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My good friend @BCBrian and I had been talking for much of this summer about various trips that we wanted to take. The discovery that I have had my third occurrence of stage IV neuroendocrine cancer in 9 years (which I mentioned in a previous thread was suspected...it has now been confirmed) prompted me to shoot Brian an email along the lines of "Hey, I want to make sure we get on the trail one more time this summer - let's do something cool." A scouting trip in the Eastern Sierras was his suggestion. Both of us had been interested in exploring this area for quite some time. It ended up being an absolutely perfect idea - the trails were fun, the scenery was gorgeous, and the weekend was a blast. I have to give full credit to Brian for planning the weekend. I told him only that I really wanted to do Laurel Lakes but left it to him to fill in the rest of the blanks.

Laurel Lakes is the trail that we started with. This trail climbs to about 10,000 feet in elevation. July is the tail end of wildflower season in the area. We had to stop on the way up to take in this beautiful meadow.




Much of this trail is a shelf road with a canyon on one side and a lovely view of the Sierras for pretty much the entire trail.






Just shy of rounding the last bend and climbing the last hill before the trail descends to Upper Laurel Lake, we encountered some folks who were loading up a Jeep who advised us to park and hike the rest of the way. They had spent 3 hours digging out the snow drift just past where we ran into them - only to drive a couple hundred more feet and encounter a second snow drift that they opted not to bother with because the snow was even deeper than the section that they had dug out. We heeded their advice - there would not have been any safe way for us to get our rigs through this spot.




Upper Laurel Lake was very pretty.




After having lunch at a cafe in Tom's Place, we ran another set of trails - Sand Canyon and Wheeler Ridge to the overlook (according to the guidebook, the trail becomes more suitable for ATVs than 4x4s past that point). Consistent with the theme of the weekend, Sand Canyon had some nice scenery. (Not too shabby on the pic, considering I took it out my passenger side window while driving.)




Wheeler Ridge is rated "difficult" and is appropriate only for modified rigs - vehicles with armor, a rear locker and good tires. It is littered with medium to large sized boulders and has a number of sections that require careful line selection. We didn't stop to take a ton of pics but here are a few that we did manage to grab.
















This pond is just before the turn off for the lookout, at about 10,800 feet in elevation.




We came back out the way we came in. Since the boulders were now in the downhill direction, this resulted in some dramatic three wheel displays on BCBrian's part (sorry, no pics).

At the end (beginning) of the trail we decided to take a picture at this sign: "Most Difficult: Skilled drivers with modified 4WD vehicle"...just to prove how awesome we are.




Brian wants to know what the big deal is.




Sunday was a shorter trail day because I needed to get home. We ran a few quick trails. I only took pictures on one - Copper Mountain. More pretty scenery on the way up.






While Brian was scouting out a section of trail with some overgrown brush (good thing neither of us particularly care about our paint), I just had to take another picture of my most favorite vehicle.




This was an easy trail with some nice views at the top. The body of water is Mono Lake.






That's all I've got. I'd love to get back down to this area again sometime. Thanks for a fantastic weekend, Brian!
 

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This was a very interesting trip that brought us into an area with numerous trails, attractions, lakes and incredible scenery. I got to camp on wed afternoon and explored some of the tamer trails alone before Jen arrived on friday evening. Picking a camp site in an area I had never been to before was not easy as there are numerous campgrounds in the various canyons and at the lakes located in this area. I managed to find a small CG at the end of a heavily wash boarded road about 8 miles west of Hwy 395 that was private, quiet and just the right size for the 2 of us. The only issue was the mosquito's, which would swarm us whenever we were in camp and the sun was up. I must have at least 50 bites!

I highly recommend the Charles A. Wells book 'Guide To Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails' which was relied upon to guide us on this adventure.

Thu I took a trip to Chemung Mine and Bodie Ghost Town state park.

Here are some of the shots I took with my phone (since I forgot my camera :duh:). More will be posted once I can get them downloaded.
 

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On friday, I headed into Lee Vining for breakfast before running the Horse Meadows trail just N of Hwy 120. The trail was washed out just past the top of the climb, so I explored a dead end spur and then came back down to an alternate route that ran S and back on the original route. The scenery here was just stunning.
 

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If you go...

I'd like to throw out some recommendations if you decide to explore this area.

Bodie Ghost Town is a really cool historical site that should not be missed. For a more interesting route to the park, follow the directions in the guide book for the route over Masonic Road. It is an easy drive that could be made in a stock rig.

A stop at the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitors Center is a must. There are some great exhibits, a well stocked gift store and even an air conditioned theater that shows an interesting 20 minute film on the history of Mono Lake every 1/2 hr. This is a great place to cool down and relax on a hot day. Step out onto the rear veranda for an excellent view of Mono Lake.

There are several scenic drives on pavement that are worth checking out. The June Lake loop between Lee Vining and Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful road with great scenery that passes several lakes and small towns with many choices for food and swimming.... don't skip it. Stop at Grant Lake and jump off the dock if you need to cool off. Also, the trip up to Lundy Lake between Lee Vining and Bridgeport should not be missed. Head west to the trail head at the end of the road for some spectacular scenery.

The restaurants in Mammoth Lakes are (for the most part...) trendy and expensive but I found a home style cafe with great food for breakfast and lunch with reasonable prices. It is called 'The Stove' and is on Old Mammoth Road. In Lee Vining try 'Nicely's Cafe' for a selection of meals all day and near Lake Crowley make sure to stop and check out 'Tom's Place' which has been in operation since 1917! All 3 of these places are easy on your wallet and serve excellent food.

As for trails, there are a myriad of choices from mild to difficult in the area. Pick up the previously mentioned guide book and the AAA map of this area and get off the pavement for excellent views, swimming opportunities and exploration of ghost towns and old mining camps.

Here is a list of the trails run on this trip:
1. Horse Meadows. (easy)
2. Dunderberg Mill/Kavanaugh Ridge. (moderate)
3. Masonic Road/Bodie Hills. (easy)
4. Copper Mountain. (easy)
5. Laurel Lakes. (moderate +) This trail has 3 very tight switchbacks and a long section of shelf road with a drop off on one side.
6. Sand Canyon. (easy/moderate)
7. Wheeler Ridge. (difficult) This trail should NOT be run alone or without FULL armor and a rear locking differential. There are about a dozen tricky spots with medium to large rocks, some of which are also on tight turns and in between tree's, that make this a challenge for even an experienced driver. This may be the toughest trail I have ever run but the view at the top and the satisfaction of making it up and down without any major damage made it totally worth it!

We also ran a few unnamed side trails that were a lot of fun... but you always take a chance on these of hitting a dead end and this happened a couple times.

Overall, this was an excellent adventure and has primed us to return to the area with a few other forum members to explore the area again. Laurel Lakes and Wheeler Ridge are better suited to small groups due to limited space to turn around and difficult obstacles....

Jen, I am really glad that we could get together for the weekend and distract you from your pending procedure a little bit. You are a great friend and there is no one I would rather wheel with. Thanks again for your camaraderie, great spotting and excellent pictures!
 

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Seems like a great trip! I have met Brian only once and knew he was a great guy after that. Good job planning this, Brian!!

Jen, I'm glad you got to have at least one more adventure before your procedure! Wishing you the best of luck and comfort in the coming months and look forward to seeing more of your adventures after this is all said and done!
 

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I like the wheel offset on the frontier, have a link to your build? Wheel, suspension, etc

Sent from my SM-G935T using Tapatalk
It is in her signature. Stock wheels with a Titan swap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·

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Here are a few more pictures from this trip.

The 1st one is a shot of the switchbacks on Laurel Lakes Trail. The 2nd picture is looking back towards the town of Mammoth Lakes. The 3rd is of Lundy Lake. Next is a view of Bishop from the lookout on Wheeler Ridge Trail (you can see Hwy 395 if you look closely). The last shot is the view looking SW from the same lookout at 10,800 ft.
 

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thanks for posting pics. I have sv 4X4 but has no skids plates. I have been on burcham flat road then up to lobdell lake, dunderberg meadow road, bodie hills. thinking horse meadow loop would be fine for my set up. maybe I will get wild and install full skid plates
 

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thanks for posting pics. I have sv 4X4 but has no skids plates. I have been on burcham flat road then up to lobdell lake, dunderberg meadow road, bodie hills. thinking horse meadow loop would be fine for my set up. maybe I will get wild and install full skid plates
From what I saw on Horse Meadow loop, you should be OK if you are careful. There is currently a washout on the trail from the top back down to the hwy on the S side, so I was not able to do the complete loop.

As you progress to harder trails, skid plates and sliders become more necessary additions. While you can add them 1 a time, in the long run it is cheaper to by the entire set at once. If you upgrade the front bumper, then you can sell the radiator skid here to recoup some of the cost. Most of us run the Hefty skids. A lot of us have White Knuckle Offroad sliders.
 
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