Having friends is great. Having friends with similar interests is better. Having friends with different interests may be the best.

My friend is really into overlanding among other things, our last adventure was a simple camping trip, the one before that had very mild off road. This time the plan was quite a bit more ambitious. On my end other than being a passenger, I planned and procured items for a few meals, and all I had to do was await pickup.

Sunday morning we departed, then we promptly returned as I forgot the all important pot/bowls we would need.

Then we departed again, meeting up with our compatriots at a local park and ride.

After setting our route we departed planning on stopping by the grocery store to grab any last minute items.

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Then onto the Thorp Fruit Market and Antique Store.

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With some fresh fruit in tow and a quick stop to pickup some forest passes, we departed for our off road adventure.

Off the road we stopped for a quick lunch break, I had bought a couple MRE’s at a surplus store I was curious to try so went ahead with that, while others snacked on plebian sandwiches.

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The scenery drastically changes as you go over the mountains, almost desert like.

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It was slow going. Lots of rocks on the road meant speed was kept fairly low, there were several junctions and forgetting the radios meant having to stop to make sure everyone made the correct turn.

Scenery changed so much it was very entertaining, from desert, to river valley’s

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To epic ranges

The three little off roaders trundled along.

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The road was about 80 miles long with our desired camp site maybe 60 miles in. After about 5 hours and about 35 or so miles in and 4500 feet up, we figured there was little chance we would hit our camp before nightfall so we started hunting around for a spot.

We found this little cove

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A little walk away into the woods

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On the other side a clear view of the valley and the mountain tops. Epic scenery all around.

Complete with a nice little fire pit to boot.

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Dinner was a simple affair. I stopped at Golden Steer in Bellevue and picked up some skirt steak, seasoned with italian herbs and garlic salt, and cooked on a griddle till medium rare, mashed ‘taters are a hard to beat easy side dish, some grilled naan, and a veggie platter rounded it out.

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Sunset was gorgeous, and as night fell, beverages were consumed, laughter was had, and snacks consumed.

Sleep unfortunatley did not come to me, while my new mat was very comfortable and I was plenty warm being so high up meant a perpetual whooshing gust as it rolled over the hills and ran through the trees whining every few seconds. Falling asleep slightly around 4AM, the sun was already up with vigor by 8AM.

A friend had mentioned my pick of soup for breakfast seemed odd, but knowing that camping at the best of times is rough, something relatively easy to eat and warm would do well for breakfast.

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Mind you this isn’t anything like soup in a can.

Started off with some lean ground beef, cooked with some oil to make sure it doesn’t stick and adds a bit of fat content. Then a bit of stewed tomatoes and corn to give it some bite and texture. Add some bouillon cubes in lieu of carrying beef stock, and fill with water. After the water comes to boil add the pasta. Right before serve some fresh spinach is put in and mixed, fire turned down to simmer and breakfast is served! Accompanied with rosemary crackers it is one of my favorite quick meals.

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I was a bit worried I made too much, but I think it was a bit of courtesy kind of slowly feeling it out. There wasn’t a drop left by the end. Mission accomplished.

(Silly autofocus)

Driving made me kind of understand the appeal to this a bit more. At first I was worried about the tires, but after a few miles and realizing all the SUV’s had gnarly tires it was more or less an exercise of picking your line, making sure you were in the right gear, and selecting 4wd when appropriate.

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After a quick snack break, where my friend chatted up another group establishing a bit of a dialogue, I swapped back into the passenger seat fearing sleep deprivation would have me drive right off a cliff, then the scenery changed.

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Deep woods and random mud pits. It took us a while to find out where the source was given we were really high up in elevation, when we started to see snow. Super odd seeing snow in 70+ sunshine, but I imagine there is quite a bit during the winter.

Then it turned into some real offroading. The route took us through woods with tons of fallen trees, the group we had met earlier was already on their way back, my friend having established the dialogue struck up another conversation, the other group told us to avoid the current road we were on as it was littered with trees and instead branch down another road which should get us to our destination. Proving the worth of striking up a conversation.

The going was tough, but we could see some large downed trees that we would not have been able to pass, so the alternative road was our only option. There were steep climbs with mud, with all the drivers wanting to see how much their vehicles could do in 2wd. I was nervous imagining that eventually they would get stuck in the middle of nowhere and...it happened. Trying to traverse a mud pit we didn’t have enough wheel speed and got stuck in thick glutenous mud. Going in reverse didn’t help.

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Luckily my friend was not without some planning, he had bought some max trax, we stuffed them under the rear tire, but couldn’t get them to grab under the tire, the front which was more lifted could fit the trax underneath so doing that we got traction and the Xterra pulled itself free.

He was beaming that his purchase was so effective and we continued to climb. Having a topographic map is a huge boon as you can tell how much more of a climb there is.

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With a bit more climbing we made it to level ground and were rewarded to even better views from the night before. The road down is a pretty readily used logging trail so simple enough, we missed the big Packwood Flea market, so decided to just hit the road.

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The cars were given a much deserved wash.

Dinner was some all you can eat Korean BBQ. I was handed the tongs and told to finish off my duties as camp chef, after filling our bellies it was a long drive home to some much needed sleep.