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Unread 08-26-2011, 04:41 PM   #1
lupinsea
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2001 TJ Wrangler 
 
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Trip Report: Naches-Manastash 2011 Run (WA State)

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Naches-Manastash 2011

A 4-day, 3-night Jeep Expedition
In Washington State




Mid-week on August 17th some friends and I took a few days off of work for a multi-day Jeep expedition. The plan was to cross the Cascade Mountains on the Naches Trail, following an old wagon train route. This would deliver us into the little Naches basin where we would then climb part way up Manastash Ridge to establish camp and spend the next few days exploring the area's Jeep trails. The weather the entire time was gorgeous. Most days were stunningly cloudless under brilliant blue skies. What clouds did show up were cheerful wispy things in the late afternoons. Day time temperatures were warm-to-hot under the sun but the evenings cooled off pleasantly.

Wednesday, Aug 17th, 2011
Wednesday morning we set off from the Bothell area, NE of Seattle, and zipped down the east side of Lake Washington to the town of Enumclaw. There we topped off with fuel before heading out Hwy 410 to Greenwater and the start of the Naches Trail. In our group we were running similarly lifted TJ Wranglers but with different drivetrains: a manual 4 banger on a 2" lift with street tires, a 6 cylinder automatic on a 2.5" lift with a locker and mud tires, and a rig with a small-block V8 conversion running a GM tranny, also on a 2.5" lift with mud tires but open diffs. Surprisingly, or not, they all returned the exact same fuel economy throughout the trip, leading us all to wonder why Jeep just didn't install a V8 to start with? But I digress . . .

On the far side of Greenwater we took Forest Service Rd 70 up to the start of the Naches trail. At the end of the pavement we air down, disconnected, and did final preparations for the trail. Finally we were off, shifted into 4-Lo, and crawling our way up the steep hill climbs of the western Naches Trail by 2pm. Dust was not surprisingly minimal as the trail meandered through the damper underbrush of typical western WA forests. While there were a few off-camber sections of trail, re-routes due to wind-fallen tree, and some notably steep section none of the Jeeps were having difficulties.

By mid-afternoon we reached Government Meadows, the site where the Longmire wagon train of 1853 rested before lowering their wagons down 700 ft cliffs with oxen and ropes. The meadows were beautiful and we walk down a short length of the Pacific Crest Trail to inspect a cabin built on the edge of the meadow. After burning up some time with photos and video work up to this point we didn't loiter at the cabin. Climbing back in the Jeeps we rumbled off, skirting the meadows just inside the tree line to the formal Naches Pass at the eastern end of the clearing.

Once past the pass we began the long decent down into the Naches Valley. AT this point it was 2 hours of bumping over a somewhat rocky, root strewn trail that is slow but otherwise not particularly challenging. That is, until we reached the FS Rd 1913 intersection. Here we did the left-right zig-zag across a concrete bridge to continue on with the very tail end of the Naches Trail. After a few minutes the route starts up on some semi-short but steep hill climbs as it works its way around a bend in the river far below. Here the trail is traversing a steep hillside between trees. There is little room for maneuvering, either due to the sharp drop to the river or the tight squeeze between the trees. At one point there were two of us hanging off one side of the V8 TJ so the snorkel would clear a tree on the opposite side.

Not long after this we came to the end of the Naches Trail as it terminated at the paved FS Rd 19. It was 6pm at this point and we still had a ways to go to get to camp. So back into 2WD and a easy cruise down Rd 19 with a brief stop the fish ladder to scope that out, another stop at a deserted camp site next to the road where we found some fire wood, and then on to camp.

At the beginnings of the Kaner Flats trail we started climbing up the south side of Manastash Ridge via the gravel roads. First on the 1903 road, then on the 1915 to the end where we got back on the Kaner Flats Trail to Lilly Pond lake. Finding the lake area full of mosquitos we pressed on down the Milk Pond Trail until we found an acceptable site and started setting up camp. By this point it was near 8pm and we just got the camp set up by the time it got too dark. Dinner that night were hobos: mishmash of mushrooms, onions, potatoes, meat, and seasonings wrapped in tin foil and tossed into the camp fire. Mmm.....



Joe crossing some of the damaged but passable bridging on the eastern
side of the Naches Trail.




Steve squeezing his rig between some trees on the eastern tail end of the
Naches Trail. We had to hang off the opposite side as counter-weight.




The end of the Naches has some side-hill sections with little room for manuvering.





Thursday, Aug 18th, 2011
Thursday morning we woke up and ate a breakfast of bacon, eggs, Poptarts, and muffins. The previous night was nice and we were pleased with the lack of bugs and mosquitos. So we decided to leave our camp set up, trust that anyone else would leave it be, and set off for a full day of Jeep'n. We climbed back up Milk Pond trail to Lilly Pond Lake and the intersection with the Kaner Flats trail. Then onto the Kaner Flats trail to the top of Manastash Ridge. Our goal was to reach Quartz Mt and loop back to Frost Mt and Tripod Flats.

The upper part of Kaner has a number of surreal sections where the route works its way across crumbling basalt rock fields. The rocks are not big but there is zero dirt or vegetation across some of these rock fields and the way is bouncy. On the steeper sections the rocks clinked and rumbled as our tires rolled along. At one point we stopped for some brief rock climbing on some interesting spire further up the hill.

Close to noon we had reached the top and intersected with the Manastash Ridge trail. Turning left we headed off toward Quartz Mt. At this point the ridge trail is bumpy, dusty, but otherwise easy. Except for the one semi-significant hill climb. There are multiple routes up but one of the funnest was the far left climb with a combination of basalt rubble and dry slippery dust. With the locker engaged my wheel slipped and rolled a bit but it was an otherwise uneventful climb. Not so with Joe and Steve. Joe's run up in particular was very entertaining as his rig was lost in a massive cloud of dust most of the way up. Nonetheless, we all reach the top and pressed onward.

At the intersection with the Wells Meadow trail we turned right. The Wells Meadow trail is very easy but it's a beautiful trail that crosses Wells Meadow before dropping down and up a pleasant creek valley to Forest Service Rd 31 to the North. Back out on a gravel road we switched back into 2WD and motored to the end of the road at Quartz Mountain. The views from up there were spectacular as we looked out over the Naches Valley below to the south. Also to the south were Mt. Adams and Mount Rainier, both clearly visible and prominent on the near by horizon. It was a good local for lunch and we pulled out our food. The chip bags were massively inflated as the air sealed in side expanded at the 6,000+ elevation we were at. A hawk sailed out from below us looking for its own lunch as we gazed down on its back before it caught a thermal and soared off overhead.

Lunch over we bombed down FS Rd 31 to Frost Mountain. Lower down the valley Rd 31 had been washed out from heavy spring snow melt so access is limited to another route in. This resulted in very few others out on the road that day and leant a deserted feeling to this side of Manastash Ridge. Frost Mountain is very steep but fun hill climb over about a mile of trail. At the top is the last leg of a steep, near straight run to the crest where some concrete piers are all that remain of a long gone fire watch tower. From this vantage point we could look down on the towns of Cle Elum and Ellensburg to the North and Northeast, respectively.

We had reached the apex of the planned route for the day and it was time to start making our way back. We were hoping to cross Manastash Creek at Buck Meadows and reach the Tripod Flats trailhead but the road was washed out. Not wanting to retrace our route we then tried the Buck Meadows Trail and found out that the bridging sections were intact and passable. Nice. We took the Tripod Flats to the intersection with Tipover Trail. There we got on the new route to head back to the top of the Kaner Flats trail at the top of Manastash Ridge.

Tipover was another trail with a number of rock fields but these are interspersed among some forest sections. The climbs here were fun and the trail got more technical as there were some rocks to scramble over and ruts to navigate. At the end of Tipover we took the String trail right up to the top of the ridge, stopping for a photo op on some out croppings overlooking a broad valley area. By this point it was nearing 7:30 and the sun had dipped below the ridge line. We needed to hurry along before losing anymore daylight. We made steady progress until the ridge line where we encountered an really torn up and rocky section between us and the top of the Kaner Flats Trail. It took the three of us some time to work our way down this section of trail but we managed without much incident.

Back down the upper Kaner to Lilly Pond Lake, hastily bashing our way over the rock fields we took our time on earlier in the day. By the time we reached camp it was near dark and we were navigating the trail by headlights for the last hour. Dinner happened in darkness again but we had some tasty brats boiled up in beer, crisped on grates over the camp fire, some chips, and cold beer. A great way to end the evening.



Crossing one of the rock fields on the upper part of the Kaner Flats trail.




The Kaner ducks in and out of the trees as it climbs up to Manastash Ridge.




We had come up from the valley below, setting up camp not too
far from where this photos was taken.




Joe climbing up the dusty climb on the Manastash Ridge
trail. We couldn't see hide nor hair of him for some
time until he reached the top and the dust cleared.




Stopping for lunch at the top of Quartz Mt.




On top of Frost Mountain all covered with dust . . .


.

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Unread 08-26-2011, 04:42 PM   #2
lupinsea
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Descending from the peak of Frost Mt. the trail is a little steep and off-camber.




About 7pm Thursday evening cut over from the end of the Tipover
trail back up to Manastash Ridge, stopping here for some photo ops.




By the time we were navigating the rocky section on the
Manastash Ridge we were losing light fast.




One benefit of being on the trail this late was the
beautiful sunset skies.




Friday, August 19th, 2011
When Friday morning rolled around and we had started off on the trail again we had just enough fuel by this point to reach Raven's Roost before heading to Whistling Jacks for gas. It was a long drive up the road to Raven's Roost and we by-passed most of the easy peasy sections of trail lower down the route. We did finally get on the trail for the last mile which is the best part of the hill climb. At this point the trail gets quite steep with long steady hill climbs up a ridge back. At the mid-way point to the top the trail levels out as it runs along a spine with the ground sloping away on each side. Onward and upward on the last bit of trail to the radio towers at the top.

The peak of Raven's Roost shares a flat top with some kind of microwave radio installation. Here we stopped for lunch today to enjoy the view while we ate. While I didn't see any hawks today we did see an AE-6 Navy jet go blasting down the valley BELOW us. It's quite an odd sight to see the back of a war plane when you're standing above it on a mountain top. We never saw him pull up so the pilot must have been practicing nape-of-the-earth terrain following through the valleys. Cool.

On the way down Joe popped a sidewall on his tire. None of us could figure out what happened since he had pulled off to the side of the road to check something, then as he was rolling forward the tire exploded. Hmph. There ensued a fight with some stubborn rusted lug nuts holding his spare tire on. The looser was a broken wheel stud on the tire carrier. In the end we got the spare on and were off to Whistling Jacks to refuel.

With full tanks we rolled across a bride to the south of Hwy 410 to check out Boulder Cave. I had been here before but it's a cool place to revisit. Literally. After the heat of the day the cool air near the cave entrance was refreshing. We hopped off the trail and climbed over and around some boulder upstream of Devil's Creek (which flows through the cave). About 100 yards from the cave entrance, hidden by some rocks is a hidden waterfall. Talk about cool. The light caught the water just right as it splashed against a rock in the plunge pool. We cooled off in the chill water and managed to rinse off some trail dust before finally exploring the cave.

As Devil's Creek exited the cave we followed it back to the parking lot. The half mile to mile worth of creek is great. It cuts through a shear basalt canyon and narrows down to a mere few feet wide in parts and felt like we were walking through an Indiana Jones movie. With no creek banks anyone taking this route is advice to bring water shoes.

By the time we reached the Jeeps it was closing in on 6pm and we made a lazy climb back up to our camp so we could get an early start on dinner in the day light: spaghetti with fresh italian sausage, mushrooms, a blue cheese salad and fire toasted fresh garlic bread. Tough life, this camping business. That evening when Steve fell asleep in the camp chair Joe and I stayed up watching Top Gear on Steve's iPad. So much for a game of poker.



Crossing the ridge back on the Raven's Roost climb. Still a few hundred
more feet of elevation gain ahead of us.




The top of Raven's Roost.




A panoramic image from the top of the radio tower at Raven's Roost.




The hidden waterfall near Boulder Cave.




Inside Boulder Cave.




Exiting Boulder Cave via Devil's Creek back to the trail head.
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Unread 08-26-2011, 04:43 PM   #3
lupinsea
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Saturday, August 20th, 2011
Saturday was our last day out on the trail but we weren't in a rush home. We left camp set up and headed to the bottom of the Kaner Flats Trail to run the steep, long hill climbs back up to Lilly Pond Lake. These are my favorite section of the Kaner trail but it was obvious that my worn mud terrain tires are nearing their useful life on my Jeep after nearly 7 years. When we reached camp again we spent some time to strike it and pack up the Jeeps. At this point it was a bit of a crap-shoot on which way to head out. With many of the roads washed out I didn't know if we could reach Funnyrocks / Moonrocks and exit via the Manastash Road, the route I intended. By 1pm we were all packed up and rolled out, down the rest of the Milk Pond trail to the FS Rd 1708 (which is closed from the trail to Hwy 410). So far so good. The remainder of 1708 up to the four fingers hill climb was passable and in good condition. No wash outs on this section.

We made our dusty dusty hill climbs at Four Fingers back to the top of Manastash Ridge, then it was a mater of minutes until we reach Moonrocks. With fully loaded rigs we didn't want to play on the rocks much but it was still fun being spectators. The early afternoon sun was beating down on the rocky wasteland as one of the locals wedged his Toyota buggy into a rock crevasse. Then we watched the next 10 minutes as it was scraped and dragged back out by two winches pulling in opposite directions.

After the extractions we crossed over to Funnyrocks, did some very brief and easy rock climbing of our own on the way out. We hit another gravel road and followed that to the start of the Manastash Ridge Road, our intended route out. There we met some of the local boys who directed us to a different route. It was nice that they did. We spent another hour working our way down the Barber Springs road into the Dry Creek valley near Wenas, a small, sparse community a few ridge lines south of Ellensburg. There we caught the gravel county road back in to Ellensburg. By 6pm we were washing trail dust off of our faces, arms, and necks at Rodeo City BBQ before settling in for dinner of BBQ'd meet. By 7:30 we were on I-90 for home at by 9:30 Saturday night were unpacking our rigs. Four full days of great Jeeping, good company, and incredible scenery were at and and. And but for Joe's tire there weren't any mechanical problems throughout the whole trip.



On part of the Kaner Flat trail between the two big hill climbs.




On the Kaner Flats Trail right before the last big hill climb.




At the top of Manastash Ridge at the top of the Four Fingers hill climb,
looking southward from the ridge.




Crossing Manastash Ridge and looking Northeast toward Ellensburg far off in
the distance beyond. Heading toward Funnyrock / Moonrocks.




Watching one of the locals get their rock bugged wedged in the rocks.




Finally exiting the trail system and heading out through Dry Creek to Wenas
and then, ultimately, BBQ at Rodeo City BBQ in Ellensburg.



.
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Unread 08-27-2011, 11:13 AM   #4
ken123
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Unread 08-28-2011, 04:04 PM   #5
I FLEX
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Looks like an amazing run, as always Jay i like all the photos and your thoroughness in your write-ups.
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Unread 09-01-2011, 03:38 PM   #6
lupinsea
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Thanks! Sorry you missed it, Micah.
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Unread 09-01-2011, 03:45 PM   #7
Benderff
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Looks like a blast. I'd like to make it up one of these days.
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