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Brian Riggs Does the Dusy-Ershim Trail

Contributed By: Brian Riggs

Let me start by saying that this post will be long...Just like the trail. If you're not interested in it delete it or skip it. But for those that are interested here it goes:

Day 1
We pulled out of Salt Lake at 8pm Friday night, There were a total of six vehicles. My '79 Cherokee, Mile's '87 Grand Wagoneer, Larry's '86 Blazer, Shaggy's '78 F250, Greg's '77 F250, and Andi's '97 Wrangler(one and a half months old). About 3 1/2 hours into the trip we had our 1st visit from Mr. Murphy. Greg's F250, Which to this point had been towing my Chero while I rode with Andi, threw it's belts. After a short stop to replace the belts and unhook my Jeep we were underway again with me driving my Jeep now. I must admit that I much preferred the company while riding with Andi as she is much better looking and has a much better personality than my empty passenger seat. We arrived in Ely Nevada just after Midnight and rolled out the sleeping bags on the grass and went to sleep.

Day 2
After breakfast we stopped at the parts store to pick up some more belts for Greg's F250 for spares and some plastic to cover my back window as I was sucking fumes pretty bad(part of the reason we originally planned on towing it). After an uneventful trip across the rest of the Nevada desert we crossed the Border into California and started up the mountains toward Yosemite NP. Just as we were driving along Mono lake Mr Murphy decided to pay another visit to Greg. This time his left rear tire(39" Mickey Thompson) decided to pass him and fly off into the sage brush where the road curved ahead. Luckily the Brake drum on the GM 14bolt axle he has under him held up to the punishment and only one lug was sheered off. It took a little searching to find the tire out in the brush but once we found it the others running one ton axles donated a couple of lugnuts from thier vehicles and we got the tire back on and were underway. Needless to say everyone else checked thier nuts while we were stopped and Greg was reminded to check his nuts at every stop after that. We ate dinner in Lee Vining and the headed through Yosemite to Oakhurst. Unfortunately we only had three hours to make it through Yosemite if we didn't want to pay the $20 visitors fee so we didn't get to do any sight seeing. We had planned on finding a campground between Oakhurst and Shaver Lake but we didn't see anything along the way and before we knew it we were at Shaver lake which is the last place to gas up before the trail. It was already past Midnight so we decided to gas up and get to the trailhead which was about an hour away to camp so that we could start the trail the next morning. By the time we got to the trailhead and found a place to roll out the bags it was 2:30 am and we were all dead tired and fell asleep quickly.

Day 3
We got a late start today due to the time of arrival the night before. By the time we got up, had breakfast, aired down, and had the trucks ready to go it was almost noon. We hit the trail and were moving along quite well all the way up to Thompson hill which is listed as the toughest part of the trail. We had done about ten miles of trail in about 5 1/2 hours with only a couple of spots that were tight for the two FSJs and extremely tight for the F250s and Blazer. There was one spot that Greg's F250 was climbing up the two trees on either side of him rather than going through them. Thompson hill is where the trail got real interesting. When we were just getting to the first section of tough stuff we came upon a couple of Four-runners towing trailers that were having some mechanical difficulties. We helped them unhook the trailer and move it down to a level spot then helped move the injured Four-runner down to the same spot. The second Four-runner Moved off to the side of the trail so that we could pass but within a short time we ran into the rest of thier group which had continued on who were having difficulties on the toughest part of the hill. They had already blown two beads on thier tires and by the time they got to a spot towards the top that they could move over to let us by it was getting to be about 11:30 at night. By the time we finished the hill and got to the camp area at thompson lake it was after midnight again and we were all getting burned out although we all felt pretty good about having done the toughest part of the trail in the dark without any mechanical failures.

Day 4
Due to the fact that we had already done between 1/3 and 1/2 of the trail in the first day we decided to stay at Thompson lake to recover from the last three days. We spent the entire day hiking down to the lake and relaxing around camp.

Day 5
We got up early, ate breakfast, packed up camp, and pulled out onto the trail. Within less than 1/2 mile Mr. Murphy saw fit to grace us with his presence once more, This time he paid a visit to the other F250 and Shaggy's steering knuckle snapped. His tire flopped off to the side and he lost all ability to control the direction of his vehicle. While we were getting him off the trail and getting the axle torn down so that we could take it in to get another greg climbed under his and found that he also had a small crack developing in the same spot. We decided to leave Greg's truck at the top along with Shaggy and his dad while we drove back down the trail and into Fresno to get the parts. By the Time we got off the trail and down to Napa in Shaver lake it was about 5pm. we checked to see if Napa had any leads on finding a replacement knuckle and got some numbers from the phone book to try. Once we got to a spot in Shaver lake that we could get Cell service we began calling and had no luck. Even the Ford dealer didn't have one and said that it had been discontinued for some time. As a last resort we called Mike Bennett who I had exchanged a couple of breif e-mails with about the trail and that had been referred to another person in my club by Del Albright as a possible contact if we ran into trouble. It turned out that Mike had one sitting in his garage and he also agreed to look for another so that we could replace Greg's as well so that we could finish the trail. When we got down to Mike's home we were greeted warmly and shown the part so that we could compare them to make sure they were compatible. He informed us that he had been unable to find any other source for one and that the only other place that he could probably find one was down in L.A. at Dynatrac who builds custom axles. He let us take the part with the understanding that we would replace it with another used one if we could find one or send him the money if he could find another one. Mike has got to be one of the greatest people I have ever met! Here we are, people he has never met and only exchanged a couple of e-mails with, Asking for his help and not only did he help, But he went that extra mile to try to make it easier for us by calling around trying to find a second one. We ended up getting back to the trailhead at about 1 am again and camped in the same spot we had the first time and went to sleep. This turned out to be the longest day of the whole trip and everyone was burned out. Suffice it to say that tempers were short, some feelings were hurt, and we were all having a bad day.

Day 6
We got up early and decided that since we weren't going to be able to finish the trail with Greg's knuckle being cracked we would just take the two FSJs up to deliver the parts. I gave greg a ride back up to his truck and within in the first couple of miles I lost my CB antenna and had to Jury rig an antenna out of 102" of 16 gauge wire. This allowed me to still use it on the trail as long as we didn't get too far apart. We made good time up the trail with just the two of us and we had made it up to the tough part of Thompson hill again in just over two hours when Mr. Murphy decided to humble me a little bit. While I was climbing the first tough part I could feel my Cherokee pulling to the right side whenever I hid a rock ledge or rough spot. I finally had greg get out and look. He said that he could see my axle turning in the knuckle but that my tire wasn't turning. He unlocked the hub then put it back in to no avail and I figured that I had spun the hub so I pulled up onto the most level spot I could find and got out my tools and spare hubs. As soon as I took the cover off the hub I could see that the hub was fine. When I grabbed hold of the end of axle it was turning but the rest of the axle wasn't. I don't know when the shaft had broken as I hadn't heard anything even close to the sound that an axle usually makes when they go. This was the first axle I've ever broken but I've heard many break on other vehicles. I proceeded to take about 45 minutes to put in my spare axle and we were underway again. We got to the top, fixed Shaggy, and made it back down without any further problems and made it back to camp just after dark and went to sleep. This was another very long day and I was totally burned out and ready to go home.

Day 7
Due to the fact that Greg had a cracked knuckle, Andi's ribs (which had been injured a week before the trip) were bothering her the whole time, larry's kids were getting car sick from all the twisty mountain roads, and Me being burned out. We decided to head back home through sacramento and then across I-80 taking it easy along the way. Miles and Shaggy decided to run Swamp lake trail which is right there and then make the long drive home in two days again. After we split up we headed down to rte 99 and then proceded up to Sacramento to I-80 , then onto Reno. I had planned to look Michael up while I was in Reno but we didn't get there until after Midnight on Thursday night. We ended up getting a couple of rooms at Circus Circus and crashed. This was the first good nights sleep I had had since my air mattress went flat on the third night.

Day 8
We slept in and then went and had breakfast in the casino before we headed out of town. We took our time crossing the desert in the heat of the day and stopped in Elko for the night. We made sure to get a motel with a pool this time as the kids were dying to swim. This was the only night on the whole trip with the exception of the day we spent at Thompson lake that We actually had a chance to relax and have a few drinks and we took advantage of it. I also won $150 playing 21 until 4am which helped my spirits greatly.

Day 9
We checked out of the hotel at noon after having breakfast and headed home. We arrived in SLC at about 5pm and all headed our separate ways. Overall his had to be one of the most fun as well as the most Frustrating trips I've ever made with my club. We will be trying for the Dusy again and I'm still looking forward to making it down to the Rubicon one of these days.

Brian Riggs

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