Trail Report: Rubicon Trail [California] Day 1

Loon Lake Trailhead to Buck Island Lake

August 31, 2013

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I still cannot believe we are here.

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.

A very expensive pile of doors at our friend's parents place.
A very expensive pile of doors at our friend’s parents place.

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.

Chad following on our way to the trailhead.

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.

A video still showing the crowd at the trail head.

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.

Frank taking a breather just after the Gatekeeper.

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.

Setting up camp just before sunset.

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).

We were welcomed by an amazing Sierra sunset.
We were welcomed by an amazing Sierra sunset.

Our Dinner:

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