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High-Mountain Rockin’

Front View
Posted April 1, 2000

The Annual Sierra Trek

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  • Sierra Trek features eight runs over four days.

  • The toughest trail offered during Sierra Trek is the short-wheelbase run. This is the Fordyce Creek trail, which is only 14 miles long and harbors some of the roughest obstacles a trail can offer. Participants start at 6 a.m. and the tail end of the group often drags in well after dark.

  • Jeeps of all types can be found at Trek, from bone-stock TJs to highly modified ’5s like this. The granite boulders of the trail require high-clearance rigs on the tough stuff, while the long-wheelbase and SUV runs can be handled by stock rigs.

  • On Friday night, the Star Trek trip is held on the Fordyce Creek trail. This special trip is limited to those who’ve made three previous day trips on the same trail. This was the 19th Star Trek, and many of the group have done every one of them. Ruben Reyes pilots his 215 Buick-powered flattie around the cliff at Winch Hill 3, showing the winch crew how it’s done. Since Star Trek is held in the middle of the night, Winch Hill assistance isn’t available.

  • The Sierra Highsiders Jeep Club of Loomis, California, mans Winch Hill 4. For the past five years, the volunteers have camped out at this location to help the Trekkers scale the boulders in this treacherous spot. The rule for the Winch Hills is after three unsuccessful tries, you get the hook. Some vehicles are more than happy to be winched by the time they get to the last two Winch Hills.

  • Oly Olson shows onlookers how to sidehill in his CJ-7 during Star Trek. Oly has been organizing and leading the night run longer than anyone can remember, but this year, he decided to be tail end and have some fun. Oly’s wife Kate runs the dinner crew back at the base camp for Star Trek and often has to wait till the wee hours of the morning to feed the last incoming participants their steak and eggs.

  • Breakdowns are common during the event, mainly due to the tough terrain the trail crosses. To keep the lineup of vehicles moving, broken rigs must be moved off the trail to be fixed or strapped back to camp after the event is over.

  • Fordyce Creek can be a raging torrent of water where the trail crosses it, but the power company limits the flow during Trek so vehicles can cross. Even at that, the level of the creek can be high enough to come over the floorboards or even stall out an engine. Many a rig has had to dry its innards out on the opposite bank before continuing the trail.

  • Sunday morning starts with breakfast and a few bleary eyes from the party the night before. The dance floor is converted to a seating area for the raffle, where thousands of dollars in prizes are given away to lucky ticket holders.

  • Because this is the biggest event for the California State Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, you have the opportunity to see many noted people and Jeeps on the trail. Many manufacturers bring their rigs for the fun of the trip as well as the valuable exposure to the ’wheeling public.

  • In-camp hijinks abound, such as Jeep stacking, where these Flat Fender members show how it’s done. Parking can be at a premium when 1,500 participants and more than 500 registered vehicles are at the Meadow lake campground.

Summer is one the best times and the High Sierras is one the best places to go ’wheeling, and that’s exactly what Sierra Trek is all about. The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs hosted its 33rd Annual Sierra Trek last August at Meadow Lake, just north of Truckee, California.

Open to members of the Association, this event is the largest all-volunteer four-wheel-drive gathering in the nation. With a total of eight runs conducted during the four-day extravaganza, you can bet these volunteers have their work cut out for them. Though any vehicle can participate, the short-wheelbase runs are ideal for Jeeps, and they dominate the scene.

The main trail is the Fordyce Creek trail, which winds more than 14 miles through the rocky Sierras just north of the infamous Donner Pass. This run is limited to short-wheelbase vehicles, due to the roughness of the trail, and having large tires and lockers is a definite plus. After winding through the boulders in the forest, the trail crosses Fordyce Creek and continues through five winch hills, so named because they’re manned by volunteers with winches. These hills are rough and rocky, and many drivers happily succumb to the hook to prevent breakage to their rides. With up to 120 vehicles starting at 6 a.m., the tail end of the group sometimes rolls into the Meadow Lake base camp way past dark. Breakdowns are common on the trail, and broken rides must be moved off the trail before the repairs begin. One ’wheeler broke a transfer case early in the trip and hiked the 10 miles to camp to borrow a transfer case from a buddy’s’ rig.

If you’re ready for some of the finest ’wheeling that can be had, contact the Association now, since slots for the trips are filling up as you read this. Whether you have a short- or long-wheelbase Jeep or just want to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the SUV run, Sierra Trek is sure to please. For more information, contact the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs at 800/4x4-FUNN or on the Web at