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Sierra Trek 2018

Posted in Events on November 5, 2018
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Photographers: Lindsay Eagles

Whether the topic is wheeling trips or public education, typically the larger the group is, the lower the bar is set. There are no participation trophies at Cal4Wheel’s Sierra Trek though. Held on the brutally difficult Fordyce Creek Trail, Sierra Trek is one of the most challenging events we have ever attended. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

One of the biggest natural barriers on Fordyce are the water crossings, which can be deep enough to sweep away a vehicle. Cal4Wheel coordinates with Pacific Gas & Electric to close the hydroelectric dam and lower the water during the event. Volunteers who are members of Cal4Wheel clubs lead small groups of vehicles through the trail (typically two committee members for every dozen vehicles), man winch hills to get through the hardest sections of the trail, cook dinner, and even provide hot showers.

Not ready to tackle Fordyce Creek Trail? Sierra Trek also offers trips out of Meadow Lake that cater to SUVs and UTVs and provide amazing scenery and information regarding the rich mining history of the area. Cal4Wheel hosts events all over the state of California all year long. From Panamint Valley Days to Winter Fun Festival, these events are a great way to make new friends and support land use causes and education.

Fordyce is a technical trail, so there is no shame in getting a spot through the harder obstacles. There are plenty of friendly people willing to help you get to Meadow Lake in one piece.
The River Run goes from Meadow Lake down to Fordyce Creek and back, running up and down the most difficult section of the trail. We stopped by the river for lunch and dipped our toes into the frigid water.
Larry Calkins was our trail leader on the River Run. He has been active in the 4x4 community and land use issues for decades and is a fixture at Sierra Trek, in his beautiful CJ-7 called Fool’s Gold.
Winch Hill 3 is the most difficult obstacle on the trail. Even the bypass gets your attention, particularly when you’re traveling down the trail and gravity is trying to help you get to the bottom as quickly as possible.
Hundreds of vehicles cross Fordyce Creek Trail over three days as part of Sierra Trek. Vehicle requirements include one locking differential and tires at least 35 inches tall, along with a fullsize spare, a first aid kit, and other safety items. Having two lockers and low gearing will make the trip much more enjoyable.
Winch Hill 5 marks the end of Fordyce Creek Trail. If you make it this far, it’s an easy run into camp at Meadow Lake. We have seen several people let their guard down too soon and break or roll right at the end of the trail, where a crowd often gathers.
Amber Turner had the smallest vehicle and smallest tires we saw at Sierra Trek, but she didn’t let that stop her from having a blast. She is a second-generation wheeler and knows how to get the most out of her Suzuki. She event drove the Samurai to the event, wheeled all weekend, and drove it back home over 100 miles away.
While there are always a variety of different makes and models at Sierra Trek, the JK Wrangler Unlimited is by far the most prevalent. Cal4Wheel even builds a JK each year with products from sponsor companies and raffles it off at its annual convention.
Breakage happens. While the committee members make no promises about fixing participants’ vehicles for them, they also don’t leave anyone behind. On Sierra Trek there is always someone with tools and onboard welders willing to lend a hand.
Don’t have a built rig with 35-inch tires and locking differentials? Don’t worry; there is still plenty of fun to be had at Sierra Trek. Cal4Wheel offers a variety of scenic and historic runs catering to SUVs and UTVs that get to enjoy all of the benefits of camping at Meadow Lake.
Volunteer clubs feed hundreds of hungry participants each day at Meadow Lake. This isn’t peanut butter and jelly time though. Dinners include pork loin on Friday night and steaks on Saturday night.

James Davidson—Gone but Not Forgotten

On Thursday, August 9, 2018, James Davidson of the NorCal Crawlers hopped into his Jeep to reposition it at Winch Hill 2. Little did anyone know that this simple act would cost him his life when the vehicle rolled over. Davidson didn’t have his seatbelt on and was ejected from the Jeep in a split second. He wasn’t drinking, he wasn’t new to rockcrawling, he simply made a mistake. One that we have all made at one time or another. We ask that you don’t let his life be lost in vain. Please buckle up any time you get in your vehicle.

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