This was my first summer campout with ED4 and only my 3rd trip with the club. My first trip was the work on your rig weekend that Ed & Ray hosted and the other trip was to attend the safety clinic in May (I’ll send in reports on those trips soon). I drove up to the campsite Friday meeting Eric at the first split in the road off 108 (we both originally headed out the wrong direction but after digging out Darell’s directions we headed off in the right direction after Eric put up a directional sign at that intersection). When we arrived in camp we found Tom was already there & there were also couple of other occupied campsites (not from ED4). Did our best figure out how many others were coming & what type of sites they needed & they parked rigs & left a chair in spots for others (in the future to be in closer compliance with regulation it would be best to get peoples license plates in advance to be able to register for each site before people arrive). We met USFS employees that advised us that it’s first come 1st served no saving sites but they didn’t enforce that & gave us nice OHV maps. The ORV campground was a nice USFS place with vault toilets & garbage cans & picnic tables & fire rings (but no running H20) set on the edge of a meadow with Niagara Creek at the edge of the meadow.
When Ira & Lorrie arrived we heard about the trouble they were having with their tow rig. They also said Darell wasn’t arriving until Sat AM. We had a nice campfire Friday night.
On my way up on Friday I had stopped at the USFS Ranger Station in Miwok and picked up some forest info and also asked about 4×4 routes. I was directed to a 4X4 book & looked up the Niagara Rim Trail seeing how that author rated it including mentioning some class 5 spots. Also the OHV map the USFS employees gave us showed some black diamonds on the route. With this info in mind and the limited modifications to my 70 Bronco + my only time ever having it out off road being at the safety clinic in Hollister, I talked to those in our group that had recently traveled the trail to see if I really should take my Bronco out. All the recent travellers said that it should be ok and that they would get me through it helping out if needed. I cross tied my Black Lab, Sierra, in the backseat & after a photo of rigs lined up to head out for trail & started out. As promised, shortly on to the route we encountered the first, and for me at least, significant challenge - a rocky steep descent & long ascent (the OHV map calls the section “Heartbreak” hill). With great spotting by Ira & Lorrie & help from Ed & others too, we all made it through the spot. The next major challenge for me was getting Bronco positioned correctly (without power steering assistance) on tight turn for long steep descent. Both Ira and Lorrie again were of great help in spotting for me to get lined up for the plunge. Eric gave very good heads up on CB too and also hiked up to point out the shelf we needed to watch out for midway down the steep plunge. I wished I had better gearing on the steep spots + power steering in the tight turns throughout the trip but especially in this section. After these 2 challenging spots we climbed up to about 8,000′ and had lunch above the “Lions Butt”. The weather was great & the views were super. A USFS employee on a quad ATV stopped by to see us & gave us some info on the forest & use & the trail ahead. After lunch most people did the “Lions Butt” obstacle then we went on to look at the next expert rated obstacle the “Rock Pile”. Several people on various ATVs were also there but it looked like the first step would be too big for anything with less than 37″ tires. A couple of weeks ago Eric & Darell from our group + Steve P. I heard did do the run. Eric & Darell said it looked different then & that first step wasn’t quite as big.
We left the “Rock Pile” & headed back to the camp arriving midafternoon. It was a challenging but fun run for me and I’m very pleased with how well my relatively unmodified old Bronco with only 31″ tires on it now did on the trail. I do want to get it set up to be better able to tackle serious 4wheeling but for now it did pretty well I think. We relaxed in camp and prepared for a very good potluck meal. Just before we started to eat dinner, it started to rain but the drops were not coming very fast or hard so it didn’t wreck the evening. After a very tasty dinner & dessert we had another nice campfire and also DVD 4X4 viewing on Eric’s TV on the picnic table by the fire. People left a different times Sunday AM. Tom had to leave early to meet friends to head up to camp at Lake Alpine before going on to do the Rubicon next weekend. After thanking people for their help & encouragement and saying goodbyes, I saw same USFS person we had talked to near “Lions Butt” at the campground entrance and stopped to ask him directions to the “Trail of the Ancient Dwarfs” a self guided nature trail I wanted to visit which was nearby. He gave me directions - it is just a bit beyond the main Niagara Creek Campground not far off Hwy 108. My dog & I enjoyed the hike through a nice forested area and on to the old Mono Pass Road with views of the Dardanelle’s and down on to Hwy 108. We didn’t see anyone else out on the hike and even the nearby Niagara Creek Campground only had one or 2 campers staying there. Next I stopped off at Pinecrest Lake to let my dog have a quick cooling off swim. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was there especially after the uncrowded forest we had just spent the rest of the weekend in.
I would like to thank everyone who made the campout happen & got us safely through the trail. I also want to say how welcome I felt & how nice it was to have my dog Sierra get so much attention from so many people too. We really enjoyed ourselves!
Thanks again, Loro Paterson