a.k.a. Views of a Newbie in the Woods… I signed up for the Esprit de Four Summer Campout/Newbie Run July 2008.

Ummm ok.. I haven?t camped since I was a little kid. And my only assignment at that time was to fetch wood & skip rocks. So this was going to be a real adventure for me.

I drove up on Friday the 18th encountering temps in the high 90?s around Copperopolis. I was warm but it was the Jeep that decided we needed to stop on the shoulder and cool off for a bit. Hathaway Pines is a nice little area. Note to self: No cell service in Hathaway Pines. Really need to get the CB radio out of the shipping box, sitting in the living room, and installed in the Jeep.

Made it into Arnold. Thinking that maybe my old radiator cap was the issue I picked up a new one at the Napa store. Not having all the equipment, nor wanting to deal with a grill & charcoal, I opted for purchasing a variety of sandwiches from a local shop. Tossed them on top of the block ice in the soft sided cooler and continued up the hill. Since it was getting later in the day I decided to go all the way up to Bear Valley Ski Lodge to see if the Jeep had anymore heating issues. I spent the night up there.

Early Saturday the 19th I drove down the hill to 7N09 to look for the ED4 gang. I had spotted the nice little sign at the beginning of the dirt road the day before, so I knew where it was now. I drove for a while and I guess it was the washboard and slow speed that made it feel like I had gone more than the approximate 4 miles to Horse Gulch camp. So I turned around and was going to check out the sign at the Corral Hollow turnoff I had passed earlier. I only got a short distance when some of the gang, led by Ira, came up behind me. Once they all passed by I fell in line.

At the trailhead before getting started we chatted as we all aired down. This was the second time I got to use my new Staun deflators. At the May How-To Clinic Dennis/Toyota introduced me to them. They?re so easy to set and use!

Mount Up! I think there were about 9 vehicles, but I?m not positive. Some people/vehicles I recognized from the Clinic. Ellen/YJ, Jim/Cherokee, Jodie/Excursion, Ira/CJ7 to name a few. I was behind a red JK and in front of Jim/Cherokee. Corral Hollow trail is very pretty. I had no idea there would be meadows of flowers. I don?t know what the plentiful yellows ones are called, but they looked nice with the occasional purple Lupine sprinkled in. I got to see the old cabin & outhouse that is pictured on the main ED4 webpage. Pretty neat.

There were a number of turns in the trail that provided me with a view of the vehicles farther up squeezing between the trees that bordered the trail. Especially that big Ford Excursion. What an amazing sight! And everyone was courteous if someone needed a little more time to navigate through or if a spotter was required. I really like the rule about ensuring that you can see the person behind you, and stopping if you can?t. For me all these little things add up and make me feel secure in what I?m doing, and knowing that help is readily available.

Jim H was nice enough to give us occasional elevation updates too. Nothing like knowing you?re at 8000ft to make you feel cooler. Jim, thanks also for the walkie-talkie loaner!

About 1.5 miles before the end of the Corral Hollow trail, a full size bronco popped its bead and shredded the tire. Everyone pulled off or to the side of the trail while multiple hands were available to toss on the spare. At the end of Corral Hollow I opted to go to Horse Gulch camp and pitch my tent.

No chance of missing the camp. A nice big ED4 sign was strung between the trees. Wow.. Look at the assortment of RVs! The camp area is really nicely laid out, like a court with the fire pit in the center. And it looks like the gang is pretty organized in their setup. I got my tent up and decided to take a nap. I later awoke to a cow bell. I thought Jim H was back early! I had gotten used to the cow bell on his Cherokee clanking throughout the day behind me. But then I realized I was hearing a LOT of cow bells. Was I back in Switzerland? No silly, you?re in a tent in the Sierras. Turns out there is a herd of cattle that run up/down the area a couple times a day. Funny to see & hear.

Slowly people from the overnight Slick Rock run started returning to camp. It was nice seeing the others. More people/vehicles I had met previously. Tom/CJ7, Ed/ToyPickup, Darrell/Bronco & Jason/CJ, Jim/CJ.

After a while the Corral Hollow group, that did Slick Rock after lunch, started trickling in. As they returned, lawn chairs were rearranged and stories of the night/day trips began. These are very entertaining. During this process appetizers appeared near the lawn chairs and Ira began downloading pictures from everyone?s camera in anticipation of the after dinner slide show. Yep, a slide show in the woods!

A time was set for dinner. Depending on what being cooked, different parties retreated to their RVs or tents to prepare for the potluck. I like the idea of everyone being responsible for their own meat or main dish, and bringing some extra of their side dishes to share. Yummo!

After dinner lawn chairs were once again rearranged, a fire was started in the pit [I noticed there are a few pyros in the group] and the slide show began! It was fun seeing pictures from the trail I didn?t do and different viewpoints of the one I did.

As it got darker we were treated to another kind of light show. Jim H brought out a few toys. I?ve never seen a handheld light with such a strong beam. I think it rivals the top of the Luxor (pyramid shaped) hotel in Las Vegas! Really! It?s like an aircraft landing light!

It?s funny how staring at the flames of the fire and listening to the repeated stories of the day really completes the day. I shuffled off to my tent and fell asleep to the murmur of the few night owls still sitting by the fire.

Sunday the 20th I awoke around 2am to the sound of something sniffing around my tent. By 3am I needed to make a trip to the porta potty. I emerged from my tent with my 65 lumen Surefire flashlight in one hand and my K-BAR knife in the other. Oh, did I mention I haven?t camped since a kid? And that I?m a wuss? Now I know why they call it the Critter Zone! Made it safely back to my tent and quickly asleep until 8.

A little after 8 I packed the Jeep and chatted with a few people that were up. Then I headed home. This was truly an adventure for me. I?m definitely not a camper. But I really wanted to try it because I enjoy riding the trails with ED4. The gang is wonderful to be around, I always feel safe and I learn something on every outing.

- Even block ice melts quickly in a soft-sided cooler. - Cheap baloney floats. - Bread disintegrates. - Mustard makes the melted ice a yucky color. - You won?t die if you eat pasta salad for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

All kidding aside: I learn something useful from the group on every outing and at the monthly meetings. Ed thank you for all your planning/organizing/support and making newbies feel welcome. ED4 members thank you for the constant opportunities and support you provide.

Connie 1980 Green CJ7