The first week in December allowed for a three day mini-escape to the Mystery Creek area, west of Harrison and north of Chehalis Lakes. For readers not familiar with the area, this is one of the more popular road systems closer to Vancouver, BC. Previously you could complete a loop via the Chehalis FSR, Mystery Creek FSR and the Harrison West FSR systems – however an unprecedented rock slide occurred 10 years ago on the side of Mt Orrock. The slide rumbled into Chehalis Lake, creating a 10m tall tsunami which obliterated three BC Rec Site campgrounds (one was 7 km away at the other end of the lake!) as well as took out the vegetation around the rim of the lake, up to 30 feet up each shore!
The slide also took out almost a kilometer of the road, blocking off access to the north end of the lake. The only way to access the remnants of the Chehalis North Rec Site is via West Harrison FSR, which is where we started our journey.
The Harrison River wetlands were wild looking that morning:
Along for the adventure was Andrew in Xena, his mechanically stock ’99 4Runner. Xena won’t be stock for long, but with high clearance and a rear locker from the factory, Xena is plenty capable.
We aired down to 20 psi in the Endurance (Sequoia), and to 25 psi in Xena. Loaded with camping gear for three days, both trucks ran smooth on the abused industry road. Traffic was light though, despite being a Sunday, and we took our time to enjoy being out in the bush.
The snow line was still around the 400m level and we enjoyed ice-free gravel for most of the trip.
I enjoy admiring my sticker collection. Other than a few product and club stickers, only stickers of places we’ve actually been, get put up.
We made the side trip on the unmarked turn off down to the beach at Ten Mile Bay. Plenty of garbage as usual… gotta go further for a clean camp site. The road down and back up was fun to play around on though.
Andrew scoping out the way (he got wet):
A few more:
We then made our way over to Hale Creek, although neither of us had ever been down to the bottom. We picked a route heading downhill to see where it would go.
This turned into the so-called hard route. It was not so bad near the top and we enjoyed working our way down.
We were almost at lake level when we came to the part where a creek had taken over the road, with the water still running down the middle.
I radioed back to Andrew and he walked up to see what we were dealing with. Not looking for carnage, we agreed turning around was best. Maybe the other way down would be better? Well turns out it was supposed to be better, but the cross-ditches kept getting deeper. One particular ditch looked like it would give us trouble. After watching a Dodge P/U smash it’s front bumper on approach, and drag/scrape it’s rear bumper climbing out, again we opted to turn around. This was supposed to be a camping trip after all!
We setup camp in a small clearing and sat under the canopy as it started to rain. I raided my shop’s wood stove firewood cache before leaving, which allowed us to get a nice fire going. Cheese smokies and rootbeer!
Day two had us going up the Mystery Creek road and playing in the snow a bit.
We finally made it down to the north end of Chehalis Lake and checked out the remnants of the rec site.
The roads and remnant of camp sites and outhouses were scattered all over the place. Most of the roads were eroded by the Chehalis changing paths and flooding through the gravel plain. The area was really cool though and we enjoyed checking it all out.
We picked a camp spot where have of the existing fire ring had fallen 8 feet down into the river on the eroding bank. We made another, and settled in to camp.
Lamb steaks, ceasar salad and blueberry pie… It was another good night and a great fire.
…until 630AM when a mouse ran across Andrew’s face while he was sleeping in his truck. The yelling and door slamming woke me up, so we just started the day early with another fire and plenty of coffee.
For Day 3 we explored some side roads and just generally goofed around in the snow.
It was interesting to see where the rear locker/street tire 4Runner compared traction wise with the open diffs (centre “locker”) and duratrac combination of the Sequoia. I think when the 4Runner gets some more clearance and mud terrains, it will definitely outshine the Sequoia off road. Perhaps it’s time for a rear locker…
We finished off the day just cruising back to civilization and enjoying the views.
We made it back to pavement without drama, aired up and finished off our trek at Rocko’s 24-hour diner in Mission, BC. The mouse in Xena was finally caught later that day, and the trip was deemed a total success!