My buddy Jon and I arrived at the Grass Valley Fair Grounds early Friday afternoon and were greeted by a friendly and informative staff for the activities. We checked out the products for sale as well as the numerous items that were available for the secret auction. We walked around the camp grounds and introduced ourselves to several other club members, checked out their vehicles and in general had a good time learning and talking about trails and adventures we had all experienced. Cal 4 Wheel put on a good dinner of pasta, salad, garlic bread, desert, coffee, milk/juice etc. There were games for both adults and kids. I’m happy to report that there were no injuries from all the hip swing and head bobbing to either extricate balls from Kleenex boxes strapped to the back of peoples waists or from the tennis ball hung in panty hose which were slung from the persons head and used to knock over water bottles. With the games complete and stuffed from the meal we were both worn out from laughter and a little lethargic from the meal but rearing to go! The Friday night run headed out at around 8:30 PM. We started out with around 25 vehicles, aired down after crossing the old trestle bridge of South Fork Yuba River and headed towards Bowman Lake. At this point several of members of the group re-evaluated the time and decided to turnaround since they were going on the Avalanche Express first thing in the morning and it was nearing10:00 PM. Weather for the most part was cold and clear. We went through a couple of old towns of which I believe the 2nd one was Graniteville and by this time the snow drifts left and right were about 3 feet. The track itself had been run by the Mudsuckers earlier and was packed fairly well so the going was pretty good although you could still see differentials knocking down the snow in the center of the track. As the trail conditions started to get rougher the caravan started to stretch out and at this point the leaders found a place for everyone to pull off the road for a little play time while everyone caught up. We saw some impressive driving by our team leader Mike who was ploughing through snow higher than his winch. I had stopped in a drift at one point and Jon and I were discussing options only to hear the shill wine of a freight train (Mike’s Scout) headed towards us. As Mike blasted through the snow bank and pulled alongside me, close enough to kiss and leaning my way, he had a true shit eating grin!!!
A couple of other Mudsucker diehards joined in the fun and eventually buried two vehicles and so a new leader took over and we continued on while a smaller team dealt with extracting the two vehicles.
Eventually at what appeared to be the worst possible place to stall out we couldn’t proceed any further due to the depth of the snow and worse yet it was going to be a hair raiser to get turned around. Up and down the line vehicles were off the road, shovels were being used extensively and then came the winches and tow ropes. I was the 6th vehicle back and it took two of us hooked together to extricate the next vehicle up. We eventually worked out an area to make like a 10 point turn and managed to get 5 of the lead vehicles turned around and headed down hill only to find one of the group having tremendous issues. The driver and his mates were working very hard with shovels to extricate the vehicle and get it back on the trail and then turned around however without, lockers, winch or attach points from which to assist him it was an extremely long process. Eventually caution kind of went to the wind and someone cautiously hooked to his axle and extricated him while also getting him going in the right direction.
Needless to say we headed down the road at which point about half the team pulled off to enjoy a bonfire while the rest of us headed back to Grass Valley. Jon and I got to the hotel at ~3:45AM, hit the sack at 4 and were up at 5:00 AM and on our way to get fuel, breakfast and line up for the 7:00 AM start of the Avalanche Express run. We met some really great people on the run, learned about winching and digging at night all of which left us with some great stories and a wonderful adventure. Dick