Camping and Jeeping in Liberty
July 7th & 8th, 2012
This weekend some friends and I took our boys out for a Jeeping and camping weekend in the mountains on the eastern side of the Cascades range. The boys are all about 4 years of age and while my son has been out camping a couple times before this was the first time he was out with friends his own age. And this was their first camping trip.
Saturday we struck out for the Liberty / Table Mountain area which is between Cle Elum and Ellensburg but a bit north. It was a warm sunny weekend on both sides of the mountains with the temperature in the Liberty area hitting 100 deg for the weekend. The trails there are steep but reasonably easy when dry and we had no difficulty getting around the whole weekend. There isn't much in the way of technical obstacles but the scenery sure makes up for it.
After stopping to air down we drove out on a gravel access road for a couple miles, then headed up on the 4W319, Crystal Ridge trail. The first section is a long, bumpy, root covered steep incline. Right after this the trail dumped out at the Crystal Mt. overlook area. I'm glad to see someone has dragged logs across the last 30 ft to keep people from driving over the edge. Which has happened before if the memorial sign posted there is any indication. The rise comes to a very abrupt cliff dropping several hundred feet. But it affords a great view north into the Cascade range.
From this point we headed out to find a good camp site. Along the way we ran into another Jeeper up from Ellensburg with his family. Since he didn't have his own map we gave him one of our spares and went our separate ways after exchanging some pleasantries. From the ridge we took the 4W320 trail as it dropped down through a couple sloping meadows and disappeared into the trees again. After a short time we turned on to the 4W318 and found what appeared to be a very nice camp site but by this point the JK was getting low of fuel and we thought it best to head into town and get gas. Rather than back tracking over the ridges we had just crossed we pressed on, exiting the other side and in to Ellensburg.
That was a long but beautiful drive into town. The trails lead to a deteriorating paved Reecer Creek Road that switchbacked its way down Table Mountain and out onto the farming prairies around Ellensburg. By the time our fuel tanks were topped off it was getting close to 6pm and we didn't waste time driving back up into the mountains to the trials.
At the first campsite we tried we were swarmed with mosquitos and quickly abandoned it after a few minute. Too bad as it was a nice location next to a creek. But there were just too many mosquitos. So across the creek and up the hill a ways to another meadow that was more open and drier. This one didn't have a bug problem so we set up camp and settled in.
The kids had hot dogs and chips, then smores for desert. As the sun was setting Steve read all the kids a great story and we got them settled into the tents. Then it was time for our dinner as we prepped our hobos for the fire. The hobos are a great camp dinner and easy to make. Just toss some chopped vegetables into a foil packet along with some meat, seasoning, sauce and butter, wrap it up tight and burry it under the coals of the camp fire for about 20 minutes.
As the hobos were cooking the kids were goofing around, calling out to each other from their respective tents. While we tried to keep the noisiest noises down they had fun making each other laugh and giggle. Eventually they all conked off as the stars came out in the dark night sky.
Finally the hobos were ready. MMmmmm..... good. Mine had some mixed vegetables cooking with butter, chopped garlic, salt and lime with a slab of steak that had been marinading in a sweet chili sauce since the night before. Oh yeah. I love roughing it like this.
The boys didn't sleep in long the next morning. Which was a bummer. Oh well, after a breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes we left camp set up and headed out in empty Jeeps for a couple hours of trail riding. Up and over a number of ridge lines, up a number of steep hill climbs, through more meadows and creek crossings. At one point we came across a section of trail where I had chopped through a downed tree 8 years before to clear the trail. The rest of the tree was still there with the ax marks. I think we ran 4W329, the rest of 4W319 to a road, and then back down 4W337 and 4W318 again.
Soon enough it was time to circle back to camp and pack it up. We headed out about 1 pm back on the pavement. Once we hit the interstate we headed home at our own pace since I drive a lot slower with my Jeep. Sunday afternoon had it's own adventure as Nathan and I peeled off I-90 at North Bend to go look at Snoqualmie Falls. They are working on replacing and rebuilding the generator power plants at the falls so none of the water was diverted for power and it was all flowing over the falls. The falls looked really full. Not to mention seeing all the construction equipment perched on the cliffs around the falls. Nathan had a great time looking at all of it.
Then we finally made phone contact with my wife and father-in-law. We met up with them at Houghton Beach Park in Kirkland on the shores of Lk Washington. It felt great to get wet and cool off at the lake after the hot weekend camping. We were filthy but I didn't care. It was fun, however, to cruise through fancy downtown Kirkland in a Jeep caked with mud splatter. That's one way to get attention and it's cheaper than parading back and forth in a Ferrari.
All the guys, the boys and the grown-ups, had a great time out camping. I'm looking forward to doing it again and it was wonderful to explore Liberty again after an 8 year absence.
While we were airing down the Jeeps and getting them prepped
for the trail the boys were playing over in the creek.
The first trail we ran quickly took us up to the top of the overlook.
On the way to finding a campsite the trail crossed this creek down in a valley.
Heading back up Reecer Creek Rd. and looking back over the Ellensburg area to the southeast.
Making "hobos" for dinner. Toss a some meat and vegetables into a foil pouch with some
butter and seasonings, then bury it in the hot campfire coals for about 20 minutes.
Steve got creative and made a purse out of his to distinguish it from the others.
MMmmm... hobo. Some sweet chili marinaded steak with mixed vegetables cooked
with butter, chopped garlic and lime.
Heading out for some morning Jeep'n on Sunday. We crossed the same creek but
further down stream.
A few of the trails wandered through some lovely meadows.
Exploring a rock formation that was on the side of the trail.
Nathan goofing around on the roll bar as we start getting loaded back up in the Jeep to continue on.
The scenery wasn't hard on the eyes at all.
While most of the trails were dry, we did hit a wet section with this mud puddle.
Motoring up an incline on the trail heading toward a meadow.
The Jeeps are packed up, we're heading out and for home.
On the way home Nathan and I stopped at Snoqualmie Falls to check
out the construction. They are building new power houses and so none
of the water is diverted. It's all flowing over the falls right now.