Oregon-to-Canada on the WABDR


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Day 1: Joe and Daisy's First Big Dirt Adventure

June 24, 2018.

It's not often that we end up on a trip in our own backyard. There are many reasons for that - there are amazing sights far and wide, adventurous friends are located states away, and of course the weather in Washington makes snow-free exploration tough much of the year.

But when Joe got a 4Runner and mentioned that he and his wife (Daisy) wanted us to get them (and their 16-month old) out on their first trip, it seemed like a great opportunity to do something a bit easier and a bit more local.

The WABDR (Washington Backcountry Discovery Route) fit that bill perfectly!

Dirt roads (mostly) from the Oregon-Washington border to the Washington-Canada border, it'd take about a week and would be relatively easy going - definitely something that Joe and Daisy could handle - I hoped!

Of course, being their first trip, they had lots of questions - so for a few weeks before the trip, @mrs.turbodb and I did our best to answer them - sharing how we travelled with @mini.turbodb but always trying to let them find their own way.

Eventually, departure day was upon us - and @mini.turbodb, @mrs.turbodb, and I all packed ourselves into the Tacoma and headed south.

By lunch time we'd met up with Joe, Daisy, and their daughter somewhere south of Tacoma, and we'd eventually reached the starting point of our journey - Cascade Locks, Oregon - @mrs.turbodb and I remarking how nice it was not to drive two days to a jumping off point!

With little kiddos in tow, we decided it'd be a good idea to eat lunch before hitting the trail, so we pulled over just before the Bridge of the Gods for sandwiches, chips, and a bit of a leg stretch before continuing on.

The "I want your lunch" look. hahahaha

By 1:00pm we'd finished lunch and headed (back) into Washington over the Bridge of the Gods, excited to start the adventure. This bridge is interesting for a couple reasons - first, the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Columbia River using this bridge; second, this bridge was originally much shorter than it's current length, and was raised and lengthened in 1940 when the Bonneville Dam was built.

We immediately entered a tree tunnel - a feature we'd see our share of over the coming week! Beautiful, but at times frustrating - the tree's blocking the grand views that would have otherwise been visible.

Soon we were on dirt - headed north towards Canada, anticipation ahead. We aired down, and @mini.turbodb climbed into the bed of the truck - she wanted the wind in her hair and bugs hitting her face - in other words, she wanted to have an absolute blast! Joe and Daisy were excited to be bouncing along on dirt - keeping close behind despite the dust, presumably a bit nervous about losing us.

It wasn't long before we were stopping for photos. The views were nice - if a bit territorial at this point - but more important was getting the new family accustomed to the pace, and the practice of taking in and enjoying the scenery around us as opposed to "just driving through" and missing the glory of the adventure!

@mini.turbodb and Daisy were clearly naturals at this.

- - - - -

And with that, I've hit my 20 photo limit. To see the rest of the story and all the photos of our first day on the WABDR, check out:

Oregon-to-Canada on the WABDR (Jun 2018)



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WABDR Day 2: Volcanoes
June 25, 2018.

It was a cold night - even though we were at only 4,500 feet, the temperatures dipped into the mid-thirties, making us all acutely aware that we'd expected (and dressed for) warmer weather.

As usual, I was the first out of bed, hoping to catch sunrise, or at least a bit of that early morning light that is so special as it's long rays light up the landscape. And today, as I climbed up above camp, I was hoping for even more - my view through the trees suggesting that I would be in luck.

As I walked up the ridge behind camp, I couldn't wait to see the view of Mt. Adams to the east - I knew it was there as it'd just peeked out the night before and there was a hint of it from camp, but it's always a toss-up when it comes to cloud covers on Washington's massive volcanoes.

As I got to the top of the ridge, I was not disappointed - there was Mt. Adams, in all it's glory, looming up above our camp site, basked in the morning sun. I'm sure I smiled, an extra urgency in my last few steps to the edge - the only one awake, taking it all in.

It wasn't long before @mrs.turbodb was up as well and I beckoned to her from the ridgetop. As she made her way up, I watched her face - knowing that when she turned crested the treeline and looked to the east, it would be a special moment for her as well. And it was.

For half an hour we stayed there unable to snap enough photos, in awe of the grandeur.

Eventually we saw Joe and Daisy stiring from their tent and we headed back down to greet them and get started on both breakfast and breakdown of camp. Still in her tent reading, the promise of breakfast burritos got @mini.turbodb up quickly and once she was out of the tent she immediately started playing with her new favorite 16-month old. It'd been a rough night for Joe and Daisy with their daughter - everyone cold and the tent a new experience for the kiddo.

Hot breakfasts all around helped lift everyone's spirit, and then Joe and Daisy headed up the ridge at our insistence, Joe (a photographer) lugging 60 lbs of camera equipment to capture the views.

Immersed in his hobby, we let Joe be - @mrs.turbodb, @mini.turbodb and I heading out on a short hike to explore our surroundings. We returned 45 minutes later to find Joe still on the ridge, enjoying the opportunity to capture the insane views. Eventually we pulled him away and got everything packed up. It was late - just after 10am when we finally pulled out of camp.

Back on the trail, @mrs.turbodb spent a bit of time evaluating our route for the morning and scouted what she promised would be an amazing stop - Takhlakh Lake and campground.

As we pulled in and got our first glimpse, Joe came over the radio: "We should have stayed here last night!" Of course, there was never any chance of that - @mrs.turbodb and I are nearly allergic to actual campgrounds; a lucky fact in this case - since as we got out of the trucks, the mosquitoes were thick.

But we had to get out of the trucks.

If our view of Mt. Adams had been breathtaking above camp, it was absolutely awesome from Takhlakh Lake. The sun was just right, the winds were calm, and the lake reflected the mountain and clouds splendidly.

The late start and the thick mosquitoes kept the stop breif, and we were back on the road - adventure ahead. We ticked the miles away, keeping our speed up on well-graded forest service roads. The trees here - and frankly along much of the route - were thick, making the roads nearly tunnels, with views only sporatically available along the route.

@mini.turbodb and I did our best to capture it anyway.

It was noon when we arrived in Packwood, WA to refuel and discuss our strategy for lunch. Always favoring a secluded spot with a view, @mrs.turbodb and I suggested that rather than eat in town, we continue along the route, looking for something we'd enjoy just a bit more.

Joe and Daisy were game, and their kiddo was too young to vote, so we were back on the road - the next 30 miles or so of the route paved, so we could make good time.

But naturally we didn't. Just southeast of Mt. Rainier, this section of highway 12 is one of the most beautiful in Washington, with views of Palisades and vista's of Mt. Rainier.

We stopped for them all.

- - - - -
Unfortunately, I've run out of space here, so to see what we stopped for, and the rest of the second day and all the photos that go along with it, check out:

WABDR Day 2: Volcanoes


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WABDR Day 3: So Expo
June 26, 2018.

The wind that rocked us to sleep in the CVT kept blowing through the night, perhaps the most continuously windy night we've spent six feet off the ground. Nestled under the covers we were cozy and warm, and it was a struggle to pull myself out at 5:30am to capture sunrise.

But there's only one sunrise each day and it's not every day that you're parked on the edge of a ridge with Mt. Rainier in the distance, so pull myself out I did.

I wasn't disappointed.

Of course, I was up well before the rest of the crew so I took the opportunity to catch up on my light reading - the 15th book in the Jack Reacher series - and evaluate the route in front of us, mapping out where we needed to be by evening. Still a few miles south of Ellensburg, I figured that if we could get north or Cashmere, we'd be in reasonable shape. It'd be a haul, but with some paved sections (through Ellensburg and a few miles along highway 97 as part of the Beehive Reservoir re-route) I figured we stood a chance.

Eventually of course, more life stirred in camp - this morning, Joe, Daisy and their little one up next, out to enjoy the morning light.

Soon everyone was up, @mini.turbodb excited for another day of exploring and rock gathering with her new friend, @mrs.turbodb and I gathering breakfast (cereal and freshly picked cherries) and packing up camp.

People fed and camp packed up, we headed out - a bit earlier than the day before - and toward what I knew to be some awesome views, having scouted the next couple miles of trail in search of our camp site the night before.

As we climbed even higher on the ridge to Clemen Mountain Summit, the views once again opened up, our higher vantage point giving us even more spectacular perspectives of Mt. Rainier and (what would be our last of) Mt. Adams in the distance.

We soaked it in.

And then we plowed forward over a combination of smooth, flat, bumpy, hilly terrain. Down the north-eastern face of Clemen Mountain towards the highway, which we'd take for less than a mile before heading north on dirt.

Just before we reached the highway we hit a shallow water crossing and I had Joe stop so I could catch him making his way through.

Of course, after we'd already gone through, @mini.turbodb wanted to ride in the passenger seat for the excitement and @mrs.turbodb obliged by capturing it all of it's glory.

- - - - -

But I'm already at my 20 photo limit, so to see the Tacoma make a splash, check out the rest of the story and photos at
WABDR Day 3: So Expo


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WABDR Day 4: Lookouts. And The Jungle!
June 27, 2018.

As we awoke the next morning, everyone was well rested and happy that we'd gotten only a short burst of light rain; and that the morning was shaping up to be a beautiful one - hopefully indicative of the entire day ahead.

The first order of business was something that @mini.turbodb had been asking for since we arrived in this "not the best camp site" - go explore the narrow trail that headed up the downhill side of the saddle. This of course was the motorcycle route of the WABDR, but that meant little to her - she was sure that there could be untold treasure at the end of the path.

Unfortunately, we didn't find it. But we did have a good time exploring!

Eventually we returned, @mrs.turbodb having gotten started putting the ground tent away, and our kiddo happy to play with her counterpart while breakfast was made for her.

The spicy sausages the night before delicious, we decided it was a good morning for the last of our breakfast burritos - eggs, spicy sausage, cheese and of course salsa wrapped up in a crispy flour tortilla. @mrs.turbodb got to work on that while I broke down the remainder of camp.

In good time we were all ready to go; the first order of business being to suit up @mini.turbodb for a fun (but cold) ride in the back of the truck.

Then, we retraced our steps back to the top of Chumstick mountain, and started down the north side - grand views expanding all around.

We continued north, ultimately glad to have stopped in the sheltered saddle - no better camp sites presenting themselves as we made our way down the mountain.

And then we had a decision to make - left on a side trip to Sugarloaf Lookout, or right - maintaining the trail, making good time early in the day. Of course, for me it wasn't a hard decision.

We went left.

When on an adventure, I've learned that it's important to understand where you are in the journey (if there are deadlines), but not to let that drive all decision making. After all, getting to the end is nice, but there's a reason we explore during daylight hours - it's so we can see the amazing things along the way!

An eight-mile out-and-back, the road to Sugarloaf Lookout was a fun drive, and we took most of it at speed - stopping for a few photos along the way, naturally.

The final quarter mile of the trail got a bit steeper and a little more technical - but not much and who cares when you reach the end where you're treated to not only amazing views, but a lookout perched at the very edge of a rocky outcrop?!

This would be a great place to stay. I think I could sit here for hours.

As seemed to be the case throughout the trip, the wind chill was brutal at the lookout and the adults all donned jackets to take a look. Both kids opted to stay in the warm trucks - perhaps smarter than they looked - the view there was pretty sweet as well. :)

On our way back to the main trail, Joe came over the radio to inform us that his family had never been to a lookout before - something we could scarcely believe, given the sheer number of lookouts at the end of hikes in Washington state. It made us even more glad we'd taken the 45-minute detour - not that we weren't already reveling in it ourselves.

After Sugarloaf Lookout we wound our way east and then north - through burned forests and under power lines - the scenery pretty, but mostly territorial at this point. Perhaps the highlight (or most surprising) element here was running across a shepherd, with a flock of sheep grazing in the forest!

Strange. (But not as strange as goats, I guess.)

- - - - -

I've got pics of this strangeness, but have exceeded my alotment here; check out the rest of the story and photos at
WABDR Day 4: Lookouts. And The Jungle!

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Ovrlnd Rd

Nice write up!

We're planning on a combined OR/WA BDR trip next summer. Since it's a 3 day drive from San Antonio figured we might as well knock both out a once versus having to backtrack a second time to do one or the other.

You mentioned the "bike section." Are there parts where you couldn't go due to the size of your vehicle? We did the ID BDR last year and were able to get through the actual Butler Maps route with our trucks.


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Nice write up!

We're planning on a combined OR/WA BDR trip next summer. Since it's a 3 day drive from San Antonio figured we might as well knock both out a once versus having to backtrack a second time to do one or the other.

You mentioned the "bike section." Are there parts where you couldn't go due to the size of your vehicle? We did the ID BDR last year and were able to get through the actual Butler Maps route with our trucks.
Nice, you'll have a great time. I wrote up our OBDR adventure here if you want to check it out: https://adventuretaco.com/tag/obdr-2017/?order=asc

As far as "bike sections" - as you know, all the BDRs are created by dual-sport folks. As such, there are sometimes sections that are single track. For the WABDR, there were no single-track sections that didn't parallel a FS road (that we saw), so you'll have no problem following the entire track in a 4-wheel vehicle. In fact, that WABDR is really pretty tame...we only got a bit of excitement on some side-trips we took. Overall, even tamer than the IDBDR I'd say.

Awesome write up! Thank you for sharing, and reminding me of another spot in my back yard i need to see.
Thanks both, glad you're enjoying!