Difficulty Accuracy: Harder
Trip Report for Ershim-Dusy August 22-29, 2022.
Preface: The last message to the group stated, “Again, the idea of this trip is to enjoy the scenery, Wheel without breakage, FUN! with short runs each day. Hit the trail by 9:30ish, lunch/snacks at some point/ travel to next stop. This will prevent fatigue and allow us to enjoy the environment! “
This was based on the fact that in 2008 Four Jeeps traveled the trail, with one full day at Ershim Lake, in Five Days, with the last day from Ershim Lake to pavement, including the drive back to the Tow Vehicles (60ish miles away) and home to Bakersfield. Having said this:
August 22 the group met at Badger Flat campground: Jessie and Jami Higgins (Bakersfield Trailblazers-BT), TJ; Rick Antolovich (Western Slope Four Wheelers-WS), Four-Runner; Marcel Aebi, JT-D (BT); Jess and Gigi Deegan, JT(BT & WS). The former and latter had both run the trail in 2008. Dinner was Steak and all the fixings. The order the first day on the trail, was the reversed of that listed here.
August 23 the group broke camp, having aired down the night before, proceeded a few miles to the White Bark Vista and the beginning of the trail. Immediately, the trail climbed to a 5, then floated between 7 and 8.5 for the next 12 hours. The trail was rocky, curvy, and at each turn either a tree, rock, or drop off required your attention. Twelve hours was driving time, which includes the time winching, towing, or simply spotting. Note that within about 200 yards of our campsite destination (Ershim Lake), the Four-Runner became a Three-Runner, severing a front CV drive axle. The group set camp, ate a quick snack and settled for the night.
August 24 the group broke camp as planned, with renewed belief that the trail would be easier. The order also changed, with the Three-runner following Jess/Gigi, so that the former could assist quickly as needed. Though not of the intensity of the 23rd, the trail remained challenging drifting between 5 and 6 for the 6.5 hours of driving, including spotting for the various obstacles (which were constant) and remounting a front tire on the crippled 3-Runner . Rejuvenated by the fact that campsite 2 (East Lake) was indeed within the hoped-for driving time, camp was set, and everyone enjoyed Pulled Pork, the fixings, and Tasting of Scotch. This was also the day of Gigi and Jess’ 35th Wedding Anniversary, with toasting as to such.
August 25, with the day before as predicted (more or less) and the group rested, we set off with Enthusiasm. This despite the fact that Four-Runner was a three-Runner, requiring lines that were not the norm. The early part of the day proved to be, again, challenging constantly, but the group reached Thompson Hill with reasonable time in the day left and proceeded down. As we proceeded down Thompson, we were confident we would be at camp before dark. After all, we were going downhill and it was a short 3-mile hill. Little did we know the challenges, given a (very nasty, RA edit) 9 plus rating and a vehicle that needed babying. At the 12.5-hour mark with three of the four vehicles having driven off trail in the dark (not RA), and exhausted, we set tents and slept.
August 26, with 30 hours of driving time having occurred in three days, we woke, had coffee and headed down the remainder of Thompson Hill. Four hours later, we found a spot close to the water (which was incredibly low) and set camp (Courtright Reservoir) . Early Dinner included, Bison Chili (with fixing) and Eskimo Pies/Cheesecake (or both). The crew of Marcel and Rick, then jumped into the Gladiator Diesel and proceeded on a Mission from God. With two of the four vehicles having not topped off in Shaver, and neither carrying extra gas, and both already having used another person’s 5 gallons of gas, the need was apparent that if the group was to SURVIVE, MORE GAS was needed. They also picked up another 10 gallons of water. The mission ended, about 8:30 p.m., having transversed Little Thompson and Chicken Rock in both directions and traveling 84 miles total. We also had Port!
August 27……we relaxed, finally ending the day, after canoeing/Kayaking/Fishing/Chilling, with Brats, fixings, and left-over whatever (cheesecake). Then God sent a sign - a stock Tacoma miraculously appeared, cruising the dried-up lakebed. Rick chased it down on foot to learn of a Lakeshore Drive, bypassing Little Thompson and Chicken Rock.
August 28, the group broke camp and having learned of the God Given exit, allowing the poor three runner to travel along the shore of Courtright, avoiding Little Thompson and Chicken Rock, to pavement after a short section of maybe 3-4. At pavement it was noted that everyone had suffered some amount of damage, though Rick won the trophy. (Marcel noted upon editing that ”the damage to the undercarriage on my JT is extensive. Will definitely be needing a lift and full armor”, thus putting the trophy in contention; MAYBE, Rick has some good body damage and needs an external cage, not counting the CV/AXLE). Total Travel time was about 40 hours. After some minor repairs and airing up, (1) Marcel quickly drove to Bakersfield, where serviced was required due to a diesel engine; (2) Jesse/Jami drove back to their tow vehicle, and Bakersfield, with work to be done later; (3) Rick followed Jess/Gigi back to Bakersfield, where everyone passed out.
August 29, Jess and Rick, with eternal thanks to Jesse, disassembled the front passenger CV/Axle and replaced the same. That afternoon, Rick was able to head for Northern California via the Owens Valley. The fact that everyone who started the trip were returned to their normal abnormality, Jess and Gigi had some more wine.