Just in time before the weekend I want to provide a little report on our last leg of the Pacific Crest Overlanding Route (PCOR): from Bellingham down to Crater Lake!
Longer text, so please excuse forgotten words and typos :-D
You can download the track at overland journal and I added Oregon and Washington BDR’s to my Gaia GPS. So we mixed and matched the tracks we had and the kids decided which way to go based on the color in the app :-D
Coming from California we have been happy to see so much green. We have not been happy to got bitten by mosquitos so often, but hey: that’s the way it is :-D
The whole dirt road system was totally fine to take with our 2WD locked van, only a few spots have been really bumpy.
But see day 10 for the show stopper we experienced.
We headed out from the Bay Area, CA, and chose the fastest way to get north.
A little bit south of Eugene we found a nice camp site on the east side of Cottage Grove Lake.
We headed further North to hopefully find a campsite at Lake Quinault, but all sites were eventually booked. So we headed East on 101 and made it to Queets Campground! It takes a 30-45 min drive on a gravel road, but arriving a the small campground we were happy to get a site right at the river. 100ft away there was a small river rock beach where you could sit down and relax.
Next stop was Salt Creek Recreation Area. The entrance area is set up for RVs with full hookups and behind it you’re getting into the smaller campsites shaded by trees. As we had a nice view towards Canada (first time we have “seen” Canada) we decided to choose one of the tent sites close to the RVs, but it wasn’t too bad.
We headed out towards Port Townsend to take the ferry over to Coupeville, which was a nice 30min interruption for the kids. For $25 is was really ok priced and everyone enjoyed it.
We ended up at Newhalem Campground at North Cascades NP.
I was looking forward to this day as it was the day we left the roads and hit dirt! So we stopped by in Winthrop, a nice little town with a lot tourism going on. A lot of restaurants, small shops, bars.
The Old Schoolhouse Brewery was closed on Tuesday (against google maps…) so we ended up at Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon, based on their statement the oldest legal saloon in Washington. Food was ok, but a lot to see for the kids as it was nicely decorated.
And we learned about Winthrop’s motto:
After lunch we headed out into the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness.
There’s not a lot to say about the roads we took to Black Pine Lake, but it was a nice little campground with a super beautiful crystal clear lake.
On the way towards Chelan we had the first excitement: I had to use my axe to clear the way :-D
The tree had fallen and some branches have just been in our way (or perhaps more in the way of our awning). A 4Runner/ Jeep would have made it, so I just chopped the branches off and we were all set.
This night’s campground was Pine Flat Campground. There was a bigger creek and the campground seemed to not have too much use. The tables and fire rings (if existing) were quite old and rotted, the information board was asking to send a text message and tell them how many people where there at the time of your visit, but all in all: we have been alone, it was a nice area and we didn’t have a problem with the “maturity” of the campground.
The day took us along nice views across the mountain tops towards Leavenworth. Being German we had to see what the “Bavarian Village” really is!
Very personal opinion: Did you ever think about a German offering American BBQ? Might be good for someone who never had the chance to experience the real stuff, but for someone who knows better… Beer selection was not really Bavarian driven and the same goes for the food. But at least the waitress was German and overall it was a fun experience!
As the kids were pushing forward we drove fairly far this day and wanted to get to Hanging Tree Dispersed Camping, but as it was closed/ not existing anymore we just drove 2 min further down the roads to find a secluded spot overseeing Logger Canyon.
We hoped to get a campsite at Mt. Rainier NP, but although a lot of sites were empty, they were all booked. So we headed further south on our route that took us to La Wis Wis Campground. There were quite some sites open and we pulled into a site that had a private access to a small creek flowing into Cowlitz/ Ohanapecosh River. Perfect place for the kiddos to enjoy the water as the main river had a really strong current.
As we arrived shortly after lunch we took the chance of running water to briefly “wash” some clothes and get them dry before taking off again.
Getting closer and closer to Hood River I had fun and I have been impressed!
Driving through the forest we saw a younger woman walking on the dirt road and while wondering what she’s doing out here she was already waving towards us: she got stranded! :-D We loaded her up in the van, drove a few minutes back to her car and saw what happened:
She took her small Mazda out into the forest and I have been fairly impressed where she got to before she finally got stuck in the mud. As she didn’t have her front tow hook with her and I didn’t wanted to dig we just used my traction boards and out she was. But as this was my first use I have been proud :-D
I could really not imagine how big a campground can be! More or less the whole area between Peterson Prairie Campground and Panther Creek Campground/ Carson was a campground! Cars, tents, trailer everywhere. Every single spot where you could possibly pull over and stay for a night has been occupied. I have never seen so many people camping “remote” as here.
Thanks to Gaia and the Public Lands overlay we pulled into Bear Creek Road and right at the border of the NF to find a sweet little spot to stay.
Day 10: Certainly the most exciting day of the trip!
As we were not really interested in scouting out Hood River we just took the bridge over to the South to make our crossing from Washington to Oregon. I think it was $2 or $3, but a cool narrow bridge.
Our goal was to arrive at Olallie Lake and so we did.
From Timothy Lake we took FR 4270, which is a small little offshoot to Skyline Road. After a few miles of dirt you’re getting back on the road to exit it again towards Olallie Lake.
But these few miles have taken so long… When we pulled in there we weren’t sure whether or not this is the right track: the bushes had grown so dense and even with a small Jeep you would have picked up your pinstripes. Not to talk about a van! So I grabbed hand saw and walked in front of the van to clear the way while my wife was driving.
A few hundred feet deeper in we faced the first down tree. Just 6” in diameter, but hey: I was smart enough to grab my Makita 36V Chainsaw and now I could use it! :-D
So beside bushes and smaller branches I further cleared the way taking 4-5 smaller trees away.
This was the offshoot:
We have just been happy to be back on Skyline Road to pull off again after 1min. We took the blue route, but I assume the regular entry would have been at the red marked circle. Why?
Because the road was fairly bumpy, not really cleared and a lot of branches were left on the roads. It looked like not too many took this road since they maintained it last time.
And the best part: we found our final enemy! :-D
I’d guess it had close to 2’ diameter so that my 16” chainsaw wasn’t enough to cut through once. Some smaller Jeeps seemed to have built a ramp, but my “in van government” didn’t want me to try it as well :-D
So I cut it through and used the winch with snatch block and so on to get it out of the way.
While doing so 2 horse riders were waiting and watching how this might end up :-D
Once nearly done and they saw it worked they told me that there is another tree blocking the roads half a mile out…:-( and this one had 4’ diameter :-D
At the lowest point of motivation to go further the man said “But it looks like some other cars went around it. Not sure if you can make it!”
Ok, fair enough. That gave some push and we wanted to see it. Turned out it wasn’t as critical. Yes, big tree in the way and I would have taken this 4’ tree out with my small little chainsaw. But going around it was feasible:
right pedal instead of left pedal and we bumped up the 3-4’ edge, around the tree and down again.
We made it through this section as well and ended up as planned at Olallie Lake. We have been positively surprised that although it was the 4th July weekend, there have just been 2 other people camping at this wonderful lake!
Enjoying our time I was talking to the super friendly camp host and he explained why it was so quite: 2 years ago a huge area around the lake burned down and the main access streets are still closed. So people have to take a very long drive around, costing them 2-4 h more than usual. The 2 campground on the other side of the lake have burned down as well.
So we talked and talked and then we got the bummer:
The road we want to take is blocked 200ft behind the campground and it was impossible to proceed with our route!
In order to get towards Detroit, OR, we have to head 1h north again (the way we came beside taking the easier access marked above…) to access S507A Road, cross over to 26 and go south via Madras to Redmond, from there towards Little Nash Crater and continue with our planned route (blue).
Booom! That was the worst bummer!
In the evening we talked it through. We had so much fun going through the dense forest, taking tree away, using the winch. We had made it up to Crescent Lake, OR, already last year and we lost a lot of time (all the tree clearing and so on to end up in a dead end).
So we eventually decided to re-route for day 11:
Instead of going the initially planned blue route, we took OBDR #3 to make it down to Crescent Lake.
We got the same campsite there as we had 1 year and 3 days earlier with our friends, when we finished this section from Tahoe to Crescent Lake. The van got a “used look”, we have been happy, nothing broke: great trip!
So after all we have finished our tour being happy to have used a lot of the tools I had taken, finishing the PCOR for us and remembering the past years being at this site with friends.
- The End -