Here is our story of the Rubicon Trail, Summer 2011
We finished the Rubicon Trail adventure.
The Rubicon Trail has interesting history.
1886 A one way road was built over the Burton's Pass to Rubicon.
1888 Billy Lapham opened the Bellevue Resort at the Rubicon Springs River & rooms cost $2.50 per night. Some weekends they had up to 100 people staying.
What an adventure, two busted birfields, (each required 3 hours to replace), one rollover, on a steep grade that took about half hour to right using its own winch, one leaf in another wheelers front leaf pack requiring welded back together.
Day 1 we woke to the sound of the alarm, the time was 4:30am, we had loads of gear, food & parts that required meticulous packing into the 4x4 we intended traveling in. Then we needed to have all our personal & camera gear ready. We were meeting half the group at a location on the HWY at 7:30am, the meeting point was well over an hour away. At the location we had our friends from the Gold Coast Maria & Denis meet us & join one of the trucks that had spare seats, no one was going to miss this adventure!
An hour later we picked up the last of the crew that was to make up our off road group. The six trucks were from the Toyota stable, an even mix of early hilux utes & 4runners, all the vehicles had petrol motors with manual gearbox's, most had crawler gears installed & running 33" to 36" tyres with or without bead locks.
From the staging point you are right into the action, we cross the Loon Lake dam wall from where you get your first look at the iconic Rubicon Trail & it looks like one large granite slab with pine trees scattered here & there with loads of small rocks, you are into low range straight up, 2 wheel drive does not get a look in for 3 full days.
It was full on action & it just did not stop, in no time we had to find some shade to organise lunch for 14 people. The track is all done at walking pace & that is what most of the passengers did. Most would drop back or move forward to photograph the trucks as they did their best to manoeuvre over or around natures obstacles.
Camp was pitched at Buck Island Lake, not a lot of room for large groups, so this was going to be interesting to keep us all together. We found a spot that was large but not a lot of flat space, so we left the trucks & took to walking & scouting for a better option for all, leaving the truck kept our options open as there were allot of other wheelers on the track. We did find a great position just below the lake wall but the draw back was it was close the main trail with other trucks moving through the trail all through the night.
Everyone set up their own sleeping options, tents, swags & cots in the open, or just a roll on the ground with a sleeping bag. It was going to be a long cold night, the mercury dropped to around 4deg C, chilly!!
After the cooking area was sorted, the four Aussies walked up to the lake for a cool afternoon swim, this was just the thing to remove some of the trail dust that was covering every part of your body, boy was it cold & crispy. At least we are clean until tomorrow. Just as we settled into our first beer, a young lady walked into camp asking for a welder! To her surprise Steve from Powertank has just the thing under the bonnet of his rig, a deal was struck, I think cold beers for the use of the welder & associated tools, one can always do with more beer!
Whilst some of the boys helped out with the repair, the rest worked on a meal for the group. This turned into a great feast of wonton soup, fantastic. This was followed with note swopping of the days adventures, who scratched their rig, what parts broke & also the panel damage. A night under the stars is not complete without a good fire & the group was not disappointed. We all got to sit around with cold beer in hand. As normal a few diehards stayed on to the early hours sharing different cultural stories full of colour. Around this time the large bottle of Wild Turkey American Honey was brought forward, this also included cigars for one & all.
Day 2 most of the group were looking very lost until the first coffee was consumed & last nights left overs heated & devoured. The simple task of consuming a cup of coffee was no simple task, we had forgotten the mugs! So we had to find something & fast, we cut the tops out of the beer cans & put them back in the coolers & there was our coffee mugs. On day 1 we drove 5 miles & took 9 hours. Today was looking up as we only had to go around 2 miles to the next camp at The Rubicon Springs camp area.
Once everything was packed into the respective trucks the lead truck took up his position & we headed of for another day of boulder crawling. Only a couple of hundred meters into the trail we came across a group of trucks in difficulties on the easier line on a steep ascent. I happened to be riding in the lead truck & was requested to be spotter, this did not end very well, the truck reached the top of the section with the drivers side birfield busted, that would require a track side repair once we found a patch of flat ground. This part of wheeling in the US really surprised the group from Australia, every person seemed to have his job in participating in the repair. You are either passing tools, holding parts, cleaning grease out of parts or greasing new parts. I had my own job filing the spline to allow the new birfield to fit correctly. This break down cost us around 3 hours. The crew that were stuck previously were able to get past us, this had been going on for most of the previous day. The same group of Jeeps, had been doing a lot of track building & were still having trouble. From here it was very much the same as the last day, difficult sections with spectacular scenery all around us. The main challenge for the day was still to come. The Big Sluice, now this defies belief, by looking at it there is no way any vehicle could drive this one. The granite boulders are the size of the trucks & all over the place! Looking from the top, there is no clear line to take. The boys did a great job manoeuvring through this one, with no damage! About now, other campers were starting to get on the trail & the going was rather heavy, with lots of stops to let larger groups through. During one of these forced stops, my wife was walking around taking photos of other trucks only to hear what sounded like a babies rattle, looking down & only feet from her was a 4/5ft rattle snake. The snake had given a warning & just slithered past. With a camera in one hand & a video in the other she got footage for all to see. Obstacles were ever present as this 2 mile section took us close to 9 hours to reach, The Rubicon Springs camp area. We found an area just off the trail right by the river for all to be close to each other & the cooking & eating area. I was able to pitch our tent 2mtrs from the river on a large flat slab of granite, now this was fantastic to fall asleep to the sound of running water. All of the others rolled out their self inflating mats right on the granite as it was going to be another star spangled sky.
Due to the long twilight, 4 guys, (1 Australian, 1 Argentinean, 1 Italian/Scottish/American & 1 Japanese/American) decided to take a scramble up to the top of the granite peak close to camp. We were well reworded for our efforts. We found some rather large cat scats full of bones & fur. At this point one of the guys informed us that he had a hand gun with him, fantastic, but it was in the truck back at camp, great help that would be! The views over the valley were incredible, we spent some time trying to work out the route we had taken to get to the camp.
As we were camped so close to the river we all, including the girls, decided to have a dip under the small water fall close by. The water was freezing! But that did not stop any one, with the added bonus of catching the local delicacy called a crawdad a fresh water crayfish, the locals were eating them right from the river. Us Aussies are pinching our selves, we are on the Rubicon & its all happening around us.
The locals were in charge of dinner tonight so the Australians just had to relax & keep the beers up to the cooks. And these guys like their light beers. Coors, not a bad drop for an American light beer. The locals produced teriyaki chicken with rice with a side of garlic mash potato, another great meal. All of the group turned in early after two long days on the trail & this would extend to a late rise, I think we were all worn out.
Day 3 chat was all about how easy the last day was going to be, the main obstacles being Cadillac Hill. The information from the locals was, this was not going to be a big deal, how wrong this proved to be. The trail followed the river for a short distance before starting the rise that is Cadillac Hill. The other trucks were making light work up to the hair pin. This all changed as one of the 4 runners busted a birfield on a hard pinch. The truck was nursed up to the start of the hair pin & the only flat piece of ground. Again everyone went to work to get the truck back on the trail. Their was just enough room for other trucks to pass then make the hair pin. The repair took another 3 hours to achieve, during this time the non mechanic types were put to good use building sandwiches for the workers all the while all manner of trail trucks were making their way past & up Cadillac Hill, no easy task as the other 5 trucks were parked in different spots up the hill. Once the repair was completed, it was decided to tow the 4 runner up the more technical section of the trail as there was no more birfeilds & this 4 runner did not have the low split box that the others had. The last truck up Cadillac Hill was a well prepared Toyota pickup. As we were watching & guiding the two trucks towing up the hill, Glen decided it would be a good time to attempt a rollover. As he was manoeuvring to get on a better line on a very steep section he backed up onto a rock that off balanced his truck & over she went. Fine amber fluid was spilt allover the hood lining. The esky with the drinks in was emptied all over the place, cold cans rolling in the dust, great! All Glens tools & camping gear was strewn all over the trail, the beers were first to be picked up of course & gently placed back in the esky. After that was completed the rest of the gear was placed to the side of the trail a waiting the righting of the truck. The main group was further up the hill dealing with the 4 runner when we hear a voice come over the CB requesting some help, when there was no reply he informed us that he needed help to right his little truck as she is on her side.
The team swing into action one more time, woking out the best & safest way to deal with the problem. As the truck had a winch, it was decided to run the cable around a large tree well above us, via two tree protectors as the tree was so large, then back to the roll bar & this worked a treat. She was back on all 4 in no time. After a quick look over the truck & all the gear was loaded into the rig, the key was clicked over a couple of times before she was given the full ignition & into life she burst, with a large cloud of smoke engulfing the truck. Shortly all was running smooth & up the hill we all went. Our reward was the awesome views from Observation Point, the group spent some time chatting about our adventure & exchanging details as this was the last time the Aussies would see most of the group.
The Americans have asked us back next year in the hope to make this an annual event.