The next morning we all staggered out (some more wobbly than others) of our respective sleeping quarters and began the task of replacing my u-joint. Luckily, a few people carried spares and the process was relatively simple and quick. We did get a later start than anticipated, though, only getting on the trail by 11:00.
We were able to make good time, the majority of the actual Naches Trail not being all that difficult. In these conditions, that is to say mostly dry, almost any 4×4 can make it. As it was, I did almost all the trail in 2WD low-range due to the broken u-joint. There were a couple points that required more throttle than usual, but nothing too wild. In adverse conditions, however, beware.
The second part of our trip would be different, with us leaving the historic trail and picking up the Kaner Flats trail in the Naches ORV area. This trail is significantly more challenging than the actual wagon route, but no less scenic and beautiful. The trail, which is known by the number 676, winds through trees and down gravity defying hills and across water crossings. James Longmire would later recall that his party crossed the Naches River 52 times, so we didn’t feel too bad.
As the sun arced higher overhead and the ambient temperatures raised, our temp gauges emulated. This is an unfortunately common Cherokee malady, one that everybody in the group was suffering from to one extent or another. After one particularly long and steep hill-climb, Ryan chimed in that his temp gauge was pegged firmly in the red. There was a lot of burning coolant in the air, but it was as good a spot as any to eat some lunch and toss a baseball around for a while as our engines cooled. Coupled with our later than anticipated start, though, this spelled the end of the day for part of the group.
This again rings true with stories from early pioneers. My own ancestors came across the Oregon Trail in the 1860’s, and as the family legend goes, settled in Ashland, Oregon because that’s where their patience ran out. The wagon they used had apparently been breaking with more and more frequency as they approached Oregon Territory, slowing down their progress. Apparently when the wheel broke for the last time, Ashland was looking like a very nice spot to build a home indeed.