Big Bear August 2008

August 2008

This collection of trails was truly spectacular and I highly recommend the route. We started on a Friday near the junction of the 215 and 15 and traveled to Silverwood via the Sugarpine Mountain Trail. I’d been up Cleghorn a few times and wanted to try something different. The views over the Inland Empire were great, but overall I’d say this trail isn’t worth revisiting as it takes a long time but doesn’t offer any especially gratifying experiences versus other trails that offer quicker access to the remote parts of the mountains.

Once at Silverwood, we traveled up the Miller Canyon trail to the Pilot Rock Trail which offers great views over Silverwood and nice terrain before heading to the Pinnacles Staging Area. I thought we’d be running into tons of quads and dirt bikes, but we basically had the trail to ourselves.

From Pinnacles, we traveled 3N34 (Willow Creek Trail) toward the T6 bridge over Deep Creek. This is a great trail through both forest and chaparral and has a steep little spur that drops down to a swimming hole called Devil’s Hole. I don’t know what it usually looks like, but the water was pretty mucky, though the surroundings are awesome. The last yards of the trail are tough, so don’t go down to the turn-around unless you’re sure you can make it back up.

By now it was getting late so we needed to find a place to camp. Huge thanks to Expedition Portal member bigredpigdriver for the tip on how to find an incredible campsite. It’s a small flat spot with incredible views and an amazing sunset seemingly in the middle of nowhere. On this trip we were trying out one of our newest glamping accessories – a small toilet seat on a metal stand that is meant to be “better” than squatting over a hole in the dirt. I actually don’t mind squatting, but I thought it might be nice to set up my throne on a little promontory on the topography to enjoy the view while I did my business. Sitting was quite comfortable as I contemplated my surroundings, but when it came time to wipe, things got ugly. As I tilted one cheek up, TP in hand, the cursed little plastic seat ejected itself off of the little metal stand which promptly collapsed. Oh shit, gravity is a bitch. I toppled, bare ass first, right in the warm, moist pile that a previously been a triumph in scenic crapping and was now to scar me for life. I just sat there in a pile of my own shit. Thankfully, this was my first trip traveling with a newly conceived hot water system consisting of a metal pump sprayer that can be heated directly on the camp stove. I kicked off my pants, gave myself a cursory wipe down, and hobbled dejectedly back to camp where Heidi couldn’t help but laugh at me. I heated up a couple of gallons of water and gave my undercarriage a thorough scrubbing so I could once again feel at peace with the world.

Saturday we lounged in camp until noon when we were joined by Yubert, an Expedition Portal member, and his friend Larry. They followed in Yubert’s red Discovery and we headed toward the T6 bridge. The swimming hole at the T6 bridge is super scenic and definitely worth a dip, cold beer in hand. There were a few drunk rednecks floating around, but it was far more mellow than I expected for a holiday weekend. While the others swam, I hiked up the Dishpan Springs Trail (the hardest part of the trip) to see if I thought we could get through. I’d been here on a motorcycle before, but never in a vehicle so I didn’t know what to expect. In anticipation of this trip, I posted on IH8MUD and asked if an 80 could get through this trail and the general response was “Yes, but there are two tough sections.”

Thunderheads had been building throughout the day and I heard the first cracks of thunder while scouting so I hurried down to get the others going so we could get through the tough stuff while it was still dry. Just ahead of us on the trail was a beautifully built Rubicon whose driver, Mike, had been through many times and helped spot us. Mike runs a Nudist colony but was out wheeling for the day (fully clothed) and became our “guide” through the rest of the trail. Here’s video of me going up the first challenge of the trail (locked rear, open front):

Even better, here’s video of Yubert muscling his unlocked Disco through the same section. He did an awesome job with the open differentials and defective traction control system though I must say that the difference in performance between the two vehicles is not surprising.

As soon as we got through this section, it started pouring but it let up 20 minutes later so the toughest section, called The Falls, was dry when we got there – thankfully! Mike, the nudist, went up first in his Rubicon with 5 point something gears and crawled over the boulders like an insect. He always chooses the toughest line and we enjoyed watching him crawl up The Falls which is a 15 foot section of very steep and uneven solid rock. It was cool seeing him navigate up it, but there’s no way I would have tried it.

Here’s video of me taking the bypass (locked front and rear) which still puts you in some tough terrain immediately above the falls. Listen for the scraping of sliders and bumpers and you’ll get the idea since it was tougher than it looks in the video.

Yubert then attempted the same section (remember he’s unlocked) and after much burning diffs and scary wheel in the air action, he made it through in a truly remarkable feat.

At the top, we all parted ways; Mike to get naked at his nudist colony, Yubert and Larry in the Disco back to LA, and my wife and I off to find a campsite. We found the most incredible site along the road that goes from Crab Flat to Big Pines off an unmarked spur road. It was an isolated, flat hilltop with views to the west of Arrowhead Lake, Victorville, and Mt Baldy. The sunset was unreal. We grilled up some bacon-wrapped top sirloin covered in blue cheese – mmmm – and enjoyed dinner with the twinkling lights in the distance while enjoying a few beers and apple pie for desert.

Sunday morning we headed along 3N16 to Holcomb Valley where we toured some of the historical sites and had lunch at the Pygmy Cabin. The meadow here is so beautiful that it’s worth a good chunk of time just to take in the scenery. We had considered climbing while in Holcomb but decided against it since the focus of the trip was the relaxing journey.

We followed that trail further east to Baldwin Lake and then joined the Rattlesnake Canyon trail which took us all the way to Yucca Valley. I didn’t know what to expect from this trail but it turned out to be one of the most spectacular sections. The views over the high desert were amazing and the terrain is super rugged and steep. There are cool meadows and some mine ruins to see along the way and the trail ends at Pioneer Town, an old Hollywood set for westerns where we had a beer at the saloon with a mix of tourists, bikers, and Jeepsters.

The opportunity to travel from west to east across an entire mountain range is very special and makes the perfect weekend trip.