First run of the year: Mattawa, WA – April 2017

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.

Observatory road and WABDR Nov 2016

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.

Observatory road and WABDR Nov 2016-10

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.

Observatory road and WABDR Nov 2016-4

Observatory road and WABDR Nov 2016-2

Mattawa Ridge overlooking Beverly dunes April 2017 PNWOverland

4 thoughts on “First run of the year: Mattawa, WA – April 2017

  1. I love it when a plan comes together. Subis are great, but they don’t have what it takes when it comes ground clearance. Add in Uhaul and you’re asking for trouble on a track like that.

    This reminds me of driving back from my hometown of Thief River with my brother after an ice storm. There was serious glaze ice on the road for almost 100 miles of trip. I don’t think I took the Jeep out of four-wheel drive for 2 hours. All it took to reassure myself that I wasn’t going to bind up the transfer case was a tap on the breaks that would momentarily lock up the breaks before the ABS kicked in.

    Left and right there were people in the ditch. We stopped to make sure they were okay as we went on. We had plenty of food and water to share. We weren’t going to be snatch-strapping anyone free though. There just wasn’t any traction to be had on the slick roads.

    I am glad you were there to help those people out. They may not have gotten free for free without you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whew, 100 miles of glazed ice roads, that’s some stressful driving. I grew up living in Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan, all of which have pretty intense winters with many roads glazed over like that. I do not miss that sort of driving nor the winters, at all.

      I figure that those who have a vehicle capable of recovery should help others who are stuck in the wintertime. It’s just too dangerous. There is a very real possibility that someone could be injured trying to extricate themselves or even freeze to death as they wait for that tow truck to find them. In this instance, the young dude was wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt plus his grandmother was with him. They were not prepared to deal with the situation they were in.

      Liked by 1 person

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