I was ecstatic with my first attempt at reaching the border. . . until I realized this sig
Mile 2,681, N48º44'27: Ione, Washington
Smackout Pass, Harrier Creek, and Quinn's Road are the direct dirt routes from Ione to Northport, save 25 miles. I was less than 20 miles from the border, and this night is where my final push for the border got interesting. The only apparent route to Northport was on an overgrown track called Bodie Road near Black Hawk Mountain. It was well past dark when I snatched the next tree out of the track. With no traffic, native flora had reclaimed the route, leaving only two parallel depressions in the tall grass. Somewhere on the lee side of Black Hawk, a faint quad track appeared and became my guiding light. But did it come from Northport-or from where I just came and I didn't see their tracks?
A left turn put me on another tree-shrouded, cliffside road. The quad track was gone. After pulling a small tree out of the track and pushing another over the edge, I thought, "Should I continue on?" I could see lights from a ranch house in the valley below. Two hundred meters in, forward progress ceased-a washout. With zero tolerance for error, I begrudgingly slipped the JK in Reverse and cautiously backed out, stopping several times to reset my mirrors (after branches knocked them out of position). Beat-dog tired and a little nervous (okay, scared), I retreated to the Y. Locating the quad track again (yeah), I followed it all the way down to the valley, through a few cattle gates and pastures, and finally to-a road (dirt, of course). I camped that night near another boat ramp on the Columbia River. The Canadian border would be mine tomorrow.
Mile 2,760, 49º00'00, 1140 Hours: Somewhere West of the Frontier International Border Crossing
The U.S.-Canadian border, which shadows the 49th parallel for nearly 1,300 miles (the entire border is more than 4,000 miles in length), is an extension of boundaries set forth in the Treaty of Paris (1783) between the British and French. Originally, I was hoping to find an official dirt crossing, but Willie Worthy had said there were only a few, and they were in Montana (someone please correct me if there is one in Washington). I'd need to hit the 49th on my own, and on a dirt track.
They say it's the journey, not the destination: With the tightened security after 9/11, I
With the tightened security after 9/11, and after my run-in with a half-dozen INS agents at the Mexican border, I was expecting sound-sensing equipment in the trees (which I'd been told existed everywhere along the international line), Border Patrol officers creeping around in the brush, and floodlights-or something. My first attempt was a logging road near Northport. Six hundred feet short, at N48º59'91, it was a bust. Several ten-foot divots in the trail and a federal "Warning" sign halted progress. Route #2, another logging track, was the ticket (off Big Sheep Creek Road, if you're interested). I wound around a clear-cut area to a landing at the top of a ridge. The GPS registered 49º00'00. Beyond lay one of our northern neighbor's vast and forested canyons. I was completely alone, just Radar and me. There were no warning signs, Border Patrol agents or helicopters. I waited, expecting some new friends with badges and guns, but no one showed up.
Was "Border to Border" an epic trek, or an expedition? When I think "expedition," I think of Shackleton, Hillary, Cook, and the like. Was it all dirt? Well, as much as we could muster. Of the 3,000 miles that we put on the JK's odometer (adjusting for tire size), about 2,700 were on dirt roads, trails, or two-tracks. We could have driven down the shoulder on some sections, but that's not very practical or safe, and would just be a play on words in our all-dirt story.
The axiom, "It's not the destination, it's the journey," while a bit clichéd, holds an undeniable truth when it comes to overland trekking. The destination may be the heights of a remote mountain peak, a distant saltpan in Africa, or simply an imaginary line in the middle of the forest (N49º, for example). Once there, the views may be spectacular and the air clean and clear. But often it's just a place, a waypoint on your GPS or coordinates on a map. However, when you look back, it will most likely be the journey remembered; people along the way, traveling mates, and the miles you spun on to your odometer. Remember, the destination gets us going, but it's the journey that fills life's palette with color. What's next? Maybe "Coast To Coast"-if we can bum another JK from Jeep?
Gear That Works
There are a lot of options when it comes to recovery gear.
In the process of tugging and winching a dozen trees off the trail in Oregon and Washingto
Standard issue for the any overland rig should be: first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, spotl
Expecting the unexpected is important and can make the difference between having a minor d