Early Spring, Douglas Creek
Time & Location
About The Event
Always a popular event, this has evolved and every trip is a bit different, covering different roads, seeing different things, meeting different people. My sons and I have been traveling this area for 25 years now. Join us!
Meet at the Rock Island Truck Stop (you can’t miss it, it’s the only one in Rock Island) at 0900. Good place to fuel up, and grab some snacks… Breakfast if your trust is strong, like the coffee… 🙂
Over the campfire that evening, I might be talked into telling you of the shootout I witnessed at that truck stop. 🙂 Ya, I might have been involved.
We’ll likely head up Rock Island Grade, and venture north across the Waterville plateau. Likely stops include the Douglas County seat of Waterville, the tiny hamlet of Douglas, even smaller semi-ghost town of Allstown, and more… A lot of history still showing out there in wheat-farm country. Then we’ll work our way to the rather incredible mouth of Slack Canyon, and follow the historic (long-vanished) railway to our campsite. Bring your camera, it’s a great place to get cool photos of rigs crossing some water, and heading up a steep, deeply rutted hill.
There is always a chance of seeing wildlife. We’ve seen mule deer, beaver, coyotes, ducks, chukar, hawks and eagles in the past.
Along the way, anticipate a potentially challenging crossing of Douglas Creek, followed immediately by a steep and rocky climb where it’s normal to lift a front tire, and occasionally rear tires break contact with terra-firma!
Be prepared for chilly temps, particularly once the sun goes behind the ridge. A good sleeping bag and a weather-tight tent are essential. Please bring some firewood, to contribute to the group campfire. There is little firewood available in Slack Canyon. If most of us bring a bundle, we’ll have a fire all night long.
Conditions will dictate our departure route. We might simply re-trace our route up the canyon. We might head due north to Highway 2. Or… with luck the “adventurous” route up Duffy Creek will be available to us. 🙂 Maybe.
Vehicle requirements… This is always an interesting one for me to write. I’ve seen a bone-stock Ford Escape make it through the hard parts of Slack Canyon, but it was missing body parts by the time it went past, notably the front valance. I’ve driven it in nearly stock, older, full size SUV’s and pickups, but… I never cared much if a truck of mine had a few dings, dents and scratches. The route is full-size friendly. Brush scratches are likely, depending on the exact route.
- Front and rear recovery points. Real ones. Something a D-ring can attach to…
- Low range is really important climbing up out of the water and up the hill.
- Heavy-Duty tires. All terrains are fine. Lots of rocks on this route.
- PLEASE have some sort of radio, CB preferred, so we can all communicate about the obstacles ahead, or who is stuck and what we’re going to do about it. Please.
Limited slip or locking rear diff. Good electronic traction control works too.
A winch is not necessary. I know there will be a few rigs with a winch on this trip. We’ve never actually had to winch a vehicle on this route, but we have had to use a recovery strap on a few, including mine.
If it’s still covered in snow, which is unlikely, consider a set of chains for at least two of your tires.
An air compressor is handy. People do this run without airing down… But traction and comfort are greatly enhanced by airing down. I normally run it at 20-25 psi in my Wrangler. Last time I went down to 10 psi because I was having a lot of trouble towing my trailer up a steep grade, simply running out of traction on the snow.
I’ll have my bow saw, but someone should bring a chainsaw, just in case we take the “adventurous” exit. That route often requires a little trimming, and there’s still likely to be paint scratches/desert pin-striping inflicted.
As is my practice, this is a kid-friendly, family-friendly, dog-friendly event. Please bring along whoever you’d like, as long as they’re good with a band of NWOL people. I’ll probably have my faithful traveling companion, Clark, the German Wirehaired Pointer. He’ll wonder why we’re not walking up the hills, hunting birds… 🙂
If you bring a dog, be aware that there is a large population of coyotes in the area, and at least a few cougars. Neither are dog friendly.
- My cell phone is (509) 885-5905 (there is normally no cell coverage in the canyon)
- CB is channel 22
- HAM freq is…. 146.46 (as per our resident Hamsters)
This is normally a fun, mildly challenging run and a great choice when higher elevation runs are still covered with deep snow. HOWEVER, a couple of things can make it far more hazardous:
- If significant snow and/or ice covers the road. The road isn’t real tough, but there are a couple of places where if a rig was to slip off, it would be real bad. Real bad.
- Douglas Creek has been known to flood in the spring, to the extent of flooding the entire, large, valley downstream. Sometimes the water crossing is simply too much to risk. Too high, too fast. That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s serious.
So, if you’ve been trying to get on this run for a while, here’s your chance. 🙂
At this point I’m limiting it to 10 vehicles. That pretty well fills up the best campsite in the canyon.
We should be out of the canyon and back on pavement by noon, or shortly afterwards, on Sunday March 11.
I’d be happy to recommend a campsite in the general area, if anyone wants to camp Friday, March 9th.
My favorite is in Swakane Canyon, about an hour from the Rock Island truck stop. As an alternative, consider the very nice, well developed Confluence State Park. It’s open year-round and has everything needed for a comfortable camp, plus it’s right at the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers.
See you in March! I’ll open up a planning discussion on the forum.