Trails of the Sierras are characterized by picturesque scenery and unforgiving terrain of truly epic proportions. Almost everyone is familiar with the famous Rubicon Trail - it gets a lot of attention, having a Jeep named after it and all. Many folks have also heard of the Fordyce Creek Trail, popularized by the annual Sierra Trek, but the Sierras lay claim to a number of less popular trails that arguably rival these "celebrity trails." While it may not have a Jeep named after it, the Dusy/Ershim Trail is one such trail, definitely on par with the trendiest of trails in the Sierras.
Located about 80 miles northeast of Fresno, California, the Dusy/Ershim Trail spans a 33-mile-long corridor separating the Dinkey Creek and the John Muir Wilderness areas. The trail originated in 1956 when the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno blazed a trail through the backcountry from Badger Flats to Ershim Lake. The club continued on until eventually reaching Thompson Lake in 1961. In 1967, more progress was made as a trail was formed from Courtright Reservoir to the north end of Dusy Meadow. Finally, in 1968, the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno connected the two trails, completing what is now known as the Dusy/Ershim Trail. Considered to be two trails in one, the Dusy is the southern section of trail stretching north from Courtright Reservoir to just east of Black Peak. The Ershim trail is designated as the northern section connecting Black Peak to Kaiser Pass.
The Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno maintains the Dusy/Ershim to this day, and if you plan on running it you would be well advised to check with them first. The trail is open only for a few months out of the year during the summer months. Starting off at an 8,400-foot elevation, the trail climbs and levels out at about 10,000 feet, so incredibly deep snow forces the trail closed for most of the year. When planning our trip, we had to reschedule our original July trail run for the end of August due to 5 feet of snow. This inconvenience is likely responsible for the Dusy/Ershim's lack of popularity, but as our group discovered, waiting for the snow to melt is well worth it.
Our group consisted of PowerTank CEO, Steve Sasaki, Brian Cox, David "Oops" Fritzsche (all with Toyotas), and me with my Suzuki Samurai (originally a 4WD&SU project rig). We were all getting tired of the recent popularity/political issues facing the Rubicon, and we were ready for a trail less-traveled. Most of us had heard of the Dusy/Ershim but we really didn't know what to expect, which made for a genuine adventure. Our three-day adventure took us from the entrance at Courtright Reservoir to Thompson Lake and back. While we could have made it farther, we decided to use one of our days out to explore Thompson Lake or do some trout fishing at nearby Lost Lake.
Colossal granite domes, storybook meadows, and clear, pristine lakes adorn the entire trail, making for a surreal experience. The trail is, in fact, a "doozy," boasting rugged challenges and breathtaking scenery. The Dusy may not ever reach the celebrity status of its siblings, the Rubicon and Fordyce Creek, but perhaps that's a good thing. With a little responsibility on everyone's part, this jewel of the Sierras will continue to offer its grand splendor to future generations of adventure-seekers.