Welcome to part 2 of our coverage of Ultimate Adventure 2012. For those of you just joining in, hold tight for a crash course in UA 101. The UA is the crest journey for those who love wheeling, thirst for adventure, and are not afraid of a little … OK, well, a lot of dirt. With over a decade’s worth of UAs in the history books, the UA has cemented itself as one of the toughest and most action-packed weeklong wheeling trips on the planet.
Since there is safety (and more fun) in numbers, the UA has grown tremendously over the years. In the group of off-road misfits and the like is a bustle of readers just like you, a handful of old cronies to help herd the pack and mend rigs in need, a few sponsors to keep us in the black, 4WOR staff, and a film crew to document every second of the terra-churning action. At the head of this traveling 4x circus is Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé.
For this year’s event, Péwé took the reins of our Ultimate JK (aka the Off-Roadster). With Jeep on as the title sponsor, Tech Editor Fred Williams was able to get his hands on a fresh ’12 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to build. Soon after grabbing the keys to the Pentastar-powered Wrangler he drove it to the crew at Hazzard Fabworx in Spokane. There they created the push-me pull-me off-roadster Wrangler that worked flawlessly leading our trip (“OJ the Ultimate Orange Jeep,” Aug.-Dec. ’12).
The rules of the UA include no trailers (everyone must be able to drive at least 1,000 miles both on- and off-road), vehicles and participants must be entirely self-sufficient (food, water, spare parts, and camping gear), and most importantly, No Whiners! Those are just a few of the basics. For those of you thinking that you have what it takes to come along on the adventure, you can apply for next year’s UA at our website, www.4wheeloffroad.com.
With this year’s trip kicking off in Redmond, Oregon, we’ve already logged in a few hundred miles of what has been the coldest and cloudiest UA to date. Last month we left off our Northwest tour with our crew exiting the Elbe Hills OHV Area in Washington. After a long and muddy day of wheeling on the Busywild Trail we rounded out our evening back at Camp Conden. In this final installment we pick up the action on the fifth day, Wednesday. Follow along as we snake our way to our final destination of Wallace, Idaho.
Day 5, Wednesday, July 4:
As we crawled out of our tents from another cool night of camping in the Washington air, a gas-powered pressure washer was abuzz. Since Tuesday’s wheeling had been a bit of a mud fest, the Conden family was nice enough to set up a small wash area for us to hose down our grimy 4x4s. This rinse-and-go was a great bonus since we didn’t want any wobbly front ends from mud-packed wheels, and Johnny Law doesn’t take too kindly to dirt blobs exploding on the freeway.
The fire pit kept the crew warm as each rig passed through the quick wash.
It wasn’t long before all of the rigs were a little lighter and a bit shinier, so with sheetmetal still glistening we loaded up our gear and set course for a new unknown destination. After a small jaunt through the city of Eatonville we gassed up and began our path toward Mount Rainier National Park.
As is usual on the UA, Péwé finds the most scenic, not direct, route to the day’s stops and destinations. The path to Mount Rainier was filled with vivacious greens, postcard backdrops, and extremely enjoyable winding roads. It was a road dog’s paradise and a great change of scenery from the mud-lined forest of the day before. As it was Independence Day, this was an especially fitting way to set the tone for the day.
It wasn’t long before our group rolled under the Mount Rainier National Park welcome arch. An active volcano, Mount Rainier rises 14,000 feet above sea level and is the most glaciated peak in the U.S. Spawning six major rivers, Mount Rainier supports a vast ecosystem, which immerses the national forest. With our rigs climbing in altitude, we cut from the bright greens and made the transition into the blinding white snow as we spiraled up the pass. Of course, a pit stop was made for a quick once-over of the rigs—and the ultrarare summertime snowball fight!
From the cool mountain air we transitioned into the warmer desert conditions in Selah, Washington. Surrounded by apple orchids, it was easy to see how Washington is the top apple producing state in the country.
As we continued our drive we made our way along the Yakima River, where season was in full effect. These summertime scenes were most obvious as we passed countless people playing in and along the river under the clear blue sky. And just as fast as we entered the Yakima Canyon we launched into the farmlands in Kittitas, Washington.
Soon we landed on the Vantage Highway and along the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. This winding path would ultimately send us over the historic Vantage Bridge. Rising water levels (a result of the Wanapum Dam) caused the original cantilever Vantage Bridge from the 1920s to be replaced by a newer version in a different location during the 1960s. The Vantage Bridge still serves motorist as an easy way to cross the Columbia River and, for us, helped propel our path on Interstate 90 to Othello, Washington.
Othello would be our last stop of the day for fuel and supplies. A fast raid of the local Wal-Mart and gas pumps left us a mere passing blip on the town’s radar.
With the daylight fading, our long highway jaunt landed us in Moses Lakes, Washington, at Lyle Labe’s pad. Lyle and his Sand Scorpions club are regulars at the Moses Lakes Mud Flats and Sand Dunes. This was great, as the dunes would be our camping spot for the evening and Lyle’s place served as an area for us to grab a few dune marker flags and air down before digging into the sand.
Our 4x4 chain looked something like a desert storm invasion. Headlights, sand, and dust swirled around our 4x4s as we chased the falling sun into the sea of dunes. Picking a sandy hilltop away from the masses, we unwound and set up camp. Since it was the Fourth of July after all, we honored America like so many others, by blasting a truckload of fireworks into the night sky!
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