the The Shut Eye Peak Trail
Perhaps we were just a wee bit over-confident? If measured by my trail anxiety, then yes for sure!
Fresh off the heels of our first trip out to the Bald Mountain Trail several weeks back, I began to look for our next adventure. I love the website (and app) called TrailsOffroad.com. It’s been such a great tool with planning our fall overlanding trip through the Southwest and, just a good tool to have in general if you have a 4WD and like to have some adventure once in a while. It downloads routes directly into another popular 4WD Navigation app called GaiaGPS which enables me to have all the geographic map and trail route information offline and on my phone so we can be guided and not get lost.
After spending some time searching the surrounding area, I picked Shut Eye Peak as our next destination. It was rated the same as Bald Mountain which is a moderate to difficult trail. I suppose in retrospect, it would have been prudent to start on the easy trails and work my way up. However, easy trails are a glorified fire road and considerably below my pay grade, right? We’ll see….
We loaded up the Jeep this past Monday with our chairs, ice chest, compressor, recovery gear and a few other things and hit the road. After a quick stop at Deli Delicious in Oakhurst to pick up our lunch for the day and tuck it away neatly in the ice chest, we headed to Beasore Road at Bass Lake. Once you turn off onto Beasore, it’s right at 10 miles before you turn right onto Central Camp Road and then another 5.5 miles before left onto the official Shut Eye Peak trail.
It was a great day. Other than the smokey air that had rolled in from the Dixie Fire up North, all was good, and it was nice for Linda and I to get away by ourselves and have some free time. We talked about work, family, our upcoming trip, and many other things and were truly lost in the magic of our day away.
We briefly stopped to air our tires down and then onward and upward we went. The trail itself is approximately 6 miles and will take you a couple of hours or so to get to the top. The bottom 3 miles are easy, incredibly scenic, and just enjoyable all the way around. We had two water crossings that seem like they could be interesting in the spring. In the dog days of summer though, they were insignificant to say least.
As we headed on up the trail, we came to a section of forest that was burnt out from one of the recent fires we’ve had over the past 2 years. The trees were tall, empty of all foliage and charcoal black. They appeared to watch down on us as we drove slowly by and we wondered all the things those trees have seen over the years.
Once we got past the burnt-out forest, things started to get more interesting. The loose dirt gave way to a rocky path that steadily gained in both steepness and in its technicality.
We encountered some obstacles that I would not have initially thought possible for us to traverse up. Steep rock ledges and boulders and I was getting more nervous by the minute. I thought I had this; I mean we made it up to Bald Mountain with a few challenges but doable all the way around. Maybe I didn’t have this afterall…
So, out of the Jeep I repeatedly went to examine the trail and discuss possible lines up these obstacles with Linda. She pointed and guided me foot by foot up the trail. The anxiety at times was through the roof but sure enough, the Jeep would do it. I would do it, somehow. I found myself bewildered constantly by the feats we were accomplishing. Albeit, for a seasoned wheeler, this would probably be an easy path for them. For us though, this was crazy stuff and considerably more difficult than the Bald Mountain trail.
We made our way up to what is called Rock Climbers Rock. It’s a rock that is aptly named as it is frequented by rock climbers that like to train and sharpen their skills there. The rock up there is alien in appearance. It’s layered and stacked up and weird while at the same time stunningly beautiful. We hung out there for a while, relaxed and ate our lunch. I was feeling confident that we had passed the worst of the obstacles and it would be easy on up to the lookout point. I was wrong!
The lookout tower is manned throughout the summer months to early fall. We meet a nice man named Rich that works with the forest service. His wife happened to be up for the day visiting him. He works 12 days on and 2 days off and his job, spot fires and call them in. He had an incredible little home up there on a perch with the best view of the Sierra’s you can imagine. On a clear day it must be breathtaking.
The day was starting to get late, so after a brief stay, we hit the trail again. We had to go back and traverse all the same obstacles but now going down. I was still nervous but overall, it seemed easier this way. Bit by bit, I was gaining just a bit more confidence and we finally made it back down.
We stopped at the Marina Bar & Grill at Bass Lake which is right by Ducey’s. It has straw hut style umbrellas and a real tropical feeling with live music starting at 6pm, which is right when we got there. We each ordered a Pina Colada and had some great food as we discussed our amazing adventure for the day.
It was a WIN for sure and we’re enjoying this new hobby.