One Dusy of a Trip

Sept. 6-10, 1999

The participants:


Picture Driver Vehicle
Terry Johnson's '89 Xtra Cab Driver: Terry Johnson
Trips: 0
From: Pleasanton, CA
[Email] - [Web Page]
Truck: '89 Xtra Cab Pickup
Tires: 33x12.5 BFG M/T
Diffs: Detroit/EZ Locker
Gears: 4.56, Marlin Tcase
Leo Divinagracia's '90 4Runner Driver: Leo Divinagracia
Trips: 0
From: Fremont, CA
[Email] - [Web Page]
Truck: '90 4Runner
Tires: 32x11.5 Yokahama
Diffs: ARB/TrueTrac
Gears: 4.88/Automatic
Todd Steele's '87 pickup Driver: Todd Steele
Trips: 0
Passenger: Michael Steele
From: Lemoore, CA
[Email] - [Web Page]
Truck: 87 Toyota pickup
Tires: 33x9.50 BFGs
Lift: 4"
Diffs: EZ Locker f/r
Gears: 4.88
Craig Ruth's '60 CJ5 Driver: Craig Ruth
Trips: 0
Passenger: 1 possible
From: Sacramento, CA
[Email] - [Web Page]
Truck: '60 CJ5
Tires:32x11.40 M/T
Lift: 2.5"
Diffs: Power Lock F/R
Gears: 5.38
Roger Brown's'85 4Runner Driver: Roger Brown
Trips: 0
Passenger: Seat available
From : Santa Clara, CA
[Email] - [Web Page]
Truck: '85 4Crawler
Tires: 33x15.5 Swampers
Lift: ~4"
Diffs: Detroit/TrueTrac
Gears: 5.29, Marlin Tcase

Trip Report:

Monday - 9/6:
Most of the group gathered at Courtright Reservoir Monday afternoon, Terry and I at Marmot Rock campground, Craig at Voyager Rock. Leo spent the night at Cressman's waiting for the gas station to open (note to self: Cressmans closes early and opens late), Todd drove up from Lemoore early on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday - 9/7:
Began the trail, we hooked up with Craig at Voyager Rock and started with a quick climb up Chicken Rock. Its reputation made it sounds harder that it was. It is definitely impressive looking up the sheer rock face, but it seems to run a nice 20-25 degrees, traction is awesome. The most difficult part is the pile of large rocks at the base. Craig had a bit of trouble with the entrance. The slope and altitude were conspiring against his carb'ed engine. Coming down off the back side is more challenging, lots of big rocks and tight turns, eventually leading to the upper end of the reservoir and Dusy Creek.
Along the way, Terry lost his steering and it turned out his IFS steering idler arm had sheared off. Luckily, Leo had a spare (and a nifty 12V impact wrench - Craig's pickle fork was also quite handy) and we were back on the road. Leo also had trouble with his transfer case shift lever, but he got it down into low range and was able to proceed. I stopped to torque my front u-bolts and I think at least one nut was beginning to strip out. Luckily I had a couple of grade 8 nuts in my tool box and there was adequate exposed threads, so I double-nutted as many ends as I could (note to self: bring lots of spare hardware next time).
After lunch, we progressed up Dusy Creek, over some open sandy stretches, across the creek countless times and up little climbs, always wondering if this was the start of Thompson Hill. I saw one little orange diamond on a tree that may have designated the start of the hill, but otherwise I'm not really sure where it started. However, you reach a point after an hour of steady climbing that this must be Thompson Hill.
So what is Thompson Hill? According to the Forest Service, "Vehicles should have a body lift, run fairly cool and hit on all cylinders". Sure glad I had that 1" body lift:-) It is a long hill, probably climbing 2000 feet in about 2 miles, much of it in loose dirt full of loose rocks. Very little traction and lots of rocks sticking up to snag front or rear diffs. Parts are very narrow and often there is only one line, or worse yet, 3 lines, none of which look promising. I had to stop and stack rocks a few times, several others had to winch up a few places. There are sections that for as far as you can see, there is no place to stop and you must plan out the entire climb and make it in one shot. Towards the top, there are more rocks and less dirt, so the traction situation improves. After cresting the top, I scouted out a good camp site and found a good one within view of Thompson Lake. As I got a fire started, the rest of the group rolled into camp just as the sun was setting. It was a l-o-n-g day to say the least, 11 miles down, 22 to go!
Wednesday - 9/8:
We all awoke after a good nights sleep at 10,000 feet. It was actually not as cold as I suspected. Finally got everyone ready to go and we started off for a full day of picking our way through countless trees. Seemed like every tree on one side of the trail had a corresponding rock on the other side of the trail, precisely angled to tip your rig into the opposing tree. It was a constant guessing game trying to figure out how far up the rock to go on one side to leave clearance on the otherside for the well-scarred tree. Lots of multi-point turns, backing up to try different lines, lots of rough log covered creek crossings made up most of the day. We stopped for lunch and enjoyed a short hike to East Lake. Then back on the road for more of the same. After a while, I noticed my shift levers were moving a bit more than usual and some clunking from up front told me my motor mounts were history. A sign indicated 3 miles to Ershim Lake and it was only 2 and I pulled into the first campsite, found some firewood the right shape to brace up the engine and proceeded to chage motor mounts. Luckily, I had thoought ahead and brought 2 spare motor mounts (I usually carry 1 - note to self: bring twice as many spares as you think you'll need). Got both mounts changed and fired up the hot shower and washed off most of the trail dust and grease. Wonderful camp site, we were the only ones there. A fairly short day, another 11 miles, 22 down, 11 to go!
Thursday - 9/9:
Another gorgeous Sierra morning and we were all packed and ready to hit the trail. Not 15 minutes into the trail, things start getting interesting. Some tricky squeezes and there is the infamous drop off the granite spine. You have to drive way out to the end before cutting hard to the right. A spotter is very helpful to ensure you go far enough before turning. The trail remained rough as you drop into Mallard Lake. We stopped for a quick lunch, and a few minor vehicle repairs, before procedding to Lakecamp Lake. Soon, we started climbing up a fairly tough hill to the high point on the trail and a spectacular view down into the surrounding valleys. Soon, the gravel access road comes into view and it looks like its just a few minutes away. But, the Dusy trail doesn't give up without a fight. Descending the final hill, I'd be following the trail when it would end. Looking around, you would see it continuing over your right shoulder. Each time this happened, the tight turn was followed by some difficult obstacles. The weather was starting to pick up, we had a few drops of rain and the wind was whistling up the hill. The thoguht of descending this stretch on rain-slickened boulder was not appealing. Over the radio, I heard Todd report a flat tire. I walked back up the trail to see a tree root embedding in his BFG sidewall. Todd's modified A/C air pump and impact wrench made quick work of the tire and after negotiating the most difficult obstacles on the trail, we all made it down to the trail head.

Other Dusy-Ershim trip reports:

[Last updated: 10.FEB.2000]