There I was at a 4-way intersection of dirt tracks. None marked with a trail sign and none of them showing on my map - at least as far as I could tell. What are the odds of choosing the wrong one? 1 in 4 you think? If you are with me, the odds are 99 to 1 you will choose the wrong one and off you go on another "venture!"
Lesson one. You know that Northern California Back Country Adventures book you bought? Don't leave home without it.
Lesson two. Your computer with Google Earth and Microsoft Streets and Trips and the associated GPS. Don't leave home without it.
Lesson three. Show your wife the route in the book so when you call via cell for directions she has some reasonable idea what you are talking about.
The route we ended up with took us from the Summit Ranger Station at Pinecrest, SW to Columbia. Some of the roads were good. Some weren't roads at all. Had we been there 10 days earlier we wouldn't have made it because of mud. From the start to the finish some 7 hours of driving, we (Presley was of course with me.) saw no one. Which was good because much of the road was not even wide enough for the Sprinter.
Just past the official time for cocktails we followed a track off the main route to a camp site. We initially drove past the camp site and then had to back-up about 300 feet as there was no place to turn around. We did have a fire permit but I decided not to build a fire. Watched Grease
for the 99,000th time and unsuccessfully tried to take pictures of the stars above our camp. We were in a recovering forest area, very pretty with good views. Presley loved it!
Leaving camp the road, trail, track what-ever, got worse fast. Many times the brush on the sides made the route too narrow for the Sprinter but worse were the over hanging branches that I worried would damage the spoiler on my solar. The solar came through fine however with the only event up top being my A's antenna ball getting scraped off but no drama - I recovered it!
One thing I found strange was coming down a steep rocky one lane road was to find a nice, modern two-car bridge followed up on the other side by more one lane terrible road. The Sprinter did an extraordinary job. Only once did I get a side-to-side sway and that was my fault for taking a bump too fast. I stayed in 1st gear 90% of the time and it would have been real good on the down slopes to have a gear lower than 1st. Like "crawl gear" or "climb over rocks gear." And I most likely put about 6 months wear on the brakes in a few hours.
Where I made the wrong turn was west of Mt. Knight on 4N04. I turned left onto 3N03 instead of right. That put us on the long road to Columbia. We followed 3N03 to Italian Bar Road which eventually ended at Columbia. Presley growled at the cows we saw, some with-in 5 feet of his window and watched a squirrel run away from us up the road because it was going much faster than we were, even stopping occasionally to let us catch-up a little.