Tahuya Oct 2018

Saturday morning turned out looking more promising for the Timber Tamers monthly trail ride to Tahuya than last year: this year it wasn’t raining!  The weather forecast predicted sunshine and a high of 65F.  (Well, that didn’t happen—high seemed to be upper 50s, and the marine fog didn’t burn off until about 2:30 PM!)  At least the weatherman got the part right about no rain! As it turned out, there hasn’t really been rain in Tahuya since last spring, so the trails were all pretty dry.  If we’d had rain like last year (when it rained ALL. DAY. LONG., the difficulty would have been a lot greater for today’s ride!)

We met at the Belfair Safeway, and ended up with only four vehicles for this year’s run.  Troy Messick came with his new (to him) nearly stock TJ Rubicon, Candidate Marc Chappell was in his bright green 2-door JK, Chris Leger and his dad, Lynn, were in his Samurai buggy, and I was in my stretched 2-door JKR.  This was my first trail to lead with the Tamers, so I did have a few butterflies to start with.  About 10:15 we headed to the Elfendahl Staging area where we aired-down and headed onto the trails.  Evan Pauls texted me through the day that he was working furiously to bleed his brakes, but ended-up being frustrated all day with that.  Later he texted me that he discovered it’s not worth it to try to rebuild a TJ proportioning valve…

For those unfamiliar with Tahuya, it’s basically a very large oval loop that’s oriented north/south with a number of side loops with the real challenges.  There are no good maps of the area, so you kind of wander around in general until you learn the area.  Since this was my first trail to lead, and really only my second trip to Tahuya, we did a lot of wandering!  Our first stop was on the north side of the big loop at Trail 84.  Trail 84 isn’t a terribly long loop, but it has a few really cool rock gardens that are pretty challenging; think of them as being a lot like Reiter!  Our first good rock garden was about 100’ long, and pretty level.  With a couple of tries, I was able to get over it reasonably well with Troy’s doing a great job spotting me.  Since this was basically Marc’s first foray into 4-wheeling, he took the better part of valor and opted to use the bypass.  Then Chris drove over it with his Samurai buggy, and got stuck about ¾ of the way through it.  Troy got to use his brand new winch on his new TJ for the first time to pull Chris back a bit for a different line.  Working it a bit more, Chris got through the rock garden pretty well.  Since Troy’s new TJ is basically stock, he decided he didn’t have enough lift for this, and also opted for the bypass.

Our next obstacle was a wide uphill rock crawl with several possible paths up it that was just a couple of hundred yards past the first rock garden.  Again, Troy guided me up this quite nicely, then Chris just sailed up it almost like it wasn’t there!  Marc and Troy again decided not to chance this rock garden, either. From there we decided to wander to another area so we’d have time to get to more stuff than just this one small area.

We wandered through the forest along the many multiple trails to get closer to heading south on the west side of the big loop.  (Yeah, we did wander a LOT because I was mostly lost.)  There were areas with frame-twister moguls, a moderate number of tight trees, and a lot of turns on the trail.  We did a couple of Tamer Turnarounds (what would a trip anywhere be without a good old Tamer Turnaround!), and we ultimately decided on a wide spot with multiple intersections as a good place for a lunch stop.

After our lunch, we made more of a bee-line for the south end of the big loop.  We had several sections of the trail that had very large moguls—and not much of it was straight.  It was then, early afternoon, that we discovered a section named “West Loop”.  The sign said it was difficult.  Now, after going through it, I can say that’s a pretty accurate description!  The West Loop started with a pretty good gatekeeper that really took a fair bit of effort, crawling and wheel travel (not to mention very tight turning) to get through.  Really good stuff!!  Once we all got through that, we entered a large area of clear-cut with one of the most twisting trails I’ve ever been on!  In addition to tight turns and lots of stumps to drive between and over, there were no flat spots on the trail.  It was all dug-out holes and steep short hills to make the moguls one right after the other for about ½ mile of this loop!  (My best description is that it looked like someone put Jeff Stafford in his excavator after giving him “acid” and meth, then blindfolded him to dig out this trail!!!)  There were places with not only these huge moguls, but also three-point turns to get over the moguls and between the stumps!  Troy, in his virtually stock and unlifted TJ Rubicon had to be tugged over a couple of these moguls just because he didn’t have the belly clearance to avoid “turtling”!  Finally, we got to the end of the West Loop, and discovered it had a gatekeeper there, too.  This gatekeeper was a large log on the left side and huge boulders in the middle and on the right side!  (And, of course, there was a sharp left-and turn on the other side of the gatekeeper!)  What was really cool was that with a couple of tries each and good spotting all around, all of us were able to make it over this gatekeeper without incurring tow fees!

From here we wandered only a little bit further to find the huge lake with the large rock pile and a huge rock in the middle of the lake that Troy told us is “Irene’s Rock”.  Or at least, this is a lake when it rains.  (Last year the water was nearly 3’ deep just along the side where we drove—and we didn’t even dare go through the middle last year!)  However, today the only “wet” was a nearly-dried mud track down the center, and “Irene’s Rock” was quite visible and totally dry in the middle.  (Although, due to a moment’s inattention while watching other Jeeps playing on the rock pile, Troy did manage to drive over it anyway.)

Well, the other Jeeps were struggling with the rock pile, and not having much success getting over it.  Troy gave a try of driving over the rock pile with my spotting him.  He was doing great—right until he tried to drive off the pile and got stuck.  Not just any stuck, but really, REALLY stuck.  Like one big rock hooked behind his rear diff cover, and another large rock ledge hooked in front of his transmission skid pan—and all four tires spinning uselessly.  With help from the other guys playing on the rock pile, we decided to use a HiLift to raise him to get rocks under the tires.  Lifting first the driver front bumper (HiLift in the D-ring on the bumper) to put rocks in front of and slightly under the driver front tire wasn’t enough.  Then lifting the passenger front bumper by the D-ring and also placing rocks under that tire wasn’t enough, either.  So, we hooked a HiLift Lift-Mate to lift the driver’s side rear wheel and got rocks and a log under it, which also proved not to be enough.  So, I pulled my Jeep onto the lake bed in front of Troy’s Jeep as an anchor, and then we use Troy’s new winch again to pull him off the rocks.  (Then, of course just to show off, I drove my lifted JK over the rock pile on the same path Troy had taken and had no problem at all; amazing the difference a lift and 37s can make!)

At that point, it was about 5:00 PM, and dusk was beginning to make itself known, so we headed out of the lake to head toward the main road headed north.  After a little wandering, we found the logging road and headed north, and then out to the parking lot where we aired-up and headed home.  Troy said that he can hardly wait to get his lift, 35s and “tummy tuck” on his TJ.  Our candidates were really great on the trail.  Chris and Lynn’s Samurai were great, and Lynn took a LOT of video along the way.  Marc did a fantastic job for his first time 4-wheeling—and with open axles to boot!  It was great having them along, and I look forward to many more trails with them!

We also realized that the only reason we were able to make it through these trails without terrible difficulty was because it was dry.  With the huge number of moguls and lots (and I mean LOTS) of places where water can pool to make mud, when this is wet the difficulty would go up hugely!!

This was a really good day of wheeling, and we all thought it would be a lot of fun to come back and spend a whole weekend here some time!  Maybe a thought for a future Tamer trip…?

John Vandergrift