s funny when you’re second. I have not found the name of the 2nd party to travel the pass.
In a testament to McClellan’s – ineptitude? Lack of perseverance? Bad judgement? Laziness? Not many parties followed up the trail after the first few parties went through, and the pass fell into disuse, given that a new route was developed over a pass a little farther north in a place called – Snoqualmie.
Well – thus endeth the history lesson.
Or at least – the older history lesson. In my reading – I saw one reference that as a centennial commemoration of the Longmire feat, that the first 4×4’s crossed the Naches Pass in 1953. And we’ve been crossing it ever since.
And even coming to the most excellent day of the Doe run 2010 – more recent history kept bubbling up from Doe Runs and Red Eyes of years gone by.
I have to tell you – the day could not have been more perfect. One of the few blue sky cloudless days we’ve had this summer, of perfect temperature. By 8:30AM at the Enumclaw Safeway – the Jeeps started to line up. Melissa and Rudi, Gina and John, Mary and me, Terry (no doe) Mike R (neither any doe) Ted playing the doe with Dan-O as copilot in his Toy and Wyatt and Tristan filling in as “we’re not does either, man!”
Before departure, we were pestered in the parking lot by some weirdo on a motorcycle. Oh – wait a second. Yes, he was a weirdo. He was on a motorcycle. But he was one of ours. Sporting a perky orange T-shirt and orange camo bandana along with his trendy buttless chaps (okay – I might be making that part up – if I think about it more than a few moments, I may have to poke out my mind’s eye) Dirtball was looking just a skosh forlorn not joining us on the trail. I asked him if he was working, and his response was “we-e-e-llll – Honey-Do work.” We were trying to think of good excuses to make that someone would need to call the Stevens household, saying that they needed help, and Mark and his rig were the only ones that could do it. He said, “No – Lori would know that was just BS.” Finally – we hit upon the perfect ruse. Mary said, “Tell Lori that I forgot to bring an opener for my bottle of wine, and I must have one right away, and only Dirtball can get it to me in time!” We all agreed that this was the most believable story we could make up. However – Mark being honorable and true in the extreme, he started his bike up and headed for home to tackle the Honey-Do’s without delay.
True to their word – Gina and John had us on the road by 9:00AM razor sharp – none of this Tamer Standard Time nonsense for them. We were rocking and rolling, given that even easy days stretch long on the Naches.
All the usual – head east from Enumclaw, and for 45 minutes, take the road to the 70 road, and head to the gravel, then pull over for a potty stop, and air down, and head up for the first hillclimb.
Tamers runs take all sorts of shapes and forms. Sometimes we’re a mix of old hands and trail virgins, and there is a lot of introduction and hand holding and teaching going on. Sometimes – it’s all old hands and capable rigs – as was the case on this trip. That type of mix generally makes for an air of ease – of wheeling with mastery and just sheer enjoyment to be out on the trail. Like old friends who have known each other long enough to about be out of surprises for each other, but no less enjoy the company they share. With the blue sky and perfectly, but not overly warm sun – this was a trial ride to savor.
It had been about 4 years since I’d been on the Naches. I think the last time was the ill fated trip with Robb Lee. It was hot and muggy, with a ton of annoying, biting flies. A guy with a nice Wagoneer somehow managed to drop his rig on its side on the first hillclimb. I think he split a steering pump hose and couldn’t turn hid rig. Robb’s fuel pump had died near the top of the first hillclimb. Teri Smith went in to town to get another, and Robb and I changed it out on the trail in the afternoon. I think we didn’t even get up the 2nd hillclimb, since so much of the day was spent on the first one. Mary invented a fly exterminating device she called “The Tamernator”. It was a forked tree limb on which she wrapped duct tape with the sticky side out. You could catch a pile of flies with one of those babies.
But no need for a Tamernator or a fuel pump on this trip. Everyone’s rig was running well. Gina and John left his 1 Bad CJ at home and were travelling civilized in the Rubicon JK. Terry was getting used to his purchased-earlier-this year TJ. Mike was stylin’ in his newly rattle-canned Scrambler. Ted and Danny getting along just fine in his bobbed Toy Truck, Melissa and Rudi doing their legendary thing in the Red YJ – and Auto M and me were cool, calm and collected in her silver TJ.

Dan-O came up with the best clean joke of the day:
Q. “If you drop a grand piano down a mine shaft, what sound does it make when it hits bottom?”
A. “A-Flat minor….”
As for more recent history – every twist and turn of the trail brought a new memory. Scrambler Mike and the starter he never did get going. The snowy hillclimb with Mike’s Scrambler, a Sammy, and strap stretched between them, and a winch that didn’t work. Danny, and which part of the trail did he REALLY dump Julie out into the mud puddle? (Was it here? No there. No wait – it was – THERE. Nah. It was actually over there. Wait a second – it couldn’t have been there. Maybe it was over there?) Knowing Danny and Julie – it could have been almost ANYWHERE Dan dumped Jules into a mud puddle.
Almost as if we had a set a schedule – we hit Government Meadows right at lunch time. Out came the lunch victuals, and the obligatory walk to the cabin in the meadow. Not a problem. The meadows were breath taking. The stream was running through the grass and the cabin was cool and inviting, and in fine shape. And then more Red-Eye memories of Gary TJ and a mouse in his sleeping bag, which then bounced from sleeping bag to sleeping bag to sleeping bag – as it got ping ponged around amongst all of the Red Eye runners that particular year.
Also recalled was the famous beaver slide of former Tamer member Mike Baxter – who slid and bounced down a steep, icy downhill on the eastern side of the pass, finally popping out of the ruts, and laying off the trail drivers side down, propped against some trees with Mike hanging in the driver’s seat – until he got winched back onto the trail. It is said he hightailed it for home, and never was seen on the trail again. Also recounted was Crash and Stu’s night of flammability in their little tent. They had a heater with a faulty connection to the tank – and somewhere along the line – a spark was struck, and the leaking propane near the top of the tent blew off in a scene reminiscent of a miniature Hindenburg. (Either that – or those guys need to watch their chilie intake at dinnertime….) Apparently – hair cuts were unneeded by both for a few months thereafter, the fireball having consumed at least a little of it.
It was at that point that not only events of historical significance were remembered , but also some of more recent hysterical significance as well. Through cunning and covert interrogation techniques of unnamed sources – it was implied that some of the guys were taking, shall we say (ahem) a less than relaxed approach to their role as passenger. Due to the tardy nature of this report, the black and blue marks their does are reputed to have inflicted on them have faded into a fond memory by now – but there were reports by some still to be unnamed sources amongst the driving does – that their spousal counterparts were less than sanguine at not being behind the steering wheel. The does driving their rigs with such ease, such dignity and aplomb, and yet their passengers were verging on the manic. Ah – but not to worry. All rigs made the trip without scrape (although I can’t vouch for Gina and John’s clear coat) and the downhill side of the pass went lazily without incident.

Well – okay – maybe not a full blown incident, but certainly a squeeze. Near the last section of the trail is about the only real wheeling that took getting into a true wheeling frame of mind. The trail heads up out of a stream bed area (because we’re all environmentally conscious – of course) – and for about ¼ mile – the trail gets steep, tight, off camber, and really makes you think a little harder than you should have to at the end of a trip. It’s of little comfort to remember that with all the trees on the down side of the sidehill – you really can’t get into too much trouble. And maybe that would have been less of an issue if Mary and I had been driving Moosenstein – which is CJ wide and the sheet metal “trail modified”. But – you recall – Gina was in the lead in their styling JK. Of course – a YJ is wider than a CJ. A TJ is a little wider than a YJ. And rumor had it that the JK is another 8 inches wider than a TJ – due to that critical trail necessity – electric windows.
So – the trail headed a sharp left – up a radically steep “seeing-mostly-sky” incline. Then – while the sidehill was still begging gravity to pull you down back into the stream bed (on your lid) and a trail that was only another inch wider than the rig’s track – it took a sharp right – squeezing right between a root and tree and about 2 feet high of bank on the driver’s side. Now – it was bad enough that between the root, the sidehill, and gravity – all any rig wanted to do was to crab sideways down the hill. But then there was that tree on the passenger side, threatening to squeeze paint, metal and fender flares right off any rig daring to pass. And every rig leaned hard over into the tree on the down side of the trail. And every move back and forth to align just correctly to squeeze past that keyhole, mostly served to settle the passenger door of the rig closer and closer to the tree as it proceeded sideways down the slope.
Well – I can’t say that I got a firsthand account from Gina. From where I was chillin’ in Mary’s passenger seat – it looked like she had plenty enough spotters giving her conflicting information. No need for me to join the confusion. But I could see her slowly working the JK around that devilish squeeze, and I’m here to report that it went through with only the barest kiss of the bark on the right rear fender flare. (Of course – when you buy your next Jeep, I would suggest you order up the a few trail critical optional features. One would be the automatic seat cover recovery device – for getting your seat cover back where it belongs after an extreme case of “vinyl-rectal inversion.” The other would be the body-side K-Y dispenser – to make it easier to slide through those tight spots – when you just wish your rig had a little more personal lubrication. But Gina did a masterful job getting those electric windows past the squeeze – with nary a mark, or even need to utilize their insurance deductible.
But I have to say – it’s easy to critique – until you get in the same position. Mary did a fabulous job (as I knew she would) getting past that choke point. If we’d had my rig, I probably would have just engaged in sloppy driving, using my fenders as a kind of Kamakaze bumper car to just push through. But Mary has far more respect for her lovely daily driver – and she cozied her rig through at a well positioned crawl. But I gotta tell ya – being the passenger on the down side of a pronounced sidehill on a narrow path – I revisited visions of a medivac helicopter ride that had once pulled me out of the woods. I was doing my own little bit of butt scrabbling onto the seat – having to really concentrate on the fact that if Gina could do it in her even wider Jeep – that at no time would we run out of trail on the side to side basis. And indeed – that was the result. Once you get through – you just wonder what all the angst was about.
In the rear view, I could see Melissa making the whole thing entirely too easy. Although I don’t know how many deaths Rudi might have died in the meantime. But – with a sigh of relief – we all got to the last right turn – back on the low ground on a wide level trail. Whew! Reminded me of my dive out of the Jeep and nose plant into the parking lot after my first bout of terror at Moab Rim. There is nothing like surviving a little fright to make life seem a little more sweet.
That was about the end of the trail for that day. We headed down the Naches River Road looking for a place to camp. Being that the weekend weather was superb – and this was late on Saturday – most obvious camping spots had already been occupied. But finally – we found a place near the river in the woods that was NOT trailer or RV friendly, and we pulled in to find an open area, a fire circle, and other not too close. That would be camp for the night.
Mary and I hadn’t planned on camping, having a new puppy at home, and a house to finish painting, so we headed out to Whistlin’ Jacks for a beer and a burger. As we left – the others set up camp, ready for a night of rest, and more adventures to follow going up Kaner, the Shoestring and other points in the area. Ah – but that is a story for another author. Terry and Mary and I headed west into the setting sun, glad to have been out on the trail with friends – another way just now in our souls – for one rally important day – we were salive and appreciative to enjoy that fact.

Thanks for reading, and keep on wheeling!!!