December 15, 2022

6th annual Christmas Tree Run: Part 2

6th Annual Christmas Tree Run: Part 2

Follow up to the adventure on the first installment. It is crazy to think of how perfect and tranquil the prior weekend experience was in comparison to what we would experience.

Every year the Seattle Cruiserheads heads out in the the cascades to explore, get stuck, test vehicles, snow play and find Christmas Trees to take home. This was 6th year in a row we have gone out and every year is a little different depending on the winter conditions. This year was unlike anything we had ever seen.

One of the challenges is how loosely organized an event can be. We had 8 people say they planned on coming but ended up having 14 Land Cruisers out on the trail that day.

We had a great turn out ranging from a 40 to a 200. With that sort of group it felt like the whole team was represented.
We fueled up and pulled out onto the highway driving east up the cascades.

The temps that week had been low for the western slope of the cascades. The same area we went to last weekend had 3 ft of snow dumped on it at 4,500ft.

With the group we had we had already started talking about alternatives to the higher elevations.
We looked at the forest service harvest areas and started to go to work on google maps and google earth to try and find something that would have less snow at lower elevations.
We settled on an area south of the highway and slightly west of Skykomish. We had better feelings about the snow level and elevation. The unknown was the trail. None of us had been back up the valley we were thinking of going up. Would there be trees to cut? An area large enough for all the trucks? Family’s with little kids were expecting snow play. Google earth and the Topography indicated that it would be good at the end of the trail. How could we not make it to the end of the trail? We would have a fleet of Land cruisers.
Once off the highway we found a place to collect and lower air pressure.
Most dropped pressures to help spread out the surface of the tires and give better traction in the soft stuff.  We got everyone on the same radio channels and discussed the plan.  Due to the heavy snow we brought out a gunslinger. Nick has a triple locked 80 with lower gears and 40” tires on bead locks.
He spends a lot of time in the rocks during the summer but probably spends less time on the rocks and more time on the snow.

We rallied the group and pulled away to get on the trail.
A some fun slippy roads later we found ourselves in a huge logging cut. We attempted to be “Trail adjacent” and ended up blocking up the road a bit.  After speaking with the driver headed the other way. He went to the end of the plowed road and told us we wouldn’t make it and would need to turn around.
We pushed on and found deeper snow where the plow had stopped.

We pushed on and found deeper snow where the plow had stopped.
Nick ran point with his aired down 40’s climbing up and pushing the snow down. Dave followed behind in a 100 with 33’s. Between the two of them plowing the road pretty much anyone behind was able to follow.  Without it becoming to much adventure.

Cleaning it off to the axles and diffs.
It must have been because we had brought the big guns with a truck on 40’s as a trail breaker.  But the forest said, “You can’t have it that easy.”
We would run for a 1/8 to 1/4 mile at a time before having to stop due to trees being down in the road. First one wasn’t bad. We had a total of 3 saws with us and the first out was an electric Milwaukee. It made pretty quick work cleaning the limb that was hampering progress.
As we all got back into the vehicles after building up a sweat and feeling proud of our efforts we ran into another tree. This was a big one.

Two electric saws ran through batteries trying to clean this large enough for a 200 to fit through.  The gas saw came out and ended up saving the day by having the power to cut such a large tree.  We spent probably and hour working to clean the tree. We ended up winching the tree off to the side with a snatch block.

With the path cleared we pushed forward to try and make it further back. Time wasn’t on our side and the day was getting shorter. Parents worked hard to keep kids dray and happy with the start stops and we were getting close to lunch time. We crossed a bridge over a rubber and found a little bit of a turn around and stacked the trucks in and called it home.

Propane fire pits were deployed. And chairs and food spilled out of trucks like the kids trying to get into the snow.
Funny thing is if you give kids a little snow to play with they can stay pretty entertained, until they get cold.

Free finding efforts were limited and mostly in vain. That area hasn’t been logged in a long time and the trees in that area are huge! Open spaces with more light are generally good places for trees. Higher elevations also lend themselves to smaller trees with more sun exposure and you can have better luck finding something that can work.

We traded trees for shared company. After a couple hours it was time to start back towards home. Making sure that we get going early to try and keep some of the drive back during the daylight hours. As well as it was opening weekend at the ski resort up the highway another 20 miles. The return home traffic could lengthen the trip home.

The way out was a just as fun. Even though tracker were in place to follow it didn’t mean that people wouldn’t try to have a little fun or take things to fast on the way back.
The most entertaining part of the trip was the 200 getting a little stuck off the side of the trail and the 40 being the one to try and pull them out.  The pull strap ended up just anchoring the 40 to the 200 until the 40 slide off to the side and way stuck.

Traction board and shovels solved the problems of both being stuck.

We continued back to the highway where we disengaged lockers and CDL’s and aired up tires before turning onto the highway to sit in traffic on the way home.

Despite the end of the day in ski traffic, and the lack of a good tree spot being found. It was a great time out side with both friends new and old in a community that is all brought together by silly old trucks.

Happy Holidays!

Photos contributed by:
Brandon Sisino
Dave Sisolak
Jamie Zaehring

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