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Old 07-03-2012, 06:26 PM   #1
RockyRaccoon OP
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Hell's Half Acre - The no-man's land between Hwys 4 and 108


View Larger Map
[note: this map has a couple of quirky loops that were formed in the map-making process, and I couldn't seem to get rid of them]



Really it's more like half a million acres, but who's counting? It's a great green blob of national forest on google maps.

The approaches to this region are guarded on the north and south by two arms of the Stanislaus River and the canyons through which they flow. On the north side of the north canyon Hwy 4 runs to Ebbett's Pass. On the south side of the south canyon is Hwy 108 to Sonora pass. To the east there are the Dardanelles and the Sierra crest, and to the west lies Columbia State Park and New Melones Lake. Between is a forested no-man's land of ridges and canyons without towns, houses, pavement or power.

At first glance this appears to be a great roadless area on the map. Zooming in, it turns out to be covered with a spidery web of faint logging roads that navigate the canyons and ridges in zig-zag fashion as best they can. As a crow might fly, it's about 16 miles across, north to south, from Dorrington to Bumblebee. By GS, on Hell's Half Acre Road, otherwise known as forest roan 5N02, it's more than 50 miles.

I've crossed this region twice. Once in 2008 with my wife on the back and armed with a map, and once again last Saturday by myself and relying only on the the occasional Forest Service road markers and the map in my head.

In 2008, my wife and I went into this maze confidently and came out on Hwy 108 several hours later convinced that we must have taken a wrong turn and missed the "main road." Last weekend I came out several hours later convinced that there is no main road. Hell's Half Acre Road has a name and is marked on maps, but it is a road in name only. For much of the way it is a rarely used partially overgrown duel track no different from the dozens of other tracks that branch from or cross it. It's like a corn maze, but on a grand scale.

At one point I was riding along a ridge near what seemed the middle of this, and there was the remnant of a sign that seemed to indicate the way to a knoll whose name I couldn't make out. I rode the faint track to the crest of the ridge and had a pretty good view. It did indeed look like the middle of a grand maze, surrounded as I was with forested ridges and canyons.

A small creek about a third of the way in



Wild azalea growing on the stream bank - very showy and fragrant



Near Sonora Pass after leaving the maze



Dinner on the way home



Passing Caples Lake at sunset, still more than an hour to ride
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:10 PM   #2
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Thank you for this post.. I plan on doing a dual-sport ride starting in Fish Camp on Sat morning, a bunch of NF roads, overnighting in Strawberry, then doing this road on Sunday before riding home to San Jose on Sunday.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by klinquist View Post
Thank you for this post.. I plan on doing a dual-sport ride starting in Fish Camp on Sat morning, a bunch of NF roads, overnighting in Strawberry, then doing this road on Sunday before riding home to San Jose on Sunday.
There are some shortcuts that allow you to cut across some of those big zig-zags, if you have a good map or GPS to help guide you through. I hadn't planned to ride through there when I set out, so I didn't bring a map. As a result, I thought it best to stick to 5N02 (though even that wasn't always easy).
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by RockyRaccoon View Post
There are some shortcuts that allow you to cut across some of those big zig-zags, if you have a good map or GPS to help guide you through. I hadn't planned to ride through there when I set out, so I didn't bring a map. As a result, I thought it best to stick to 5N02 (though even that wasn't always easy).
I've got a Zumo and try to pre-plan my routes... I may explore a bit, thanks!
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockyRaccoon View Post
There are some shortcuts that allow you to cut across some of those big zig-zags, if you have a good map or GPS to help guide you through. I hadn't planned to ride through there when I set out, so I didn't bring a map. As a result, I thought it best to stick to 5N02 (though even that wasn't always easy).
Did you happen to run a GPS and record your route that you could share? I need to do some exploring up there sometime. :) looks like a fun ride.
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Old 07-02-2013, 02:41 PM   #6
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This route appears on the north side of the "National Geographic Trails Illustrated" map "#808 Merced& Tuolomne Rivers" I think 5N02 is the same as Forest Road 52, follows a very circuitous route from Dorrington to 108 near Beardsley res - looks like fun, put it on my bucket list.
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Old 07-06-2013, 04:50 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info, I've been planning that route out myself. Buddy & me are going to take two or three days and just wander around up there, including going across Hwy 108 and head back in to the Bennett Juniper http://stanislaustour.com/bennett_ju...ree_final.html and then on in to an access road that will get us around Relief Reservoir.

https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=F...sz=15&t=m&z=15
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:37 PM   #8
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I have scouted all of this for the most direct and fun route.

http://www.dualsportwest.com/public/...13%20Topaz.pdf
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Old 07-08-2013, 12:06 AM   #9
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There are alot of roads in that area.Kind of a giant rat maze.Some of them are open for ohv use.They can be accessed from the west from camp 9 road or Italian Bar road.If you are really wanting to get lost you can run all the way to hwy 120 at Buck Meadows on forest service roads.The forest service offices have free maps-but kind of small.I ride out of Modesto-If somebody wants to go riding send me a pm.
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Old 07-08-2013, 12:26 AM   #10
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There are 2 main route through that rat maze. They both start and finish at the same places.

Route 52 is fs 5N14. A higher elevation rt in the shape of a U. A good part of the north end has been paved.

Hells Half acre is at lower elevation and cuts across the open part of the above U. The lumber company has created a maze on the north end to assist their logging operation, making it difficult to find the "real" 5NO2.

My Garmin and the new Forest service map are not that accurate. You probably will stumble onto 5N03. If you do, it will connect with 5N02 or lead you out, depending on the direction of travel. However you get there, Hells Half acre will connect with 5N14 on the south end above Beardsley just before it turns to pavement.

They are logging again, so the easiest way sometimes is just take the road most traveled north or south.

I have ridden that area from 140 to 88. I still get lost.
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Old 07-08-2013, 12:47 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by itsatdm View Post
There are 2 main route through that rat maze. They both start and finish at the same places.

Route 52 is fs 5N14. A higher elevation rt in the shape of a U. A good part of the north end has been paved.
Paved!
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Old 07-08-2013, 03:42 PM   #12
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The pavement used to end a few miles past the bridge at Sourgrass meadow. It now continues to the top of the first ridge. It adds about 4 more miles of pavement.

What Hells Half Acre road looked like before Dog invented pavement, depends how old you are. Back when the trains were still running, the southern end went around the back end of the new and improved Beardsley res. and the Northern end crosses the N. Fork of the Stanislaus on a single lane wooden bridge called Boards Crossing.

The joy is, that those old roads are still there.
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:07 PM   #13
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Thinking about trying to do this route this weekend and wanted to see if anyone might have a GPS track handy that they could send me?

Thanks
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:29 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by trailjammer View Post
Did you happen to run a GPS and record your route that you could share? I need to do some exploring up there sometime. :) looks like a fun ride.
Sorry, I have no GPS, but if you have one, it should be easy to navigate your way through
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Old 10-15-2013, 03:53 PM   #15
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Thinking about trying to do this route this weekend and wanted to see if anyone might have a GPS track handy that they could send me?

Thanks
I tried going through last year with a route I put together with the GPS maps... came upon quite a few closed gates. Found my way out, but felt that it wasn't the most ideal (meaning FUN) route through. The problem is that the roads aren't on the national forest MUVM maps because much of the land is now privately owned by Sierra Forestry(or something like that - logging company)...(but OK to pass through as long as you don't go around gates)
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