to just above “The Steps” is normally a one-way road – down hill only. This is because there are no pullouts and nowhere wide enough for passing vehicles. It’s just BARELY wide enough for ONE vehicle for much of the time. Along this stretch of the trail, the driver MUST stay verrrry alert. One false move, and it could be your last… literally. Just a few days after this trip, a Honda Pilot driver slipped over the side enough to leave a mark on the seat covers. Luckily, he got stopped before… A couple of the switchbacks are so tight; your front tire can rub your rear tire as they pass. Many who encounter these for the first-time (some the 2nd and 3d times) are very intimidated about hanging their bumper out over the lower side of the road before backing. We’ve seen many passengers exit the vehicle and shake uncontrollably as the driver attempts a 5 or 6-point turn. This brings up an important point. If an obstacle like these switchbacks intimidates you, DO NOT let your ego drive. If you need to back up 10 or even 20 times, DO IT! Much better a bruised ego than a dead body.
Going UP Black Bear presents a whole new problem. You must back toward the downhill side. People uncomfortable with backing with mirrors sweat a bucketful during this operation. Others of us don’t even look… we’ve already driven there-and it hasn’t moved, so just back up enough to make the corner and proceed. BackCountry driving experience is the only cure for this fear, but that experience had better come with a full lesson in respect for things like gravity, traction coefficients, soft roadsides, and putting it in the correct gear. More than once we have seen guys pull out to the edge, shift into reverse – and go forward. Oooooppps!! On one particularly blind corner where the granite rocks on the uphill side reach out to gouge your body panels, there was a short piece of road that narrowed unseen over your hood. Perry, like a good leader should, had run back to spot the others as they approached this dangerous situation. Even I, a 40+ year veteran of these roads, was somewhat happy for the warning.
The quarterly magazine of United Four Wheel Drive Associations Inc., an international organization advocating for 4WD recreation.