This past weekend’s Barney Riley run, as with the rest of the 2011 runs, was scheduled at last year’s October trail planning meeting. Picking the right trail to run at the right time is a combination of historical knowledge and luck combined with a CAN-DO mentality. When it all comes together, it makes for great wheeling.
Persistent cold weather with late snow fall has made much of the early wheeling season difficult at best. Even getting to the trail can sometimes be a challenge as was the case with this run. But as Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
There are a number of ways to get to the trail head from the bay area. Route 50 has been closed for repairs (which have been further delayed by the persistent cold weather) and Route 4 is still closed at Ebbetts pass. Monitor pass, which is between route 4 and 395, is another seasonal road that is closed when snow falls. A victim of the weather, Monitor pass was vacillating between open and closed on a weekly basis. During the past few weeks, President Bill and VP Scout had been in contact with the ranger office and Caltrans in Markleeville getting frequent updates. If all else failed, VP Scout had researched a secondary route in to the trail via 395. The last update had Monitor pass opening at 9AM on Thursday.
The die was cast and the course was set. Armed with this information we decided we would hit the trail via Monitor pass. With the weather conditions swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other, we prepared ourselves for snow, rain and the impending Judgment day.
With my son Gavin, his friend Ryan and the rig packed to the brim with gear, I drove up to meet Scout. As I previously mentioned, aside from the weather concerns we faced, there was also a prediction that May 21st was judgment day. Not wanting to be caught short supplied, VP scout packed a trailer with wood, adult beverages, energy bars and a few more items needed to survive should the unlikely event of TEOTWAWKI occur.
Ready for anything that nature could throw at us, we hit the road. The drive to Markleeville was uneventful and after filling up our fuel tanks we headed out to Monitor pass.
I have only been to Barney Riley once. That was on a pre-run with Greg Robinson about 5 years ago. A quick one day mission of in and out just to check out the trail. All I remember was it was hot, very dusty and hot and dusty – you get the picture. Based on the weather forecast, this was to be a different experience.
There are a number of trails intertwining from Loope Canyon Road to FR310. You could probably drive for hours on those side roads and never be more than a few miles from where you started. While some are marked, many are not. Scout and I had printed out a map we found on the web that showed FR306 as a shortcut from 190B to FR310. Not knowing the trail conditions or the quality of the map, we decided to take the shortcut. This turned out to be the correct choice.
We made our way to 310 and began to look for a camp site. We only had confirmation of three other rigs making the run so we didn’t need much space. Scout, true to his name, found a nice cozy little spot nestled in a grove of Aspens. The spot would provide greatly needed protection should the weather take a turn for the worse. I left him and the boys at that spot while I drove a bit further to investigate should there be a better camp site for the night. I went about a mile down the trail only to find a large tree across the road. This would have to wait for tomorrow. I turned around and headed back to what would be our nights camp site and a cold beer.
Gavin’s friend Ryan, a neophyte to wilderness camping, was tasked with relocating the existing fire pit that was next to a large amount of fallen brush to a better location. With a little help from scout and I, Ryan performed this task with the efficiency and expertise of a seasoned camper. The wind was starting to pick up a bit so to minimize the fire hazard, Gavin dug the pit about two feet in the ground. Scout cut some wood for the fire and helped the boys get it started. After getting our tents up and chairs around the fire, we were set for the night.
It was still light out when we first heard a call on the HAM radio from DD. Both Scout and I tried to respond via the radios in our rigs and handhelds to DD ( Deaf Dave ) with no response. This was a song and dance that would continue for some time. Scout hit the nail on the head at the reason our return calls were not acknowledged, DD had his radio volume turned all the way down.
Driving trails, let alone ones we do not frequently visit, can lead to a few surprises. That is why we often do pre-runs but they are not always possible. Trails open and close, bypasses change and obstacles can get in the way. Here is another lesson on the benefits of HAM. Had we made contact when DD first called us, we would have told him to take the same route as us. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. At some point, either by CB contact or DD checking his radio, it was found that his volume was all the way off. They had already proceeded up FR310 past the 306 shortcut and were hitting fresh snow and mud. The good news is that Cort got to use his winch on DD. The bad news is that DD was thirsty. With radios working as man had intended and the course correction transmitted, our little band of adventurers, DD and his kids, Cort and his daughter Courtney and Dustin were back on track. I headed up the trail to meet them and make sure that DD wasn’t dehydrating. Satisfied that all was well, I led the group down to camp.
Back at camp in his mountain kitchen stadium, VP Scout had prepared brats and heated up the pulled pork I had brought up to feed the lost tribe. Everyone safe, fed and comfortable in our chairs, we enjoyed our beverages of choice, great company and a fantastic fire.
Time certainly flies when you are having fun. Sailor Jerry passed away at about 1:00AM. His passing brought empty cups and tears to our eyes. At 2:30AM Scout decided it was time to end the nights festivities and went to bed. DD and I must have missed the memo because next thing we knew, it was about 4:30AM. Like pulling apart Velcro, we ripped ourselves from our chairs and the fire for the comfort of our tents. Next thing I knew we were up by 8:30.
While packing our rigs the sky grew dark and it started to sleet. Thankfully, it was short lived. The clouds quickly broke and the sun began to peak out. With rigs packed and our camp left cleaner than we found it, we hit the trail at 10AM. About a mile down the road we encountered our only fallen tree that required excision by a man skilled with a saw. Steve had it cleared in a few minutes. We packed the logs for the night’s fire and moved on.
The trail had some steep climbs and tight turns with big rocks in the middle. As we were driving, eagle eye Gavin in the back seat of my rig spotted a small monument about 30 feet off the trail.
We stopped to read the text on the monument, paid our respects and then continued on our way.
Several miles down the trail we came to a fork in the road. A brief discussion on which way we should go resulted in us going left. Feeling like a star in a spaghetti western, I was to find that this decision had the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY.
The GOOD was it led us to a gorgeous camp site on the river with a small hot tub and an outhouse, the BAD was that there were kayakers camping there and this was not where we had planned to be though there was room for us and another fire pit. The UGLY was the U-turn that Steve and I needed to make at the river’s edge. A slight bump on a tree left me with a cracked side marker light. Once I was turned we disconnected Steve’s trailer and reconnected it after he made his U-turn. After a much needed stop at the outhouse, we headed back up the trail to take the other side of the fork.
The trail was not hard but a bit gnarlier in spots than I remember. Some miles later, after a few hidden bumps and some winding down the canyon we found ourselves at the Carson River.
With the exception of a few day time visitors, we had our side of the river to ourselves. Notice that I said OUR SIDE. Normally in summertime you can drive across the river. This was not to be as the river was rolling. Probably a good thing! The other side must have had between 50 and 100 people. Some were rafters that had made this their camp site and some looked to be scouts on a weekend hiking trip. They all enjoyed the hot tubs, even the nudists.
Only limited by their imaginations, the Madhatter kids ran around doing what kids do; skipping rocks in the river and making up games. I had fully planned on fishing but the passing of Sailor Jerry had left me fatigued. At this juncture, my chair was my kingdom. Other than moving from sun to shade, I wasn’t expending much energy.
As we sat enjoying the view and great weather, an approaching vehicle catches our attention. A suburban, a clean undamaged suburban, comes driving up. Not that we crossed some large mud bog but we did cross some water and mud as was evident by looking at our vehicles. Besides, there was no way that suburban came the same way we did – without damage. Eager for intel on how they got here, we sent in Cort as he no doubt looked the most harmless of us all. Successful in his mission, Cort reported that they had come in via a trail off of 395 several miles from Gardnerville. After a brief discussion and the desire to explore the unknown, we decided we would try that route on the way out Sunday morning. It may even save us some time.
We had a pleasant evening. Zucchini, Linguica and tri-tip kept the grills busy and filled our stomachs. After dinner the kids played flashlight tag. It was a good day!
The next morning found us all refreshed and eager to try the exodus to 395. The morning weather was great and promised to be a perfect day. I remember thinking “what a shame to leave our camp spot on such a beautiful morning.”
We had our breakfast, broke camp, packed the rigs and headed out up the road to take the turn heading out to 395.
The road out was basically an unmarked dirt road until we crossed over a small bridge, where at some point we crossed in to the free state of Nevada, and on to another unmarked dirt road. We later realized that the clean suburban had made a right at that fork where the bridge was. It was most likely a more direct route to 395. Not lost but in exploration mode, our route found us on a very and I mean very scenic journey along the river. We passed numerous great looking camping spots as we drove along this trail that seemed to repeatedly exit and enter the national forest. Exploring new areas can be very rewarding. No doubt some of us will be back to camp at the locations we passed.
Madhatters never get lost, we just get delayed. After about an 11 mile ride, we found ourselves looking at 395. Our trail trip was at an end and now it was time to air-up and head home. Every Madhatter trip is an adventure and this was one I was pleased to share with good company.
Hope to see you all next time.