Black Sheeps and Green Jeeps

california; corral hollow trail; overlanding; sierra nevada It may just be me, but parking lots seem much prettier when they

It may just be me, but parking lots seem much prettier when they’re not covered with asphalt.

Waking up at 4am is never pleasant, but for a chance to explore the Sierra Nevada it’s always worth it. Planning an Xterra outing for the following weekend, Dave wanted to do a pre-run to ensure there would be no unforeseen complications along the way. We intended to do the two day trip (approximately 60 miles of trail) in one.

The destination: Corral Hollow Trail just West of Bear Valley along CA-4.

The transportation: 3 Nissan Xterras and Ellie, my Wrangler. As the token Jeep I sure felt like the black sheep of the group. Fine by me.

The company: Jon, Chris, Dave and his wife Jenny, me and Shankar.

california; corral hollow trail; sierra nevada This particular Xterra was a best. Front and rear winches, Titan swap, you name it, it probably had it.

This particular Xterra was a best. Front and rear winches, Titan swap, you name it, it probably had it.

Pulling off onto the trail just after 10am it was time to test my first new toy: a set of Staun tire deflators. Spending over an hour trying to get them adjusted last week, I was expecting all four tires to stop at 19psi. Not exactly the case. Though two came close at 18.5, one was at 16.5, and the other at 20.5. Not bad, but not exactly to my satisfaction. The mosquitos swarmed, maybe attracted by the hissing of our deflators, but the weather was gearing up to be perfect.

The first few miles of trails may have been some of roughest I’ve ever been (still undecided about whether Lipincott Road in Death Valley NP is worse or whether the threat of plunging hundreds of feet down a cliff just makes it seem that way). Nothing Ellie couldn’t handle though the skid plates came in handy a couple of times.

california; corral hollow trail; sierra nevada I believe we are looking at Grouse Valley. The Bear Valley Ski Resort would be to the right.

I believe we are looking at Grouse Valley. The Bear Valley Ski Resort would be to the right.

california; corral hollow trail; overlanding; sierra nevada It

It’s a jeep, but other than that, I really don’t know. The lights are all wrong for an SJ.

The views all around were amazing. We stopped on a ridge, overlooking Grouse Valley and took them in for a while. The trail took us through meadows filled with wooly mule’s ear as far as the eye could see. Shankar admitted to me a few days later that he still has dreams about the fields of yellow which smelled of sunflower seeds (and according to Chris drying tobacco leaves).

california; corral hollow trail; flowers; sierra nevada Another shot of forget-me-nots, this time staking their claim on an entire section of meadow.

Another shot of forget-me-nots, this time staking their claim on an entire section of meadow.

Driving through one of these meadows I made a noob mistake that I’m sure will have me talked about in certain circles. Seeing Jon spin a rock under his tire, I stopped and got out to move it off the trail. “You’re in a Jeep, you go over rocks, not move them,” came Chris’ voice over the CB. “I moved it for you,” I replied, but it was too late to save face.

Jeep; california; corral hollow trail; overlanding; sierra nevada The roots of this tree are larger than my Jeep.

The roots of this tree are larger than my Jeep.

After a fantastic 6 or 7 hours of wheelin’ and taking in the sights we pulled back onto CA-4 and headed to Snowshoe Brewing in Arnold. Sharon and I have been this way plenty of times and for some reason or another (I know, there’s no excuses) we’ve never stopped in to sample the brews. Both the IPA and the Porter were delicious. Given his beer choice, I must mention that Shankar made a great Sharon stand-in. He had the Apricot Wheat Ale. When I let him pick the driving music, he put on the Plain White T’s, Bruno Mars, and Adelle. Sharon, did you give him a list of things to do on the trip? Just kidding Shankar. I’m very glad that you had a good time and are now less skeptical about driving a 4×4 through the mountains.

The final highlight of the trip was the chance to use another new toy, a Dominion OffRoad on-boar air system with Viair 400c compressor and 2gal tank mounted under the hood. Filled my tires in about 10 minutes. I’d say that was a great investment.

For more national forest adventures, visit our U.S. Forest Service Agency Guide.