Maybe the Worst Jeep Road Ever
Updated: Aug 1, 2021
Whew! For being an extended holiday weekend, it sure flew by. Friday morning was occupied by a 6-mile, 1,000-foot elevation gain hike for me on Wood Creek Trail followed by a long lunch al fresco with a good friend. On Saturday, we drove down to Carson City and hiked 10 miles from Hobart Reservoir to a Marlette Lake overlook. Sunday entailed church, and then the rest of the day was spent doing household chores.
So, Monday. The last day before we go back to work. Part of me wanted to stay home, relax, maybe read a book on the deck, enjoy the weather, while another part of me thought, "Why waste a holiday sitting around the house 'doing nothing'?!" Following every weekend, especially the extended ones, I start my workday wondering why I didn't take more time to relax over the previous weekend.
This time, my husband enticed me with the prospect of stopping at a hot spring along the route. (This would be our first time going to a hot spring!)
Ugh. I will never learn.
So, I finished up the remaining few items on my weekend to-do list, packed up some essentials, and off we went. To parts unknown. And by "unknown," I mean, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
This might actually be our most unpleasant Jeep adventure to date. Sure, one other time, I thought I was going to die on our Jeep adventure, but this time, I might have preferred death over the countless, unending miles of this terrible Jeep road.
The road started out with nice views mixed in with some unique dead trees still standing after a recent wildfire. We stopped at the first junction in the road to air-down the tires and I took a few photos of the surrounding landscape.
This was the road we started down. It looks pretty decent. Just your average smooth-ish dirt forest road. But it did not stay that way for long. Before we knew it, we were driving over rock piles. If you've ever seen a dry creekbed or riverbed lined with rocks and boulders in various sizes and shapes, that is basically what we drove over for 20 miles, but then add in steep sections at 20% grade on top of the bumpy, rocky terrain.
This was a unique view early along the route. A snow-capped peak peeking through a hillside of charred trees.
And these bright purple wildflowers set against a desolate burnt tree backdrop with mountains in the distance. Pretty cool.
And then I just had to stop and photo this weird thing. We're in the middle of nowhere and here's this...water feature...in the middle of the woods. Time has rusted and corroded each bin, but I still thought it looked neat. One of the bins was still half-filled with opaque rust-colored water, but I still saw two rodents floating in it. 🤢 I didn't take a photo of that.
The higher we climbed, the more rocky the terrain, but I have to admit, the views were amazing.
Yeah. Check out that rocky road.
We were seeing a lot of newly leafed aspen trees along with sagebrush and other desert vegetation, but not a lot of pine trees. When we came across these twin giants, I just had to get my photo with them!
Shortly after this brief stop, as we were approaching a very narrow stretch, my husband says dubiously, "Is this the road?"
I'm in the passenger seat holding his phone, navigating the route he plotted in his map app ahead of time.
Me: "If you're asking me whether we're still on the blue line, the answer is yes."
And it just kept getting steeper and rockier and bumpier and windier.
Me: Snort. "I just hit my head."
Me: "Were you recently wearing a seatbelt while in a car accident?"
Me: "No. I was just on a bumpy Jeep adventure."
Me: "I think this every time we're on a Jeep road, but this road...sucks."
We did come across a few smooth stretches, like this one below, but it was pretty steep to climb up. (It really is difficult to accurately capture the steep grade in photos, but you can kind of see the road we came up, winding through the trees and to the right down below.)
And once you climb up a road, at some point, you usually need to go down again. Notice all of the boulders! Honestly, 90% of the road was rocky like this!
When we descended to a lower elevation again, we had to cross some bits of water and extremely rutty terrain that had clearly been deep mud pits a couple of weeks ago. (I was pretty glad we didn't get stuck in the mud today.) But at one particularly tough spot in the road, my husband decides to divert from the road slightly to try to avoid it, so he veers left and maneuvers around, but in that process, we run over something else in our off-trail path.
His head is turned around looking behind us to identify what we ran over, while at the same time, continuing to advance the Jeep forward, albeit slowly. I'm alerting him to look where we're driving rather than looking behind us. And then. We drive over a huge boulder and briefly get high-centered, but even after the Jeep finds its legs again, we drag a boulder with us, underneath the Jeep. Trust me. That is not something you ever want to hear happening under your car.
Naturally, I'm worried that something got damaged and we'll now be stranded on this awful road in the middle of nowhere. The next time I get out of the Jeep, I take a look at the stretch of road behind us for any kind of evidence of "fluid" leaking. Thankfully, I see nothing.
And then, suddenly, it was an alpine forest again where I spotted one deer frozen in its tracks on the hillside (but didn't get a photo of).
Instead, here's two pines narrowly flanking the road.
After about 3 hours of driving on this crazy bumpy road, we got to the turnoff that heads toward the hot springs. I was looking forward to my reward for putting up with this route.
We arrived at the East Fork Carson River. And the hot springs were on the OTHER SIDE! We parked the Jeep and walked around for a little ways to see if we could cross the river safely on foot without it turning into a swimming adventure. From what we could tell, I'd be in water at least up to my waist once we got to the middle.
Then we collectively wondered out loud whether the Jeep could make it across, but we just weren't confident that it wouldn't end up a costly mistake.
So close, yet so far away...
Just then, we saw a cloud of dust billowing above the dirt road on the other side of the river. Out pops a 1996 Toyota Tacoma and he's not slowing down. We look at each other in disbelief. The driver drops off the bank into the river and floors it across, water flowing up and over the bottoms of the doors, coming up to just under the door handles. As he reaches our side of the bank, still maintaining his speed, he must have seen our jaws on the ground and so he reaches his hand out the window and throws us a shaka sign ("hang loose") as he passed us, and then continued on his way.
We aptly nicknamed him "Tony Tacoma."
After seeing that, oddly, we still were not interested in trying to cross the river in the Jeep. So, no hot springs for us.
It was now after 6:00pm and we still had a good hour of driving ahead of us on more bumpy roads, so we got back in the Jeep and followed Tony Tacoma.
One thing was clear: He was either really familiar with this route or he didn't care much about damaging his truck. Or maybe both.
Needless to say, we took the rest of the route at our own pace. And we happened upon this cool, old, dilapidated barn!
What an idyllic setting!
Okay, so another 5 or 6 miles on the bumpiest road in the country and we finally made it out to pavement, and then finally back onto Hwy 395. It suddenly felt strange being on a smooth surface and driving at highway speeds.
My husband: "Well, Peach. You're a good sport."
As we approached the first gas station along the highway, my husband busted out laughing hysterically. I thought maybe it was the insane gas prices that had him cackling, but then he pointed out that parked at the "air machine" was none other than Tony Tacoma, filling up his tires, just as we were about to do with the Jeep.
So, my husband pulled up behind, parked, and got to meet the long-haired river-crossing legend. He was probably around 30 years old, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, flat-brimmed Big Truck hat and comical plastic-rimmed mirrored sunglasses with the rear of his boxers on full display every time he bent over. Oh, and he was barefoot. (Obviously.) He reminded me of a modern-day "Slater" from the movie "Dazed & Confused".
When my husband told him how impressed we were with his river-crossing feat, Tony Tacoma explained that when he drove across the river yesterday, the water came up over the hood and he was hoping that didn't happen again today. Somehow, I felt good knowing that the flawless crossing we'd witnessed today wasn't his first attempt, but it only marginally explains the brazen confidence he exuded. At any rate, my husband was completely amused by Tony Tacoma and he kind of became our hero that day. At the very least, he offered some much-needed comic relief from the hot spring disappointment and a rough road that overstayed its welcome. (Oh, and it's always nice to get some fun photos! No matter the route we had to take to get there!)