Patty and I left a rainy bay area on Thursday for Sonora. Our plan was to spend the night in Sonora, then have a liesurely drive up Friday to Bear Valley. Friday morning, we departed Sonora for Bear Valley (1 1/2 hr drive). We were somewhat concerned about all the snow up there since we have never done a snow run before. When we gassed up in Arnold, we noticed someone pulling a Samurai up the road (we thought it might be an ED4 person). We later stopped at a vista point, and rolling in comes the Samurai. It was Daryl!. We arrived at the lodge about 12:30 and there was snow most everywhere. Most of the parking lot had 6" to 8" of snow. It was definetly challanging to move around. As we brought our stuff into the lodge, we were met by Ed and his wife Toni. Ed pointed out the checkin sheet and mentioned that the rooms had name tags. Great organization Ed! Around 2 pm, we headed for Lake Alpine and the trail head for Slick Rock. Mike Cline was the trail leader. CJ agreed to be the tail gunner. At the trail head, we aired down and started. There were at least 10 rigs on the run. Patty and I ran Slick Rock earlier this year. The snow definetely add another dimension to the run. The snow filled in holes, hide rocks, and created a more slippery trail. The scenery was awesome. When we reache the stairstep, CJ spotted for everyone. A couple of the stock vehicles needed some help up, Mike C. doing the winching. I did see a piece of the Toyota FJ (rear bumper) laying on the trail. We all had fun getting up the ladder. At the end of the trail, Greg had a cloud of steam coming from the engine compartment. Seems he forgot to turn his cooling fan on! Robert did a great job of venting the steam so Greg could add more coolant. Fortunately, he had some cool;ant with him. We made a fast exit from the trail since it was getting late and cold. Utica Reservoir had a nice mist floating over it. After airing up, most of the group headed down to Arnold for gas and dinner at the Snowshoe Brewery. The restaurant was very accomodating, moving a number of tables together. They even gave us separate tabs. It was great to get to get to know CJ and his dad, Loro, and James.
The plan for the next morning was to meet at 8 am. As we went to the parking lot, we discovered that it had turned into a skating rink, black ice and slippery. Jason decided it best to wait for the ice to melt a bit before going over the pass. Around 9 am, we headed out. I think Connie's accelerator pedal was stuck, or she was really eager since she took off really fast!. At the trail head, we (17 vehicles) aired down and started thru the gatekeeper. I had Daryl, CJ, and Carlos in front of me and Vidas behind me. The snow again added a new dimension for me since it made things slippery. Past gatekeeper, the group ran into an area that required spotting. Tom was spotting, doing a good job. Things went well as long as I listened to him. We continued quite a ways (going slowly) until we came to a downed tree. I just barely squeezed around it. It was decided that we would be better off to winch the tree off the trail. Vidas stepped up and yanked it off the trail in a smashing effort! A little later, Jason also had to winch a tree off the trail.
Eventually we made it to the turn around point at a meadow and had a group lunch. After lunch, Jason organized a group photo, all the vehicles lined up. Awesome picture. The trip back seemed a lot shorter (1 1/2 hrs versus 3 hrs). Maybe because the snow was melting, or we were all growing bolder. Jason greeted us as we came off the trail. After airing up, I proceeded back to the lodge. I then noticed that my steering wheel was off center about 20 degree's. This caused havoc with the JK computer kicking in the ESP BAS system and the electronic throttle control. Slowly driving back to the lodge, I recentered the steering wheel. This did not clear the warning lights. Robert took a look and tightened up the drag link connector at the steering knuckle which was loose. The lights persisted. Oh well, there's a party going on in the lodge. After cleaning up, we came down to watch Jason's video of the run. Eventually the crew (Ed L, Jason, Tom, and Mike P) started on dinner. The Octoberfest feast was delicious. We capped off the evening with a slideshow from pictures taken during the weekend.
Sunday morning, we left around 9 am. Ed and his wife Toni had already cleaned the place up (great job!). As we left the lodge, the warning lights on the dash were still on, though the Jeep handled ok. We stopped in Arnold for a donut, and when I started the Jeep again...no warning lights! Go figure. The rest of the drive home was quiet, nice. We had a great time and appreciate all the effort that the ED4 group put out to organize and execute this fantastic weekend. We really appreciate how Ed and Toni worked hard the whole weekend so that they rest of us could play! Patty and I can't wait to do this again.