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Jeep Adventurers: Oh, the places they can go

By on March 29, 2018 in Outdoor Fun with 2 Comments

Guy Miner and his Jeep, above Wenatchee on the Liberty-Beehive road. The road is part of the 600 mile WABDR, which runs from Oregon to Canada mostly on dirt roads.

By Jaana Hatton

Once again I fell off the high horse of prejudice. I welcome such tumbles: they break the barriers of my preconceived ideas.

This time my enlightenment came from two enthusiastic Jeep travelers.

My notion of people with Jeeps and other off-road vehicles has been that of resentment.

I have regarded them a menace out on these beautiful natural areas around us. I have imagined the Jeeps bouncing over the bright balsamroot in the spring, forcing their way through slender growths of oceanspray in the woods and flushing the fish out of the canyon streams.

I was wrong.

When I spoke with Guy Miner, 60, a retired Marine and a former Wenatchee police officer, I was incredulous when he said that he goes out in his Jeep to enjoy nature. It sounded like an oxymoron exemplified.

Travelers make a short halt for photography on a steep one-lane road in Chelan County.

As I listened, I began to feel myself slowly tipping off the slippery saddle of ignorance I had perched myself upon.

“The Jeep trips really are adventures: I get to see out-of-the-way places and take amazing nature photos,” Guy said. “It is the journey through the pristine landscapes, not the destination, that calls me.”

I stared at him and waited for more. It seemed impossible a person could enjoy the quiet hills while roaring along in a Jeep. But, I soon learned that Jeeps can tiptoe, as well.

“I’m a coordinator with Northwest Overland (NWOL),” Guy continued. “We follow the guidelines of the Tread Lightly organization. For every trip we organize, there are clear rules of the road for the participants.”

Tread Lightly has the following mission statement: “Promoting responsible recreation through stewardship, education, and communication. Plus, we get out there and live it.”

After chatting with Guy further — long past my coffee had gone cold — I began to see the positive side of Jeep adventures. NWOL does, indeed, promote conservation, education and communication. Their website http://northwestoverland.com is a bounty of information and connections.

NWOL organizes four-wheel drive trips throughout the year. They can be daytrips, short overnight camp-outs or longer excursions that take several days.

The outings are meant to be family-oriented, dog-friendly and an invitation for women to participate.

“We drive about 100 miles a day,” Guy said. “In the evening, we set up our individual campsites and fires, but people walk around socializing and chatting. Bad jokes are part of the deal.”

The conversations cover anything from vehicles to environmental issues. People who go on the overland excursions mainly do it for two reasons: for the companionship and for the love of nature.

Maybe for the adrenalin, too. I have driven along some narrow roads on high mountains. That’s adrenalin, even if you tread lightly.

“Your average overlander is a male, 50 years or older, and financially secure. That’s a stereotype. As a rule, I see people from all walks of life on our trips. We all get along out there,” Guy said.

The camaraderie is what pulled Richard Cronin, 80, into the NWOL group. He is a Navy veteran and former Boeing employee with a love for Jeeps since 1972. He was living in California then and used to take his son, Dan, on Jeep rides out of town. Dan was hooked and is now President of NWOL.

When Richard’s wife passed away in 2007 (the family was living in Wenatchee then), it left a hollow in his life.

“I remember standing in the middle of the living room floor thinking ‘what now?’”

The “what” became a Jeep, and the Jeep became the vehicle that led to new connections and adventures. Whenever Richard goes on NOWL trips, he is the trusted amateur radio operator and the wizard of all things technological. His fire-engine red Jeep looks like the cockpit of an airplane with its many gadgets.

“I enjoy having outdoor experiences with other people. After all, what is a purple-hued sunset if you cannot share it with anyone,” Richard said.

Traveling in a group does have many benefits. There is safety in numbers, of course. What’s more, every participant brings along a set of skills. Richard is the radio and technology man, Guy knows first-aid and can navigate the old-fashioned way: with a map and a compass. Someone else may just have the good cheer it takes to get over a tricky situation.

Campers enjoy the evening campfire after a day of traveling the backroads.

Speaking of tricky situations and groups, Guy shared a lesson with me. Ignoring his own advice and accumulated knowledge, he got into trouble.

“It was June 2014 and I was on the south side of Lake Chelan. The terrain was fine — until I reached the north end of the lake. I kept on going, but I shouldn’t have,” Guy said.

“I suddenly found myself stuck in snow. The back end of my vehicle started slowly drifting towards the edge. I hurried to place some rocks to support the Jeep and applied the winch to move ‘Stubs’ into a safer spot. I labored for two hours before I got out of the predicament.”

Guy admitted it was foolish to set out on such an unpredictable drive alone, with only one bar left on the cell phone and without telling anyone where he was going.

If you really want to immerse yourself into the world of four-wheel drive adventures, Plain is the place to be on June 28-July 1. The annual Northwest Overland Rally (gathering) takes place there every year. People come from all over the world to hear lectures, to test their skills and to make friends.

For more information, go to www.expeditionportal.com or www.northwestoverland.com.

Jaana Hatton is a freelance writer, a Wenatchee resident of nearly four years. She enjoys the surrounding natural areas mostly on foot, often on two wheels and sometimes on four. Jaana has been delighted to discover the strong conservation-mindedness of the local private and public entities.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Dan Cronin says:

    This is so great! Thanks for the exposure and plug! We love our PNW and are proud to explore and protect it!

  2. Cassidy Steed says:

    Great article and slice of humble pie. It’s crazy how alike we all are once we see past our subtle differences.

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