Every now and then I have these moments where I just love living in Oregon. Like the sudden smell of cedar, or the first snow, or a beautiful 80 degree morning in July.
But the converse is also true.
Last night I worked on cleaning Frank for hours and removed the top and doors in preparation for the annual “No Roads Required” show at Portland International Raceway. So of course, for the hour drive it would drizzle and be FREEZING.
Anyway, I arrived around 9:30 and got my pass from Chad.
We soon set up and watched as the area filled in with vendors and other Jeeps.
They had an RTI ramp, a ton of raffles, and awards for the best Jeeps in the show. It was a great event!
There was a lot of partying in them thar hills – and shouting, and driving around, and being all rednecky. So I woke up pretty grumpy.
Luckily, I was up before anyone else in the group. So, I wandered down to the lake and decided to get my morning started with a swim. I jumped into the lake with biodegradable soap and wash some of the trail off me. It was VERY chilly (probably about 8,000 feet) but worth it.
I wandered back to camp and started to prepare our breakfast at about 7:30.
My coffee routine has changed over the years. I used to lug a huge silver coffee pot when backcountry camping (which was stupid). Then, I moved to French Press on Jeep trips. But even that is a huge pain in the butt. You have a lot of grounds to deal with (both fresh and wet) as well as washing out the press and all that stuff.
So my new formula is Stumptown’s Cold Brew coffee (small glass bottles). I heat up some water, and add about half a bottle of coffee to half a cup of water. Stir in some soy creamer, and voila! Trail coffee that is easy and grounds free.
Back to the trail.
We broke camp and headed out around 10:00AM.
The first set of ledges right outside of camp proved to be an abrupt and startling challenge. Chad would use his winch again on these, as the placement of the ledges were right in the wrong spot. Running an open diff was much harder in spots like these.
We made our way slowly toward Big Sluice.
We arrived at a great spot for lunch, just past Rubicon Springs. This was a large granite area that butted up against a cliff, with large boulders piled up at the base. A the Rubicon River meandered through the site, and filled a good sized pond, complete with a rope swing. This would be an amazing spot to camp next year.
We sat here for a couple of hours, enjoying the water and some good lunch.
After departing Rubicon Springs, we now had to face the final obstacle – Cadillac Hill.
This is the end of the Rubicon, and you could say they saved the best for last. This is a very steep climb with harrowing drops on the right side. Four or five obstacles (mostly ridges) dotted the length of Cadillac.
This was the only spot where I sustained any damage. On one of the steep ridge climbs, a rock struck my brand new Bilstein steering stabilizer and I had to work to remove it.
On our way up Cadillac Hill, we had a visitor. A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
The rest of the trail ended pretty uneventfully. We aired back up around 5:30PM and left for town shortly thereafter.
Most people plan for years to come and drive the Rubicon Trail; we started planning this last Tuesday.
We start out in Grass Valley, California early. Having pulled into town at a deadly 2:00AM and trying desperatley to find a hotel (on Labor Day Weekend) we finally found a room at the haunted Holbrooke Hotel. I was not happy to spend $185 a night (plus they charged us $10 for the dog) but I was happy to get out of the Jeep and into some type of bed.
We dropped off our doors at a friend’s parents place at 9:30 and headed out for gas and to the trail.
After fueling up one last time, and perhaps my second cup of coffee, we were on the road for the final stretch.
There are few ways to describe the sensation of driving a naked Jeep (no doors, no roof) to people that have never done it. When you can smell the smokey pines, hear the birds and streams as you pass above, and feel the chilly morning air swirl around your face and hands, you are in a very happy place. Add in some great music, hot coffee, and great company and you have the recipe for a wonderful weekend.
Our goal was to arrive at the trailhead a little before lunch; we were not too far off. We pulled in at 12:30. The place was PACKED due to the annual fund raiser called “Cantina for the ‘Con.”
We slowly meandered through the rigs parked all over, and found a place to air down and make final preps.
We hit the beginning of the trail – a filter called the Gatekeeper – at around 1:30. The Gatekeeper is a small section of pretty large boulders, intended to act as a test. Basically if you or your Jeep cannot make it through this section, it’s best to call it a day and turn around.
After Gatekeeper we continued on the trail until 7:08PM when we finally made it to Buck Island Lake. Being Labor day and rather crowded, it took us some time and strategic thinking on where to find a spot to camp for the night.
We continued past the dam and found an awesome pull-out overlooking the lake.
After quickly setting up camp and having some dinner, it was an early night for us all. We climbed into tents and tried to get whatever sleep was possible with the shouting, fireworks, drunkenness, and other fun (I think I got about 2 hours of sleep).