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Latest Report

Barrett Lake
Sept 11-15

Trip Report: Stop & Smell The Roses

July 24-28, 2019
Trip report by Jason Stevens

Photos by Kyle Carter and Jason Stevens

Members attending: Bob Silva and Julie, Doug Rothstein, Steve Hermosillo, Bill and Matt Brae, Kyle Carter, Kirk and Jenny, Robin Down and Khris Capp

It was a great turn out this year. Thank you to everyone who was able to make it.

Here is the rundown of our adventure:

Bob & Julie, Doug, Steve, Bill, Matt and I started out early from Watsonville on Tuesday July 23rd to set up camp at our destination before the main group arrived. It was smooth sailing until we got above Shaver Lake on HWY 168. There was a resurfacing project and two lanes were reduced to one. Due to the merging traffic and FREQUENT stops our caravan became separated. Bill was in front and made the correct turn onto Tamarak Snow Park but due to traffic congestion Steve and Doug did not see him and kept on going. I was behind and stayed with them then communicated on the hand-held ham radio (no cell service here). Steve found a place to turn around and now we are stuck in the same stop-and-go traffic heading in the opposite direction. And just when we think we are back on track: Steve's truck is showing low coolant level. He pops the hood, touches the coolant bottle cap, which pops off, and there is a sudden eruption of flaming-hot coolantl Thankfully Steve is OK. He had coolant and water on board and we were soon on the move. Without the extra water, coolant and our radios this would have been a catastrophe!

We made it to the Tamarak Park exit and drove 5.5 miles to our main camp AKA Banana Camp. After setting up and getting a bit of lunch we decided to drive to the Red Mountain trail gate to see if it had been opened yet by the rangers. For those members who have not been to this location in the Sierra's, due to the elevation and very wet/snowy winter, many trails are closed for most of the year, however there is a very small window of time during the summer when the trails are open. 50, crossing our fingers, we headed out with the possibility of spending the night at Mirror Lake. The entrance to the park posted that all trails were closed but we wanted to see for ourselves. Because most of us had not aired down yet, it was a long (45 minutes), bumpy, brutal ride to the next gate. Sure enough, the gate was locked! We were tempted to follow a path someone had blazed around the gate but as members of the Santa Cruz 4-Wheel Drive Club it would look bad if we were caught and besides that there is also a very hefty fine. Although these trails are the most challenging, there are plenty of other trails to go on. We took time to air down the tires so it would be a much more comfortable ride back to camp where Bob fired up his magic propane torch to get the communal camp fire going and we settled in for some grub.

Wednesday: As usual everybody at different times slowly emerge from our campers and tents with coffee in hand to gather around the circle of chairs left the night before. We talked about the day ahead. The trail today is Brewer Lake, an easy to moderate trail to the lake with a very challenging last 150 or so feet slow crawl down close to the lake. We all made it with relative ease. Our group was the only one there at the time but there were signs that someone had been there not too long ago. Sad part is that we saw a lot of litter, beer cans and human waste along the way. I just don't understand as there is an outhouse right near the trail down by the lake. My fear is that someday these trails are going to close permanently due to people who don't care about the environment or how their actions affect others.

Anyway, back to the lake. Doug's first agenda when we arrived is to get his fishing line in the water, I was thinking of the same thing. I could see the fish jumping at the surface. Doug and I get our lines in the water and very soon I get one on " fish on " as they say. I get another, then Doug gets one then another. Bob sees the action and he gives it a go. Yes, now he is catching. The fish are between 8-10 inches long. I'm a catch-and-release kind of fisherman and I guess the other guys are too, cool! During all of this and the beauty of the lake, I hear what sounded like a large stone being tossed in the lake; it was a falcon that had swooped down to try its luck. The falcon missed its prize and ended up completely in the water. Amazingly it takes flight again and makes a couple of passes around the lake shrugging off the water and maybe a bit of its pride, just to land on the top of a pine tree across the other side. Soon after that, a huge crash and a crack of splitting wood. WOW, 3 boulder had come down from across the other side of the lake then hit a large tree sending it down to the ground with a vengeance. WOW again, all this nature going on around us, plus I did not mention yet, as this is all happening, a weather system was moving in with sprinkles and lightning and thunder in the distance. We don't get weather like this often in Santa Cruz County 50, Very cool. I guess at some point I should stop and eat some lunch, sure why not. After we had all eaten and the weather intensifying, we decided to pack up and head back to main camp.

At camp we called upon Bob again to wave his magic wand to get the communal fire going. We have now dubbed Bob the Fire Master. As we are settling into camp, we can hear the storm intensifying in the distance with unstopping thunder claps. Kyle arrived to Banana Camp sometime around 6:00 pm; glad to see that he made it safely. We are still waiting for more members, so sometime around 9:00pm we see a vehicle pass by on Rock Creek Road, which is about 75 feet from camp. It is not a well-travelled road especially late at night so we all take notice especially we then hear a vehicle coming back the other way. We flag it down with our flashlights; its Kurt and Jenny in their Jeep; they made it! Kurt and Jenny drive their Jeep to and from the trails (no trailer). Still missing some people.

I receive a text through my satellite communicator that Khris left Santa Cruz at 10:00 am that morning. It should only take about 4-5 hours to drive here from Santa Cruz but he arrives to Banana Camp at 10:00 pm. He tells us he was following his GPS directions to Shaver LANE --- not Shaver LAKE - so he ended up somewhere near Yosemite-oops! This was his first trip out here so it took him awhile to realize there was something wrong. He stopped to get a paper road map, "I think I remember those" and eventually made his way to us. I will let Khris tell you the story as I can't do it any justice. We spent the evening around the camp fire cracking up as he shared his adventure with us. Still missing Robin. He left his home sometime late in the afternoon; he arrived to camp around 12:30 am while we were asleep.

Thursday: Todays run is Bald Mt. We all pack up for the day trip. Khris on the other hand is having trouble; the check engine light is on and having symptoms. Because the jeep is his ride home

Khris chooses to spend the day driving into town to get parts to make repairs. In the meantime, the rest of us are going to have fun. The Bald Mountain trail is mild and very scenic. We all line up for a couple of photo shoots and some lunch at the Lookout Tower that overlooks Shaver Lake where on a clear day you can see the Fresno valley floor.

We get back to camp and call upon our Fire Master to kick things off. This is the night of the Tri-Tip dinner extravaganza. In addition to tri-tip, there is potato and broccoli salad, garlic jalapeno bread and many extras. With full stomachs and a drink, we sit around the campfire and share stories. This is the birth of the Therapy Stick: After a somewhat deep story, Doug gets out of his chair and finds a walking-stick size branch and hands it to me saying "it looks like Jason could use a bit of therapy, please continue". Everyone including myself were on the ground rolling. From that time fonivard, every night we would pass around the Therapy Stick, which means the person with the Stick is talking and no one can interrupt. This was Genius! Sometime during the wee hours, it started to rain.

Friday: Todays run was supposed to be Coyote Lake trail but it is closed. We decide to return to Brewer Lake as Kyle, Robin, Khris, Kurt and Jenny have never been there. Steve, Bill and Matt planned to return home. As we are heading out, Khris gets on the radio to let us know that his Jeep was acting up again and he was heading home with the others. Due to the rain the previous night the trail was dust-less and we spent another day fishing.

Now it was time for Robin to have mechanical problems. One of his upper control arm bolts had shimmied out. After much searching, Doug found an eyebolt in his spare parts box and it took both Robin and Kyle to "MacGyver" the arm and install the temporary-fix eyebolt. When we drove toward the gate entrance, Bob calls out on the radio, "how are you coming along there Eyebolt?" From then on, Robin was Rock'n Robin Eyebolt. Perfect!

Saturday: Bobby and Julie headed home today so that left Doug, Eyebolt and I to explore the far east side of the Bald Mt. trail looking for Hollywood Hill. Doug remembered this challenging hill when he attended the Moonlight Madness Run and it did not disappoint us. At the top of the hill is this steep V notch. Doug tried it first. He gets into position to make his approach; his first attempt was a little too far passenger, as his rear driver tire drops into a deep hole and the passenger front comes off the ground and the whole jeep shifted to driver and almost flips on its side. Doug expertly backs up to get the rig stable and makes a second successful attempt. Robin follows Doug's line and crawls right up. I am in my bronco and my inner voice tells me to skip it. Doug then leads us to a crazy steep, off camber section. Eyebolt goes right up without even barking a tire; showing courage and impressive skill. Both Doug and I bow out deciding to "live and try another day". This playground will definitely be on the trail list for next year.

After lunch, we're under way again. Doug gets on the radio and tells us he is pretty low on fuel; in fact, the low fuel light has been ON for a while! None of us are carrying extra fuel (note to self to carry extra fuel) and we need to head off this mountain now. I have been running the Bronco on propane all day so in a pinch I can siphon fuel from the tank, but we make it back to camp without another MacGyver procedure. We pull all of our food together and cook up this huge feast of steak, chicken, pork, vegetables, portobello mushrooms and salad. Then we sat around the fire passing the Therapy Stick around and listening to a classic rock station.

Sunday: Since Rock Creek Rd. leading to Dinky Creek Rd was open and an easier route to Shaver Lake, we decided to head home that way. On the way down the mountain close to Prather, Doug's brakes on the trailer over heated a bit and coated one of the wheels with grease. We decided after looking at it closely it would be fine since we were pretty much out of the mountains and steep grades. The valley floor was a scorching 105 degrees which I guess was too much for one of my trailer tires because it blew a little way out of Prather and near Table Mountain. Had a spare and with the help of Robin and Doug, we put it on and we were underway again. Within one hour or so my check engine light comes on. When we pull in for gas in Merced, I used Robin's code scanner. It turns out to be my 02. sensor running a bit lean, I'll make it home with that no problem.

I want to thank everyone so much who came and participated. It was such a good group and such a good time. I also want to thank Bob Silva for all his help; I could not do this without him.

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