Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

When my buddy Ernesto invited us out to explore the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. I was worried about Big Blue and his 1WD handicap that all 2WD Vanagons face. I was confident, however, in the fact that our clearance was good and I was really looking forward to testing out our General Grabber AT2s in some sandy/rocky off-road terrain.

My memory isn't quite what it used to be. Sometimes I find myself literally taking mental snapshots of things. This was one of those moments.

My memory isn't quite what it used to be. Sometimes I find myself literally taking mental snapshots of things. This was one of those moments.

The trip did not disappoint. One of my fondest memories of adventuring was getting stuck just past midnight on the night we arrived. Our non-aired down tires and reckless enthusiasm to explore in the dark did us no favors as we succumbed to the soft, ash-like sand that is common near the lower lake entrances of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. It was a test of patience, gear, and - above all - character as those situations tend to reveal one's true character and it's resilience to adversity.

Ernesto and I finding the right shackle for Big Blue. Photo Credit: @taisawelhasch, Overland the Americas

Ernesto and I finding the right shackle for Big Blue. Photo Credit: @taisawelhasch, Overland the Americas

 If it wasn't for Ernesto's recovery equipment, especially the MaxTrax, that weekend could've been a lot different. Despite that fact it took multiple recovery methods to get us out, looking back, we would've been able to do it with just the MaxTrax and airing down...it just would've been 45 inches at a time.   :)

Taken around 3:30am after finally getting unstuck. Photo Credit: Ernesto Lopez-Perez, Overland the Americas

The new General Grabber AT2s certainly changed the look of the van. But more importantly, they exponentially expanded the horizon in terms of where we could go. Do not be discouraged if you don't have a 4x4/4WD vehicle - all you need is to pick a good line, some clearance, and knobby tires.

Adventures can be made or broken by the people involved. Here, Ernesto, of Overland the Americas, captures the last few moments of the fading sun.

Adventures can be made or broken by the people involved. Here, Ernesto, of Overland the Americas, captures the last few moments of the fading sun.

Overland the Americas and Vanderlust Americas in front of Lower Goose Lake, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, WA

Overland the Americas and Vanderlust Americas in front of Lower Goose Lake, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, WA

Even now, this is still one of my favorite trips. It's the trip that represents a simpler time where we just went with what we had (before we fell into the "gotta have that" gear trap. It's the first trip that really gave us a taste for overlanding. And, it was the start to a fantastic, rewarding friendship with two amazing people (and some of our favorites), Ernesto and Taisa.

 

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge Gallery

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