Saturday, August 12th
Diane, Sean and Debbie and myself (Bobbo) loaded up early (7:00am) and headed off for Gorman, where we met Barbara and Gary. After a quick stop to feed the teens (they're ALWAYS hungry!), we headed north. The balance of the highway trip was almost uneventful, except for a blown tire on Gary's trailer, which required a quick R & R by the side of the 99. After a lunch stop in Kingsburg (which included buying another spare tire), we headed off UP THE HILL. Now, my old truck tends to over heat if it doesn't get enough airflow, so I hauled butt up the hill. Gary's rig runs nice and cool, but he was hauling a good sized load (3000 lbs. camper, 4000 lbs. Jeep and trailer, 2000 lbs. Klondike Bars), so it was first gear most of the way. Well, we finally made it up the hill, and the circled town a few times looking for camp. When found, Dorabelle campground was quite a surprise. Basically right in the middle of town, it was all trees and such and seems as though it was miles from anywhere. We got lucky with our reservations. The camp host put us within a 5 minute walk of the Shaver Lake. Last one in was a rotten egg. The balance of the day was spent goofing off.
Sunday, August 13th
Bright and early, at the crack of noon, we made our way out of camp, just missing our 9 am leave time by a smidge. No problem, Sunday was to be a "warm up" run. Nice and easy. We drove a couple miles out of town to the Bald Mountain Loop trail and began what we thought was the long side of the loop. Turns out that there is a cross over from the long side to the short side. So after only a couple hours of moderate wheeling, we were at the top of Bald Mountain. On the way, we mistakenly thought we were at the top once because we found a huge out cropping of granite that looked like a big bald mountain, but when we climbed some more and found the abandoned fire lookout station, complete with sweeping 360 degree views of the entire area, we knew we were at the real Bald Mountain. Come to find out, the fire lookout really works too. Almost on queue, we saw the smoke from a brush fire off in the distance. It must have started about the time we got there. We left Bald Mtn and headed north, trying to understand how the trails related to the map. Although we know now that the trail had crossed over to the short side of the loop, we didn't know that then, so nothing was making sense. Heading north and taking all possible left turns, we eventually exited the Bald Mtn Loop trail, which the brand new map I just got in town didn't show. Fortunately, I had downloaded an older map from the Internet and it showed the trail we were on. Come to find out, the Forest Service map we had just bought had a small disclaimer on it that not all trails were shown. Some conspiracy was afoot, I'm sure. Any way, we found our way out north of Shaver Lake and then made for camp in time for dinner. We also stopped in town at the local volunteer fire department, where a group of those volunteers were sitting, some dressed for action, listening to the radio for info. Word was that the fire was at the base of the big hill that we came up to get to town and the highway was closed. They also said that the fire was maybe 5 miles away. Hmmmm. I'm sure that in years to come, the fire will have been licking at us as we dove for cover, but at the time, I found that it was close enough.
Monday, August 14th
Ok, we were technically ready earlier this time, but some of us were a little "nervous" about taking a long day run that would leave us hours from town if the fire really was coming this way. So we procrastinated a little and then had lunch in town. After all, the cook (Diane) was on vacation too, right?. We ate at the Hungry Hut, where they had really good strawberry shakes. Afterwards, I had the thought that we could revisit the Bald Mtn area to figure out what we'd done wrong, and look for the missing side of the loop. Besides, we could check out the fire, from a distance, and get some idea of what we should do next. So it was back to the Bald Mtn Loop, only this time we went the other direction the "short" side of the loop. Well, within 30 minutes, we were on the same trail. What the heck??? So we revisited the fire lookout, checked on the fire, and then proceeded north, again. This time, I recalled seeing a very suspicious fork in the road that we had gone left on before. So this time we went right and it soon became obvious that we were now really on the long, northern side of the loop. And this side was getting fun. Lots of slickrock and boulders and steep hills. Definitely a giggle. After descending most of the trail (and I'm a little glad we were going down, up would have been hard in places), we found the intersection where we had lost the north side of the trail the day before. Now it was all making sense. After, it was a quick jaunt back to camp and dinner, with a little swimming to boot!
Tuesday, August 15th
Again, technically we were ready on time, but there were those of us that were still a little nervous about the fire. The road was closed again. So we headed into town for a late breakfast/early lunch and thought about it some. Since the Brewer Lake trail wasn't too far away and wasn't too long or hard, we decided to go there. The road to Brewer Lake goes past the Bald Mtn loop, so the drive out of town was starting to look a little familiar. After turning off the highway at the same place, we went past the Bald Mtn turn off and continued up to the beginning of Brewer Route. As promised, the trail was one of the easier trails in the area, which took us to within about 100 feet of Brewer Lake. Being a smaller lake, the swimming didn't look too inviting, it was a little muddy around the edges. But I though I saw a few rocks that we could swim off of and walked around the lake a few hundred feet. It was a little tricky, but I found a spot that was just swimmable. Debbie was the only other "brave" one and we jumped in. Diane and Sean followed around, but Diane put a foot off a log she was crossing and she sank into the goo up to one ankle. Sean being the loving son helped mom by yanking on her until she was pulled free. After the swim, I was putting my shoes back on when Mom decided not to wait for my help. Well, long-story-short, this time there was more of her stuck in the mud and it took 2 teenagers to put her out! At least one arm went into the muck up to her elbow. But a little cleaning off in the lake and we were good as new. With stomachs growling, we beat-feet into town, only getting a little "distracted" by the inaccuracies of the map ("It Lies!"). After one dead end and the need for 4 wheel drive where none should been needed, we were back on pavement, basically in the same place where we exited Bald Mtn the first time. That night it was Pizza in town, which was surprising good, considering the Pizza place is part of a gas station.
Wednesday, August 16th
Today, we set off to do the first little bit of the Dusy/Ershim trail, just up to the top of Voyager Rock. We took off out of town down the same Dinkey Creek road as always. As a small surprise to the rest of the group, we stopped at the Mc Kinley Grove, where there are some really large trees. Always an impressive sight. From there, we continued on towards Courtright Reservoir. The drive there was still just pavement, but the sight seeing was first rate. After stopping at the dam for a few pictures, we put it into 4 wheel drive and did the first little part of the Dusy. The rocks at the base of Chicken Rock were piled pretty high and we spent a little time getting my Jeep and the Samurai over. Gary made it look easy, but it was a highway by then. I had my doubts about Sean and his Samurai making up the 50 degree slope, but he did just fine. Mom was the very picture of nerves of steel while watching her baby drive up the rock. Once at the top, we parked off in the trees and had lunch. With full tummy's, we reversed course back down the slick rock, with only a little zig-zagging (once on top, all the slick rock starts to look the same). We returned to Courtright Reservoir with the good intentions of taking a little swim. Now it wasn't really a surprise, being that we were at high altitude, but the lake was just a little bit chilly. Ok, it felt like the water had been snow about 5 minutes ago. Once again, Debbie swore that she'd go in if I went in. So I just plunged in. Yes, it was just a touch on the cool side. Mustering all my internal fortitude, I forced back the scream that was trying to tear itself loose from my (shivering) lungs. I figured if it didn't look too bad, I could still get Debbie to jump in. Well, she dove in and I believe she started screaming about a foot before returning to the surface of the water. Fortunately, the air being forced out kept any water from coming back in and she didn't drown. She did look a little cold though. Her brother on the other hand actually had the foresight to bring a summer wet suite with him. He seemed happy as a clam, except that his feet and hands were a little cold. We swam around for a while and I started getting a little use to the waterÖ. No wait, that was the hypothermia. Well, I figured that as much as my feet ached, that meant I could at least still feel something down there and there was no frostbite. We dried off and started back to town. I swear, an hour after we left, I was thinking that my feet still felt cold, even wrapped in my socks and shoes. That night, we let Gary lead the dinner run and wound up over at Shaver Lake's finest steak house. I'd say we had some good eats and the cook got to take another day off.
Thursday, August 17th
Thursday morning, we went back to the same little diner and had breakfast. The food sure was good there. The reason we had time for breakfast was because everybody was ready for a little break, so we spent the day goofing around town and in camp. This also gave us a chance to change the starter in the Samurai, which was requiring a little tap on the solenoid almost every time. We also looked for a persistent leak in one of the Samurai tires. After no luck, we took the whole thing down to the lake and dunked it. We did a little souvenir shopping and checked out some nick-nack stores. There was also time to visit the ice cream store and have some waffle cones. That afternoon, the kids broke out the boat and paddled out onto the lake. Considering it was a rest day, we still did lots.
Friday, August 18th
All week long, I had been whining about how I came to do Swamp Lake and one thing after another had sent us astray. Well the time was here and there were no more excuses. We headed down Dinkey Creek road (again) in search of the trail head. We got a little side tracked checking out the campgrounds at Dinkey Creek (they have FLUSH toilets) and found a really neat swimming hole. But enough sight seeing, we were there to do Swamp Lake. So we pushed on and located the trail head. This time we weren't fooling around. We aired down, pulled the disconnects and put it into low range. Well, the first couple of miles were easy, and this was suppose to be the hard half of the Swamp Lake loop. Swamp Lake is kind of a fooler. It just gets a little harder every mile Harder Harder Harder Until it's a REAL giggle. We made it about 7 miles in, and it was slow going. Problem was, according to our info, 7 miles should have put us at Swamp Lake. In fact, we should have gone past a couple other small lakes. But we never saw no stinking lakes. We were convinced that we should press on and have lunch at Swamp Lake. We were doing good, all things considered, but the clutch in the Samurai didn't smell so good. Sean still has the stock gears. But we took it easy and kept moving forward. That is, until the "Wall of Death". We watched a couple of Toyota's go up what was a big slab of slickrock, easily steeper than Chicken Rock. AND it wasn't a straight up climb. After walking it to get a feel for what kind of trouble I was getting into, I crawled up from the base, squeezing between a big boulder and a hole in the granite. I then had to make a kind of lazy S-turn and then swing around to the edge of the granite in order to get a clean shot up a small step, where I was back in the trees and out of harms way. It was maybe 150 feet and there wasn't really going to be a second shot if there was a problem. Next was Sean and his Samurai, which up until now had exceeded our expectations (both of them). Well, unfortunately, the trail exceeded HIS expectations. Sean could get onto the base of the huge rock, but couldn't pull the grade. No tire spinning or nothing. It would just stall. After several attempts, I decided that if he was having trouble at the base, I certainly didn't want him having trouble near the top where it was sort of do-or-die. So now it was No-Way-In-Hell Hill and we turned around with our tails between our legs. Diane and I had a REAL GOOD time coming back down. For some reason it looks MUCH steeper going down. Gary and Barb didn't seem to mind not going up the hill too much. So we had a short lunch and headed back the way we came. Some of the tougher spots were more interesting going up, including one rock climb that was about 6 inches too narrow for my tastes. One good bounce and it would have been a 30 foot roll to the side, down into the woods. But we survived. If it had taken as long to get out as it took to get in, we were looking at a late night, but we made better time and had fewer stops, so we made it back to camp just before sunset. We later ran into some other 4-wheelers and talked about Swamp Lake. One asked if we had taken the "turn off" for Swamp Lake. I said "there was a turn off???î. I guess that's what I get for being new to the area. Another person suggested that we had turned around at a place called Rooster Rock, which was suppose to be past Swamp Lake. Come to think of it, I did see a side road and, I believe, a gate. I guess we should have looked there. Well, we're definitely going back there. Maybe this time from the other side. Problem is, it may not be a one day trip. We'll see!
Saturday, August 19th
Saturday was time to pack up and return home. That way we'd get a chance to rest up before returning to work. The trip home was a good one, although Gary blew another trailer tire just before he got home. I believe he said that he noticed it when he was backing into the driveway. Talk about timing.
My only disappointment was that we didn't have more time. I believe we would have needed another week just to complete all the OHV routes. There were more left to explore than we had done. We could have then spent another week doing things like renting boats and wave runners and taking horse back rides. Seems there's a lot to do at Shaver Lake. At this rate, it could be years before I get around to doing the Dusy again.