AdventureTaco - turbodb's build and adventures

Reading this reminds me of choices I made when I got my first new truck back in 2002. I had owned and worked on and driven lots of the older Toyota’s (1984, 86, 3x 87, 88, 90, 91, 93) and was really considering getting a truck optioned just like yours. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and do just that. In the end the call of the v8 was too strong and I went with a FS Chevy instead. Been an excellent truck... but reading this from your perspective from the new purchase to now is interesting. Keep it up, curious to hear more.


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Reading this reminds me of choices I made when I got my first new truck back in 2002. I had owned and worked on and driven lots of the older Toyota’s (1984, 86, 3x 87, 88, 90, 91, 93) and was really considering getting a truck optioned just like yours. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and do just that. In the end the call of the v8 was too strong and I went with a FS Chevy instead. Been an excellent truck... but reading this from your perspective from the new purchase to now is interesting. Keep it up, curious to hear more.
Thanks! glad to hear you're enjoying - there's definitely more to come :)


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The camping mod - disabling the courtesy lights
March 20 - April 28, 2016

Courtesy lights are those little lights around the car that turn on when you open your doors. They generally include the dome light, some door lights, that kind of thing.

Now, I know what you're thinking - "How in the world does disabling the courtesy lights take five and a half weeks?"

Electricity. And negative switching.

For years, I've wanted a way to disable the courtesy lights - mostly so that when camping, the doors can stay open without having to worry that the battery will run down. But of course, finding the right wire to cut - especially on a negatively switched (where the light always has +12V and the ground is switched) - proved to be very elusive. So elusive that I never found it. So elusive that Dad never found it. So elusive that the Internet said, "try something else."

Not one to give up, I gave up and tried something else - instead of a single switch to control all of the courtesy lights, I decided to go with a switch for each door. See, the doors are the things that control the lights (there's a switch that gets tripped when the door opens) and there's just a single wire that runs to that switch. I knew that if I put another switch in series, that I could turn the lights off.

I ordered some toggle switches direct from China and waited 2 weeks for them to be delivered. They arrived, and it was time to get started.

Step one was to cut the wire. Done (3 minutes).

Step two was to solder in some more wire to get to the switch. Done (3 minutes).

Step three was to wire up the switch and install it. And this is where things got messy. I still don't know why (and it turns out that neither does the internet), but I couldn't get the switches to work "correctly." That is, I couldn't get the little LEDs on them to light up when the door was open and the courtesy lights were on, but be off when the door was closed or the switch was off. I could only get them to be on all the time or to only be on when the courtesy lights were off - clearly, both of those options completely defeat the purpose - I want lights off so I don't run down my battery.

So I ordered some different push-button switches from China and waited 2 more weeks. Same problem. At this point, I engaged the internet (TacomaWorld). Several suggestions were given on how to wire the switches, and @fergyz even purchased a few himself to see if he could get them to work. We even tried adding a diode to direct current flow. Nothing.

Beaten, but not out, I decided I'd just install the switches without illumination. Not quite as cool, but it would work just fine. So it was back to step three - wire up the switch and install it.

The switches I used were these 16mm pushbutton ones, since they come with a harness - which means you can disconnect the switch from the wiring when you take off the dash.

Being cylindrical meant that once I knew where to put the switch (making sure there was clearance in the back) it was relatively easy to make the hole for it using a forstner bit. From there, I could insert the switch, plug in the wiring harness that I'd soldered up, and voila - an innocuous little switch on each door to control the lights. Only five and a half weeks in the making.



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Oh ********, the engine light's on - upgrading the air filter (Part 1: Prelude)
May 2016

"Uh, Dad? Can you hear me?" I yelled into the phone, hoping that 1 tiny bar was enough.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves again. We need to rewind about 20 minutes. To when the engine light came on. Or maybe even a bit further - to the beginning of the epic trip to the Owyhee Canyonlands. The first trip that would take advantage of the new suspension.


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Oh ********, the engine light's on - upgrading the air filter (Part 2: A trip to the Owyhee (pronounced 'Hawaii') Canyonlands - Chalk Basin)
May 2016

It was just like any other work week. Or at least, any other week where you go to work for half a day Monday; take a 24-hour flight to India at 6pm; work in India for 34 hours; and then arrive back in Seattle at 7am Friday morning after 24 more hours in the air. Except it wasn't. Memorial Day the following Monday meant a four-day weekend, and that meant that this was the perfect week for an extended camping trip.

Where would we go? Being May, our normal haunts in the Pacific Northwest were still largely under snow, and we were headed down to northern California later in the summer - so that was out. But southwest, in Oregon, we found the perfect solution - the Owyhee Canyonlands.

As I mentioned, I landed Friday at 6:55am and booked it through customs, getting home around 8am. @mrs.turbodb had already driven the truck home and gotten our gear ready to go Thursday night - so it was a simple matter of a final check and getting it all stowed in the back. We were on the road by 9am, headed east on I-90, hoping that the jet-lag from my 24 hours in the air would hold off for the duration of our 11-hour drive.

During the first leg of our journey, we spent a bit of time with the phone in the car figuring out our exact itinerary - we had a general sense of where we wanted to go, but @mrs.turbodb was able to match up directions that said things like "go for a while on a dirt road past some cow poop, and then turn left on another dirt road where there are cows pooping" into actual roads, distances, and times on bing maps so that we'd know approximately when we'd be at each of our planned destinations: Chalk Basin, Jordan Craters, Three Forks, and The Honeycombs. The conclusion: we could do it, but it'd be a lot of driving, much of it off-road.

Dan: Awesome.

@mrs.turbodb: This seems crazy and not relaxing.

Dan: Uhh...

It was too late to turn back, so we just fought about it for a bit in the car until we realized we were hungry and needed to stop for lunch. We stopped in Pendleton, OR where we found a great little Mexican food place where we could refuel.

We got Enchilada's Mexicana's and they were delicious.

After lunch, it was back on the road, and on to our first destination: Chalk Basin. We were completely unsure we could find it, and we were right. Headed along the highway, the directions said, "take Highway 95 left for exactly 8 miles to a gravel side road on the left marked only by a stop sign." Right.

Chalk Basin
Amazingly, 8 miles after turning on to Highway 95, we saw the stop sign and turned onto dirt roads, basically for the next 48 hours, and it was here that we got our first glimpse of some real geology. It was awesome. At the time. We had no idea what lay ahead.

We continued on for 90 minutes, sure that we were going the wrong way, hoping we weren't, and surprised when we'd see a referenced landmark, having missed the one we were looking for (we never found the telephone pole that we were supposed to turn left at, 22.4 miles out a dirt road).

Luckily, we were in a weird appendage of Mountain time, so it was light until 10pm, and at 9:30pm, we arrived at an unmarked intersection that we were sure was the trail head (a.k.a "place to start walking in a general direction"). We'd seen only one other car the entire time, and that meant we could camp just about anywhere - so we did.

We pulled off the side of an even-more 4WD road than we'd been on previously and up onto the top of a hill overlooking Chalk Basin, just as the sun was setting. We got the truck leveled out with a few volcanic rocks, and built a rip-roaring campfire as the stars came out. Life: good.

We climbed into bed, tentless and enjoyed the view. It was windy, really windy. But it was cozy, and we were tired.

Now, while it was great that we were in Mountain time on the "setting up camp" end of the day, it wasn't totally awesome on the "getting out of bed" end. But, we had a full day, and so at 6:03am sharp, I opened my eyes and poked my head out of the sleeping bag. More room in the bag, @mrs.turbodb pulled her head further down.

Sunrise was beautiful.

The truck was clearly in its element, and it was becoming clear that nearly every photo on the trip was going to have some truck in it. As @mrs.turbodb roused herself out of bed, I took a few more photos of the geology on our hill, and we ate a breakfast of Honey Bunches of Oats (with Almonds) and blueberries.

Then, it was off on our first hike of the weekend, to see Chalk Basin, close up. The scenery was amazing - at the height of spring, we had no idea how perfect our timing (it would only become clear as we headed back Monday).

As we rounded the corner of the trail, we got our first glimpse of Chalk Basin. This was why we'd driven long hours - so we could experience this in full morning light, sunlight gleaming off of the rock. It was great. It turns out, we still had no idea what was in store.



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We continued on. Turn after turn, the landscape improved. Turn after turn, we were more and more lost.

We saw deer (both alive and dead), all kinds of geology, and we saw what we thought was a landmark called Yellow Dome. We thought wrong. At this point we were in the "head cross country for .2 miles" part of the trail, so we continued to trek for two or three times that, not at all worried about the fact that we hadn't brought any water on this (we thought) short stroll. Except that we were a bit worried.

Still lost we headed straight up the nearest ridge, and surveyed the landscape. Nice rolling hills, and there, in the distance - a landmark we recognized - the truck (and trailhead)! Re-oriented, we headed off in the opposite direction to find Yellow Dome.

Just over a ridge about a quarter mile away, this vista opened up in front of us. It was crazy - we were so close and had no idea it was even there (Yellow Dome on the left).

With that, it was nearly 10am, and time to head back to the truck. We had a full day ahead of us, with two major stops - at Jordan Craters, and Three Forks.

On our way out of Chalk Basin, it was time for one final picture. And of course, another on the way to Jordan Craters, all on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and all on 4WD "roads."

[to be continued ...]​


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Oh ********, the engine light's on - upgrading the air filter (Part 3: Owyhee, Jordan Craters)
May 2016

The whole of Owyhee Canyonlands are composed of various volcanic activity. Jordan Craters is the most recent of that activity (parts of which are only ~100 years old) and are a crazy sight to see. Looking at the area when approaching via car, and even more when viewing it via satellite, it looks like a huge lake. In reality, it's a huge (~25 square mile) lava flow, with basically nothing growing in the area at all. At the very northwest corner is the place we were heading - Coffeepot Crater.

We made great time, passing a slow moving Nissan and got to Coffee Pot a little after 1pm. At the crater, we were greeted by another Tacoma, a 4Runner, and shortly after we showed up, a Tundra. Of course, the Nissan showed up eventually as well - right about the time we were leaving ;-). We also saw this guy - clearly enjoying the BLM roads in a way that only a dune buggy can!

We ate a quick lunch - peanut butter and jelly, Lay's potato chips, and an apple, and headed out for a short exploration of the crater. We thought that it might be anti-climactic after Chalk Basin, but we were in for a surprise.

The crater was big, and being BLM, you could walk just about anywhere. We saw amazing rocks, lava tubes (if there are animals in there, they got a couple apple cores), collapsed domes, flows, and geometric cracks that fit together like puzzle pieces. A few of the colorful volcanic rocks even made their way home with us.

An hour and a half later, and we were ready to hit the road again. We had a 3-hour drive to Three Forks, where we planned to spend the night, taking advantage of the hot springs located next to one of the forks of the Owyhee River.

But oh, if only it was that easy.

On our way to Three Forks, we headed through Jordan Valley, a small Basque cattle town, with a few homes, a school, and a gas station, hotel and food mart (all owned by Jim). It was time to fill up with gas, and being Oregon, the attendant ran out and topped off the tank.

On our way out of town, disaster. The engine light in the truck came on.

That's never happened before, so I gave pops a call while @mrs.turbodb read her guide book. It was suspicious that the light came on just after getting the truck filled up, and in the end we decided to keep going - it wasn't an easy decision with 800 miles left to go (many of them off-road) but the fluid levels were good, engine temp was normal, and hey, this is a Toyota Tacoma.

[to be continued ...]



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Oh ********, the engine light's on - upgrading the air filter (Part 3: Owyhee, Three Forks)
May 2016

A few miles outside of Jordan Valley, it was back onto dirt roads for 30 miles to Three Forks. Mostly uneventful, we saw many more cows than cars, and we arrived at our destination around 7:00pm. Once again, we were deceived right up until we got there, as the canyon opened up below us, rather than being something we drove into. Coming over the edge, we were greeted by this sight, and it was just the beginning.

We continued down, and found ourselves in the most populated place we'd see all weekend - 7 or 8 other campers, already setup along the edge of the river. We looked around a bit for a spot, and then ventured up stream, forded he river in the truck, and kept going along something marked "Jeep trail," that was steep, narrow, and fun. There were no Jeeps. Only Tacomas.

We made our way to the end of the trail, which also happened to be the hot spring location, where we found three ATV-ers already enjoying a small, lukewarm pool. We joined them and had a good chat ("You're from Seattle, and just got back from India?!") while tried to inconspicuously wash our faces and bodies after a couple days of no showers and lots of dusty roads/hikes.

Then it was back to the car, and off an even less-well-traveled spur of the Jeep road. No Jeeps or Tacomas here, just our Tacoma.
Eventually, we found ourselves above the crowds, on our own canyon finger, looking out over two of the three forks of the Owyhee River.

This part of the Jeep trail was clearly untraveled on a regular basis, and was a perfect spot for us to setup camp. A little closer to water than Chalk Basin, and partially sheltered (from wind) by the canyon, there were more bugs here, so it was a tent night - our only one on the trip. Nearly 10pm already, it was dinner time - 3 hot dogs each, an ear of roasted corn, some roasted veggies, and marshmallows. Yum.

Sleep came easy after our full day, with @mrs.turbodb hoping the tent would help us sleep later into the morning than we had this morning.

It probably would have, were it not for the fact that I can't sleep past 6.

The next morning, we awoke to the sound of roosters in Hawaii. Except that they were quail in Owyhee. At any rate, one was perched on the top of our finger (over by the tree), and he was not happy that we were visiting...but he was also very camera shy, taking off before I could get anywhere close. The sun was just peeking over the plains, and like the previous morning, it was awesome.

Breakfast (cereal and blueberries) overlooking Three Forks as the sun rose was the perfect start to the day, which only got better as we packed up the truck and pulled out of our spot, with the engine light no longer on! With that, we headed out, and enjoyed Three Forks again as we drove out in the morning sun.

[to be continued ...]​

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Oh ********, the engine light's on - upgrading the air filter (Part 4: Owyhee, The Honeycombs)
May 2016

With a new lease on life (no check engine light), the trip through Jordan Valley (again) and to our final destination was fun. We saw a ring-necked pheasant and of course 1 million billion cows just grazing wherever they wanted on the BLM land. The highlight however was a cattle grate crossing on the top of a rise where, at 50 MPH, the Tacoma played "Dakar rally truck" and we caught air, much to our surprise (and enjoyment).

As we continued to drive, we entered a whole new landscape - green valleys between rolling hills covered in obvious volcanic activity. We'd timed this just right, to hit the 10 days of "spring" that happen each year.

It was obvious when we finally arrived at the trailhead (again, some 30 miles on unmarked, unpaved, 4WD roads), because there to greet us - of course - was another Tacoma. Of course, we pulled up alongside to compare our 1st generation truck with a brand new 2016 model. Let's just say that there wasn't going to be any trading going on, at least on our part.

The hike to the Honeycombs was definitely going to be our longest hike - at 16 miles roundtrip - but little did we know that it was also going to be our hardest. Not due to terrain, but due to the fact that we had no idea where we were going, or whether we were on the right trail.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Shortly after our arrival, as we were making lunch and getting ready to set off (at noon), the owner of the 2016 Tacoma showed up, having left earlier in the morning and taken a wrong turn, completely missing the trailhead (and then deciding to call it quits for the Honeycombs (bummer!). We all chatted for a bit (mostly about how old Tacomas were better than new ones) and we got some pointers on how to get onto the trailhead. With that, we headed out (just as a third Tacoma was pulling up...though it turns out, he never stopped).

With renewed confidence, we headed to the end of the road and the trailhead, where we promptly took a wrong turn and lost the trail. With topo map in hand, @mrs.turbodb pointed us the right direction, and we headed up and over a 400 foot ridge, and back down the other side to meet up with where the trail was supposed to be (and was). We continued on that trail until it met a two track road (?) at which point we thought we were totally lost again.

That meant @mrs.turbodb was looking at the map every few minutes.

That meant I was getting frustrated with all the map looking.

Grouchiness ensued.

@mrs.turbodb ate her potato chips.

It turned out we were on the right "trail," though we only found out about that 2 hours later when we passed the only other three people we saw all day, as they were on their way back from "not quite making it" to the Honeycombs.

But the views. They were spectacular.

That's @mrs.turbodb "coming down the trail."

When we finally got to the Honeycombs, we realized it was all worth it. For all the lost-ness earlier in the day, the views here were more dramatic than any we'd seen on the trip. The oranges, golds, and yellows were bright, and the spires were tall.

And the trail was straight down, 1000 feet.

@mrs.turbodb took a break at the top, and I headed down to get some pics.

The further I went, the more amazingly crazier it got. I couldn't capture it with a single picture, or a panorama - the camera just wouldn't do it. Eventually, I ended up with a bunch of pictures and a video to try and capture the whole thing. Still didn't do it justice.

Then, it was back up the hill (probably a few hundred feet) to a little cave in the Honeycombs where we ate lunch.
PB & J again, it was delicious. Even though mine was squished and soggy and @mrs.turbodb's was pristine. Go figure.

After a short break, it was 3:30 and time to head back. More confident in our location and knowledge of the area, we set out, cross country for the 6 mile return trek, soaking up the wildflowers and sights we'd also seen on the way out.

Back at the car a little after 5:30, we had a decision to make: Do we camp out here in the middle of nowhere, with amazing views of green valley's blowing in the breeze, or head north for a few hours to cut down on our trip back to Seattle the next day, and to enjoy some amazing hot springs we'd heard about from Camille, the 2016 Tacoma owner.

As much as we wanted the hot springs, we knew that the camping would be a much more "civilized" experience, and we weren't really up for the sound of generators late into the night. Plus, this:

So, we made our way up to the top of a ridge between two rock cliffs, and setup camp for the third and final night. It was a great choice, and was (again) the nicest place we'd stopped.



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Dinner was simple - we'd mastered it the previous night. A package of hot dogs, an ear of corn, and veggies. We skipped the marshmallows. A rip-roaring fire at the top of the ridge, a washcloth "bath," and views of the sunset were all we needed before hitting the sack (under the stars) after a long day.

@mrs.turbodb was sure we could sleep in a bit the next morning, before we headed back home.

Umm, right.

The next morning, sunrise was a mirror of sunset on the opposite side of the valley. At the top of the ridge, we had views in all directions, and they were again, amazing.

After the last of the cereal and blueberries, we packed up camp and were on the road by about 7:00. A few last looks back at our site, and 50 miles of 4WD roads were all that stood between us and a 10-hour drive home.

Who's that dope who keeps taking all these truck pictures?

The trip back was relatively uneventful. The engine light came back on (but everything seemed to be running smoothly (turned out to be an air filter, and thus air-fuel mixture issue) which wasn't awesome, but we made good time, stopped in Pendleton for a good lunch at Joe's Mexican (we're so predictable) and arrived home in time to wash the truck and mow the front lawn.

All in all, an awesome 4-day excursion to the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Oh, and on the way back, we happened across the Snake River Crossing of the Oregon Trail, where we fixed the American flag (on Memorial Day) with the help of ... the truck.

[to be continued ...]​


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Oh ********, the engine light's on - upgrading the air filter (Part 5: Upgraded air filter)
May 2016

Epic journey behind us, it was time to find out what was wrong with the engine and get it fixed.

Step 1: Read the error code. To do that, I bought a Kiwi3 OBDII adapter and the DashCommand app. Error code P0131 - which in mechanic-speak is "bank 1 too lean" and in human is "dirty air intake." Side note: these two gadgets are an awesome combination. With them, it's like having a car from 2010 - instant fuel economy, average fuel economy, and all sorts of stats, coming directly from the computer. Sweet.

Step 2: Fix it. So I read up everything I could on the infamous P0131 (it turns out, quite common) and determined that there were two courses of action called for: MAF sensor cleaning, and air filter replacement.

Always looking for the easy way out, I did the air filter replacement first. To save $3 on a $70 filter, I spent about 3 hours online researching air filters and determined that the aFE washable filter was the one for my truck. Never again would I need to shell out $12 for a paper filter that would last 30K miles. Which means I'll break even in about 150 years. But I saved $3, and actual installation time was on the order of two minutes. (Plus the time to install the aFE sticker that tells those shop guys to clean - not throw away - my air filter.)

Then it was on to cleaning the MAF sensor (mass airflow sensor). Basically, a little piece of circuitry that is "behind the air filter," which measures how much air is going to the engine. Apparently this thing can get dirty after 60K miles, and then it stops registering all the air. An astute reader may think, "Does it change any of the operating parameters of the engine as a result?" That's very astute of you, but I have no idea. I'm just trying to fix this thing, stop asking me so many questions.

So off came the air filter box, and then the MAF sensor, which did in fact look dirty. Cleaning it is a matter of spraying some magic MAF cleaner on it until it shines (I mean, looks orangey) which I did.

It was then back together with everything, a reset of the error code, and voila, it never came back. Some might say I was finally starting to get the hang of this car stuff. They'd be wrong, trust me.


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Replacing the wimpy horn
May 18, 2016

First generation Toyota Tacoma's are known as great trucks. The horns - specifically on 2000 Tacoma's - not so much. For some reason, Toyota decided to only put "half a horn" in the 2000's, and it's obvious. The thing is wimpy. It's quieter than my Honda CBR 600 F2 motorcycle. It's time to make a change.

As with most projects, this one starts with opening up the hood, and in this case, taking off the grille, which is held on with 8 little retaining clips.

And with that, the weakness that is the OEM horn is revealed. Simple enough to remove (a one-wire harness), it was out in no time and I'd wired in two spade connectors - one for each of the 130db Fiaam "Freeway Blaster" horns that I'd purchased as a replacement. Those puppies had to be crammed in a bit, but they worked out just fine.

And now, the horn is loud. Still a bit high-pitched, but at least you know someone's there.


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Mileage milestone - 60K
July 2, 2016.

It's been close for a while, and it's been a long time coming, but on our way out of town for a what would become an off-road adventure to a brand new site - the truck hit 60K miles.

That's an average of 3,600 miles each year, or a whopping 300 miles per month. Except that I'd driven it 10K miles in the first two months, so it's really more like 200 miles per month over the life of the truck.

This truck is going to last me forever.

I hope.

So we arrived at our super-secret-undisclosed-location-that-you-have-to-rush-to-or-someone-else-will-get-there-first, and several someone's had gotten there first. In fact, the best site™, along with the second- and third-best sites were taken.

We were bummed. @mini.turbodb was tired. And then, we had an idea.

See, there's this site that's been inaccessible to car for the last several years due to a few blow-downs, but it's perfectly positioned - with an overview of and access to the creek, plenty of space for hanging out, and away from everyone else.

So it was time to break our own trail.

Doing so required some digging, some tree removal, and some careful driving (and videography), but an hour later we'd made it the 50' through the forest (around the blow-downs) necessary to get back onto the road.

Stop reading. Watch this amazing video of our trailblazing. Amazing. Or at least fun.

With that, it was on to camp, where we all enjoyed ourselves. @mini.turbodb, playing with her found "knife stick," @mrs.turbodb reading, and me building another larger-than-@mini fire. Of course, there was also delicious food, lots of playing/skipping rocks down at the creek, and for the first time, @mini.turbodb got her own tent - next to the truck.



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Flat tire vs. Best hike.
July 22, 2016.

The trip started out on the iffy side. We wanted a beautiful weekend for a stunning hike, and instead it was raining, there was a faint hiss coming from the back left tire, and 20 miles up a Forest Service road I had no tire patch kit.

But, a spare tire can be installed, and weather can change in 24 hours. And when that happens, you can end up with great camping - 25 miles up a Forrest Service road - and perhaps the most beautiful hike you've ever encountered...if you have a truck. (This is the North Cascades Pass and Sahale Arm trail.)