Howdy all. This is my first real post on this forum, but I've been into back country 4x4 camping and adventure motorcycling for many years, as well as just using my own two feet to explore. I thought I'd post up a trip my girl friend, our dog, and I took last June in and around the Owens Valley of California. (Sorry, despite the title there will be no pillow fighting coeds during this report. There will be lots of back country Tacoma porn however.) While I'd been through the area along HWY 395 many times I'd never explored the area immediately surrounding Bishop. Armed with my trusty guide book "Guide to Northern CA Back Roads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles A. Wells we set off from Santa Cruz, CA, to the east side of The Sierra.
But first introductions....
I'm Todd. The guy that drives, takes pics, fixes stuff, chops wood, etc...
This is Juniper. She navigates, tells me not to go down that trail, when I do go down said trail and it's blocked forcing me to turn around in a very awkward spot she says, "I told you so."
This is Kona. She sleeps, eats, chases assorted critters through the brush, sleeps, and keeps us warm when we're sleeping. She's part Beagle, part Lab, and all love.
And this is my Taco Stand. I've had two of the first generation Tacomas that were four banger regular cabs and they did just fine. This is my first new truck and I plan on keeping it mostly stock. The first thing I did was put 265/75/R16 BFG ATs on it, which I love. I took a salesmens advice and got a Snug Top camper shell, which I haven't been pleased with. While the shell itself is fine and very quiet/warm the hard ware for the door and windows (if you don't have side windows you really need to get them!) is complete junk. I had an ARE on my last truck that I really liked. I got a smoking deal on a Yakima Rack, so that's what's there. I'm not exactly happy with it, but the price was too good to pass up. I also added some recovery gear. I would like to get an OME lift, as the stock suspension is lacking. (Not that I expected anything different.) I really need to get more power outta this truck, as the bigger tires really slow it down. I'm researching whether or not I should regear it or trade it in for a V6. I'm starting to lean heavily towards the 6...
Our goal for the day was to drive from Santa Cruz, through Yosemite via 120, and camp along the short, but unbelievably scenic Laurel Lakes Trail near Mammoth, CA.
We found an awesome spot about half way up right along the creek.
There were several other camp sites, but we were the only people there.
The creek was flowing pretty good from all the snow melt.
As evening turned to night the wind picked up something fierce! We barely finished dinner when we had to take refuge in the camper drinking red wine and talking, with Kona snuggled up tight between us. Times like this make me happy to be alive and thankfull for what I have.
The next morning we made our way up to the lake. Luckily we were the only people on the road at this time. I've heard this road can get very congested, what with it's beauty and close proximity to Mammoth and 395, coupled with it being rather narrow for the last half.
This was a very high snow year and I knew the chances of actually making it to the lake this early were slim.
Can you say twenty point turn...
Oh well. I'm sure we'll be back another time to see the lake. If not there's plenty more on the east side to explore and I gotta say these views, well they're worth the trip by themselves!
I don't plan my trips ahead of time so after returning to 395 we had to decide were to go next. I was torn between going to a very remote hot springs north of the Bodie Hills in an area I've explored extensivley or going south and exploring some new areas around Bishop. Spending some quality time alone in the desert with Juniper and a hot tub sounded like a lot of fun, but then again I had just been out there two weeks before on my bike, albeit solo.
I figured we could always stop by the spring on the way back home so we headed south towards Bishop with the goal of seeing how far we could get up the road to White mountain, but first a stop at Convict Lake. I normally avoid these developed types of places, but from the pictures we'd seen we had to take a look. We were not disappointed! I could definatly see coming back here and staying a coupla days. Do some fishing and hiking, maybe even bring my kayak.
We did however have some trouble trying to convince Kona that going out on the deck to take a picture was a perfectly safe thing to do...
I guess it'll have to be a solo shot of Juniper and the lake.
We didn't stay long though, as we knew it was gonna be a long day exploring The White Mountains. Next stop Bishop for some gas and ice, then head on up Silver Canyon. Silver canyon was no joke steep. My little four banger Taco Stand was in four low the whole way. (I'm really kicking myself for buying the smaller engine, but at the time of purchase I wanted the extra fuel range afforded by the smaller engine...) It was also quite narrow. I was glad to have Juniper to keep a look out for oncoming traffic on the switch backs above us. It gave me time to find a good wide spot to pull over for a Land Rover descending the hill.
When we got to the top we hit our first road closed sign. There was also a guy in a Chevy that told me it was a major snow drift blocking the road and there was no way I was gonna make it. Well I always like to see things for myself. I figured he was probably right, but continued on against his dire warnings. After another mile or so we met a ranger coming the opposite way. When he started to tell me about the snow drift I thought he was gonna do the usual park ranger warning of the coming appocolypse if I continued, but he was actually very cool and said he had just broken through and I was welcome to try myself. Awesome! I have to admit it was a bit anti climactic seeing what was supposed to be a major drift. I easily powered through it.
Ok. Time for bed... I'll finish up tomorrow with the Bristle Cone Pine Forest, Coyote Flats, and Buttermilk Country. Thanks for reading... Hope to meet some of you out on the trail!