Border to Border - The Final Push To The Border
The ultimate Jeeping trek from Mexico to Canada via all-dirt.... well, almost all-dirt
B2B – The Final Push to Canada
It’s only 47 miles (as the crow flies) from Usk, Washington to the Canadian border, but I would be covering four-fold this distance before nosing the bumper of the JK Overland up to the 49th parallel. And it would be the longest thirty-six hours of the trek: dead-ends, fallen trees, mis-marked trails… or relying too much on the babysitter (the GPS) rather than common sense and dead reckoning. But a good friend once said to me, while backtracking from a dead-end canyon in Baja “we’re never lost, just exploring.”
The Kaniksu National Forest is stunning. Towering forest-covered peaks, seemingly bottomless crystal clear lakes, and an occasional deer darting across the trail. But the mix between my DeLorme book, Map Source, and the USFS map, was a world of confusion. The main tracks, though they wound around the mountain like a hungry python on a wallaby, were okay. But I wouldn’t suggest attempting to save time by finding that short cut. I found myself on top of Old South Baldy…. (Isn’t there a song about Old Baldy? Or, maybe that was “Ol’ Smoky”) after several missed attempts at finding Squaw Valley Rd via FR306. Great view but another dead end. I thought, “It must have been that other left turn.” Ahhhh, victory! Lying on its side was the Forest Service post, marked FR306. The only issue was another BIG tree lying across the trail.
The words of Willie Worthy came to mind (Willie is a fellow journalist and the guy who did the Four Wheeler all dirt B2B twenty years ago). Willie said, “Don’t head north without a chainsaw.” Wise words!! I again pulled the winch line… Due to anchor points, I grabbed my ARB snatch block, (which is designed for use with nylon winch rope), winch line and tree saver, and went hunting for a suitable anchor. After winching and repositioning the line, attachment point and strap several times, there was enough room to slip around. An hour had passed, the sun was heading west, and I needed to make some time. I loaded up my gear and Radar, and…… and it was a flipping dead end just two hundred meters around the bend. #*&^$@!#$*^%**^ I pulled into a boat launch parking lot on the Columbia River and pitched the tent at about 10 PM. I was less than ten miles (again, as the crow flies) from the border. Success would be mine in the morning.
My first attempt, a logging road near Northport, WA, was a bust. I was within 600 feet (Latitude: 48.59.913) but a few ten-foot divots in the trail and a federal “Warning” sign halted progress. Route # two, another logging track was the ticket. With our tightened border security after 9/11, I’d expected some type of big sign, or sound sensing equipment (which I’d heard existed everywhere along the international line) or border patrol officers creeping around in the bushes, or something. But there I was, at 49-degrees north, looking out over one of our northern neighbor’s vast and forested canyons, and I was completely alone… just Radar and I. I waited, expecting some new friends with badges and guns, but no one showed up. A green and white chopper (border patrol) did fly by but paid no attention. It had been twenty-one days and almost three thousand miles of dirt roads since I left the Mexican border, and the odometer read 2760 miles.
There is an old saying that goes like this. “It is not the destination, it’s the journey.” Though cliché, it beholds an undeniable truth. When it comes to overland trekking, the goal may be the heights of a remote mountain range, the sand pan of a distant desert, or simply an imaginary line in the middle of the forest (49-degrees north for example) but the people you meet, places you see, the elk, deer and coyotes that cross your path and the experiences you take in, that is the journey which fills life’s pallet.
I’d like to give a big thanks to my sponsors and great people who helped with kitting out the Overland. Jeep and Mopar, Warn, ARB, AEV, BFG, Poly Performance, Jeepcamping.com, SPOT and Adventure TRAK, 4X4 Wire, Viking, Expedition One, Equipt Inc, Daystar and the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association.
Look for the full report, a four-part Border-To-Border series in Four Wheeler Magazine some time in spring of 2010.