Part VI, October 26th 2009 SMB Forum meet “The final day”.

Stump Springs Road to Auberry:

Last day of the meet and greet was finally upon us. Most of the group had left the day before, and it was time for us to finally head out. I could stay here for another month and be happy but I had to get back to work and even though Don is retired, his wife might not appreciate me hi-jacking him any longer.  Or would she? All good things must come to an end even for those who are married 🙂

The morning was quite cold as we all packed up and got ready to head out of the area. We said our goodbye’s to the Wilson team who planned to leave out over Kaiser Pass and wished them a safe ride home. I had a nice little route leaving Sample Meadow that I’ve done a couple of times before and Craig and Cindy were willing tag along to take a look.

From time to time the forest service might close Kaiser Pass due to weather conditions or you might even find the gate locked for the seasonal closing. Stump Springs Road (FR-5) is an alternate way out of the area if you don’t (or can’t) leave out over Kaiser Pass.


The road from Sample Meadow has some nice views.

The problem with this “main” road is that it’s partially paved, so it’s full of potholes and washboard. Not too far down from Sample Meadow and past the spur to Mt Tom is another unpaved trail that basically parallels Stump Springs.


SONY DSC This smooth trail snakes its way along a ridge and provides some great views. Although the trail is longer, overall time is about the same because you can travel fairly fast as opposed to driving over a rough road.




SONY DSC Although it’s unpaved, most of the path is fairly sandy and any 4×4 should be able to handle it in wet conditions. The scenic value in itself is worth taking the extra time to travel the route. In good weather most 2WD vehicles with good clearance shouldn’t have a problem with this trail.

One section of the road passed through some heavy Manzanita






The trail ends up on the Balloon Dome route that is designated High Sierra #10 in the Northern California Backcountry Adventures Book. A short hop back to Stump Springs Road takes you back over Kaiser Creek where a small single camp is located along the creek at 6S02Y.




Once back on the main road, it’s a constant downhill grade that travels along the San Joaquin River Canyon.




This is a great 2WD route and can loop back to Huntington Lake if need be, but  we were headed down to the community of Big Creek.


There are only a couple of spots that offer a view of the canyon because of the tall trees and virtually no place to safely pull off if you do find an open section. But at the right time of year, the roadside itself can be very scenic. We found some fall colors but not as nice as I had seen in the past years but it was still a nice run.



Soon we came to the Huntington Lake/Big Creek split. From here the road to the town of Big Creek is a steep windy grade that will test your brakes. I ran it in low range 2wd because of the extra weight my trailer supplied. Because a fire had ran through this area several years back, the hillside is barren and if you don’t like steep open drop offs it might bother you. Cindy made us aware it wasn’t to her taste!





We finally reached Big Creek. This is a small Edison Power company town that is a cool little community. There is a small sandwich shop/store here that looked like it had gone out of business and I don’t recall if diesel fuel is available here.

The main interest is the large Big Creek Powerhouse built during early 20th century. Early photographs During the Powerhouse construction, supplies were brought in from nearby Auberry via a railway.


The railroad is long gone but the grade is now an unpaved road suitable for 2WD during dry weather and the route we used as the last run of the trip.

Designated High Sierra #9, Big Creek RR Grade in Backcountry Adventures Book, much of the drive is along a shelf and passes a few sections that fall near vertically into the canyon. I used the CB to make sure Cindy didn’t miss the drop offs as we passed by 🙂

Picture 024A couple of years before I ran into some workers from Edison who were working on a pinstock  for one of the powerhouses. We were delayed for quite some time and when were were able to pass the crane I had to pull my mirrors in to get by. This road is very narrow in spots. The crane was used to lower workers along the vertical rock walls.


There are only a few spots to camp along the route, one that is a fairly nice spot along a creek to boon dock at.


In one spot you’re very close to the 230kV electrical transmission line coming out of Big Creek.

SONY DSC Don’t mess with electricity!









As the RR grade road drops in altitude Oak trees begin to replace the pines.


Soon we started to reach spots of private property which indicated the end of the unpaved road was near.






Turning on Jose Basin road took us around the back way to Auberry. It’s a paved road but still offers some nice views. In Auberry we pulled over and said goodbye to Craig and Cindy wishing them a safe ride home.


It was truly a great trip and both Don and I enjoyed meeting everybody.

For an overview of the trip, please see Part one:

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part I

Also see the remaining daily posts:

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part II

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part III

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part IV

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part V