Naches and Funny Rocks DS Ride -- July 16 and 17, 2005

  Largely organized by a16tony and an amazing band of intrepid Pacific Northwest Adventure Riders.  

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I'm not sure how I first heard of Funny Rocks, maybe it was a post on Adventure Rider, maybe it was something I just ran across while searching for interesting off-road places to ride my F-650 Dakar. For some reason, the name intrigued me and I had to learn more about it, hopefully, go and see it for myself.

In early July, a group of Nothwest Dual-Sport riders, loosely connected by postings on Adventure Rider made plans for a ride and campout near Whistlin' Jack Lodge at Sawmill Flats on Hwy 410 about 30 miles East of Naches, Washington. A link to someone's 2004 ride was posted by Gremlin9340 and there was no turning back. Riders came from as far as Bellingham and Portland. Some rode the same machines they would would use to challenge the mountain roads and trails and some trailered their bikes to the campground. Generally, all dual-sport machines are legal for highway use, but some are more comfortable for extended periods of pavement cruising than others. My ski buddy, Lonnie Rasmussen brought his new black 2005 BMW F-650 GS and I brought the Dakar. We geared down his GS by installing a 15-tooth front sprocket to make it more mountain friendly. There was an amazing spectrum of bikes in attendance; everything from 1150 GSs to 650 KLRs to Suzuki 400s to KTM 650 Adventures.

Mostly, we rode on the North side of Highway 410, in the shadow of Bald Mountain and Manastash Ridge and Devil's Slide. Since I did not have my GPS, I can oly guess at the location of Funny Rocks, but I think it may be at near the end of NFD 965 at an elevation of about 5,500 feet. The area is popular with 4WD fans and we met a group of four-by-four adventurers coming down a slope Tony affectionately named "talcum powder hill". In addition to being steep, the hill had several routes to the top; all of which were rutted with large rocks lining the rutts. Tough to run a bike up the trough because of the rocks and the edges of the track were the consistency of talcum powder. One little lapse of traction and it was down in the trough with the rocks. The grassy edges looked ideal at first, but there was a reason noone was using them: too many hidden obstacles, like more big rocks. Some took several tries but eventually the challenging hill was conquered.

Just beyond the top of Talcum Powder Hill, the countryside opened up with more of a Northern and Eastern exposure. Just around the bend was Funny Rocks, an imposing volcanic outcropping right in the middle of an alpine meadow. The area was not large, maybe five acres, but it was certainly gnarly. A blue Toyota pickup with trick suspension was in the middle of the lava field. Everyone agreed that he was stuck, beyond saving and it would probably take a helicopter to get him out. But he seemed to know what he was doing and he had a spotter coaching him from the sidelines. He moved ever so slowly up the wall of rock, never once spinning or losing traction, just moving in a very slow and controlled manner to the commands of his spotter. At one point it was so steep, I thought he might fall over backwards; but he kept inching ever forward and upward....and soon he was the astonishment of everyone.

Wonderful scenery formed the background for our adventure. Mount Rainier kept watch on us with a glacial eye, and a benevolent one. There were a few scrapes and scratches and a broken turn signal, but everyone survived to tell the tale and to want to make it an annual event.

My BMW F-650 Dakar performed flawlessly. Proving itself a better machine than I am a rider. I had new Dunlop 606 knobbies, and once I lowered the tire pressure, they would claw their way through the rocks and the roots in steep terrain that had me wondering why in the world I had taken this trail and, "Please Lord, it just has to get easier!" Lonnie had his new black F-650 GS performing like he had been born on the saddle. He didn't even have knobbie tires, just his stock Metzeler Tourances....and he made it look smooth and easy. I never had to worry about him being in front of me, it only took a minute and he was out of sight.

For a few hours on Saturday afternoon Lonnie and I explored some mountain roads, while another part of our group tried to see who could find the deepest, muddiest, nastiest bog in which to test their riding skill. I think the big 1150 GS was the winner, with the KTM 640 Adventure coming in a close second. It's just as well I missed the mud bog part; I certainly had my hands full with the steep and gnarly.

There is alot of country to ride and explore in this area. Gravel Forest Service roads for the big dual-sports and tight little rugged trails for the smaller bikes and accomplished riders. The trails are nicely maintained with cinder blocks in the steeper sections prone to erosion and hefty rubber deflectors to diverting the runoff. The trails are shared with horses, mountain bikers and hikers, although we seemed to have them all to ourselves for our Funny Rocks adventure. Alot more than can be seen in a weekend. Maybe a few months would be a good start. Lots of wildlife, too. We saw elk and deer that didn't seem to be too concerned about our motorcycles, they just wouldn't stand still for pictures.

Devil's Slide is an imposing wall of rock that occasionally jumped out in front of everything else. At about 5,500 feet in evevation it looks down 1,300 feet to Devil's Lake. The Gold Creek trail runs along the top of Devil's Slide, but that one and many others will have to wait until the next adventure.

We would stop at intersections to make sure that everyone the group was still complete and moone was missing. Some riders like to to go faster than others, some like to stop and take a picture of two, and some like to hang back and let the dust from the faster riders settle at bit.

Here we have Luca on his fully accessorized BMW 1150 GS Adventure.

Next is Tony on his Kawasaki KLR 650.

Then Matt on his Honda TransAlp.

And Chad on his Suzuki DRZ 400.

I'll write more when I get time....please check back.

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