Naches Trail Aug 2015

Running the Naches – 8/15/2015
You know – I’m going to let someone else write the typical trail report this time.

I know you’ve come to expect the usual facts – the weather was cool (it was) the previous day’s rain had held down the dust (it did) the company was convivial (you bet!) and more than a few amusing things happened along the way (of course!)  In truth – it was a run amongst runs – and on its face – nothing particularly exceptional happened – which is okay.  No one broke anything, crunched anything, had to take a whole bunch of runs at anything.  (It’s true….)  1 little bit of winching on the first hillclimb by 1 rig, and no problems for anyone on the 2nd – since it looks like someone had previously done a little trimming on the big root in the middle of the hill so it wasn’t reaching out and grabbing anyone’s top anymore (civilization ho!!!)  That we ran the trail in the most usual west-to-east direction (we should mix that up one of these days.)  That we had 6 rigs – 3-TJ’s 2 JK’s, 1 XJ – yes – I’ll let someone else tell you all about that.
Not that it wasn’t a good run.  There was EVERYTHING good about the run.  (Under the reasoning a bad day wheeling is still way better than most other good days doing something else.)  And that’s what I want to report on – a run by the members of this club – and what that means.  Or maybe – what it means to me….
Because I’ve been around this club for just short of 2 decades.  And with trail drama being a little on the low side, and wheeling easily with skilled wheelers flowing nicely, smoothly – it gave me some space to remember all the special things about this group of people.
That with all our various backgrounds and rigs in various states of build – our “mold” is to be a little outside of the mold.  And to appreciate what makes us kinda the same, and also a bit different.  I found out 1 person enjoys history – much like I do – as I once again retold the tale of the Naches trail being the route taken by settlers making their way from Yakima to the Puget Sound in 1853.  That person got a Jeep to be able to see places like Government Meadows, marveling that it takes us part of a day which took those settlers more than a month to complete.
And another gifted me by confiding in me how many years young or old that person was – trusting that I would hold that information with respect.
And another offering a spontaneous hug – because we were Tamers together having another adventure.
And another sharing the same off-beat sense of humor I have.  Fun to have some time together just having fun.  All humor in reasonably good taste, yet with little concern for having to be politically correct.  Because somewhere in your life – like on a trail run – PC just has to go off duty.
In a world where at least some folks have lost their sense of humor, enjoying more the gotcha’ moment and putting others down than reveling in the joy and accomplishments of others – that is one of the things I can tell you about this trail run – that we all rejoice in the learnings and successes of our comrades.  The tell being easy conversation about common things we all know about our own lives shared with others.
And remembering my own personal history with the Naches.  My first run up the first hillclimb was my first club run with my 2nd wheeling rig I had in the club.  I thought I was pretty hot stuff, because I had a ’76 CJ with a V-8 and very stiff 2-1/2” Rancho lifted springs and 33” off-brand all terrain something-or-others on the wheels.  I’d like to not tell you about my low-budget rear rack I  constructed out of 2×4’s and plywood and sheetrock screws hanging off the back of my rig like a kindling pile holding my gas can (yeah – I might publish some pics of that someday.)  And – I since I didn’t at the time know jack about hills and carbs, and gears and lockers – my wheeling education began in earnest on my first run up the Naches.  With a Holley street carb that didn’t like hills, and stock gears in my t-case (2:1 reduction) and the stock 3 speed tranny and the open/open diffs – I think by the 4th or 5th unsuccessful assault on the first climb – I started to learn how to go up foot down on the right, slipping the clutch with the left to keep RPM’s up to clear the carb, and bouncing up and over every rock I was spitting from under me.  All while being in mortal fear for my life.  About the first right nudge up the hill I believe is where I ejected my gas can on a really big wallow and bump as my carb choked and sloshed and died and roared back to life – and my spotter just said to keep going until things levelled out.  For someone who spent much of his life doing things totally himself whether he knew what he was doing or not – being in this club started to teach me it doesn’t have to be that way.
And the history of tales passed along.  This is the route of the fabled Tamer Red-Eye Run in November (aka the Mike Robinson Invitational) – which is the weekend prior to the trail closing for the winter.  If you can imagine wheeling the Naches in November starting in the dark and cold, surely mud, maybe snow, possibly ice in mid-November, taking all your camping AND recovery gear AND meals AND parts AND tools with you, as if that could possibly be your idea of a good time – well – you must be a Timber Tamer.  Tales of wheels rotating forwards, with rigs sliding backwards, and grabbing for a winch cable just inches before it slips away downhill with the rig it is attached to.  Finally getting to the cabin at Government Meadows at 3 AM in the morning – only to have to start playing ping-pong with a mouse that decided it wanted to join you in your sleeping bag.  Or a tent that blew its top off with a fuel malfunction from a gas heater.  Or beaver sliding your rig down the other side in the icy ruts, daring not to hit the brakes and wishing you could.  Or the one year I got to surprise the Red Eye Runners with a steak dinner (leftover steaks frozen since Operation Shore Patrol) with baked potatoes – meeting up with them at Buck Meadows the second night, listening to an incredibly filthy (and hilarious) Rodney Carrington tape.  Or the following year hauling a damaged rig and damaged driver back home on the trailer, because it just seemed like that sort of thing might be needed.
And the history of how the trail has changed over the years.  One story I read detailed that it was 1950 when a group of Jeepers from Yakima first decided to 4-wheel the old wagon trail path – and their task involved a lot of brushing and limbing to get through.  And an entire weekend or more just to get one way through.  Lowering rigs down some of the really steep areas on a hand cranked winch..  On my first run up the trail (probably 1997) – that root sticking out of the side of the trail on the 2nd hillclimb?  Well – it was still an obstacle – but then it was a big undercut root you had to drive OVER on the climb – and you couldn’t creep it or cosy it – certainly not with a balky carb and tall gears.  I had to run at it, while being almost certain that on the first bounce of my front wheels on the root, I would flip my nose up and over and end up upside down.  (I didn’t – but seeing nothing but blue sky over the hood – I sure was puckered!)  Or the last part before the eastern end of the trail.  On my first trip over that – it sure seemed like a much worse sidehill pointing downhill than it does now.   And I ran it east to west in slimy, muddy conditions – meaning that the driver side was down – which always is the worst feeling way to do a sidehill.  I was sure any moment I would just roll over or slide off – and I could barely stand to keep going forwards, and also couldn’t bear the thought of stopping either.  And there was NO backing up.  I just wanted the fear to end.  And then the joy of the relief when getting back onto the level trail between the trees near the road – pleased with myself to have made the effort and kept at a difficult task, and being able to laugh at all of my angst.  Same as most everyone else on the run.
Which is to say – WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE.  Whether building an old rig up that a scratch from a few trail mods to the sheet metal wouldn’t be all that tragic – to a new JK costing beaucoup bucks that you’ve only made your third payment on – the heart in the throat, the dry mouth, the white knuckles on the steering wheel, the foot and leg shaking on the clutch and brake with a mix of adrenalin and fear, the blood pounding in your forehead, the hollow breath not filling your lungs, the seat covers that are getting sucked up between your butt cheeks – each of you in your own way have chosen a challenge – and everyone else with you on that trail is either overtly or covertly cheering you on and enjoying both your pain and anxiety,  as well as caring for your success.  I call it growth.  Self mastery.  Rising to the challenge.  Personal achievement within the safety net of supportive group of like minded friends.  Because you begin to know what not to be scared of anymore, and what you can do, and how the rig you built can become a part of you and aid you.  And not because you read it in a manual or saw it on you tube – but you know because you can say with all authenticity and truth – “I DID THIS!”  Being a Timber Tamer helps that to happen – and I’m glad to say I was reminded of all this on the Naches last Saturday.
Because every Tamer run captures some parts and pieces of the above.  And I just maintain that we become better versions of ourselves from being together wheeling – rising to the challenge and keeping on.  And I for one plan to keep doing this for a long time to come.  I look forward to my next chance to go wheeling with you too.
Thanks for readin’  –
And Keep On Wheelin’!