Friday, June 24, 2011

NAXJA SoCalFest 2011 in Big Bear, CA

Each year our Jeep Cherokee club, NAXJA, goes up into the hills of Big Bear, CA, for an annual camp and trail run. This year it fell on May 20th through the 22nd, which we loved because it was much warmer than the April dates of previous years. I believe my first trip to SoCalFest, years ago, netted 19ยบ temperatures at night. We didn’t have rated sleeping bags, we had a small tent and were not at all prepared for that kind of thing. Now we are much more comfortable in the current setup. It’s still tenting, but a lot more luxurious.

I toodled up Friday afternoon/evening in my gutless but well-built 1988 Jeep Cherokee. For those who care, it’s up about 6 ½” on 34” mud tires on aluminum Soft 8s, locked front and rear with 4.88 gearing powering Chrome-moly shafts. I have other goodies like a winch, rock rails, a roof rack, a CB, nice trail tool bag, farm jack, etcetera. The essentials are all there for a very reliable and stout trail vehicle.

Anyhow, this year was pretty much like any year at SoCalFest: Although we plan to get there at a decent hour, things go wrong and we get there *just* before sundown, and rush around getting the tent up, setting up camp, blowing up the inflatable bed, breaking out the forehead lights, turning the lantern on and then, finally, cracking a beer. I do it in that order because if I crack the beer first, I tend not to be nearly as helpful. The wife appreciates it.

Every year, we drink our fool heads off around various campfires and then get up bright and early on Saturday to meet the rest of the club at the Big Bear Discovery Center for the day’s trail run. This year, however, we decided to do things a little differently. We still drank our fool heads off around various campfires, there’s no negotiating that. But this year we slept in on Saturday and ran Gold Mountain with a small group after we had relaxed and had a nice breakfast. Genius.

About ten minutes into the trail, which was recently inducted into Black Diamond ilk, at the first obstacle, a familiar Jeep came into sight. It seemed one of my buddies, Avery, who has a white Comanche built beyond belief and a friend of his in a red Cherokee had busted right there, and were just then getting one of the Jeeps trail worthy again, after many hours. I was leading our little group, but since they were already ahead of me I let Avery take the lead.

Gold Mountain is an interesting trail with a few really fun obstacles. The scenery is great, the shale below the tires sounds bitchin’, and you really don’t have to be built-to-the-hilt to run the thing, although stockers do end up with issues many times. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view or have a bite to eat, and the rock garden at the end of it always produces a thrill or two.

Then it was back to base camp where we participated in the club’s annual SoCalFest raffle. This year I didn’t win anything, but I wasn’t able to donate so I didn’t feel too badly. More beers and inappropriate jokes accompanied the raffle, and the rest of the night was spent singing songs and laughing loudly around a campfire. And drinking beer. The rangers let us know the next morning that we were a little too boisterous for their tastes, but other than that the trip was pulled off without a hitch. We made it home just fine (we usually stop at a little place in Seven Oaks called “The Oaks” to eat, but didn’t this time, which worked out because when we got home we found out my wife’s family was in town, and ended up going out to eat with them anyhow) and we were, as always, thankful for a shower and a soft seat.

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