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Thread: Slickrock Road and Owens Valley, CA June 2012

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Campbell, California, United States
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    25

    Talking Slickrock Road and Owens Valley, CA June 2012

    We recently did a 4-day trip to eastern California from the Bay Area and had a fantastic time. We came back with lots of stories and pictures along with a few dents and dings (ok more than a few in some cases). We did nearly 1000 miles in 3 and a half days, and it was just what I needed in a get-away road trip.

    I've never done a trip report, so bear with me, but I plan to write up each day with pictures and videos. Note, the videos do have adult language. The videos have been started and a couple are already uploaded, so I'll post those in with each days' story and photos.

    Here's the original trip thread:
    http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...-June-28-July1

    And our itinerary:
    Thursday June 28:
    After work, leave San Jose for Utica Reservoir near Bear Valley off Hwy 4. Find a campsite for the night, then:

    Friday June 29:
    Run Slickrock Road trail from south to north (backwards) via Spicer Meadow road, and out near Alpine Lake. After completing the trail, we will continue NE on HWY 4 to HWY 395, then South to Rock Creek Lake, which is near Bishop. We can set up camp at any of the campgrounds by Rock Creek, so that we are set for the next two nights. (Instead we split up and some stayed in a hotel in Bridgeport, while others made camp in the dark at Lundy Lake).

    Saturday June 30:
    Run Sand Canyon Road trail which connects to Wheeler Ridge. This will be an all-day outing, but our campground will be close by (Rock Creek). The views from Wheeler Ridge are supposed to be pretty nice, so I'm especially looking forward to this one.

    Sunday July 1:
    Pack up, then run Long Valley Caldera trail for approx half day before heading home. (This didn't end up happening. Instead we had to track down a tow dolly... Stay tuned for that story...)
    Last edited by tizzdizz; 07-09-2012 at 05:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Campbell, California, United States
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    Default Day 1: Utica reservoir

    Day 1: Utica Reservoir

    We met with the San Jose crew and hit the road at 3:30 pm.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    The crew:

    Brad and I in my '03 Grand Cherokee

    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Ian and John in Ian's '98 Grand Cherokee

    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Chris, Katie and Geanmarco in his jku rubicon

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    Whitney in his '72 Wagoneer

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    Carlos (cap510 on here) and his family in his '94 Montero

    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Whitney had started with a bone stock rig three weeks ago and just finished a spring-over axle lift, new 33x10.50s and just last night at 10pm finished swapping his motor and started it up. The first real drive with the new motor was this morning. At first, it performed perfectly, apart from the occasional gas sloshing out of the filler neck.

    Ian had recently swapped axles (High-pinion Dana 30 front, Ford 8.8 rear), installed gears and lockers, long arm suspension lift, along with numerous unforseen cooling system issues. He ran hot climbing hwy 4 but otherwise did well. He also just fixed his Ac last night. How often do you finish your last-minute repairs and preparations early enough to add a luxury like AC into the mix?

    The only recent work on mine was some new sway bar endlink bolts, hose clamps for the vacuum hoses, new steering stabilizer and oil change, along with transmission fluid and coolant flushes. I also wired an aux input into the stock stereo.

    Carlos had a number of last minute fixes and tweaks as well. He brought his son, daughter and cousin and miraculously found us at our campsite around 11 pm.

    Getting to the Utica Reservoir campsite via Spicer Meadow Road was a breeze except for the last 300 yards, which were separated from us by a water crossing. One of the guys had stayed at the site before and crossed with no problems, but this time around the water was pretty deep.

    The first 3 rigs made it across fine. I had water up to my hood but kept my speed and wake and had no issues. Definitely the deepest water crossing I'd done, and I was probably pushing my luck as my air intake is lower than the height the water came up. Gianmarcos Rubicon had some water come in the doors but nothing too bad.

    Poor Whitney made it almost all the way across when his mechanical fan bent from hitting the water and cut up his radiator. He limped out and I towed him the last few hundred feet to our campsite. The plan was to run to the nearest town (Arnold) in the morning and find any radiator that would work. We had barely even left the pavement and we were already having issues. Oh well, nothing some alcohol and a bunch of engineers can't fix, right?

    So, we setup camp, had some delicious salmon and brie. Ian broke out his guitar and I got out my djembe. Oh, and we may have had a few drinks to kick off the trip.

    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Here's the video for Day 1


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Campbell, California, United States
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    25

    Default Day 2: Slickrock Road

    Day 2: Slickrock Road

    What a heck of a day. It started early with most of us waking up before 7 and Ian and Whitney starting the radiator hunt at 6:45. While we cooked and ate bacon and muffins, they drove down the mountain searching and wound up going all the way down to a radiator shop in Sonora. They just so happened to have the exact fit replacement part, only in aluminum! Not only a direct bolt-in but a nice upgrade over stock. They bolted the new radiator in along with a spare electric fan Ian just so happened to have with him. We packed up, ate an early lunch and hit the trail.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


    Since we were running the trail backwards (south to north), we hit the Staircase right away, and all navigated down it fine. It's one of the toughest if not the toughest obstacle on the trail, but it's easier going down than climbing up. The 3 boulders across the trail at the bottom were difficult to navigate around, but we made it eventually. (I may or may not have gained ground clearance by caving in my rocker panel even more than it already was).

    IMG_0283.jpg


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

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    We drove through several rock gardens, then came to Slick Rock. In the direction we were going, it was a steep climb uphill on a pretty slick rock (hence the name) that tops off with an off-camber left turn that will slide you right into a VW-sized boulder if you're not careful.

    IMG_0304.jpg

    Whitney's Wagoneer started having some fuel delivery issues (possibly fuel pump, possibly elevation/carburetor) which kept his jeep from running for long. He made it up the first 1/2, but then the engine died out, Ian towed him up the rest of slickrock, which proved to be quite a challenge once he got to the turn at the top.

    IMG_0309.jpg

    The jeep still wouldn't run, so he got towed up to the next obstacle. At that point, his passenger front tire got stuck in front of a big boulder which we couldn't tow him around. After an hour and a half, he got a nice strong tug, against the boulder, which wound up pushing that wheel backwards and snapping the back end of the leaf spring. After some inspecting and thinking, we finally put a strap around the blocking boulder and dragged it a few feet out of the way. Ian proceeded to tow Whitney's Wagonner through the rest of the trail, over every obstacle, without power steering or brakes.

    By the time we reached Lake Alpine at the end of the trail, Things were not looking good for the poor Waggy. Upon closer inspection, the damage from towing had shattered the transmission bellhousing and snapped the transmission mount. Both front shock mounts were ripped out, and the driveshaft was the only thing keeping the transmission in the jeep.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr
    Whitney decided to get a campsite for his jeep while we continued on for the next 2 days, and we would deal with it on Sunday.

    Check out the videos below:



    Last edited by tizzdizz; 07-14-2012 at 05:05 PM. Reason: added part 2 of video

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    San Jose.
    Posts
    83
    Looking forward to seeing the rest of it!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Montrose,CO
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    1,172
    Very nice. Beautiful looking country and trail.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
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    1,600
    Your trip report is lacking one thing....MOAR!!!!

    Great trip. Love the Waggie. Nice to see someone else on the trail with old iron. But I will admit, those newer vehicles make it look too easy!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Pacifica, CA
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    18
    Okay...where's the Wheeler Ridge/Owens Valley part....?

  8. #8
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    Nov 2010
    Location
    Campbell, California, United States
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    I'm writing it as we speak! Stay tuned

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Campbell, California, United States
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    OK, day 3 was a big day. Half of us had camped in Lundy Canyon for the night, and half were in a hotel in Bridgeport. We all inadvertently split up on our way to meet at the trail head. Brad and I got some breakfasty snacks in Lee Vining (sadly no ice cream, as Mono Cone was not open yet). Ian had to run to the nearest parts/hardware store in Mammoth to fabricate an air dam, as he was having cooling issues due to airflow with his radiator. We all ended up finding eachother at the Sand Canyon Trailhead later that morning, and we hit the dirt!


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    One thing I love about the Mono area is all the volcanics. The volcanic features are still young and the area is still active, with at least a dozen eruptions within the last 1000 years. Here you can see a (somewhat grainy) southward view of the Mono-Inyo Craters, south of Mono Lake. They get younger/newer to the north, and the youngest ones are actually in the lake. You could make a big trip of just looking at the volcanic features of the area without ever doing any real 4x4 trails. I also highly recommend spending some time at the Visitor's Center in Lee Vining to get a good idea for what you're looking at around you.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


    This is looking east towards Panum Crater, which looks much more impressive from above than from the side (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panum_Crater).


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    You can see the lava dome in the middle, with the pumice ring, made of cinders surrounding the dome.

    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    I wish we had time to look at it in person, but we had to find and meet up with our comrades to start our journey up to Wheeler Crest!

    Sand Canyon Road more or less parallels Rock Creek and the nice paved road and campgrounds in the glacially carved canyon below. Sand canyon is a separate parallel canyon, higher up, that is made up of glacial till (loose sediments and rocks deposited along the canyon walls by the glacier as it moved down the canyon). We couldn't see to the bottom of Rock Creek, but the views of the surrounding mountains and peaks were pretty neat. At the time, we thought they were awesome, and they turned out to just be a warm-up to what we'd encounter once we climbed Wheeler Ridge. We took a break for lunch at the turn-off for Wheeler Ridge and then started the climb.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Here's our security, Audrey, anxiously waiting for us to hit the road again.


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    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Although it isn't an especially long trail, Wheeler Ridge feels quite long because of the slow pace you make up the steep hills. At high elevations like these, the gas pedal isn't what it used to be, and you find your boot into the carpet more than you'd expect. It all adds to the experience, though, because it gives you a sense of how far up and away you are; that you're in a completely different place that most people never see. Anyway, there are some rocky outcrops and steep switchbacks that add to the difficulty of the trail, and if you're weighed down full of camping gear, you'll feel it.

    After a good climb, we came down into a bowl-shaped saddle with an unnamed lake and some sand dunes on one side of the bowl. We of course had to take the opportunity to enjoy the plush squishy ride the sand had to offer, as opposed to the bumpy rocky roads we'd gotten used to over the last couple days. This was a great spot to take a break from the trail and let loose for a bit.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    We continued on, and a short time later we broke out onto the side of the ridge, where we could finally see down into Owens Valley below. At this point, it started to feel more like a mission to get to the top, and things got a tiny bit more intense. We could see how far we'd already climbed, and we could also see the top, where we wanted to go. This portion of the trail is on the side of a cliff, or at least a very steep slope straight down 4,000 feet to the valley below. It was really exciting, as I'd never driven a cliffside trail like that, but being afraid of heights, it made me somewhat tense and nervous. Adding to those feelings, the trail wasn't cut flat into the mountain, but at an angle that tilts you down, off camber, to the downside of the valley. Some of the rigs were really top-heavy, and I could see them leaning quite a bit in the wrong direction when they'd find a bump to climb on the uphill side.

    How's this for a campsite? We just drove by, but it's gotta be pretty spectacular to stay there for a night or two.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    In between the cliffside portions, there were several very steep sections of rocky switchbacks that were fun to climb. We climbed for what seemed like days, and we started to see rocks different from the familiar granite (limestone, shale, etc).


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    We spotted an old exploratory mine pit ~20' off the trail and decided to check it out. Brad and I are college buddies that met as geology majors, and have done many field trips together. So naturally we looked in the pit for a minute or two, then dove right into the talings to see what treasures they'd left behind. : We found some pretty incredible rocks filled with quartz, native copper, and very nicely formed garnets. There are definitely veins of some pretty neat minerals through here, as evidenced by the small mine pit we stumbled on.


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    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


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    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Campbell, California, United States
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    25
    Once we made it to the end of the trail, we were pretty awestruck by the views to the north, south and east. I can't really guess but we could see for miles, and it was such a beautiful clear day that every feature was easily visible. We were looking down on Bishop, Tom's Place, Owens Gorge and Owens River, and the White Mountains to the east. This is what I came here for. I had wanted to do a trip like this for several years, and now that I finally made it back to this area, it was so much more fun than I thought it would be.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


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    Someone had the good sense to put an American Flag at the end of the trail, way up on the mountain. It was perfect to add to the feeling of grandness we were already having. It made for a nice photo-op too.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    Here's a shot from the valley below of what we had climbed.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    I'm pretty sure the American Flag is just on the other side of that peak in the center of this picture.


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    As we headed back down, we took in all of the views from the opposite direction, and I saw the things that I hadn't seen on the way up. I had some good music going, some great new rocks for my collection, and lots around me to take in.


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    (looks like something out of star trek)

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    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr

    We made it back down to Sand Canyon Road mid-late afternoon, and continued up that trail to an unnamed lake at the end. There was a firepit and firewood already there, so we made it our home for the last night. Can't get much better than this, can it?


    Untitled by tizzdizz, on Flickr


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    We ate a TON of food, we drank a bit, we played more music, and made the best of the night. We were all pretty pumped from everything we'd done that day.

    Here are the videos from Day 3.




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