Part II: Holcomb Valley & Beyond
In the January 2009 issue we introduced you to the new generation Nissan Pathfinder V-8. In a nutshell, our goal was to get a lift kit, tires, wheels and some off-road armor for it. What we discovered is Calmini's 5-inch lift kit, used on the Nissan Frontier, works equally well on the Pathfinder.
The Calmini dropped bracket suspension lift kit is constructed using laser technology so it bolts on, and there's really nothing much to fabricate with the exception of removing two metal tabs to allow for the dropped crossmember. You get almost 1 inch more ground clearance with this kit and ample wheel well space to mount larger diameter tires. The kit includes new replacement cast steering knuckles, front differential drop brackets to correct pinion angle, and easy to install one-piece MIG-welded sub-frames. To save your underpinnings from rocks, there's a heavy-duty center skid plate that bolts to the lower sub-frame. The kit also includes extended stainless steel brake lines.
Though it sounds like a lot of work to install all of these parts the good news is you'll experience factory-like ride quality once the kit is bolted on. The ride is mostly maintained by utilizing the factory-installed independent front and rear setup. The parts are powder coated a deep blue finish, and top-quality plated hardware provides corrosion resistance. Coil-overs for the Pathfinder are supposedly in the works, too.
Unique OffsetBecause of our earlier encounter with rocks and deep sand, we knew we wanted thicker sidewalls, larger sipes and a wider contact patch to give the Pathfinder more track. To get the correct tire, it meant downsizing to 17-inch wheels. It just so happened that Discount Tire had an LT285/70R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO. These off-road tires measure 32.8 inches in diameter and offer maximum aired-down traction. If you go to a 16-inch wheel you should be able to get 285/75R16 or 305/70R16 tires to work.
Our choices in wheels were limited because of the unique backspacing of the Pathfinder (6x4.5). After a day of calling around, we decided to give Walker Evans Racing a try and they suggested that we go with the 17-inch polished Street Lock wheel. These DOT-approved wheels are unique and plenty rugged. Street locks are available in sizes up to 20 inches with backspacing from 3.75 to 6 inches and with all standard lug-bolt patterns. In '08, Nissan went with bigger front calipers, so be sure whatever you buy clears the caliper first. After the wheels and tires were mounted, balanced and the factory air sensors re-installed, we drove to find the nearest trailhead.
Backcountry adventures in the golden state wouldn't be the same if it were not for the early pioneers, who traversed these mountain ranges. California's gold rush brought with it not only scores of weathered prospectors panning for riches, but also miles of freshly cut trails for their much needed supply wagons. Now, many of these former mining trails are located in approved OHV areas that are managed by the Forest Service or the BLM, and are accessible by anyone eager enough to challenge them. While Sutter's Mill was one of the most profitable gold rush sites in California (1848-1855), far to the south, Holcomb Valley in the San Bernardino National Forest had a mining boom of its own (1859), albeit, somewhat short-lived in comparison.
As the story goes, William F. Holcomb, an Iowa native, got his first sight of the remote valley where he'd later strike gold, while hunting bear for its meat. It was during one such hunting trip that Holcomb stumbled upon a stream bed shimmering with gold. By July of 1860, the valley was swarming with prospectors.