• Melisa Smith

Washington Backcountry Discovery Route Part Two


Washington Backcountry Discovery Route: Part Two

This was such an amazing journey! Eleven of us traveled the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route from Canada to Stevenson, WA during the first week of August. Don't try this unless you are driving an all terrain vehicle. Also, we all did this discovery route backwards so we ended our journey near home instead of more than 500 miles away.


Our journey began on July 29, 2017. We left our home in Oregon and traveled in our little blue Dune Buggy to Oroville, WA near the Canadian border. It was a fast drive up the freeway through some beautiful country. This is part two of a journey through small towns, rural America and true back country across the beautiful Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Don't worry if you missed part one. You can always read it later.

This is day 3 of our journey and what is technically Part 5 of the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. We left Conconully, WA at 8:30am and drove to the not really there town of Ruby. We did find the marker and headed up the first grade of the day. It was a nice one!

The back roads will take us into the mountains today through some truly beautiful terrain with amazing vistas that begin to rapidly disappear as the smoke from distant fires blows into and around the state during this week. It's one of the worst fire years I've ever known.

We had discovered a pace that everyone was pretty comfortable with as a group. Mike and I took the lead for most of the day since I could co-pilot and everyone else was driving it made it easier for me to follow the GPS tracks. We would go to the next fork in the road and wait for the person behind and then continue to the next fork in the road leaving the person who came behind us to point the next person forward and so on, leap frogging through the forest. We were moving surprisingly fast!

There is no cell service for most of the route, only when you enter town at the end of each day and of course in the morning before you take off if you take each part as mapped. You can download GPS tracks that will allow you to track your progress on a map using your phone or other GPS as this does not require cell service. Your device will require power, however, so be prepared with back-up batteries or power from your vehicle. This kind of GPS really gives your device a workout. It will eat up power.

Somewhere behind us one of our riders took a fall and the bike landed on his foot very hard. When we all gathered along the road for lunch it was decided that two of our party would take a short cut off the mountain and into Chelan where we would all spend the night. Unfortunately, Devon wouldn't be able to ride much farther so Rich volunteered to make sure they both made it safely to Chelan, WA.

One of our team had a map of the forestry roads we were on that was excellent so Rich and I used that to determine a quick route down to the highway. I highly recommend that you do not rely completely on the WABDR route tracks in case of an emergency. The tracks are not going to show you the fastest or easiest way out. That's not the purpose of the discovery route and road signs are few to none. Have a backup plan and some emergency supplies if you have space to carry some.

Mountain Top Fun!



What you do when you find an abandoned cement mixer on a mountain.

Eventually we did all meet up at our hotel in Chelan, WA. It had this little front yard and some picnic tables so Devon and Rich were able to hang out and wait for everyone there and we had a nice shady place to relax and catch our breath after a long hot dusty day on the back roads.

Later we decided to go get some pizza. Most of us were staying in hotels a couple of blocks off downtown so it was easy to walk around and really enjoy the evening. A few of our group camped out of town on the way to our next departure point.

Our fearless leader, the guy who got us all to join up on this trip together, ask his son to bring a pick-up and haul Devon's motorcycle back to his son's house in Ellensburg, WA, where we would stop in a few days. It was great! He actually had time to do it and Devon was able to hitch a ride with Paul in the Jeep we were traveling with. He would be able to continue on with us!

In the morning we all got some breakfast on our own and then regrouped for the ride out to the campground where we picked up the rest of our guys and headed back into the mountains.

Below are some videos I filmed of some interesting places.


"The Jungle"


Coasting down a mountain in a Dune Buggy! Best go-cart ever!


Coming down into Cashmere, WA

Of course there are many more but there just isn't enough room for all of that.

We spent the night in Peshastin, Wa at the Wedge Mountain Inn. It was a very nice hotel with a great pool to cool off in.

A great breakfast place right next to our hotel is the Big Y Cafe. Look them up on Google. It's a nice traditional diner.



Peshastin to Cashmere, WA

Leaving the next morning we all rode toward Cashmere to begin the next leg but only the motorcycles were able to travel that way due to a huge landslide. The path had been cleared enough that some of the motorcycles were going through but those of us with 4 wheels had to go back to the work around. We met the motorcycles as they crossed onto the other side of the landslide and we had lunch in the road, yes, in the road, before continuing on to Ellensburg, WA.


Dinner in Ellensburg, WA at the Ellensburg Pasta Company


This was a really fun place and we had an amazing dinner. Fearless leader Mark is hiding behind his son Tanner who was a great sport driving up to Chelan, WA to pick up Devon's bike and store it at his house for a while. Thank you to Tanner's girlfriend Maya for taking pictures! They are such a great couple. We all truly enjoyed their company at dinner and finally I wasn't the only girl at the table!

The next day we set out from the Ellensburg KOA where some of the group camped the night before.

This was a bucket list drive for me because I have always wanted to drive out into the high desert between Ellensburg and Yakima. It's known as Umptanum Ridge. Their is a primitive campground and lots of hiking out in this area. We stopped at the small but beautiful campground to stretch our legs and re-group enjoying the area and then prepared to move on. That's when the trouble began. The Dune Buggy wouldn't start. Power failure, ugh!

If you've ever been out on an ATV adventure you probably know that although these breakdowns are not exactly what you hope for, they come with the territory. For many it presents a welcome challenge and these guys were definitely up for the challenge. Diagnose the problem, find the parts and repair the vehicle! Here's a pictorial on the first half of the day.

We found ourselves at this large communications station shortly after departing the beautiful little primitive campground where the buggy got re-wired. The guys got a big kick out of a nearly destroyed port-a-potty and had to take a few pictures.

Not long after departing this area we descended Baby Skull Hill.


My phone was incredibly low on power at this point so I didn't have any pictures of a lot of our travels and this little part of our adventure so I'll just have to tell you about it.

There were several miles of incredibly ruff rock and large places where we had to straddle wide washouts and tree roots. Our little buggy put up a brave front and plunged on through the supper rough terrain known as Bethel Ridge. Our Bug finally had a real breakdown deep into Bethel Ridge and we lost the front Driver's side ball joint. No one was carrying the parts for this. Did I mention? Tow trucks don't come up here.

So we hid all of our food and supplies in the woods and pulled it off the road and jumped in with our saviors Don and Rick in the Montero for a bouncy ride down into Packwood, WA where we would spend the night at the Crest Trail Lodge. Nice place! We had a great breakfast and they had beautiful rooms! It's good to have friends on this journey. Don't try this alone.


We all had a really great night at The Blue Spruce Saloon and Devon's wife came to join us too!

The next day we were so happy when they offered to drive us back to the Bethel Ridge Road where we had arranged to meet a great neighbor of ours, Perry! Perry got our pickup that morning and then after much ado was able to pick up a tow dolly for us and meet us at the highway where we would ascend Bethel Ridge Road and rescue our little buggy that had spent the last night in the woods alone.

Below is the story of The Rescue!



We had made it to the summit and the beginning of really good light duty gravel road. Perry was riding down from the summit on his bicycle and was having a great time. On our way home we received word from the rest of our group that they had made it to Stevenson, WA and were having pizza as planned without any further mishaps.

One day we will again meet up with fearless leader and finish the last leg of this great WABDR journey.

Since then, Mike has repaired the dune buggy and we've taken it on a trip to view the recent solar eclipse and on the Great Oregon Coast Dune Buggy Adventure.

Sure hope you enjoyed this blog. We had the time of our lives!

~Melisa

#WABDR #WashingtonBackcountryDiscoveryRoute #DuneBuggy #ATV #GroupTravel #Travel #Backroads #backcountry

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