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37th Annual Sierra Trek, August 7-10, 2003

Sierra Trek Virgins
By Rick Kerley

This being our first trip to Sierra Trek, we had no idea what to expect, other than being told, “The trail is in horrible shape this year”. We looked forward to the week, leaving Tuesday morning.
Since I had put up camp on "shower work weekend", there was little to do once we arrived but relax and take in the atmosphere. Wednesday arrived; we slept late knowing we would have a pretty sleepless night at the staging area. I decided to test my lockers before we left and discovered my front locker was not engaging. Oh well, no time to fix it now, we’ll just have to make due. A group of us left in the afternoon for Truckee. Ron Stillwell broke a shock mount along the way, but the delay was minimal. After a small shopping spree in
Truckee, it was on to staging. The work to repair Ron’s truck began after dinner, utilizing Medfly and then a guy named Rattlesnake’s welders. Ron Kellogg’s advice still rings in my ears, “Do NOT get in line behind Rattlesnake, he goes as slow as possible and won’t pull over”. Picture on the right shows Uncle Willie performing the repair. I always learn so much hanging out with 4-wheelers.
Night quickly fell and soon it was time to hit the sack. If you’ve never slept in a Jeep, let me assure you, you have missed nothing. No matter how comfy the seats are for driving, they SUCK for sleeping. And the steering wheel is not your friend.
The early bird (Sharon Clements) woke us up bright and early at 5:00 am. Across the river to staging we go. Other vehicles appear quickly. Several of us perform safety inspections for the growing lines. Departure time comes and goes, but we’re still missing vehicles, so we wait. None of them were STHers of course. An hour or so later, it’s time to hit the trail. We’re 6th in line behind Uncle “make eye contact with me” Willie, Medfly, Matt Hoey; Jungle Jim and Kevin Kidwell.
About an hour into the trail we witnessed every four-wheeler’s worst fear, a roll-over. 2 vehicles ahead, Jungle Jim did a ¾ roll into a rock the size of a Volkswagen. Good thing the rock was there, or it was 100 feet of steep hill. Everyone came over to make sure he was okay. A bump on the head and some shaken nerves seemed to be the only damage.
Thank God for roll cages. 2 hours of vehicle recovery and clean-up ensued, but Jim was able to drive the vehicle off the trail under it’s own power, with an escort from El Jefe. I spoke with a Forest Service woman who was riding along, she said she was very impressed with the clean-up efforts and wished all 4-wheelers were so environmentally conscious. At this point we’re pretty worried since we were told this was the easy part of the trail. If this is easy, I don’t want to see difficult. But onward we go, all with good thoughts for Jim. We’re glad you’re okay buddy.
The drive to Winch Hill 1 was slow but otherwise uneventful for our group. We kept hearing
reports over the CB of broken parts and even a wayward group that took a wrong turn. Our group stops periodically to do some trail maintenance, slowing our pace. Unfortunately, it appears some nice folks undid the good work of everyone from a few weeks ago. Here’s an idea, build your rig a little more mildly and gain some driving skills. Then you won’t have to destroy the trail for others. Or take your rig to a rock-crawling event if you want to climb over stuff the size of a motor home. Off the soapbox.
Winch Hill 1 was both the most exciting/scary part of the day. I watch as Medfly does a nice wheel stand at the top and wonder how we’ll do. Soon it’s my turn and up we go. About half way up my rear wheels get stuck in a hole and with no front locker, I’m doomed. Out comes the winch cable for a yank. About 10 feet later, they let me loose for another go. Meanwhile, those ahead of us have gathered on the rocks to watch. We make it to the top section and under the direction of the spotter start climbing the wall on the right. A little further and…wait, what’s that sensation, oh yeah, that’s the vehicle starting to fall over backwards. I’m told by those witnessing that the scream Shannon let out could be heard in Truckee. I let off the gas, roll back onto 4 wheels, move a bit to the left and over the top we go. Whew, what a rush. I’m awake now for sure. The rest of the trail is tough, definitely the toughest we’ve done. Shannon and Olivia decide to walk from about winch
hill 3.5. I need another tug from a strap on this hill after getting in another hole. How do I find these things? The rest of the trail I make without any assistance other than the excellent spotting of the trail crews and those in our group.
I pull into camp around 8:00pm. What a day, but what a blast. Friday was a leisurely day, until about 3:30 when we gather to begin preparing dinner for the hungry masses. Dinner starts on time around 5:30. I think we finished serving around 10:30. We had such a good time, just watching our lovely serving ladies shaking what God gave them to the live band as they dished up turkey, taters and all the fixins. The show was quite impressive and I heard numerous comments from the male patrons that the STH women must be a load of fun. I’ll 2nd that. After clean-up, it was on to the dance floor. I believe there’s a certain STH woman who now goes by the nickname “Wild Thing”, so named by the lead singer. I couldn’t tell you what time we made it to bed, but it was long after the crickets went to sleep.
Saturday didn’t offer much except relaxation. As we get in line for dinner, Chris Collard decides it’s a good idea to put together a little rock wall climbing competition. 4 teams of 3 members each in a relay. Two teams against each other at a time, first team whose 3rd climber touches down first wins. The two winning teams will face off for the “championship”. There were two STH teams, and two teams of younger guys. My team was myself, Chris and some guy whose name escapes me. Turns out he is a climbing instructor. Can you say
ringer. The other STH team was Shannon, Ron Stillwell and Chris Bryant. First up was the two young teams against each other. I believe Team Single won that race. The two STH teams face off. I don’t want to rub it in too badly, but our team did win by quite a large margin. It’s us against the young guys with no rest between races. And wouldn’t you know it, the old guys kick their ass. I can hear Queen start to sing, “We are the Champions”. Back into line for some well-deserved food. The other young team (the first losers), decide they want a piece of us too. Back to the wall. Oh, they should have just taken their beating and gone home. Our third touches down before their third is to the top. Let this be a lesson boys, experience and will always beat youth and exuberance. Saturday night’s dance was a lot of fun, the music was good and the crowd was rowdy. At least no one tried to throw beer on us!!.
Sunday there was a ton to do. The raffle was great, even though we didn’t win. Last year I won a prize and I wasn’t even there. What’s up with that? Then the real work began. Most everyone left pitched in to bring the city down. It’s amazing what 20-30 people can accomplish. I was more tired at the end of this day than a week of workouts. This was a vacation? After we get home, I assess the damage. One sliced sidewall (still holds air for
now), rock damage on all wheels, countless scrapes and dings to the skidplates (that is what they’re for, right?) and the best of all, my rear diff has worn a hole through the stock gas tank skid. Time for a Kilby. All in all, not too bad for our first time. I look forward to next year with better equipment, better driving skills and a front locker that works. Thank you to all committee staff and everyone who worked so hard to make this a great event.

More photos and stories from Sierra Trek...

more on this trip in the August 2003 Newsletter
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