B2B – The Final Push to Canada
We ran out of room on this blog. The final push to the Canadian border can be found on B2B part III..... I guess? Here is the link
Border To Border Part II
June 19th, 2009 Mile 1321, Reno Nevada to Lakeview Oregon. Update from a seat in the El Aguila Real Mexican Restaurant, Lakeview, Oregon via our Uconnect Web modem… this thing is cool:
Hot Springs, Thirty-Mile Mud Flats, The Black Rock Desert And High Rock Canyon
Reno Rocks was getting into full swing as we pulled out of town. I'm losing (and will miss) Del Albright's endless sense of humor and jokes, as he jumped out in Reno to manage some Blue Ribbon Coalition duties at the event. But my lovely wife Suzanne has joined Border To Border for the trek into Oregon (lovely… good words from a smart husband ay?).
June 17th, 2009: We had to endure another twenty miles of pavement getting in and out of Reno, and it is really messing up my goal of all-dirt. Though we may have to default to 95%, the next 350 miles will be pure dirt. In any account, we got back on the dirt via Red Rock Canyon to Winnemucca Ranch road, passing Moon Rocks reroute. Passing into the famous Smoke Creek Desert, home of the appropriately named and tenacious Smoke Creek Indians, three wild mustangs and a colt jumped the road in front of us, and hung around long enough for a great pic. Camp this night (mile 1063) would be on the wind protected landing of an old mining works.
June 18th: The town of Gerlach is proud of its reputation for being, "where the pavement ends, and the West begins," and an old Italian guy named Bruno owns the whole town. Bruno's Hotel, Bruno's Bar and Casino, Bruno's Restaurant. Gerlach lives up to its reputation. As we ordered breakfast, Bruno came bolting out of the kitchen hollering and yelling at the cook….. "You'aaa drunk, Gettttaaaaa outtaaaa heeere…. Whataaaa da heeeelllll, Youaaaaa fired." Apparently the cook had a date with a bottle of whiskey last night, was an hour late for work, and Blah, Blah Blah.
The Great Black Rock point sets thirty-five miles across a pool-table-flat dry lakebed. But that's only when it's dry… and when Gerlach received rain for eighteen of the last twenty days, we were in trouble. If you get stuck, and you are alone in the center of the lakebed, it's a twentyish mile walk in the sweltering desert sun for help…. And forget about an attachment point. A Pull Pal would be your only savior.
We made it about twenty miles before it became a muddy mess. Realizing we were doomed, there was only one thing to do. If you stop, you'll sink like a dinosaur in the La Brea tar pits. I carved a slow 40-mph arc, sweating bullets the whole time (sorry, no pics in a situation like that). Retreating to the graded dirt track, we muddled through three or four more attempts to get to Black Rock Springs. Three hours (this is a great thing about not having a fixed itinerary), we turned the wheel north again to Solder Meadows and a hot spring the size of a swimming pool… really!!! Enroute, we hooked up with the Pair-O-Dice 4x4 club and spent the evening swapping yarns and coldies around the campfire.
We lounged around the hot spring for too long yesterday and had to make tracks. Fly and High Rock Canyons are spectacular. The gorge chokes down to a about fifty feet at one point, and the sheer cliff walls of the canyon tower three- to-four hundred feet to each side. 150- year old writings can be seen on the vertical rocks in an area known as the mailbox. These were notes from the pioneers letting others know they had passed through Indian Country safely.
We hightailed it across the desert to Vya (nothing there but the Old Yeller Ranch with a sign that said "We don't rent pigs" ?), up the northern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada and back into California. The gas (idiot) light had been on for thirty miles when we pulled into Lakeview. We'll be digging out the map books for the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Trail for the next section (www.oohva.com)
Gear, Maps and Beef Jerky.
-The ARB camp light - I haven't had to change a broken lantern mantel once, and the cord is long enough to reach under the hood or up to the ARB roof-mounted tent.
-DO NOT leave your dog in the Jeep with a bag of beef jerky… Duhhhhh. Radar won't need to eat tonight.
- Delorme Atlas map books. We scrounged around Lakeview to find the last Oregon book in town from Howard's Drugs, and a few Forest Service maps from Sandi (who stayed open late for us) at the Interagency Dept. Thanks Sandi!!! You saved our bacon.
Next Border to Border will be from an unknown location (but one that has a cell signal) via my new favorite techno-geek toy….. Uconnect Web from Mopar.
Cheers from Oregon
Chris and Suzanne Collard… and Radar the JERKy dog.
Border To Border Part II: mile 1662
Lakeview To Seneca Oregon: Hot Tubs, Mud Bogs, Antelope And Rock Stars.
19 June 3:30 PM
Gassed up in Lakeview and headed to the Interagency Office for maps to augment the, uh… Oregon Backcountry Maps (more on this later). Its 4:28 PM, they closed at 4:30, yikes, thanks Sandi for staying open late!!. Then Howard's pharmacy for a DeLorme Atlas. We love small towns, everyone wants to know what you are doing and if you can come over for tea or coffee or to camp (thanks Mr. Cyr for the invite).
The Heart Mountain Antelope Reserve. In the rustic one-horse post of Adel we ran into some mud-on-your boots cowboys, Will Cockerell and the Lang brothers, who keyed us in on the coolest hot spring around, and a great back-way into Hart Mt.
Finding the Oregon Central Military Wagon Road (circa 1884), we spent the next 25 miles (a four hour venture) slogging through the previous week's runoff. Ran, snow, hail, wind…. And did I mention slicker-than-snot mud… and water crossings… and enough mosquitoes to carry the vehicle away! One water crossing, about sixty feet wide, was too sketchy and required stripping down and walking it first. There is something about being stripped down to your underwear and wading thigh-deep in snow runoff that makes you love the great outdoors. Suzy said I looked mighty cute out there, wading through the creek half naked!
June 21st, the summer solstice, 6am: We awoke to silence, the rain had run its course and it was now snowing. We'd camped at the Hart Mt Hot Springs (thanks to Ray and Monica (plus their 5 kids) for sharing your camp spot) and the thought of another thousand miles of late spring storms was sounding pretty dang cold. Our fingers felt about frostbit by the time we stuffed everything back in the Jeep and got rolling.
The skies had cleared by the time we got to the boomtown of Wagontire for lunch and gas. Bob and Cheryl James serve a great cheeseburger! Also had a chance to hose off a thick coating of mud. This night we'd camped in an absolutely beautiful meadow in the Ochoco National Forest. By this time we were on the Discovery Trail, but the maps were challenging and the waypoints not so accurate.
Ahh, Seneca - While pumping gas, a guy wondered over from a nearby lodge (the only lodge in Seneca) and struck up a conversation. He ended up being J.W. Everitt (yes the same J.W. Everitt that played with CSN&Y, Jackson Browne, etc and who's father was a member of the Sons of the Pioneers Band). After some small talk, J.W. invited us to stay the night (he owns the Bear Cat Lodge). We joined J.W, fellow photographer Bill (from Nebraska) and Steve (from Hemet, CA) for an evening of food, swapping of trail stories (he is an avid dual sport bike rider and Baja aficionado)…. and some of the best tequila we've tried!
Cheers from the great northwest!!!
Chris, Suzy and Radar
Border To Border Part II: mile 2057 - Snow, Mud, Loggers And Miners
The Jeep Overland Adventure Continues
I think the last person that told me eastern Oregon was a vast desert was under the influence of a controlled substance. Unlike the Sierras of California, the forest-blanketed mountains of east Oregon go on for days… and days. We were smack dab in the middle of two of America's historic boom-and-bust industries, timber and gold. Though the timber industry harvested billions of board-feet of lumber, enough to build the nation, the forests appeared incredibly healthy. The only real signs of devastation are the ghost towns and economic ruin left in wake of going green.
While we had issues deciphering the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Trail (OBDT) maps (incorrect waypoints, no legend page on Section I, and fuzzy print on the topo maps), they were actually a very good reference if carefully combined with a DeLorme Atlas and Garmin's Map Source. We were as lost as a vegetarian in a steak-lovers convention trying to get from Seneca to OBDT section II.
Rolling into the mining town of Sumpter is like stepping into a seventy-year time warp: Old brick buildings with hand-painted billboards on the sides advertising goods and services, rickety wooden barns lining the side streets, and hitching posts along a wooden boardwalk. We stepped into the Elkhorn Saloon and every head in the place, all four of them, turned to check out the tourists. We ordered from their menu of forty-two types of burgers. The big deal in Sumpter is a massive river dredge floating in the midst of miles of river rock tailings. Finally on the OBDT, we spooked a herd of two-dozen elk before setting up camp in the most pristine of verdant meadows. (Mile 1808)
Locals are always a great source of information. Larry and his dogs stopped by in the morning to spin a yarn, and we picked his brain for local color. The town of Granite…. super nice folks… several old flat fenders and weathered barns… but pass on ordering breakfast.
Between the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatila National Forests lies La Grande. Housekeeping was blogging, fuel and water. By the time we were finished, it was dark (10PM) and were within a nose hair of getting a room (and shower). But the darkness called, and since we hadn't had a good night run (Bronco's there!! … MattJ), we turned north on Owsley Canyon Rd/ Mt Emily. Why do I share this? Because you don't want to do this knife-edge rim trail in the dark… especially after a good rain. A sheer rock face to the left, only moonless blackness to the right, and a fierce wind whipping up the canyon. Didn't get the tent up until 1am.
June 24th : We winched the first tree out of the trail before 0830 (we finally got to use our Warn 9500 wrapped with Viking winch rope) and aired down the tires to 8-psi shortly thereafter. Locking the differentials, we headed into the lee side of the mountain and several miles of deep snowdrifts. What a blast!! We were the only ones around for miles, and our Overland JK, combined with the 35-inch BFGoodrich KM2s worked over the drifts like a sidewinder over a sand dune… (ok, so we did get bogged down a few times).
Giving us our fill of snow, slush, winching and mudding, the route descended towards Walla Walla as we crossed into Washington, leaving the Umatilla highlands in the rearview. The vast wheat fields of Washington lay to the north, so we dug out our portable ARB compressor, aired back up to trail pressure (about 15psi), and headed for our next fuel stop.
Cheers from the B2B crew
Chris, Suzy … and Radar Collard
Border To Border Part II:
Walla Walla to Usk Washington: mile 2446 - Washington's Bread Basket, Lost in Idaho and Wind Mills
While Oregon brought us four hundred miles of forest lined dirt roads, southern Washington would show us the hard working farmers of America… and hundreds of miles of wheat fields. Spectacular as they may be, and while the dirt and gravel farm roads did meet our all-dirt criteria, after a hundred or so miles of rolling agricultural tracks, we made a move for Idaho. But I digress. By the way, the road over the dam on the Snake River closes at, get this, 1730… and we got there at 1815. Parked in front of the locked gate with two hours of driving daylight left, we felt captive, (the route around was 2.5 hours). But it's the adventure, right! So camp this night was on a an asphalt boat ramp near a sign that said, "no camping."
Entering Idaho near Moscow (yes, there is a Moscow ID), the map looked wide open as far as dirt routes north. But the DeLorme atlas nor our Garmin Map Source defines private land. Most of the region is owned by logging companies… and they like to keep the public out. An array of locked gates and closed roads became our nemesis, and after half a day of dead ends, extended backtracking, and being faced long paved roads to get around it all, we decided to push on through the Washington's bread basket and returned to our exit-point near Moscow (time was also an issue as Suzy had a flight the next day from Spokane).
We must have caked to much mud to the JK, or fumigated the cab with to much dust. A few miles from Spokane the airbag light came on, along with a seriously annoying and persistent BING…BING…BING…The timing worked out perfectly and the BING was a blessing in disguise. I dropped Suzy at the airport and headed to the Barton Jeep dealership. Little did I know (I really hadn't researched Washington much and it was the red herring in my itinerary), that the guys at Barton Jeep were Jeeping and wheeling aficionados. And, they knew northern WA like their own backyards.
I apparently disrupted the sales meeting when I pulled into the lot (the manager, Mike, said, "Everyone jumped up like there was a gorgeous girl standing outside the window"). The whole crew came out to check out the Overland. These guys were great. Jeff Bordner and John Berger, both avid Jeepers and hunters, even came in on their day off to pour over maps and set me straight on getting to the border. Also, a big thanks to Walt, the service manager, for getting me back on the trail in a jiffy (the BING issue was as minor an airbag sensor in the steering column).
I backtracked to where I jumped off the dirt and headed north. Radar was happy that he got a front seat, and there were but a few dozen miles of ag-land before dropping into the Little Falls River valley. It was only 2.5 hours to the border via the highway, but it would take 2.5 days to zigzag my way by dirt tracks. The Spokane Indian Reservation was a great transition Springdale and Grouse Creek Road, which lead to the Colville National Forest. I'd be in the forested high country for the rest of the trek.
According to John and Jeff, Usk would be my last chance for gas before pushing on to the border through the Kaniksu National Forest. I found Forest Service road 4347 (FR 4347) just before sunset and a remote side road to camp on. The few people I'd talked to enroute mentioned, watch out for the grizzly bears… and your dog. With that said, and despite the calm and moonless night, Radar and I jumped with every creak and swoosh from the blackness. It was only twenty-five miles to Usk, (about five on pavement) but in an attempt to keep the all-dirt concept in place, I ended up on a really unused side road (low-range and locker stuff) … with a locked gate at the end. Arrggg.
The nest blog with be final push to the border. Wish us luck!!
Cheers from the road
Chris and Radar