September 18, 2015

Shunpiking 101

"Not all those who wander are lost."
J.R.R. Tolkien

Crossing the Interstate 205 bridge into Washington with the Fox in tow was a long time coming and we couldn’t wait to leave our signature on the many new adventures to be had. We stopped in Cougar, Washington for the evening to prepare our rig for a few days of dry camping. As we had some time to explore, we drove into the southern area of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and completed a couple of short hikes.

The first one was The Trail of Two Forests. Along this short loop trail we traveled through an old forest now cast in stone from an ancient lava river that spilled down the flanks of Mount St. Helens 2,000 years ago. Now you have an emerald forest that has risen from the black basaltic lava.

Hardened lava holes created where ancient trees stood, the wood trunk burned away, are everywhere along trail. There is also a long lava tube that “kids” can climb down in, through it and out again. 

We than challenged ourselves with a steep, but very short hike to a secluded viewpoint of Mount St. Helens. Since both these trails are located in the National Forest and not inside the National Monument boundaries, they are dog-friendly. Sydney loves joining us wherever we go! On our next trip to Washington, we will be sure to add time on the Western side of Mount St. Helens to learn more of the awesome and devastating event that truly demonstrated the force of nature. 

But this post has to be dedicated to the “ride”…the getting to our next destination. Over the years, the Rauschers have convinced us that the most qualitative way of getting from point A to point B is a mode of travel coined “Shunpiking.” According to Wikipedia, the term Shunpiking has come to mean “an avoidance of major highways in preference for those scenic interludes along lightly traveled country roads.” We now try to practice that mode of travel as often as possible and love to see our GPS stumped. And this is why Forest Road 25 in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest came into play.

We cannot say we were not warned about this road by locals, US Forest Service staff or passing travelers...yes, about everyone we asked about the condition of the road indicated that it would be a "wiser" choice to take Interstate 5 north instead. Feedback was consistent..."Forest Road 25 is very rough, bumpy, not always wide enough for an rv and can have some strong cross winds." But everyone also added, "the ride is sooooo scenic and fun."  
Well, we sorta ignored all the conservatives and placed the greatest value on the words scenic and fun. Plus, with us being experienced mountain drivers who drive attentively, slowly and are towing a mid-sized trailer, what can go wrong that we can't handle?"

All the reviews of Forest Road 25 were true, plus some. I never saw so many 5 mph signs through turns that were shaped liked an upside down V or “speed bumps” seemingly placed by nature in the middle of a straight stretch of asphalt marked 40 mph. But it was all worth it! The scenery was just as spectacular as the bumps on the road. And we had added validation of just how well our trailer was made.

Stopping at a awesome viewpoint, we opened our rig to the only casualty of this road. The top two cabinets above our kitchen sink popped open during “Mr. Toad's Wild Ride” and spilled it’s contents all over the floor. What a mess…a broken glass, opened spice jars, kitchen plates strewn throughout the dining/living area…wow. But we had a trusty hand vac and after gathering all the loose peppercorns, picking out the broken glass and sweeping up the dark red paprika, our vac and a wet swifter finished the job. A few adjustments on the cabinet snaps corrected the situation by providing some extra firmness. But to be safe and have some peace of mind, we took the advice of our dear friend Sonny, and bungeed the two doors for a “no doubt about it” secure closing. With the clean-up done, we finished the last few miles of this bone jarring ride and made the turn off to North Fork Campground in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

At Waypoint 46º02’60.00” N -122º18’14.76” W
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