August 27, 2019.
Most of the trips I do require a full day - or more - of freeway driving just to reach the trailhead, so you can imagine my delight when we decided to do a trip on the west coast. Sort-of. At least, our meeting location was only four hours away - in the tiny little community of Mazama, WA. From there, we'd head north - to British Columbia, Canada - where we planned to run The Whipsaw Trail and then make our way north and west to Molybdenite Peak - before turning south again for the United States.
It was strange to leave the house in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, and arrive at a camp location that Mike @Digiratus had arranged for us just as the sun was setting. The weather was pleasant, and we enjoyed ourselves chatting and watching 30 deer stroll by, until Dan @drr showed up around 11:00pm.
That left only Monte @Blackdawg absent - but he had a much longer drive, some 12 hours or so - and we all went to bed wondering when we'd see him... because though he'd planned to be in Mazama around the same time as Dan, he'd left 12 hours late - at 9:00pm - and now planned to drive through the night. Fun times.
As the morning sun spilled across our tents, Dan's new dog - echo - poked her head out to see what the new day would bring.
For a while, what it brought was some lounging around and taking it easy - a definite departure from our usual morning greeting and then breakdown of camp. See, I'd gotten a text from Monte, and he predicted an 11:00am arrival, having slept for a solid 90 minutes or so over the entirety of the night. Yuk.
He was right on time* it turned out, and we were ready to go - the strangeness of this trip, just the beginning of what would be a series of surprises! A quick fuel up, and we aired down as we headed north on the backroads of Washington, toward the tiny town of Nighthawk, and the Canadian border.
* his newly revised, 12-hour late time.
The trails we traveled for this first part of our journey were reasonably major Forest Service roads, and we made good time - when we were actually moving - which as usual was sporadic, given our frequent photo stops and the chit-chat that accompanies the start of any reunion of friends.
Now, it should be noted that one of the major topics of conversation was a new addition to Dan's truck - he'd just recently gotten a Go Fast Camper (GFC) and we were all quite interested in how he liked it (and whether we'd admit it or not - wondered if it would be a good addition to our own trucks ).
He of course loved it, and it fit great on his 1st gen Tacoma - hugging the top of the cab even closer than it does on later models.
Making our way north, we passed through miles and miles of burned forest. Burned as part of the 175,184 acre Tripod Complex in 2006, these forests are just now starting to see new growth, most of the young trees 5-7 years old, and under 10' high. It's a trade-off of course - the lack of mature trees allowing for distant views, but those same views are of burned forest.
The Spur Creek fire - one of the two that merged into the Tripod Complex started on July 3 and was declared fully contained on July 14, 2006. However, another round of lightning storms and high winds caused the fire to jump the lines on July 27, and eventually merge with the Tripod Fire in August. It wasn't until the first snow in October that the fires were finally extinguished - over 3,000 firefighters and a battalion of 550 Army soldiers helping to fight the blaze.
Eventually, we made our way out of the hills around Loomis - the agriculture of the valley in stark contrast to the landscape we'd traveled through over the course of the last several hours.
Back on pavement as we passed Palmer Lake - and knowing that pavement would continue for several hours into Canada - we took the opportunity to air up our tires and remove our plate covers. We didn't want to cause any more trouble at the Canadian border than we had to - despite the reality of our puppy-dog demeanor's , we probably looked shady enough as it was in our built rigs.
Through Nighthawk without so much as slowing down, we were soon at the Chopaka border crossing, where we were each drilled several times on the same issue: guns.
Border Patrol: "Do you have any guns?"
Border Patrol: "No hand guns, shot guns, or rifles?"
Us: "No." [Thinking: Do Canadian's don't realize that no means no?]
Border Patrol: "No weapons of any kind?"
Most of us except Monte: "Nope."
Monte: "Well, I have a Leatherman. Does that count?"
Even at that, we were through in record time - our lack of weapons (and other contraband) obviously surprising given the prepper-like appearance of our trucks. The last one through, I called out over the CB, "Drive 'em like you stole 'em, boys!" and we headed up BC-3 to Princeton.
Doing our best to convert km/h to mph and keep our speeds legal, it was 5:00pm by the time we finally arrived in Princeton to fuel up the trucks and do some last provisioning before heading out on The Whipsaw Trail. And - as luck would have it - just as a few last bundles of firewood were being purchased, a woman let Dan and Mike know that there was a big pile of free fire wood a little less than a mile from our current position.
That was great news, and the paid stuff was quietly returned to its rack as we set off towards what turned out to be an enormous pile of firewood in the parking lot of a nearby business - some good-natured CB chatter with the woman who'd alerted us to the wood (her first use of her CB) taking place as we navigated our way to this gold mine.
We filled up our beds with more wood than we could burn, and I drove right into the pile. For no real reason except that it was fun, and I am a goober.
With that, we pointed our trucks towards the dirt and made our way onto the Whipsaw Trail - a heavily traveled logging road at the point we entered. Even at that, it was rough enough that we decided to air down for maximum comfort. Dan was doing double duty at this point - his attempts to lower his tire pressures slowed by a 4-month old pup literally chomping at the bit to play with him.
...Which gave me plenty of time to slip a little gift onto his license plate.
It'd be quite a while until my minor modification would be noticed, and we all took off, our trucks (and butts) much happier on the bouncy cushions of air we now had spinning along below us.
Zipping along, we only put a few miles behind us before we started looking for a camp site - it'd been a long couple of days for Monte - and truth be told, we were all ready to find ourselves around our first camp fire. Somehow ending up in the lead, I spotted a side spur and radioed that I was heading up to check it out. Everyone else hung out at the bottom since most of these spurs don't lead to anything great - but after about a mile, I came upon what had probably been an old logging platform and would suit us just fine.
I radioed back, and then figured that I may as well pose my truck for everyone's arrival.
Soon enough, the other three trucks came speeding up the road and I was informed that I'd posed the truck incorrectly. The front wheels should have been turned the other direction, I was told. Oh well, I'm no Ben @m3bassman, so I'll just keep practicing.
Happy to be in camp, we fell into our normal rhythm. Tents were deployed - some (GFC) more quickly than others (CVT) and routines were followed - Mike prepping some of his famous salsa, and Monte getting to work on a fire.
We hung out around the fire eating salsa - and eventually our dinners - until 10:00pm or so before deciding it was time for some rest. It was probably one of our earliest nights ever - at least as far as I can remember - but we had a full day in front of us and it'd be important to be well-rested for what the Whipsaw had in store.
As we climbed into our respective beds, a cool breeze blew through the tents, the perfect end to the first day of our trip.