During the last major trip I took, one of the SMB forum members (Ray) who goes by the screen name of 1der wanted to get together and do a coastal trip in September but that fell through for both of us. But Ray and his wife Jennifer, asked me to join them in Yosemite Valley for a little October camping trip and hoped that Iíd bring my buddy Don with me who was also at the Leavitt Lake Forum meet. Because most of the month of September and October was shot due to some engine work Iíve wanted to do over the past several years, I was ready to get out to test the new engine upgrades before heading out on any major runs. Unfortunately I had some suspension work that need attention and my refrigerator gave out on me. What an end to the summer. I was amped up to do some easy camping before the major weather change of autumn hit the Sierraís and Yosemite would be a good test run provided it all came together before November. Ray had made room for my van if it was going to done in time but I was actually contemplating pulling out the tent and make a return to pre-Sportsmobile days using my old Chevy pickup. Thankfully that didnít happen.

A Halloween trip:

SF 2014

With the engine work  done and the suspension repaired, the refrigerator was the last issue to tackle and it only put me 2 days behind. Using a couple of vacation days, I left out of town for Donís place on the 29th of October. Unfortunately it coincided with the last game of the World Series and Don is an avid Giants fan. At least we were able to listen to it on the radio as we made our way to the park. Ray held a site for us in Yosemiteís North Pines campground. Although Iím not a fan of most any busy campground, especially the tightly packed spaces of Yosemite Valley, the fact remains that the park itself has a lot to offer. Itís hard to beat the surrounding mountain vistas while hiking or bike riding if youíre into that. Even though the waterfalls are almost nonexistent at this time of year, the autumn colors make up for the lack of water. Don and his wife Helen had just been up there the week before and the trees were just starting to change. Lucky for me, Rayís trip coincided with some major color changes as the weather cooled. Sometimes itís hard to hit the date correctly. Besides the fall colors ramping up, there are nearby spots to off road that appeal to me. But I was here to see friends and a couple of nights in ďthe zoo??? was fine by me.

                                        (Ray, Jennifer, Trisha, and Don)

So about 8PM on the 29th we rolled into camp after dark. It was good to see Ray and Jennifer again and they also had a couple of other friends along with them. Trisha was also from the bay area and had driven up to camp. Randy and his wife Lisa were from out of state and had arrived with a large motorhome towing a Jeep Rubicon. The evening was shot by the time camp was set up, so we didnít even get a fire going.

SF Giants 2014

The World Series was in the last stages of the game and there was a blast of yelling by everybody in camp when the final play was made as SF won the pennant. OK I was camping with people from SF but it was hard to believe there werenít any folks in Yosemite Valley that were Giant fans cause the only yelling came from our group. Maybe they were all in their RVís.

I will admit it was remarkably quiet during the evening hours. Iíve camped in the valley throughout my life and had never seen it so quiet. Iíd hate to think the quiet was due to everybody having their heads stuck in their smartphones. Yes, I had an internet connection. In fact I took care of a few forum admin duties before retreating to bed but I would have been happier making a ruckus around a camp fire with a beer in my hand. Don and I cracked open a couple bottles of rum and finished the night with conversation and music before calling it an evening. Both Don and Trisha were in tents but the night wasnít as cold as I had thought it might be. I even had all my windows open and enjoyed the cool evening. It was perfect weather IMO. Cool enough for a fire but warm enough that I didnít have to run a noisy heater.

In the morning with the sounds of generators starting up, the campground came alive as breakfast was being served. Generators are definitely not my favorite aspect of camping in populated areas but itís part of the campground experience these days. Even with the engines running I still enjoyed sitting outside sipping a hot beverage while the air was brisk. Iím not one for huge complex meals on the trail but when youíre with friends you go with the flow and Iíll admit Jennifer & Ray go beyond the norm. Fantastic food morning and night. That morning Ray had their big grill going making a traditional breakfast. Hey the smells of bacon, sausage and burnt toast filled the air which is the essence of camping IMO. Coffee is more important to me and several shots of espresso did hit the spot. I did grab a sausage off the grill when offered and made a makeshift sandwich with my bagel. After the caffeine boost, the tone  was set for the day. Both Don and I wanted to get out of the valley but Yosemite is a spectacular place even with all the people. We had actually planned to head into the backcountry but Ray & Jennifer convinced us to stay another night. So we decided to stay over and this time have an evening fire. Unfortunately we had to move to a different spot but it was only a couple sites down. We even pushed my trailer to our new camp.

Being in the valley always takes me back to the 60ís and supplies a connection to my past. In the 1960ís the camps were similar to today but generators were few and far between. My family had a very small trailer that my dad would pull up to the valley 3 or 4 times a year. The counterculture during those days hung out at the Stoneman Bridge, smoking pot, drinking wine and beer while waiting for the Firefall which was the highlight of the eveningÖ those days are engraved into my memory.



If youíve never seen the Yosemite Firefall I feel sorry for you; it was a breathtaking nighttime event and am sorry it was discontinued.



Lisa and Jennifer took off to do some biking and hiking. Randy was up for some off roading so we asked him and Ray if they wanted to tag along where we had planned to go that day.

                                       (Jennifer, Lisa, Randy and Ray)



Trisha was planning to check out the valley while everybody was off doing their thing. The park is beautiful this time of year.




I noticed how Ray was admiring another van located in the park. I think he wanted it!

It was by far the smallest van Iíve ever seen and looked like it was something out of a circus. I wish I could of grabbed a picture of him standing by it but the phone booth does give it some perspective.

Randy pulled out the Jeep with Ray as his passenger. We were off.


There are several trails in the area worth doing at this time of year. The Old Coulterville Trail is an awesome off road run but with the recent fires I figured it would be closed. The Miami Trail was a bit too long of a run, but the Briceburg Road also called Burma Grade was close by and a good choice. Both Randy or Ray had ever been down this windy path.

A Short Off Road Trip:

I always prefer to take trails that have big sweeping vistas from the upper altitudes while descending the trail. This is especially true for the Burma Grade Trail. From Yosemite Valley, it was up highway 41 (The Groveland route) to Crane Flat for a little fuel and then down highway 120 to Buck Meadows. From Buck Meadows, nearby Moore Creek Road is a short drive over to Briceburg Road and the start of the trail. It ends up at Briceburg itself where a suspension bridge crosses the Merced River. We stop by ďThe Rim Of The World??? where one of Californiaís largest wildfires, The Rim Fire started last year.

Although this area has burned in recent history, last year the Rim Fire destroyed several other areaís close by that havenít been touched in years. Many of those places were spots that Iíve camped at during my lifetime and it hurts to see such devastation.

Moore Cr survived the fire. The trees at this elevation was just starting to change color.

                      Briceburg road was also untouched by the Rim Fire.

Briceburg Road goes by a list of names on the map. Bull Creek is the county name but it also goes by Burma Grade.

Driving straight through heads to Anderson Valley where a primitive campground is found. While not the most scenic camp, there are vaulted toilets in camp. Anderson is popular with hunters during the season.

                                              (Crossing Bull Creek) 

                  (The meadow here is privately owned but still quite a view)

We did take a small spur that leads to Texas Hill. That part of the trail is slightly longer but more scenic and passes a spot where Half Dome is visible.

Almost impossible to see in the picture here, but Half Dome is easily seen with the naked eye.

Although I can see what some consider Yosemiteís most recognizable feature of the park from my home over a hundred miles away, this spot also gives you a glimpse of Yosemiteís other famous rock giant, El Capitan.

I didnít take too many pictures being it was getting late and the fact that Iíve been here so many times. There are better posts about this area on the site here. The Texas hill route reunites with the Bull Creek Road and heads towards the Burma Grade. The trail descends down a series of switchbacks that are somewhat impressive, especially for those who have never been down it.

Burma Grade

Fall is nice but the best time to visit is in spring when the hills are green and the flowers are out.


                        We finally made it to the Merced River at Briceburg.

                   The Briceburg bridge always provides a unique picture.

End of the trail and we were off to camp and dinner. Back in camp we started a fire and everybody sat around for a while until the days events caught up with us and called for bedtime. Fair to say everybody had a good day.

In the morning we grabbed a cup of coffee while tearing down camp. It was to be the last day in Yosemite for me and Don on this trip. We said goodbye to everybody and hoped the rest of their stay was as enjoyable as the previous days.

On the road out of the Park I notice the trees fall colors were even more pronounced.

                 The Merced River was showing the effect of the 2014 drought.

        An iconic shot of El Capitan on the left and The Three Brothers on the right.

The plan was to hit Anderson Valley but upon arrival we found it occupied by some sort of mining association. Great, so back down Burma Grade to the Merced River. All I had hoped was that we could find a site open there and luckily with an impending storm approaching we found the place empty. We set up to have a fire but within minutes the rain hit and it hit hard. It was another night in the van drinking adult beverages until late into the evening. I always enjoy rain but Don was a bit concerned about water getting through his tent.

In the morning the rain subsided while the skies cleared. Don said his tent kept him dry throughout the storm. The rains had cleared the air and it felt fresh outside. I made Omelet’s, English Muffins and Espresso for breakfast then we broke camp and headed toward home.

The camps here are nice at this time of year and I frequent them often. The short but heavy rain did bring out some color and we did a run to the end of the road before hitting the highway. The road is the old Yosemite RR grade that follows the edge of the Merced River and it Dead ends at one of three campgrounds operated by the BLM.


      Geese on the water made for a nice shot and we did encounter some deer.



              The colors were vivid, much more than my little camera can capture.





This is the only camp where a vehicle can get so close to the river and is a premium site. The beach is an added bonus.


There are some deep holes that produce good fishing at the right time of year and this section has been open year round in the past, but check the DFG rules first for any new restrictions.


    In the springtime itís common to see whiter water rafters coming down the river.


We left the Merced and hit highway 140 to Mariposa. Normally we would stop for a pizza and beer in town but the big breakfast had hit the spot and we werenít hungry at all.

The way home was uneventful or I thought it would be. As usual I took the backcountry route.



                          The drive through the foothills topped off the trip.


                                         (Looking into the central valley)


                      (Chinese walls built in the 1800ís designate property lines)

As I was heading down the hill I noticed my engine would stumble from time to time. This was not good but I was happy I was on pavement. Then two miles from home all hell broke loose. I didnít think I would make it but just kept restarting the engine until I finally limped into my driveway. I was sweating bullets. Didnít I just pay thousands of dollars to keep this from happening? Looked like she had to go back to the shop that did the work and unfortunately the shop was 125 miles away from Turlock.

                                           (An expensive tow)

What a way to end the week but I still had a great time and it could have been worse, it could have happened on the Burma Grade. At least I made it home. The shop got her back in order the next week. I lost an idler pulley assembly and the cam sensor. Itís been an expensive year for my pocketbook but what else would I enjoy spending money on?

See ya on the trail.

Thanks for following AutoRamblings Sportsmobile 4×4 Adventures.