From the November/December issue of ATV Rider Magazine
It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting at my desk grinding away at one of many stories, getting it ready to run for last issue, when I received an unexpected email. It was from someone whom I had never dealt with, but the subject box completely snagged my attention, with the words “Eastern Sierra ATV Jamboree” staring me down. When I see “jamboree anything” I think of endless trails, fun events and groups of people who are all looking to have a great time. But I also think of long drives, because the closest jamborees are almost always at least two states away. Nevertheless, I had to stop what I was doing and open that email, which asked if I’d be interested in attending a jamboree held in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, only about a seven-hour drive from Los Angeles.
I looked over the website (which I had never before seen), read about the various rides that were scheduled and was impressed by what I saw. There were 10 separate rides that ranged from 25 miles to 100-plus miles round-trip, crossed through various terrains and all offered something different to see. As quickly as I replied back, I began to make arrangements on what I was going to take, plus I gave a call to my best friend to see if he was free to go, since road trips are even better with more people. He was on board for the adventure, and the wheels were in motion for our trip.
As our departure date finally came, we loaded up his truck and hit the road for what we hoped would be a relaxing getaway and a good time of riding. We had an open road and mind for what would be in store as we drove north, that is until his “trusty” truck decided to add some drama to the trip. I’ve reached the conclusion that his truck doesn’t like to go on road trips when it comes to magazine business, as every time we’ve taken it a certain hose on the engine’s turbo likes to come loose. After letting the engine cool down we made a quick repair and were back on the road and within another hour or two were at our final destination, the Meadowcliff Lodge & RV Resort. Tim Fesko, one of the cofounders of the event, owns the resort and would put Jim and I up for the next few days. After checking in and unloading our machines, we called it a night.
My alarm was set to go off nice and early at 6:15 in the morning, but come to find out we wouldn’t need it as we were woken up by the sounds of other attendees making their way to the local fire station, which was the starting point of all the rides. Once we finally headed over to the fire station we parked our machines and went inside to grab a hearty breakfast prepared by the local chamber of commerce. With our stomachs and fuel tanks topped off we met with Tim, who was guiding the Rocklin Mine Trail, which has over 80 miles of trails culminating at an abandoned mine and stamping plant. Scouting ahead of our group for photo spots, at one of the first locations I stopped I couldn’t help but notice the amount of snow that covered the mountain range in the background. An unusually cold late-season storm had rolled through only a few weeks before, dropping plenty of snow, and Tim assured me that at some point we’d be encountering it on the trails ourselves. This was the first ride of the jamboree and our ride had only just gotten underway, and I was already completely taken aback by the scenery.
When we reached the halfway point of our ride at the mine, we were encouraged to explore the buildings that were in surprisingly good condition, and some of us even ventured farther up the road to an old cemetery. In looking at some of the headstones you could only wonder what happened to the people of various ages who now called that their final resting place. After everyone was recharged from lunch we were back on the trail, which took us from the desert floor to the grass-covered foothills of the Sierras finishing along a stretch of road running parallel to Desert Creek before making it back to the fire station to end our day. Upon arriving back at the lodge I glanced at the clock in my Polaris RZR 4 to realize it was already after 5 p.m. then looked at the tripmeter to find that our ride had covered more than 100 miles. After grabbing a quick shower we headed out to a terrific barbecue dinner catered by Mountain View barbecue before heading back to prepare for our next adventure.
The next day started out much the same, but our agenda was different. To maximize the photographic opportunities, I was given the chance to see other areas and catch some of the various ride groups on different parts of the trails they would be exploring. No matter who we encountered or where they were on the trail, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and wore huge smiles on their faces. On this day there was a special stop for two of the groups along Desert Creek for a special barbecue lunch that was being held by Pam Hamic and the West Walker Motel among other local businesses. People were more than happy to leave the sandwiches at home in place of a delicious steak or chicken with all the fixings you could ask for.
After getting our fill of food, we talked to some of the jamboree participants to see what they thought of the event so far. “We’re having a blast” and “the riding is almost as great as the scenery” were common statements, and I couldn’t agree more. Despite having lived in California all of my life, I never knew this type of riding was so accessible.