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  1. Swansea Grade 4x4 Trail, Inyo Range, Inyo County, California October 8-9, 2003 INTRODUCTION The so-called Swansea Grade 4x4 Trail [also often referred to as the Swansea to Cerro Gordo 4x4 Trail] is an off road trail on public lands that allows the explorer to examine closely the rugged and historic southern Inyo Range, in eastern California. The route, which is an approved BLM 4x4 trail, is steeped in beauty and history all throughout its path. The route starts at Swansea, a California historical landmark site, and ends at Cerro Gordo, a semi-ghost town with a long and often wild history. Midway along the route, the summit station of the historic Saline Valley salt tramway, running between Saline Valley and Owens Valley, makes a great place to rest and enjoy lunch. The route generally poses no problems for experienced off roaders with trail ready 4x4s. However, due to elevations up to 9,200 feet, snow is a factor during late autumn through mid-spring. Summertime flashfloods often take a toll on the lowest portion of the route and the alluvium fan that runs down to the state highway. The route has its origin in the construction of the Saline Valley salt works tramway. Mules hauled supplies, machinery and building materials to tower sites utilizing this road on the western slopes of the Inyo Range and to reach the summit station. I’ve taken this trail many times over the years. Generally, I could make the trip easily in one day. However, on October 8th and 9th, 2003, railroad historian John McCulloch ( http://www.ttrr.org/ ), and Graham C. and I took two days to complete this trip, camping at the historic salt tramway summit station. John also brought along his standard poodle, named Shadow. At the time, I lived in Big Pine, California, in the northern Owens Valley near Bishop. The entire trip we took totaled only 185 miles round trip from my home and return. Graham lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, John was from Las Vegas. It was the first time that either had been over the trail. My truck was a 2002 Toyota Tacoma extended cab TRD 4x4 pickup, which I had bought new in June, 2002 (I still own and drive daily this truck). The truck is well equipped, has a V6 engine and 5-speed manual transmission. It was equipped with the TRD OFF ROAD package, which added more suspension travel, larger wheels and tires, extensive skid plate coverage and included a switchable locker on the rear differential. At the time, the truck was still shod with its OEM B.F. Rugged Trail T/A tires, which are passenger car rated with single ply sidewalls. The tires suffered some stone sidewall damage on this trip, but never lost air. Shortly after this trip, I spooned on a set of B.F. Goodrich All Terrain T/A tires with light truck rating, 10-ply sidewalls and 3-ply sidewalls. John McCulloch also owned a 2002 Toyota Tacoma TRD OFF ROAD 4x4, his being a double cab model, equipped with an automatic transmission. Graham at the time owned a 1990 Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup with a low profile, collapsible camper. It being a large truck, he elected to leave his truck behind at my home and rode with me on the trip. This video will be in two parts, one part for each day of the trip. A photo slide show will be included at the end of each video.
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