Finally getting around to posting a short trip report that me and my buddies took up Hwy 395.
First of all, thanks to "JStanley" for some great suggestions.
Up Mazurka to Badger Flat. 4wd from Badger to Papoose flat (excellent place to camp). Papoose Flat to Squaw Flat. Down out of Squaw Flat via Marble canyon, out to the Eureka/Saline Valley Road.
Good deer and chukar hunting, and lots of artifacts, mining and prehistoric. Be careful of the mineshafts.
I would advise getting out of Squaw Flat via Marble Canyon NOT the Hinds road west of Andrews Mnt.
I would also advise against the Papoose Flat strait down to Harkless Flat route, easy but now closed.
First night we got into Alabama Hills area a little late. Never having been there we fumbled around in the dark for a while until we just picked a spot to call home for the night.
Woke to some beautiful views, ate and headed up to do the short hike up to Stoney House (again, thanks JStanley). A pretty cool building that is well kept inside with a broom & lantern. It's clear people camp inside the house and use the huge fireplace often.
We then headed to Mazurka Canyon road and headed up exploring some mines on the way. The views of The Sierra from the top were fantastic.
After fumbling around a bit to find the right trail from Badger to Papoose Flat we got our fill of 4-wheeling for the day. This was a great trail and a little tight in spots. Of course it wouldn't be an outing for me if I didn't mess up my bike rack some how. I was trying to get past a tree in a significant off-camber section. Had my friend looking out the window to make sure I didn't rip the awning off the van. After clearing the awning, he yelled "all clear". Off I went and proceeded to rip the back two bikes off the fork mounts. Made an awful noise. We were almost to Papoose Flat, so one of the guys road his bike down and we threw the other bike in the van. Made some repairs that night that got us all the way home. (Side note: I added a few more heavy duty band clamps in the van after realizing how handy they can be for trail repairs.)
We camped at Papoose Flat which is arguably one of the best camp sites I've ever had. The views were stunning. We thought we were all by ourselves until we saw a dog in our camp in the morning and it owner a few minutes later walking down the trail. A very weathered looking older guy who also thought he had the place to himself.
We then headed down to the Narrows (Marble Canyon) to exit the area. If you like your paint, I do not recommend taking this trail. I now have more pin stripes than nice paint on the van, but hey, I didn't buy the van to be a poser.
We got to the entrance to Marble Canyon where there is the remnants of a mine and building. The up to date claim paperwork was in a can nailed to the wall. We walked the trail into the canyon a ways to see if it looked doable and decided to give it a try. After more pin striping and managing to get over a huge boulder in a tight spot we discovered that about 30' beyond where we scouted on foot the trail became impassible for all but extreme rock crawlers. So .... back up the trail and over the boulder again. (The pictures don't do the size of the boulder or tightness of the situation justice.) My spotters did an excellent job of betting me through without dinging anything.
I now think that JStanley must have meant to exit going past Marble Canyon, not down it.
We finally got back down to 395 and headed into Mammoth for a little lunch. It was snowing when we pulled into Mammoth. After our lunch we pulled into one of the Rock Creek campgrounds to say hi to "BillWilson" who we had been in touch with. Since we aren't the campground types, we ended up stumbling our way up another trail camping at the edge of a burn area. This actually turned out to be a pretty cool spot too. We had to clear some trees out of the trail to get up it and we were well off by ourselves.
Next day we tried to go up to Laurel Lakes, but the trail was still blocked by snow a short distance up the trail. We then headed out to the hot springs in the valley to the east of Mammoth. Found a great campsite, soaked for a while, made a new friend who had his Bambi Airstream trailer on a "business trip". Great guy. We shared some dinner and beers around the fire.
Next day we headed home. Stopped and checked out Mono Lake for a while. Tioga Pass wasn't open yet, so we headed up north and went over 89 to 50. There was still quite a bit of snow at elevation.
All-in-all a good trip. The van did admirably again. I continue to be impressed with its 4-wheeling capabilities. This is the first heavily loaded 4-wheeling I've done since I had Deaver enhance their original rear spring pack with another leaf. It is a huge improvement. The van feels just right fully loaded now instead of feeling heavy in the butt.
Thanks again to JStanley for the recommendations.