Green Dot May 2021

Having a Blast Out of Kittitas!
(Tamers 5/22/2021 tipping toeing through the green dots…)

I suppose there are some in the Tamers, used to more (ahem) “vigorous” wheeling (trees, mud, big rocks to climb, body damage, rolls, etc.) might view the green dot roads as somewhat tame. (which – I don’t see the problem – we are Tame-ers – after all…) But – this day we did have all of the requisite parts and pieces of a trail run – use of 4WD, AND low range; sidewalls gashed out, PNW pinstriping and general trail rash, 2 rigs needing winching to avoid a memorable roll down an open mountainside – and probably one last bunch of hillclimbs on an open-faced ridge trail that probably caused some folks some degree of VRI. (That’s Vinyl Rectal Inversion – where your butt cheeks become a traction aid clamping onto your seat covers, willing you secure attachment to if not terra firma – at least terra-seata….

We picked up Tamers in 2 groups – one bunch at North Bend at 8 AM – and then by 9:40 AM picked up a few more already camping in eastern WA in Kittitas. In all – this was a 19 rig extravaganza! I actually got sign-ins from at least 15 rigs – before it started taking too much time to get everyone totally signed in. But – rigs in the majority were the usual suspects – both the 2 and 4 door JK’s and JL’s (who can tell them apart?) And one TJ (Mary and me in the notorious BOM – Bride of Moosenstein) Evan in his stretch TJ (oh – sorry Evan – that’s an LJ – yes, I know…) and a few rigs not much seen wheeling in the Tamer fold. My son-in-law Nick and my grandson Hunter wheeling in his Dodge pickup (yep – it’s a Hemi) and Chris Green still having a Jeep in the middle of healing – so he showed in a relatively newer Chev Silverado pickup. Chris Brown, Ashley and the kids in the Xterra – and Haris showing us a little refinement in his (okay – this is a best guess here) Land Rover – Defender maybe? (Haris – okay to correct me…) He provided me an interesting factoid with the touch of a button somewhere inside – he could go from 8 to 12 inches of ground clearance – and can ford a stream up to hood deep. Not that we needed that capability this time around – but those where pretty cool factoids I any case. Mihai was our radio expert complete with a spec book and EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know radio-wise – so we were well set and ready to stay in touch. He even had some spare radios to hand out to those who did not have any on board – which was very handy…

By about 10:30 – we were to the trailhead (only 1 Timber Tamer turnaround required since the turnoff to the green dot trailhead came up a WHOLE LOT more quickly than I’d planned) and aired down – and on our way. I must say – what a difference both a year (and getting in on the intended trail entry) makes. Last year I started out on a green dot entry just a little farther east – and its interesting how NOTHING about the map makes any sense when you don’t realize you started somewhere else than where you thought you were. But this year – the maps were pretty dead on – given both my start point in reality AND on the map – were the same point. The intended destination was to get to Quilomene Bay on the Columbia River (prime directive) or at least ANY point on the Columbia – since there were a few other closer opportunities to make that happen. While I had some idea of the type of wheeling we could expect – I’d been on only a very small portion of any of these trails before. Whiskey Dick Creek Road started as open sagebrush prairie, then going to a real creek bottom track through thick willows and brush. Source I’m sure of much pinstriping that I felt a little badly about – at least on the big pickups. That broke out into more open prairie going due east on Cayuse Rd – which then turned north to become Jacknife Ridge Rd.

While the wheeling was pretty easy – I hear Cosmin pop up on the radio – calling a halt – saying he needed to air up a bit. It appeared he’d sideswiped a rock and knocked his front left tire off the bead. So – it gave everyone a chance to stop, and stretch their legs a bit – with the usual gawking and secret internal thoughts of “Glad it wasn’t my tire….” Cosmin was getting all set to set up the high lift (and pray – since they are so INCREDIBLY stable in holding up a rig – NOT!) And actually – closer examination gave us to know that the tire off the bead did start with the contact with the rock – but further observation revealed he had ripped about a 2” gash in the sidewall of his BFG All-Terrains. No matter – no air is no air, however one gets to that state. Chris Green reviewed the situation – and thought we’d all be better off with not one – but 2 of the jacks he just happened to have in the Silverado. I think both a bottle jack and a floor jack, plus a big piece of cribbing – which made for a much better platform from which to change a tire. It wouldn’t be the last time this day those jacks would be put to use – and it has given rise to a new trail name for Chris – he will now be known as “Two-Jacks” Green. Very handy on so many levels.
So Cayuse Rd took us east – but then as if we were following a big double-looped lazy-8 – then a left turn north started us up Jacknife Ridge Rd. There were some pretty expansive views to tidy looking farmsteads to the east – presumably across the Columbia River we could not yet see. Hard to believe is that it was already nearing 1 PM – and I’m sure someone in the group was looking forward to lunch. Mary was my navigator – and she was suggesting we steer down towards a spot called Scammon Landing. So – we slowly wandered down off the ridge, until things looked brushy, and the river finally came into view. There was an area sufficient to park all of the rigs – and we were right down at the water, breaking out sandwiches and hanging out. With the river in front of us and the smell of fresh spring sage in the air – we pulled out sandwiches and drinks and got ready for a leisurely chow down.

One of the rigs in attendance contained an old and noteworthy pair of friends – like nephews or sons to me – brothers Colin and Chad Painter. Their dad Bill and I have been best buddies since I moved to WA from the east coast in 1981 – and these 2 were just young boys when I first met them. The “boys” are now in their mid-40’s – and they still come to see this old man, which is a total blessing to me. Colin is working for the forest service down in the Columbia gorge – taking a break from life in TX, and Chad who lives in western WA came along for the ride to explore. Of note – Colin was my passenger that ill-fated Labor Day Tamer Run in 2002. I had a gear in the transfer case of my CJ-5 break at the top of a really steep hill in Liberty – and the ensuing mechanical and physical carnage from a multiple times roll down the hillside got us both a medivac helicopter ride out of the woods. So – it was a real treat to be on the trail with him again – now with him driving his own JK. During lunch – he broke out a drone he had on board, taking pics of the group and checking out nearby caves we could see in the surrounding cliffs – so hopefully when he gets back out of the woods this weekend – he’ll get me some footage to add to the run report. Also – during lunch break – I went about to re-establish the tradition of passing out Hostess Donettes to everyone – since of course – it’s been a Tamer tradition for many years – that “It’s not a trail run without a donut.” Colin surprised me by bringing his own bag – his comment being that it was the donettes that saw us safely through that accident in 2002. Okay – I am totally good with that!

By now – it was closing in on 2 PM – so it was time to get rolling. I was pretty clear that to get up to Quilomene Bay was probably at least 2 more hours than we really had available – so that will be a destination for another day. So – after a left turn – headed more or less (when you look at the map – you’ll see that road zig-zagging ALL over in many directions) south on the Skookumchuk Crossover – crossing over the Whiskey Dick Creek Road. It was along here – we found the remains of an old stone house. Just walls, window arches, door opening and a 2 foot thick rock “fence.” Looks like maybe sometime in the farther-ago past there had been a fire. It was also somewhere along here – Chris Brown also tagged a rock – taking a slice out of a sidewall on his rear Falken Wildpeak AT3. Again – it was “Two Jacks” to the rescue – before we continued on. Then a short stint on Pumphouse Road – and a right up a bracing hillclimb that was to become the Whiskey Dick Ridge Rd. I’m kind glad we left this for last. It was different from the rest of the trails – and the views were stunning once we got a little elevation. While traction was good – the first hill up was steep enough that we went up one by one – making sure the rig ahead cleared the steepest part before the next one followed. This ridge just seemed to climb, and climb, and climb – until behind us – we were far above the Columbia plateau – seeing the farms east of the river spreading out east and south. Plus occasionally to the west – we’d get a full windshield view of the turbines at the Wild Horse Wind Farm.

Wheeling the many years I’ve been doing this – I’ve kind of gotten past needing the “security” of knowing that the rig ahead of me went up something that looked difficult and nothing bad happened to it. But I have to say – while being in the lead was great for avoiding dust – this ridge trail was nothing but open, and steep uphill straight to the passenger side to the north and fall-away downhill nothingness on the driver side to the south – with straight ahead the road still continuing to climb up some significant hills with the basalt rock steps to get up over here and there – only slightly relieved by more level transit across the hill – but these a narrow off-camber driver side downhill that gave me an extra incentive to be paying attention. I had just gotten past the worst of the uphill, downhill and off-camber – when the radio crackled to life with “We’ve got a bit of a problem back here….” One voice said that Haris was off the trail on the downhill side, and then Haris came on the radio, sounding magnificently calm – and suggesting he could “probably ease himself back up on the trail by himself….” I responded back – “HARIS – JUST STAY PUT AND DON’T DO ANYTHING! WE WILL NEED TO GET A COUPLE OF WINCHES ON YOU TO HELP YOU BACK UP!” Thankfully – he appeared to understand that gravity is a jealous and powerful mistress who isn’t very forgiving. Now – I don’t know how far the line of 19 was spread out. Could have been a mile give or take. Only Colin and Chad and Cosmin were behind me – and there was nowhere in that part of the trail to pull off and do the 24 point turn. So – I had to go forwards another half mile or so to find a place I felt okay about turning around – and then headed back to see what was up. Once I got past Colin and Cosmin, and past another peak – saw the gaggle of rigs back on the trail where a rig should be – and then the Land Rover canted over and with the 2 driver side tires down off the trail where they really shouldn’t have been. Geez Haris – doesn’t that thing have lane departure warning on it?

By the time I got myself to the scene – Curt Brady had the rescue well in hand. I guess Evan even had also taken a bad bounce off the trail – so he got winched back first – then Curt was orchestrating, Evan had a winch on the front of the Land Rover and Mihai had a winch on the back. It was a delicate dance. The hill above the trail was really too steep to winch off of, and the trail was pretty narrow and off camber. It was a coordinated effort of a little pull forwards to move Haris’s rig up even by an inch in the front, then a tug from the back – and back and forth, inch by inch up – and working to not tip over the winch rigs – finally – Haris was back on the trail. Kathy said she’s actually never seen a rescue like this done – so it was nicely done and educational too. Then Steve had parked up off the trail – and was wanting a little spotting to get back from being perpendicular nose up uphill to the trail – back to on the trail. I worked him through another (only this time a) 13 point turn – and got him back ready to go. The report from those who saw what happened was a rock on the trail just big enough to pop a rig up in the air if one drove over it – and that’s what popped Haris and Evan up and over the side. Again – something so simple – and yet a very real reminder why you should not ever go out wheeling alone. With no trees and nothing big enough to tie onto – I’m not entirely sure how an individual rig would have self-rescued. This would have been one of those things of legend where you dig a hole big enough to sink a spare tire on its side in it about a foot down, with the tire iron underneath the wheel across the center hole with the winch cable tied off to it – then fill the hole back in with dirt – then pull against that. Yeah – I’ve never done it either – and hope I never have to…..

By this time it was closing in on after 5 – and we still had a little run out to the trailhead, then airing up and the pavement – but from there – all was thankfully uneventful. To the west – showed the clouds stacking up against the mountains. By a little after 6 – we were all aired up – and heading out on the pavement.

As Mary remarked to me as we were rolling home – “It was a good day, Tater…” I believe everyone had gotten out of the day what they’d hoped for – and it sure was fun to be out in the Jeep and get to feel a little wild for a bit.

Well – except for the Brown family. They had planned anyway to hotel things in Ellensburg with the kids Saturday night. I didn’t realize until I started reading some texts after I got home – a little twist they experienced with the tire change. The stock wheels are 16’s – which was the size of the spare. Somewhere along the line – someone had put 17’s on the rig. And the Xterra was not in any way liking driving past 35-40 MPH in such a fashion. And has an aggressive limited slip that was feeling kind of angry and hot trying to make up the difference between the 2 tire/wheel sizes. And there were no tire places open in E-burg even remotely close to 8 PM on a Saturday night. Nor anytime on Sunday. Yes – just before I hit the crib about 10 PM at home Saturday night – I read through the texts copied to me between Curt and Chris explaining this – as they wondered aloud how they might get home without blowing anything up – or undue cost. So the run actually completed on Sunday – as I headed out with ‘Burb and trailer (with seats for 5) to get everyone home – which we did accomplish by about 3 PM. A second reminder – never go out alone – and keep in touch with your friends so everyone gets out and home in 1 piece. It’s what Tamers do!

Thank you for everyone who came along!

Thanks for readin’ –

And Keep on Wheelin’!!!
  • Moose