Was I having fun in spite...
Was I having fun in spite of the general lack of snow? You bet. A lot of trails suffered from huge puddles as a result of the almost continuous rain.
There is a certain aspect of winter exploration, and that can be an uncertainty of whether you will get through or have to reverse out of an untenable situation. Some of these trails have been cleared for snowmobile use, some have not and reversing back to a place to turn around is not uncommon. I like to adopt a Zen attitude to these situations — they are what they are. Some things even an FJ, unless it is equipped with a chain saw, has to ace as being impassable.
The other aspect of trail exploration in the snow is one of meditation. No news, no radio, no music, no distractions — just the test of the terrain vs. the FJ and ones own comfort level of dealing with the unknown. I like being this isolated even just for a while. It tends to focus ones mind on what is immediate.
After several excursions along trails that presented only a modest test for the FJ, I took the road to Crane Prairie Reservoir via Highway 40. It started out as clear asphalt with a narrow, two-lane road but quickly deteriorated into rutted packed ice and later covered with fresh snow as I encountered the same snowstorm that was now covering the entire Mount Bachelor area. With visibility worsening both with the snowstorm and the oncoming end of daylight, I fast appreciated that the better part of valor would be a discretionary retreat and I backtracked to the main highway and north towards Mt. Bachelor and then on to Bend.
With low clouds and sudden...
With low clouds and sudden snow these guys were caught out on their way to the summit – fortunately there were no injuries. Just the embarrassment of a lot of bent metal.
Is this the ultimate snowplow?...
Is this the ultimate snowplow? This one was sitting at the entrance to Diamond Lake, north of Crater Lake off Highway 230.
Yes, snowmobiles are likely...
Yes, snowmobiles are likely to come screaming out of the woods and across the narrow forest roads such as this.
On my last day the sun came out. Only for a short while but it gave me a glimpse of sparkle on the snow and ice. Just enough sun and time to take a few photos and to let me explore on foot some otherwise inaccessible parts of the Deschutes River that ran behind my yurt in Tumalo National Park.
This huge restaurant attraction...
This huge restaurant attraction is a reminder that hunting and fishing are a way of life in the Oregon Cascades.
During the summer there are many opportunities for four-wheeling and great ways to communicate with nature, away from the maddening crowd, as I like to jest. I value the opportunities that vehicles like the FJ offer to an otherwise city dweller. It is even more impressive when visiting areas like central Oregon where off-roading is still recognized as a valid pastime.
Other areas I would explore in the summer that are closed in the winter are the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the trails around the Three Sisters mountains, and if you are so inclined, spelunking, also called caving, in the lava tubes at Skeleton Cave, Arnold Ice Caves, or Lava River Cave.
The sound of a Jake brake...
The sound of a Jake brake is often all you will hear in advance of the arrival of a great logging truck. They are something to beware of as they thunder through the mountain passes.
Throughout the 2,500 miles I put on the FJ during this trip I averaged 19.9 mpg, which is up 10 percent over the equivalent for the FJ of five years ago (and with more horsepower). I like that kind of progress. With sales in the USA around 14,000 units a year, the FJ has earned a loyal following simply because it does what it is supposed to do without whining. As far as looks go, it is polarizing — it is a love it or hate it opinion with very little in between.
If I were to award a trophy for the most macho looking vehicle on the road today it would be to Toyota's FJ Cruiser. However I do have one major suggestion/question for Toyota, although I imagine it will be rhetorical: Why not offer the FJ with a turbo-diesel motor to maintain the power/torque, but give much better highway gas mileage?