September had us out on one big adventure with a trip into Northern California to tackle two major off road trails, the Rubicon and the Dusy Ershim. While we are proud Jeep owners our Jeep isn’t up to the task so I was fortunate to be invited to ride shotgun by our good friend Rob whose Jeep is quite capable. Our other friends including Gino of Spool Tool also had some legit Jeeps so it was like a rolling off-road show.
They had started planning these trip months out and had experience from completing the Rubicon the year prior. I liked the level of planning that went into this and even made it to one of the meetings to coordinate. The Rubicon in its self is a major under taking but this crew was going to hit two trails spread out across California. The logistics that went into the prep of the Jeeps and gear was impressive. On top of that the distances and lodging made for a exercise in coordination since this was a San Diego 4 Wheelers event and had multiple participants meeting up across the state.
We left on a Saturday and met up with the core group of Rob, Gino and Bob’s Jeeps with the rest of us passengers consisting of friends and family, this was like the ultimate family road trip. We got on the road for the first leg up to beautiful Ridgecrest California for our first hotel stay right outside of China Lake the Navy’s weapons testing base. We got checked into the hotel and after everyone arrived we all headed to Casey’s BBQ on Main Street, I had eaten there before and the food is really good and the prices are not bad so we were off to a good start. Early to bed and enjoying the AC because it was still around 100 degrees we looked forward to the next leg of the trip.
I woke up early (by my standards) Rob had already been up for hours getting stuff done and headed down for some continental breakfast, yay. Then we got on to the road and headed North up the 395. If you follow us you know we are up this highway all the time so nothing new here. We Stopped in Lone Pine for some breakfast, I already ate so we stopped by and said high at elevation and cruised the main drag like so many other tourists. We all met up again and started up the road. Now I have to say other than Highway 1, Highway 395 is probably one of the most scenic roads in California. Usually I’m driving up here so I don’t really get a chance to take it all in but this was awesome and I really appreciated the opportunity to enjoy it. We climbed past Bishop and Mammoth and went higher and higher it really is subtle how much altitude you gain going North on this road. It wasn’t until north of Bridgeport that I noticed my shorts and t shirt might not cut it. It really is amazing up there.
The drive was great especially when we went into the mountains, I really did not have a clue of where we were at until we came over the grad and I saw a sign for Lake Tahoe. It was my first time coming in from that side and it was an amazing view. We came in from the Nevada side and could see the lake and city. It made me really want to grab Steph and head back up there one of these days, it was the fall shuffle and the tourists while not totally packing the streets where present and it looked like a good time. We continued down to our Motel 6 and got all checked in there.
We got up early the next day and grabbed breakfast before getting on the road, I was surprised by the distance from Tahoe to the trail head and we were at Loon Lake airing down in no time. The drive up was gorgeous and I enjoyed riding shotgun. The lake was amazing and the trail head was really well set up with signs and information you can tell that this 22 mile trail is quite popular. Between the technical aspect of it and the beauty of the mountains we were off to a great start as we proceeded down the road and it gave way to huge granite slabs.
Now we knew rain was in the forecast but really didn’t have too many reservations due to the fact they were all experienced drivers and this wasn’t their first time on the trail. Bobby was out of the Jeep doing a great job spotting and we climbed along the trail. The convoy moved along taking on the obstacles and climbing higher into the mountains and into the tree line. This is when it began to sprinkle and we got a little rain…
At about the two mile mark Bob came over the radio that he was having some steering issues. And we all pulled over to let them check it out. This is when it started to really rain and I was glad to be in the jeep out of the way. Bob was pretty smart and brought along a pop up canopy which was absolutely brilliant right about now. I will definitely take a page from his book in the future when doing off road trips. This weather was not letting up and was beginning to really take on a storm feel.
The rain which had been coming down lightly was now in a full down pour and was drenching the whole area. But as if not to be bad enough the cold was turning it into sleet and the icy sloshy water was everywhere as they continued to inspect Bobs Jeep. The weather was not getting better the Bob’s jeep was not getting fixed. Basically after about an hour of sleet it began to snow. So while it was the end of September and still around ninety degrees and home in SoCal we were getting some of that good old Sierra weather. These mountains are known for that and it was pretty impressive to see how quickly it can lay it on you up there.
In about an hour it was a “winter wonder land” also about the time they figured out that Bob’s steering box wasn’t going to make it. They radioed to the lead portion of the convoy and decided (wisely to return to Tahoe). I really like traveling with adults. What was going on reminded me of my days in Marine Aviation and the mishap reports we would read. Almost every major mishap isn’t “one” catastrophic event but a series of links in a chain leading to that incident. So one important thing to do is break the chain before something bad happens.
With the group size we had we were able to head back in a three jeep convoy while the rest of the crew had the ability to continue on into the woods and down the trail. Heading back wasn’t the fun decision but it was the right one especially since this was a back to back trip and the Dusy Ershim was still up.