Walker Valley Work Party Nov 2019

Well, it was the second Saturday of the month, so it must be time for a Walker Valley Work Party. (And it was!!!) This was a special one, because we made plans with Jim Cahill (from DNR) to repair and re-set the kiosk at the gate for our namesake Timber Tamer trails. As it turned out, we’d had about the driest early November on record with no rain at all since before Halloween. Of course, since we had trail work to do today, today was the day for that to change, so we had our more typical November all-day drizzle.

To catch everyone up, a few months ago some miscreant (not Casey’s Toyota) knocked over the kiosk at the yellow gate just off Peter Burns Road onto the Timber Tamer Trails, and in the process broke the 4×6 posts off just above the ground. This made it necessary to have a work party to repair that damage.

We collected at 9:00 AM at the Walker Valley parking area. Ultimately there were 11 Tamers vehicles, plus all the Around the Sound Jeep Club people gathered for their monthly E&E/trail run day, plus Ryan and Jim from DNR. Also, a contingent from Front Runner Outfitters were there to join us. Yeah, we had more than enough people to get the work done. I think that was a pretty good showing, especially considering that Reiter Foothills also had a significant work party for trail repairs that was called on shorter notice!!

About 9:30 we drove off toward the damaged kiosk, and Ryan unloaded the mini-excavator DNR had rented for the day. The Tamers bodily lifted the downed kiosk away from where we wanted to re-plant it, then Ryan dug a new hole with the mini-excavator. We were fortunate in that many of the folks in our work party are people who work in the trades, so we had people who actually knew what they were doing with this, rather than just former white-collar workers like me who wouldn’t have done nearly as good of a job. When all was said and done, the kiosk was solidly in place with new 4×6 posts, the roof on it was repaired and reinforced, and the kiosk was looking as good as ever—if not even better!!

At that point, the work being done, it seemed the only responsible thing for us to do was to then invest some E&E time to check several of the other Walker trails to see if there was more trail maintenance work that needed to be done. Sadly, three of our crew and the Front Runner folks had other commitments, so we headed out to the trails with 8 vehicles. So, we had our drivers meeting, and reviewed the safety points for our trail runs—especially pertinent today as Jim had told me there was an incident up in the training area from the middle of the night that the State Police were investigating—but apparently involved someone without a seatbelt.

Of course, the first trail for the eight of us was the Lower Timber Tamer Trail. Since the rain returned today, the conditions were definitely not dry dirt like we have in the summer, but they definitely had large mud puddles and slippery, greasy mud. Lower Timber Tamer was its usual good warm-up for the rest of the trails. However, it claimed the first victim of trail damage for the day! Jeremy’s CJ7 decided today was the day the front hubs didn’t want to cooperate, and wouldn’t allow his front axle to engage. That made the steep rocky stretch through the clear-cut challenging enough that he needed a tug to get up to the gravel road. (What made it a good day otherwise was that this was the only profiteering opportunity for Casey for the day.) Jeremy took his hubs apart, and found that they looked OK. They started to work initially after that, but then they didn’t really hold. With that, Jeremy decided to call it a day. He radioed us that he got off the road to Peter Burns Road safely. Now we were seven, but at least that was the only trail damage for the day.

At this point, we started the Upper Timber Tamer Trail. The big rock at the beginning was too tempting to pass up, and three of us tried it, but it proved too slippery for either Travis or me get over it. However, Chris in his cool Samurai buggy worked at it a bit and got over—a great success for the day! Going over the wet dirt hill, we came upon the Upper Timber Tamer rock garden—the true gem of the trail! We walked it first. Gooey, greasy, wet and slippery—and that was just walking it! That kind of described the whole trail. However, with a little effort and a fair bit of spotting for most folks, everyone got up it with no winching or tow straps. That was a pretty darned good success!!

Getting to the top of Upper Timber Tamer, we checked the kiosk there, and found it intact. Of course, since the EZ Valley Connector was right there, we felt totally obliged to take it. We had a really nice run through there with no hang-ups at all. The bridge (where we’d done trail work with an excavator last year) was in great shape, so that work is holding quite well. A right turn from there headed us to the back end of the Ridge Ram Trail. Most of our group said they’d never taken Ridge Ram before, and they said they were game to take it backwards, since that’s the easier way—and they weren’t aware of the “fun” rock garden at the other end! Of course, the short top part went pretty easily, and then we came to the rock garden—but at least with the wet we were headed downhill. When I got the bottom, Chris was there on the gravel road in his Samurai to let me know that he had to leave for a commitment. Now we were down to six.

The first three vehicles made it down the Ridge Ram rock garden just fine. Then, Cheryl started down. She made it about half way down when she managed to turn up a huge boulder (and I mean HUGE) under her driver side undercarriage. Like, the boulder rolled out of its hole and lifted the whole driver side of her Jeep! She was very “expertly” turtled with both her front and rear driver side tires in the air—and the boulder about 5 feet farther down the trail than it had been before!! (The photos are on Facebook.) Finally, after a lot of figuring and a couple of failed attempts to jam rocks and logs under her tires, Cheryl was able to drive forward and the boulder lifted her rear axle a lot, but at least it rolled under her axle, and she was finally free. The good thing was that she had no damage from this, other than a couple of skid plate scratches. That, several photos, and a lot of good-natured ribbing! Everyone else came down the rock garden without incident—especially since Cheryl had very kindly gotten that one boulder out of the way for everyone else…

With everyone at the bottom of the Ridge Ram rock garden, no one wanted to try going back up it—especially since it was wet. It was after 3:00 PM on a rainy day in November, so it was getting darker. We discussed going on “just one more trail”—but then thought the better of that, recalling what that “one more trail” usually ends up meaning on Tamer trail runs… So we decided to head back down the EZ Valley Connector (which went without incident), and then down the gravel roads to the Timber Tamer Gate Keeper. What was really cool was that the back side of the kiosk was looking pretty darned good now that it’s back up! All of us went through the gate keeper without any issues at all, then back to the parking lot to air-up.

When we got to the parking lot, Gary Bellows (DNR Warden for Walker Valley) was there. I stopped to talk with him, and he shared a bit more information on the “incident” up at the practice area. Seems that a somewhat larger group of people was up there in the middle of the night. Somewhere around 1:00 AM or so, a vehicle rolled over. The passenger wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and ended-up with the roll bar on his head for about 20 minutes before they got him free. He was flown to Harborview, but fortunately only had a concussion and some cuts, but no broken bones. (Needless to say, that could have been a lot worse!) I’m also sure everyone else will be as shocked as I was to hear that alcohol was involved with this…

It looks like there are three take-always from this incident. First, Walker Valley is closed to ORV use from sunset to sunrise, and this incident happened after-hours. Second, NEVER wheel while consuming alcohol or any other intoxicating substances. Third, ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT. We always state in our driver meetings that you should click your seatbelt even if you’re just moving your vehicle 2 feet. It doesn’t take much, and it could well save you a flight to Harborview!!

Otherwise, this was yet another great day of trail work and wheeling in our beautiful Pacific North West!! (And the photos are on Facebook!)

John Vandergrift