Norcal Wagons Niagara Rim Trail


Color Geek in Charge
Jun 5, 2003
Sacramento, California

I left Sacramento with Poquita around 4pm on Friday afternoon, there was a lot of traffic on I-5 south bound, felt like every body and their brother was out with their campers and trailers. I guess it's summer around here. By 630pm I met up with Patrick and his pristine LX 450 at Sugar Pine. Just east of Sonora on Hwy 108. His beautiful rig had brand new bumpers & sliders. This would be the maiden voyage for his truck.%#@&

The previous night, Devin and I had spent quite a bit of time on the phone looking at maps maps of the area. Devin is a veteran of the Stanislaus National Forest. It was the first time I was up there. With his help, I was able to make a route on my GPS that would take me straight to the campsite.%#@&
When we got to the campsite at 730pm. This area of the Sierras is different from the Rubicon. For starters it's a bit higher.%#@&The campsite was around 8600 feet. Then there are lava formations everywhere. Many mountain crests have remains of what was once a volcano.%#@&
Devin was no where to be found. His truck was there with a trailer. He had setup a cooking table. There was some kindling on the ground next to the fire pit. A few minutes later we heard an engine approaching, it was Devin on a quad.

That night we cooked some short ribs and sausage. Did you know I can't go camping without sausages? We also had polenta with pomodoro sauce.%#@&Patrick brought two different bottles of Pinot Noir. Both very nice. After dinner we sat around the camp fire and told stories until it was time to go to bed.

Poquita woke me up at 530am. She saw something move outside the truck and she had to go check it out. By 600am we were all up and took turns riding on Matt's quad. When I took off with it so did Poquita. She followed me at 15 MPH down the trail for 1/2 a mile. She was out of breath but very happy.%#@& Then we turned around and did it again. This dog was born to run.

Around 930am, Devin's friends: Scott and Matt showed up.%#@& I had met them last year a the 4th of July Bash in Mariposa. We had breakfast and soon later we were on our way to the trail. The trail head was about 4 miles from the campsite.%#@&

After airing down to 20 psi and in 4 Low we were ready to do what we came here to do. The first 500 yards of the trail were the most challenging. Reminded me a bit of the Dusy, a narrow trail with boulder, trees and tight corners. And I must not forget, rock gardens on narrow ledges. A tough trail by definition,%#@& even more so for a maiden voyage.

After about a mile the trail opens up, there is a beautiful view of the valleys below. Then you%#@&realize what's next. Hartbreak hill. Low gear, foot on the brake. Then I slowly guide my 6000 lbs monster down the slope of this dusty hill. Halfway down there are two boulders that make the trail 30 inches wider than an 80 without flares.%#@& Your aim must be good before committing and you have to ride your brake firmly but gently. No matter how hard I tried with all 4 wheels locked, La Cabra was still moving. To finalize this obstacle, at the bottom of the hill, there is a sharp turn on an angle, that makes it feel a bit quite tippy.%#@&

The rest of the obstacles on the trail were not too hard to maneuver. By 1230 we were at the Lion's Butt trail. We stopped for a quick lunch. Poquita had been terrified through the first part of the trail, but by now her head was out the window and her tail was wagging.%#@&

After lunch, we got on the top of the Lion's Butt trail to watch some Jeepers play on it. It did not take much for me to want to give it a shot. Patrick rode shotgun with me and in no time we where at the bottom of this hill climb. From the bottom it looked harder than from the top. An even uphill climb, with a sharp turn to the left. Then more climbing and a left turn. There's when it got tougher. The turn was very sharp and uneven. Pretty soon La Cabra had it's front wheel in the air with that familiar feeling to it.%#@&I backed up and tried a couple of times, looking for the spot that would level the rig. As I tried to go forward, the left front tire kept getting%#@&higher and higher. I turned to look at Patrick and he was a bit pale. I asked Scott to give me a hand, to climb on my left slider but it' was not coming down. Matt came down and with both of them on the slider La Cabra was able to creep up and clear the obstacle.

By 230 we had cleared the trail. We drove back to the campsite to get Devin's & Matt's rig. Matt had mentioned earlier that day that there was some oil on the trail. Some one was leaking oil. I checked La Cabra and it was dry. We did not give it much thought, but when I looked under Patrick's rig, I saw oil dripping under the front axle. Not from the diff, but under left side. I got closer to take a look and I found the culprit. Patrick has not done his breather extension job yet. He must flexed the truck to an angle that%#@&disconnected%#@&the breather line. As the oil got hotter, it spewed out of the breather connector on the axle. To make sure he could get home safely, we measured how much oil there was on his diff. It was full to the rim.

Back on Hwy 108 one of my MTRs gave out. We were driving no more than 40 MPH, on our way to a nearby gas station, then I heard the typical hissing sound of air departing from a tire. Back in Moab I had noticed a scar on one of my tires. I took it to two tire shops and they both said it was OK, that it was only superficial. Oh well... It did not take us long to get the spare on and we were on our way again.%#@&

I want to thank everyone who came on this trip, specially Devin for organizing it.

I have placed the pics of this trip on my homepage. The address is:


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