Rubicon Redux

Discussion in 'Trails - Events - Expeditions' started by Cruiserdrew, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew On the way there SILVER Star

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    Mar 15, 2003
    Sacramento, CA
    Trail report posted on the Norcal Wagons list. No pics yet.


    So the Dusy-Ershim run got cancelled because of snow drifts still blocking the trail at both ends. Not to let the time go to waste, a select group of us ran the Rubicon over the last two days from Loon Lake to Lake Tahoe. I had run the trail backwards in June, and so this was a chance to see it in the traditional direction. The group was small-me(FJ40), Don Evans (FJ40), Francis Garrido (nice mini), Brett Toothill (built to the skys 4Runner) and Dave (Don's son in law J##p CJ7). The original plan was to go from Loon to the top of Cadillac Hill, then back to Loon, in 2 days. That's some speedy trail work, for those of you who know the trail, and a challenge! But not everything goes as planned...

    Brett and I left Eldorado Hills aroung 2 pm on Wednesday and got to Loon Lake by 4:30. Waiting for us was Francis, the other guys were not expected until 8pm. We parked the trucks, and hiked from Loon to the Granite Bowl, then back along the Loon Lake output stream. There was a great place to camp on some flat granite below the dam, and we made ribs, chicken satay, salad, etc-all standard Norcal fare. Don and Dave arrived just at Dark. We made a nice fire, and Brett made some strange Canadian drink that makes you think of snow, and going to bed. Ask him for a sample next trip.

    I should describe Francis' truck, because it is extemely well done, without being overdone. He has a 1984 mini, with a cherry body. He has a medium lift, dual cases, double lockers and 33 inch tires. The bed has been replaced with a tray back that he did himself-but it looks very professional. Nothing fancy, but nothing overdone either. It's a nice truck, and it worked great on the trail. In contrast, Brett's truck is HUGE. He bought it recently already built, so he doesn't get owner builder kudos like Francis. He has a solid axle 4Runner, with a late model fuel injected motor. He has a welded rear, detroit front, 5 inches of lift, a Marlin Crawler and 37 inch tires. His truck made the Rubicon look easy, except for a limited turning radius due to the non-selectability of the lockers. He has huge flex and lots of traction/clearence. I had the smallest truck (again!) in the group with My 76 FJ40, 4 inch lift, SUA, double lockers and an SM420 tranny. Don has a SOA FJ40, dual ARBs, SM465 tranny + toybox + 3 speed case-can you say low gears and very custom drive shafts??

    The weather was beautiful on Thursday, and we were up, packed, and rolling by 8am. The Gate Keeper was a bit better than when I had been through 4 weeks earlier. Brett had a bit of trouble due to the limited turning radious of his truck but otherwise went over clean. I went through on the line I have used in past years and went over on my first try. The Aligator Pit was swampy and full of mosquitos, but all of us went through there clean and were soon at the top of the granite bowl. First test passed! We took the low line through the bowl (I prefer the high line on the ridge) and cruised through that without a pause. Similarly the rockgarden after the Granite Bowl didn't slow anyone down and we were crossing Ellis Creek by 9am. In contrast, I have eaten lunch before at Ellis Creek! Even though we were going slow, we were flying!

    The next challenge was Walker Hill. Everyone had a clean run, and soon we were lining up for the gnarly top of Walker, where Pismo Jim had rolled 4 weeks earlier. The mud and wallowed out gully was still there. I have wanted to try the granite climb to the left of that for several years, and so I did. Slipping right from there would have been ugly, but the 2F and the MT/Rs hooked up and I slid past the gully and it was easy! Everyone else rode out the gully and arrived at the top unscathed. Very exciting and fun. There were some boulders, and some wet soil, but the traction was much better than a month ago, and we were at Little Sluice by 10 am. Usually, we're there for a late lunch. Still flying. We watched a few guys attempt the sluice and roll over a mini-truck. These were the only other rigs we saw all day. Nice guys though, and we got to know them well, later. We all took the line through the top of Little Sluice, but took different lines down Million Dollar Drop. Don, Francis, and Brett took the direct line straight over the drop. I took the line to the right and down the side shute and Dave followed me down in the Jeep. We had no problems in the water crossings and soon were at the entrance to Old Sluice.

    Don and Brett had an adventure in the sluice, but Francis, Dave and I took the tippy route over the slabs. The slabs are "the easy" way to Buck Island Lake, but the challenge is in the fact you have to ride out a 20-30 degree side hill for more than a mile. It gives me the willies every time, and this was no different. Actually, looking at Dave, his willies were much bigger than mine! We all made it across the slabs clean and drove into the main camp at Buck Island-by 12:30! Normally, Buck Island is the destination for day one, and you are lucky to get there by 6pm. Don and Brett made it in about 30 minutes later and after a quick lunch we set off again for Rubicon Springs.

    The rock gardens around Buck Island are challenging and fun, and we got past Gas Can Rock with no problems. You definitely need lockers for that! The trail gradually climbs to the shelf road that overlooks Buck Island Lake. There is an eroded hill on the left and a nasty off camber rock on the right. Don went right, and broke the flange on his custom Tom Woods fancy high dollar drive shaft! The metal casting cracked through at the transfer case end. So that was the end of our forward progress! I had a spare shaft with the correct flange ends, but of course it was too long for Don's application. Eventually, we made progress, by me driving ahead and serving as a winch anchor point, then Don winching to me, with front wheel drive assist. While doing this the guys we had met in the sluice earlier rolled up. They had a mig welder, so all we had to do was shorten my driveshaft, and weld it back together. It took a couple of hours to hacksaw the shaft, but the mig welder made quick work of the fix. Very cool and we all go to see how driveshafts go together. It wasn't the way I thought.

    Don re-installed the driveshaft-and was mobile again! The bolts we used to bolt it up were undersized, and we worried about trail worthiness, but at least he had 4 wheel drive, and we could contemplate getting through the trail without endless towing. This led to a debate about which way we should go-toward the Springs, or back to Loon. In the end, we decided that Big Sluice, Rubicon Springs and Cadillac Hill was easier than the terrain we had just rolled through. We made camp at Buck Island, swam in the lake, cooked dinner, and went to bed after feeding the mosquitos for several hours.

    In the morning (this morning), we broke camp at Buck Island and were moving by 8:30. Don, Francis and Dave had left about 30 minutes earlier to get a head start on the trail. Brett and I had a good run up and out of the Buck Island Basin and caught up to Don, Francis and Dave at the top of Big Sluice. The rocks were in the same place they had been 4 weeks ago, so we all took the direct line down the drop and headed on down the Sluice. Don's driveshaft was holding fine. The rock garden at the bottom of the sluice was a challenge, but it is much easier going down, rather than up, and we all went through, and then to the bridge where we stopped for some photos. The route from there into the Springs has some interesting uphill rock challenges that simulate the conditions that Don and his trail fix would have to master going up Cadillac. The driveshaft and the undersized bolts held fast, so we were feeling confident about the looming ascent of Cadillac Hill. By the way, we were in Rubicon Springs by 10 am-still flying! Rubicon Springs is normally the destination for day 2 on the Rubicon, so that helps to put our elapsed time in perspective. We spent a few minutes watching the Helicopter ferry gear for this weekend's big Jeep run, then struck out for the base of Cadillac Hill. I was leading, with Don just behind, so that I could anchor if he needed to winch up some of the ledges.

    The road through the Springs was much easier and drier than 4 weeks ago. All of the deep water holes were now mud. None of us had any real problems, and we shot up the off-camber uphill slab that marks the real start of Cadillac Hill. Because of the wounded rig, and because I always go that way, we all took the easy line to the right, over the tree roots and up to the famous turn, were every year at Rubithon, someone breaks a pinion. I needed 2 shots at the lower boulder, then had a pretty clean run through the lower hill. I would stop every 100 feet or so, to make sure Don could get up and over, in case he needed to winch to me. There are 2 steep ledges on Cadillac-scary but not that hard. With double lockers, a bit of throttle and some luck, you can clear them easily. That's exactly what happened. There are just a few boulders and treeroots, and we were all safe and sound at Observation Point! Don's trail fix had passed the ultimate test, and even though we had more ledges/boulders/slabs/waterholes/rockgardens to master, we knew we home free. The difficult terrain was behind us. The route from Observation to the staging area near Tahoma seems to take forever, but we were there by 11:30. Buck Island to the trail head at Lake Tahoe in 3 hours. I'll never do that again. Still flying!

    So the carnage list-not bad considering-

    me-small new dent passenger side sheet metal-I get one every time through-Pismo Jim says this is normal/expected
    Don-Broken driveshaft-nearly a trip ender-good trail fix, broken and bent front fender exo guard-minor
    Dave-Mashed PS fender-fixed with a rock, cromagnon style
    Brett-none-his truck is a monster. There is not enough challenge on the Rubicon for this truck.
    Francis-new scrapes on slider-easily fixable with some spray primer, broken front bumper tip

    So it was a good trip as a consolation prize for the inability to do Dusy Ershim. The company was first rate, and the trail as always was a challenge. The big trail fix was great-I learned something, we could fix it, and it wasn't my truck! I should mention a really cool thing. We met a group of 4wheelers coming in with 20 handicapped individuals on an offroad trip to Rubicon Springs. This is extremely cool, and good publicity for the community.

    Last edited: Jul 16, 2005
  2. pismojim

    pismojim the Dude abides...

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    Oct 18, 2002
    Pismo Beach
    Another EXCELLENT write-up Cruiserdrew!!!

    It was just like being there. Except I didn't get any new dings.

    Who needs pictures when you can have a great read?

    Small groups of well set-up rigs and expereinced drivers rock!
  3. clownmidget


    Likes Received:
    Jul 2, 2003
    Trumansburg, New York
    Great write up but when are you going to wheel that "other" one on the 'con?
  4. FirstToy


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    Nov 27, 2003
    you should publish all your writeups in a book. They are really great
  5. DaktariEd


    Likes Received:
    Jul 8, 2005
    Tucson, AZ, USA

    I second the idea of a book of trail write-ups.
    For a beginner like me, I could really use the information, location, tips, maps, etc.
    Go for it!

    Ed :)
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