Some dudes prefer to exit their bachelor stage with reckless abandon. Mike, however, preferred hanging out with his bachelor group in the Eastern Sierras in 4×4 steeds. On the day that this writing publishes, Mike will be a bachelor no more.
Mike’s a good guy. A good guy deserves good memories and a good group of guys to make them with. This Eastern Sierras 4×4 trip suited that as a way to send Mike off to get hitched. We grouped together on a Friday morning and almost immediately had to ditch one of the vehicles.
Eastern Sierras 4×4 Victim #1
Our first obstacle of the trip was a Last Chance Canyon, a reasonable trail to stretch the 4×4 legs. Mike and I were housed in his souped up Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser. Steve had just purchased a brand new Jeep JL Rubicon and Chuck picked up a new-to-him Toyota Tacoma 4×4. Neel brought his 2nd gen Nissan Xterra. All of these vehicles should be able to handle this trail, with error only left to the drivers. Dustin, however, brought his work vehicle – a new Jeep Cherokee with the luxury package and rubber band tires.
The Last Chance Canyon trail had a mix of difficulties. There were rocky riverbeds, canyons where sharp rocks have eroded and fallen, and dirt banks to navigate up and down.
Last Chance Canyon made quick work of Dustin’s lease. We slowly crawled it out and left it in the nearest town with a few cans of fix-a-flat. This stuff is highly recommended. Simply shake and fill the tire through the air nipple and drive it around for a bit. The material coats the inner tube and seals any leaks and small sidewall damage that may have been caused by a lot of sharp rocks. Then, we continued our Eastern Sierras 4×4 trip as if nothing happened. Sorry, Dusty!
Eastern Sierras 4×4: Coyote Fats
The jog through Last Chance Canyon took a bit longer than we expected. The navigation, obstacles, and set backs put us way behind schedule. Rather than running to Bridgeport as part of the original plan, we decided to pivot and stop for the night around Bishop.
The trail to Coyote Flats was less sharp, but just as challenging. The Jeep Cherokee wouldn’t have made it here either. The elevation changes and rocky mountain climbs had Neel’s battery bouncing and shorted a fuse. We brought out the tool bags and after identifying the issue, bypassed fuses.
We drove all the way back in to Coyote Flats under the cover of night. The trail didn’t get any easier but once we got through the mountain range, the valley seemed to open up a bit. The road got sandier and the dust in front of our headlights made traveling in the dark slower. We kept wheeling.
After many miles behind us and finding what appeared to be a camp spot near some in dark, we pitched tents and started the fire. There was timber and a stream. The temperature was in the mid-30s and would get well into freezing later that night.
With steaks on the fire, we chatted about life and congratulated our friend in his last days as a single man.
Eastern Sierras 4×4 Day 2
We awoke to quite a reward. The stream, the pine timber, the morning air was reminiscent of a Field and Stream cover shot. The stream we camped by was home to finger-sized trout. The morning light was hitting everything in the right spots.
We slugged through the morning a bit slower after a long night of chats around the camp fire. Mike and I brought out the archery target and our bows to get some target practice in. While we were in hunting season, we weren’t in our hunting zone. However, there’s no reason not to lob a few arrows in the morning.
We spent some time inadvertently stump shooting as well. Mike made use of his trusty Condor Bushlore to dig out an arrow.
Eastern Sierras 4×4 and Bending Rims
After we packed up camp, we drove off from Coyote Flats and back into town. On the route back, Chuck took on his first flat when hitting a rock at speed on aired down tires. We put his spare on and exercised our ability to use a high lift jack.
While we waited for Chuck to put the shoes back on the Tacoma, we spotted a herd of doe mule deer somewhere around the count of a dozen. We took the opportunity to watch as they made their way through the hills.
Once the Tacoma had a fresh spare on, we headed out back to town to resupply. The men with lesser quads used the opportunity to relieve themselves at the local liquor store.
Eastern Sierras 4×4 Papoose Flats
Resupplied and emptied out, we hit the trail towards Papoose Flats, outside of Bishop. The trail was long with an unmatched landscape of shale rock and twisted pinyon pines. The smell of these needles are incredibly fragrant.
Having a spare tire on a 4×4 trip like this is like having an extra life. At the start of the trip, Dustin ran out of lives and ended up parking his truck in Inyo-Kern. Chuck used up his spare life earlier this morning. In this particular scenario, one could let such a dooming feeling linger or power through and live life fast. Chuck is the type to take on the later.
Fixing a Bent Rim While On Trail
Mostly, things just work out. Bad luck struck while Chuck was driving cautiously and tagged another rock, putting a hole in the sidewall of another tire. Being that we’re miles out and sleepy towns aren’t open for business after 5pm or on Sundays, we were now in a situation. The Taco doesn’t share a bolt-pattern with any other vehicle we had still rolling. We solved this by using a BFH (big fucking hammer) on the wheel he bent earlier.
To our surprise, the tire held air. Having a steel wheel that can bend has its benefits in this kind of pinch. An alloy wheel wouldn’t be able to be fixed in such a way, but arguably, an alloy wheel wouldn’t have bent either.
As Chuck gets his tire back on, Mike and I head out to find a camp spot as the sun was races towards the horizon. We decide to camp on a mountain side overlooking the valley below.
The rest of the crew found us setting up camp and quickly, we started getting to camp chores. First up: fire. Steve was using my Ka-bar Bk2 to baton and I was using my custom alumilite handled knife to create feather sticks.
With the camp fire tinder and kindling ready, and the tents set up, we sat back and enjoyed the cotton candy skies. Tonight’s meal will be asada and guacamole.
The night is just as cold as the previous night on Coyote Flats. After the booze, carne, guac and beans; my insides would not be in agreement with me on this night. Somewhere between the camp fire being out and morning light, I’d take a flash light trip to relieve my melted insides.
Final Morning of our Eastern Sierras 4×4 Trip
The final morning of a weekend trip is bitter sweet. We’re covered in dust, full of poorly chosen meals, and making plans to depart from our friends in order to return to the work week ahead. We all take the moment to stare at the valley below, feeling small in the world, but big in the moment.
As we make our way back on the trail, towards the highway, we find an interesting dirt lot near a mine to take a group photo. As we stare at this dirt lot further, we imagine a dirt course. In good sporting fashion, we instigate timed races. Chuck races on his hammer-fixed wheel.
I hardly ever feel like a trip outdoors is long enough, but at the same time, we all miss our loved ones at home. I can imagine Mike feels these impacts even more so, knowing that his soon-to-be wife is at home waiting for him.