So, after our less-than-awesome luck with longer-term, undisturbed camping we decided to take a whole day and drive around and explore to see what was open and met our criteria. When we first got into the area the Freecampsites.net site had mentioned the Lumsden Bridge Campground off of Ferretti Road so we decided to take a look. We kind of assume that most sites offered up by Freecampsites are, in general, targeted to RVers and non-4-wheelers so we were a bit surprised to turn off Ferretti Road and quickly roll across dirt roads where a high-clearance vehicle (at least) was needed (unless you are a glutton for punishment or carry a welder with you so you can perform trail-side repairs).
Since the huge Rim fire in 2013 decimated a large area (257,314 acres) of forest land ground cover erosion has been a serious issue. As we slowly bumped down the Forest Service Road we came across numerous, large trenches cut across the road with dirt piled on the downhill side of each of them to help mitigate and alleviate runoff erosion. At various points along the road there were small waterfalls or cascades coming off the uphill side of the canyon that sometimes dumped their outflow over the road across heavier rocked sluices where we had to cross through it or down into piped culverts heading under the road to then dump out freely on the downhill side of the road.
At several points along our path there were small signs explaining how a study was in progress to track the forest’s recovery after the fire. Each sign was on a post and had a small L bracket that you were invited to place your phone on and take a photo of the area and upload it to a specific site so that researchers could collect them all and create a virtual time-lapse of the forest as it recovers.
The first photo at the top of this post was one of the specially posed pictures we took. Sadly, since, at that time, we didn’t do Twitter, Flickr (spelled wrong on the sign, WTF) or Facebook or any organized social media we will not be adding our pictures to the timeline.
Between a couple of the “please take a picture and post it” signs we came across the trailhead to the Tuolumne River Canyon. If we had both been in better shape at that point we would have been tempted to take the hike but with all our unexpected packing and unpacking of late my knees and the girl’s back were in no shape for such exertions.
At one point on the road (there is no mention of it on maps except in satellite views) there was a road that forked off from the Forest Service road and headed back down into the canyon at a steeper rate. Paralleling this unmarked road was a concrete culvert to direct water off and away from the road. For an unmarked road this was a serious bit of engineering. Blocking access to the road was a gate that was a bit more robust than your standard Forest Service gate with some interesting, alternately-colored, pyramid-shaped, welded-on, metal additions on the front of it whose purpose eludes us.
If you know what those additions are for please let us know just because we are curious.
Once we arrived at the bottom of the canyon our path paralleled the Tuolumne River and we kept getting glimpses of it between trees and around corners as we drove further into the canyon.
Soon after arriving at creek level and after a few more waterfall or cascade runoff crossings we arrived at our first glimpse of standard, man-made forest architecture in the form of a vault toilet.
At first we thought we had arrived at Lumsden Campground but there were no campsites and only a mention of river rafting on the sign down by the water’s edge. We walked out onto the rocks to see if we had missed anything but only found the water level post. We’re guessing this is a busy take-out point for river rafting excursions where the people rafting can be driven back up 1N10 to civilization or head the 100 yards or so to the actual Lumsden Campground.
The Lumsden Campground itself is just a little further down the road.
We counted 10 campsites and none were any better than another. They were all great and situated about as close to the river as possible.
Besides the one vault toilet at the raft pull-out there were two more here at the campgrounds themselves.
There was no one here when we came by at about 11 in the morning but is was a Friday and, with a great site such as this, we expected someone to show up towards the end of the day. Plus, we were behind on our AWD posting and so a cell signal was at the top of the list of our campsite criteria. Down here in the canyon there was no possibility of an AT&T signal and we are guessing that no other carrier has extended their network to cover such a remote area either. Since we had given up hope of cell service we decided to just continue on down towards the Lumsden Bridge Campground so we could check out the area and take a few pictures for future reference.
Around three curves and over one bridge in the space of a quarter-mile or so we came to the South Fork Campground which was closed due to damage received during the Rim Fire.
Continuing on for about another mile we eventually came to the bridge which gives the Lumsden Bridge Campground its name.
Happily, even loaded down with all our gear the Tacoma is under 3 tons so we had no trepidation as we rolled across it. We even stopped for a moment to take an upstream and downstream photo.
Once across we took the left fork and arrived at the Lumsden Bridge Campground in about a minute.
It was very much like Lumsden Campground in that most sites were directly adjacent to the river and each had a picnic table, a fire pit and a bear box.
There was one other person already enjoying one of the sites here and when I say enjoying I mean “slumped and passed out in a folding chair surrounded by a large pile of empty Crap American Lite Lager (of one sort or another) cans.” As it was about 11:30am at the time he had either started early and enthusiastically or had not recovered from the previous night’s Partaaaay. So…even if we had been planning to stay we would have chosen the other Lumsden Campground and left this one to the professionals. But, we were merely on a reconnaissance trip then and so did the U-Turn and started back the way we came. The one plus of seeing him was that it reminded us we were low on ale ourselves for the upcoming weekend and so that was a reminder to stop at the first little grocery store we found to stock up the ARB refrigerator with whatever local IPA or Pale Ale we could find.
The whole “down-into-the-valley-and-back-up-again” round trip took several hours but we think it was worth it to have found several, river-side campsites for future reference. Keep your eyes open on your adventures and you’ll never know what you might find.