Walker Valley Poker Run Nov 2018

Another day of wheeling, just like any other.  Well, maybe not…
For one thing, this day started out at 7:00 AM at Walker—a pretty early day.  (And I’d prefer not to describe it with the exact words Casey and Gary would use at this hour of the morning…)  For another thing, this was a day for us to have a Poker Run (officially a non-sanctioned non-event) where four of our clubs in the 4-wheeling community (Around The Sound, Dirty 13, Rainier Ridge Rams and Timber Tamers) came together to have a fundraiser to help three families in our midst who are fighting with that evil beast—cancer.  It’s a time we could all get together not only for a good cause, but to have some fun together in the process!

After meeting with Ed and Kevin (the two main ringleaders of today’s non-event), six teams of us headed out to various locations throughout the Walker Valley ORV Area to deal cards to the participants and mark their scoresheets.  The seventh team remained behind at the main parking area to deal the last cards to the participants.  (However, I suspect they also chose that spot because they were closer to the food…)

I teamed with Dave Wilkinson, and he and I headed to our spot at the first gate just below the rock pit.  Pretty much immediately after the 9:00 AM start of our “non-event”, we got the first couple of vehicles.  Then there were a couple of folks who pulled up with trailers hoping that they could park at the gravel pit; the wonderful reason for that is because of the huge turnout of the 4-wheeling community to support our “non-event”, and all the other parking was taken up!.  That was really wonderful because that meant a lot of support and a great success!  Well, after those first few people, Dave and I got so busy with dealing to the participating wheelers that we hardly had a chance to sit down for a good hour and a half!  Lots of people, lots of poker hands—and that meant lots of support for the cause!

The other plus for Dave and me is that literally everyone took the challenge of driving through the gatekeeper at our spot, and we got to watch them go through it, as well as spot a few folks.  It was lots of fun watching the different lines people took.  The only carnage we saw was a really nice CJ7 that shattered a hard-top window on one of the posts.  However, he was a really good sport about it, so that was great, too!

Finally, the stream of participants slowed to a trickle and then stopped.  As the time for the wheeling had come to an end, Dave and I broke down the table and chairs we had at our spot, and we headed back to the main parking area to see the final results of the poker hands and to join the raffle.  (Of course, we also had to partake of Michael Levine’s great BBQ food!!)

Once all this was done, Dave, Travis Butterfield and I decided that since we had been manning checkpoints through the day and hadn’t had a chance to wheel, we’d take the opportunity to do that now!  We headed out from the parking area to the gatekeeper at the Timber Tamer Trails, easily passed through that, and headed up the mountain.

We made pretty short work of the Lower Timber Tamer Trail, then did the jig-jog on the logging road and headed up to the Upper Timber Tamer Trail.  After the “tire wash” at the start of the trail, we came to The Rock.  You know, the REALLY BIG ROCK that’s the first obstacle!  Dave was leading, and he exhibited his wisdom by driving to the right and going around it.  Since I’ve never successfully gotten over the rock, I had to give it a try.  My first success in climbing up it—was a turtle just before getting onto the top.  With wheels hanging in the air, I had no choice but to make Casey happy by having Travis tug me backward off the rock.  Then I worked it quite a bit more (I was feeling stubborn), and finally had my first success ever with the rock when I found the line and got over it.  YAY!!!  After that, Travis took the opportunity to work on the rock, and after several attempts, he also had success getting over it (but without incurring a tow fee).  YAY again!  We all tucked-in from there to let a Toyota pass that was coming down the other way on the trail and, then headed up to the rock garden.

The rock garden is definitely a lot different now that it’s been smoothed from the work party of a month ago.  However, it was still a pretty decent challenge, especially since it’s now wet and muddy.  The broken rocks and concrete aren’t quite fully settled just yet, and they rolled around some as well as being slippery.  No tow fees, but also not just a walk in the park.
The EZ Valley Connector Trail came next—and it was damp and muddy and slippery.  The work from a week ago just at the bridge was in great shape!  Even though a week ago we hadn’t gotten the filler between those rocks then (if you recall, the track-hauler broke when it lost a track), it was all settled-into place and none of the rock at the bridge was moving at all.

Next on the agenda was the Rainier Ridge Ram Trail—and a great time with that!  The rock garden at the bottom was a HUGE challenge!  Dave opted to watch us (remember, he’s exhibiting wisdom!), and Travis tried it first, coming mostly straight-in from the left side.  (Recall that this trail starts up at an angle from the logging road.)  He worked it, and worked it, and worked it and worked it, but kept getting halted by very slippery and muddy rock faces on most of the rocks.  Then I tried it, this time from the right side (virtually perpendicular to the logging road), and with this line I was able to fight my way up and finally to the top.  It was a really slippery struggle.  Seeing that I’d made it, Travis had to give it another try.  However, his right rear 35” tire got caught in a 40” cup between two big rocks (his front wheel is in that cup in the first photo)—no getting out of that on his own—so he had the opportunity to use his brand-spanking new winch for the first time!  After he pulled himself out of that 40” cup between the rocks, he was able to fight his way to the top, and he and I took the loop around to meet back with Dave.

At this point, we opted to head to Ron’s Run where we were planning to meet up with Jake and Jenna, who were playing at the top of Ron’s Run with their massively built-up Toyotas.  We had a lot of fun slipping and sliding up that trail until we got to just the base of the steep part.  Dave pointed out that as we were between 4:30 and 5:00, with the park closing at dark, and that we should be heading out of the park so we wouldn’t be there after dark.  (Also, Dave had phoned Jenna again at that point, and they were having a terrible time where they were—she told Dave it was a total slippery mudfest where they were, and she didn’t advise heading up there.)  We headed down back out of Ron’s Run, down the EZ Valley Connector, and back to the parking area to air up.

Travis noted that his Jeep was making a strange scraping noise as we got on the 2WD logging road.  He and I looked at that, and found his rear driveshaft boot was totally ripped to shreds.  Turns out the noise he heard was the torn boot scraping and slapping against the fuel tank and the bottom of his tub.  For myself, I also noted on the 2WD logging roads that my ABS warning light was on.  Well, when I got back to the parking area, I found my driver front tire was flat!  It looked like it had mud and possibly bark between the bead and the wheel rim.  It didn’t hold air well enough after I aired up the rest of the tires, so I changed the flat with my spare tire in the parking lot before heading home.  I also discovered I’d acquired a “friend” somewhere along the trail—a big chunk of root jammed between my rocker guard and the rocker panel on my driver side!

Jake and Jenna and their group arrived in the parking lot while Travis and I were changing my tire.  Jake told me that he’d broken an inner half-shaft when they were up having their “fun” at the top of Ron’s Run.  Since it was that bad up there, it’s no wonder they told us not to head there!
Well, that was enough fun for all of us at that point, and the darkness enveloped us in the parking lot, so it was time to head home after a fantastic day of fun, helping our friends, a BBQ, and wheeling.  It hardly gets any better than that!

Respectfully submitted,
John Vandergrift