2009 Central California SMB Forum Meet and Greet. October 24th and 25th.

Part one:

Kaiser Wilderness, Sample Meadow Campground.


Members attending:

The “AndrewST” group, Andrew and Jacques.

“Angel”, Angel.

The “DaveB”group, Dave and Don. Don is forum member “doubled” who was the official spotter, action photographer, espresso maker, and bartender.

The “Bill Wilson” group, Rob and Ning.

The “Calclimber” group, Craig and Cindy.

“Charlie56”, Charlie.

“Ford 6L E350”, Mike.

The “Kmessinger” group, Keith and Debbie.

The “Yakhir” group, Henry and Kathy.


Four Ford 4×4 EB penthouse equipped vans.

Two Ford 4×4 EB Cruiser hard top vans.

One Sprinter penthouse equipped van.

One Sprinter hard top van.

One classic monster RV.

(There were also several canine forum members who participated)

Edison map

Map from scaruffi.com

This site offers some good information about hikes in the area:

Hiking Edison lake area

Local Area Campgrounds

Please click on smaller images to enlarge.

Most of the members of the Sportsmobile Forum group were aware of the proclamation by the site owner (Jage) to have a group meet and greet in October 2009 that was locally driven. I volunteered to put on the California area meet and was really looking forward to this trip. I must admit the meet did turned out well.

I asked a friend and forum member “Don” to join me and help set up the trip.  We decided to leave out October 20th and would stay until Monday the 26th. Although I was having some vehicle problems, Sportsmobile was able to finish the work on my van and make some quick repairs to get me on the road. Not only did they get my van done before the trip, they were also able to make an un-scheduled repair at the last minute the day we left out. Thanks SMB. For me, Sportsmobile is fairly close, only about an hour from home so it did put us closer to our destination which helped.  It might look like a long drive but Shaver Lake is actually quite close to Fresno. The worst part of the drive is a slightly steep grade passing through the lower Sierra foot hills before you reach the Shaver Lake area.



The pictures only make it look like a mild grade.



If there is one spot along highway 168 that would cause over heating problems, this is it. During hot summer months, this grade between Prather and Shaver lake can be problematic for heavy vehicles or those pulling trailers but it’s not terrible.


There were some very colorful trees along the way toward the top of the grade.

Fuel prices

The town of Shaver itself offers the best supplies, a few restaurants, and fuel, so its the place to stock up before heading up the hill if you plan to do any driving around. Fuel prices were reasonable during our trip and by far the cheapest in the area.






After leaving out of Shaver, the highway travels along a stretch of Shaver Lake passing a couple of marinas.



Southern California Edison Power Co. runs a campground that appeal to large RV’s which require full hookups. Camp Edison is huge and not to my liking but it might offer services to those visiting the area from outside California or those needing specialized services. Camp Edison  After passing Shaver, Huntington Lake is up the road a few miles.


Huntington is another lake that offers boating and recreational sports such as swimming, fishing, and water skiing.

Huntington lake camping

During the normal camping season, several mid sized campgrounds are open along with a few stores where fuel available including Diesel. There is also a small restaurant located here as well.




I was surprised to find snow along the highway. Normally it doesn’t snow around these lower lakes in October. Even with the low snow, our weather during the week couldn’t have been better in my opinion. The daytime temps hovered around the lower 60’s and some days felt fairly warm, maybe close to 70. The nights and early mornings dipped into the upper 20’s and 30’s, but after the sun showed itself, the temperatures warmed quickly and I hope were at least palatable for the group. Tuesday night would be the coldest, dropping to the low 20’s. A heavy storm had ran through the area a week or so before and dumped quite a bit of snow on top of Kaiser Pass Road which peaks out just over 9000 feet. When Don and I arrived there was snow at Sample Meadow as well. Actually a light dusting of snow is typical for this time of the season in this neck of the woods.

sample meadow at Kaiser Kaiser Pass to Edison

Kaiser Stump Springs Rd


Thankfully Sample Meadow CG is almost always vacant at this time of year. There were only a few sites occupied and we found our favorite spot open. Don hadn’t set up his arctic tent in over a year and it was one major PITA. Of course the beer didn’t help. We should have read the instructions but what avid outdoorsman needs instructions? Besides we couldn’t read them anyway so I’ll just blame it on not having glasses. It took forever to get that tent up. Once the basic camp was setup, all we wanted to do was to crash out. It was a good thing he brought his heater because it was a damp night and felt much colder than the 25 degrees my thermometer showed.

On Wednesday we finished setting up camp and decided to take a trip down to Shaver Lake. I really wanted to look at a couple lower elevation trails. I’ve read this has been the coldest October since 1962 and it took a toll on the fall colors around Kaiser Pass.

kaiser pass rd 09

I was a bit disappointed in the lack of colorful trees that normally show themselves off at the upper altitudes during this time of year, so a drive down the hill was warranted.



Kaiser pass still had snow all over the place and it would stick around for most of the entire trip.

On our trip down the highway we ran into Angel and her Saline Valley “Bat Mobile”. I flagged her over and we introduced ourselves. Why didn’t I take a picture?

saline bat

I must admit that Angel’s van did reflect Halloween and the October meet.

She was after the Mono hot springs for a lingering soak so after a brief meeting we gave her directions to the springs and told her where to find the camp if she wished to join us that night.


Mono Hot Springs

Mono Hot Springs CG 

We had other plans which was to run all the way down to Pine Flat Reservoir on some back roads and do a little backcountry exploration. We took a small paved road off the highway that had plenty of color but because time was short we had to take a spur back toward Shaver. Nevertheless, it was a nice drive well worth a few pictures. (See the Peterson Road trip)



On the way back through town we stopped at a little joint for a pizza, which by the way puts out a good pie and even better…beer. The night back at camp was cold but finished off nicely around a propane fire inside my dome tent while having a few more beers.

Mmmm beer



DSC02611 On Thursday we hung around camp for a while and decided to drive down to Bald Mountain OHV and make sure it was open. Just outside camp we ran into Henry and Kathy. This time I had Don take a picture.

I told them to pick out a spot and we would stop by on the way back through. Driving down past Huntington Lake we blasted by Mike but didn’t have a place to pull over. He seemed on course and I figured he knew where he was going so we continued on, but it was nice to see that the meet was coming together.


Close to Shaver we ran into Charlie and were able flagged him over. We talked a bit and explained that the Yakhir clan was at Sample, plus Mike was probably rolling into camp. I told Charlie that we would stop by on our return to camp.

We found the Bald Mountain OHV trail open and checked out some of the surrounding area. No sign of Craig who said he might camp close to the trailhead. In this area there are several spots along the road to boon dock if need be and also a few campgrounds close by as well. Swanson Meadow campground (located between Shaver and Dinkey Creek) is a nice small camp that usually doesn’t have too much traffic at this time of year.  Link to Swanson Meadow CG

DSC02617  The fall colors were really nice and the sites toward the rear of the CG are positioned on the edge of a scenic meadow. Actually this is where we thought Craig might have put up for the night but the camp was totally empty. We headed back toward Kaiser Pass and our base camp at Sample Meadow.


Kaiser Pass 09 

The pass still had snow on it and at night black ice formed. This really didn’t pose a problem unless traveling in the early morning hours.





Returning to Sample Meadows I was surprised to find practically the entire group had arrived.

Keith and Debbie made itWe now had Angel, Henry and Kathy, Mike, Charlie, plus Keith and Debbie had slipped in without us seeing. Their camp was also decked out for Halloween with Jack-O-Lanterns hanging from the awning.




Charlies camp

Don and I stopped by the fire and introduced ourselves to the Kemessenger clan as well as Mike who I forgot to say happy birthday to. Happy birthday Mike!

DSC02626 We were told someone was in our camp. Yep, Craig and Cindy had made it. I had not met Craig’s better half Cindy and it was good to finally meet her.





The great pumpkinCindy had a pumpkin carved and lit up when we came driving in. The cold weather would let that pumpkin last all week and it kinda became an old friend each night.




Most of the faces at the meet were new but it seemed like we had all known each other for quite some time. The conversations around the fire was amusing as well as interesting, much of it about our vehicles and the forum. Through the trees I saw a rather large vehicle approaching. I laughed as I saw a huge RV pulling into the camp. I told Keith it had to be Andrew. I’ve seen some large trailers up there over the years, but nothing quite like that. The Swiss had arrived. Soon we found out the French had arrived as well. Andrew’s friend Jacques was from France and although he didn’t speak English we made him feel at home as best we could. I must admit that I was honored to have two gentlemen from Europe joining us. Very cool! As the night lingered on, some of the group retired to bed while the rest of us enjoyed the fire.

DSC02632 a

From left to right: Angel, Charlie, Cindy, Craig, Don, Andrew, & Jacques.

At this point in time there were two Sprinters, and five 4×4’s one of which was a Cruiser. Mike had his Sportsmobile trailer which was almost a duplicate to my trailer I hauled up. Around the fire, plans for the next day were put into place. Those who wished to do the Class V OHV trail were more than welcome to join me and Don. As I stated in the Forum post when setting up this meeting, I really wanted everybody to do whatever pleased them.


Friday morning several members came down to our camp. Mike brought gifts…thank you for the air filters. We got to show off our camp and made plans for the day. Angel tried some of our beefed up espresso and promised to bring some of her Kahlua the next morning.



On the way out of our site shown above, we all met up at the main camp before heading off to Bald Mountain. (Click on image to enlarge)

DSC02635 DSC02634 

Checking out each others vans was priority and the conversations mainly about…what else, our equipment and journeys.

DSC02638  DSC02647

Angel Keith and Henry Angels Van

Keith and Debbie's Sprinter Henry and Kathy's Sprinter

Talkin with Mike and Charlie Mike's rig

Cindy Andrew and Craig

 The RVDSC02650

While Angel and Cindy were inspecting the inside of Henry and Kathy’s van, I noticed that I had posted several pictures of it on the forum site. In fact I had met them at SMB. They also said they had seen us at Red Rock SRA the year before. I swear I’m going to make a SMB FOURM hat!  It was hard to get away from all the camaraderie but the mountain was a callin!

As it was, Craig and Cindy would join us in their rig as well as Charlie with his 4×4. Being Charlie was by himself, he would take Andrew and Jacques for the ride up Bald Mountain. It worked well because Charlie needed a spotter and Andrew was experienced is such matters.

The trip up Bald Mountain when off without any problems and was the views were great. Last time I was up there, the summit was clouded over so I also got to see something new myself. (See the Bald Mountain OHV run).

After returning to camp Craig and Cindy flew into our remote site and fired up the BBQ. Don and I stopped by all the folks, told some tall stories, and then headed toward foodsville. It was time to munch out and celebrate our adventure. The food was great; Asada tacos! After the booze came out, things became somewhat vague. Rum and Coke, Fresca and Vodka….in no order. Cindy retired to read a book but said we were “foul mouthed” all night. Oooo! Maybe it was a good thing that we had some territory between us and the rest of the group. Craig’s Suburban heater had been giving him trouble and according to Craig that didn’t help one bit when he and his foul mouth climbed into bed after a long night of drinking.

Saturday morning was hair of the dog…lots of hair of the dog. My God, what did I drink?

Again several members showed up to our camp. You know…meeting people with like interests is priceless. Don was making up some pretty potent espresso and Angel brought down her Kahlua to share.

DSC02963 A

Craig was showing his distaste about how his Suburban heater was working. It just didn’t want to stay lit, so he figured he could fix it.




Charlie showed up and said he wanted to do the Bear Diversion run. Nobody else was actually interested so it was just me, Don, and Charlie with our two SMB’s.

(See Bear Diversion Run).

I had traveled this trail a few times over the years. Charlie’s friend (and forum member) Jack Burgess had suggested it and I must admit it’s another fine trail so Don and I were more than willing to revisit it. The others were off to do their own thing. There was plenty to explore in this area of the Sierra’s.

After another nice off road run we split up with Charlie. Don and I headed toward camp and again showed up close to dark with my new LED light bar blaring into the wilderness. The sunset was nice yet not real colorful but I got off a couple of pictures, one with my van in the background.

Back to Sample in the dark Sunset

This time I noticed we were missing a member, but had gained another. The “Yakhir” Sprinter was gone! Apparently Henry and Kathy had turbo charger problems and had to head down the hill to find a dealer. I was glad to find out later that no real damage was done to their van but I was sorry to loose them. Then I noticed a new face sitting around the fire.


The Bill Wilson clan (Rob and Ning) had made it.






(From left to right: Mike, Debbie, Keith, Cindy, Andrew, Jacques, Rob, & Craig).

We lost a Sprinter but gained another SMB Cruiser top van.

Rob and Ning's camp

Rob planned to leave out Monday. We sat with the group around the fire for a while. It was good of Mike to bring all that wood. It’s nice when you don’t have to gather firewood. I brought my little gas fireplace but there is just something to sitting around a real fire. We retired a bit earlier that evening but Charlie stopped by our camp before we call it a night. Good thing as I was getting a bit worried he had broke down. Being it was basically an alcohol free day, I finally got a good night of rest.

Sunday morning was brisk around 28 degrees but it was so dry I was able to stand outside without a jacket. Mike stopped in to say goodbye and he left out quite early.

Keith and Debbie

Keith and Debbie drove down to our camp after they packed up before leaving.





The rest of the group also showed up while we were making morning coffee. Andrew and Jacques as well as Angel planned to leave out mid day while Rob and Ning talked about looking at Edison and/or Florence Lake. I talked Craig and Cindy into a trip up to Mount Tom. Mount Tom is an active manned fire lookout which provides a great view of the surrounding area. After saying goodbye to all that were leaving, we took off toward the lookout. The drive is very scenic on the way up.

Up to Mt Tom Mt Tom

Mt Tom Trail Mt Tom Trail 1

Mt Tom Trail 2 Boon dock spot Edison

I did take Craig and Cindy by a spot I boon dock at and swore them to secrecy.

Vermilion Valley

This spot is right on the edge of a precipice that over looks the Vermilion Valley.

Vermilion Valley 1

You can position your van to have this view through your penthouse window.

Tree in the trail

On the way out toward the fire lookout, we had the pleasure of trying to pass a fallen tree. It was close but we were able to get through without having to turn back. This trail is not the designated route to Mount Tom and can be difficult for two wheel drive vehicles depending on the weather.

Of all the times, the forest service closed down the lookout for the season just a couple of days earlier. Dang! Craig and Cindy wanted to check out Edison Lake but we dropped back down below Shaver to do a run off Dinkey Trimmer road. (See Lost Meadow run).

After returning to camp in the dark (as usual), we met back up with Craig and Cindy. That night we had a fire. It was almost as cold as the first day we pulled into camp, so the fire felt nice. I was fairly wore out and somewhat quiet that night. Actually I was nodding out around the fire and the guys made sure I knew about it. Crawling into my van was a treat. My Espar heater was appreciated that night.


Monday morning everybody broke camp. We said our goodbyes to Rob and Ning and headed out with Craig and Cindy. The camping trip had come to an end. Other than the scenic route out of the area with Craig and Cindy (see Kaiser to Auberry), the California Greet and Meet was over.

Both Don and I had a fantastic time. It was definitely a unique camping trip and being able to mingle with folks that have like interests is always a plus. I enjoyed meeting all the members and being able to put faces to their screen names really made the trip. Now when I see any of these members posting on the forum, I see them more as personal friends. I look forward to more such meets and want to thank Jeremiah (Jage) for suggesting the Forum Greet And Meet.

Dave Boyer


Please visit the remaining posts about this trip:

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part II 

2009 Sportsmobile Forum Group Meet Part III