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Norcal Wagons Rubithon 2006

Discussion in 'Trails - Events - Expeditions' started by Cruiserdrew, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew SILVER Star

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    Norcal Wagons Rubicon 2006

    Norcal Wagons-Rubicon Trail August 2006

    The following was published on the Norcal Mailing list. Please ignore any inside jokes, spelling mistakes, or gramatical errors.


    I just reviewed the photos published by Scott and thought I would write up a trail report of the run and the events. This was a run with minimal carnage-two sheet metal dings and a broken exhaust hanger, but there is a crisis brewing in Norcal and so we will deal with that first. Other than the crisis, this was an excellent run through the Rubicon. The group was small and compatible, the food was excellent, but most of all, the trail was empty. The first day to Buck Island, I don’t think we passed more than one or two other vehicles, and only in Rubicon Springs did we really see anyone at all. It was empty, quiet and stunningly beautiful.

    The crisis…Our own fellow traveler, and 80 series owner, David Usem(Yep), has the 80 for sale. In its place he is buying one of those American built 4x4s that begins with J and ends with P. I am not kidding here folks, David is dead serious. The attraction of a new Rubicon capable 4 door wagon, with the possibility of a diesel, is too much for him to handle. You can email him if you want to buy a sweet and mostly built LX450, or you can try and talk him out of this plan. We tried all weekend, but got nowhere. Pretty soon, David will be hanging out with “those guys”, and picking up his Budweiser by the case at Wal-Mart. He was already sporting a wife beater tank top on the trail, and I suspect it’s downhill from there. I’m buying him a #3 sticker for the rear window of his new rig.

    Anyway, back to more pleasant topics…We started the run at the Loon Lake dam #2 on Wednesday evening. Rick (FZJ80) drove up from Southern California with Scott Fajack and Rover enthusiast Rob. Andy W. drove up in his SOA FJ40, as did his alter ego Sean also with a SOA FJ40. I was there with my SUA FJ40 making perhaps its last run on the Rubicon in its current form. We camped at the base of the dam and had a nice dinner of chicken wings, and other edibles. Alvaro (FZJ80) arrived about 8am the next morning to complete the group of 5 vehicles. We were on the trail by 8:30 with a goal of the far side of Buck Island by that evening.

    The start of the Rubicon used to be one of its biggest challenges-the Gatekeeper. Unfortunately, this has been blasted out by the forest service and so it’s all easy trail into the Granite bowl. It’s a little tight for the 80’s but really no big deal. In the past, we have spent an hour or more getting everyone across the gate, but now, it doesn’t even slow you down. For me personally, I wish the Gatekeeper was still in place, even though I realize there were a number of good reasons to blast it last year. Shortly after the Gatekeeper is a short but challenging up hill off camber climb into the granite bowl. That serves to prepare you for what’s in store on the trail.

    After dropping into the slab at the top of the bowl, we all inched our way down to the bottom, and began the climb back up to the top of the bowl. I was aiming for the upper line, but ended up winding through the middle line that includes the ledges at the far end of the bowl. Those ledges are exactly the right distance apart to catch the wheel base of an FJ40. It took me two tries and a diagonal line to pop up the ledge, and the other FJ40s had the same issues. Sean took several tries and ended up airing his 37s down even further. Rick hung his 80 here for a moment, but then came free and chugged up the granite slope. It’s very steep, but the traction is excellent, and we all cleared it no problems. We dropped off the remaining ledges of the rim of the Granite Bowl and then began the long series of rock gardens that leads to Walker hill.

    In the worst of those rock gardens, I took the hard line straight ahead, since I had been hung up there at Rubithon. Given the dry conditions, I went through much better this time and had to back up and line up only once. The other FJ40s followed me and the 80s wisely took the bypass. The wheelbase of the 80 is just too long for the very tight turns needed in this section. We collected our wits at the base of Walker and set out on foot to check the climb and the best line.

    I took the right hand line up Walker, though the left was doable as well. Much of the loose rock at the bottom had been moved out of the way, I suspect by the Jeeper crews at the jamboree. Fortunately, I had a totally clean run to the top of the first section and went back to spot the wagons. Rick took the line even further right and immediately got high centered on a large and immovable boulder. Alvaro came to his rescue and winched him back down for another try. On the second try, Rick took the big wagon through the slot and powered up the hill. Alvaro as tail gunner took the same line as Rick and made it up in one try.

    Walker Hill is actually a series of 3 hills. The first is an easy boulder field, the second is the climb where Rick got hung, and the third looks easy, but is actually the most difficult of the 3. This is the spot where Pismo Jim put knuckles on her side last year at Rubithon. To avoid that spot, I have been taking a hard left up the boulders at the top and got away with that again this time. You then have to drop immediately back into the gully to resume your trip up the hill. The wagons might make that line, but both elected the frontal assault up the top slop and the deep “V” gully that is a truck killer. Rick went in first and inched trough with less powder coating on the upper part of his Hanna bumper, but otherwise with no damage. Alvaro started just to the left of Rick’s line, and the wall of the gulley forced his rear quarter into the rock wall. To get him out of that, we used Rick’s truck and a snatch block to winch the back end of Alvaro’s 80 to the right and pulled him off the wall. It worked like a charm and Alvaro only collected a new scrape on top of an existing dent, so no harm done. That may be the most difficult place for a wagon on the entire trail.

    There were a few more boulders and short ledges between the top of Walker Hill and Little Sluice. I arrived in Little Sluice with Scott, but with none of the other trucks behind. It was weird, and we waited 15-20 minutes before the others began to trickle in. I hope someone can fill the void in the trail report here, because I still don’t know where everyone got hung up. I heard something about Alvaro taking the “hardest” line, but I don’t know where or what happened. I’m not surprised, though!

    The new line over the top of Little Sluice is exciting and all 3 FJ40s got a wheel in the air in a spot where a true roll would mean falling 50 feet into the bottom of the sluice box. The wagons did very well here with the added stability of the longer wheelbase. Everyone but Andy W. took the line up through the boulders to the top of the sluice, and we had lunch at the top just before Million Dollar drop. After lunch, all 3 FJ40s took the drop to the right, and the wagons took the drop straight over the top. Rick spent several minutes dealing with a high center at the top and then came over with no drama. The bottom of million dollar drop has become quite tippy and eroded, so we threw in some rocks to level the wagons at the bottom. Alvaro had a clean run down.

    From the bottom of the drop, to the start of the slabs, is some of my favorite territory on the Rubicon. It’s huge wide open granite with ledges, v-rocks and drops, followed by a boulder shelf road, and more ledges. Lilly Pad Lake was mostly dry, so there was none of that interesting water to cross. I went down a new drop here for me to the far right and nearly rolled (at least it felt that way), and then I spotted Rick down my usual drop to the left Alvaro came down the drop where I felt the near roll and had a smooth landing in contrast to my wheel in the air maneuver. Just as an aside, this drop is the same place that Jim Brantley and I had to climb at dusk at Rubithon 2004. I had a difficult time then as well and should have known better. We arrived at the top of the slabs in good time and elected not to go down Old Sluice. Maybe next year!

    The drop into the slabs has gotten very steep, due to the loss of rock and soil at the base. I dropped off the second to last line as did the rest of the group behind. At the top of the slabs, I like the line to the right that avoids some of that off-camber tippy rock to the left. The other FJ40s went left and we met up at the bottom of the slabs. The wagons came down with me. Once on the slabs proper, we had the usual off-camber 20 minutes of fear and all breathed a sigh of relief at the end. Sean especially, has a huge SOA FJ40 on 37s. He looked tippy, but lined up and dropped all the ledges square, and so never had any actual difficulty. He spent some extra time cleaning the driver seat that night!

    We arrived at Buck Island Lake about 2pm, so we had made very good time through the trail to this point. There are major advantages in traveling in a small well prepared group. Buck Island was strangely deserted. No one was camped in the large spots at the base of the dam, no one was up in the rocks and no one was on the far side either. It was very strange to have the entire lake to ourselves, not one other person. I wanted to camp on the far side of the lake, and after playing briefly in the water at the base of the dam, we fired up the trucks again.

    Everyone wanted to do Gas Can Rock. That is the steepest 20 feet of granite on the Rubicon. I was leading, lined up on Ross Kuzma’s line (thank you Ross for showing me 2 years ago), hit the trigger, and in one shot, went over. Big fun! Andy W. just behind me, went up the face, but started to do the evil rubber spin and could not make the climb. My truck was close enough to serve as a winch anchor and he winched over using his 8274 with no problems. Sean then pointed his FJ40 skyward and popped over no sweat. Rick lined up his 80 series and looked nervous when he started to spin on the rock face, but he hung in, “steered” his 4 wheel spin into the good line on the left and then launched over with cheers and applause all around. I think he left about 1/3 of his tread on the rock. Alvaro was last, but showing his long experience on GCR, blasted over in one pass. The camp site was almost in view, there was just one more problem….

    From GCR to the far camp sites means you have to climb this very difficult loose dirt slope, then descend another loose off camber slope (that has rolled several trucks) and then drop into the camp sites down these narrow rock chutes. We elected to try something new. If you want to hear what it was, ask me in person. I learned later that our new line was not approved and will not be repeated. It worked, though! We arrived in camp about 3 pm and spent the rest of the day swimming out to the island, telling lies, and cooking dinner. Did I mention the place was deserted? This was the Rubicon Trail at its finest. That evening was perfectly clear, and the stars were as bright as you will ever see them. We had a nice fire and turned in early.



    Friday morning at Buck Island was textbook perfect. The sun was shining, the sky was blue the breeze was just enough to keep the air moving, and we were not under any time pressure, since we had made such good time the day before. We hung out in camp, packed slowly and ate the bacon cooked by Sean. We did finally get rolling by 9am and by 9:15 were at the top of Big Sluice.

    For those of you who haven’t been there, Big Sluice is a narrow canyon/shelf road that leads down into the Rubicon Valley. It is the point of no return, since you basically cannot turn around in the sluice, and so would have to go most of the way down if you wanted to go back the other way. The most difficult maneuver is the drop into the sluice at the top. Some of the really bad boulders at the top from Rubithon have been moved, including the rocks that had mauled Alvaro’s rear quarter in June. That made lining up for the drop a breeze. The far right line is now out of the question, but the far left is doable, and the middle is OK, although it is getting severely undercut. I went over first, and then kept going all the way to the rock/tree combo about half way down. The two other 40s followed me and we went back up to heckle the 80s as they did the drop. First timer Rick rolled off the ledge like a pro, didn’t even lift a wheel, and motored down into the sluice. Alvaro took a really nice line to the left to make the approach, and then backed to line up perfectly on the drop. The real fun for the wagons started lower in the sluice!

    About 200 yards down from the top is a series of innocuous looking tree rock combos that can really test the 80s due to their long wheelbase. Alvaro got into the rock/tree and had a very difficult time extracting himself. Watching this, Rick chose the other way around the tree, and even though he got very high, and a bit off camber, it worked great to get the wagon through this tight spot. In contrast, Rick then went into another rock/tree combo and got severely sideways dropping off the rock face. I think Sean was spotting him down the FJ40 line, but it really looked sketchy in an 80. He made it through without any damage, so in the end it was all good. Looking at Scott’s photos, I see Rick’s rear tire in the air, so he wasn’t far from a roll into the tree. A close call for sure.

    I let Scott drive my FJ40 through the lower third of Big Sluice. If you’ve been there, it’s a challenging boulder garden, but Scott cleaned it, and clearly has potential as a 4 wheeler. Based on his performance there, I can state he can get his 80 through the entire trail with no problems. We were all saying that Mary-Austin should have been there to see it, but she was home working hard on the paintings that need to be done for her next show. Next time, Mary! All the other trucks cleared the bottom of Big Sluice with no problems, and everyone crossed the Rubicon (bridge) in good shape.

    The trail into camp is both hard and easy-the easy line is impossible in June due to the 4 feet of water, but in August, it is dry and easy. We went the other way. To get into camp, we climbed the difficult ledge to the right of the mud bog. We all got at least 1 wheel in the air, but Sean got big air (like 4 feet in an already tall truck) when his rear tire fell in a hole at the base of the climb. Normally there is a spot where you choose hard or easy as an approach to Rubicon Springs, but the hard way is closed, so we turned off the hill and motored into the Springs proper. There were 3 Jeep Rubicons there, and David went off to chat with them, hoping to see one of the 4 door Wranglers that he wants to buy was in camp. We drove through the Springs, and then about ½ mile down onto the slabs by the good swimming hole. We staked out a prime spot and then set off to explore the surrounding area.

    Everyone but Alvaro went with me on the hike to the source of the Rubicon River. It’s roughly a 40 minute hike back up the Rubicon trail, and then off into the woods near the bridge. You eventually come to the upper canyon of Rubicon Springs. You have to swim the length of a narrow rock canyon, and then can sit under a waterfall of pure snow melt. David climbed above the falls to get some photos, but never did make the swim in the canyon. We spent most of the afternoon there, and then hiked back to camp on the trail. On the way back, Poquita the dog suddenly stopped and raised all the hair on her back, in the same area we have encountered a bear on past trips. She was growling and staying very close to the group. We kept walking and never saw a bear, but I think it saw us.

    That evening we made dinner in the usual Norcal way. Robb (Rover dude) took over the cooking duties, and we ate Mary’s delicious marinated sword fish, and Alvaro’s skirt steaks. This, plus grilled vegetables, a salad and fresh melon made a great dinner. We had some nice wines, and even a few g&t’s around the campfire. It was a great night with more stars, and clear skies. We were sleeping right next to the river (literally at the door of my tent) and the sound of the rushing water gave everyone a good night’s sleep in preparation for the climb of Cadillac Hill the next morning.

    Cadillac Hill. The last time I was here, a young guy in an FJ40 rolled off the hill backwards and was severely injured. We elected to hit the hill early, so there would be no traffic headed down. Everyone climbed the lower slopes and the granite face lower down, and lined up for the turn at the bottom. I went through first, and got past the first big rock with no problems. To get past the second, I kept lifting a wheel and feeling very tippy to the bad side. Finally, on the third try, my 40 slipped past one rock, directly over a second and then went up the incline to the “V” rock. The bottom is severely dug out and eroded, so I started cautiously, but as soon as the traction felt right, I hit the gas and was rewarded with a clean run through the “V”. I ran back down to find Rick at the lower turn and Alvaro stuck between a rock and a tree even lower down. Scott spotted Rick out of the badness, and I helped Alvaro by stacking some granite that tipped him away from the tree. The rest of his run to the “V” was uneventful. After everyone cleared the difficult spots on Cadillac, the remaining run to the top was anti-climactic. We all arrived at Observation Point unbroken, and mostly unbowed. The remaining run from Observation point to the staging area in Tahoma was uneventful, and we all aired up using Andy W.’s excellent onboard air system.

    So that was our trip through the Rubicon. I continue to be impressed with how well this trail is suited for FJ40s. The wagons can make it through, but their job is more difficult, and the price of a major mistake is much higher. The highlight of this trip was the emptiness of the trail. We literally had it to ourselves for two days, and then shared it with 2 Jeeps and 2 buggies on the last day. Others can chime in, but if you are on the fence about doing this trail, please come to Rubithon, or join us next year. It is an essential experience if you own a Land Cruiser.

    AJP

    Scott's photos:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/98427301@N00/220159879/in/set-72157594244402348/
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2006
  2. Echo_29

    Echo_29

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    Some highlights

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    Last edited: Aug 20, 2006
  3. Ian Rogers

    Ian Rogers

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  4. clownmidget

    clownmidget

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    thanks. i hate you guys.
     
  5. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew SILVER Star

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    :grinpimp:







    :flipoff2:
     
  6. Hanna Quality

    Hanna Quality

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    looks like a great trip, wish I was there with you guys.

    Nice write up and pictures.

    Ken
     
  7. alvarorb

    alvarorb Color Geek in Charge

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    Andy,

    As always great trip report.
    The trail was a lot simpler this time around. The J##pers really make it easier.

    Regards

    Alvaro
     
  8. 450 DUDE

    450 DUDE

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    Great deal guys!
    How nice for everyone to stay home and let you have the trail, sweet.
    Sorry I missed it.

    -- -- - ken
     
  9. clownmidget

    clownmidget

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    Andy - I just figured out that the only "wagons" were Alvaro's and Rick's...:rolleyes:

    time to change the name of the run or get your princess 80 out on it :hillbilly:







    those are great pics and I can't believe how empty the trail was and how great the weather was. You guys must be living like saints...
     
  10. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew SILVER Star

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    My 80 is not a princess and is really starting to show it, unfortunately. I wish I had a white one where every scratch doesn't show in the clear coat. The 40 is just a better tool for the job, and more fun on the trail. I will take my 80 through, likely next year depending on how my 40 rebuild is going. Make sure you join us though. I really liked the small group for this trail. That and the lack of other people made this trip through pretty special, especially for a run that happened at the last minute.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2006
  11. PKP80

    PKP80

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    good times, terrific write up made me feel like I was there. Only thing missing was a blk eye...that's where I would have come it....and before you ask Drew, it's has healed up and is almost gone, still a little dark and the cut looks great.

    Thanks

    Sam:beer:
     
  12. FJ40_owner

    FJ40_owner

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    Great write up. Sorry you guys were not able to enjoy my cooking.

    JB
     
  13. 450 DUDE

    450 DUDE

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    Hey Jim Ill join you for some of that fine Spam,



    just not for breakfast.

    ken
     
  14. chicago

    chicago

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    Looked and sounded like a BLAST! Ive never been there, but would very much like to go one day!
    Thanks for sharing the pics and the write up!
    Now BE HONEST...since Brett wasnt there, you guyz were listening to Celine Dion around the camp fire, werent you?:ban: :D

    Chicago
     
  15. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew SILVER Star

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    Sam-I'm glad you are back to normal.

    If you come along next year, we'll give you some vitamin T and another black eye!

    For Chicago and Brett-It was Celine Dion sing-alongs around the campfire.:flipoff2:
     
  16. alvarorb

    alvarorb Color Geek in Charge

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  17. Ian Rogers

    Ian Rogers

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    hey nor-cal 80 guys

    This is Ian we met at rubithon, wed b-fast run. The next time you guys are south of lone-pine/ Pismo give me a PM and Sam an I will come out. (South of lone pine/ pismo is our turf and you need an escort) lol
     
  18. cpg

    cpg

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    Excellent write up Andy! I was hoping to catch you guys in the springs. I drove up solo on Friday and was going to head to the springs. Trail was pretty much empty and pretty easy going with lots of paving been done since Rubithon. Made it to Buck Island with 0 traffic on the trail. Was so nice decided to camp out there. Made the trip to the springs the Sat morning and the slabs had only 1 jeep on them. I think I was there around 11:30 ish. You guys were long gone.
    Great weather, no traffic, and no mosquitos.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2007
  19. pismojim

    pismojim the Dude abides...

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    Sir Andrew, et al.,

    Great report! Sorry I missed another great trip with you all.

    Katherine and I just returned from a little secret trip of our own. I was thinking about you guys quite a bit, especially, since I was wheeling Ruby instead of Knuckles and eating really good. I was also thinking about you, because you weren't there. You see I might have needed the back-up as we were exploring a new trail alone - not recommended. But, a rush considering we didn't see anyone for a couple of days.

    Here's a tease:
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    [​IMG]

    Cheers,
     
  20. pismojim

    pismojim the Dude abides...

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    Katherine took some nice photos.

    One of my favorites:

    [​IMG]

    :cool:
     
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