Tahuya May 2019

Another trip to Tahuya, and only a mere 7 months after the trip here! We had wonderful weather for today—partly sunny, comfortably warm without being hot—and no rain for today. After the trip we had last October when we found Tahuya to have really upped its game in challenge, we had a lot more rigs come along. In October we just had 4 rigs on the trail. This time we had 10! Gary and Casey were there with Miss Understood and Miss Creant; Troy Messick in his no-longer stock Blue TJ that he was using to seek revenge on the trail “challenges” he had in October when it was bone stock; Christian Leger and his father Lynn were in his Samurai buggy (now with his game upped with Dana 44s and brand spanking new Iroks—literally with only 5 miles on them at the start of the day); Michael Levine and his friend John riding shotgun in his silver FJ; Travis Butterfield in his ever growing and impressive red JKU; Candidate Dave Cook in his green YJ (which we discovered later is actually a formerly RED YJ—just what we need, another red YJ!); Even Pauls in his LJ; and the best ever addition to any trail—Moose in Moosenstein. We were also privileged to have Ron from W.E. Rock join us for the first half of the day. Ron is one of the people who helped build the Tahuya trail system up from the “2WD Leaf Run” status it used to be into the really good and amazing place it is now. We had the added benefit that he knows the Tahuya trails, and was able to lead us to the good stuff right off the bat! (It also may be noted that although I was technically the trail leader for this trip, I didn’t have my white JKR there. It’s currently sidelined with a very wobbly left front unit wheel bearing that I just didn’t trust not to eject the tire and wheel on I-5 on the trip to Tahuya. Gary very kindly agreed to let me ride shotgun in the Miss Understood—quite the privilege to ride in his fantastic rig with one of the best drivers in our club!

With recent rains, we expected to see a fair bit of “wet” on the trails, especially as this is late spring after the winter rainy season, but such was not quite the case. We found there were a few patches of shallow mud (more wet dirt), but no mudholes and only a very few areas on the trails for Casey to make “mudnados”. Otherwise, it could hardly have been better weather for this trip!

After the obligatory meet-up at the Safeway where everyone topped off fuel tanks, made a pit-stop in the Safeway and got the lastminute supplies, we headed out to the trailhead at the Elfendahl Staging area to air down, have our drivers meeting, and then hit the trails!

We started out heading into the trails across Elfendahl Pass Road from the staging area, and headed to the right (north), into the Trail 84 area. Ron guided us right to the top of the steep rock climb we’d faced last fall. However, if anything, it was tougher than it had been in October. I don’t quite recall the official name of this hill, but I think calling it “Casey’s Hill” would be appropriate, as she absolutely delighted in having a number of us fill the coffers with tow fees. Only about half of our group attempted the climb (Gary, Troy, Christian, Travis, Evan and Ron), and all but Ron and Evan contributed winching fees. However, Evan decided he wanted to try the climb a second time by taking a different route—and then he promptly contributed his own winching fee. (Casey was absolutely delighted with all of this!!) This hill was basically all big bounders with big holes dug out at the bottoms of the rocks, and all the loose “man-sized rocks” (Ron called them this because they are of a size suitable for one man to move) were either gone or at the bottom of the hill. Tough to stack the rocks you don’t have! There are really only three routes through this—the left side next to a tree that’s impossible to totally avoid, or the right side which has huge rocks and deep holes that are perfect for trapping tires and differentials, not to mention putting one badly off-camber and ready to roll. Regardless of which of these one encountered, all virtually guaranteed pulling rope to get to the top. (Oh yeah, that third route was the bypass!)

As we started to leave for the next obstacle, Moose announced that he needed to leave because Moosenstein was taking a leak. Literally—a gasoline leak. However, after starting to head back, the leak stopped and he decided the leak was simply because Moosenstein had been parked off camber to the right, and when he leveled out, the leak stopped. So, Moose decided to do all the rest of the trails, and did fine with no further issues for the day. (This was great, because what trail run isn’t made better by having Moose along!!)

We then drove all of about 200 yards from the foot of this first hill where we’d spent about 2 hours to another rock garden, this time a level one. It looked to be in the same place as the initial rock garden we’d encountered in October, but it’s been rather heavily “massaged” in the mean time! By “massaged”, I mean totally re-worked. Instead of being just a collection of boulders on one side of the trail, this basically covered the entire width of the trail, was surrounded by Eco blocks, and there are now a LOT more rocks in it! As if that wasn’t enough, someone also had fun with an excavator, and there are huge holes dug out to make tank traps on the far side of it now—all of this unavoidable and the sole bypass suitable only for an ATV or a narrow SxS. It was fun getting everyone through this, but we did—with Ron providing quite a bit of spotting. Just after this obstacle, Ron had to leave to attend a prior engagement, so our nine remaining vehicles took off to head south to find the infamous West Loop, using my GPS trail-crumb tracking from October to guide us there.

After a lot of wandering (the 84 Trail where we started is at the northeastern corner of the area, and the West Loop is at the far southwestern corner) through the forested trails with lots of holes dug in the trail, we finally arrived at the northern gate of the infamous West Loop. The West Loop does have a rather imposing gatekeeper, with two huge boulders—and then a deep mudhole on the far side. There was what looked to be an illegal and unauthorized bypass entrance just to the right of the gatekeeper. We judged that Mike’s FJ likely couldn’t make it over the gatekeeper without sustaining significant damage, although the more aggressively built rigs likely could make it through—with some difficulty. While we were studying the situation, two well-built Grand Cherokees (not with our group) came up and took the unauthorized bypass around the gatekeeper. They told us that it had been like that for a month and DNR hadn’t done anything to close it off, so they considered it OK to go through. However, as it did not appear to be an authorized entrance and we Tamers follow the rules, taking the unauthorized bypass wasn’t a consideration. We consider this important to protect the public lands we use for recreation, and good stewardship of this resource involves respecting the rules that are in place to maintain the land. Thus instead of using the unauthorized bypass, we took the standard trails to the south entrance of the West Loop where there is a milder gatekeeper we could all get through.

Interestingly enough, after we arrived at that south gate to the West Loop and after about half our number had driven through it, the two Grand Cherokees arrived there as well. We let them “play through”—but it didn’t go so well for them. In what seemed a stroke of poetic justice for their having taking the unauthorized bypass at the other end of the West Loop, one of the Cherokees gave that demoralizing metallic “snapping” sound of a front axle giving way. As he was already in the gatekeeper and going through it was his only option, he went a little farther where his front end made a second “snap” as the axle shaft on the other side made for a symmetric matched set of broken axle shafts. Bummer for them, but indeed poetic justice for cheating on the other gatekeeper!

Well, all our vehicles made it through that southern gatekeeper. From there, the West Loop quickly deteriorated into a really good and challenging trail! In last October’s write-up, I described this area as looking like an excavator operator had been given acid and meth, then was blindfolded before digging out this trail. After riding through this again with Gary at the wheel of the Miss Understood, my opinion hasn’t changed a bit! Up, down, sideways, off camber, drag-the-middle-over berms—all of that was still there among these clear-cut stumps! One nice thing to see was that this time, Troy’s TJ, now shod with 35” tires and a body lift, was able to clear the berms without having to be towed over them like before. (Michael in his FJ wasn’t quite so lucky…) Also not so lucky was Dave Cook in his YJ. Seems that part way through the West Loop his clutch cylinder decided to take a dump. Not just any dump, but a dump where the seals apparently failed all at once. This left him with a clutch pedal that just flopped in the breeze (or, perhaps I should say under the dash), and no way to engage the clutch to change gears—or idle. Yup, all or nothing. With a bit of analysis and then coaching, Dave simply drove with his starter motor. That means that when he wanted to go, he started in 1st gear (low-low), and the just drove it until he needed to stop—when he’d just turn off the key. He really did a marvelous job with this—and not a single whimper of complaint! (Actually, he thanked Troy for suggesting this new-to-him driving technique to help him overcome the adversity!!) Given the late hour at that point (like 5:30 or so and facing a long drive back home through Belfair), we decided to turn around and go back out of the West Loop the way we’d come—especially since we weren’t going to make it over that north gatekeeper! So, back out we went, including Dave powering his YJ out with the starter motor when he needed to stop. Then, at the gatekeeper, Dave kindly handed his keys over to Troy to pilot his YJ through the south gatekeeper on the starter motor. Troy did a masterful job of it, not even once hammering against a tree or damaging anything at all!!

After a bit more wandering to find our way out to a main road (OK, maybe it was a LOT more wandering), we drove on a gravel road back to the north end of the OHV area, found a trail that paralleled NE Elfendahl Road to get us back across from the staging area, and proceeded to air-up tires, hook up tow vehicles, and swap stories about the fun we had!

A very full day of challenging trails, a lot of fun, camaraderie, and reminding each other, “It’s just Tahuya.” Yeah, it’s no longer really “just”

Tahuya!! John Vandergrift TT#308