West Lake / Strawberry Lake, California, Off-Road Trip
We left Tulare, CA, on Sunday afternoon, July 29, headed for a little high-mountain lake in the Wester... Show moren Sierras, called West Lake. We had made a recon trip the week before and determined that our original destination, Strawberry Lake, was going to be a little too challenging for one of the Jeeps along for the trip. It was an unmodified Unlimited, which in spite of the name was limited in its ability to crawl over the rocks on the trail. Our plan was for a three-night camping expedition, with plenty of time to relax, fish, and just enjoy the mountains.
From Fresno, Hwy. 168 East will take you to Shaver Lake and then on to Huntingtion Lake. This is also the same general area as the Sierra Summit Ski Resort. The turn-off to West Lake and Strawberry Lake lies between Shaver and Huntington lakes. As Hwy. 168 passes Shaver Lake, it will make a hairpin turn around the head of the lake. From this hair pin, drive about 6.5 miles and on the right you will see a parking lot with latrines. Another 2.5 miles farther on, take a right and head into the woods. This should be the third road to the right past the parking lot and latrines.
In about 2 miles the road makes a "T". Take a right and proceed about 1.2 miles. At that point the road will continue straight on, but another road will intersect from the left. The road to the left should be marked "West Lake," or "Strawberry Lake." As you approach this intersection, as a landmark, you may see cattle pens on the right.
After turning left, follow this road about 3.2 miles. There you will come to "Sand Flats." There should be a sign, but if not, it will be obvious you have arrived because it's flat . . . and sandy. Duh! At Sand flats, a road intesects from the south. This road leads to Red Lake and then on to Coyote Lake. These are Intermediate level trails, marked with Blue markers. The trail to West Lake and onward to Strawberry lake is rated Beginner level and is marked with Green markers. But especially beyond West Lake, I would rate that trail on the more difficult end of the Beginner range. A stock height Jeep will drag over several rocks getting to West Lake and spotters are essential. From West Lake on to Strawberry, a stock height Jeep will have some real difficulty.
Sand Flats is where the real Four-wheelin' begins. To that point it wouldn't be too difficult in a stock height, two-wheel-drive Suburban. But as the road proceeds from Sand Flats, it shortly becomes very rocky. Follow the Green markers or you'll end up in the wrong place. West Lake will be about 1.5 miles from Sand Flats, with Strawberry Lake about another mile beyond West Lake. From Sand Flats to West Lake you pass several small areas which look like meadows in dry weather, but in wetter times will be "frog ponds." Beware the mosquitoes.
We really enjoyed the trip. If you go you will too. Hope you enjoy the photos here.
^^^ These shots were taken at Sand Flats. Some of us appreciated the latrine there. Others, not so much. Beyond this point, wilderness rules are in effect: fire permits, shovels, buckets, axes, etc. are mandatory.
The trail beyond Sand Flats gets pretty rocky. Stock Jeeps can do it if they're not afraid to drag -- and with some spotters to save the dif's :) vvv
^^^ Thought I'd just see what she'd do. The Xterrains never slipped, crawling right up the granite face of this boulder.
vvv The shots below are all in the vicinity of our campsite on West Lake. It's a really beautiful spot for camping, as you can see. Although, when we were there, the fishing here was not as good as at Strawberry Lake -- probably because West Lake is a little more easily accessible. Elevation at West Lake is in the upper 8000 range and 9000 at Strawberry Lake
vvv These two shots are from Strawberry Lake, with the day's catch below. All in all it was a great trip. Good times, with good friends, and great fish! Show Less
Monache Meadows, California, Off-Road Trip
We left Tulare, CA at about 2:30 pm on Sunday, July 23, 2006. Driving east out of Tulare on Hwy. 137 we passed th... Show morerough Lindsey, where the road turns south and becomes Hwy 65, and then proceeded through Porterville to Ducor. Temperatures were scorching -- 116 F at Porterville and 113 F at Ducor. The mountains were especially inviting at that point!
At Ducor we turned east on J22 which later becomes M56 and headed for California Hot Springs. This is a really beautiful little mountain resort with a swimming pool and mineral baths. They also sell Dreyer's ice cream by the scoop which was especially good with the heat that day.
The ice cream was even better that day because one of our group, who was driving an '03 S-10, broke down about a mile out of California Hot Springs. One of the blades on the plastic fan broke off and made swiss cheese out of the radiator -- not good! (The towing bill was $250 back to Tulare.) The break-down caused us about a 2 hour delay and he, of course, had to return home with his truck. The good news is he came up on Monday in his Suzuki Samurai. It's a long story why he didn't just bring it in the first place.
From California Hot Springs we travelled further east until we intersected M50. M50 runs north and south at that point but proceeding northward, it gradually turns northeast and goes through Johnsondale. About 3 or 4 miles east of Johnsondale the road crosses the Kern River just after passing a beautiful little waterfall. You can't see it from the west side but you can from the east.
Immediately across the bridge road 22S05 veers left and heads for the Black Rock Info Station. 22S05 runs basically east-northeast, but turns basically due north about 3 or 4 miles past Paloma Meadow. Black Rock Info Station is the last opportunity to get fire permits, etc. if you have neglected to do so thus far.
Leaving Black Rock I. S. and prceeding north the road passes through a gate. As always, if it's open, leave it open; if it's closed, close it behind you; if it's locked, don't go through it! Once through the gate the road is now designated 21S03. In just under 3 miles we came to a "y" in the road at which we veered right onto 21S36.
We followed 21S36 about 2 1/2 miles passing Powell Meadow just before we came to the Monache Jeep Road. All roads to this point had been paved. The Monache Jeep Road (obviously) is not! It is designated as a "4WD" road on the Topo maps.
We were now just about 15 miles short of our goal, having already travelled 120 miles into the Sierra Nevada since leaving the heavy air and stifling heat of Tulare. These last 15 miles, however, will take a reasonably thinking 4-wheeler about an hour and a half to cover.
Since it was dark when we arrived at Monache Meadows, finding a well-situated campsite was a challenge. After fording the South Fork Kern River and driving around for about another hour (in the dark) we finally returned to a site we had passed just before fording the river and made camp at about 10:30 pm. In the daylight, it appeared that we could not have chosen a better one. I think you'll agree when you see the photos.
We were now just inside the Inyo National Forest and not far from the Golden Trout Wilderness, at the base of Monache Mountain and in clear view of Olancha Peak.
The South Fork Kern River runs through the only area in the world where the native Golden Trout is found, one of the most beautiful fish in the world. They were isolated in that area by rock slides, waterfalls, etc. until people introduced other species into the streams about 100 years ago. Now the Golden are rarely seen in genetically pure form because they have hybridized with the non-native species introduced into the streams. By the way, the fishing was good and the fish were good!
Well, I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed the trip! I think, with no difficulties along the way, this could be a 4 1/2 to 5 hour trip from the Visalia / Tulare area. Knock about 30 - 45 minutes off that for the time from Ducor. But obviously problems arise so if you go, allow extra time. On to the photos . . . !
Our caravan on the "Monache Jeep Road." Since we were in a hurry and it was dark on the Jeep Road on our inbound trip, the photos on the trail itself were taken on the way out. That's me at "anchor" in the rear. The shots below are my Colorado, loaded and doing its thing! (Thanks to my wife for running up and down the hills, over rocks, etc. trying to get just the right shot!)
Some nice shots of Monache Meadow with some early morning fog hanging over it. These were taken from our campsite just above the South Fork Kern River. (Above and Below)
The view across the meadow from our campsite was spectacular, especially at sunset. (Above and Below)
Here's a nice shot of Olancha Peak that my daughter took.
These wild-flowers were everywhere, sometimes mixed with some really delicate red ones too. I thought this one made a nice shot.
Looking down the meadow to the south (Left). I believe that's Jackass Peak. Cattle are still grazed regularly (Below) when the meadow is not covered in snow (only about 3 months of the year). In fact, we have the historical cattlemen and sheep men to thank for our knowledge of and access to this meadow. There were buckaroos and buckarinas in the valley every day we were there, tending to their cattle. The grazing practices we saw were very sound and low-impact with electric fences dividing the meadow for rotational grazing
More to come as time allows Show Less