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Jeep Wrangler TJ - Exploring The Sierra National Forest

Posted in Features on February 5, 2006
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Over the last few months I've been making an effort to try to go 'wheeling more often. I don't mean ride along in someone else's rig jumping out to take photos every couple feet but actually hitting the trail behind the wheel of the 4WD&SU project TJ. In keeping up with the effort, I started talking to some California clubs that might entertain the idea of showing me around their local playgrounds.

A buddy hooked me up with Danny Harp of the Feather River Rock Crawlers Association in Oroville, who jumped at the chance to show off one of his club's local haunts within the Sierra National Forest. After establishing a weekend and a meeting place I pulled an all-nighter on that Friday after work and tugged the 4WD&SU project TJ up to the Shaver Lake area east of Fresno. There I met up with a group consisting of members of three California four-wheel-drive clubs; the Nor-Cal Crawlers of Chico; the Mid Valley 4 Wheelers of Merced; and, of course, the Feather River Rock Crawlers Association of Oroville.

From Shaver Lake we moved on to the OHV staging area located off of Highway 168 where we unloaded and traveled to the Red Mountain Trail trailhead. The well-marked Forest Service OHV trail leads through countless pine trees and rock obstacles and even a few stream crossings before reaching Red Lake, which sits at 9,000 feet above sea level. Red Lake is part of the Dinkey Lakes system and served as a great spot for a lunch stop. It also appeared to be popular for camping, as evidenced by the numerous 4x4s, pickup trucks, and ATVs and motorcycles settled in among tents and fire pits. The trail continues past Red Lake to Coyote Lake, and farther on to smaller lakes.

After lunch at Red Lake we moved up the trail toward Coyote Lake a short ways just to play on some of the obstacles, since the trail became increasingly more extreme as it moved up the mountain. All of the vehicles in our group performed exceptionally well in the terrain before we turned the convoy around for the trip back to the staging area.

With the end of the day upon us, most of the crew, including myself, loaded up for the trip back down the mountain. I'd left on Friday night not 24 hours earlier, but I was already on my way back home after a fun day on the trail. Despite the long drive ahead of me I still felt a certain amount of satisfaction in getting my tail behind the wheel where it once belonged before a camera became a permanent fixture in my hand. I experienced some good trails and some equally good people, which is always an excellent reminder of why I have this job in the first place.

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