Somwhere in the Sierra's (July 2018)


Well-known member
Part 1: We Arrive, and It's Amazing

July 8, 2018.

turbodb said:
Note: For anyone reading this "not in the family," it should be noted that this is a different type of trip report. Headed out with my Pops and his Jeep, there is libel to be more family ribbing than usual through parts of the report. It's all in good fun.
Our awesome trip to Idaho ended like no other trip we'd taken to date - in more ways than one. Of course, we'd found the Overland Trail, but more importantly we'd ended the trip in another state, with no pit stop at home to shower, refuel, re-provision, etc.

Instead, we ended up in California - the (north) Bay Area to be exact - for a quick shower, shopping, meal prep and to repack the truck before my Dad and I were off for another week of camping at ******* ***** in the Sierras.

And this wasn't just any trip - this was a trip to his favorite, secret camp spot - a place that he and his buddies have been going for more than 25 years, and which has remained largely unchanged in that time. This year, it'd be only him and one of his friends (the "old fogies"), and me; sworn to secrecy for all time.

About a 6-hour-plus-stops drive, we were ready to go early as the sun rose - both trucks packed the night before.

A quick stop to pick up our third man (though, let's be honest, I was the third guy) and we set our sights east and south, over bridges and through the fields - a sunny, warm California day making for a pleasant trip.

As is the case with every 25-year tradition, we stopped for fuel at the same places as always, and lunch was at the same burger joint - ************ Diner. I failed to get any photos of this place, but it's a hopping place in a small town, clearly a favorite of passers-through. The walls and ceilings are covered in old LP covers, and you can order pretty much anything you want, as long as it's essentially a burger.

Refueled, we headed out of town and in no time we were on our way into the mountains. Still on paved roads, Dad came over the radio to let me know that we were making a quick pit stop. I hadn't noticed any reason for that, but that's normal since I'm the slow one in the family. Of course, on popping out of the trucks, I snapped a quick photo.

And then I saw (or more correctly was pointed to) the reason for the stop. ***** ****. This thing is crazy - a truck-sized rock, balanced on a pedestal, eroded over the years where it stands. Definitely something you don't see every day.

But a quick stop was all that was called for - we had a destination to get to, and no time to waste. After-all, once we got there, we had to hurry up and relax for the rest of the week! Shortly we were on dirt, well into the "secret" location. With the fogies travelling more slowly in their Jeep Grand Limo than I could go in the Tacoma, I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the beautiful, mountainous landscape as I waited for them to make some headway up the trail.

Eventually we made it to a section of trail that Dad considers a bit of a "gatekeeper" to the camp site. It's not all that rough by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not something you'd want to take your family sedan on. Of course, the Jeep Limo is essentially a family sedan, so Dad came over the radio to let me know that he was going to, "Put it in 4Lo and raise the suspension for more ground clearance."

I found myself both laughing and jealous. Laughing for obvious reasons, and jealous because he apparently had a button in the limo that would engage a compressor that was continuously plumbed to all four corners of the Jeep. Nice.

And with that, he carried on, now noticeably higher on his 20's and street slicks. So Jeep.

Slow going, we eventually reached camp - fine with me as there was lots of eye-candy along the way, even if the road was a bit dusty.

And then we rounded the corner to camp. I think I gasped out loud as I clambered for the camera. I would end up taking dozens of pictures of the views from camp, so amazing they were.

In camp, everything has a place, and every place is based on tradition. This would be demonstrated on a regular basis - sometimes even hourly - over the course of the week. Lunch was at noon. Swimming in the creek, 5:00pm sharp!

And it started with camp setup, which was really more like a series of well-groomed rooms in the forest. "Tools and water over here. Kitchen stuff on the tables here. Rocks around the camp fire arranged 'just so.'" It was great.

Everything unloaded, my "young" muscles were of less use to the fogies and they shooed me off to find a place to setup the truck and my CVT palace. I knew just where I was headed - the edge of the ridge, above the creek, with a view into the valley.

And - even sweeter - getting level meant a bit of flexy-flexy. Eat your heart out Ben @m3bassman.

And then we relaxed. Books came out, as did crossword puzzles. A cursory tour of the area, and of course dinner was delicious and on-time. Eventually, our first sunset and campfire, enjoyed without the camera - there'd be plenty of time for that in the coming week.

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Well-known member
Sierras Part 2: Wait, Adventure Without Driving?!
July 9-12, 2018.

Having enjoyed even the short bit of dirt into our Sierra location, the next few days would be a whole different type of trip than I'm used to - we'd be sleeping in the same spot each night, there'd be no scramble to reach camp before dark, and any excursions were more likely to be on foot than in the trucks.

Come to think about it, this was the camping I'd grown up with - well, except that it was a camp site much more like those of my trips today (as opposed to the "crowded" camp grounds of my childhood).

Of course, such a trip means that times of day tend to blend together as routines are established (or, in the case of the fogies - followed to a tee) so that's how I'll relate the experience here... minus the out-of-camp adventures, which will get their own post!


Positioning the truck and setting up on the edge of the canyon below camp predictable of me to say the least, but I knew it came with a gamble. As usual, I'd want to be up early to capture sunrise, but I was unsure if the mountains around us would block the colorful displays (morning seemingly more finicky than evening).

Of course, nature has a way of working things out - every morning that I was able to rouse myself early, there was a unique display of light to enjoy.

Shadow rays, cast by what were essentially the only clouds in the sky one morning.

Pink poof balls another.

And there were of course the more traditional orange horizons as well.


One of the best parts of staying in the same spot every day was that mornings were lazy. Well, all times of day were lazy but for me, lazy mornings meant that after capturing sunrise, I could climb back into the tent and read my book until I fell asleep again...waking up a second time a couple hours later, to enjoy what usually ended up being a bit of exploration around camp.

Of course, I wasn't the only one out an about, enjoying the day before the heat started baking the exposed granite. Pops was up too - birding to his hearts delight with ******* **** in the background.

******* ***** always looked splendid in the early morning light, and of course the sound of the water rushing over the granite was music to my ears. I spent several hours over several days hopping from rock to rock, exploring the creek and it's immediate surroundings.

Of course, Pops and I weren't the only ones enjoying our surroundings. The other veteran of the trip was out and about himself, one morning reporting a fresh bear track he'd found in the road. Cool!

Eventually though, we'd all rendezvous back at camp, where we'd partake of a small breakfast and commence relaxation. Reading all around, crossword puzzles for the old guys, it was a tough life.

Until it got tougher: lunch.


Lunch every day was amazing, and I got no photos. Each day, Pops and I were treated to what can only be called a "professional grade" sandwich. Starting with a delicious sliced sourdough, the contents included deli meat, cheese, fresh tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, red onions, and of course condiments of our choice. Paired with chips and our favorite beverage, lunch quickly became one of my favorite times of day.

Oh, and I only made the mistake of having half of one of these beauties on the first day. From then on, it was a full sandwich for me!

Afternoon (Naps, and a Dip in the Creek)

As you can imagine, after a delicious sandwich and a morning of exploring, 94ºF afternoons were a perfect time to take a nap - and I tried to almost every day! But of course afternoons were another great time to be out exploring.

Some of the Junipers around camp were grand, and likely hundreds of years old.

There were blue-bellied lizards everywhere, seemingly engaged in the same enjoyment of the area that we were - out sunning themselves on rocks until we'd walk by and they'd scurry away.

And of course, there was just nature's beauty to take in.

As afternoon turned to evening, we'd head down to a favorite swimming hole at the creek for the ritual swim, the water in the 60's - refreshing when the air temps are nearing 100ºF!


Sunsets turned out to be amazing. Perhaps we just lucked out, or maybe they're always like this in such a special place. The entire sky would fill with color - be it pink or orange - and the reflection on the white granite ground would give the entire area a glow that is hard to describe.

(Apologies for the dump of photos - I culled as much as I could before settling on these seven.)

- - - - -

Well, that's my 20 photo limit for a post. To see the rest of the sunsets, as well as the remainder of the post, keep reading:
Sierras Part 2: Wait, Adventure Without Driving?!
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Sierras Part 3: We Adventure Out!
July 10-11, 2018.

There was plenty of relaxing around our camp in the Sierra's - and it was great. The way I see it, most of us live in the world running from one thing to the next, attention spans of a cricket. To really be able to relax, disconnect, and not worry about "doing something all the time" is an ability that's being lost.

Not every trip lends itself to this kind of relaxation, but every trip does have moments where this can be experienced. Relish - even look for - those moments; they are grand.

Even so, even this trip had a couple of excursions worth mentioning - one a fun 4WD road with spectacular views; the other an annual hike with a fun twist at the end.

Finally Some Off-roading - Let's Go to ****** ********

I don't remember if it was the second or third day we were there, but at some point, Pops suggested that we take the Tacoma for a spin up ****** ********. He'd been up this road once before, years ago and thought it'd be a fun trip - challenging even.

Of course, I knew he really just wanted a ride in the truck - having traveled his fair share of Jeep trails in previous decades, but now the owner of a Jeep limo that rarely gets dusty. 🤣

Not to be rushed, we set off just before noon, delicious sandwiches and freshly picked cherries packed for the end of the trail. Our first stop was the ************* Ranger Station, where Pops went in to say hi to the ranger (they're buddies after all these years) and I marveled at the only other vehicle parked outside - another Tacoma of course.

In good time, and after a bit of birding in the nearby meadow, we were off - along a nearby dirt spur looking for ****** ******** **. Our first few attempts at finding it were unsuccessful, Pops memory clearly fading over the years! But, after some exploration (fun in itself!), we eventually stumbled upon the right road and headed up.

Most of the road was dusty and bumpy, but still relatively mellow as roads go. It was clearly well-enough traveled, but not so well traveled as to be extremely wide or have the grass between the two tracks beaten down. And, there were a few spots that had some nice granite rocks and ledges that we could climb over.

And then, as we neared the end of the trail, finally getting up around the treeline and to the top of the ridge, the trail really got fun. Steeper grades, some narrow sections, and a few off-camber moments kept us on our toes.

Not to mention the views!

We continued up - Dad popping out of the truck for a moment to take a few photos, and then me doing the same thing! It was a great time that I think we both really enjoyed.

Eventually of course, we got to the top - and the 360º views were splendid. To the north we could see the pass to ******** ******. To the south, the *********** river and watershed.

And of course to the west, we could see Little Bear Hill and our camp site in the midground.

We parked the truck in some of the only shade we could find, the spot reminding me of @Blackdawg's plunge on The De-Tour, and then sat in the shade of a nearby tree to enjoy the deluxe sandwiches we'd brought for lunch and the sights all around.

Eventually of course, we realized that we should get back - we had an important swimming at 5:00pm schedule to keep, so we climbed back into the truck, released the parking brake, and headed back along the ridge and down ****** ******** **.

It was a great excursion and fun to get in the truck with Pops - something he doesn't generally get to do on these trips any more. But it's hard to say if it was more beautiful than a hike we went on the following day...

The Annual Trip up Lost Knife Knoll

The trip up to ****** ******** was fun, but there was true hype around our hike up Lost Knife Knoll. Big grins would come over Dad and his buddy's faces when they talked about the knoll, but I had no idea the reason behind that.

At any rate, we headed out one morning - well, around 11:30am really - to enjoy the height of the summer heat on our few mile, couple thousand foot climb. "Awesome."

And, since we were going up, we started by going down - down to a pretty major bridge that was part of the ******* *****, and which crossed ******* ***** a quarter mile upstream from our swimming hole.

- - - - -

Well, that's my 20 photo limit for a post. To see the rest of the hike and hear about Lost Knife Knoll, as well as the remainder of the post, keep reading:
Sierras Part 3: We Adventure Out!
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Well-known member
July 12, 2018.

"Dan?" I only half heard Pops say, rousing me from my afternoon nap.


Pops said:
There's been an incident in camp, and we're pretty much all packed up.
Well, I can tell you that getting awoken to that kind of news really gets your heart pumping. Especially with the type of afternoon we'd had so far. But, as is often the case with my stories, I'm getting ahead of myself... let's back up for a moment.

Our day had been relaxing as usual - I forget the specifics of what we did, but it was mostly around camp and likely involved plenty of reading and taking in of the nature. As lunch rolled around, we of course placed our "orders" and thoroughly enjoyed the sandwiches when they were presented to us.

And, as we ate them, we watched a lightning and thunderstorm in the distance.

This of course wasn't the first such storm to be seen at ******* *****- in fact, we'd seen others in the late afternoons and evenings a canyon or two over - but it was the first one we thought might make it's way up our canyon.

As it approached, I figured it'd be a good time to go close the windows and sunroof on the truck - you know, just in case. And of course, I took a couple photos, one as I went down to the truck, and one as I headed back to camp. Clearly this thunderstorm was coming our way.

Back in camp, we all settled in to read a bit more. I believe a communication was authored (to be sent later when cell reception was momentarily available on a hike to a summit or some such) along the lines of "Rained a bit this afternoon, it was pleasant."

And then, it started to pour. A torrential downpour. Maybe half an inch of rain in 15 minutes. A bolt of lightning struck not too far away - not measured in fractions of a mile, but in hundreds of feet.

We scrambled, as you can imagine. Electronics were gathered up; the kitchen was put away; things that needed to be covered, were. Mostly.

We climbed into Dad's Jeep, all wet (but still warm - it was still a balmy 85ºF) and commenced more relaxation - reading our books, and having a generally good time.

As the downpour let up, we ventured back to outside - ready to commence our normal activities. And for me, that meant looking out at the weather and figuring there was a good chance we'd see another downpour or two - so I headed down to my tent to read and take a nap.

And, if I'm honest, the reading lasted about 15 minutes - and then it was just nap.

A good 90 minutes later, I was roused from my sleep - "There's been an incident in camp, and we're pretty much all packed up." Turns out that after the second downpour, Dad and his buddy decided to move their sleeping bags into the tent they'd setup the night before. See - generally, they each lay a large tarp on the ground, then several pads and sleeping bags on top of that, and then fold the tarp back over everything during the day to protect their "under the stars" sleeping arrangements from dust, rain, and the like. But when they went to move their gear, the tarps hadn't done their job.

And not just by a little bit - everything was soaked, through and through.

Now, one could argue that perhaps like the fogies, 25-year old tarps may not be at the top of their game. But we were all polite enough not to bring that up on the trip itself. Instead, we commiserated about the bummer (given the blue we could now see in the sky) and I set about packing up my tent and getting the truck outfitted for the drive out.

Of course, we needed a few final photos, and so we maneuvered the trucks into position for our parting shots!

And with that, we were off! Another trip to ******* ***** in the bag - my first, and all of us hoping there were many more to come.

- - - - -​

July 13, 2018.

Back in the Bay Area, I picked up @mrs.turbodb and we headed north - one more night of camping to cap our three weeks of adventure. We were both looking forward to it, knowing that we'd be near Mt. Shasta and Castle Crags right around the time we'd want to setup camp.

We weren't sure exactly where we were going to camp for the night; we only knew that it wouldn't be at Castle Crags State Park, our allergy to campgrounds and their associated noise strong on our last night. So, as we neared the area, we decided to explore up a forest road towards Girard Ridge and see what we could find.

Initially of course, we found Girard Ridge Lookout. This is a cool place with great views, and not your standard fire lookout. This one's been decommissioned from that duty and is now rentable ($75/night) on a first come, first serve basis.

Somewhat surprised to be the only ones there, we figured we could probably do better if we set out for something a bit more off the beaten path, and so with an hour or two before sunset we started exploring. We were pleasantly surprised with the roads we found, a couple of them looking promising - lightly traveled, along ridges, and dead ends that meant we wouldn't see any through-traffic.

Then, we stumbled on a logging platform above a clear cut. And, while I don't generally love the concept of clear cuts, they do make for some great views. And this logging platform made for a great camp site.

As we high-fived our good fortune, a bear ran across the road! So cool.

With both Castle Crags and Mt. Shasta in the background, we'd totally scored; the view out of our tent one that commercials are made of.

Having already eaten, and tired from a long day of driving, we decided it'd be a good evening to just read, relax, and enjoy the sunset and view out the tent window. Well, as usual - for me at least - the reading led to sleeping, and I nearly missed sunset!

Luckily the camera was already in the tent, so a quick click of the lens and I went right back to sleep. A bit of rain fell overnight, but the air temps were warmish, and there was a bit of a breeze - so by morning the tent was dry again; always nice on the last day of a trip.

Oh, and sunrise. Yeah, it was pretty nice too from the tent - complete with a rainbow.

By 8:00am we pulled ourselves out of bed - another long day of driving in front of us to get home. And as the sky cleared and the sun lit up Castle Crags, we folded up the tent for the last time. It'd been a great three weeks on the WABDR, in Idaho with friends, and exploring the Sierra's in California!



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Wow, great spots and photography, i wish i had the uncensored version, i wanna know where you can find uncrowded dispersed camping with scenery like that!


New member
Nice TR! I'm usually go-go-go on road trips, need to slow down and enjoy a few days in one spot one of these times...

Interestingly I've been in that area the last couple summers and I think I know exactly where that camp spot is. Might have to check it out next time. I'm not one to post locations either so no worries there!

Thanks for posting!