Trip Report: Robin's September Run
Trip report by Robin Down
The original goal of this run was to do the Dusy trail near Shaver Lake. This would have been a 3-4 day trip, with camping along the trail. Since Dusy trail was never opened this season by the Forest Service, I had to change the location to something closer (Hollister Hills SVRA). This was a safer choice for me since my rig had recently gotten a lot of attention in the upgrades dept. A new long-arm suspension, new front & rear axle housings with low gears and lockers had just been installed. And without any time to make a pre-run it would have been stupid to try and make a long trip on a difficult trail without some testing first.
So Sunday morning on Sept 10 I loaded up my RV and trailer with the Jeep and headed off to Hollister Hills where I met up with Gary Rowe and later met up with Jason Schaefer. The first part of the day Gary and I started with the old obstacle course, and then moved on to some trails. We went up McCray road and headed to the top of the mountain. Looked over at the top of White Rocks where is was really steep and dug out and thought to myself, maybe later... At the top of the mountain we met a guy with Jeep Cherokee who had also just installed new gears and locker into his rear axle, and he was concerned about how much heat it was making. Now I was slightly concerned about my axles and I crawled under my rig and found both diffs to be pretty hot. Oh well, I guess that's what they do right? ;-)
Later that afternoon we met up with Jason at the Sycamore campground, and after a quick bite we headed up the road to find a couple guys stuck in Bonanza Gulch canyon. One of the first responders managed to get his buggy all upside down and was trying to winch himself back upright. I offered to throw him a winch line and we helped pull him back on his wheels. They were very grateful.
Soon after that Gary had to head home and so Jason and I continued our trek. We went around some more hills and played in the rock quarry. By then it was dusk and we headed back to camp for dinner.
The next day Monday we decided to try some harder obstacles. We went up the 2nd obstacle course (the one above Sycamore camp) and had some fun avoiding mud and crawling over anything we could find. We also went over to the hardcore McCray obstacle course and I enjoyed watching Jason flex out his buggy. Later we went to the old obstacle course, and while I was playing below the stair steps I heard Jason shouting. Seems I had switched off my radio and he was stuck in a ditch somewhere. I found him leaning over sharply and his oil was leaking into his cab, so I pulled him out with my Bubba rope.
Soon after that we helped pull out a brand new Jeep JK Unlimited that was stuck in the mud pit. After pulling him out the owner was surprised to find it would not start - and further inspection found muddy water in his engine oil! So I offered once again to tow him all the way out of the park to the Ranger station where he could call for help. While I was there it started raining heavily - with thunder and lightning! While I raced back to camp (after getting locked out of the gate while I was at the ranger station) Jason was busy mopping the oil from his floorboards.
We cleaned up and took some more runs after the rain, and later that night we watched the lightning show light up the sky.
Tuesday morning we both packed up and headed home. This would give me a chance to recheck my suspension, fix my muffler that was hitting on the upper control arm, and prep for the 2nd trip to Shaver on Thursday.
On Thursday morning Sept 14th I again loaded the RV and Jeep on the trailer and headed up to Wishon Village campground, near Shaver Lake where I met up with James Anthony. He had arrived about an hour earlier when I came across him on the road to camp. Once I checked in at the camp office James came over and we enjoyed some dinner and a few beers and made plans for the next day.
Friday morning James and I set off to a trail called Spanish Route which starts off about 4 miles south from Wishon Village. This is a steep trail and right out of the gate and we had it in low range and crawling over some loose dirt and rocks. We passed a horse camp on the way in and saw their tracks on the road. We also passed a section of forest that had been severely burned in the Rough fire 2 years back. The Spanish route worked its way up the mountain over some great ledges and boulder fields, and got us close to a series of small lakes including Spanish lake. However, the trail ended abruptly at the top of a hill and small camp area, and we determined it would be a long hike down a steep mountain to get to the lake, with an equally long and steep hike back up so we decided to enjoy lunch and take some pictures instead.
Heading back down the mountain we passed a few Jeeps on their way up. We got back to the RV around 2:30 pm and then had a beer and decided we could make a quick run down to Bald Mountain lookout with the time we had before dinner.
So, we jumped back in and headed down - and then saw Doug Rothstein making his way to Wishon Village. We said hello over the radio and James and I continued to Bald Mtn. OHV route, while Doug set up his camp.
James and I had not been to this section before so we both enjoyed the moderate trail and small boulders, until we got to the big slabs at the base of the lookout tower. We crawled up with ease and took some great pictures on the top of the hill. Now it was starting to get close to sunset so we headed back down the mountain and tried to find our way back to the highway. But we ended up coming out at the upper part near Shaver Lake so we got gas, and then took the long highway back up to Wishon. We made it back around 7pm and found Mick and Lori had also arrived. Plans were made for starting early the next day and then we had a campfire and went to bed early.
Saturday Sept 15th we met at 8am and headed out of camp down to Swamp lake trailhead where we met a couple of Jeepers from Nevada. They both had a full crew of passengers and were planning to do the whole trail like we were. They started first and we eventually caught up to them about an hour up the road. Once we passed them we would net see them the rest of the day until our way home along the highway where we saw them back at the trailhead.
Our group was small but swift with myself in the lead, Doug, James and Mick bringing up the tail. We stopped a few times along the way to add/delete beer, and take pictures. We saw many, many hunters along the highways and the trail for the first couple hours. Then we got into the rough stuff and barely saw anyone else until we made it to Grouse Lake. Doug and I had both brought fishing gear so we hopped out and tried our luck - Bam first cast Robin caught one! It was an 8” golden trout or possibly a german brown. Several more casts and several more small fish were brought in, each one released back into the lake with a story to tell their friends. Doug was using bait but decided to switch to a spinner and then he started bringing them in as well. After 20 minutes robin had 7 and Doug had landed 5 and so we packed it up and went on our way, grateful to have caught something.
After Grouse lake we headed down the trail past Swamp Lake and ran into some rigs coming the other way. This was a group from San Jose and the Mountain Transit Authority club (Mud-in-yer-eye) and we stopped and said hello. The were camping up at Grouse and said the fishing was really better at Swamp but we had lots of trail left so we kept going, and going, and going....
Yes the trail was long, and at one point all of us needed a little help from our winch lines to creep over some huge boulders someone left in the way. But we all made it through without a problem or break and I was amazed that we made it to the end of the trail by 5pm. But - we still had miles of forest roads and highway to get back to camp, and discovered that the normal route was closed due to a downed tree on a small bridge. Well we tried to find another way around but got kinda lost so we backtracked back and decided to try our luck with the closed bridge. Forest service had placed a large boulder (12 foot tall) on the end of the bridge to prevent trucks from using it, but there was just enough space to squeeze between it and the guard rail so we all made it across and headed back to hwy 168 for the exit.
We got to the highway after passing yet more hunters and campers and made our way back to Wishon Village by 7pm! Lori was relieved to see her man Mick because she was planning a little birthday party for him that night. Once we all had some dinner we sat around the fire and sang Happy Birthday to Mick and ate some pie and ice cream provided by Lori!! Thanks Lori that was awesome!
Finally on Sunday morning Doug and James both left at the crack of dawn, but I stayed later to enjoy some “trail omelets” with Mick and Lori before we packed up and headed home. The weather was cool and clear on Sunday and we headed home without any issues. This was a great trip and I was very pleased with home my newly upgraded Jeep did on the trail.
Ciao' Until next year,