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Mojave Road Trail

We had a great time! 

We left about 8AM Friday morning and got out Tuesday afternoon with a lot of hard driving in between.  There was a lot of erosion in places and a lot of deep “whoop-de-doos”.  I did it 3 times many years ago and we would not see a soul out there.  Now lots of other vehicles and trails going every which way, making navigation very difficult.  Kim did a great job keeping us on the correct trail, mainly using GAIA MAPS downloaded to a tablet with built-in GPS for moving map capability. It did not show one of the historic springs, but otherwise was very helpful. 

We encountered the very steep hill with the deep spin-outs late in the day, so we took the bailout route.  We were all tired by then.  We had great campsites all 3 nights, however the second night was very cold!  It was 36 F when I got up, so likely about 30 at 5 am. 

The terrain included lots of deep sand, a few steep hills, some big rocks that washed down onto the trail at an alluvial fan crossing, two deep water crossings, and some deep erosion issues.  But no problems!

By finishing Monday we beat the rain.  But those of us who stayed to visit Calico “Ghost Town” had lots of wind (and maybe the others also) on the drive home.  On the first full day of the trail we all stopped to visit Fort Piute, built in the mid 1800’s.  It now has interpretive signs. We also did a hike at the end of the trail to see the scant remains of Camp Cady.  It was very hard to find and not much was left, but two of us did find it, but only after a long search. 

Written by Gary V.

Kern River – Fall “Recon” Trip

This was a small “recon” exploration along the Kern River above and below Lake Isabella in mid October.  The purpose was to: Enjoy to Mid 70’s daytime weather, scout out potential sites for a group meet, evaluate water levels and fishing opportunities in the Kern River, evaluate if the area would be a good base camp for trail runs in the surrounding Sequoia National Forest. 

We found most of the public lands below Lake Isabella restricted from the usage of overland style camping.  There are a couple reservation/fee campgrounds but they offer little for larger groups

Above Isabella/Kernville we found an abundance of campsite options along the Kern River.   We selected the Lower Springhill Campground.  This site is at 3500 feet of elevation. We experienced no wind the first night and moderate winds the second as storms blew over the higher elevations of the valley.  Nothing above 12 mph winds

We found the fishing in this area very accessible with no results in the catching.  We did discuss with other anglers who had great results as recent as February

We found the village of Johsondale to be spared by the 2021 wildfires and while it seemed active around the lodge, there is no public fuel station.   

The burn scar area along Mountain Highway 50 is currently being logged to salvage the numerous old growth trees which were killed in the fire but not burnt beyond usage.  The salvage period is set to expire going into 2023 so there would be trail possibilities both east and west in elevations around 5k-8k. 

This upper Kern River shows promise as a base camp for trail runs such as the Sherman Pass 4X4 trail; Poison Creek Trail; Cherry Hill trail;

Owens Lake / Cerro Gordo 2022

This is a regularly planned trip which is usually around the Memorial Day holiday. We had a decent size group camping, and a smaller group for the offroad run on Saturday.

There were 3 rigs in total for the run, and it was a great day on the trail. We started being a group at the trailhead, but they had a dual-sport bike which was having some issues with the terrain and hills and the group let us pass by. After that, we ran into only 1 other vehicle the whole day and no trail traffic at all.

Trip Details
Distance 55.0 mi
Total Time 5h 35m
Moving Time 3h 25m
Stopped Time 2h 10m

Elevation Details
Ascent 8,644 ft
Descent 8,575 ft
Max Elevation 9,577 ft
Min Elevation 3,557 ft

West Camino Cielo Day Run

Six off road vehicles from SB4WD enjoyed a leisurely stroll across West Camino Cielo to the towers and then on to Refugio road.  Nice views and warm (ok, HOT) temperatures greeted us along the way.  The group then split at Refugio Rd with three taking the faster way back down to the 101 while the other three headed down the North side to The El Rancho Market for a nice lunch to go.  A great way to spend a Sunday morning!

Cougar Buttes 2021

A small group headed to the west end of Johnson Valley to try a new location for the club.  Mark and I arrived in camp midday on Thursday and setup in a location that was away from others, at that time. The valley did fill up with campsites as the weekend progressed. Bryan Slattery arrived as Mark and I took a quick scouting spin around the camp. Dick arrived later and had to be retrieved from the darkness.

Friday morning we started full of confidence and headed straight to Cakewalk trail.  The first five minutes went well until I charged into a v-notch without looking for the best line.  I pivoted on the rocks and slid into a large rock on the drivers side (twice).  I sadly placed some red paint on the rocks and could not get out without Mark and his winch.  I later reviewed many You-tube videos and discovered that I approached this area exactly opposite from the preferred line.

We continued bouncing around the east end of the buttes to find a nice high view of the valley.  We then played at the east end for a while and Dick found a rock to high center his flat fender.  After using the High lift jack, Dick had a wild ride getting off the rock. We all determined it was time to head back to camp to eat lunch and decompress.

We took a cruise on Friday afternoon and found a trail that started easy and then proved to be more difficult than expected.  We pushed through with minimal damage and then sat and watched others create more damage. Once again I checked the you-tube videos and identified this trail as Hammerdown in reverse.

Darrell and Emily arrived Saturday morning and we all headed out for a quick spin around the entire Butte area.  That afternoon a few went for a tour of the valley and headed north-east to review the open sections of the King of the Hammers race course.  

After we returned home I watched more You-tube videos and recognized a number of locations that we stumbled upon and did not know.  We drove around Chicken Rock a few times and probably should have started there to build confidence and check off a requisite trail. There are also a number of V notches that we drove past without checking off the standard tourist list.  I had fun and will go back again in the future. Next time I will consult the internet to determine which are the “really important” rocks, prior to arrival.

Written by Tim G., SB4WD Club 2021 Club President

Tierra Del Sol 2021 – Second Weekend Wrap-Up

Hi Everybody !  

Although it’s taken me quite a while to get the wrap-up for the 2nd group’s TDS adventure, here it is.  But before I begin, here is a quick addition to the first group’s story:  Ken, Skylar and Paul went to the Pumpkin Patch…AND, Once Again, we had a Raffle Winner – Paul won a $100 gift certificate.  

Well, despite the weather predictions of cooler temperatures and breezy to windy days, the the 2nd group had a good sized group too !!   Because I wasn’t there to personally relate all the fun they had, I’ll do my best based on conversations I had with those who went.  I am sure there are hundreds of stories that will be shared, here are some of the highlights:

First and foremost – No one got hurt and everyone made it home safely !

The second group out to TDS this year had a great time !  Bryan Slattery got out there first on Wednesday at about 2:30pm, with Kirk, Brian F. and George, hot on his heels, rolling in about 3pm, so they were able to camp at the plateau.   Brent and his son Brian made it to camp about an hour later.  Dick got there about 4:30 or so and everyone took their time setting up camp, ate and had a campfire.  Darryl, Emily and her friend Amanda got there early Wed evening.  Tim and Maureen pulled in about 9pm and completed the Wednesday arrivals.  The second group  basically had the desert to themselves, so they didn’t need to put up the rebar, caution tape “gates” or taped off perimeter.  

Corey and his dad Brian, showed up Thursday morning.  Corey with his Jeep and his dad pulling in with a fifth wheel.  Bryan K. got there about noon on Thursday and if I’m not mistaken, Larry also got there Thursday.  Art pulled in late on Friday, but left on Saturday with an issue with his trailer.

The second group was kept mobile and having fun with 13 off road rigs – some built for the “wild” and some pretty much stock, as well as 2 dirt bikes and a Land Cruiser.  Here’s who showed up: Brent and his son Brian, Kirk, Brian F., Bryan S., George, Dick, Tim, Maureen, Tom, Terry and their friend, Corey and his dad Brian, Brian K., Darryl, Emily and her friend Andrea, Larry and Art.  Hope I didn’t miss anyone!

The weather although cooler, was great for wheeling every day – mid 60’s Wed. – Fri. warming up to the mid 70’s Saturday.  Nighttime temps were in the 40’s.  There was a variety of weather…sprinkles a bit on Wednesday afternoon and a steady drizzly rain during the night Wednesday night, but nothing to make the ground muddy. There were steady breezes every day that turned into the normal desert “afternoon to sunset wind” a couple times, but nothing that wasn’t tolerable.  There were quite a few tent campers, but no tents were flattened this year, with the exception of Brent’s privacy shelter.  The winds calmed down in the evenings, so everyone got to relax around nice campfires every night.  Thanks to everyone who brought firewood!!!!

Because it wasn’t the normal TDS week, things were very very quiet, with light traffic on the road for the first couple days with a bit more traffic on Friday and Saturday as a few more folks came into the area to camp and play.  Basically, the second group had the desert to themselves.

Journeys were made to the familiar places and on Thursday everybody headed out together.  But after reaching Fonts point the group split up with some heading back toward camp. Some of them made to the Ocotillo Wells training area, and some folks made it to Fish Creek wash, SandStone canyon and again cross country back to camp.

Of course there was plenty of toolin’ around by everyone.   Playing around in the gullies and hills due north of camp, thru the trenches and into the various washes. On 

Friday, I think was the trip to the Calcite mine, and after that, everyone went up and across the plateaus and down the other side to play in the Telephone Booth area.  The Ash Rock formations at “signpost” were empty of the normal crowds that sit there waiting for rigs to go up it. Just like the first group experienced, the second group had the same conditions at the “Rock Buggy” waterfall area on the north side of Telephone Booth.  It was a real challenge this year…the sand at the base had gone down what seemed to be 2 or 3 feet lower than we all remembered where it was last year. Tim and Bryan K. have rigs that are really set up good and they made it up the middle waterfall with relative ease. C-Clip hill is a scary challenge for plenty of folks, but Dick, Tim, and Bryan K. scrambled up it again this year.  Bryan S. gave it a heck of a shot, but alas, didn’t make it.  

There were Night Runs on Friday night and Saturday night.  From what I know, the only breakage/damage happened to Bryan S’s rig – with a scraped and dented door that happened on the Friday night run.

Camp disbanded Sunday morning with folks saying their good byes and leaving at various times. The winds for the drive home Sunday were pretty strong in places and the traffic was heavy for some, but the good news was that everyone made it home safely!!

All in all, it was a great week for the second group!!  Everyone was respectful, ate good, no one ran out of liquids, and everyone had fun.  Most importantly, no one got hurt !!  Thanks again: To those who brought firewood, To those who shared their supplies, To those who helped each other on the trails and To those who provided their mechanical skills when repairs were needed…Kudos to everybody !!!

I’m speaking for everyone when I say that, “we look forward to next year and hope that we can all get together again.”  (and maybe before then too)

Till then, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Count Your Blessings !!!

Happy Trails,

Jeff

Tierra Del Sol 2021 – First Weekend Wrap Up

Hi Everybody !  

Well, we had a great gathering again this year despite the fact that we ended up going in two groups and although there are surely hundreds of stories we will all be sharing, here are some of the highlights and things:

First and foremost – No one got hurt and everyone made it home safely !

Well the first group out to TDS this year had a great time.  Steve and Trevor got out there Tuesday around 2pm and were able to get the plateau for us.  Jeff also got there on Tuesday a little after 4pm. We set up camp and ate and had a campfire.  Armando and Drew came and dropped off his toyhauler and left to come back on Thursday.  Wednesday morning we put up the rebar and caution tape “gates” and perimeter, which worked out well, as it kept other wheelers passing around us and not thru us.  

We ended up with 18 off road rigs with 3 of those being “slightly modified stockers” that stayed to the easy stuff.  We had 22 adults and 6 kids that camped with us and 5 others that came for a day and left…so we had a great group. Here’s who showed up: Steve, Trevor, Jeff, Briggs, Paul, Paul’s wife and their 2 grandkids, Ken, Skylar, Armando, Rene, Eric, Tim, Austin, Hanna, Donald, Mary, Randy and his two boys, Drew and two boys, Joe, Joe’s son and Joe’s daughter.  Jason, Chris, Garrett and two lady friends came Sat. wheeled and left Sat. after the night run.  Hope I didn’t miss anyone.

The weather was great every day – 75, 73, 80 and 84 Mon thru Sat.  We had mostly calm to a slight breezes every day that thankfully blew the right direction and kept the dust away….for the most part.  We only had a couple hours of WIND and that was Saturday night right around sunset, and fortunately it came up quickly and died away just as quickly.  We had nice campfires every night, so thanks to everyone who brought firewood.  

Tuesday before sunset Steve and Trevor went to play in some of the little grooves and hills for a bit just across the road from camp, and came back within about 20 minutes because Steve’s fan chewed into his new aluminum radiator.  We ate dinner and had a campfire. 

Steve left early Wednesday morning and drove the couple hours to his house and brought back a couple spare stock radiators and fan setups.   He had the replacement radiator and fan installed by early afternoon.  It sprinkled off and on that morning and got steadier in the afternoon…nothing heavy, the ground didn’t get muddy or anything and we wheeled from 3:30 to 6 with our windshield wipers on.  We got back to camp and by then the sprinkling was quite steady and it was dark and so we called it a night.  Briggs got to camp about 2:30 am Wednesday.  

Most everyone got to camp on Thursday and so I lost track of who came when and where everyone wheeled…sorry about that.  Folks went on day runs and about 8-10 of us did sunset into night runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday’s wasn’t too late…maybe 11ish, but Friday nights’ run got back around 1 or 1:30am and Saturday’s got back before midnight…and of course, we sat around campfires those nights.

I do know that a backcountry trip was made to what we thought was what was left of “Twin Palms” and then on to the Radio/Microwave Tower on S22 – it’s the one that is visible to the west from camp.  Also numerous excursions were made straight out of camp and across the riverbed to play in that area.  Some folks got their first “behind the wheel” chance to practice driving over there. There were at least few times that a group went over to the Obstacle Course to try what they dared to try.  Rene led one group over there Friday afternoon and unfortunately cracked his T-Case open coming up “Byron’s Crack”  but his group strapped him back to camp safely.  He was ready to call it “game over” and just chill at camp for the rest of the weekend….but we talked him into pulling it and going home to get and rebuild his spare T-Case.  Trevor jumped right into action and in less than a half hour he and Rene had that T-Case out and Rene was on the road.  

Other “breakage” happened:  Trevor broke a rear axle Friday but he seems to break one or two every year…and he carries spares, ATV and gear oil and had it changed out in a couple hours and was ready for the evening/night run…and was good to go for the rest of the week.  Randy busted his front driveshaft during a night run on his Grand Cherokee, on the harder bi-pass at Rock Buggy, but he smartly was carrying a brand new one…and had it changed out in short order and was ready to keep on wheeling.  Saturday afternoon, Steve’s swing away tire carrier bolt broke while trying to climb a difficult ledge in the gullies, dropping the whole spare tire, hi-lift jack and carrier on the ground.  We loaded it into Austin’s Toyota and brought it back to camp.  Lastly, upon checking their rig Sunday morning Jeff and Briggs saw that they had gear oil puking out of the left front axle housing, so at least their rig made it till the end of the week. 

Besides the normal playing around in the gullies and hills due north of camp, every day and every night groups of us trekked up and across the plateaus and down the other side and headed to the Telephone Booth area to play. The Ash Rock formations at “signpost” were fun to go up again…we did that a couple times but we didn’t sit there waiting for rigs to go up it…had too much else to do.  Besides, there weren’t any of the “big rigs” out there when we passed by.  But on one of our  Rock Buggy – the waterfall area on the north side of Telephone Booth was a real challenge this year…the sand at the base had gone down what seemed to be 2 or 3 feet lower than we all remembered where it was last year.  Jason was able to climb right up it with his diesel powered Samurai and both Trevor and Rene were able to do it with just a touch of help…a couple guys pulling sideways on their winch cables was all it took to keep them from tipping over…so they made it up too.  

We disbanded camp Sunday morning with folks saying their good byes and leaving at various times. The winds for the drive home Sunday were light and the traffic was heavy for some, but the good news was that everyone made it home safely!!

I am sure that there are more tales to tell, and I’m sorry if I missed yours.  But all in all, it was a great week!!  Everyone was respectful, we all ate good, no one ran out of liquids, and we had fun.  Most importantly, no one got hurt !!  Thanks again: To those who brought firewood, To those who shared their supplies, To those who helped each other on the trails and To those who provided their mechanical skills when repairs were needed…Kudos to everybody !!!

I’m speaking for everyone when I say that, “we look forward to next year and hope that we can all get together again.”  (and maybe before then too)

Till then, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Count Your Blessings !!!

Happy Trails,

Jeff

Bradshaw Trail 2021 – A Newbies View

Written by Brian K., a member who joined the club recently

January 29th – 31st, 2021

I bought my Jeep Cherokee WK2 as an entry into off-roading. My photography was begging to get away from the heavily traveled roads and explore the back country where soft core campers and Prius drivers would never be found. This was the impetuous in joining on this trip. I could learn about the off-roading and see how others vehicles handle different terrain.

Surprisingly, the group wasn’t just men and their toys. A few females and even a teen joined. Everyone seemed cool and Brent was great to lend me a radio so I could listen in and be part of the chatter. I stayed quiet expect for an occasional poke about how my jeep was getting over 30 mpg driving so slow in the highway convoy.

The first night, we were getting to know each other. The preconception of loud and obnoxious off-roading types was disappearing quickly.  

In the morning, everyone began to settle in a bit more. We were ready to go by the 9:00 am anchors up plan. At 9:15 we set off . Easy graded roads lie ahead for most of the next 8 hours. We just needed to get to the trailhead.

It was a wide wash with severe wash boarding for what felt like 8-10 miles. The Jeeps rattled and shook violently back and forth. Dick had his Dodge with a camper shell and I could have sworn we would be picking the pieces up after the non-stop swaying and slamming of the unforgiving road-way. Finally, after an hour or so of this relentless shock absorber work out, the road smoothed and flowed east. It was an easy ride in the magnificent beauty of the Colorado Desert.

Occasionally, a jeep would jump out of the convoy and dart back and forth through the wash around us. The need to play was palpable. These roads were boring and we needed excitement. It briefly came with a small water hole left on the road from the recent storms. Most of the jeeps dashed through it while staying in formation. I could see from my position there was a fair amount of water and Emily hit the puddle at a good clip. Water cascaded up and over her jeep covering it with the muddy soup. I had just enough time to close my sunroof before I hit the puddle. I’m glad I did. On the radio, Emily expressed her surprise to the sudden not so clean shower.

It was Dick that spotted the dragging plastic splash shield loose from under my WK2.  I pulled over to assess the fix.  Brent had the ratchet and we were back on the road in 10 minutes.

In the afternoon, we pulled off to explore a trail to Chuckawalla well. I Wish I would have followed. It was the only side trek we would take on the trip. A missed opportunity.

As the sun began its slow decent to the west and the shadows growing ever longer. We set off to find the evening campsite. The turn off was about 10 miles to the east. We slowly worked across a dry wash into what seemed to be an ancient cinder cone lava field. The path was rough and I was worried about the tread on Cherokee. The other Jeeps easily advanced up the rough terrain but there was no way my tires would take the jagged rocks for long. Luckily Dick called it and we made the decision to back track.

The dry river bed we crossed looked promising for a place to camp. It was a ravine with a good 6-15ft wall around it. The camp would be protected from the desert winds and we would have plenty of space to spread out and have a big fire.

Camp was set up quickly. Each person broke away to make their dinners and beds before the blanket of night was pulled over the sky. Slowly each camper drug over a chair to feel the fire’s warmth and talk of the days events. The night was cloudless, the moon full and the wine flowed freely. It was a lot of fun to laugh and here stories of these new friends.

There is so much I don’t know about off-roading but I’m intrigued and look forward to learning. It’s more about building confidence. I don’t imagine myself doing super technical courses but having the skills to get in and out of tight locations as well as the GPS and Comms. is exciting.

The next morning, everyone was cleaning their camps and cooking breakfast. The sunrise was beautiful. The wind had kicked up during the night and was whipping through the desert scrub. It sounded like a highway even though we were miles from the nearest paved roadway. After a cloudless day on Saturday, we finally had some beautiful wispy clouds to diffuse the light and give some texture to the sky.

We broke camp and were back on the road by 9:00am. Joe and Bobby fell into formation behind my truck. It was baffling how Joe stayed standing in the sunroof for the many hours the day before and now again this morning. However, It did make great photo opportunities. Unfortunately, we only had a couple hours of easy road left before we hit highway 78 at the far end of the trail.

At the highway, the caravan pulled over to re-inflate tires and straighten up their cabs. Summer and I decided to head south and spend Sunday exploring the sand dunes, Salton Sea and Palm Springs. 

It was a great beginners trip. No major incidences. An easy way for me to dip into a world Im not familiar with. I wish we had more time. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and look forward to going further into this world.

– A dude driving a Jeep WK2