After a long, wet winter here in the PNW, there was a strong need to feel dirt beneath the tires. It was decided we would explore the area north of Mattawa, WA, just east of the mighty Columbia river. The area, on the ‘dry’ side of the state, has been spared the record setting rain and snow that the west side of the mountains has received this year so it is a great location for scratching that early season, off-road itch. After visiting the Petrified Ginkgo Forest state park and the Grandfather cuts loose the ponies sculpture, we meandered south through some expansive vineyards, each guarded by boxes filled with pollinating bees.
Once we made it to R SW road and through the cattle gate, it was apparent that lots of others had the same idea to hit the trails as we saw many dirt bikes and 4×4’s in the area. It seems the whole area is an off-road playground as the Beverly dunes is directly to the north of the Mattawa ridge, though it is 1800 feet in lower elevation. We left the dunes to dirt bikes and ATV’s, instead we explored the Mattawa ridge, which has a stellar view of the surrounding flatland. The most distant views on this day were obscured by a humidity haze and an overcast sky but the near to mid distances were interesting: driving along the edge of the ridge face, it felt like we were in a small plane flying over the flat farmlands and Columbia river gorge.
On the return trip to the north Seattle area we encountered a huge traffic backup on I-90 heading west. Google Maps told us there is a 1hr 36min delay for an emergency road repair. So we took an alternate route, one that promised an hour shorter route around the traffic jam. It lead into the forest roads that are still covered in spots with snow drifts. The further we drove the fewer the tracks of others who made this same route in an attempt to escape the traffic jam. As expected, we made it only about 3 miles in before the steepness of the trail, with even deeper 2-3 foot deep drifts, turned us back around. The picture below is from the beginning of the snowy area.
As we made our way back to the highway, resigned to have to rejoin the parking lot, we came across a stuck vehicle in the first snow drift pictured above. It was a Subaru towing a weighed down u-haul trailer. My wife and I jumped out and began a recovery, shoveling out the tires, deploying the TRED’s, uncoupling the trailer. The Subaru was very high-centered on compacted snow and ice so the TRED’s were unsuccessful. A few other vehicles arrived and began to also help getting these people unstuck. An older guy in a Jeep and I turned the u-haul around on the trail as a big diesel RAM yank-strapped the Subaru through 100 feet of snow. It ended up a group-effort, full vehicle recovery for the young gentleman and his grandmother from Illinois. It was cool to see complete strangers giving help to others because it was the right thing to do.
Fun day out in the high-plains desert on a ridge line, fun evening doing recovery in the snow. Good start for the year.