Tonga Ridge Jan 2019

Well, there were some folks among the Timber Tamers who really wanted to go on the Hangover Run on New Year’s Day, but for various reasons weren’t able to.  So, the request went out for another snow run to make up for that for the folks who couldn’t go on the Hangover Run.  (Great idea, Jon Holzwarth!!)

Sooo…we got that organized and went to Tonga Ridge yesterday!  Having some degree of a weakness, I volunteered to lead the run.  So we met at 9:00 AM at the Chevron station at the round-a-bout in Sultan at 9:00 AM to head to Tonga Ridge.  Well, actually we left about 9:15.  We discovered that the traffic on US 2 was terrible.  The wonderful clear and sunny weather seemed to be teasing a lot of folks to head to Stevens Pass.  A whole lot of folks.  So, we waited a bit past our planned 9:00 AM departure so that no one who’d said they wanted to go would be left behind.  So, our group of six Jeeps headed for Tonga.

Besides me in my stretched JKR, we had Jon Holzwarth in his bright green JLUR, Candidate Dave Callahan in his blue JLUR, Candidate Shan MacArthur in his well-built JKUR, Travis Butterworth in his red JKU, and Jeff (a friend of Jon’s) in a totally pristine black 2006 TJ that looked cleaner and nicer than when it came off the showroom floor!  Several passengers were along with, and we had a nice-sized group of great people for a great run!

Once we got through the terrible traffic in Sultan, we made it to the trailhead just east of Skykomish.  We aired down at the trailhead under the train trestle, and had our drivers meeting.  Finishing that about 10:15, we headed up the roadway!  We had been a bit concerned about the snow, as Shan noted that the predicted freezing level for the day was supposed to be about 8000’, but we actually hit our first snow at about 2200’.  Not too bad at that point, and we just collected a moderate amount of increased snow by the time we got to the fork in the road, we had a pretty good covering of snow, although not quite as deep as at times in the past.  (Actually, it seemed to be about the same as we had on the run we did when selling tree tickets for the PNW the weekend after our Christmas Tree Run.)

We stopped at the fork for a little time to take a rest and to play a little.  Travis and Shan spun up their wheels, and stormed up the short steep hill between the forks—it took a couple of tries each.  Then, Jeff in his sweet TJ also took a couple of tries to get up it.  Then I tried, but didn’t give it quite enough steam—so I didn’t get up it.  (Then.)

From there, we headed out the long level trail along the edge of Tonga Ridge, and had totally spectacular views with the sunny skies! 

The snow was a lot deeper here, and fortunately for us it was knocked down a bit by the folks not in our group who headed up before us.  Then, Travis did his part to make Casey happy—he played in the ditches and got stuck!  (First tow fee of the day…)

A little farther along we found the snow to be getting significantly deeper.  The preceding vehicles had plowed the center berm down to a point where my diffs with my 37s cleared OK, but Jeff’s TJ on his smaller tires just wasn’t clearing that center berm without a tow strap.  It was about that point where Shan pointed out that we’d passed by the turn-off for the gravel pit.  It seemed that someone had missed the turn.  (Cough, cough…me…cough, cough…)  So, we did our required Tamer Turn, and went back to the turn-off to the gravel pit.  Shan went up first (since he was leading after our Tamer Turn), and announced that it wasn’t too bad, but that Jeff’s TJ wasn’t going to make it up without a tow strap the whole way.  Jeff then opted to stay with his TJ at the bottom of that hill while the rest of us went up.

The snow was actually in great condition all the way up—not slushy or icy, and the traction on the way up was great!  We also had great snow at the top in the gravel pit, and played a little bit!  We pulled up on the upper ridge, had lunch, took some photos—and then watched another group of wheelers come up the trail!

Driving down the hill we met with Jeff, and headed back out to the fork.  There Jon, Jeff and Dave stayed at the fork to play with their paint guns while Shan, Travis and I took the road up the right side of the fork to the end of the road where there was a trailhead for a hiking trail.  We turned there, and headed back down—as Travis took a bit of fun driving in the ditches on the way back down.  With the first one, he got stuck, and Shan pulled him back out pretty easily.  The second one, didn’t go so easily.  He was so deeply mired in the ditch with huge snow berms behind him that Shan couldn’t pull him out with a snatch rope.  Then we tried Shan’s winch as well as some shoveling around Travis’s Jeep.  That didn’t work either—it only pulled Shan’s Jeep toward Travis!  So, the next step was to strap my Jeep to the back of Shan’s Jeep—and then it anchored enough to pull Travis’s Jeep out of the ditch.  As it was getting a bit late at that point, we decided that we’d done enough ditch-play, and headed back down to the fork.

By the time we got back down to the fork, Jon, Jeff and Dave had already headed back down to the trestle.  So, the rest of us headed down there as well, and met them at the trestle where we all aired up and then headed home just as night fell.

That was when we discovered that the US 2 traffic was again terrible—in the opposite direction!  It was all backed-up at Sultan, but let loose after that.  However, despite the bad traffic on US 2, we had a really great time at Tonga Ridge!

John Vandergrift