How the Fordyce Trail kicked my A$$

This was my 5th Trek. The last time I did Trek and the Fordyce, it was the toughest trail I had ever done. This year, new rig with an automatic, selectable lockers, fuel injection, etc.; I was bringing more rig this year, so I figured I was good. Wrong. Over the years, due to weather, use and abuse, the trail had deteriorated to being tougher than ever.

We set up our camp at Meadow Lake Wednesday night. We then drove to Tahoe for the night. Our family cabin at Tahoe was a better night’s sleep than a tent. But it was a short night. The alarm went off at 4:30, out the door before 5am and arrived at staging 6:15. We were the last to arrive.


Driver’s meeting at 6:30 and at 7am we were moving. Let me cut to the chase. We made main camp at 8pm. That was not a typo, 8pm. It was a 13-hour day to drive the Fordyce Trail.

Approach to 1st creek crossing
1st creek crossing

The trail is 12 miles long. The first six miles were your typical rock crawling trail. We made good time as only two and a half hours had gone by. The Trek guys had broken us in to groups. Our group was small at five rigs. All 4-door JKs, except me in my 2-door TJ. We all figured we’d have minimal issues. Our leader was in a new to him JK that could have used a little more lift or a little more tire or both.

I passed on Winch Hill One.

That’s how our issues started to pile up. Overall, our leader had more hang-ups than anyone in the group. But we stepped up and played rock rollers and spotter as needed. The problem was when one of us needed help, he wasn’t too fast to return the favor. Maybe that wasn’t in his agreement with Trek as this is advertised as an unsupported run.

The bigger issue was the difficulty of the trail. My honest opinion is that the trail is currently too difficult to run this type of event. The Thursday group was a 13-hour drive. The Friday event was a 15-hour drive. There were medical issues both days which didn’t help.

The other issue that didn’t help was the guy who wouldn’t pull over. One individual on the run lost his starter somewhere after winch hill two and wouldn’t pull over to let others pass him. He and his buddies winched and dragged this guy all the way through the trail without letting others pass. Why not park the rig, let people by, keep the event running, run to camp and get a starter out of another LS rig and run back down the trail and install it?

This guy knew better. He was asked, and as I understand it, harsh words were exchanged. This guy is a Cal4 member. He’s worked as a volunteer on Sierra Trek before. The word is that he even chaired Sierra Trek for two years. How is it that someone who knows better can be such jerk to so many other wheelers?

Honestly, our group didn’t encounter this guy until winch hill five. The trail was so tough, we were going stupid slow anyway. We were having our own issues along the way. Although there are five winch hills one through five, we found winch hills 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, that could easily be added to the list of winch hills and staffed with spotters to keep rigs moving at a normal pace.

I had been boasting how nice it was to have a short wheelbase, compared to the 4-doors, most of the day. Bad Karma. The rain had started, things got slippery. At the beginning of a climb, my rig slipped right and the passenger side hardtop window came to rest on a rock, mid window. Not good. I turned left to get the glass away from the rock but I knew I was doomed. As soon as the rig moved, the window shattered. But that was just the beginning.

With the rock inside the rig about three inches, I couldn’t go forward. I couldn’t go backwards because I was up against a rock. My group had to winch me sideways so I could back up. Karma came back to bite me for boasting earlier.

After being winched sideways and backing up.

The window was no big deal. Not stupid expensive to replace. I was more bummed out that my group had to step up and work, in the rain, to get me out of my situation. And I was stuck in the driver’s seat and couldn’t help. Thanks again guys!

I think this was the third crossing?

The group idea is great. Many runs use it. At Trek, there were two guys going pretty slow in front of our group. They were so slow, they dropped away from their group and we took them in to ours. How did the group in front of us lose two rigs and not stop to make sure they were okay? That’s the point of grouping rigs.

We all know not to lose sight of the rig behind us in case they have an issue. We should also know to keep up the pace with the rig in front of us without riding them too close. These guys dropped off our group a few times but we tried to make sure they were at least still rolling along. Ham radios were key to that.

Although Sierra Trek is a great event, well run, great food, scenic views and gets you across a few rivers that are usually running too high to safely cross, I won’t be doing it again until the trail is repaired to prevent another 13 hour drive. I’ll probably be back with my club and just five rigs to do it again.

Not the line I ended up taking

Trail maintenance for the Fordyce Trail falls on the Tahoe National Forest. There are many clubs that have stepped up and helped the Forest Service in maintaining the trail: Friends of Fordyce comes to mind but there are others.

Winter storms and heavy snowfall changes the trail. But users who don’t Tread Lightly also contribute to the deterioration of the trail. There was erosion in many places. One of the iconic winch hills could no longer be run because the terrain had changed so much. The bypass was now the trail.

Winch Hill 2?

Main camp was a party as usual. Good food and plenty of it. The vendors were out on Saturday. The showers were warm and very welcoming after 13 hours on the trail.

I hope the trail can get some seriously needed maintenance and repair over the next few years.


Rubicon Ronin

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