TTORA Rubicon Trip July 10th - 13th 2005

Every year the TTORA group heads out to the famous Rubicon Trail in Northern California for a few days of fun on the rocks.  It is always a fun trip and they year was no exception.    Riding with me was John Kazmierczak, a friend of mine that now lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.   It was his first trip to the Rubicon, and what follows is his trip report.   You will quickly see that although the scenery is as great as the wheeling, it is the friendships, camaraderie, and fun that happen along the way that makes the trip truly great.   I have wheeled with most of the people that were along before, and I look forward to many more wonderful trips with the group.

All pictures from the Rubicon 2005 Trip:
Fast Connection
Slow Connection

 I am not new to four wheeling. I am (or was) however a Rubicon Virgin. Oh, I ventured in a bit on either side, but I have never run the Rubicon trail itself. I was not able to bring my Jeep, so I rode with Pete and others.

We went in through Ice House Road. This is a nice long twisty road. Up on the top is Loon Lake. It is a beautiful picturesque lake easily reached by any car. We stayed one night near the dam. It was pleasant with few mosquitoes.

Chris (Driving) approaches the gatekeeper in his Toyota Corolla
We met up with the others at camp. Bob VanZant tried his “hand” at fishing. He caught his first fish, a nice slippery rainbow trout. He kept trying to grab it and it kept slipping away. Heather told him to, “just grab it”. You could see the tendons and veins bulge through Bobs hand as the poor fish’s eyes popped out of its head like a Spencer’s novelty stress toy. After he removed the hook, and let go of the poor beast, you could have taken fingerprints off of it. He cleaned the little fish and was looking to cook it. I suggested rubbing two fish together to start the fire. I met the others as they came in. Mark got lost on the way up, and we managed to catch him late at night driving around looking for us. The radios did not work well through the solid granite mountains. The savior was the cell towers in the area that are disguised as trees. I was walking back from the loo and found a brass lock that most likely fell off of some ones trailer. I picked the lock open and attached it to Angry Andy’s front bumper. He thought Dick Foster did it, we laughed at him saying the he finally had a “locked” front end. As Andy reads this he will finally realize Dick is innocent… this time
We set off Monday morning. We arrived at the Gatekeeper in time to watch the last of the weekenders working their way out. The Gatekeeper is a good obstacle of large rocks and sharp turns. It is complicated by a spring that lubricates your tires with a good coat of mud. Everyone made it through, not all in the first try, or third for that fact. But we all got through.

As the Toys passed through the gatekeeper I did realize the importance of proper rocker guards. Not just rocker protection, but full on Nerf bars that hold the body and leading edge of the rear tire away from the rock.

Pivoting on the bars in a tight turn was necessary for every vehicle except the Samurai. He just backed up and did a four point turn in the length of a Tacoma.

I noticed the use of the rockers in this manner several times though the trip. I have used my rocker guards like this on a point turn on 21 Road in Colorado, but they are flush with the body on my Jeep. If I had tried this here my back tire would have hung on the rock trying to climb up its muddy face. The step style that stick out allowed the frame to be pushed over enough that the tire went around the rock. Time to add proper rocker bars…

Passing through the Gatekeeper.
We reached the Bowl around 10 AM. I was awed by the beauty of this spot. You could see Loon Lake and down valley. The Ponderosa Pines against the near snow-white granite was straight out of postcards

As Pete and I walked down from the top of the bowl to watch the others come down, I could not help but notice the nature of the granite; its slick. I could only imagine it wet. The broken face of the granite is very rough and angular but is limited to the decaying boulders and cliff faces. As I was pondering this, Pete slipped on clean dry granite, reassuring me of the need for good tires, proper pressures, and traction devices.    We found a small pine that offered meager shade growing in a fissure that collected some poor soil consisting of granite dust and mouse droppings. We sat to watch the others come across the bowl. There was a small ledge that has to be stepped up and posed a small challenge as the smooth granite refused to give up any traction. All the trucks make it up. We continued on.

As the trail progressed, it was fairly mild on the truck and impressive on the eyes. We passed a few other travelers and some impressive parts of the trail. Up near Spider Lake we ran in to the sluice box. It looked impassable except for the most well built and armored rigs. A few trucks make like they were going to try it only to go high and around the worst of it. We arrived at Spider Lake just after lunch in time to put some Pizza on the engine and go swimming. The water was very clear and very warm for the altitude.
Andy goes for a dip in Spider Lake.

The group had split up over the morning and one of the tail draggers had broken a main leaf spring playing on an obstacle. Amazingly someone had a suitable spare with them. This of course put them behind quite a bit. So the front of the group headed on down to Buck Island Lake to camp.

On the way to Buck Island Lake from Spider Lake.
On the way to Buck Island Lake from Spider Lake.
One of the Dams at Buck Island Lake.
We explore the dams and the the lake at Buck Island.
At the camp there was some really poor conditioned outhouses that maintained the gnat population. The mosquitoes swarmed fairly thick at the main camp below the dam. The creek from the dam meandered just below with some marshy areas and still pools. This beckoned the little flying bastards to the area. Pete, Mark and I found a spot up higher near the dam with less micro vampires flying about. BONUS! Someone had left some cut wood near the fire ring.

The lake here was VERY cold. The water was trapped and diverted to fill Loon Lake, so the water was fresh snow melt. I managed to jump in and reawaken the thoughts of Bigfoot’s’ calls in the minds of unwary campers on breaking the surface. I swam around for about twenty minutes until I was somewhat clean and “comfortably numb”.

Word came down on the radio the tail end of the group reached Spider Lake in time to set up camp. We set up camp and slept very well.

Next morning we cleaned up and awaited the arrival of the others. As we did other groups passed through on the trail. One was a Jeep pulling another Jeep who blew his rear drive shaft. We shuddered at the thought of the trials of pulling another vehicle through what we came down. Around lunch the tail end of the group showed up and Mark and I put away the tent and bags. The decision was made to stay one more night here with the newly reunited party. Mark and I set the tents back up.

We spent the day goofing off and hiking around the lake. Part of the group that had been behind included a family with kids: Bob, his wife Priscilla, two girls and a boy. I had seen them earlier at the Gatekeeper but lost sight of them soon after. It became apparent to me that these were very well mannered and intelligent kids. They managed to get Angry Andy to pay them $1 for every time he swore. He tried to get out of paying, “I only have a twenty”. They managed to pool enough change to make him pay up. You could see the rivalry building. Kids -1: Andy -0.

Mark managed to gather firewood in his Samurai and deliver it in reverse with a quick stop resulting in a pile of logs rolling all over. Andy built a fire and used gasoline to get it going. Even with the gasoline, it took more than one try and the first fire had to be put out and moved. It was quite entertaining to the others in camp.

Buck Island Lake.
Mike and Mark get ready to weld on Marks Samurai.

I noticed Marks drive line looked odd. The pinion spacer was hanging on to the yoke by one bolt. And the traction bar was working the bolts out of the third member. He repaired them and discovered a crack in the ring bolting the traction bar to the third member. Mike pulled out his welder and proceeded to drain a few batteries in an attempt to repair the ring.

The mosquitoes were quite bad, DEET kept them at bay, but only for a while. It seemed that after about a half hour the effects seemed to wear thin and the desperation of the insects overcame the repellent. Everyone was reapplying often enough that talk of DEET poisoning came about. I think it was an excuse for some behavior that night.

The next morning the group cleaned up and some braved the waters for the chance to be free of DEET for a few minutes. After watching a group of Canadians drive through eh, we got back on the trail.

Leaving the lake Mark discovered his anti-wrap bar was fast becoming an anti-third member unit. Again it was walking the bolts out of the third member on the rear diff. It even managed to break the weld they had applied to strengthen a crack, and also snapped the head off a bolt. He resigned to removing it and sacrificed a third set of leaf springs to axle-wrap.
A double cab gets hung up between a few large rocks.
Pete coming down a small hill.
Andy going down Big Sluice
Bob coming down Big Sluice.
The trail this point was becoming a mix of dirt, loose rocks, deep watery mud, large slick boulders of granite and lots of trees. We did Big Sluice with many photos and little damage. Only one truck got scared bad, and it was due to poor amour.

We pushed on through to the Rubicon River bridge, and on to Rubicon Springs.   A helicopter was ferrying stock in for the upcoming Jeep Jamboree at Rubicon Springs. It was coming and going almost nonstop.

There was a sign going into the Springs that suggested two routes. Right was difficult, left was easy. However there was a paper plate attached suggesting that right was better. Written was <- deep -> safe. We went deep. A nice 30ft mud hole. Pete's IFS skid plate smoothed the top of the rut as nice as any Cat road grater. Oh, the mud stank bad too, and now we had some jammed up against the exhaust to remind us of the smell whenever we stopped for the next half hour or so.

Just past the springs, Bob discovered his frame was broken at the steering box. On further inspection his steering arm was loose also. So we stopped for an extended lunch and repairs.

While Bob and Mike were testing the amp rating of various batteries with the welder, Bobs younger daughter was testing Andy's wit. The banter had been going on all day between them. She was smooth and sly for a child, being cool and sharp. She and her siblings zinged Andy again and again. He just could not get a good one in, as he could not be crude as she was a “child” and would wind up owing her more money. The final showdown was looming. Bobs little girl out of the blue gets up, walks over to Andy and puts her hand on his shoulder and says in a soft, caring, sincere, voice, “It must be lonely being you”. After this consolation she quietly sits back down and begins to doodle with a pen on her hand. Andy is speechless; everyone is just floored and laughing at the wit of this child. While Andy is licking his wounds and smoke is pouring out of his ears thinking of a rebuttal to this comment, Bob and the others finish up repairs on the truck, and eat lunch themselves. Andy finally figures out a stinger to one up himself.   He gets up walks over to Bobs little girl and opens his mouth. Before he could utter one sound she revels what she had been doodling on her hand to him: “TALK TO THE HAND”.   She never really even looked up at him, just kept drawing in her notebook, and all Andy could do was stare at her hand.   This was Checkmate.   KIDS -8 : Andy – 2.   Everyone laughed at poor Andy and this just made him Prime to deal with the Canadians who past us at lunch.

We headed up to Cadillac Hill.  It was wet and muddy.  We caught up with the Canadians who had a full size Suburban slowing up the trail.  The Suburban managed to get through mostly unscathed up till now.  The mud slid the rear of the truck up against a tree and popped the taillight fixture right out of the rear of the truck.  At one spot Mark decided to see if he could stand the Sami on the rear wheels for a bit, then decided to just go up after proving the leaf springs could allow the pinion to point at the bed of the little truck.


After what seemed forever we got to the top and waited again for the Canadians to say Cheese, eh, at the photo spot at the top. We took our turn and moved on.


On the way out there were some nasty mud holes. Filled with thirsty mosquitoes. Time to OD on DEET.

We finally reached the staging area on the Tahoe side of the trail. After bounding through some mud holes to ensure an even coat of mud, we stopped to air up. The rest of the group came and went.

Mark heard some air leaking out of his bead and determined that some gravel got jammed up there. After attempting to remove it, he resigned to letting the air out of his tire to loosen the bead. In the few minutes it took to let the air (CO2 from his tank) out of his tire he was engulfed in a cloud of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. The gas had infused his hair and clothing and was like a dinner bell for the insects. No amount of DEET would fend them off. He just worked through it while we watched from a safer distance. Blood was actually on his arms and face from this attack. It was horrible.

In all it was a great trip and very educational. I have a few things I need to do to my Jeep before I will attempt it, hopefully next year.

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