EXPLORING NACHES, WASHINGTON
EXPLORING Naches, Washington
The late Yogi Berra was likely talking about a botched MLB game when he delivered this quote to the world, but it perfectly illustrates the tribulations we endured on our first trip to Naches, Washington, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We made too many wrong mistakes” -Yogi Berra
We wanted a little adventure, and decided to cross the boarder to the Pacific Northwest’s wheeling mecca, before summer ran out — three days, four guys, two Jeeps, one race car, a borrowed motorhome, and no clue. The “crack of noon” start had us contributing to a series of traffic jams as we attempted to leave our piece of paradise, the Okanagan Valley. After all, why suffer in 35°C heat at home, when you can have 45°C with a horrible exchange rate?
Yours truly was piloting the 28' gasfired motor home we had borrowed in good faith from the parental units. Suckers. Heading down the highway, hauling a 6000 lb parachute behind us known as “Stinky Jeep and trailer” required a lead foot and the ability to withstand the core-of-the-earth hot engine block. We were barely able to pass oncoming traffic, let alone anything in our lane, and with such abysmal fuel economy, we thought about unloading the Jeep and using it tow the motorhome… now who’s the sucker?
After toiling through the winding canyon roads outside of Yakima, WA, and filling up on all the greasy diner food our guts could handle, the climb from the Naches river basin to the plateaus and off-road playgrounds above were all that stood between us and a good night’s sleep. We just needed to fill up the water tank and head into the hills. Judging by the lush green lawns and multiple car washes, you’d think this would be an easy proposition. The word “water” obviously didn’t translate to the locals as we even tried to barter our livers (let's face it, we were just going to abuse them) for some quality H2O. No deal, but no big deal, how bad could four guys smell after a summer weekend in the woods?
It was late at night when we finally made the half kilometre change in altitude from the river basin up into the plateaus, and the darkness eliminated our ability to appreciate the landscape. Dusty dirt roads clung to steep narrow ledges as the putrid scent of regurgitated transmission fluid from the motorhome hung in the air like a bad fart in a hot sauna. “Let’s not break anything else, shall we?”
Dawn came early to the quaint little dust bowl we would call home for the next few days and illuminated our first S.N.A.F.U. — we had no knowledge of the area, and all the maps, know how, and answers to our questions were down the transmission fluid marked road at a US Ranger's station. The kindly rangers had spotted us earlier on their rounds and sent a welcoming committee like no other.
The uncanny sounds of old flathead four cylinder engines, accompanied by the faint squeak of leaf springs, crescendoed towards our little clutch of Canucks as we unloaded the rigs for our first outing. What sputtered into camp was anything but ordinary, and we basked in the glory of a fleet of old Jeep flat fenders, FJ-45 Toyotas, and other old trail iron. With
cigars blazing and side irons secured, the kindly crew stopped in after the local rangers informed them that some “fresh meat” had arrived in Naches. They were even so polite as to donate an old map of they area, and pointed up towards some trails we would surely enjoy. As quickly as they had come into our lives, they humbly sputtered into the hills to enjoy a weekend of camping and moustache waxing.
With a new-to-us map and a half ass plan, we were off to burn some fuel and explore. The terrain changed drastically from desert washes and high-speed flats, to quagmire and sloppy mud tracks though dense forest. Our first destination was the famous “Funny Rocks” and “Moon Rocks” areas, which were easy to find on the marked trails and service road. This was a typical weekend during the summer, which meant there were a number of others using the area, but it was by no means congested. There were no lineups for trails, or breakdowns clogging the area. Onlookers were abundant, and they encouraged everyone to attempt obstacles and runs they may not have otherwise attempted. You couldn’t help but grin.
The array of places to explore and obstacles to conquer were causing our heads to move like Linda Blair bobbleheads. After much exploring, we scurried over to the famed Moon Rocks area of Naches for another helping of dirt. After watching the other metal ants crawl over the oddly shaped protrusions coming out of the earth, we decided to give it a try. As we rolled into a steep incline, 400+ horses were summoned from their under-hood stables to help with the ascent. In hindsight, this made as much sense as asking tequila to pick a life partner, and the resulting back tingling “CRACK” of an axle shaft meant our day was done and we were headed back to the trailer for repairs. Stupid is as stupid does.
Thanks to great friends, hillbilly engineering and a late night,
our rig was ready for action by bedtime.
Day Two would to take us into the canyon bottoms and forest thickets that are also abundant in the area. With the trio of rigs packed, and the old map we were given the previous morning in hand, it was time to trail trek. Only a few kilometres out of camp and we had one truck spraying gasoline across its engine bay as a bunk fuel line connector let go. We avoided a catastrophic disaster via some trailside triage. Remember kids; all bolts go on as tight as you can get them, then another half turn (it’s a millwright thing that nobody understands).
Yesterday’s dry, desert-like terrain and dusty trails were a stark contrast to the deeply rutted tracks we were on today. Springtime is winching time in Naches valleys, as told by the lacerations left on trunks by those without a tree strap. As the hours wore on, one of the group had a fuel pump that announced its distress with an annoying howl. We all knew this particular song, and decided to head back through the network of trails to base camp. After all, it was only another few kilometres, … we thought. The sunny sky closed and the rain began to drizzle gently. No matter, just over the next ridge was a straight shot to the main trail… right? With the fuel pump now emulating a cat in a blender, we were stopped at a Monet worthy view of the gorge we were attempting to traverse. The rain that had been falling gently was now getting cold and solidifying into hail as we reached the end of the trail… this would certainly NOT get us back. As the realization that the last few hours of trail would now have to be run in reverse, panic started to settle in as we did some rudimentary math. The crude equation verified that backtracking the day with the remaining fuel was not an option.
Some quick navigational calculations, based on prayers, guesses and selfdelusion, had us heading back on an unknown route that was filled with all the splendor and beauty for which the area is known. The noisy fuel pump had enough of our shenanigans and for the remainder of the trip could not go over ¼ throttle. Had we been in a proper state of mind, and not still clearing hail from the back of our t-shirts, this would have been a glorious trip back. Some strategic siphoning of fuel between rigs, and questionable motor vehicle operations, had us rolling into camp on fumes some 14 hours after we left “for a short trip”. To be honest, I coasted into camp, cold, wet, out of fuel, hungry, and ready for an adult beverage or 12. It was a magnificent day!
As we all scarfed down whatever Quickie Mart mystery meat we had left to eat, it was abundantly obvious that we had just experienced a spectacular adventure between friends. At the same moment, one of the tow rigs parked on our camp outskirts came out of gear and started to roll into a field, sans driver; fate was telling us it was time to go home.
With all the disastrous occurrences and possible near death experiences we faced in our weekend, you may think this would put a damper on future trips. Not a chance. We always look forward to seeing what and where our off-road adventures may take us. Do we recommend you head to Naches and ride on the coattails of our experience? Why not? But more importantly, go out and find your own adventure wherever you can. But if you do head to Naches, stop in and pick up a map, you won’t regret it!