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West Lake Pre-Run

Submitted by John Labbett on Fri, 08/03/2018 - 00:00
West Lake Pre-Run

The group drove up to West Lake early on Wednesday July 25. The drive up Route 99 had a lot of smoke around it from the Yosemite fire, which was thick when we got into Shaver Lake. The good news from this was that it kept the temperatures (which were forecast at 107 for Fresno) down to mid 90s. The group consisted of myself, Dwayne and Paul R from OTR and we were joined by four vehicles from Waywegoes Club, based in Pasadena. Because Dwayne is an early bird, he got there at around 10 AM and went on ahead to set up his camp at West Lake. The rest met in Shaver Lake and had a nice lunch at Norms in town – last meal we would not be cooking ourselves for a while. After lunch we all headed out to West Lake and set up camp there right on the side of the lake. Beautiful views and very quiet as we were the only group there. We were pleasantly surprised when we ascended another 1,000 feet up to West Lake that we were above the thick smoke and it was sunny and bright.

On Thursday we set off to run the in and out trail firstly to Red Lake and then on to Coyote Lake. Both beautiful lakes and views. The trail between the lakes going out to Coyote Lake was pretty challenging and there was much spotting and quite a bit of winching. Had a nice lunch at Coyote Lake and as time was getting on, decided to move out. Great run back – it took 5 hours to get there (with much sight-seeing, chin wagging and mainly uphill driving) but only 2 ¼ hours to get back – shows what you can do when you stop jawing and put your foot down!

On Friday we firstly ran the Strawberry Lake trail – which had lovely views, not too challenging and pretty short. We then went back to West Lake and started on the Mirror Lake trail. This was a lot harder but we were doing well until we got to the gatekeeper about half way along the trail. This is very steep, off camber feeding into a large pointed rock and little traction owing to the dust and undergrowth. We spent half an hour walking it and thinking about different lines of attack and eventually decided that we would not run it. The main reasons were a steep off-camber trail with little to no traction at critical parts and high risk of sliding or rolling on the off camber parts onto a large pointed rock, where getting out would be extremely difficult. I was bummed – but I would have been more bummed if I’d damaged the Jeep and had to figure out how to get it back up the hill and then home! Next year……… We walked the rest of the way to the lake and had lunch at the lake. After lunch we went back to camp for an early and relaxing rest of the afternoon by the lake. Most went swimming in the lake as the water was pretty warm. By this time we had run most of the trails in this area – The Dusy trail wasn’t far away but we couldn’t get to it as there were no trails in that direction because of the two wilderness areas separated by the corridor that the Dusy runs along. On Friday night the “weekenders” came in and our solitude and quietness went out of the door. Screaming kids and loud music until 1 AM – time to move on! We had a big decision meeting early evening as one vehicle was damaged and wasn’t up for more trail riding and others were coming and going.

We jointly decided that the Waywegoers on Saturday morning would break camp and head to Shaver Lake town for breakfast, then go down to Dinkey Creek and leave vehicles unable to do the tougher trails there, re-pack and those that could, would make their way up Swamp Lake trail to Grouse Lake. Dwayne and I decided that we wanted to run the Swamp Lake trail backwards – i.e. from the north heading south and east – the opposite of what we did last year. And then meet up with the rest of the group at the Grouse Lake campsite. So we also broke camp on Saturday morning and drove only three miles on the main road to get to the route to Swamp Lake trail. During the morning there was news that one of the group’s relatives had unfortunately passed away and Lesa had developed a really bad back and could not continue on rough trails. So three vehicles left for home and one new one joined us – Jo and his father who got up at 3 AM to get there to meet up with us. The rest repacked, drove to Dinkey Creek and headed up north to Swamp Lake trail to meet at Grouse Lake.

It was a challenge for Dwayne and I to find the trail head. Many twists and turns to get there – it would have taken us much longer if we had not had reliable .gpx tracks doing it the old way with maps etc. We really enjoyed running the Swamp Lake trail north to south. It was very challenging in many parts and required us to do much spotting for each other and at one point a winching to relieve a turtle jam. One section was difficult enough for us to take about 15 minutes figuring out a decent line to take – which worked out very well as we got through it without any damage. Good or bad, they have built up the short section that we all had to winch up last year and we were able to get down it pretty easily. We had lunch at Swamp Lake but getting down there was a real effort. This lake is about half a mile from the main trail and about half way down we encountered some really difficult sections – so much that we left my Jeep at the start of these in case Dwayne couldn’t get back out. We walked down the rest of the way to the lake. I think you would need to be equipped with 40” tyres to get down there it was so difficult – I am guessing not many make this to camp at the lake. We carried on up the hill after lunch and enjoyed beautiful views at the top looking south over Grouse Lake and north over Swamp Lake. We got to the campsite at Grouse Lake around 3 PM and the rest of the group arrived about 5 PM.

We packed up and set off early on Sunday morning continuing on Swap Lake trail south. We quickly got to Rooster Rock (which is a fairly steep off-camber slab) and all got down this safely. Since last year a private property over which the trail used to run has been fenced off. So they since last year they dynamited a new trail around this property, which not only added approx. 1 mile to the trail length but also this part of the trail was now on “fresh” and jagged rocks which had some serious challenges. We all had a great time negotiating the new trail tests. About half way through Paul’s rear sway bar, which had been causing him problems for a while, broke off the right side such that it was about to get firmly stuck in his rear tyre. It took about half an hour taking off the offending sway bar and then we carried on. Unless there was trail damage on the Miller Trail, this could well be an award winner for July! We ended the run out of the trail and got back to Dinkey Creek about 12.30. We all aired up and headed for home.

What a great time. Great trails, lakes, camp fires, company and views and pretty relaxing as we only moved camp once. A REAL BLAST!

John Labbett

On The Rocks 4X4 Club