The weather was starting to heat up in So-Cal giving way to one of the few seasons we actually experience here: Summer! The 4th of July holiday weekend was fast approaching and the itch to lock into 4wd and hit the dirt was overwhelming. The Johnson Valley ‘Hammers’ were sweltering at 115 degrees so the decision was made to retreat to the cool comfort only Big Bear Lake could provide. At seven thousand feet in elevation our camp site, The Green Spot, was a comfortable 80 degrees. With camp set up on Friday night and the rigs prepped the stage was set for what we hoped would be some epic wheeling.
During the week prior Randall kept talking about this ‘secret’ trail only he knew of that was sure to provide a ‘Hammer’s’ like challenge but in the forest of Big Bear. Little did I know he had run the same trail in August and even blogged about it: RD’s 1:1 Offroading. In retrospect had I seen that blog I may have been a little more apprehensive about running it. This trail offered up a variety of terrain from boggy marsh-like creeks, with almost overwhelming amounts of overgrowth, to super slick rock and even ‘Hammer’s’ like sections of waterfalls and large boulders. At 1.2 miles in length it wasn’t very long but to get 5 rigs through took upwards of about 6 hours. You know you’re on a good trail when you have to bust out a machete to blaze through an area to get to the next challenge. With its abundant tight turns long wheel based vehicles were a little tough to squeeze through in areas. The waterfall by far proved to be the biggest challenge of the weekend. Most sane individuals would get to the base of it, call it the end of the trail, and turn around having still run a challenging trail. Not us! This is where the fun began not ended. Two out of the five rigs made it up without needing a winch. Randall, being the most experience on this trail, went first and after making it ¾ of the way up decided to take a winch. A slightly bent passenger front fender and a minor encounter with the top of the roll cage and he was through. Getting my rather large 4Runner on 33’s up it was a different story. The RV/Camper, as Randall so aptly named it, suffered some body damage nearly taking out the back window and a few side windows on the passenger side. After a half hour with 2 different winch lines attached and some careful planning I escaped with only one large dent in the tailgate and a bruised ego. While the remainder of the traill still had its challenges, and in my case more body damage, nothing compared to that waterfall. Been there done that, thanks Randall!
Having run the ‘secret’ trail the day before we decided on milder trails for Sunday July 4th. We set our sights on a few classic trails: Gold Mountain and John Bull. Both trails are well known in the area and offer some spectacular views and photo opportunities along with a few challenges but nothing extreme. One of the coolest places I have ever wheeled was the ‘Rock Garden’ on Gold Mountain. It’s a very large open area in the middle of the forest but covered completely in medium sized rocks. The grip was astounding and the noise the rocks made when crawling over them was truly unique and quite loud. It was a virtual playground for us and almost any line you took worked due to the grip on the unique terrain. After that trail we took a short jaunt down some fire roads before arriving at John Bull. We stopped to have lunch and even ran some AX10’s; and SCX10’s;. There were endless places to wheel the R/C vehicles and both kids and adults took advantage. Afterwards we discovered a great picture opportunity (The group vehicle shot below…) before starting on the trail. Upon arriving at the first obstacle we noticed a large group of fellow wheeler’s congregating at the base watching the ensuing action. As I watched Randall and the rest of our group tackle the trail, waiting for my turn, a young kid approached me with his R/C truck in hand. He had an AX10 ARTR; with some customization done to it but was in need of a steering servo horn. Unfortunately he had different steering servo and we didn’t have a horn that would fit. Regardless it was very cool to meet him and see an Axial crawler in such a remote area. After John Bull we decided to return to camp and get ready for the fireworks show at Big Bear Lake. Once the sun set we loaded up in the trucks and tootled up the dirt road a few miles to watch the show. Although we viewed the show from the side it was quite an extravagant fireworks display and an excellent way to celebrate a truly awesome weekend of wheeling fun. In the end everyone left with at least one new ‘war wound’, or in my case 5, but it didn’t matter compared to the memories!