We headed to Barton Jeep in Spokane to address an airbag light and associated buzzing. It
Mile 2,225, N46º44'00, Mile 2225:
Yes, Moscow, Idaho. Entering Idaho, our maps indicated multiple options with regard to dirt tracks north. However, neither the DeLorme Atlas nor Garmin MapSource identifies private land. Most of the region is owned by logging companies-and they like to keep the public out. An array of locked gates and closed roads became our nemesis. After a day of dead-ends and extended backtracking, we were faced with long paved roads to get around it all. We decided to push back to Washington's breadbasket. Nothing against Idaho (beautiful place, really), we just chose the wrong entry point and didn't do our research.
We must have plastered too much mud on the JK in Oregon, or fumigated the cab with excessive dust in the deserts of Nevada and California. Just prior to reaching Spokane, the airbag light illuminated, and a seriously annoying "bing, bing, bing" warning buzzer began. We headed to the Barton Jeep dealership to check it out. After we pulled into the parking lot, Mike, the manager, would later say, "We were in a sales meeting and everyone jumped to the window like there was a gorgeous girl in the parking lot. I looked out and it was your JK." The culprit was an airbag sensor in the steering column. While it was being repaired, I met the Barton Jeep crew of off-road aficionados. They knew northern Washington like it was their own backyard. Several of them who had the day off came in with maps and suggestions. (A big thanks to Walt, the service manager, for getting me back on the road, and to Jeff Bordner and John Berger for the National Forest maps and routes). The "bing" was a blessing in disguise, and the timing worked out perfectly.
I should have listened to Willie Worthy (who did an all-dirt Canada-to-Mexico trip in the
We were less than 100 miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies (2.5 hours on paved roads), yet I would log 300 miles and take 60 hours to reach it. After dropping my lovely bride at the airport for a flight home, I returned to the point on I-90 where we got on the pavement. I was on my own at this point. Near the Little Falls River crossing, I was finally out of the flatlands and back in the pines. The route: Spokane Indian Reservation, Springdale, Jump Off Joe Road, Grouse Creek Road, and the Colville National Forest.
According to John and Jeff, the township of Usk would be my last chance for gas before pushing on to the border through the Kaniksu National Forest. I found Forest Road 4347 just before sunset and located a side track to camp on. Of the few people I'd talked to that day, all had a common question: "You camping?" and "Watch out for grizzly bears-and watch your dog." Despite the calm, moonless night and clear skies, Radar and I jumped with every creak and swoosh from the blackness.
This is the type of thing you experience when you get off the beaten track. Built of local
It was only 25 miles to Usk, and in an attempt to keep with the all-dirt concept, I ended up on an unused side track near Calispell Lake. After a couple hours in low-range, dodging dozens of downed trees (the area had been heavily logged, and resembled piles of log pixie sticks and Jeep-sized divots), I reached the other end-and a locked gate. Arrgghh. Tracks from a few quads had gone around, and, well-the alternative was two hours of backtracking.
Heading east from Usk, the Kaniksu National Forest is a stunning example of the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest. Towering peaks, seemingly bottomless crystal-clear lakes, and deer darting across the trail are reason enough to come here. But the mix between my DeLorme book, MapSource, and the USFS map was a world of confusion. The main tracks, though they wound around the mountain like a python on a wallaby, were okay. However, I wouldn't suggest attempting to save time by finding that shortcut. I found myself on top of Old South Baldy: dead-end.
Room with a view! Just short of Usk, Washington, I popped up Casa de ARB and set up camp.
"I must have missed the turn, it was that other left." Closer inspection revealed the Forest Service sign lying in the brush. Ahh, victory! The problem was a very large tree lying across the trail. The words of Willie Worthy came to mind (Willie is a fellow journalist who did an all-dirt border-to-border run for Four Wheeler 20 years ago). Willie said, "Don't head north without a chainsaw." Wise words! I again pulled the winch line; I grabbed my ARB snatch block (which is designed for use with nylon winch rope) and Viking recovery rope and tree saver, and went hunting for a suitable anchor. After multiple pulls, repositioning the line, strap, and attachment point each time, there was just enough room to slip around. An hour had passed and the sun was heading for the horizon. I loaded up my gear . . . and two 200 meters around the bend was a flipping dead end: #*&^$!#!! Eventually locating Squaw Valley Road, Radar and I cleared Pyramid Pass and made our way to Ione via Dry Canyon Road.