Hello All, I’m finally getting to this trip report… Sorry to take so long, but I’ve just returned from a lengthy business trip. I actually got them to delay this trip so it wouldn’t interfere with the ED4 schedule!
I’ve been wanting to try out this trail since I read about it in one of my off-road trail books. However, I was reluctant to try it by myself — and I’m glad I waited to go with such an experienced group.
Friday: Ava and I left home about 10 am after loading up the 4runner and checking fluids and air pressures. We just kind of took a relaxed pace since I knew that starting on Monday work was going to be hectic for about 10 days straight. We stopped in Manteca for lunch and then continued north on 99 to 4. When we stopped at the stop sigh at the little town of Farmington, imagine my surprise to see Darrell climb out of his truck! We honked as we drove past and continued on our trip.
Since Ava and I had not done much hiking, camping, or exploring east of highway 89, we wanted to check out Big Trees Park and went on a great 5 mile hike to see the ‘Big Trees.’ We stopped in Arnold to top up our gas and have dinner. We ate at the Blue Frog, the Mexican food was actually pretty good.
We arrived at the Tamarack Lodge about 8pm and checked out our room. We met the rest of the group watching the NASCAR race and socializing. About 9pm I got my 4runner inspected and got a neat little “Octoberfest ‘06″ sticker on my windshield. Since it was going to be an early morning, we turned in at about 10pm.
Saturday: I got up much earlier than I usually do on Saturdays, but I was excited about the trail experience I was going to get. We had breakfast of toaster waffles and cold cereal and got lined up for the trip to the trailhead. I was in line behind Ed and Lonnie, which turned out to be a good learning experience as I attempted to follow his lines. It took about 20 minutes to travel from the Lodge to the trail head where we all aired down and whatever else we needed to do. While we were airing down, several others arrived and joined the group.
The first obstacle was the worst — at least for me — of the whole day. Perhaps it was because I had only aired down to 15 psi, or perhaps it was because it was my first time with a serious obstacle. Anyway, with the help of Darrell’s expert spotting and rock stacking by everybody else, I finally made it up and over. But, as I was moving ahead to give room to those behind me, I got stuck again. It was apparent at that point that I needed to further air down. So I went down to 12 psi which was much better from then on.
As we continued, at some of the more difficult little sections, Ed would get out and guide me through. As we progressed up the trail, I learned a lot just by watching Ed (and then Lonnie) as well as the all important ’seat time’. I had to have some help spotting at a narrow section where I sort of ran into a tree! No damage, but Stephen helped guide me through that and we continued up the trail. I only had one other bad spot where I chose a line that put me into a wedge where I couldn’t go forward or backwards (I think having lockers would have helped out here) and I had about have the group adding weight to the truck so I could get enough traction to continue.
There was one slightly downhill rock garden area where I took a bypass. Thanks again to Ed for checking it out (on foot) before telling me to go for it.
At a bit past noon we reached the second creek where we had lunch and discussed who was going back on the trail and who was continuing to see what Blue Lakes really looks like. Since Ava and I had wanted to see Blue Lakes we continued with that group.
We thought that the trail from the creek to Blue Lakes was just a forest road and not anything like the trail, so Ava started driving. It was soon apparent that the trail was more rough than a forest road, so I was back behind the wheel! Blue Lakes is nice, and a little smaller than I thought it would be. We aired up (and had a pit stop) and continued back to the Lodge on the asphalt.
We arrived back to the lodge at nearly the same time as the group the did the trail and we all cleaned up for the great meal and dinner. Since it was a tiring day, as soon as the dinner and raffles were over, I hit the sack. By the way, I won an Esprit de Four beer mug!!!
Sunday: Got up at a much later time (about 9am) and left for a leisurely drive home.
Thanks to Mike for leading a great run, for Ira for leading on the trail. Many thanks to Ed, Stephen, and Darrell for spotting and guiding me through the tough spots. And many thanks to all those that helped stacking rocks!!!
I learned a lot, and by the end of the trail I think I had improved my driving considerably. In fact, if we had run the trail in the other direction I think I would have done much better on the major first obstacle.
(Ava’s 2-cents worth! Yep, it was nerve-wracking watching the 4-runner do everything but run! And maybe next time I’ll have the wherewithal to grab the camera out of the glove box and take pictures to show off Dennis’ tense posture.)