There are times when I want to reconnect with friends, get outdoors and simply enjoy a simple, uncomplicated off-road adventure. For me the Naches Wagon Trail is just that. This 4×4 trail follows the historic pioneer route over the Cascade Mountains and intersects the Pacific Crest Trail. Filled with spectacular views, interesting terrain and the occasional historic land mark, it is exactly what the weekend is made for.
For the last five years the Northwest FJ Cruisers Club has put together an overnight on the eastern side of the Cascades in the heart of the Naches Basin. Besides the historical trail over the pass, the Naches Basin is filled with forest roads and 4×4 trails to explore including routes to Moon Rocks and Funny Rocks. Every year in July the NWFJCC goes out exploring.
But this off-road adventure was planned as a relaxing jaunt over the pass with Other Paul. He in his legendary Defender 90 and I in the Blue Bunny. We were not in a hurry. Our goal was to simply arrive in time for dinner and spend the evening around the fire with old friend.
The 4×4 trail over the pass can be tight in places but the two of us easily picked our way over the rocks and debris, squeezing past trees and through the narrow gullies. The easy pace and quiet of the forest provided time to contemplate the journey that must have seemed endless to the pioneers who’s entire life was stuffed into covered wagons that had to be dragged over these mountains. These days with 250 plus horses under the hood the journey almost seems effortless.
I enjoy Other Paul’s company on these adventures. He is a extremely bright, articulate and a truly thoughtful individual. Always looking out for others and effortlessly sliding into the role of a leader for those less experienced around him. His philosophical mind constantly challenges me to a mental debate without point out every flaw in my logic. Easy going and resourceful, Other Paul is the friend I have come to count on.
We arrived at the club’s base camp to find them still out exploring the trails. Pitching his tent and I, my bivi and prayer flags, we quietly went about our business of setting up and preparing dinner before we spotted the first of the club’s rigs returning. First one, then a another and before long the group was back and we were exchanging greetings with old friends and introductions to new folks.
Maybe it goes back to our days in the cave or maybe its just in our DNA but it seems to be universal. A campfire is for cooking hot dogs and roasting marshmallows. Its heat draws everyone in close on a cold, clear, star filled night. Its a beacon back to camp after a trip to the outhouse. It is the center of the conversation and the focus of silent stares. Its flames keep us safe from the wild and it’s smoke stays off the mosquitoes. Hissing and popping a campfire speaks volumes and its last glowing embers announce the time turn in. A campfire is magical.
As I said good bye to Other Paul in the morning I joined a few others from the club returning back home on the wagon trail heading west in an effort to extend the weekend’s adventure for a few more hours.
A casual off-road adventure, good friends and a campfire. Turned out to be just what was needed. The Naches Wagon Pass is one of the must do trails in the northwest that everyone should take the time to enjoy.
Read more about the Naches Basin in our previous Naches wagon trail 4×4 adventures, including runs to Moon Rocks, Funny Rocks and video of the adventure.