Photo (c) Jason Martin

Trail Review: The Rubicon Trail Part 2 [California]

August 2014, Days 2 & 3.

Miss part one?  Find it here!

Everyone slowly woke to the familiar smell of coffee and the sound of hushed voices.  Once caffeinated and packed up, we decided to cross the dam and take a look at the helicopter crash site.

Just days before we arrived, a chopper that was ferrying supplies for the Jamboree crashed on the shore of Buck Island Lake. Fortunately, everyone survived.  It was still a very surreal scene, with bloody clothes visible and even the pilot’s headset resting in the cockpit window frame.

The crash site. Click to enlarge.

Once we returned to the campsite, we left Buck Island Lake, quickly encountering a fun series of ledges right out of the gate.

While Jeff took a more challenging line to the right, the rest of us stayed left.  The trailer made it around the dogleg turn, and we all made it up without much issue.

Matt climbing the ledges at BIL. Click to enlarge.

As a group we were pretty fortunate when it came to trail damage. But, on the previous day, one of Jesse’s expensive Icon shocks was smoked by a rock, and today would see the demise of the second.  As no one happened to bring along a spare, poor Jesse and Thana had a pretty bouncy ride for the rest of the trail.

Some shocks are just not meant for the trail. Photo (c) Jason Martin.

The trail soon dropped us at the Big Sluice – traditionally one of the hardest parts of the Rubicon (devoid of a bypass) but the section has been neutered in the past few years.  It still poses some serious challenges and interesting lines.

Jeff tackling a challenging line choice on the Big Sluice. Click to enlarge.

Here is some raw video of my Jeep and trailer navigating a fun line, with Chad’s expert spotting.  Apologies for the brake noise!

My Jeep and trailer dodging boulders in big sluice. Click to enlarge.

Once we all cleared the grips of the Big Sluice, I popped out of the forest into a turn that placed the trailer on some wet, slick rock with the potential to flip it if it slid.  Thankfully, Robert lended a safety winch line and I easily dropped down without issue.  It was one of those instances where it probably would have been fine, but the consequences of being wrong were pretty harsh.  So, playing it safe was preferred.

Yep. Trailer got a little tippy. Thanks to Robert for the winch line. Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge.

The next section was a pretty serious rock garden.  It was in this spot on last year’s excursion that Chad blew his bead on a front tire.  The granite boulders here are formidable, and careful tire placement is mandatory.

It’s not every day this is the view out of your windshield. Line placement is key. Click to enlarge.

When the trail turns left at the bottom of the pile, your passenger side tires are very close to a precarious drop off, and tree scars tell the stories of others that got too close.

Drone footage of Matt and Jesse crossing the famous bridge.

Shortly after this section, we all crossed the Rubicon River bridge and made our way into Rubicon Springs.  The place was packed, in preparation for the Jamboree.  We passed through and claimed our campsite for the day at the base of a huge granite slab, right on the river.  We found this spot last year, and I was really excited to stay here.

Camp for the night. Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge.

I quickly whipped up some of my favorite trail sandwiches for lunch: the infamous Beyond Meat BBQ Chick’n Sandwiches.  These are packed with protein, are easy to make, and taste awesome.

Chef Scott, making some kick ass Beyond Meat sandwiches. Photo (c) Jason Martin.

After a filling lunch, there was not much else to do but spend some R&R time in my hammock, and then take a swim in the beautiful glacial pond at the campsite.  The rope swing was a blast.

This is what Jeeping and the Rubicon is all about. Relaxing. Photo (c) Jason Martin.
Yours truly taking a plunge.

Another benefit of staying here is that it is actually private property.  Be prepared to pay $10 per night per vehicle, but the cost is worth it.  While the rest of California is drier than a popcorn fart, this place allows campfires.  We had a beautiful fire under the stars, reliving the stories of the day and enjoying some ice cold Oregon brews.  This is what offroading is all about – the friends you make.

A beautiful fire wrapped up an amazing day. Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge.

We woke to a frosty Sierra morning and a cacophony of Canadian Geese that were probably just as hungry as we were.  With steam rising from coffee mugs, I made some breakfast burritos and we slowly broke camp.  Another dip in the pond acted as both an additional caffeine shot and a bath.  It might have even helped with the IPA-induced headache from the night before.

A beautiful Sierra morning. Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge.

As we headed back to the trail the ominous Cadillac Hill still loomed in the distance.  Cadillac climbs about 1200 feet in a half mile.

When we first planned this trip, and I committed to bringing the trailer, the only spot that really concerned me was the tight corner at the base of Cadillac.  Now it was finally in front of me and I had to tackle it.

Winching on the turn I expected to winch on. Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge.

To save time, I opted to winch after a couple of failed attempts.  The trailer was anchoring the Jeep and I just couldn’t get enough momentum to clear it.  I was still stoked though, as this was the first time my winch was deployed, on the entire trail.

Even Jesse got some winch-inspired hang time. Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge.

After a couple more winch pulls, we all cleared the final challenge on the Rubicon trail, and grabbed a quick lunch at Observation Point.

The 2014 Rubicon crew! Photo (c) Jason Martin. Click to enlarge. From L-R: Jason, Scott, Robert April and the kids, Alex and Chad, Matt, Jesse and Thana, Jeff and Brian.

Many people think Observation Point is the end of the trail; not true.  There are actually about 5 miles of slow, bouldery trail that lays between you and the hotel.  Eventually, we ended up at the staging area where high fives were exchanged, and tires were aired up.

Back on pavement, as our caravan of weary vehicles drove on with the dust of another Rubicon trip blowing off the Jeep, I realized just how awesome times like these are.

Some people will never know why I spend so much on gas, or why we spend so much time on our Jeeps.  And for some, they will never know the bliss of beating a hard line, or spotting a buddy through a bad spot.  Or, pushing yourself and your Jeep to the point of failure, only to come out a stronger team in the end.

For them, that is sad.  For us, it was amazing.

3 thoughts on “Trail Review: The Rubicon Trail Part 2 [California]”

  1. Nice report. You may want to inform Jesse that he is wearing items from two companies that are highly opposed to motorized recreation.


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