Camping trip to Silver Lake

Reposting this story from another site I ran about Ural Motorcycles

August 2014

Day 1

We headed out in the middle of the week to take another trip on our new Ural motorcycle sidecar rig. We have owned it for a couple of months now and it’s still a ton of fun getting on it and going for a ride each and every single time.

This adventure took us on a three day camping trip where we had a great time riding almost all the way to our destination on small country back roads, from our home near Sacramento all the way to the campsite in the Sierra’s located about 30 miles from Lake Tahoe.

Fiddletown Road

We rode up thru the El Dorado Hills and into Amador wine country where we turned onto Fiddletown Road and meandered our way on the Ural thru the remote golden hills, covered by ancient oaks, heading southeast to our campsite destination.

It was neat to ride thru the small old towns of Plymouth, Fiddletown and Volcano where it looks like we’ve stepped back in time. Most of these places are from the gold rush era and are still pristine and beautiful and open with very few houses and very little traffic.

Eventually we ended up on old highway 88 and heading east up towards Carson Pass in the mountains at 9000+ ft. elevation. We rode on up into big tree country with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys and various lakes all along the way.  P.S. You haven’t seen a big tree until you’ve seen a giant Sequoia.

Silver Lake West Campgrounds

Eventually we found our destination just outside of Silver Lake where we located a great spot to setup our camp at the Silver Lake West campgrounds run by the El Dorado Hills Irrigation Dept. FYI – their service was impeccable, the grounds and restrooms were always kept clean. Props to EDH County for doing a great job with this EDH owned site.

The campsite we picked was right above the Silver Fork of the American River. It was a nice spot because it was quiet and we found some great views along with our nice quiet site. According a camping guide we always use, this place is rated 9 out of 10 – and they were right on the money. This is a very nice campground.

Ural at Camp

After registering and paying for the three nights, it was time to setup camp. We unpacked the Ural, setup the tent, stowed all our gear in the bear box and made our plans for the rest of the day.

Our campsite at Silver Lake West

As usual, the Ural Delay Factor occurred. When people saw the Ural they wanted to find out more about it so we got a lot of visitors from campers nearby and we made some friends with a few folks that were there all three days with us. The nicest folks go camping 🙂

Silver Fork of American River

After setting up camp we went for a hike both up and down the river near our campsite, checking out all the scenery and views and having fun taking photos all along the way.

After setting up camp we rode the Ural over the a local lodge/resort and picked up some firewood.  Can your motorcycle haul stuff like this? The Ural can!

Picking up wood for our camp fires

Day 2

The next day we made plans to hike to a local site called “Pot Holes”. We also made plans to do some fishing on nearby Silver Lake later in the afternoon.

After cooking and enjoying breakfast, we packed our cameras and some water and followed the signs to the Pot Holes trailhead and set out on the hike.

Pot Holes Trailhead

The Silver Fork of the American River begins at Silver Lake and meanders tranquilly along for about a mile before taking on the more rugged characteristics of a typical Sierra river. Before it does this, however it reaches a granite plateau where the waters have formed some unusual pools and hollows that make an excellent, unique, and beautiful swimming hole on warm summer days. The area is located just outside the Silver Lake West Campground and can easily be accessed from there or from Highway 88 as it passes nearby.

Pot Holes

This place is really neat to see. We had fun dipping our toes into the waters and exploring and taking photos of the giant trees and giant granite rocks.

After hiking back to camp we loaded up the Ural with some picnic fixings and also loaded up my fishing pole and gear. We rode down the road and over to Kit Carson Lodge on Silver Lake and rented a small boat and outboard to cruise and fish the lake.

Silver Lake

It was fun riding in the boat around the lake and seeing it all. The weather (for now) was great and we found a really nice remote spot to stop to enjoy our picnic and do some fishing.

After eating and doing a little bit of fishing we sat there relaxing and Ronda started noticing the clouds getting darker and darker and mentioned we should go soon. So I packed up the boat and we got back out on the lake, but instead of going back to the dock, I headed south to check out the other parts of the lake (there was a lot to see). That was where I made my mistake.

Ronda noticing the weather

The weather started getting rough…

It started to sprinkle a bit. Ok I guess she was right and we should head back, so I turned the boat around and started heading north. Then the sprinkles turned to rain. Then the rain turned into a downpour. Then the downpour turned into hail, and lightning. Uh oh, it’s probably not a good idea to be in the middle of a lake, in the middle of the big storm while on an aluminum boat.

It soon started raining and hailing so hard, the drops were splashing down in the lake so hard it looked like the lake was boiling, it got so heavy that we couldn’t see the shores or figure out which way to go.

The fun part was when Ronda mentioned lightning could be an issue, and a minute later KABOOM! A huge bolt of lightning hit the mountaintop that was about a half mile away. Then came the instantaneous KABLAAAAM sound of almighty thunder!

Bad Weather

It was right above us. We were caught in the perfect storm… (Ironically I had been joking about that earlier when Ronda mentioned the dark clouds approaching).

The tiny boat was lost…

We were completely soaked head to toe by now along with all our gear and the boat was filling up with water growing over an inch deep. I eventually spotted some trees and rocks I recognized and we followed the shoreline from there until we found the cove and boat dock to return the rental boat and get off the lake. The guy who rented us the boat came running out when he saw us approaching, he too got totally soaked by the rain that was some great service! I think he was really scared about us getting hit by lightning.

A little rain

Once we were on dry land and all was said and done, all we could do was laugh. We were soaked to the bone, it was still raining, and we still had to ride back to camp.

As expected, the Ural did fine in the rain. When we got back to camp we changed our clothes and dried off, then we hunkered down under a tree to wait out the rain. It lasted about another hour and soon sunshine broke out and we got to see a spectacular sunset thru the trees. It may have rained, but I’m not complaining, that’s all just part of the adventure and fun!

Gone fishing

Almost forgot to mention, while we were out on the lake when the weather was nice. We got dive bombed by two giant four prop cargo or military planes, it was spectacular to see such large planes being handled like jet fighters – those pilots were having a ton of fun!   They also flew by the next day right over our campsite; the plane was so low we all thought it was crash landing – that was a serious adrenalin rush for everyone there.

Day 3

I was still reeling from seeing that giant plane buzz over our camp this morning, that was crazy…. and spectacular!

Today was the day for some first time off-roading with the Ural. I had checked out the local maps and found a route just off the highway that led to some back country camping and hunting areas.

GIant Sequoia Trees

We packed up our gear in the Ural and hit the road. The off-road area was about 5 miles from our camp. I took the turnoff, stopped for a minute to engage two wheel drive on the Ural and headed for the dirt. It was time to see what 2WD can do on a Ural.

Forrest Pond

We rode up the trail for a while and found it got rougher and rougher as we went along until there was barley any resemblance of a road. After a couple of miles we came across an empty campsite in the middle of nowhere. Just past that spot was where the road became nearly impassible.

The road at this location turned into a small rock outcropping that became a challenge to cross. I have to admit I got stuck on my first few tries and eventually dug a hole in the dirt with the rear tire. I was unsure and gave up. I reversed it out of there to head back down the road and go up another way. I wasn’t sure if this rough road would get much worse after those rocks or if it was worth continuing along that route?

As I headed down the road I came across a camouflaged hunter walking up the road with rifle in hand. I decided to stop and talk to the guy to try and find out more about the area to see what was around and confirm my alternative route plans.

Turned out he was a really nice guy named Richard. He was Vietnam vet, living out his existence on his meager social security income camping for free out in the woods during the summers, living in a trailer park outside of Georgetown in the winters. He was out hunting predators (wolves, coyotes) for now and waiting for deer season to start.

Riding the Ural

He told me that up ahead on the road we were coming down from was some great camping and views and that the rock outcropping was the only obstacle on the road. Conditions would get better after that he said. We talked for a while and he told me his history and how he got there and about hunting and off-roading in the area, he was a wealth of local area knowledge and it was great getting to meet him.

We turned around the Ural and rode back up the hill until we got to the rock outcropping again. I tried a few times and once again got stuck. Then I got the idea of lightening the load – so we both got off the Ural and I proceeded to “walk” the Ural up and over the rocks slowly and was finally able to get past the rock section of the trail. That was pretty easy to do that way I learned something new about riding the Ural over huge rocks. I will have to remember that again for the next time.

Rough Road

We continued up the road and found the campsite that the hunter had told us about, it was pretty nice. We will need to go back country camping out there someday soon.

From here we rode until the dirt road ended and asphalt began. We were back on highway 88 and so we headed up to Carson Pass.

I love the Ural, it’s a really fun bike, but I found out it does have it’s limitations. It did not like going up big hills. I could only do it in 2nd or 3rd gear at best. Max speed with the Ural loaded going up hill to Carson Pass was 30mph. That’s ok though, the heavy hills were not very long and I pulled over for the faster moving trucks and cars but it was a bit uncomfortable not being able to keep up with the flow of traffic. I need to learn how to work this better next time. It was not bad, but I think there is a way the performance can be improved.

At the top of the pass we took some photos of the spectacular views and then headed back down highway 88.

Carson Pass

From here we rode to the south end of Silver Lake to check out Plasse’s Resort and grab some lunch. Turns out their restaurant was closed so we bought a few things at the market and headed back to camp to go hiking and have a picnic out on the trails.

View of Silver Lake

After getting back and packing up our picnic lunch and camera gear, we hiked back down the river along the granite slabs to the pot hole pools where we did more exploring all over hiking up and down the boulders. We soaked in some sunshine and took more photos. I even did some experimental underwater videos with my GoPro gear. I’ll get those videos edited and posted later.

Silver Fork American River

After the hike, we went back to camp, made dinner and enjoyed a bottle of wine. The rest of the evening was spent gazing at the campfire and reminiscing over the day.

Dinner time

Day 4

On Saturday, our last day here; we woke up early, made some breakfast and started packing up our gear and loading the Ural.

I knew I had very little fuel left in my tank of gas that I had traveled from home with. After riding all the way there and riding all over on road and off-road in the area for three days, the tank was getting dry.

Since there is no fuel gauge on the Ural, my method of checking is to take the gas tank cap off and move the bike back and forth to shake the gas to see what’s in there – not too scientific but it’s been working out pretty good so far… and then there’s that handy odometer thing. I think I’m getting around 150 miles or so on this 5 gallon tank but I’m not certain so don’t hold me to that.

I found I had about ¼ gallon or so left in my tank so I busted out the Ural’s jerry can that I had filled with gas back at home and used a funnel I made out of a cut up water bottle to put in around 10 liters of gas into the tank. That ended up being plenty of gas to get all the way home. It was nice to know that with my jerry can of spare gas, I can ride anywhere without worrying about needing a local gas station nearby. Did I mention that the nearest gas station to the campsite we were at was about 40 miles away?

Camping gear all packed up

The ride home was nice; we headed back down Fiddletown Road thru the hills and back towards home. As we got closer to our city, we stopped at one of our favorite pubs – 36 Handles in El Dorado Hills for lunch, then headed home to start unpacking and planning our next trip.

Here’s the ride route we took going both there and back.

Ride Route

Thanks for reading about our trip!

Ride Safe!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s