Return to the Forest - January 2018
The holidays are a tough time of year for those who like to spend time exploring new places. The time amongst the trees is spent instead with loving friends and family; a trade-off that is more than ok with me. After the New Year, I had a weekend blocked out for camping to get back outside and under the stars. The plan was to head into Tahoe National Forest with the dog and connect some previous routes together to see some new places. I was also hunting for a future spot for a bachelor camping party I am planning in the spring!
We left the Bay Area in the afternoon, planning on being in camp shortly after dark. When we got there, we were met with a few locked gates, and campsites that looked good on paper but didn’t pan out. I was just happy that at 6,200 feet, there was no snow… in January. We eventually found an ungated access and landed a site next to a small lake for the night. The air was cool and calm. I lit a fire, made dinner and settled in for the night.
In the morning, we woke up to enjoy the sun next to the lake. What I didn’t see at night was that the lake was half frozen over from the colder nights in the previous weeks. We were lucky with temperatures just under 40 degrees, making the tent very comfortable.
We packed up and drove on towards Bowman Lake, taking our time to check out side roads and trails for future campsites. Some trails we were able to find the “end” and others got too small to navigate without asking for a completely new paint scheme on the side of the 4Runner. We opt’d for the walking option on these trails.
When we reached Bowman Lake, the road through was closed. Outflow from the Bowman Lake dam during the 2016-2017 winter took out the bridge crossing, as well as move boulders the size of the 4Runner clear through the wash. It was an impressive example of the power of water. As for getting through, there was a small technical trail around the bridge that ran through the wash. A quick shift into 4LO made easy work of the climb out and would be the only time I used 4wd on this trip.
On the other side, I climbed to lake level and enjoyed the view as we made our way around the perimeter of the reservoir marking campsites along the way. I try to mark areas of interest as I drive along, saving them for later trip as I don’t want to make the current trip too busy or rushed. There will always be time to come back. On the East side of the lake, we stopped at the main inlet to enjoy a quick lunch and the open space. This would be a great spot for some donuts, but the 4Runner is allergic (traction control) to that sort of fun so we didn’t indulge this time.
We needed to get moving to find our campsite before nightfall. I am ok with getting to camp at night when there is a commute involved, but once on the trail I make every effort to enjoy where I stay before dark. It makes things more relaxing and enjoyable that way. We drove through the forest, past Jackson Meadows Reservoir where we checked for campsites. They were all closed for the winter. After hitting the pavement, we finally found some snow around 6,600 feet on the road, but it was minimal. At Webber Lake, the story was the same. Closed for the winter. I returned to a previously scouted site, but found it too muddy for camping. We pressed on in good faith that something would be “just around the corner”, which it did. I found a little spot of heaven on the map and decided to check it out. The payoff was great. This is where we will camp for the night, and this is where I will have some of my best friends come to in a few months for my bachelor party. For tonight, some good food, wine and the campfire was all we needed.
In the morning we broke camp early to head to Reno. I was planning on helping friend with some vehicle modifications at Relentless Fabrication for the day. We aired up before hitting the pavement and left the National Forest behind. For a short trip, we covered about 50 miles and got the chance to enjoy some time outdoors. A great weekend trip.