With all of the different trail events that happen in Northern California, there is not enough time to attend them all every year. However, one of the premier events held every year, the Sierra Trek on the Fordyce trail put on by California Four Wheel Drive Association, was one we were able to tag along on. The 2005 event ran from August 11-14. It started as in the past with everyone arriving at the staging main camp area on Thursday, setting up their camp site and preparing for the trail run of their choice. That's one of the unique items at this event - the choice of trail runs, depending on your driving skill and vehicle's ability.
You can choose everything from a nighttime extreme trail run up the rocky Fordyce trail to a simple SUV-type history trail in the local area. No matter what trail you choose to take, they are all fun and well worth the price. Most package deals for this event include a great amount of fantastic food and activities for all ages. You can also attend and just get a ticket to stay in main camp for all the entertainment, great food, and fun. To do this, all you need is a simple two-wheel-drive rig and be willing to have fun.
For this year, my choice was to cover the main trail along with the main camp's huge vender show. This turned out to be a great choice for seeing what was actually happening during the event. The trail run on Fordyce is always a challenge and a lot of fun. It includes two river crossings, five winch hills, and a cheering section at the final hill climb. The Wine Country Wheelers have been manning Winch Hill Five for the last few years and have always had a special theme at the last climb to the top. This has created quite the following for not only the 'wheelers but also the cheering crowd that sits at the top of this area. This year's theme was "The Last Climb to Freedom" - and the crowd loved it! The run also included a special dash plaque you were presented with when you completed the run.
The crew at Winch Hill Three was also keeping the 'wheelers entertained, just in a different way. The bypass is just as hard these days as the narrow rock path, so this was all technical 'wheeling no matter which route you chose. The one thing that became evident was that you were clearly better off following the trail guides' help than taking your own line. Most broken parts occurred with 'wheelers who chose to take their own way.
Winch Hill Four's club was also having a blast with the participants at this event. At this hill you have no choice but the one route, so they were trying to make it as passable as possible for the participants with their rockwork and spotting the rigs. Both required a lot of work and attention at the event this year due to the heavy snow this trail received the previous winter. As usual at this event, the one thing you can always count on is the parts of the trail that are heavy in fine dust. After finishing up on the trail, the fun began at the main camp. The photos speak to the fun everyone had 'wheeling on the trail, but they don't illustrate all the fun and adventure that occurred in the main camp. After completing the trail runs, we arrived back at the main camp at Meadow Lake main camp for some of the best food ever served at any event. What more could you ask for in an isolated High Sierra Mountain meadow?
After the meal was served, everyone had a chance to walk through one of the largest vendor areas I have ever seen at Sierra Trek. This year there were four long rows set up for the event that included everything from manufacturer reps to shops showing you their goods. Companies such as Rock Equipment, Rubicon Express, and 4-Wheel Parts showed off their newest 4x4 products. Warn was also on hand, with its 12-volt winches, showing the 'wheeler the benefits of having a winch for self-recovery when the going gets tough. Another surprise in this area was the Dynatrac 18-wheeler show rig displaying the company's current product line for all to see.
Friday and Saturday's main camp schedule included a nature walk, play-time on the RTI ramp and the Tilt index, and horseshoe games. Smokey the Bear was on hand both days to meet and greet the kids, and several kids games, such as a gunny sack race, face painting, crafts, and a color area, were featured. The fishing is also really good at the lake and in the area in general, if that is your choice for a relaxing time.
After the kids were in bed, it was really time to whoop it up. The campfire was fired up and the music and dancing began! Where else can you 'wheel out into the High Sierra Mountains and have a live band jamming in an open meadow area? While the dancing was going on, the trail stories around the campfire were in full throttle. Everyone had a chance to share their 'wheeling experiences on the event.
On Sunday it was time to pack up the camp and get ready to head home. Everyone took their time, relaxing and enjoying the area as long as they were able to. All who attended this event are sure to have good memories to fall back on when they're stuck in the daily grind - it was a blast for the whole family!
For more information about Sierra Trek events, you can contact the California Four Wheel Drive Association at www.cal4wheel.com.