The Upper Ranch is approximately 800 acres with over 24 miles of trails for four wheel drives. There is an obstacle course which includes a mini Rubicon Trail, Stair Step, Mud Pit, Teeter Totter, Frame Twister and a Tire Pit to hone your driving skills. There are two camping areas with rest rooms, running water, tables and fire pits. Four Wheel Drive operators should call before coming, especially on weekends, to make sure that the area isn't closed for a special event. See Activities Calendar for scheduled Special Events. A group camp, Area 5, is also located in the Upper Ranch and can be reserved by calling +1.408.637.3874. Entry fee for the park is $4 per day, or an annual pass can be purchased for $40, and camping is a bargain at $6 a night. I bought an annual pass this year, so if you want to run down there, let me know.
You get your trail pass, map and a combination to the locked gate at the Vineyard School House (which is where you enter the Upper Ranch at) at the main park headquarters. The school house is a mile or two further up the main paved road on the right side. There is an air compressor by one of the maintenance buildings and a wash station towards the motorcycle area.
The OHV park is also looking into future expansion. Look for the following additions:
Turning around IN the mud bog is not recommended, even in August! Leo's '90 4Runner pulled the Ch*vy back a few feet with my tow strap, but the traction was poor, his tires dug through the thin dry crust to the gooey mud in seconds. So the Ch*vy was finally rescued by a J**p with a nice Warn 8274 winch. Finally got me one of those buggers (winch that is, not J**p)!
On a visit to the park in March, 1998, after it reopened sporting new and improved El Niño obstacles, a pair of Sammys were having fun at the base of Truck Hill. One Sammy rolled on a sidehill and the other driver was rushing to its rescue (a bit too fast) and jammed a front wheel into a ditch and rolled himself. The first Sammy was pushed over by hand and then drove down to winch the second one back onto its feet. No new damage was reported on either vehicle and they took off without further incident.
An informal Internet group met at the park Saturday morning to survey the El Niño aftermath. The park had recently reopened after the storms had washed out the main access roads and wreaked havoc inside the park.
Our group was joined by fellow Toy4x4 list member Tom Kay on his way from Washington to Arizona. He was sporting brand new 32x11.50 M/Ts, Warn XD9000i winch, and a slick new GPS. As he arrived at Hollister in the wee hours of the morning, after 15+ hours on the road the day before, he was planning on taking it easy that day.
The stair steps were a bit greasy with a good ditch and some mud at the bottom. I made it up without difficulty, Tom was unable to get his front wheels up the second step, where the mud ended. After a few tries, he backed down. Then we followed a group up past Truck Hill to Bonanza Gulch Road. The side road had a stream flowing where the driver's side tires should be. After a full size F-150 and a Jeep made it up, I decided to follow. The road started out at 20 degrees off-camber and that soon went to 30 degrees. Around a bend, the rut decided to leave the road and as I tried to climb out, the right front goes skyward. I must have hit 40 degrees on the clinometer, but the dial stops just beyond 30. While I had traction, tipping over was the real threat. Waited for the Jeep to come back down from above and I hooked my winch cable to the Jeep and Tom ran the winch while I drove. We had also stacked a few rocks in the rut and I think I could have made it out without the winch but at least I got to try it out. Later that day, I noticed all the paint scraped off the outer end of my bumper. Sure glad I had those side extensions added. I'll wager the bumper kept me from tipping that day.
After a lunch break, a few of us headed out for some more trails. Five Fingers was very easy, the soil was firm and not muddy at all. Then, up Fremontia, where we stopped and watch the local Land Rover dealer guide a group of 17 shiny new Rovers over the lower section of the hill. Daphne Green (former Camel Trophy driver) was one of the trail guides. Terry and Kevin drove up the right most hill up to McCray road where Tom and I waited. After a stop at Hector Heights, we drove back down to the base of Truck Hill. There were BIG ruts all over the place. Kevin tried to take his D90 up the hill, but lost traction in the soft soil when he tried to cross the center rut. After a bit of digging, we got him back down the hill.
Terry took his Toyota Xtra cab, with passenger, and slowly climbed the hill. He had to back up and get a second run at a large rut mid-hill and then had another tough spot just over the top.
Kevin took another run up the hill but his Boggers quickly dug in too fast in the soft dirt. So then he gave usa demonstration of ditch crossing. His twisty D90 made it look easy. The ARBs kept all 4 wheels turning.
Four of us met at the Ranger Station Saturday morning to tackle the park (no pictures, my camcorder battery was dead). Besides myself, were Kevin and Terry (see above) and Marc Mantelli on his first visit to the park in a nearly stock '86 4Runner w/ 31x10.50 A/T tires. I was running three (yes 3!) new Super Swamper TSL/SXs as a big hunk of aluminum had taken a liking to the tread on the 4th tire on the trip down. So, I had a 33x9.50 BFG M/T holding up the right rear corner (see #2 below).
It was pretty dusty and both Five Fingers and Truck Hill were really soft and badly torn up. At the top of Five Fingers, I got hung up with (you guessed it) my right rear in a hole, Took a few tries to get the momentum and line right to pop up the final ledge. Ditto on Truck Hill, right rear in a hole, moved a bit to the right and made it w/o trouble. Also got hung up on the far right hand trail at the top of Fremontia, once again right rear in a hole. Anyway, I've now learned the "trick" to getting the Marlin gears and TrueTrac front diff to work in the dirt. Using low-low-3rd gear (78:1) gives me enough torque to both climb and brake w/o stalling the engine, yet I can still build up momentum and tire speed (at ~3000 RPM) to pull in the soft dirt. The braking action helps lock up the TT if I get a front tire in the air. The top of Five FIngers is so steep, that I found my 22RE stalling when I tried to apply the brakes in low-1st gear.
After running Five Fingers again, we stopped at the Sycamore Campground before leaving. Shortly, a Jeep pulled in with some fresh-looking scrapes and dents on the front fender and hood. Sure enough, he had rolled into a ditch on the road to to Five Fingers. After getting pulled back onto 4 wheels by a red Toyota pickup (wish I had a picture of that!) the Jeep fired up and left under its own power.