Run to Tahuya March 2015

It wasn’t quite planes, trains and automobiles – but it was ferries and four wheel drives.  As Auto-M and I pulled up in her TJ to catch the 7:55 ferry at Edmonds – we already saw Jerry in his TJ and our friends in a Cherokee from Sno Co Crawlers in line.  Along with Michael in his Cherokee – and Rick and Jennifer in theirs a few rigs behind us in line – all poised to cross the water for what appeared would be a stormy day of wheeling in Tahuya.  Upon loading, Mary and I in her Jeep got a nice water-side seat on the upper deck, just watching the south wind drive whitecaps against the ferry.  Behind, the morning sun made a weak attempt at an appearance, but in front of us – the sky was quite dark, promising a wet day of wheeling ahead.  The rainbow seen during the crossing gave way to rain by Kingston, which continued spittingly all the way into the Safeway at Belfair
There – waiting for us in the lot, were Bruce and Debbie in their light yellowish-green TJ – hoping they hadn’t missed us.  They had crossed over to Bremerton, and had some misgivings, not seeing any kindred wheelers waiting for the boat.  By 9:35, we were just starting to pull out from the lot, when Jake and Cindy showed up in their respective JK’s – his built and tech-savvy; hers way too clean.  They’d driven around to get to the appointed meeting spot.  The group having met well – off to the trailhead we went.  Some in the crowd had not yet ever been to Tahuya, and Cindy being a mud aficionado – had high hopes for the water that is usually to be found in abundance on the trails here.  We were missing our friends Gary and Casey.  Gary’s mom had some medical challenges the night before, and so they of course were attending to her needs.
Surprisingly – the closer we got to the trailhead – the better the weather got!  Once we pulled in to circle up and air down – the sun appeared – and never wavered the rest of the day.  With fear and trepidation – Casey, who had planned to be trail boss, left the duties in my quad-stained hands.  For you see – the last time I took a Tamer crowd through Tahuya – we somehow ended up on a quad trail.  And while trees pressing against my bent up 72 Commando weren’t much of a concern – it was a harder thing for those shinier, prettier and wider rigs to press through a trail we shouldn’t have gotten on in the first place.  (My Commando “Moosenstein” is old CJ wide – meaning it is possibly up to a foot narrower than most other rigs on the trail.)  I promised today’s participants I would do my best not to repeat such an adventure.  (And of course – the promise to “do my best” includes the possibility of “uh-oh” should I make that same wrong turn yet again).  However – driving Auto-M’s Jeep this day (read that “shiner and with almost no “trail modifications”) – chances were pretty good that I’d be on my watch to avoid a repeat performance.  The wheeling route was typical – in that we headed across the road from the trailhead up to Yellow Jacket Saddle – taking the less aggressive slots (that is – not the long major rock hillclimb) off to the right.  Auto-M and I crawled down on the rocks, followed by Jerry, Michael, the Sno Co boys, Jake and Rick.  I think only Cindy went down the bypass – which was still pretty steep and with enough off-camber in it that she got to experience the appropriate amount of pucker early in the trip.
Next stop, of course, would be Mud Lake.  I’m not familiar enough with Tahuya to know the most exact route to get there – but some local boys in a Toy joined up with us for a bit, and via the airwaves guided us over to Mud lake.  With the recent rains – it was about as full as I’ve ever seen it.  Some more local boys in old pickups (a ‘70’s vintage Ford and Dodge) were good enough to go wading – and show us deep the near shore was.  Not too bad – but I’ve usually not been one to play in the water just for the sake of saying I did.  They got through with nary a sputter, and we hung out in the sunshine, just enjoying a little time yakking and enjoying a break.  A bigger crowd of rigs pulled in after a while – and things were getting crowded – so we got back onto the Riff-Raff trail and wended our way down to the south loop.
Used to be there was a pretty gnarly v-slot uphill not long after entering the south loop.  It was good for rolling your rig into it and not really being able to drive out of it.  It has been hardened and “fixed” in the past 2 years because the rig damage was pretty constant.  Unfortunately – I could probably have driven my Smart car up it this time – but if that’s the price we pay to continue to have trail access – okay.
Most of the rest of the south loop was uneventful but quite pleasant with the sun and the by now gentle breeze rustling through the woods.  We had caught up to another group that were going even slower than the speed of Moose (if you can believe that) and lollygagged behind them until they came to a crossroads.  While they were staring at a puddle – we decided to get past them by driving through it – which was a great idea until the bottom dropped out from in in front of Auto-M’s Jeep, and even though still in gear – we stopped all forward motion – instead appearing like we were treading water.  Must have been pushing mud, since we were able to back out with no problem (thank goodness!)  The folks in the group only then said, “We were wondering how deep that was.  Now we know!”
The Sno Co Crawler boys had bigger tires than we did – and started to push into the puddle, thinking to themselves “Oh this ain’t that deep” about a nano-second before the front dropped into the hole.  Then it was throttle down and through they churned.  Same with Michael who thrummed and bubbled through like an old Chris-Craft motorboat.
Just up ahead – I’d found an interesting little side trail that was narrow with twists and turns and seemed like a good candidate for a little fun.  No – I had not yet found my quad trail.  But I did find a trail that also had a group coming along in the opposing direction.  We decided to all find some little slots in the woods to pull into and let the group pass us by.  Mary wondered why she was always on the down side of the Jeep whenever I was off-camber.  (Gee honey, I don’t know.  I guess it just worked out that way.)  Jennifer wondered the same thing as well that seemed to happen when Rick was driving.
After that little loop – we got back to the deep mud slot again, then found a clearing that seemed like a good place for lunch.  We parked our rigs, pulled out chairs and coolers, and had some time to munch out.  And finally – the bag of Hostess donuts was produced from the back of our Jeep – so it could become an official trail run.
After an hour of goofing off and telling tall tales and such – Michael and the Sno Co Crawler boys in their Cherokees headed down the main path since one of them had to get home.  And I’d like to think it was NOT because they had a concern for my taking them down a quad path – but sometimes you just never know what might happen.  A few minutes later – the rest of figured it was also a good time to trail on – and down the hill we went.  There was a main trail that was wide and straight, and then a smaller one that wound around and around, wandering through the woods and crossing the main trail.
And then it happened.  THE QUAD TRAIL!!!!  Yes – there in front of me was that daggone quad trail of which I have been much maligned over the years.  Yes – it was right across from the smaller 4×4 trail that was doing its 3rd trail crossing at the main trail.  And it SURE LOOKED like a more interesting small 4×4 path than the main trail – just like the last time……  But with Casey’s voice echoing in my brain (Moose – don’t take them down the quad trail…..) and the tingling spider sense in the back of my head voicing the fact that Auto-M’s Jeep STILL looks pretty nice – I turn left onto the main road – and in 5 minutes get to the rock garden at the end of the south loop.  (You take a full size rig through the quad trail – it’s like a 3 hour jaunt plus body damage to get to the same spot.)
Ah – but at this end of the south loop, there is a little rock garden in which you can play.  And being both trail leader AND senior club member in attendance – I felt it would be inappropriate to at least not attempt a little play time in the hard stuff.  Although – the start of the rock area had some pretty large rocks and deep holes where someone had dug things up – and it was just a little more than I wanted to try with 33’s.  But – the garden continued after a clump of shrubs – and there was what looked to be a doable little path into, around and back out of the rest of the garden.  Gave me a chance to exercise the lockers and do a little technical wheeling.  And with only a few clanks and clunks on the rock rails and the rear D-rings – we bumped and ground our way through the rocks.
Once we got out and parked – I was hoping I could lure a few more unsuspecting victims – errrr – I mean – willing club members – to do a little experimenting of their own.  Jerry was obviously eyeballing things very hard – and taking some time to think about making the attempt.  Apparently – his thought process included factoring in how thin the line is between being a hard-ass and a dumb-ass – and it didn’t take him too long to decide that rock crawling was not going to be on today’s program for him.  But that’s okay – because everyone always should feel free to know when saying “no” is the right answer for them.  Then Rick – unburdened by the tyranny of worrying about body damage or tire size – plunged in along a similar route to the one Auto-M and I navigated, with a similar successful result.
Then – at the far end of the garden at the big rocks I had decided to forego – Jake was poised to take the plunge.  I waved him off until I got the really important things in place – which of course was to get his phone to pass along to Mary so she could record his transit across the rocks.  Oh yeah – and I also spotted just a little – details, details.  Jake has a bit of a lift on his JK – and not only do his tires look to be around 36” – but they are Pit Bulls to boot – and Pit Bulls have been an impressively working tire on ANY rig I’ve seen using them.  To say he “plunged” into the rocks would be inaccurate.  He more crept into the rocks – because the entry did have some big obstacles, and not being familiar either with a JK in general or his specific setup in particular – I didn’t want to get him into a position that might cause damage or irretrievable stuckness.  I will say – Jake did an excellent job of listening to my spotting instructions – although he did admit that watching the rocks from the cameras he has under his rig when he wasn’t watching me – did create some added anxiety.  It became obvious pretty quickly – that this was one capable rig, nicely set up.  The first big rocks and holes were a cakewalk, and while slow and steady, utilizing lockers – were the operative words – we got him through the entire area with just 1 minor kiss of a rock on a rear diff.  Nothing hit hard on a rock, and it was a nice job of driving.
By now – it was a good and easy time heading back – with enough mud puddles along the way that Cindy could continue to work on her art project – which was how to change colors from black to brown on what in the morning had been her pristine rig.  We got back to the trailhead by 3:30 – and still being sunny – there was some desire to go out for a little more wheeling.
But something REALLY unusual happened – in that we had a group at Tahuya – and nothing broke, nothing weird happened, no trees blew over on any rigs, no meteor fell from the sky destroying the entire area.  If was still sunny – and it was still Tahuya – and we didn’t have the remotest problem to be had amongst any of us.  Let’s not push the boundaries.  Let’s enjoy, air up – and head for the barn.
And so we did.  For a final treat – a pod of Orcas were seen playing beside the ferry on the way back.  It was another good day of wheeling for Tamer friends.  If you didn’t make it to this run, hope we see you on the next.

Thanks for readin’……..
And Keep On Wheelin’!