My friend Don and I took my van out for a drive with a local group, Pacific Northwest Backroad Adventures
, through the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area* this weekend. I've been out exploring the local forest service roads and playing in the snow since bringing the van back from Fresno in November but this was my first "hardcore" 4x4 adventure with her.
I love where I live. Washington State, and the Northwest in general, are pretty amazing. The eastern half of Washington is desert. When you cross over the Cascades heading east the terrain and environment change pretty drastically as you cross into the rain shadow. An hour and a half east of home, for me, is a very different kind of place. That's a pretty nice thing come the middle of winter.
We spent the day driving through rolling hills and mountains, through coulee's and canyon's, cactus, sagebrush and plenty of little desert flowers. We went from about 1,000 feet, near the Columbia River, to over 4,500 feet. We didn't see tons of wildlife, but I was concentrating on driving. There were some elk and wild turkey. On the drive home over Snoqualmie Pass a Harrier jet flew beside us a couple hundred feet above the water as we drove along Lake Keechelus. It was a great day with an interesting group. I'm sure I'll do more trips with them. It's always nice going someplace new with someone who knows where they're going and what they're doing. Especially when it's a 20 or 30 mile hike out if something goes wrong.
I was really impressed with how well the van did over some fairly gnarly terrain. I've been impressed with how it's handled on the road all along. I was really impressed with how she did off road. She handled everything the Jeep's and Landcruiser's did with ease. She would have done even better if I hadn't underestimated where we were going and aired down and disconnected the front sway bar. I will next time. I just wish I'd gotten pictures of the rougher parts of the drive.
There's a post of our drive with the particulars on the groups forum.
* Technically I think it's called the Whiskey Dick Road Management Area which is part of the Colockum Wildlife Area. It's east of Ellensburg, Washington. It's definitely a place worth visit if you're in the area. Google Map