Trip features heavenly views in Hell Hole

A pair of Carson City friends went on a four-wheeling adventure to Hell Hole Reservoir near the historic Rubicon Trail in California last month.

Rich Hardcastle sent in some photos and told of some of the adventures he and Chris Scott experienced along the way.

“What a cool place,” Hardcastle said. “It’s just beautiful. You’re surrounded by a canyon with trees all around you.”

The two left Carson City, heading west on Highway 50 to Ice House Road. From there, they drove about 60 miles on primitive pavement to the trailhead to Hell Hole Reservoir.

Their first obstacle was to traverse the Ramsey Crossing bridge about 1,500 to 2,000 feet above the canyon bottom.

“It gives me butterflies just thinking about that bridge,” he said. “We stopped in the middle of it and looked down. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. You could see all the way down the valley.”

From there, they set out on the technical 5-mile drive to the reservoir, which took roughly the same amount of time it did to drive the 100 miles to get there, Hardcastle said.

“You could get out and walk faster than you could drive it,” he explained, and they did see hikers along the way doing just that.

“We started making our way up long, steep switchbacks,” he said. “Then the trail started down into some rock gardens.”

He warned it’s a trail for experts only, needing high-clearance four-wheel drives with front and rear lockers.

“It is some hard-core four-wheeling,” he said. You’re crawling down these boulders, things are smashing into the side of the jeep. The other side is a sheer drop-off, 200 feet down. It’s not just about getting the right line, but it’s about not doing damage to your vehicle.”

There was evidence along the way of previous expeditions, along with their failures.

“We got to what we like to call winch cable hill,” he said. “We got to this stop, and there’s this half-inch busted cable. It had to be 60 or 70 years old. Somebody got stuck at the bottom of the hill and couldn’t get out.”

After another two miles of “brutally dropping down waterfalls,” the men emerged into the valley, in dry lake bed.

“It was a very surreal, Martian-like, trippy scene,” Hardcastle said.

“If the lake had been full of water, we’d have been underneath it.”

They stayed overnight at a campsite along what used to be the lake’s shoreline, underneath a big circle of trees.

“It was a very challenging but rewarding trail,” Hardcastle said. “Extremely beautiful scenery.”


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