After all the hard work preparing for Fiesta and the work from the day of Fiesta, we were due for a good off-roading trip. During the August meeting a trip to Shaver Lake was scheduled the weekend of Labor Day. The plan was to do runs on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was going to be the more difficult Coyote Lake trail, and Sunday was to be determined, but Bald Mountain was a suggestion. The Cal4Wheel High Sierra Poker Run was also in the same area, so we were attempting to avoid the holiday traffic and large groups on the trail.
Most of the group made it to camp Friday night and the last rig made it just before 9am Saturday morning, the group helped unload their camp stuff and we were headed to the Coyote Lake trailhead by 9:15am.
We arrived at the Red Lake / Coyote Lake trailhead with 9 total rigs – Mark & Avery, Buddy & Jamie, Dick, Bryan S., Rob & Dorothy, Bryan & Kristina, John & Mia in the 2 Willy’s, and Larry. After airing down we set off towards Coyote Lake.
The beginning of the trail is pretty easy and everybody knew what line their rig should take but unfortunately we did have some issues early on. About an hour in, a third of the way in one of the rigs was having vapor lock issues. After cooling down the fuel pump and engine compartment we continued moving forward.
We made it to Red Lake, had a quick stop for water and bathroom break before continuing on towards Coyote Lake. This second part of the trail is much more difficult than the first in general, and immediately after passing the Coyote Lake gate entrance is one of the harder obstacles. All in all everybody made it up on their own and we continued onward.
After an hour or so we made it to Coyote Lake. There was plenty of people there with most of the camp sites filled up. We found our spot in the shade, had some lunch lunch, but most of were eager to hop back in the rigs and head back out so we did just that!
The way out from Coyote Lake was much quicker than the way in; partially because it was mostly down hill, as well as a gain in confidence making it to the end already. At one spot the tail end rig got high centered, and we used the Hi-Lift and some excellent rock placement to safely get them over. Aside from a bunch of dust and the wind not in our favor this direction, everybody knew the lines to take and we made steady progress towards the trail head, and took the highway back to camp.
Sunday was an amazing morning — beautiful 70 degree weather and a sudden rain shower. The previous night around the camp fire we all decided that the run for the day was going to be a bit more relaxed, and likely involve some time by the lake side relaxing. Everybody packed their coolers, chairs, towels and swim suits and we hit the trail. The plan was to stop at Mckinley Grove and check out the grove of Giant Sequoia, do the beginning of the Dusy Trail — Voyager Rock [aka “Chicken Rock”], and then head back to Shaver Lake and relax for a bit before heading back to camp which is close by.
The Mckinley Grove was the first stop, and it was amazing! The trees had to be 30 feet in diameter or more and thousands of years old [which is young for a Sequoia!]. After some photos and reading the fun facts about the treats we continued towards the Courtright Reservoir and Dusy trailhead.
To get to the Dusy trailhead you need to cross the Courtright Reservoir dam, which can be intimidating if you are afraid of heights. There was lots to see, and the terrain in this area is very different than the terrain around Coyote Lake. There is a lot more granite rock and slaps of granite, somewhat akin to the Rubicon Trail.
We get to the Dusy trailhead with no issues. The Dusy starts immediately off with a small rock garden, and then leads to a massive 100yard – 45 degree incline on a granite rock slope. It’s not necessarily a difficult obstacle if done right, but the slope can be intimidating the first time you drive it. After watching a few people go up we get in line and almost immediately there’s some action.
The first rig, Dick in his white Willy’s Jeep gets half way up the hill and starts having fuel delivery issues, the engine cuts off, and he’s forced to hold the brake on the slope while we get him hooked up on a strap and pulled up to the top. The second rig, Bryan and Kristina in the Black Jeep, get over the rock garden but as you can see in the video there is immediately an issue, and it leads to an exciting moment.
The rear track bar / pan-hard bar mount had torn off from the axle from the bind and forces, which caused the rear axle to become extremely offset towards the passenger side, which caused the tire to rub the frame and suspension mounts and pop the rear drive side tire. This was supposed to be the easy day, so we were all at full air pressure which is why it was such a big bang.
The first step was to get the rig out of the way and to a place we could work on it. We got the Jeep strapped to another and secured on the 45 degree slope to change the tire. We then used ratchet straps to pull and align the axle as best we could so that we could move the rig towards a flat spot which was somewhat in the shade. There was lots of jokes being made, and plenty to watch but more importantly there was plenty of hands helping out and we got the Jeep moved safely.
Once in the “workshop by the trees” we needed to get the broken mount and original mounting point as closely aligned so we could re-weld it and get back to the road or ideally back to camp. We decided to work smart not hard and hooked one winch up to the passenger side rock rail, and from behind to the rear axle. Through some precision winching we got it in place and Buddy and Mark started to work their magic with the welder. After some “oh yeahhh!” , “yeah baby!” and “mmmm” comments during inspection by the welder, we felt comfortable to pack everything up start heading back to camp.
There were no issues on the way out. We did add one more stop before camp — the local store to pick up some stronger IPAs — but besides that the trip to camp was uneventful. We all had plenty of stories from the day and especially enjoyed sitting around the camp fire that night.
We had two long days on the trail, but all in all everybody had a GREAT time still. We did not run into any big groups or traffic on the trail which was awesome. We had some, it was their first time offroading on big rocks and we even had a rig get their first scratch! Most others have done the trails before, but would agree it was still a good weekend of wheeling. Everybody got home safe and came the next day [Tuesday] to the monthly club meeting!