Rookies on the Rubicon

#1
Granite Bowl.jpg

There are times in my life, when if I knew how hard something was going to be beforehand, I probably wouldn't have tried it in the first place. Caution would rule and I would be content reading about other, more capable or better equipped, people grinding it out. It is almost always good that I don't know in advance about the degree of difficulty, challenge or stress involved in the endeavor, since life is much duller lived within my comfort zone. For me, attempting the Rubicon Trail in a relatively stock FJ Cruiser with my brother, who has never spent much time off-road, was one of those times.

I'll admit it, I'm an Overlander. I love the idea of the adventure; getting out there and seeing what few people do. Driving trail, seeing dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs and the history of a place before making camp near a beautiful vista with a cold beer and some great food followed by a marvelous sunset. Having a nice warm shower, sleeping in a roof-top tent and waking up to a cup of Peet's espresso before the next day's stage just adds to the attraction. The Rubicon belonged to a bucket list from a much earlier time.

When my younger brother, Erik, purchased an older Jeep JK a few years ago, the rubicon was squarely in his sights as he began to complete his list of modifications. At family gatherings I always said “sure I'll do the Rubicon with you, no problem” figuring that, if it ever came to pass, my overlanding experience would pull me through. After all, hadn't they just taken the teeth out of the Rubicon so that they could drive a stock vehicle through it? I would be fine.

Our history with the Rubicon had begun many years ago. We rode it on mountain bikes back in the '80's and had viewed its challenges. The Gatekeeper, Granite Bowl, the Sluice Boxes Big and Small, Rubicon Springs and Cadillac Hill. It was amazing to us that a vehicle could negotiate that incredible procession of obstacles. We saw broken down vehicles, people in a panic for their survival, weeping over the ruin of their vehicle and their lost hope of success. We always said we'd give it a try.

But that was the Rubicon of old; now I imagined it as a veritable dirt highway, all we had to do was to make sure that we had enough beer for the trip. After all, I had 285's and a 2” lift with full skids and some nice sliders...

old sluice.jpg

Enter Big Sluice.jpg

Around Buck Island JK.jpg

More of this story to follow
 
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WxMan

Adventurer
#4
There are times in my life, when if I knew how hard something was going to be beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have tried it in the first place. Caution would rule and I would be content reading about other, more capable or better equipped, people grinding it out. It is almost always good that I don’t know in advance about the degree of difficulty, challenge or stress involved in the endeavor, since life is much duller lived within my comfort zone...
I've had the same thought many times. The truth is though, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. That reward being memories, knowledge, experience, personal growth, etc, etc. One of my favourite sayings is "Trying is the first step to failure" (-The Simpsons.) I use it frequently when things aren't working out the way I had planned but in the end I am compelled to try again and again. I have huge respect for those who buckle down and get things done when the going gets tough.

I eagerly await reading about rest of your adventure.
 
#7
Granite bowl 2.jpg

Time went by and Erik completed his mods: 4” lift, 35” tires, front locker, 4.11 gears and cropped fenders! Wow, I had 32's (30's @ 18psi) and he was locked or limited-slip while I was open in the front with stock gearing.

Meanwhile my overland mods were progressing: ARB fridge w/drop slide, Maggiolina tent, hudson sprayer shower system, dual batteries and solar power and a nice Snow Peak table.

I left on a solo trip from my home in Bellingham, Washington to Big Water, Utah where I began an overland adventure from the Grand Bench to the bottom of Comb Wash- 15 days solo (nearly 800 miles on the dirt) across southeastern Utah on my way to the Overland Expo 2013. (the subject of a future post). Heck, my driving up on to the Grand Bench solo or down Flint Trail with my friend Doug, to the Dollhouse was an achievement akin to the Rubicon, I told myself; "I could do it!"

Then the phone call came: “We would do the Rubicon on starting on August 15”. So it was on. Wether I really wanted to do it or not - I was going to do the Rubicon. How could I not? Erik, my younger brother, was ready to go and, by default, I was too.

I had done my research; some guy was offering damage-free trips in “your stock vehicle” and others were saying that the Gatekeeper had been neutered, the trail was a “freeway” and "its all been filled in".

Based on my trip to the Expo, I came up with some rather mature ground rules in response to my brother’s email which read:


ERIK_
“I am thinking that we will be at Loon Lake by 5:00 which will give us about 3 hours on the trail before it gets too dark. I don't have aux lights but may consider…I am running out of the ability to spend money and with the risk of destroying my Jeep spending money on it is not a popular discussion;o)

I will look through the trail info and see if there are so good stops about 3 hours in…I like the idea of getting a jump!

Indian Trail.jpg

I replied:

ME_
“There won't be any destroying- I have to drive home!

We have to lay some ground rules:

1. We will always discuss the safest way to accomplish the task and not act impulsively.
2. We will walk ANY questionable trail and discuss the best line.
3. We will stack rocks, discuss other recovery options and rehearse them prior to execution; whenever there is a question of vehicle damage.
4. We will bypass riskier sections whenever possible.
5. We will not succumb to pressure, personal or outside.
6. We will not rush the trail.

This is our first time on the Rubicon we can come back later and take the toughest line, but only if we are successful this time - there is no honor in stupid luck!

Preserve our people - protect our rigs. Good driving makes all the difference and good driving is the result of good planning and executing that plan.

This will be fun, we will take our time and the outcome will be awesome!”

JK day2.jpg

We were worried that we would get into a crowd and fall prey to peer-pressure and do something regrettable. We would by-pass the Little Sluice, park, walk back and watch to see what we could learn. Being ahead of the crowd would take some of the outside stress off and we would be able to deal with the natural stress of the trail.

day2-1.jpg
 
#10
Lots more to come, we haven't hit the trail yet...

(even though the pictures have) Got video too, if I can figure out how to edit and post...

More tomorrow, thanks for the encouragement; it's hard to know if people want the details or not, but I would have found them helpful in my trip prep. Dealing with the unknown brings it's own stress. This was a very rewarding and satisfying trip, but very stressful. Not knowing...
 

McZippie

Walmart Adventure Camper
#11
Keep it com'in...

Like!
vvvv
Time went by and Erik completed his mods: 4” lift, 35” tires, front locker, 4.11 gears and cropped fenders! Wow, I had 32's (30's @ 18psi) and he was locked or limited-slip while I was open in the front with stock gearing.
Meanwhile my overland mods were progressing: ARB fridge w/drop slide, Maggiolina tent, hudson sprayer shower system, dual batteries and solar power and a nice Snow Peak table
 

locrwln

Expedition Leader
#14
I was wondering if you were going to write anything up. I was in the group that you met at Inspiration Point. You took our group picture and we took yours. I was in the red LJ. Great trip.



Always fun to do the trail with "small" rigs.

Jack
 
#15
I was wondering if you were going to write anything up. I was in the group that you met at Inspiration Point. You took our group picture and we took yours. I was in the red LJ. Great trip.



Always fun to do the trail with "small" rigs.

Jack
Yep, I'm working on the next installment right now - should post up in a few hours. I'm being pretty detailed, hopefully that's not too tedious for the readers. I will post up some pictures of you guys ahead of us on Cadillac - I have a picture of your rig clearing the first switchback. That will be in a couple of days, I'm slow.

It was fun to hook up with you guys - you didn't give us any attitude or pressure - we were scared!
 
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