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Old 09-24-2011, 02:56 PM   #1
Ronin ADV OP
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Up the WABDR : Two California fools ride the Cascades

Let me tell you a tale.

It involves dubious choices, dirty bikes, rocky climbs, steep descents, crashes, beer, sand, dust, rain, forests, mountains, deserts, jungles, oceans, mermaids, and buried treasure.

Well, it involves most of those things.

It started when I got the urge to do another trip. It had to be doable in about a week, and involve lots of dirt. After searching around a bit, I heard about the WABDR. So I watched the video and I thought, that doesn't look hard. Heck if those guys can drive a Toyota FJ down the thing, how bad can it be? Now I had to find someone gullible enough to convince that this was actually a good idea.



I know, I'll get Ken.

As expected, it took very little arm twisting and he was on board.

Now to get the bike ready.



I'm taking the F800, but first she needs a couple additions.



I dont know how I got along without a damper before. This baby proved invaluable on loose rocks, long gravel sections and in sand. It really saved my strength and made it much easier to ride for hours on end. If you don't have one, get one.

Next:



The well known torture device disguised as a seat on the F800 just won't do. I'm still waiting for my Renazco build date on a custom seat so in the meantime, the Airhawk will have to do. Very nice.

After several repacking sessions and and attempt to lighten the load as much as possible I ended up with this.



Wolfman soft bags on my SW Motech racks and my North Face Base camp duffel. The Wolfman bags are well built, tough (personally crash tested), and sit in tight to the bike. The SW Motech racks are a bit wide and I did add a heat shield to the left one to protect the Wolfman from the exhaust. The right rack has two tool tubes mounted inside it that hold almost all my tools and tire stuff. The duffel holds all the rest. Strapped to the top of the duffel is a water bladder (turned out to be unnecessary) and a Kriega 10 bag that holds my days food and raingear. All told including bags, racks, tools it was about 60 pounds. Still too much weight, but manageable. On the bike the setup is the same width as my bars.



One luxury I took on this trip was all my electronics.



On top is a Goal Zero Sherpa 50 battery. This guy can be charged off a Powerlet SAE cable from my bikes battery while I ride. It then can be used to recharge everything else. From the left: I-pad (books, internet, weather, etc.); I-pod; still camera recharger (requires AC inverter - the orange thing); Go Pro camera for videos; battery recharger (for AA's and AAA's). Total overkill I know, but nice to have all this crap on a long trip.

Ken took his trusty KLR.



Note the homemade crashbars.



And the homemade skid plate.



Yes the guy has some fabrication skills. He even painted my F800 its cool green color.
On a side note, do not do this route without a good skid plate and probably other decent bike protection. Your bike will take countless rock hits and you could be left stranded in the middle of nowhere.

So we loaded up our bikes and trailered them 10 hours up the slab from our homes in Northern Cali to Stevenson, Washington.

Next up, day one of our ride, including video.
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2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison
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Old 09-24-2011, 03:19 PM   #2
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Sweet pics and nice report. Just added the "battery" for gadgets to my must buy list.
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Old 09-24-2011, 03:22 PM   #3
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Old 09-24-2011, 04:20 PM   #4
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Day 1

The WABDR route as usually described is divided into 6 sections. Our plan was to do at least a section and a half each day.

The first section out from Stevenson to Packwood is probably the easiest of the entire route. It follows the west slope of the Cascades and is therefore wetter and greener than some other sections. The roads are generally hardpack and mild gravel and can be covered quickly. It is nonetheless quite scenic and was all in all a nice warm up for the rest of the ride.









Ken also ran with the Wolfman bags.

Some video of section 1



By lunchtime we were in Packwood and after gassing up we wolfed down burgers and got on Highway 12 heading up east toward Rimrock Lake. There was about a half hour delay for construction but then we hit the road that climbed up onto Bethel ridge (Section 2).

Up on the ridge.



Looking back down over Rimrock Lake.





Looking east down the ridge. This is where the real fun begins.



Bethel ridge is fantastic. Great views, in and out of the trees, and moderately challenging which was nice after all the fun but easy riding.



After descending the back side of Bethel ridge we found a campsite off the road and called it a day.

Next installment, Day 2, babyheads, crashes and other misadventures.
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2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison
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Old 09-24-2011, 04:44 PM   #5
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Nice RR. Great pics too.
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Old 09-25-2011, 03:52 PM   #6
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looking good ..
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Old 09-25-2011, 04:55 PM   #7
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Day 2 - (crashes included)

So we woke up, sucked down some coffee and got right back to the ride.

This started with the climb up Cleman mountain and the dreaded baby heads.



The video tends to flatten things out a bit so the climb is a bit steeper than it appears. All in all its not that difficult as long as things go well. Falling here would indeed suck. There are lots of sharp rocks and getting started again I imagine would be a bitch. We stuck to the right (uphill) side which had a few of the bigger rocks but also had more rocks that were fixed in position. Stand up, smooth medium throttle, and its all over quickly.

After the climb you are rewarded with more amazing views as you ride along the top of the mountain.

Looking south along the crest of the mountain.



View southwest back over Nile valley with the east end of Bethel ridge on the right.



View northeast toward Wenas valley and Umtanum ridge.





After descending the loose rocky back side of Cleman Mountain via Evans Canyon you come out onto the Wenas valley floor where the road runs south along the face of the hills. This was one of my favorite sections as it is nice hardpack where you can open up a bit after so much loose rocky stuff.



Everything seemed to be going so well. And then...







The moral of the story: pay attention even on the easy parts.



Oh well, nothing hurt but my pride.

We then rode up through Ellensburg as it started to rain lightly and climbed up into the Wenatchee Mountains.

View back down west over the Kittitas Valley.



The route then climbs up past Table Mountain heading north.





Lots of great views up along this ridge. Also lots of turns with huge drops. Don't ride off the road here.







I shot some video up here but didn't realize the battery was dead. This ridge before the Squilchuck bypass is really cool. In particular there are a couple short but steep rocky climbs that come very close together. I don't see how most cars could clear them and like Cleman Mountain you need to stay smooth and keep up your momentum. There were quite a few vehicles earlier along this ridge (hunting season) and tons of blind corners so stay to the right and don't go so fast you couldn't dodge an unexpected truck heading the other way.

The forecast called for a storm to be moving through so after cutting down through Wenatchee, we drove up to Leavenworth for a hotel room, beer and dinner.

I found the ideal spot to stash my bike.



I figure if anyone saw it back there then at least the giant armored knight would keep them away.



This completed sections 2 and 3.
Next up: a long section 4 including the Jungle (video), sand traps and the first part of section 5.
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Dan
2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison

Ronin ADV screwed with this post 09-25-2011 at 07:57 PM
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WW Ronin View Post
Next up, day one of our ride, including video.
Subscribed. Really looking forward to the video.

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Old 09-25-2011, 10:05 PM   #9
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Ok, I'll ask.

What is the WABDR?
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:51 PM   #10
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The WABDR is the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. It runs from the Oregon border up the Cascade mountains to the Canadian Border. It is a bit over 600 miles one way and is traditionally divided into six sections. There is a website devoted to it and you can also find a link at the Touratech site. Butler maps has a nice map of the route and there is also a video of the first group to develop / ride it (both for sale through the websites).
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2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison
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Old 09-26-2011, 12:43 AM   #11
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Day 3

The predicted storm produced only modest rain and so we wolfed down some pancakes on the third morning and then headed back down from Leavenworth to Cashmere and up north into the mountains.

As luck would have it our timing was perfect. As we climbed onto the first series of ridges the leading edge of the clouds was just crossing in from the west. What followed reminded me of alpine climbs I had done where we were in and out of the clouds. The world seemed to drop away to nothing off the west side yet facing east we could see down over slopes and trees.

A few images of that time.









The day turned out to be a real mix. One minute we would be up high in the cold and clouds, then we would drop down into dry, hot desert terrain.

Ken stripping off some layers in the heat.



Then up and down along more ridges.

Looking back south at the cloud edge along the mountains.



Somewhere in this section we met two guys running the route north to south. They were on KTM EXC's and we talked about our rides so far. One guy looked at my fully loaded F800 and said "You better take the bypass around the Jungle." I told him I would just take it slow but he looked skeptical.

As we ground our way steadily north we began to see Lake Chelan.





After initially driving past the turn we found the top of the Jungle section and dove right in.



This descent was indeed tiring. It is fairly steep with narrow sections of rock and then as you get lower, there is more and more sand. I hesitate to even call it sand as it has more the consistency of powered dust. We had been warned about the sections of this near Chelan by the KTM guys and they weren't kidding. I had never ridden anything like it and I had a hard time deciding how to best tackle it. I definitely wasted energy here until...

I wonder what that stuff tastes like?



I found this stuff the most challenging surface of the ride. After trying various methods I settled on riding it seated, with a slow but steady speed, no stops, no sudden coarse corrections, and if necessary my feet out to balance. This is not something I usually run into on my rides in northern Cali.

Overall the Jungle was a fun but tiring experience. I would imagine that trying to climb up it, negotiating those 180 degree sand trap switchbacks would be quite a chore, especially with a big bike.

When we finally got into Chelan we were a bit knackered. But after a decent meal we rallied and took off onto the first portion of section 5.

A couple of pictures back over Lake Chelan from Cooper ridge to the northeast.





So after a ten hour day (including stops) we dragged our asses into Twisp, grabbed a six pack of Pyramid and crashed at a local campground. This turned out to be the longest, most grueling day for us.

Next up: the last hurrah (the rest of section 5 and section 6)
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2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison
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Old 09-26-2011, 11:29 AM   #12
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Day 4

I awoke in my tent at 04:30 to the sound of rain. As I lay there half awake I wondered what degree of mud we would have to slog through. It turned out my concern was unfounded as only a modest amount of rain had fallen and this was enough to cut down the dust and make the roads a nice damp hardpack (my favorite).

The first portion of the day involved the latter half of section 5 and climbed out near Woody Mountain.







And a bit of video:



Resting in a high mountain meadow.





After this pleasant section we passed into Loup Loup canyon, through lots of wandering cattle and then down a fun, steep, rocky grade to the abandoned townsite of Ruby.





Shortly thereafter we passed into Conconully and the start of section 6.



This section begins with a climb up over Lone Frank Pass.







The descent north of here went down a section where they had hauled in tons of road grade / gravel and had been working extensively on the road. We passed an idled skidder and large backhoe. The rocky surface actually made the riding a bit more interesting and a fall would have been painful.



Soon enough we passed onto the Skull and Crossbones ridge.



Simple straightforward roads eventually dropped down to Toats Coulee Road (FR 30). The route then turns up toward Chopaka Mountain. This was unfortunately in my opinion one of the worst sections of the ride. Endless gravel covered washboard both up and then down the backside. We rode past the cutoff for the Geocache and both agreed the road sucked so bad we didnt want to go back up and do it again. If I do this section again, I will hang a right when I hit Toats Coulee and just ride down all the way into Loomis. Lesson learned.

Last view down over Loomis.



Our ride up ended here. 627 miles. We got a cold drink at the local store then started back down Highway 97 to Wenatchee. After staying there for the night we continued down 97 to the Columbia River Gorge and back to Stevenson. 1018 miles car to car. A brief 10 hour drive later we were home.

Some final observations of the trip.

Overall the WABDR is indeed a fantastic route. While there are some tedious parts, every section has a least one great part. The terrain is varied and keeps things interesting by throwing different things at you. We both have modest dirt skills and I think anyone with some dirt experience will really like this route. That said, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to a very timid rider or complete dirt novice. There are plenty of big drops right next to the route and several places where if you go off the road you would be seriously f-ed up. Not to mention I can see a bike being unrecoverable if it launched in some spots.

We were very lucky to have no mechanical issues. I carried a fair amount of weight in tools / tire gear and even though I didn't use it I don't regret this at all. Lots of times you are a fair way from help so plan accordingly. I didn't carry spare gas and this was also a good choice. If you have about a 180+ mile range you will do just fine even with route mistakes / turnarounds. My F800 is a bit of a beast especially in the loose sand / dust. On the other hand it was great for carrying weight with lots of power and comfort on long days. I'm sure a smaller light bike would be a hoot on several sections, but comfort and carrying capacity would be the trade-off. We both ran fairly high tire pressures (30+) and had no flats.

Go over your bike and tighten down anything loose before this trip. Hours on end of vibration and rattling eventually caused a homemade bracket on my camera case to fracture. Any loose bolts will be gone in no time. Similarly do not skip on a decent skid plate as tons of rocks / debris will be pounding the underside of the bike.

The GPS tracks I downloaded from the WABDR website worked great. I know others have said you can do this route with just maps but in my opinion that would be a pain in the ass. There are countless turns and most of these roads do not have any obvious markers. If I was stopping to constantly look at a map I think we would have covered much less ground each day. I bought all kinds of maps before the trip but I ended up carrying only a few. I had the Butler map which is a nice overall view but I rarely used it. Instead I made full sized color copies of the relevant pages from a DeLorme Atlas of Washington and then highlighted the route. Each day I would grab the one or two pages I needed and kept them in a map case attached to my coat so I could quickly glance at them without any prolonged stops. We rode 8-10 hours a day at a moderate pace and this allowed us to cover a section and a half each day. Some parts like sections 1 and 6 go very fast while section 4 is a bit of a slog. One last point about the GPS. I use a Garmin 60 Csx and the waypoints worked perfectly. Ken has a Garmin Nuvi and couldn't get them to load up properly. Thats OK because this meant I got to lead a lot and Ken really likes to eat my dust.

All in all it was a great trip and I highly recommend the route. I'm already psyched to do the Oregon and Utah backcountry routes now, and I could get talked into doing at least parts of this one again. Go out and ride it.
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Dan
2010 BMW F800GS, 2011 Yamaha WR250R, 2011 Honda Ruckus, 2013 KTM 500 EXC
Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison
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Old 09-26-2011, 12:20 PM   #13
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Great report, thanks for taking the time to write it up and share your pictures.
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Old 09-26-2011, 01:04 PM   #14
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Umtanum Ridge

Hi Guys,

nice report, great pics/videos and well written ! We just came back from WABDR (Sunday 25-Sept) and finished the part
between HWY#20 (South of Conconully) and HWY#410 , South of Umtanum Ridge. Quick question, did you ride Umtanum Ridge or the bypass ? We took the Umtanum Route and it was a bitch going southbound ! There is one steep section going south bound that I'd not recommend for unexperienced riders if heavy packed. Anyway, overall I loved the trip, especially the ride north of Ellensburg ! Only issue I found was finding water...

Harry

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Old 09-26-2011, 01:09 PM   #15
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Bypass

I actually drove off the road on the first part of the climb up Umtanum (see pics above). At this point it was starting to rain and we decided to just go back a bit and hit the bypass which we did. I had heard that there was a bit of steep rocky stuff up on that ridge.

Dan
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Up the WABDR, F800GS Stealth Bike Build, WR250R Scotts Damper Install
Red dirt, rocks and sand; Riding the southern UTBDR, WR250R vs EXC 500 - a comparison
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