Family and I did not get to leave the house until about 5pm because of other commitments and I was really dreading traffic but as it turned out the drive over only took about 15 minutes more than usual since traffic was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. We got to the campsite about 8pm to find that Gary and Casey were already there as was Jon as well as John and Mariscal. Camp was setup in about 30 minutes and we settled in around the campfire ring to wait for other late arrivals. At 1:30am I could not hold out anymore and climbed into bed. I guess about 2:30am Rick and Jennifer got to camp after having GPS issues, quickly setup the tent trailer, and collapsed.
Saturday dawned bright with clear skies promising to be no top, no doors, no worries weather. Daren was the first of the day trippers to arrive and was later followed by Jeff. We got a slow start and so rolled out of camp at 9:30am heading up and over the ridge towards the 4wd trails. Dust was an issue and so we tried to space out, kept the pace slower in order to help mitigate the problem but it still sucked for the people in back. The commute did not take long though and we hit the upper part of the Divide Trail first. Everyone was doing great, the trails were all logged out, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the flowers were blooming in full force. It was a great day to be on the trail.
When we got to China Hill (no idea why that is the name). I set up the GoPro in an attempt to get a shot of everyone going down the hill so that I could hopefully turn it into a new video for the Tamers web site. As each of us took our turn at the hill, the camera caught all of the action including the tire lifts, suspension unloading, and the few tense moments that occurred. We all made it down the hill though and kept on going down the trail looking to see what we could find around the next corner.
We got to the end of the Divide trail and took a moment for a pit stop and pictures before heading up to Quartz Mountain to have lunch hoping that a breeze would keep the bugs away while we did so. Just before we headed out Gary said that he had a funny noise in his transfer case and should probably head back to camp before something really bad happed and he lost more than just 4low (which he already had lost). We all headed for Quartz and since I was in the lead I got to play a little in the snow that was still on top (about 3-4 feet in places) before hearing that Gary was going to turn around as the noise in the T case was getting really bad. I went ahead and drove back down the road passing the rest of the group which was going to go play in the snow and have lunch up top. While they were up there Melissa, Cassidy, and I had lunch with Gary and Casey waiting for the T case to cool down a little hoping that would help.
Sitting there eating lunch and talking, I was a little surprised when a Coyote walked across the road about 30 feet from us without so much as a sideways glance. They are usually pretty skittish so he must have been a deaf and blind coyote since he did not even acknowledge we were there. We hear over the radio that the rest of the crew was coming back down and so Gary and I worked out a route and plan for he and Casey to go back to camp. They would take a specific route and so that when we were done wheeling we would make sure to take the same route to ensure they made it back to camp. Turns out that was a good idea. Gary and Casey took off and I waited for the rest of the group to come down from Quartz. When we were all together again we followed them with the intention of running down Wells Meadow.
When we got to the trail head Rick, Jennifer, and Daren decided they were going to go ahead and head back to camp as they wanted to visit a bit before Daren had to return home early for another commitment. I showed them how to get back to camp the same way Gary and Casey were going and the group split up again with just 4 rigs taking the trail and now 4 rigs heading to camp.
Down the trail we go creeping and crawling putting along enjoying the flowers and trying to keep moving at just the right pace to be faster than the bugs who wanted to devour us. A couple miles into it we popped up on a bit of a ridge and I hear Rick talking to Gary over the CB. Rick is now towing Gary back to camp. Apparently the noise got a lot worse in the T case and so when Rick, Jennifer, and Daren caught up to Gary and Casey they found them driving backwards towards camp because the noise was not so bad in reverse. With an update that everyone was ok and a promise to come back to camp over the same route just in case and we kept wheeling.
Wells Meadow completed we took the Manastash Ridge trail heading towards Shoestring and the rock garden. Somewhere in the middle I was one the Ham Radio trying to reach Kevin from the Rainer Ridge Rams who was supposed to be in the area when I heard someone else calling me. Turns out it was a Ham in Lake Forest Park (100+ miles away)who heard me and just wanted to say hello. Keep in mind there was no Cellular signal where we were. So if you have any doubts as to the capabilities of Ham Radio to communicate over long distances â€¦ there you go.
Dropping off of the Manastash Ridge Trail we touched the Shoestring and then jumped into the Rock Garden where with the exception of Melissa, Cassidy, and I no one else had ever been. As such they were all appropriately in awe as each of us going through that moonscape is when we see it for the first time. If you have never been there it is something to behold and you really should try to do it sometime. We wandered our way through the garden following the not so visible trail through the hills and valleys of rock coming out the other side and wishing the trail was just a bit longer. We ran down the little bit of the Tip Over Trail there was towards the Shoestring and out the Shoestring past Region 4 Meadows and on towards Manastash campground. There we spilt up with John and Mariscal heading to town for supplies with Jeff heading towards home while the rest of use ran the agreed route back to camp just in case there were more issues getting Gary and Casey back. One more thing of note was that on the way back we saw about 10 Elk. One big bull with a bunch of cows and two calves right there in the meadow at Gnat flats just as you come down the FS road. It was a little early in the evening to see them and with the moon almost full I would have expected them to be out at night and not day. There they were though and I was happy for the chance to see them.
We finished the run back to camp to find that they early returners had made it just fine and there was no one to go searching for. Daren had already left and Jon had to head that way also to take care of a commitment but planned to return the next afternoon. John and Mariscal returned and we all settled in around the fire ring for the evening. After falling asleep in my chair I decided it was time to turn in and so bid goodnight to the group.
Second Day dawned much like the first except it was a little cooler but not so cool that you needed a coat if you did not want to have one. Only day trippers that we were expecting today were Chad, Dana, Kaelee, Colton, and Jaden. They rolled in just before 9am and had to wait for the rest of us to get our rear in gear to go wheeling. Gary and Casey decided they needed to be camping more than being at home and so planned to hang around camp since the Sammy was down for the count. So it was that Melissa, Cassidy, and I along with John, Mariscal, Rick, Jennifer, Chad, Dana, Jaden, Colton, and Kaelee left camp about 9:40am heading up and over the ridge towards the 4wd trails. We started with the Divide Trail again but this time headed towards Buck Meadows so that we could go across the bridge. Again we had people in the group that had never been over the bridge and as it is kind of a have to do, we made sure it got done.
From there we headed to Tripod flats along the 4W307 with the intention of going past the Moon Rocks and on the trails out towards Barber Springs which I had never run before. This would make sure that we got back to camp a little earlier so that Chad had a chance to head towards home before the back seat crowd got to restless. Just at the end of the 4W307 you pop out onto a ridge with a great view of Mt Rainer. It was noon and there was a breeze so we decided it was a good place to stop for lunch.
The mountain was big in the background and no one could resist getting pictures taken with the mountain in the background not to mention the flowers blooming all around. So it was that I did not think it odd when Chad handed me his phone so that I could take pictures of Colton, Jaden, Kaelee, Dana, and himself. I snapped off a few pictures and let him know I was done. He asked the kids to come stand with everyone else so that I could get one of just Dana and him. I snapped off a couple pictures of them together with the mountain in the background and then before I knew it Chad was down on one knee holding a ring before Dana asking her to marry him (Melissa told me to keep taking pictures at this point â€¦ thank you dear). Dana was shocked to say the least not to mention everyone else watching this special occasion unfold. I think it took her about 30 seconds to get her breath back before should could say YES so that Chad could put the ring on her finger and they could seal it with a kiss. After what seemed like an appropriate amount of time the two came up for air and everyone closed in with congratulations, hugs, and handshakes. On occasion when you are out with the Tamers there is a moment that happens which is remembered again and again when we gather. Each moment is different and they are all remembered for different reasons. This is one of those moments and I for one will remember it with no small amount of happiness for years to come. Thank you for sharing the special moment with us Chad and Dana.
Needless to say compared to that moment the rest of the day was not to eventful. Once everyone was ready we headed towards the Moon Rocks and climbed up the line across the top to drop down on the other side and head out the trail towards Barber Springs. We stopped along the way so that I could catch a couple of Geocaches and people could take breaks but the trip was largely uneventful. Getting down to Manastash road people decided that supplies were in order so John and Mariscal went to Ellensburg while the rest of us headed to Thorp for Fuel and Ice Cream. There was a pretty good head wind blowing on the way to Thorp but it helped to cool things down a little and made the drive across the valley a pleasant one. Fueled and Treated we headed back to camp so that Chad could get his mud flaps before heading home with his FiancĂ©e and the kids while the rest of us got dinner and settled in for the evening around the campfire ring including Jon who was back in camp.
The third day dawned with almost as nice as the other two but just a touch cooler. I had to wear a sweatshirt for a while as it was just a little too cool in the morning but eventually I did not need to have one. The day never did get hot really but it was nice. Everyone got up and moving again and before we left on the run we said our goodbyes to John and Mariscal who were heading for home as well as Casey and Gary who had planned to go home on Monday morning from the get go. So it was that we were just 3 rigs. Jon in his JK Crawler, Rick and Jennifer in the XJ that can, and Melissa, Cassidy, and I in the YJ that will not quit. We ran up and over the hill again this time running down the Divide Trail towards Buck Meadows with the intention of crossing the bridge again then heading for Tri Pod Flats.
On the way to Tri Pod we came upon a Ford Ranger with a 70s Bronco that were having carburetor issues. Apparently all of the bouncing around on the rocks had caused the carburetor on the Bronco to act up and they were having issues getting it started again. We took the time to help them get things going again with a little advice and a jumpstart. With assurances that they we good then we parted ways and continued on up the trail towards Tri Pod again. Through Tri Pod we went and then just after turned onto the Tip Over Trail and that part of it that we had not run this weekend. There were a few spots on the trail that gave all three of the rigs a moment of pause. If it was not fitting your rig between trees it was losing traction on a steep rocky hill but we all got through it just fine. Popping out of the trees in to the area that had burned a couple years before as the result of a forest fire started by lightening we deemed the breeze good enough to keep the bugs away and stopped for lunch on the trail surrounded once again by wild flowers. We all talked to a while and ate lunch while taking pictures and picking up a bit of trash here and there which others had left behind.
Lunch finished we motored on down the trail. There was talk of running up Manashtash ridge as no one had been there before but time was not in our favor so we decided to head for the Rock Garden again since Rick and Jennifer had never been there. So it was that we wondered through the Rock Garden and came out the other side onto the Shoestring trail. We ran the last little bit of that to the Manashtash Ridge Trail which we ran to Wells Meadow and up to the FS road leading to Quartz Mountain. Once on the road we turned away from Quartz Mountain and headed back towards camp after a quick pitstop at the facilities near the end of the Divide Trail. Back up and over the hill and into camp so that we could all clean up and get ready to head home the next morning. With dinner completed we sat around the fire ring and talked about the day as well as days gone by, enjoying each other’s company. Wiped out, we all turned in about the same time and I bet it was not 29 seconds after my head hit the pillow that I was asleep.
The morning dawned again much like the previous three but with one difference. There were a couple of Raven’s screaming and it was much too early. I do not know who told them we wanted to get up that early or maybe they got the message wrong and mixed up campsites but it was too early. With the threat of horrible traffic on the pass looming over my head I wanted to get an early start anyway and so started to work towards that goal. Jon left just before Melissa, Cassidy, and I at about 8am . We said goodbye to Rick and Jennifer who were going to move camp to the Naches as they were on an extended holiday. Wished I could have gone over there with them. It is always nice to camp with the Tamers.
– Leaving early before a long weekend is not always the best way to avoid traffic.
– Casey likes to put up a lot of signs pointing to where the Tamers are camping.
– Tamer Time is real and if something actually starts on time it is early.
– Anything can happen when Chad hands you his camera.
– The Rock Garden is really cool even if you have been there a dozen times.
– Camping even if you rig is broken is better than going home and doing chores.