We had a great run from Ellensburg on the WABDR leaving Saturday, June 16th. The weather was nice in the morning when we left the IHOP, and we quickly made our way up Section 3 of the WABDR to Lion Rock, airing down along the way where the road turned to gravel on NF35.
I couldn't help taking a family photos of the Toyotas up at Lion rock- other than a Tundra we had full representation of their main offroad vehicles. John and Debbie (and Lucy, running in the frame) are in the FJ, Scott in the Tacoma, me and Stephen in the Land Cruiser, and Ryan in the 4Runner. Nicholas and Bill were just behind us in their 4Runner and Wrangler respectively.
From Lion Rock we headed down NF35 to the intersection of NF9712. We decided to head right down to a nice outlook Bill knew. But we stopped along the way just past the Ken Wilcox Horse Camp to wander through Haney Meadows, where Lucy and Kai (Scott's dog) had fun getting bit muddy.
From the meadow Bill led us down just a little further on the left to what I believe was the top of Tronsen Ridge. The road out there was our first bit of technical work with a sandy hillclimb and a steep descent on the way out and a muddy track through the trees on the way back. We also had our first 4Runner flat tire, as Nicholas got a flat thanks to a screw. It's hard to imagine how he picked that up out there!
The view from the top of the Ridge was pretty incredible.
Bill got the Jeep right up to the ridge.
Right after this photo the clouds started to let loose, just as Nicholas was getting his spare on and Ryan was finishing up plugging the hole in the original tire. I was happy that Bill was able to provide jackstands for the operation for safety, and it was nice to see everyone helping eachother out. We quickly ate some lunch while the rain increased. The storm didn't drop too much rain, but it was a bit exciting to get thunder and lightning for those of used to Seattle weather. We decided to get back to NF9712 before the rain caused the fine dirt on the trail to get too muddy.
Scouting the week before had shown that there is still a major washout on Liberty Beehive road that made getting to Wenatchee or Cashmere on NF9712 impossible, so we took NF9712 back towards NF35 and then past it down to NF9716, which we took down to Blewett Pass. We debated about going down to Hole in the Rock or completing the WABDR detour route down Scotty's Creek on the opposite side of Hwy 97, but ultimately decided we wanted to get into Section 4 and make sure we had time to find a good campsite before dark. We stopped at the entrance to the highway to air up. Then we said goodby to Nicholas and his wife, and the rest of the group headed north to the next trailhead.
The run up Nahahum Canyon as easy enough, as it's mostly paved, and we stopped at the start of NF-7415 to air up. Bill's Jeep was starting to show some signs of transmission overheating, an issue we would watch carefully over the next couple of days, but which never caused any trouble.
I was a bit worried about how rutted and overgrown NF7415 would be, but it was actually not too bad running up to NF74 and from there up to NF5200. We picked up some moderate pinstripes and had to be careful of some deep ruts, but we had no real trouble. We wound up following a Dodge Ram with a gaggle of kids in the back all the way up to the top of Chumstick Mountain, where the views were incredible.
Here is Scott's Tacoma up top, with a concerning forest fire starting in the background. Looking east we could see that the weather was really about to take a turn for the worse though.
Just as we were finishing up soaking in the views the rain started and we decided to try and drive through it and hope it finished up by the time we reached Ardenvoir. Throughout the day we were trying to sync up with JP, who was supposed to meet us on the trail with his BMW GS800 motorcycle, and the weather was a bit concerning on that front. We had a SpotX for satellite communication though and were able to continually update him on our progress, so we told him to meet us north of Ardenvoir, and hoped he would avoid the rain too.
Despite the rain the road down to Ardenvoir was fine, and the rain did stop well before we got to Ardenvoir. We also got to break out Ryan's Silky Katanaboy for the first time, and he made quick work of a downed tree to clear the path. There were a few other limbs to push out of the way, but generally the road was fine. We stopped at the General Store in Ardenvoir for a quick break and some gas and then pushed on to find a campground before dark. We wound up finding an awesome campsite just a few miles up NF5320, which was heavily rutted going uphill, but entirely passable. We made camp, used the existing fire ring, cooked dinner, and watched the sunset. We got to see Scott's dutch oven skills, and got to know everyone a little better. Here is a photo of everyone, with Stephen looking pretty philosophical.
More thunderstorms rolled in right as we went to bed, but it was dry and clear by morning, and we wound up hanging around camp for a couple of hours chatting (or sleeping in the case of Bill and his girlfriend!). The weather stayed good for the rest of the trip, getting warmer the further north we went.
From the campsite it was a pretty easy drive for the morning down towards Twenty-five Mile Creek, with some really nice views of the Cascades and Lake Chelan. We took NF5230 to NF5380 and then to NF8410, which we took for the rest of the way to Twenty-five Mile Creek. We stopped for a quick look at the views along the way, and Kai and Lucy continued to run and play.
I had to take a quick shot of the Land Cruiser looking on top of the world as well (with John and Debbie's FJ behind)
Just beyond this ridge we finally got our first good view of the south end of Lake Chelan looking majestic.
On the way down we had to make a quick stop for Scott and Ryan to push a tree out of the road so we could get by.
Just before Lake Chelan we finally met up with JP on his motorcycle. It turned out he had been hit pretty hard by the thunderstorms the night before and had stayed in Wenatchee, so he came up the trail to meet us from the north. We made our way down to the lake and then to Chelan where we stopped for a quick lunch and grocery stop (stopping to air up when we hit tarmac). John and Debbie split off to head back home while we were on our way to Chelan. The Red Apple (IGA) in Chelan was our base and we went across the street to sit outside and soak up the sun with a burger at the Lakeview Drive In. Then it was up the shoreline towards Manson, where we stopped for gas then started on Section 5. We were close to a full day ahead of the planned schedule at this point, largely due to having to skip the second part of Section 3. We hadn't done as much research on Section 5, but were feeling confident after our fast pace on the sections so far.
We aired up at the Echo Valley Ski Area, and headed up towards Cooper Mountain on NF8020 and NF3107, getting more stunning views of Lake Chelan along the way. We were learning how to pace ourselves with JP along on the motorcycle now. Everyone had a good time exploring the top of Cooper Mountain a bit.
From there we began our trip down on NF3107 and NF8220. Then we picked up NF4330 for the run down to Gold Creek and on to Hwy 153. However, just a little above where NF4330 hits NF225 we hit a major washout.
The washout was about a hundred yards long, with large rocks across parts of the road and the lower section of the road completely washed out. Luckily it was clear someone had already been through the washout and they had built a small bypass at the lower end. We all walked the road and picked our lines, and with a slow pace and careful marshalling everyone made it through and we just a couple of bumps along the way. Here is Scott finishing his run:
Once we were all through it was an easy run up Hwy 153 towards Twisp. We turned right on Beaver Creek Drive just short of Twisp, and then ran straight up to NF4150, where we hoped to find a campsite for the night. NF4150 was gravel and dirt and in good shape. We didn't really see much that was compelling and kept on to NF41, which was paved. Much of the area is burned, and we wanted a clear spot to avoid any risk from falling debris or trees. A few miles down NF41 we found a large tree blocking the way. Being pretty tired out we backtracked a bit and found a wide open sandy spot down a road overlooking Hooker Creek near where NF250 splits off of NF41 (although we couldn't find much sign of NF250). On the way to the campsite Scott noticed Ryan's right rear tire was running low, and we had our second 4Runner flat of the trip. We circled the wagons, set up awnings, and watched the sunset before really getting into food prep for the evening. Ryan actually managed to successfully plug his sidewall that evening.
It was impressive to see how much gear JP could get on his bike
Scott showed off more of his dutch oven skills and made some excellent bread for everyone.
Having all of the rigs circled up made it feel very communal.
The next morning Scott, JP, and Bill headed south for Chelan, and Ryan, Stephen, and I headed north on the trail towards Hwy 20. That meant our first order of business was clearing the tree from the night before on NF41, which Ryan and Stephen did without any trouble. It was great to see such safe and efficient winch operation.
From there it was a fun drive up to Hwy 20. The WABDR goes along NF41 for a while and then veers off to NF485. For a while it's on a road I can't find a name for, then it's on Golden Rule Road and finally on to Woody Mountain Road before hitting Hwy 20. We had one minor washout on the unnamed section, but otherwise the road was pretty good. From there Ryan, Stephen, and I headed home over Washington Pass (after airing up).
All in all it was a great trip with great folks. I loved that we got to camp a little early and lingered a bit in the morning each day. It gave us time to cook better food and get to know eachother more. The rain we got was very accommodating and didn't really cause any problems. We were sad not to get to do all of Section 3, but felt good about the decision to avoid the risk it represented with the washout. The washout on Section 4 was challenging but rewarding. It was also nice that folks could come and go throughout the route, as it made the trip more accessible for more people. Having saws and winches to clear the road was critical to making it through much of the trail.
I don't recall any persistent complaints or concerns on the trail, but it is worth mentioning water and fire. The first night we dumped several gallons of water on our fire, then three people got concerned about smoke at night and poured more water on it, and it still reignited by itself in the morning. That is despite a pretty heavy rainfall all night. We wound up using shovels and more water to get the fire fully out before we left, but it was a stark reminder of the risk of campfires in this area.