Gold Rush Fire

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Monday morning, August 17th, Natasha and I broke camp out in Beacon Rock State Park campground. We arrived there the night before with plans on heading up the Washougal Road and past Dougan Falls to see if we could find a place to wild camp. The air was slightly hazy, but the whole state seems this way, but we hadn’t heard about anything specific to that area…

Until we turned a corner and found a fire crew and their equipment.

On the way back down, we were pulled over by a guy from a construction crew that was working on fish habitat in the area. He told us the fire was spotted early in the morning by their guys, called down, and the fire department came up. It was a small fire at the time, but by lunch it was pretty good sized, and they asked the construction crew to bring a D9 Cat up for support.

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It wasn’t much longer before we saw air support in the form of helicopters doing bucket drops.

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The fire was officially named the Gold Rush Fire with the local newspaper, The Columbian last reporting on it a few days ago.

If you’re headed out to camp in the PNW, a good source to check fire status is the website InciWeb. It isn’t always super up to date because fires can pop up or change so quickly, but it is a good resource.

I cant wait until the winter rains get here…

This is my daughter Zoe’s first toy Land Cruiser…

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It’s a 90-Series Prado. She was just getting to the talkative and mobile toddler stage when she found it. My parents had taken her shopping in Pueblo, CO and on the way from Alamosa, they stopped at a convenience store… Zoe saw it on a bottom shelf and went running to my dad saying “Cruiser! Cruiser!” He didn’t believe her, but she took him to the box of cars and trucks there it was… an oddball toy for the U.S. market for sure.

It wasn’t a surprise that she was drawn to it; she preferred toy cars over dolls. She had a collection of HotWheels and slept with handfuls of them under her pillow. It seemed like gears were in her blood.

She remembers most of my Toyotas 4×4; during her life I’ve had a FJ40, Toyota 22RTE pickup, FJ60, FJ55, Tercel Wagon, and our current UZJ100. And my parents had followed me over to these trucks so she was exposed to another FJ40, Toyota 4×4, and a FZJ80.

Now she is almost 18, getting her license, and has her first vehicle… My parents bought her a first car as an early birthday and graduation gift. It’s a bit of a project, but solid, straight, and it runs well. It’s a 22RE Toyota 4-Runner with a manual trans.

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She has been waiting for this since she was 3yrs old. Right now, she is in Colorado visiting her mom and the truck is here. So far we’ve gathered some 16×7 factory steel wheels from a newer Tacoma, and she went to a salvage yard to pull some small interior pieces she needed.

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This is the perfect platform to teach her how to wheel and wrench on… It’s going to be fun to watch it develop.

After all these years, goodbye Igloo cooler

I’ve had this blue 54qt Igloo for at least 18yrs and it’s finally failing.

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Well, not finally. I would love to tell cool stories of how it fell out of the back of my topless FJ40, rolling to a stop in Campo De Santos, emptying beer, and left over KFC. How I had it in the bed of my 22RTE 4×4 pickup and I took a sweet jump only to see the cooler get even more air than the truck, crashing in down in the chicos while still keeping it’s cool… Or how a black bear decided to maul it to see what food I had packed, but left it after not being able to defeat the latch…

Yeah, I would love to tell you these stories, but in reality this cooler didn’t suffer too bad. Sure, I used it during hunting seasons when I knew I was going to be camping out for more than three days, but it only had to ride to camp and then sit until the ride home. The rest of the time it  was in storage out of the weather.

That is until my wife and I started exploring and camping more and more here in WA. Then the cooler was pulled out, filled with food, carried down, lifted in and out of the truck, and carried back up to the apartment. It didn’t take long and the latch failed; the two pieces wore out and no longer locked together. It couldn’t keep it’s temp, of course, with the lid open.

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The latch could be easily replaced, but then the handle failed. One of the plastic screws pulled out (thankfully it wasn’t loaded with food at the time). I can carry it if I have it in just the right position, but going up and down stairs, or in and out of the lifted truck and over the drawer system sucked.

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No, this Igloo Legend was anything but legendary. And sure, there are some killer coolers out there like Bison and Yeti, but a cooler doesn’t really fit what we need.

Meet the Igloo’s 50qt badass replacement:

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(More on the ARB Fridge/Freezer soon!)

Olympic Mountains camping and Seattle overlook, June 2015

Poetry Overland:

PNW fun:

Originally posted on PNW Overland:

This past weekend I went camping over west from Quilcene, WA along with Steven and Phun. Decided to go to the same location as a previous post. This time, this familiar forest road had a surprise or two for me: a few washouts. Officially, the road was closed 1.8 miles in from highway 101 but having the road washed away on the side of a mountain isn’t really much of an obstacle. With a competent ground guide one could traverse the washouts, which I required going up the mountain as I couldn’t see how close my right wheels were to the edge. Coming back down was far easier.

Turns out I had plenty of room with about 8 inches to spare.

 I found this camp a year or so ago by pouring over google earth maps; find a interesting looking place and simply go there. This particular camp has a good…

View original 340 more words

CVT Mt. Bailey Tent: a review

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My wife doesn’t snuggle at night. She doesn’t want me to sleep close to her; and if I do, she wakes me up to get me to move over. If we didn’t live in a small apartment, we’d have a king mattress. And so, with that in mind, you’d think we would’ve opted for a larger roof top tent (RTT) rather than the smallest of Cascadia Vehicle Tents’ models.

I’d like to say I did it on purpose: small tent means she has to sleep close to me! But, it was all about footprint. On our 100 Series, we run an African Outback full-length roof rack which has plenty of room, but after dragging the spare tire across some obstacles on an off road run, I moved it to the rack. This made weight and footprint two of the most important factors when buying a RTT.

At 48″W x 48″L x 11″ Ht when closed and weighing only 96lbs, the Mt. Bailey was a perfect fit. We drove to Bend, OR to pick one up at CVT. They installed it and I was happy that my measurements were right. The clearance between the tire and the tent is close but it works.

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We’ve now used it a few times and in different conditions.

First off, it is tight. The length is good (I think most tents are the same open length: the open dimensions are 48″W x 96″L x 45″Ht); we can sleep comfortably with our bags at the bottom of the mattress. But the width… it doesn’t leave a lot of room for two people if one or both aren’t close sleepers. Although, we did put a flannel sheet on it, a queen size duvet, and two pillows and that has helped a bunch. It is far more comfortable with real bedding and it means I can sleep on the edge comfortably. If you do sleep close together, I don’t think it’s too small; for a single person, it would be quite spacious.The height is great. I can sit up in it comfortably (I’m 6ft); changing clothes while in it is easy. In the future, when I find a solution to the spare tire mount, we’d love to upgrade to a wider tent.

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Weather performance is solid. Our first trip with it was to Deception Pass. It rained. And rained. Rained some more. It was definitely fall camping in the PNW. The tent preformed great. We had the side windows and rainfly closed, and the front and back rainfly up. It didn’t leak, get condensation, or give me any reason to worry. It was a good first trip to test the tent.

In the spring we did a run up Colockum Pass Road. It was slightly windy and cold-below freezing cold. It did stand up well slight winds we had, but I also has parked us behind a knoll giving us a nice windbreak. There are a few places where air can come into the tent on the bottom, and we could feel it. This type of RTT is not a four season tent by any means. When setting up and taking down, the tent material didn’t get stiff or feel brittle at those low temps; the zippers, flaps, and even the tent cover were perfectly fine and it went up and down with ease.

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Our last trip out was really warm. and we finally got to open all the windows. In the heat of the afternoon the tent had enough airflow to be comfortable enough for Natasha to sleep in. You can see in the photo above, we can only open half the rainfly on the side with the spare tire.

Is a RTT easy to use? Yes. Set up is the easiest: unzip the tent cover, pull it off, pull the ladder out and get it to lock, pull the tent open, and your done. It’s just a few minutes and it’s ready use, even your bedding (because it’s best to leave it in). The poles for the rainfly can be a bit fiddly, but their easy enough. We have take down to about 10minutes: put your pillows next to the seam so they’ll be squished down by the clamshell, close the rainfly, doors, windows, push the tent closed, recover and zip up. Natasha does stand on the driver’s door sill and pushes the tent material in; I then climb up on the rack and tuck the other side; this makes getting the cover on easy. Also, during both opening and closing, I’ve found it easier and faster if I don’t get off the rack. I actually lie across the top of the tent as I unzip/zip. CVT has a few videos of set up here that will make visualizing our process easier.

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We did purchase an annex for it too. And, well…. that thing is a pain in the ass. Our first trip with it we fought and fought it. Then, when we figured it out it was like… oh, that was easy-ish. The problem is that the Mt. Bailey is small and the annex fits several tents; this means it isn’t exactly a tight fit… there is some excess material. It did work well on that rainy trip; there was three of us camping and we kept all our bags in there and used it as a changing room. But, we haven’t used it since because it’s so easy to change in the tent. It would come in handy if you were camped in one spot for more than a couple of nights, but I’m not sure if I would go that route again.

Overall, we think it’s a great tent. CVT has made sure they have a really solid product. It’s well constructed and you can tell it will last a long time. We haven’t really found any major or minor faults in its construction or design. We do love this tent.

*Disclaimer: I do not work for or with CVT, nor am I sponsored by them.

Taneum Creek, WA

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It was Natasha’s first river crossing; in fact, it was her first off road driving experience: the raging Taneum Creek. She wanted to get a shot of the Cruiser in a water crossing, but didn’t want to be the one taking the photo. That means she had to take on the water with a very brief rundown of instructions on how to handle it.

I managed to get myself on the other side and positioned myself for the shot, and with some nervousness, I watched her nose the truck right in.

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Okay, okay, it’s just a little creek with a submerged bridge that is an entrance to a campground, but still… it counts, right?

We left Seattle early in the evening on a Sunday and drove to Taneum Campground (near Thorp, WA–just east of Cle Elum) and got there  about 8:40pm; it was completely empty. With a spot where we could clearly hear the creek, we popped the roof top tent and set up. It’s a small and clean campground. The grounds are well taken care of, the cathedral toilets (drop) were actually really clean; there are also a few water spigots too. But, at $18 a night, we felt it was a bit expensive for what it offered.

Our plan was to wake up and head into the L.T. Murray Wildlife area. But, we got going a little slowly the next morning, ate a good breakfast. I’ve heard the roads in that area are rough and letting out some air in the tires is a must; I don’t have an air pump to refill (that really needs to be my next major off-road parts purchase). Between that, and wanting a lazy weekend, we decided to stay in and explore the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Forest Service road 3330 drops down a little west from the campground and provides tons of area to explore. We followed it down toward Quartz Mountain and Manastash while taking off smaller two-tracks that split off the main road. Corrugations are pretty bad on this dusty road and the truck would’ve been served well by knocking a few pounds out of the tires here as well.

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Oh, and keeping the speed down helps too! I entered one bed a little, shall we say, spirited and with the heavy TJM spring and fully inflated tires, the back end of the truck tried to skip around the front. The Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) beeped at me for a second; stupid computer, doesn’t it understand that I know what I’m doing? I felt the back end start to loosen up and had already adjusted so the VSC didn’t overly interfere.

The only hard route we took was Frost Mountain Lookout Loop. That is a steep limb with loose shale. The 100 handled it really well…actually, better than I expected. We even managed to stop for one poser shot:

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After a bit of windshield time and goofing off, we drove back up north to Taneum Junction Campground. This one is marked high usage and you can tell. On the weekends, it is pretty full of campers with dirt bikes and other ORVs, but on a Monday night it was only us and one other camp. It’s not a bad camp at all. It has only one cathedral style toilet that was clean-ish. Just don’t look into the toilet, lift the lid with your eyes closed… don’t look down!

Taneum Creek runs right next to this camp too and with it being weekday we grabbed a spot right next to it. Honestly, we spent the rest of the day just relaxing, cooking, and hanging out.

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Of course, after surviving a crazy river crossing to start off the trip, I think we deserved some rest and relaxation…

I don’t remember…

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…exactly when I got this Hot Wheels car. Birthday? Christmas? Just picked up by my parents at KMart (when that was the biggest store in Alamosa)?

It’s been with me most of my life. I don’t remember actually playing with it though… who remembers exact scenarios played out with toy cars? It probably won a few drag races, cruised the strip, parked by a hastily put together Lego house… I remember going to one kid’s house a few blocks away; there were three of us and we’d build roads and towns in his dirt back yard: lots of “driving” the cars around, races, all while imaging what it would be like to grow up to have a Porsche 911, a hot rod, a 4×4… all in one garage.

Yup, always a gearhead.

I also had to do body work on it. It has a small plastic hood scoop that has fallen through the hole on the hood; it’s still in there. It would fall into the body of the car often and I would shake, rattle, and grab it with a pencil tip or with tweezers to get it back on to the hood. My uncle Paul would help me glue it into place… we used model glue, Super Glue, clear nail polish… anything to make it stick. And it would just fall back in.

The paint would wear off too. I don’t even remember what color it was originally. Uncle Paul would help me paint it, usually with model paint– I think a few times we used nail polish. I remember it being a deep green, candy apple red, and the last coat was copper. It was the late ’70s, early ’80s, so the colors always had a heavy metallic flake. Most of the time they wouldn’t dry properly and the coupe was always sticky. Well, until the last paint job wore off and it faded into this scoopless primer gray hot rod.

My oldest daughter is a natural gearhead too. She slept with piles of cars under her pillow and loved nothing more than playing cars. We’d get out all the cars (even the old coupe) and build a town on the living room floor… And with her, the cars had to have names, get married (a ’32 Ford coupe married to a Toyota Celica Pike’s Peak race car? What?), have kids… Yeah, playing cars with her wasn’t like playing with my friends in the dirt.

Most of my cars survived it all– even “family life” with my daughter. And the coupe managed to stay with me… to this day.

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