By Dave Boyer

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4-18-13 through 4-21-13.

Generally, December through March is my favorite time to do some relaxing camping close to home. There are times I prefer to get out by myself as a weekend warrior, especially when most of the lower foothills close to home are devoid of people and the weather is cool to my liking. Although I did a couple of good runs in early 2013, it seemed that between work and the weather, I didn’t get in as much time behind the windshield or around the campfire that I normally prefer. On top of that, our annual winter group trip to Death Valley fell through again. I was ready for a road trip before the warmer temperatures returned followed by the crowds who like hot weather and frequent my local areas.

Again, I asked the same old clan to think about a 4×4 run above the town of Mariposa which is situated below Yosemite National Park in the Sierra foothills. Both of my buddies Don and Steve were ready for more of a camping trip as opposed to a technical off road run, but this was looking to be some kind of a variety pack of both. Similar to last year’s April run, Steve was willing to come up from the LA area and after some phone discussions, it seemed like the area below Yosemite might work out. There are several trails below the National Park worth looking at. For the most part the trip was a free for all, and other than some local suggestions I had in the back of my mind, we’d figure out where and what we actually wanted to do around a campfire. I would have liked to taken Steve on The Old Coulterville Trail but it had a washout that kept full sized vehicles from driving the complete route. On the other side of the Merced River, the Miami Trail was an intriguing route that had escaped my exploration over the years. Don and I had run sections of it in the past but never completed the trail as outlined in the Northern California Backcountry Adventures book. Depending on our time, a few other trails in the area were open for consideration. As usual, I looked forward to the outing.

The rendezvous:

The plan was to meet at a spot where it would be easy for Steve to find us after dark. There is nothing worse than driving 300+ miles then having to go on a hunt for somebody. I suggested somewhere along the Merced River where the BLM has set up a number of camps near Briceburg. I’ve written about Incline Road along the  Merced River Canyon Recreation area on this site and in fact really think it’s a great winter/spring spot when the camps are vacant. All we had to do is drive about an hour from the city of Merced to reach our first camp.

As it turned out, this was what the trip itinerary ended up being:

Camps:

A) Merced River Canyon.

B) South Fork of the Tuolumne River around Evergreen Road.

C) Summit CG Miami Trail

Trails:

A) Golden Arrow to Crocker Ridge.

B) Burma Grade.

C) Miami Trail.

(Note that Incline Road along the Merced River Canyon is a class I trail and not considered a 4×4 trail)

Amenities:

The closest major town is Mariposa which is a modern gold rush town of the 49er era. Situated below Yosemite, this small community was once the county seat of an area that covered a large portion of California.

Mariposa county

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Considered the “Mothers of California counties” due to its once vast boundary, it’s amazing to think if you were arrested close to the LA area that you might have to return to Mariposa for trial; not a simple trip during the mid-1800’s. Today the city of Mariposa is dotted with numerous restaurants and tourist shops but don’t plan on finding a big box stores here. Currently the Pioneer market is about the biggest grocery store in town and is probably considered the main supermarket that offers most of what anybody visiting the area would need in the way of food. There are several small quick-marts that offer diesel and gas plus a few places that fill propane in town. Fuel prices are cheaper than what you’ll find in the Yosemite area at Crane Flat or El Portal so Mariposa is the best place to top off at. Both Napa and Carquest have stores locally but there are no major auto dealerships in Mariposa. There are several towing services in town. Ponderosa Towing claims to do 4×4 recovery and RV towing (209) 966-5554 but as with any business it’s best to research what company is rated highly by the locals before entering the area and end up in need of a tow. Companies go in and out of business so it’s a good idea to acquire phone numbers before heading out on an off road adventure.

Area weather:

The weather and climate in the areas we planned to visit can vary widely. The Merced Recreation area can typically see temperatures that range from triple digit highs to the lower 20’s depending on the time of year. Usually we see a light dusting of snow  between December and February year to year. Obviously as you rise in altitude, the climate changes dramatically. The trail along the Merced River is open from all year unless heavy rains force BLM to close the road due to the possibility of mud slides. The Burma Grade trail (also labeled Briceburg or Bull Creek road) can be closed depending on its condition but it’s fair to say that when it’s passable, March is the best time to visit when the grasses are green and the flower bloom starts. Crocker ridge is prone to snow in winter and doesn’t open until the spring melt even though it’s usually not gated. Once drivable, temperatures can range from freezing to the upper 90’s depending on the time of year. For the most part Crocker at the 5000 to 6000 foot level  is palatable in late spring and from Autumn into winter before the first snows. The Miami trail is similar but even though it starts off much lower at 3500’, the trail reaches closer to the 7000 foot level and generally is gated at the upper levels after the first snow. Depending on the snow pack it usually doesn’t open until April. Temp wise, the Miami trail can be hot and dusty during the summer months but evenings are usually somewhat cooler at the upper altitudes. The fact is, unless you like warmer evenings, none of these areas offer much relief from the hotter summer months of July and August. If California’s central valley is hit with triple digit temperatures, start looking for areas that rest at the 8000 foot level or higher.

Trip weather:

Considering where we had planned to go, this trip was scheduled a bit late for the time of year IMO. My preferred daytime highs range from 60⁰ to a maximum of about 80⁰. Not that I can’t take higher temps, just that I like cooler weather along with what it offers, mainly greener country sides. It can be hit and miss finding a nice comfort zone I like at lower altitudes in late April, yet I understand that those who prefer a warmer climate might disagree with me. On this trip the weather was beginning to warm with the highs starting out in the 70’s that climbed higher each day. At the Merced, the night temps were around 45-50⁰ which was great, but as high pressure moved over northern California, the temps were expected to soar. During the daytime hours I expected the Merced River area would have been too hot to use as a base camp but a single night wouldn’t be an issue. To my distaste, Briceburg would hit 90 degrees later in the week making it the warmest day so far for the season. Evergreen Rd is much higher in altitude and is usually perfect temperature wise April through May. Again, those who like warmer weather might consider the altitude around the South fork of the Tuolumne to be on the cold side at this time of year. The upper Miami was even cooler  and required slightly warmer clothing. Come on, that’s why we have fires and camping with out a fire is just plain wrong!

The Merced River Canyon:

Don and I made it into the area during late afternoon. Normally I shoot for a camp midway along the trail but in this case we scored a spot that has two sites nestled in the heavy cover of a set of trees, mainly oaks. This is the best spot IMO that not only supplies a bit of stealth but also privacy being there are only two sites. It was obvious that nobody had used the sites for some time because the rangers had cleared brush and hauled it into the camps.

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It was kind of nice having plenty of kindling all around camp. I did bring a small complement of wood knowing that finding any bulk timber is almost impossible in these camps.

 

 

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Unlike firewood, one thing visitors will find here in abundance is poison oak. The stuff is everywhere in the canyon and campers really needed to be careful where they walk.

 

After setting up camp we kicked back, drank a few beers and waited for Steve who finally made it at dusk.

  (Below: Steve kicking back after a long drive) 

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It had been almost a year since we had all seen each other so while Steve set up his van for the evening, Don and I got the fire stoked up and prepared to party into the night.

We had eaten in Mariposa before dropping into the canyon but Steve claimed he drove straight through so in the full honor of camping he roasted hot dogs on a stick. Steve didn’t fall for the old poison oak hot dog stick trick!

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(Don shown here to the right with a cup of ??? water? Not!)

With music jamming, cigars smoking and drinks flowing, the night was good. Around the fire we discussed our plans for the next day. We had enough time to do more than the Miami Trail and being Steve had never ran the Burma Grade Trail, adding a little more adventuring to the trip wouldn’t hurt at all.

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In the morning we woke to cool temps that warranted a good hot cup of espresso. As the espresso and Baileys was clearing our heads, we discussed obtaining fire permits at the closest Ranger Station. By law you need to have a permit any time you have a fire while boon docking. Normally when the weather is cool, most rangers won’t make you produce proof of a permit but with the hotter weather approaching I thought we better grab one just in case. After breaking camp we decided to bypass going up the Burma Grade trail and instead move toward our next evening destination.

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The Briceburg bridge is almost a landmark. It also serves as kind of a gate keeper that restricts the really large RV’s from entering the Merced River Recreation area. That’s nice but don’t think it keeps out all the jerks. Warm weather seems to bring in the worst but overall it’s still a nice place to camp.

 

 

So we were off to our next adventure. If the Evergreen camp in question was occupied there were plenty of other camps in the local area and all of them were close to the Buck Meadows ranger station who offered the fire permits. Although the trip up highway 140 leads into Yosemite National Park, the plan was to stay well clear of the valley primarily for time reasons. Steve didn’t have a pass to enter the park so Don rode with him and purchased a senior citizen pass. Yep Don finally went over the hill age wise and even though he scored a season pass for ten bucks where I had to pay eighty, the ribbing would continue throughout the whole trip. Of coarse we all want to make it there in our lifetimes…so many don’t.

We fueled up in Crane Flat at the Tioga pass intersection and for the first time ever I noticed the price for fuel was higher than the station in El Portal. That was a wakeup call. It was about 10 cents more per gallon…ouch! Well we were ahead of schedule and being it was Friday when others come up to camp, we had the advantage of finding a good camp. There are a few campsites located around the South Fork of the Tuolumne River which is situated just outside Yosemite on highway 120. The Sawmill area has several forest service roads crisscrossing the region. Luckily nobody was in the camp we wanted to grab which is located far enough from the highway for complete privacy along with limited road noise.

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We set up part of our camp and then headed off to pick up the fire permits. At the ranger station Steve bought a stuffed Moose toy for his son and in front of the rangers asked if I wanted the Moose or Smokey Bear. Smart ass! After leaving out with our permits and Bullwinkle we noticed that most of the day was still in front of us, so I suggested a local 4×4 route. A nice loop that was right outside of our camp was a drive up Golden Arrow road then back down Crocker Ridge. To my surprise, not even a mile from the ranger station, my van just up and died. It started right up but a few miles down the road it happened again. This wasn’t good at all and would haunt me throughout the trip.

Golden Arrow and the Crocker Ridge Trail:

Golden Arrow is a paved shortcut road which leads from highway 120 to Harden Flat Road. It takes you close to forest service road 1S12 which was the trail we were after. Both 1S12, FR-20, and the Crocker Ridge trail run from harden Flat Rd and intersect with the Old Coulterville Trail at what is called 5 corners.

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FR-20 is a paved thoroughfare that crosses over the Old Coulterville Trail and leads to Anderson Flat below the ridge and beyond to highway 132. (FR-20 has been closed off over the years and may still be under repair on both sides of the Old Coulterville Trail). Even though 1S12 actually becomes the Old Coulterville Trail east to Yosemite, we only traveled enough on it to link up with the Crocker Ridge trail.

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    (The old Coulterville road in the distance winds its way down the ridge)

I can’t stress enough that a good Forest Service Trail map is needed in this area. One day I want Steve to run the Coulterville route. Not only is it a historical trail, it’s a fantastic drive.

1S12 to Harden Flat is a fairly well graded route that is somewhat scenic especially in fall when the trees bring on the vivid colors.

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From what I understand it was once a RR grade and some of the drive travels along a shelf that gives some nice views of the area.

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As we headed up the mildly uphill route, I showed Steve a few places to camp at just off the trail but most of the area has only a handful of level spots to boon dock at.

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Most of the region is steep and slightly rugged but usually 2WD friendly.

After turning onto the Crocker Ridge trail you see that the upper area is recovering from a fire that happened several years back. Another nice spot that looks out over the area.

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There are a couple of side trails that make navigating difficult. One leads to a private residence not far off the 5 corners intersection. The path is quite well used and might fool you into thinking it’s the main trail. There is a gate that may or may not be open just off the split. Technically you can drive through their property even if the gate is closed, but the trail is gated off at the park boundary beyond the residence where it ends up as a locked dead end. When I say drive through their property, I mean just that. The trail runs right between the house and out buildings. Because few drive this short section of trail, you will get some nasty looks from the owners upon arrival. A few years back I went in there to actually see their property. At one time this spur was the original Old Coulterville Trail and the property was a mid-1800’s stage stop called Hazel Green. After explaining that I was actually looking for the stage stop to see if it still was standing, the owners were pleased to talk about their little piece of history which BTW was still standing. On this excursion we bypassed the stage stop and continued down toward highway 120.

The rest of the trail was fairly straight forward and not overly confusing.

There were only a couple of wet spots that didn’t even require four wheel drive.

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All of the trail on this side is in heavy forest and doesn’t offer any spots to camp except one little spur to the left. Still I don’t consider it a premium boon dock spot.

After reaching the end of the trail I notice a guy attempting to flag me over. Apprehensively I did pull over and asked what was up. He was walking around looking for somebody to pull him out of a mud bog. It kind of freaks me out when I don’t see a vehicle and somebody is trying to take me into a secluded area. At least there were three of us and two vehicles so I wasn’t too worried. It ended up being the real deal so we obliged and pulled him and his girlfriend out.

Heading back to camp we grabbed all the wood we could find and there was plenty about. It was another entertaining night around the campfire. Sometimes I feel bad for those who have never gone camping. Sure, the great outdoors might not be for all, but I live for it.

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This is the sweet spot in camp that I let Steve have. Level and a perfect spot for a Sportsmobile.

 

 

 

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I found several highly colorful fungi pods(?) in and around camp that I’ve never seen before. It didn’t even look real.

 

 

 

In the morning we all regrouped around the coffee pot. It looked like we would be able to clear camp early enough to run the Burma Grade Trail and get back to camp in time for a good night around the fire again. At least Don wouldn’t have to break his tent down and we had stock piled plenty of wood.

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It was goodbye to our fantastic little boon dock spot for now.

The Burma Grade Trail

The Burma Grade Trail goes by a couple other names, mainly Briceburg Road or Bull Creek Road. Burma Grade is a nickname where Briceburg Road originates from the fact that the trail terminates at Briceburg on the Merced River. Bull Creek on the other hand is the major stream that flows along the road towards the top where the trail starts. You can find more info on it by clicking on this link. Bull Creek Road

We could have dropped into Anderson Flat to pick up the trail, but that’s a long and slow going route. To speed thing up we dropped down to Buck Meadows and took the semi paved Moore Creek Road over to FR-20. Moore Creek at one time had several nice boon docking spots along the creek just off the road but the Feds decided they didn’t like campers so close to the creek and closed off all the nice spots. Yet a few camps still exist but they are so close to the road that the traffic dusts you out, plus who wants to camp six feet off any trail?

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The trail takes on a mild upward pitch until it crests then it’s pretty much all downhill to the river.

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On this trail I let Steve and Don eat my dust.

 

 

 

At the peak the views were nice and there was more of a flower bloom than at the lower altitudes.

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                                 (Click on smaller images to enlarge)

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As the trail descends, we passed through a thicker forested zone.

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Here you could find a spot to boon dock on the flats among stands of Oak trees.

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The trail runs through an area where a fire had taken its toll several years back but at least there is some recovery going on. Too bad it takes so long for the pines to grow back.

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Some blooming going on but mainly it was on its way out at this level.

DSCN0232A  (Above and lower left, Castilleja, commonly known as Indian paintbrush or  prairie-fire. It’s also possible to be Appleton’s Paintbrush, a close cousin)

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        (Above right appears to be some kind of Sierra Wall Flower)

By the way, into flowers? One of the best sites for quality pictures can be found at this site. http://www.davidsenesac.com/Closeups/Sierra/sierra_wf_species.html   Not only does he provide some of the most striking close up shots I’ve ever been able to look at, the site shows how well this area produces a variety of flowering plants.

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The trail breaks out of the trees and into rolling hills covered by low level brush.

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Tight switchbacks and the terrain give the trail its nickname of the Burma Grade.

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In the above image, the Briceburg bridge is shown at the bottom or the canyon.

Below Steve and Don are visible in the picture at a good distance away.

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Even zoomed up his van is hard to see.

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Just as they caught up I was off again. With so much dust, it’s best to keep some space.

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Finally getting closer and it was definitely air conditioning weather.

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About 3 hours after leaving out of Evergreen we were back at Briceburg, ready for a cold one and a late lunch. From here we had to drive back to Evergreen. We stopped back at the wood supply just to heavy up our pile.

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Being Steve now knew the way it was time for me to eat his dust.

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Shadows were casting as we rolled into camp. It was another good night around the fire except this time we had a burner.

In the morning we packed up and moved out after a good breakfast. We stopped into El Portal for some fuel and a quick stop by the general store. This place used to suck, but in the past couple of years the new owners have turned this place into a must-stop shop. They have items you’d never think a small store would have like fresh meats and vegetables plus homemade sandwiches and wraps. We even stooped so low as to buy wood…can you believe it. What the hell, we only had one night left. So again, we were off to out next adventure and an area neither Don or I had been to…well at least part of it.

The Miami Trail:

The Miami Trail is a local route that I’ve been on before but never completed the entire run from start to finish. Basically it is a combination of several forest service roads that run between Highway 140 and 41 below Yosemite NP. Closer to highway 41, the trail runs through the Miami Motorcycle Trail Area, a riding park that incorporates narrow trails suited for ATV’s and dirt bike riders.

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The beginning of the trail starts at the Jerseydale CDF station off Triangle road above Mariposa. As we pulled onto the trailhead, I stepped out to shoot a photograph and noticed my passenger side power step failed. One problem is the steps work together power wise and although I could have cut the juice to one side, the passenger side is the more important of the two. These new retracting steps are nice but I didn’t figure I was going to have problems so quickly. Thankfully I had some heavy duty zip ties and we closed up the step for the rest of the trip. This would make climbing in and out of the van difficult. 

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The start of the trail begins at a somewhat low altitude in the 3500 foot range and quickly moves up in altitude on a fairly wide well graded road.

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The terrain changes as the trail moves to the more sun exposed sides of the mountain.

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Oaks reappear and replace the pines as the trail winds its way along the western side of the shelf route.

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After moving into a higher zone the trail again follows along the ridge and finally crests one of the small peaks.

It does offer some scenic views of the lower region.

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Then we ran into this.

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This section of the trail was a little rough and narrow in spots. At one time this was a beautiful route that followed a ridge along a shelf road, but fires had moved through the area several years back and had severely scarred the forest. I worried about downed trees from the recent high winds that came through a few weeks prior but luckily nothing was blocking the trail. There were some tight spots though. The forest service had cleared all the heavy downed trees out of the trail but left room for Jeeps not vans. There were some tight spots to negotiate.

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Soon we reached the upper altitudes of the trail where the Signal Peak fire lookout was visible. Following a ridge route below Crow Peak we finally broke out of the burned area and it was pleasing to the eye to leave the fire zone.

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The trail was slightly steep and loose making four wheel drive advisable. It was also the roughest section on the entire route. It wasn’t something most SUV’s would have a problem with but would pose a problem for 2WD vehicles unless equipped with correct tires.

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It would have been nice to take the mile and a half or so spur to the fire lookout but time wasn’t on our side. Besides, there was a snow bank blocking the trail at the split. Chances were we might have been able to get through but the lookout is much higher up and the possibility of more snow across the trail was enough of a reason to bypass it. Besides I was still worried about my engine issue. The upper pass area skirting Chowchilla Mountain was quite scenic and even though there were limited areas to camp at, a few spots around the spur trail would do as a reasonable boon dock site. Our final destination was still 2 to 3 miles further up the trail.

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We finally made the Summit campground. There are a few places to pull off along the trail but none are unique in any way. This camp on the other hand was quite nice but is also a magnet for other travelers. It’s large enough to have some privacy if a couple other groups are in there but if crowded I’d be looking elsewhere.

I actually stuck to the Miami Trail itself, and stayed off the Chowchilla Mountain road that cuts through the same area. Battalion Pass was just up the road and there might be other areas to boon dock at but we never really poked around so I’ll have to take a look sometime in the future. BTW Battalion Pass gets its name from the Mariposa Battalion who were the first white men to discover Yosemite Valley.

At camp my engine died again at idle. At least it started right up, but it still had me worried and I was still pissed off at the step failure.

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At least I had a backup step.

This area is nice. There is a small stream running through the camp, and a few nice small grassy areas in and around the very small creek. It’s too bad some off roaders have to tear up stuff in the name of fun. The little creek had tracks were several idiots decided to try to get stuck in the mud and although they might have thought it was cool to do this, all they did was create an eyesore. I just don’t understand why some off roaders are dumb as a box of rocks. The extreme environmentalists already have enough ill-informed voters on their side to convince politicians to push an agenda in shutting down area just like this. If America adopted this attitude about our highways and roads, all road vehicle travel would be abolished due to trash alone. But we all know this will never happen because almost everybody drives a vehicle of some sort, yet only a very few of the masses actually venture into the backcountry. Why some people can’t see the writing on the wall is beyond me.

Well at least the camp was wide open and not a sole around. Steve and Don were able to get far enough away from me to comfortably sleep without the snoring factor distraction. At this higher altitude the night was cool and I was glad we grabbed some wood even though there was plenty lying about. So unlike the previous fires the nights before, we built a “biggun” that evening.

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Steve brought some Asian ribs that made for some tasty BBQ finger food and between all the crackers, dips, nuts and other alcohol inspired favorites, no full-fledged meal was necessary. The music was good and although my I-Pod is loaded with over 4000 songs, some of that music doesn’t really match. At any moment we might be jamming to “Rage Against The Machine” then have to settle for “Merle Haggard”. The I-Pod is loaded with all kinds of music from rap to jazz to country. Steve didn’t seem to mind. Although I tried to remove all the children’s music, Don’s wife had slipped in a few oddball tunes that did fall through the cracks from time to time creating a few of those “what the f___ moments”. One of the funnier times of the evening was when one of those unique songs made the playlist. We always wonder what the next tune would be, but when America The Beautiful began to play, we stood up, took off our hats and held them over our hearts. Be it red neck patriotism, the alcohol or a little of both, it was one funny moment. Hell we had to check the ribs and grab another beer anyway. I sure enjoyed that night and was sorry it would be our last.

The morning came as usual with Don up first making coffee and me slowly working my way towards the full cup waiting for me at the table. Steve finally made it out and we all began to pack it up. Being we had only made it three quarters all the way through the trail, Steve had a longer day ahead of him than we did. LA was a long way off.

The next part of the trail was a mystery to me and all I had to go on was what I had been told about. Some friends had claimed it was an extremely dusty trail.

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During the trip we only ran into one other vehicle. Luckily we were able to pass each other. He did tell up that the trail was blocked ahead and thought our large vehicles would not be able get through.

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Traveling from camp the trail follows a ridge route with some fairly nice lower valley views. This part of the trail is called “10 mile grade”, an old railroad grade. It was kind of a shame the air was so hazy because if it were a clear day you’d be able to see quite a distance. It’s a very narrow trail that will require drivers to yield to oncoming vehicles depending on the grade.

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This was the rock slide that took up a bit of the trail but we were able to get around the mogul.

Dome Rock (shown below) is a granite monolith that is supposed to be one of the highlights of the route but is difficult to see from the trail.

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The predominantly whitish granite makes this area look different than any other part of the trail. As the trail began to descend, we found a good spot to pull over and make lunch.

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Quesadillas were on the menu and the “kit” Steve purchased from Trader Joes really hit the spot. Trader Joes has so many easy to make meals that taste out of this world that I wish there was one in my home town. After chowing down we hit the trail and continued down.

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The terrain began to change as we left the granite behind. The road snakes its way down the mountain towards Silver Knob Peak and to my surprise the forest became more dense and greener.

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There were some slightly steep sections as we approached the motorcycle park.

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The Miami Recreation Area is an ATV/Motorcycle park, and I expected what I had seen at other similar parks. Most riding areas I’ve visited are shrubby, dusty zones with trails crisscrossing all over the place. We were about to find this place wasn’t your average off road park.

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The shrubbery was striking and what I expected to be dry and dusty was just the opposite and quite pleasing to the eye.

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I found this area more scenic than most of the previous trail. Again there weren’t very many spots to camp and to tell the truth, I wasn’t sure if it’s even allowed inside the bike park. The trail is loaded with small humps which would be a dirt bike riders dream. Besides the large vehicle trails like we were on, several narrow bike trails crisscross the entire area and you would have to watch for riders if the area was busy. On this outing we didn’t see a single motorcycle rider which I was happy about. As we entered the area my GPS computer map was invaluable. I’m not saying you must have one but it did make things go quicker. At a minimum a forest service map should be on board. There were a few intersections where four or five trails came to a single point.

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As we made our way towards Miami Creek the trail began to broaden and became more of a well maintained forest service road.

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At the creek we found a nice boondock camp and even though it was empty, the chances of finding it open would be rare most of the time.

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Because we were pressed for time, exploring other vehicle trails in the area would have to be kept for another day. For the most part we really didn’t see any spots that jumped out at us as far as good camps but I wouldn’t really want to camp where bikes are zipping around all day anyway. As we made our way to the trails end and highway 41, the last three or so miles were fairly uneventful. We passed the Kamook Staging are where the big trailers pull in to camp…a place to avoid for sure!

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Our trip was over. Steve followed us down 41 to the town of Oakhurst which has about anything you need if you were planning to restock for an extended stay. We wished Steve a safe trip back home…I didn’t envy the long trek that he was about to embark on. All I had to worry about was if my engine was going to leave me stranded so I probably stressed a bit more than Steve. Needless to say I took the backcountry route into the Central Valley which rounded out our day nicely. Another great trip was over and thankfully I made it home without any engine trouble.

For a Go-Pro front bumper video slideshow of the Miami Trail, follow the link below: 

http://youtu.be/Q3HKpEtps6E

Summary:

This was a nice little camping trip. Because I’d never completed the Miami Trail, I would say that I did enjoy it the most of the three we ran. I’ll admit it was more scenic than I expected and want to return to explore more of the area in the future. The Burma Grade trail is unique but I would recommend that it should be taken earlier in the season when the area is green and the flowers are out. Most of the boon dock spots were first class in my opinion and even the Merced River camp was a reasonable stop. I always look forward to seeing something new and this trip did in part make that happen for me. So what will be next? I don’t know and don’t care as long as it’s out in the backcountry and preferably with friends.

A couple of other local trails:

Fresno Dome

The Old Coulterville Trail

 

Note: The 3rd largest forest fire in California’s history, the Rim Fire rolled through in late summer of 2013. It destroyed much of the area we visited on this outing. I’m not happy with this but it is what it is. I’ve yet to visit the areas hit, but reports aren’t good. I hope to take a look the fire zone soon and am hoping that our camp below the highway 120 entrance survived. I want to be optimistic but I’m not counting on seeing much left. From what I’ve been told most of the land a half mile or so south/west of highway 120 was damaged but further south and west was spared. That means the upper section of the Burma Grade trail survived but the zones close to 120 such as Harden Flat and sections of Crocker Ridge were hit. I doubt I’ll ever see it like it was in my lifetime.