It was first slated to happen during late summer of 2004, but Robert switched jobs earlier in the year and vacation was non-existent. Not a problem, we would reschedule for the following summer. Four of us had ran the Rubicon several years ago and we were going to run the Dusy-Ershim together. Bruce, Michael, Robert, and myself made it 18 miles through the Rubicon and we knew we could do 33 miles over the Dusy. It was just a matter of getting everyone together during the same week to make it happen.
By the time spring 2005 rolled around, we had started an e-mail thread between the four of us to make plans and discuss equipment, vehicle needs, etc. It wasn't too long before the first bad news came from Bruce. The company he works for threw a monkey wrench in the gears and there was no way Bruce could make the trip. It wasn't too soon after that before Michael informed the group that he may or may not be able to make the trip. Some issues at work came up and while he believed it would not interfere with the trip, he was not certain. As it turned out, about 4 weeks before the trip was to happen, Michael informed us that he would not be able to participate.
Another snag came along which caught all of us by surprise, namely "Mother Nature" and her plethora of snow from the previous winter. Robert received a couple of pics via e-mail, around the 4th of July, that showed about 6 feet of snow on the trail. A contact at the forest service stated that there was a 25% chance of the trail NOT opening for the 2005 wheelin' season. Prior to the trail being "officially opened" for the season, the trail has to be cleared of the winter deadfalls. It is my understanding that some of the local Fresno, CA 4x4 clubs work with the forestry folks to make this happen. As it was, on or about August 1st, the announcement was made that the trail was open. Robert and I agreed to run the trail and who ever else could make it would do so.
Near the end of August, when we new for certain that there was just the two of us making the run, Robert contacted another Jeeper in California that had run the trail before and asked if he would be interested. Lee agreed to join us and so that officially made three vehicles in the run. As it turned out, Lee's father, Ed, joined him on the run so there was four of us hitting the trail together.
Our run date was late in season, at least as far as trips into the Sierra-Nevada mountains go. The trail head starts at an elevation of about 8100 feet and climbs to over 10,100 feet before the trail ends. While it would be shirt sleeve weather in Phoenix or southern California, it would be much cooler at that altitude on the trail. I packed a variety of clothes, not knowing just what to expect but needing to be ready for just about anything we might encounter.
September 23rd found me packed up and ready to head for California. I had plenty of food and camping gear loaded into the TJ. As I was sorting through the pictures I had taken during the trip, I had to chuckle a bit when I noticed the label on the pillow in the above picture.....it says "Oversized and Overfilled". That pretty much summed it up as to the condition of the TJ and the upcoming trip.
I spent part of Friday driving to California and then hooked up with Robert. I stayed the night at his house and we headed out to Fresno the next morning. He had booked a room at a motel in Fresno and after leaving his tow rig and trailer at Lee's in-laws place in Kingsburg, we pulled into Fresno to spend the night.
While waiting for a Lee's phone call on Sunday AM, Robert and I made last minute adjustments to our rigs (hey, we needed something to do!). A few extra ratchet straps were pressed into service, another bag of ice to go along with the dry ice we had picked up the previous day, etc. About mid morning, we heard from Lee. Arrangements were made to meet him and Ed about 3/4 of the way up the mountain where Lee would then park his tow rig and trailer. Robert and I hopped into our Jeeps and headed for Shaver Lake, the last place we would top off our gas tanks before hooking up with Lee and getting to the trail head.
About 10 minutes out of Shaver Lake, Lee parked his tow rig and trailer and got the TJ onto the ground. Everyone had done there maintenance BEFORE the trip started and so the only problems we were expecting were driveline or suspension related. Robert and I had discussed spare parts during the previous months and had the important items covered. The fact that we were running similarly equipped rigs made it much easier to ration valuable TJ space for spare parts. We both have a complete Warn hub conversion (including chromoly inners) up front and Alloy USA D44 rear shafts. We both run the Toys by Troy Alumi-flex suspension and steering so items like spare rod ends and cartridge joints could be shared between vehicles, if needed. Lee was sporting D60 RockCrusher full width axles on his TJ. We all were running t-cases in the 4:1 range, either Tera or Atlas II, and ARB air lockers solved the traction issue for all the vehicles. Robert and I were on 35" MT/Rs and Lee was pushing 36" Iroks on his TJ. We weren't going to be any more ready than we were. Robert had his Ready Welder II along, just in case some trail welding was required. Simply put, we were about as ready as anyone could be. It was time to hit the trail!
The first stop after turning off the twisty-turn road up the mountain was Courtright Reservoir. To get to the trail head, you drive across the top of the dam. Being from Arizona, I was completely taken back by the bright blue water. The lakes in Arizona (all 5 or 6 of them), are quite muddy, so seeing this water was quite a treat. I could have sat on the dam wall and watched the world go by for quite a while....it was just plain beautiful.
The dam is 295 feet tall and over 800 feet long. If you do an about face from looking that the sign (in the previous picture), you can take about 4 giant steps and step off into the canyon that has just a trickle of water still in it. You have quite an impressive view from atop the dam.
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