WABDR 2014

Cascade Wanderer

A few years back when I first heard of the WABDR (Washington Backcountry Discovery Route) I chuckled a little, as it was just a bunch of Forest Service and other roads, many of which I'd already driven & ridden, just in the course of life. Then, bit by bit I became more intrigued. It really is a cool idea, Oregon to Canada, primarily via dirt roads. 600 miles of dirt roads! Cool. Ran into some folks who invited me to accompany them next year, in 2015, and I decided since I live quite close to the center of the WABDR, I should pre-run it this year to gain familiarity with the whole route. What started as a simple pre-run, became a fun adventure all by itself. I did it in several chunks, biting off a bit at a time as my schedule allowed. Did roughly 400 of it via Jeep, and 200 of it via my Suzuki 650 Wee Strom. I'll arrange this report from south to north, rather than chronologically. Makes more sense south to north, or north to south instead of mixing it all up the way I actually did it!

Started the southern portion from Hood River Oregon. I took my time getting down to Hood River, stopping along the way to check out old mining ruins on Blewett Pass, stopping in the semi-ghost town of Liberty, driving the wonderful Yakima River Canyon, and spending some time at the Goldendale Obesrvatory. After all, it was supposed to be an interesting trip.

Remnants of a long-abandoned mining operation on Hwy 97 near Blewett Pass:


Arrived in Hood River, Oregon and met my friends at the wonderful open-air Farmer's Market. Bought dinner, then walked across the street and took in a fun concert before camping for the night. The next morning we headed out, northbound for the WABDR in two vehicles, Tad's 3/4 ton GMC pickup and my white Jeep, looking tiny next to his truck. The first day on the WABDR was on pretty nice Forest Service roads, with some washboard thrown in. Views are constricted by tremendously thick forests. We did stop and check out the ice cave, but at this point in the summer, there wasn't a lot of ice left. Still, it was refreshingly cool in the cave. Camped that night at an improvised site we discovered along the way.

Onion & Chicken on the MSR Whisperlite. Waiting for the tortilla....

The next morning we fueled up in Packwood and ate breakfast.... At the saloon of course! Only a couple of breakfast places avail in town, pizza place or the saloon. Breakfast was good. Stopped on Hwy 410 to admire a waterfall:

Ascended Bethel Ridge. Wow - I'd been over this route before, on my motorcycle, but the route seems much rougher and rockier than it was just a few years ago. We also had to deal with quite a bit of mud from recent thunderstorms. Some of the fallen trees were hanging low over the route, and a rig much taller than 6' might have trouble squeezing through. We saw a few other 4x4's, a couple of ATV's and some motorcycles, but for the most part, Day 2 was just our little group.

The climbs up Cleman Mountain and Untaneum Ridge were rocky & rough under the brilliant sunshine. We camped that night just off the crest of the ridge in some trees.

The next morning we made it as far as Ellensburg, and were going to continue north, but ran into a Road Closed sign due to the still ongoing wildfire. Shook hands and said goodbye. The route to this point was fairly easy, though the mud holes, and rocky climbs on day two deserve some respect, as does the tight, winding route through the trees on Bethel Ridge. I was impressed with how my buddies, Chuck & Tad, handled their big 3/4 ton pickup through the tight areas!

More northerly sections coming up...


Cascade Wanderer

I covered the route from Ellensburg to Wenatchee and Cashmere with my adult son, in his very well set up 1998 Cherokee, before the wildfires blocked much of the northern portions of the WABDR this summer.

That part of the route is the most familiar to us, as we live in Wenatchee and have covered the route many times. It's easy coming up from Ellensburg onto Table Mountain, much of that route is a very nicely paved section, then it's into the burnt forest, leading to Haney Meadows. The route gets more rocky as it approaches Beehive Reservoir, Mission Ridge and Wenatchee.

The WABDR route officially heads down a road along Mission Creek to Cashmere. This washed out, and is closed.

We chose to detour through Wenatchee, then go up Number Two Canyon Road, and re-connect with the road to Cashmere. It adds a few miles, going through Wenatchee, but isn't a problem. Sad that the washed out route appears unlikely to be repaired or re-opened, it's a very nice road, with a lot of switchbacks, a few minor water crossings and beautiful forest.

We stayed at our home in Wenatchee that night.

Cascade Wanderer

From Cashmere, the WABDR heads north up Nahahum Canyon and into more area I'm very much at home in. I did this portion in June and early July. Ran into some snow drifts still remaining. The first was on a north facing slope, on Chumstick Mountain, and was negotiated with no problem:

We spotted a bear, and several mule deer bucks!

Up at the summit, near Windy Camp, I made a mistake and drove into what appeared to be a mild, though fairly large, snow drift. Never underestimate a snow drift! Only a few minutes to drive into it, and find that the drift was softer, and deeper than anticipated. It took some digging and a little winch work to get out of there!

Tucked my tail between my legs and headed home rather than try to force my way through miles of snow drifts above Lake Chelan.


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Cascade Wanderer

A couple of weeks later, my son hopped into my Jeep and off we went, intent on reaching Lake Chelan! This time there was No Snow... And the trip was easy. He thoroughly enjoyed riding along as I did a fine job of pinstriping my Jeep on the section referred to as The Jungle in the WABDR video.

This was a fun father-son day, and quite uneventful. Beautiful high country. Good campsites above Lake Chelan. We retired home, and my next attack, of the remaining couple of hundred miles from Chelan to Canada was done on my Suzuki 650 V-Strom:

I'm not the greatest dirt rider in the world... Far from it. And the Suzuki isn't what I'd call a "true" dual sport. It's awfully street-oriented for this sort of thing. I ran into a couple of stretches near Ruby, and near the Skull & Crossbones trail, that made me wish I was on a lighter bike with knobbies, or back in my Jeep! Still, we forged on through.

I didn't have my passport with me, so I turned around at the ghost town of Nighthawk, rather than bothering the border guards.

That last day on the bike, was about 200 miles of dirt, from Chelan to Nighthawk. It was terrific, but as said, I'm not that great a dirt rider so it really wore me out. Sure was glad to get back on pavement and head home late in the afternoon.

Much of the WABDR has been blocked the past four or five weeks due to the largest wildfire in Washington's history. Over 400 miles burned and over 300 homes destroyed. I'm not sure how passable the route will be, or when it will be passable. Much of the route, particularly in the area of the Methow Valley and Loup-Loup Pass appears to have burned.

I see questions often about how technical or how hard the WABDR is. Unless it's snow covered, largely it's easy. Here and there slopes are steep enough that low range is welcome, but most of the time just meandering along in 2wd will do nicely. My Jeep has a limited slip rear diff, which worked very well in 2wd to help the Jeep up and over some loose, rocky climbs. A stock 4x4, driven easily, will do the route just fine.

If there's heavy snow... well... Never trust a snow drift!

Regards, CW
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James Pierce

Looking forward to next summer Guy. Thanks to you and Tad for all your time and hard work scouting this out for us to enjoy.


Thanks for the great write up and pictures! Last summer my buddy and I (two jeeps) did a stretch from the Gorge to just outside Naches. It was really great fun and primed the pump for more. I've been exploring the Oregon outback this summer, but I'll be back that way before too long!


I think I need a bigger truck!
I am looking forward to this trip. I want to do the whole thing from the Washington end up to the CDN border and then home. I hope the fires didn't destroy too much...it has been a bad year here in the West.

Thanks for the writeup.

Cascade Wanderer

Reviewing this report, looks like I neglected to include much about Tad's terrific 3/4 ton GMC. It's a beast. Locking rear diff, 33" Duratracs, big Warn winch tucked in a custom mount, and of course a dandy RTT. Don't overlook the possibility of a full size truck as an overlanding rig. It's got room & weight capacity to carry pretty much anything and everything. Driven well, Tad's beast truck went through the tight, twisty areas on Bethel Ridge just fine. Tight, but fine.

And yes, there are lakes along the way for swimming, fishing, playing with watercraft:

Regards, Guy


Great write up and photos. Thanks for sharing!
Was the only place with pin-striping in the "the jungle"? Yes, I'm a weanie - I have a new rig and want to know about all of the $$$ I'll have to put into it after doing the WABDR. In my old truck, I wouldn't have cared, but just getting a new one (last week) changes one's perspective!

Cascade Wanderer

No... There are a few other tight spots, up on Bethel Ridge for instance, but the "jungle" is the worst, and easily bypassed.

I got more pinstripes this morning, on another road near, but not on the WABDR. Leave anything for long here and the vine maple grows in tight.


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Cascade Wanderer

Tad's GMC does a pretty good job of that just driving through... :)

Yes, actually we could do some trail maintenance on the run. I wouldn't want to ruin "The Jungle" though, for anyone expecting a tight, demanding trail.

I figure we'll need at least one chainsaw along. I almost always have my bow saw and an axe/hatchet. Could bring my loppers too.