Solo camp on Manastash Ridge Road – July 2017

Solo camping is sort of a bizarre thing to do, I’ve been told. Even more so when it’s done on a weekday and the destination is the remote wilderness foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Frankly, to be out on your own in the middle of nowhere can be a serene and grounding experience; the solitude and self-sufficiency of it all is recharging.

Heading west on Umptanum road from Ellensberg, WA, I drove off into the dust; connecting up with Observatory road and then west along Manastash Ridge Road, which is a very easy drive except for two spots. One spot is a steep, rocky descent with a few small ledges one must creep down. The other is an uphill climb not far away on the other side of this saddle between ridge line hills. Minor damage occurred when on the way up as the Xterra bounded off the sharp, baby-head sized rocks and ledges. The fan hit the fan shroud and gouged out a small slice. Alarming flapping sounds emanated from under the hood. Thankfully it was minor damage and easily corrected.

It was mid-afternoon at this point at it was time to find a suitable campsite. Exploring a few overgrown side trails led me to one spot that at one point was obviously a series of well developed camps but for some reason hasn’t seen any activity in what appeared to be a few years, judging from the small trees that were growing in the track. The spot I chose had a decent sized fire-ring, a makeshift commode with seat and cover, and a small stage looking area centered on the wide stump of an old growth tree stump. It was nestled in the trees a bit so it provided shade and afforded a cooling breeze.

Manastash Ridge Road Solo Camp 2017 (205 of 1)
Home for the night

After camp was set I hiked the rest of the trail on foot to find a good spot for some photos of the sun setting over Mt. Rainier and maybe some astrophotography. As luck would have it, there was a perfect spot along the edge of the ridge line.

Manastash Ridge Road Solo Camp 2017 (200 of 1)
Manastash Ridge, looking south
Manastash Ridge Road Solo Camp 2017 (1 of 4)
Mt. Rainier

The view from the ridge line location looks from Mt. Rainier in the southwest all the way to the east. As the sun set, it became noticeable that the earths’ penumbra was visible, which is the shadow of the earth itself. The vibrant colors of the cloud free sky were caused by a few wildfires that have been occurring over the past weeks but gorgeously set the penumbra in a higher contrast, great for photography.

Manastash Ridge Road Solo Camp 2017 (2 of 4)
Looking directly east at the penumbra, which appears as the dark area above the horizon
Manastash Ridge Road Solo Camp 2017 (3 of 4)
Earths Penumbra and Mt. Rainier


Manastash Ridge Road Solo Camp 2017 (4 of 4)
The next day, looking east. Fire smoke is visible in the distance.



2 thoughts on “Solo camp on Manastash Ridge Road – July 2017

  1. I’m planning on doing this route for my first ever trip in my newly modified 4Runner. Any other advice for those two steep areas? I’m pretty new to overlanding. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If this is your first trip in your newly modified 4runner, I would need to ask you a few more questions: Have you been off roading before? Are you going solo or with another vehicle? Do you have the appropriate recovery gear and an air compressor to air down your tires? Do you have the gear (water, food, shelter), to stay overnight if you break down or get stuck? Does your 4runner have rear differential lockers? Personally, I tend to be extra cautious when I go out alone, (and probably carry way too much gear), but I like to be assured that my family will see me again if anything unexpected occurs like a breakdown or, worse case scenario, if my vehicle where to roll over. That said, heading east to west on Manastash Ridge road, the decline portion is pucker-ish but likely the 4runner would be fine if the driver chooses the right line and keeps the speed to a crawl. The uphill part though, is another matter. While not that large of a climb, it is steep and full of loose rocks. Plus there is that ledge of columnar basalt near the top that one must get over by retaining enough momentum after the loose rock portion. The two steep portions are at: 46.967830, -120.861301. Another option is to just explore around Observatory road and the surrounding area until you get familiar with how your vehicle handles off road.


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