The climb out of Ellensburg was absolutely beautiful as the sparse trees gave way to open high plains. As we approached the summit, we encountered an immense herd of elk. There must have been 25-30 of them, and they showed off for us. We stopped to take pictures and they accommodated us by circling in front of our caravan and crossing the road from right to left. They then traipsed through a meadow and stopped to watch the odd collection of vehicles that were there. Two sets of gawkers watching each other. It was quite funny.
From the summit, we temporarily departed from Colockum Road through a series of turns and twists, taking short stints on such trails as Caribou, Perkins, Parke Creek and Beacon Roads until we intersected with Army Road. Army Road took us over 5000 feet down from our high plains perch to the shores of the Columbia River, all in about 12 twisty, rocky, angled miles of bad road. It sure was beautiful wilderness though. The new Jeep hanged in there though it beat me to death (Remember, I didn’t air-down my tires earlier – tactical error). I kept thinking to myself that any minute now, all 4 wheels on my new Trail Rated Jeep would fall off, and it wouldn’t hack it in this terrain. “Oh, if there is an off-roading God, please be good to me,” I kept thinking. Besides the Jeep, I had to make sure that I held up under the pressure as well. After all, we didn’t want the old man to hold up the wagon train either.
Bang, crash, boom, bounce, whack, and oh, yes scrape. I had been warned about this. The sagebrush paint removal tools; pin-striping, aka Badge of Courage; the dirt and dust (clouds of it). “No whining, suck it up, your new paint is being destroyed. Your interior is being trashed. Live with it.” What a rude awakening!
Mercifully, we were finally at our destination, a meadow showing signs of being an old abandoned farm of some sort. There were chestnut and cottonwood trees and a small stream approximately 3 feet across with flowing water. Oh, and there were rocks, rocks, and more rocks. After two or three discussions and false starts, we all decided on a campsite area and then the great unloading and setting-up ceremony began. Wow! A LOT has happened in the “camping” industry over the years. I witnessed the most amazing array of fold up and fold out tents, canopies, portable potty enclosures, kitchens, inverters for the blender (hey, gotta have a Pińa Colada to celebrate, right?) and not one, not two, but three top-of-the-rig fold-up portable off-the-ground tents. Incredible! And there I was with my pathetic little one-man tent and my inflatable air mattress. All brand new.