Day two of the Dusy Ershim trail was a dusy for me, take in the usual process of waking up after a day of four wheeling and add in being sick. I still had a ragging sinus infection and was kind of like a zombie, after getting out of my hammock I didn’t even eat I just pathetically struck camp. I really didn’t even realize how cold it was even with the frost on everything it was like I was in auto pilot.
This was quite the trip, a once in a lifetime trip and I was sick, which kind of put a damper on it for me, but luckily up to this point I had a blast exploring new areas with great friends. We had already adventured onto the Rubicon Train and you can read about it here Rubicon Trail and Rubicon Trail Pt 2, this trip had us driving all over California in pursuit of some monumental off road adventures to the beginning of the Dusy Ershim you can read here Dusy Ershim.
Now here I am at around 9000 feet in the wilderness with friends set out on an epic adventure. Even being sick I could not hep but to notice the beauty and treacherousness of this landscape. We where in the forest surrounded by uneven terrain and large boulders that made a thirty-two-mile trail turn into an expedition. When we think about distance in a modern context it is easy to lose a respect for what it really takes to transverse these distances.
After all, thirty-two-miles on the highway is a half an hour drive maybe forty-five minutes with traffic. When transitioning to back country travel these times become longer and more taxing on both you and your vehicle. A paved mountain road can mean that thirty miles can take an hour as you navigate the turns traffic and work with reduced speeds. The upside is the concentration and need to me physically and mentally they are still much like driving in neighborhoods in town.
When you finally drive off the pavement that is when a lot changes definitely slower and more alert you begin to feel the road more the bump and differentiation the dust and washboard feel as you begin to scan more and react to the feedback of the jeep. Thirty miles can feel like fifty miles an hour and you whole driving style changes. But all of that is JV level compared to this kind of trip. The second we hit the trail (I really like the use of that word because this is a trail not a road) it is game time.
The drivers of these jeeps and their spotters get my utmost respect. They are on unstable uneven ground moving at a crawl over some gnarly obstacles. And it is a crawl I think Bobby our chief spotter walked the whole trail and then some. So the speed is not a consideration in the completion of the trail as much as effective and skillful driving unlike when we run to the store or do our normal road trip. We moved at about a mile to two miles an hour up these obstacles.
Preparation, these drivers and spotters began their preparation months in advance from preparing their rigs, to planning routs and gear. Watching the time that Rob and Gino put into this trip was impressive just so they could show up on game day ready to go. Another key aspect is trust, they had to trust their gear, their rigs and their spotter. These guys know their Jeeps inside and out and could make on the fly determinations based on listening and feeling the feedback from their jeeps. Many times, while they were behind the wheel and in control, they where totally dependent on their spotters call which meant the safety of them and their rig, becoming stuck could also mean potential safety issues being stuck in the middle of nowhere. The trust factor is a major issue because they also have the trust between us the passenger not to get ma killed and I appreciate not getting killed or hurt.
All these factors play into their physical and mental endurance, while driving they are constantly positioning their bodies to see the best angle or jumping in and out to find a route that best suits them. I can compare all of this to doing yoga and playing chess while rolling down a hill. At the end of the day they where wiped out and rightfully so.
From what the gang was saying the Dusy was consistently a challenge compared the Rubicon which was also ten miles shorter. This was quite the undertaking and a difficult challenge.
Now as a passenger I had it easy, shut up (I was sick so that’s easy) and help on making some calls and pulling in the mirror as needed. One of the benefits is I really got to enjoy the view and appreciate the scenery. This trail is only opened part of the year and runs through Sierra National Forrest and boarders the John Muir Wilderness, so it is an awesome opportunity to drive up to and long such a pristine area of California. There are five campsites that are used along the way and well established and set up with flat areas to set up as well as clean and well-maintained vault toilets (a major plus).
The campsites are Voyager Rock at three miles in, Thompson Lake at eleven, East Lake at seventeen, Ershim Lake at twenty-two and Kaiser Pass at thirty-one miles. The lakes and streams mean water and fishing are also available and general camping rules like no camping within one hundred feet of water and campfire permits apply. The trail and the campsites where well maintained and a lot of the credit there goes to the volunteers who work so hard to keep the trail running line the Four-Wheel Club of Fresno.
We took advantage of the campsites and day two pulled into Ershim Lake. I was feeling better and was able to hang around the fire for a little bit before turning in early which sucked because it was Robs Birthday and the good bourbon was out (that’s how you know I’m sick). We woke up in the morning for our last day on the trail and it was a non-stop traverse over countless obstacles with small breaks of flat easily traveled road here and there.
While you where never truly out of the woods when it came to driving our final major obstacle was over Kiser pass an amazing vista with expansive views of the John Muir wilderness. I have spent a lot of time exploring the Eastern Sierras but to see them from the West was a new and exhilarating experience. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip and something I will remember for a very long time to come.
As we came down the pass it was almost surreal to start seeing more and more people after being so remote for a couple days. There where fellow off roaders, campers and hunters and there was something almost sad about transitioning off the dirt and back on to an asphalt road. There was a feeling of accomplishment even for me and I could tell the drivers felt it.
This is the fourth installment of our trip that began in San Diego and took us to some of the most beautiful and challenging parts of California. I wanted to take a moment to say that these stories serve as a thank you letter to Rob for inviting me along and all of the hard work he put into this trip and well as Gino and his family and the rest of the crew this was an experience that even when trying to put into words leaves me at a loss. I just wanted to say to everyone a gain a heartfelt, THANK YOU.