Rubicon Trail 2016

A Patrol of the Mile Hi Jeep Club

A great adventure on the Rubicon Trail by Patrol 2 and friends took place September 6-8, 2016. The weather was near perfect with warm but not hot days and pleasant nights, and not too many other groups on the trail.

Participating in this trip were:

· Vic Padilla in the Bendicon YJ with 37s.
· Pat Underwood in his "General Purpose" TJ with 33s.
· Doug Fast in his venerable CJ5 with 33s.
· Ben Thompson and girlfriend Darcy in a nicely built LJ with 37s.
· Ben Thompson Sr. (aka "Little Ben") in an essentially stock 4-door JK Rubicon.
· Rich Stockton in his LJ Rubicon running 35s, trip leader and report scribe

The last time we ran this trail (2012) there were bears; this time it was yellow jackets. They were everywhere, a virtual epidemic in the Lake Tahoe basin -- we were told the worst in 10 years! Our original plan was to stay the first night (Monday) at the Wentworth Springs Campground, but having been forewarned about the bees, we decided to limit our exposure and instead "camped" at the Sierra Inn in Kyburz, CA, a very small town on US50 about 9 miles from the turnoff to Ice House Road.

We arrived at the Wentworth Springs trailhead about 9:30A on Tuesday and aired down where the pavement ended. Rich took the lead and Doug followed with the agreement to jump out and spot as necessary. Almost immediately we ran into a very formidable obstacle of huge boulders and steep ledges. There may have been a bypass, but I didn't see it in time. There were several well-built JKs (as in 37-40" tires) in front of us and we watched for 30 minutes as they tried different lines. When they finally cleared it Doug and I scratched our heads as to how our "mere mortal" rigs were going to get by. Finally we decided on a line that went through a tight squeeze between two huge boulders followed by a sharp left turn up a slippery ledge and then careful tire placement on another two big rocks and finally a climb to the top. With Doug's expert guidance I managed to get through with only a few dings in my rock sliders. Doug went next and may have dinged his right rear quarter panel (not sure where this happened). Following was Pat and he managed to get through with minimal bouncing. Little Ben, however, was not so fortunate. The longer wheel base and minimal ground clearance were a problem and he got wedged between the two boulders and had to winch out.. His JK suffered some body damage and a nearly broken wheel. By the time everyone got past this obstacle and we got Ben's spare tire on, it was nearly noon.

We proceeded over numerous other obstacles, reached the intersection with the road from Loon Lake, and continued to the Ellis Creek bridge before stopping for a break. It was now around 1PM. We had intended to camp at Buck Island Lake, but it was becoming clear that we probably wouldn't make it that day.

The next major obstacle was Walker Rock/Hill which took some careful spotting and was slow going. One thing we noticed at this point were the vault toilets on the trail. We subsequently learned that in 2014 the Forest Service, using a helicopter, placed about a dozen on the trail from the west end trail heads to Rubicon Springs. This was certainly a pleasant surprise.

We continued on at a slow but steady pace until reaching the Little Sluice. Last time we took the bypass to this obstacle as the boulders in the sluice were as big as our vehicles making it nearly impassable except for specially built rigs. This time it was no big deal, and in fact most of the group make it through without incident. (We learned later that that the big boulders had been blown up with dynamite.)

At the exit to the Little Sluice someone noticed that Little Ben was dripping oil and discovered that his oil pan plug had met up with a rock and was tweaked. We drained the oil and Doug did a masterful job with silicon, electrical tape, and duct tape to "patch" it up -- it really was a work of art!! (This patch held the rest of the trail although there was some seepage and required that oil be added on day 3.)

It was now around 4PM. Pat took the lead and found a great camping spot just off the trail with beautiful view and a toilet. We set up camp and had dinner with very little interference from the yellow jackets. I think this was partly due to not being near water.

Wednesday we got started about 9:30A, continuing on the trail and taking the bypass to the Big Old Sluice Box, which was challenging enough. We reached Buck Island Lake about noon and stopped for lunch. Turns out it was a good thing we didn't try to camp here the night before as it was pretty busy. Somehow we got stuck behind a group of 15 well built rigs and watched for an hour as they tried different lines to scale a 10' (seemed like it) cliff. Fortunately there was a bypass. Next up was the Big Sluice which had a number of challenges requiring spotting, road building (e.g., moving rocks), and very careful tire placement. We rolled into Rubicon Springs at 4:30P and set up camp in the VIP area right on the river. Several folks took a swim to wash off the dirt.

The yellow jackets were a real nuisance here. They were all over you while trying to fix dinner and you had to walk around while eating to avoid them. Both Pat and I got stung. Yuck!

Thursday morning we got an early start thinking it would take all morning and then some to get up Cadillac Hill. Last time this section of the trail was a real challenge given the very narrow road, a cliff on one side and steep drop off on the other, and trees and boulders to maneuver around and over. But a lot of work had been done on the hill since then to control the erosion. We literally cruised up Cadillac Hill and arrived at the observation point in 2 hours!! After the obligatory group picture, we continued on to the east end trail head arriving around 1:30P. Here we aired up and went our separate ways.

There have been a number of trail improvements since the 2012 trip, some of which were mentioned above, such as the vault toilets and the taming of the Little Sluice. In addition there were reflectors on the rock slabs to mark the route, and we noticed several marble markers designating named obstacles and a couple of memorials for Rubicon pioneers. A lot of this work has been done by volunteers working with the Rubicon Trail Foundation.

Overall it was a great trip with a wonderful group of people.. We took on one of the toughest 4WD trails in the nation and survived without any major breakdowns, not even a blown tire -- quite a feat!


Ben Thompson's picture

Great trip fellas had a great time, thanks again for all the help each of you contributed to getting my Pops back on the road. He finally got his JK fixed and set out for Colorado 9/13/16 I took tons of pictures but haven't yet had chance to download them all yet. Saw Vics videos on You toob already, LOL

again great trip I think next time I go I will plan on 3-4 days on trail, especially staying at the lake for full day to enjoy the scenery. I still think Holy Cross and La Blanca in Colorado are harder trails than the Rubicon, but because of the sheer amount of hard obstacles on the trail I would say the trail as a whole was harder.

Thanks again guys ill post all pictures soon and hopefully Pops will be home tonight or early tomm......

Vic Padilla's picture
Or goto youtube and search for vpadillavideo

Vic o]]]]]o
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth." Sirach 6:14-15