Northern California Land Rover Club 3rd Annual Shaver Lake/Bald Mountain Snow Run
USA California Shaver Lake
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10 Land Rover trucks from the Northern California Land Rover Club went camping and 4x4 wheeling on the snow at Shaver Lake Camp Edison and Bald Mountain Trail over the weekend Feb 19-21.
This was the 3rd year for most members and their guest on what has become an annual run for the club. Campers need to pack a good tent, cold weather clothing, pot luck, firewood for the group camp fire, and vehicle prepared for snow driving. 3 new comers came for their first time on this snow run (although not new to Land Rovers): Colin and his roommate Paul, Terry and Mark.
After months of anticipation, Friday finally came around and the day started with an early morning departure from the Bay Area. Group of 8 Land Rover left their homes from various places: from Pismo Beach, Aptos, Martinez, San Francisco and other places. All ended up meeting in Madera, CA around noon where each topped off and grabbed lunch before heading up the mountains to Shaver Lake Camp Edison. This 8 consisted of: Brenton (DII), Stephen (DII), Terry (DII), Lutzie (DII), Colin/Paul (DII), Mark (D110), Dave/Jette (LR3) and Ron (RRC).
Two others have agreed to meet-up later in camp: Dan (RRC), and Eric & his wife Jen (DI).
After arriving in Madera and topping-off, the group continued East on Hwy 145 and snaked its way up to Shaver Lake Camp Edison via Hwy 168. Climbing to more than 5000 feet elevation.
The drive to Shaver Lake Camp Edison was straight forward and non-event until the elevation hit around 3000 ft n Hwy 168 where the fog affected visibility - hardly could see the truck in-front of you. Speed was reduced to 1/2 from highway speed.
Finally arrived at Camp late afternoon. Refreshing to see snow yet first impression was snow not as plenty full compared to last year; with this said, immediate thought was will there enough snow to make the trail run run and challenging. Not case as the group found out the next day (more on this later) - plenty enough snow on trail.
Also more snow fall was expected tonight and tomorrow so the group didn't discount the possible of stuck-fest.
Thoughts of driving on the snow was set aside; first in order was to setup tents and get the sleeping arrangements setup before night fall, and then dig a hole for our camp fire tonight; thanks to Sasquatch and the crew - managed to get fire started quickly. Nice (pic 1).
Dinner was simple for most since energy was used up setting up tents and making sure setup to deal with the cold weather camping. The camp fire was blazing, and made us all feel good to share our favorite beverages. Best part of snow camping!
Eric and his wife Jen finally pulled into camp at around 8pm, and joined us for the camp fire dinner (pic 4). They made SMORES after dinner - yum! Dan came in much later after everyone had settled-in.
It was Saturday; the day of the trail run. Everyone was up and ready by sun rise. Breakfast was simple for most - at least for me (cereal and milk). Packed our lunch for the trail. And after a quick inspection of our vehicles and recovery equipment, off we all went. Pretty much gone by 8am, on Dinkey Creek Road (pic 5) and on the way to the trail.
About 10 miles of driving on snow plowed road, the caravan of 10 Land Rovers saw the turn-off to Rock Creek Road - the start of our snow driving adventure today! (pic 6).
Everyone aired downed to their desired pressure (very important), and lined-up the vehicles with winch and non-winch in order as best as possible, and also placed the strongest vehicle in the front and the back. Weather was nice w/temp in the high 50s in the morning Snow trail was soft and looked forward to whatever the snow trail threw at us.
Snow trail was not icy like the 1st annual run (stuck-fest year). Reason to start the run early to avoid the late morning sun warming up the trail and turning snow into ice - very slippery I as recall. The trail was very similar conditions to last year's run: deep snow, soft and had to keep momentum going in areas where the trail was covered with soft layers of snow or torn up and mushy to avoid getting stuck.
Objective of the day was to get the the start of Bald Mountain Trail. If the group got further than that, great. Regardless of where the group ended up on the trail, turn around by 1pm was a must to avoid the disastrous faith during the 1st annual snow run. It was fun and challenging for the most part, but that year was our 1st and learned our lessons - turn around before it got dark. Could have been fatal being out in the cold and passed midnight for some. Plus fatigued from recovery efforts, hungry and vehicles were getting stuck again and again.
Today is a different day; positive; sun is up but not hot enough to turn the snow icy. We all got moving. Didn't take too long for folks to get that all familair exhilaring feeling driving on the snow. Needed to stay on the existing snow trail and not create new tracks in the deep snow otherwise get stuck. Needed to be quick on the steering adjustment to avoid plowing into soft snow on the sides. Some returning on this trip with better tires, lowered psi vs previous year, or dialed the right traction control settings (LR3) for better results. Whether you drive a Classic, DI, DII, Defedner or newer Land Rovers like the LR3, driving on the snow was fantastic and different experience vs mud, sand or rocks. And seeing 10 Land Rovers on the snow trail was eye candy.
About 1 hr blazing on the snow trail, the 4 leading Land Rover trucks forged ahead and got separated from the pack (we communicated from the rest that we would check out the trail ahead). Ron (RRC), Brenton, Stephen and Lutzie (all in DIIs) went ahead to recce the trail ahead.
The 6 stayed behind and helped ea other get unstuck. 2 of the vehicles broke their cable winches during attempted recovery. Good thing nobody got hurt. Check out this video Eric took: http://lastnightphoto.com/Rover/2010-02-20/Shaver_Lake_2010_et.wmv
On the forefront, the 4 lead vehicles were moving at a good pace, and from time to time would stop and negotiate mushy part of the trail. Check out this video Brenton took: http://picasaweb.google.com/rovrflo2010/ShaverLaker2010#5441514790551490898
The 4 lead trucks made it all the way to the Trail Head; post snow season, this is the start of the Bald Mountain trail where some have completed during the summer all the way to the Look-Out tower. The group reached the trail head, stopped, and had lunch (pic 16) by 1pm. Being hopefull the rest would make it up there, waited for 1 hr. Time passed and it was getting late and no sign of the others 6, the 4 lead trucks started the return drive back.
The 4 finally met up with the 1st group and can see they made about 3/4 of the intended run till Eric was deep stuck in the now; buried in fact. Eric was really in a bad stuck situation (pic 20). We tried digging as much snow under the frame and yakking with a strap, but to no avail. With 2 of the winch cable broken, and vehicles with winches are in the back, we needed to re-think another way to get Eric out. A fellow Jeep owner came up and pulled Eric out. Walla - success. Big thanks to that Jeep owner and others who helped.
On the return home, folks were just eager to get back; moving at good speed; avoiding getting stuck. Then it started to snow (pic 22). Gave us more a good reason to keep moving. Certainly didn't want on stuck on the trail in the night and in the middle of snow fall.
All of a sudden, Dan called out on the CB for a break. Dan's foot was cramped and unable to drive his 5 speed. Combo cold weather environment and fatigue, easy to get muscle cramped.
After a few minutes of rest, the group all together started moving again and after about 1 hour of driving, finally saw the sight of paved road "Dinkey Creek Road". What a sight of relief!
Overall it was great driving experience for everyone both new comers and veterans on this snow run. Everyone was tired and hungry, and instead of heading back to camp and spent more time cooking our dinners/pot luck. We all agreed and decided to eat at a local pizza restaurant in Shaver Lake (pic 27). Good call as everyone was pretty much exhausted. Ordered our pizza and drinks, warm, sat in restaurant, and we were all happy campers!
After wrapping up the last slice, the group headed back to camp; some still had energy to start a fire and gather around to share their stories on the trail, and some was just plain tired and hit the slack rightfully so.
Overall is was a great trip; nobody got injured or hurt; nobody got left behind and most important, everyone had fun; Return to Shaver Lake Snow Run in 2011 for sure!