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My Expedition Vehicle & Trailer

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Back to Coyote Flats with the Expedition Trailer

I have not been back to Coyote Flats since 2015  Expedition Trailer At Coyote Flat

It was high time to hitch the trailer up to the new 4Runner and go on a four day adventure!

Once I made it to Bishop I headed west and noted the dark clouds rolling in. I hoped to make good time without any incidents on the long off-road drive to my camp site.

From the gentle sandy road you'll ascend some initially narrow, steep and sometimes rough switchbacks. I've highlighted the trail's path with the red lines.

After those switchbacks the trail winds across open areas, steep canyons and shelf roads that have amazing terrain and great views.

 The traverse requires navigating short up-and-downs as the trail gains elevation overall.

There was also a pretty cool canyon lined by steep arrays of sometimes precariously perched boulders anticipating a good ground tremor.

With a lot of the hill climbs behind me I would break out into open areas with broad vistas of open sky and mighty mountains.

So far the trailer was handling well and the new Falken WildPeak AT3W tires on the 4Runner were very surefooted across the varied terrain.

After passing through a mild water crossing, a short hill climb revealed my first view of the broad Coyote Flats framed by the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Soon I was cruising the easiest road of the Flats as I homed in on the final and roughest traverse into my camp site.

Before too long I was navigating a jarring path that was more rocks than a dirt road.

At times it was closely hemmed in by trees.

As always, the trailer nimbly followed the lead of the 4Runner's twists and turns through the narrow path.

I found a great spot by a small body of water and set up quickly as it was getting late with cold winds and dark clouds gathering quickly overhead.

Next thing I knew I was getting light snow!! So magical!

I was pretty happy that I had replaced the old and worn rain fly of the RTT with a new and better design from a Mombasa tent. The snow tended to pile up on top and a few times in the night I smacked the tent ceiling to slide the snow off.

The next day the snow melted out pretty quickly, leaving behind the older drifts that tenaciously resisted the warm rays of sunlight passing across the clear blue skies.

It was time to get out an explore a bit on foot. I was hoping that Funnel Lake and Rocky Bottom Lake had a decent water level from infrequent rains but steady snow melt.

Sure enough, Funnel Lake looked great! Funny thing was that the little snow storm seemed to have chased off the three groups that were camped there the first day.

Hiking over to Rocky Bottom was a fun rock hopping dance, especially with the tantalizing sound of falling water up ahead.

Besides walking slowly to avoid injuries it also paid off when admiring small clusters of hardy alpine flowers which were opening up their tiny buds to the rays of the sun.

Taking longer than I thought it would to scramble across the rock field I made it to a resplendent Rocky Bottom Lake, fed by a small waterfall of snow melt on the far side.

I took my time ambling back to camp as it was time to prepare dinner and enjoy the setting of the sun.

The next morning was bright and clear and offered great reflections on my little pond. Later in the day I planned to hike up into the bowl-shaped area to the left of the center peak.

While on the hike I did not spot any signs of human presence such as old camp sites or trash. Here I am getting closer to my goal for the day.

When I finally had to head back I was able to make a beeline downhill and enjoy a different view of my camp across the water.

Soon another day was coming to a close and I started prepping for my exit the next morning. I got up early and finished boxing up the gear and stowing the tent. Breakfast was a simple fare of yogurt and soon I reluctantly started the return sojourn across Coyote Flats.

It was pretty smooth going, almost too good to be true. At some point I lost a bolt on the rear swaybar end link. 

I searched through my spares and found nothing that might get me by so I decided to drive slower and ignore the issue as I didn't expect anything to break.

So I proceeded onward until a new noise reared its ugly snout.

It seems I became complacent and rammed the right rear tire's sidewall into something sharp. Dang, a brand new tire reduced to scrap! Maybe I can practice patching the sidewall on it when I get home. Hmmm....

Well, for all of the times I had changed flat tires I never had pictures. I broke out the tripod and set up the camera to catch some action photos.

First thing was to unhitch the trailer and lighten the weight on the rear tires.That also made it easier to bring out the full sized spare from underneath the 4Runner.

Pretty soon it was all back together and I conducted a final walk around to ensure I hadn't left anything hanging loose or on the ground.

Since it was a Tuesday I didn't have to worry about blocking the trail for other travelers. I had only been there about 45 minutes and was soon heading down to Bishop and the long drive home.

Thanks to all of my visitors from around the world! I hope you enjoyed this new adventure and that you are also having some of your own. Until the next time please stay safe and let us know if you post up your stories somewhere so I can link to them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Knives I Carry On An Adventure

Knives are a great topic and everybody has a favorite that is "the best".  The problem is that many folks never use theirs because the investment is so large the knife becomes a Safe Queen. The blade never sees wear, dirt or heaven forbid, a sharpening stone as the factory edge is sacred. Folks ask me about what I carry and it can vary depending on what the activity is.

I became interested in the products of ESEE Knives because of their blades' reputation and also the reasonable prices. In my post about whitewater rafting in the jungles of Costa Rica you can see my pictures of the small ESEE Izula that I carried. Rafting The Rio Pacuare!

(Please note that I paid for these knives out of my own pocket, that my blog is not monetized and ESEE has offered me nothing for this article)

I have a ESEE 6 that has seen a lot of use and was even lost out in the bush for a few months. It's a miracle that I ever found it again. It's a bit heavy for long distance hiking but the smaller model 4 is a good compromise:

  • Overall Length: 9.0″
  • Cutting Edge Length: 4.1″
  • Overall Blade Length: 4.5″
  • Blade Width: 1.25″
  • Weight (Knife Only): 8.0 ounces
  • Drop Point Blade Style
  • Maximum Thickness: .188″
  • 1095 Carbon Steel, 55 – 57 Rc.
Before taking the knife into the outdoors I changed out the factory handle grips, or scales for a set that I purchased from a member of a knife forum.

I went on an all day hike along the Salt Tram high above Death Valley and this was a good chance to take the ESEE 4 along. The backpack is the Khyber 50 from Arcteryx.

 Here is one of the tramway's amazing structures that are over 100 years old!

I am not a fan of the spring steel belt clip that comes on standard ESEE sheaths so I spent the extra cash and bought one of the MOLLE mounting adapters. The adapter kept the knife and sheath secure during my ascent and descent of the rugged terrain.

The MOLLE panel provides for far more secure mounting as the spring clip is a bit "floppy". When your knife's sheath is not well secured it makes drawing or sheathing the blade a bit more uncertain.

So far the knife has been a great companion and a second ESEE 4 is attached to my Hill People Gear Kit Bag (chest pack). The pack is a great way to keep your first line of gear with you at all times; fire starting, compass, whistle, etc. 

This picture is from a very recent adventure up on Coyote Flats, about 11,000' in elevation.

The knife is securely mounted horizontally where I can easily reach it.

Thanks for your questions on my gear! I'll have to write up a short description of the contents of the Hill People Gear Kit Bag if there is enough interest.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Quick Shakedown Desert Trip

I was anxious to try out the new 4Runner even though I still had the street tires on the rims. I prepped the trailer and headed out to the desert for what I hoped to be a long weekend.

I have to say the street tires provided great MPGs even when towing the trailer. I had a good run on the freeways without headwinds or heavy traffic and driving a new car is alwyas a treat. The dirt roads of the desert were easy to navigate and before long I had arrived at my campsite near the old mining operation I was interested in.

After I set up camp the wind started to pick up and I had no idea what a headache it would create. You can see how the tent's rain fly is being buffeted. It had already suffered some minor damage on the White Rim Trail and this trip would add to that.

I broke out my lights, gas meter and other gear and headed into the mine for a look. I have friends who will recognize this location but I will not provide any information on the name or locale in this blog.

I have explored some other areas of this mine before but this would be a more casual look and I would stay on this one level without venturing into the lower workings.

Here are the remains of a storage room, probably for blasting supplies or tools. I am always impressed by how fresh the lumber looks.

Pressing further into the tunnel there were now ore cart rails and compressed air pipes that evaded the metal thieves that roam the desert and destroy our history.

It is inevitable that the weight of the mountain wins out over the bracing that men have installed in their quest to wrest gold from the earth.

There were numerous large stopes where ore was extracted. The extent of this one far exceeded the ability of my flash to dispel the darkness held within.

Let's continue to follow the tracks further into the mountain! We just have to duck under this set of braces and ore chute.

This looks as if it was a workshop of sorts, maybe for repairing ore carts and other equipment.

Here is an example of the way the miners shunted ore carts from one track to another. Although the hand lever mechanism is missing you can easily puzzle out how it worked.

An old grease bucket and brushes for lubricating the track and ore cart axles.

This rusty receiver tank for compressed air was especially interesting to me. The old style riveted construction speaks to the length of time this location has been worked. The history of riveting dates back close to 5,000 years.

Miners could not surf the net and order what they needed so often they would use scraps of steel to fashion what might work well enough. This hinged steel gate on the ore chute is a great example of something functional that filled the need of the day.

I am not sure what led to this machinery laying in a jumbled mess. Even the deepest extent of an old mine is not immune from the stupidity that humans can dream up.

As much as I enjoyed poking around this buried history it was time to start the long underground trek back to the entrance. 

Before too long I spotted what has become a timeworn cliche but is always a welcome sight;

"The light at the end of the tunnel"

Once outside I could see the wind had not abated but instead had gotten worse. I had a quick dinner and turned in early. I managed a good sleep despite the lonely flapping of the rain fly.

The morning of the new day was windy and (being an optimist) I went for a hike to explore the terrain and look into some nearby adits I had noticed. As I roamed the hills I came across numerous test digs with small tailing piles giving testament to the futility of the dig. I also found this but don't know enough to guess at what sort of snake used to wear it. With the cool weather in place I never did see a live snake.

From on top of a high hill I could see back to my camp and the rain fly was straining to break free of the tattered restraints. Because the tent was old I did not know if I could purchase just a new fly or might have to purchase a new tent.

This adit looks promising!

It did not go in too far but the single winged, furry denizen seemed to appreciate the shelter the abandoned mine provided.

Returning to camp I could see that the rain fly would have to be removed. I also had a number of kitchen items launched into the air by a gust of wind and it was quite a sprint for me to chase them across the desert.

That was the breaking point. Time to pack up, get home and effect some repairs or order a new rain fly. Thanks for hanging out with me and exploring a new mine. I do hope you'll come back for the next adventure with me in the high forests above Bishop, California.

Until then, safe travels and rewarding explorations!