Rookies on the Rubicon

jeremyk

Adventurer
I first want to thank you for taking the time to write this awesome series of posts. Your words just provided me with goosebumps at the thought of adventure on the Rubicon Trail. Excellent writing and photos. It was so cool to be able to "feel" your adventure through the screen on my Mac, something often attempted but rarely executed.

Me and my father have just finished building up his "project" 01' Tacoma as we prep to do a father-son road trip this spring from Canada down to Moab, California, and Oregon. I'm now looking forward to it that much more.... Thanks!
Thank you for your generous words! I hope you and your dad have an awesome time, that sounds like a great adventure.

I look forward to your trip report!
 

Wasp

New member
Excellent story. The last time I drove the Rubicon trail was in the late 1980's, don't exactely remember which year. It was an awesome experience and your story brought back many good memories. Thanks for sharing.
 
Great thread! Thanks so much for taking the time to document so thoroughly. Great writing, to boot!

Makes me curious if a 4.88 fully-locked Hundy on 315s with lots of armor could do it. Width is my concern...

Would I be the first? :victory:

wc
 

rickashay

Explorer
Great thread! Thanks so much for taking the time to document so thoroughly. Great writing, to boot!

Makes me curious if a 4.88 fully-locked Hundy on 315s with lots of armor could do it. Width is my concern...

Would I be the first? :victory:

wc
I look forward to seeing this... As the OP has experienced, the achievement in doing so would be surreal!
 

jeremyk

Adventurer
Great thread! Thanks so much for taking the time to document so thoroughly. Great writing, to boot!

Makes me curious if a 4.88 fully-locked Hundy on 315s with lots of armor could do it. Width is my concern...

Would I be the first? :victory:

wc
Be fun to try! I know 80's have done it. I'll go along.

I might have been one of the first (and last) with a Maggiolina.

There are some options to some of the narrow spots, especially the one with the tree at the beginning of the Big Sluice. They do require more ground clearance than I have...
 

STREGA

Explorer
Jeremy, great write up on your trip! Doing the Rubicon with your family has to be the high light of your year for sure. Can't wait to read your trip report on your Escalante/Maze/White Rim/Overland Expo run.

BTW, Jeremy is a whole lot better driver than he gives himself credit for and I can not wait to get out with him again. Happy Trails Brother!
 

cmcclean

New member
That was a great write up! I want to go again.

I've been "on the" Rubicon several times in the last 20 yrs. Usually as a spotter and the last as driver. We made it through well the first time with minimal body damage in 3 full size Blazers. I say "on the" because the next several tries we experienced catastrophic failure on at least one of the vehicles that required us to backtrack. I think we did so well the first time because like you were extra careful. The last trip (as a driver) it seems we learned our lessons and made it through with little or no damage (or I'm a terrible spotter). Even with prior exerience I felt much of the same, lets say, "appreciation" of the trails difficulty you captured so well. Below is an image of my rig somewhere on the Rubicon.
Great writing, I should have been working but I could'nt wait to see how it worked out.

willys1.jpg

I did drive it down from Oregon and back when we finished
 

jeremyk

Adventurer
That was a great write up! I want to go again.

I've been "on the" Rubicon several times in the last 20 yrs. Usually as a spotter and the last as driver. We made it through well the first time with minimal body damage in 3 full size Blazers. I say "on the" because the next several tries we experienced catastrophic failure on at least one of the vehicles that required us to backtrack. I think we did so well the first time because like you were extra careful. The last trip (as a driver) it seems we learned our lessons and made it through with little or no damage (or I'm a terrible spotter). Even with prior exerience I felt much of the same, lets say, "appreciation" of the trails difficulty you captured so well. Below is an image of my rig somewhere on the Rubicon.
Great writing, I should have been working but I could'nt wait to see how it worked out.

View attachment 186398

I did drive it down from Oregon and back when we finished
Wow - Hats off to you! Awesome rig, major props for taking that bad boy through!
 

jeremyk

Adventurer
Great thread, looks like you guys had a great time conquering the Rubicon. we actually did the trail the last week of august. we had three FJ's one third gen 4runner and a first gen 4runner. here is a link or our trip.

http://www.fjcforums.com/forums/socal-trail-runs-gatherings-reports/13576-como-chingas-off-road-rubicon-2013-a.html
Great photos! Those are some really nice rigs. Soild axle FJ? Woah talk about serious "investment".

I know where that gen 4 is hung up just past walker hill (the alternate to that "pinch" wall) there was some massive car "blood" there when we went through, but that was before you guys. Did he make that?

Looks like a fun group and a great time!
 

jeremyk

Adventurer
Jeremy, great write up on your trip! Doing the Rubicon with your family has to be the high light of your year for sure. Can't wait to read your trip report on your Escalante/Maze/White Rim/Overland Expo run.

BTW, Jeremy is a whole lot better driver than he gives himself credit for and I can not wait to get out with him again. Happy Trails Brother!
Thanks Doug!

I'm working on "Overlanding to the Expo", but it's going to take a lot longer to write; it was a much more involved trip. Way more planning, a failed try the year before to weave into the story and more than three times as long. I won't start to post it until I am done writing it, I learned my lesson on this one. I was writing it as I posted it and then scrambling for pictures and video. I didn't want to keep people hanging, so the "voice" changed some in between posts as I tried to bang it out.

We have to start planning our next trip!
 

BAJA2OY

New member
Great photos! Those are some really nice rigs. Soild axle FJ? Woah talk about serious "investment".

I know where that gen 4 is hung up just past walker hill (the alternate to that "pinch" wall) there was some massive car "blood" there when we went through, but that was before you guys. Did he make that?

Looks like a fun group and a great time!
THANKS, it sure was a fun trail it was are first too, yes he did make it. when ever you are in socal lets know, so we can set up a run
 

jeremyk

Adventurer
Lessons Learned

Granite bowl FJ.jpg
FJ in Granite Bowl



Lessons Learned

Well it's been a month since we did the Rubicon and we are already planning on doing it again. Not next year - but the year after. 2015. Next year, we want to try the Dusy-Ershim trail. Erik says that it's supposed to be easier than the Rubicon, so I won't need to have 35‘s. Yet.

It is amazing how quickly you forget the bad parts and daydream about the good parts and want to do something, you were scared while doing, all over again. I guess that's why women often have more than one child. You forget the pain and remember the joy of the event and the satisfaction you felt at it's completion. And that causes you to want to do it again - maybe a little differently.

So it is with the Rubicon. We have forgotten enough of the stress and discomfort we went through doing it in the first place, that we want to do it again. Next time, we want to do more of the trail and go in from the Wentworth Springs side, making the route considerably longer. We'll camp before the Little Sluice, like we did last time, and give it an attempt. We will at least take a look at the Old Big Sluice Box and maybe give it a try.

Because we know better what to expect and where to expect it, a lot of the fear is gone. I'm not that scared of the Rubicon anymore. Oh, don't get me wrong, I know it can kick my butt, especially if I screw up. But I know now, that I can drive that trail, and finish it (in the dry at least). And that is powerful knowledge, when it comes to things like this.

Gnarlytrail.jpg
Before the trip, I didn't think that we could make stuff like this.



There are also some other bits of knowledge that I bring away from my experience that will make my trip easier the next time we go.



Parts, Recovery Gear & Tools

We didn't need any of the spare parts that we brought: hoses, serpentine belt, front half-shaft and a spare inner tie-rod. Next time I will change out my hoses and belt and use the exchanged parts as my spares (if they're in good condition). I will also have a more organized selection of nuts, bolts and fasteners, just in case. We saw a lot on the trail. I would also like to know how to weld with my dual-batteries, if I even can. I should have taken that class at the OLExpo. Note to self.

We never used any of our recovery gear, but we had plenty. One winch apiece, each with 80' of synthetic line plus a 50' extension line. And two tree straps and tow straps, one High-Lift, two snatch blocks, bunch of clevis hooks. We didn't need any of it. I'm glad that I left the Pull-Pal at home! But what we did bring, I would bring again. Just in case.

For not needing any, we had plenty of tools. We probably had large duplications between the two vehicles, but I don't see any way around that; we are driving from nearly opposite ends of the West Coast and each of us may need tools on the way. So we had plenty of tools, all the way up to the ability to remove axles, patch holes, replace fluids and diagnose and fix electrical problems. I would remember to re-torque anything that I had messed with recently.

First Camp.jpg
Overland camp on the Rubicon (the eye of the storm)



Provisions & Equipment

We had plenty of food and ate really well and always had plenty of press coffee in the morning. We had just enough beer (next time I will bring more micro-brew in cans, they make trash easier). Maybe I'll bring rum instead of moonshine, that moonshine went pretty fast. What leftover food we did have, the ARB 50qt kept it cool and un-abused (no soak), so it went right into the fridge at home. Bonus!

I would definitely leave the kitchen box at home and reduce the volume of cookstuff. Nowadays, there is almost always a burn-ban in effect, in the places I like to go, so I'll just bring propane appliances. I have a 6 lb. tank and an adaptor hose so it works with stoves and lanterns, even the plumbing torch I use to start fires. I might still bring my Snow Peak portable fire pit, just in case.

mag.jpg
Too much weight up top!


I will not bring the rooftop tent. I'm sure I'm one of the few who have done this trail with a Maggiolina RTT, and that will be the last time I do that. In the Maze or the Henry Mountains or the Grand Bench - I'll bring it along. But not for heavy wheeling, I can set up a tent in camp and we can stay at Motel 6's on the road. There's one in Roseburg that should work fine for both directions.

I'd like to bring more people along next time, especially my younger son Jake, who wasn't on this trip. So that means less storage space and I'll have to install the backseat. I'll probably take out my drawer system to add more space and reduce weight and that will lower the fridge, so maybe I‘ll leave out the fridge drop-slide; saving even more weight (mine weighs at least 60 lbs).

P4.jpg
Making it through with Josh's steady call


The ESCAPOD
(my FJc)

I will have lower gears, probably 4.8something (and maybe a crawl box, but probably not - too much $$). I would like to lower my low-range, quite a bit, so I'm going to look into the best way to do that.

I will have as much front-end travel as I can reasonably get; with stock axles and lower links. I may change my Light Racing uppers for some Camburgs. One of my upper ball joints is going out and I really like the uni-ball pivot on the others, I think that there will be less stress on the system with the Camburgs, but I have some research to do. Maybe some new extended-travel coil-overs, maybe.

P3a.jpg
Tube door in action

The tube doors were great on the trail. I could lean out and see my front wheel make contact with an obstacle and watch its path. The Warrior Products doors I have have no lower door protection to keep things from falling out. I need to fix that, bad feature. I will also have a clear (or tinted) plastic door cover, for protection from the elements. We got soaked on the way down to the trail, and I got a sunburn on the way back up, in the Central Valley afternoon sun. I have to find a way to deal with that. Next time we'll drive to my mom's house in the Bay Area, with the tube doors in the roof rack, and I'll swap-out doors there, and do the same on the return. Besides, It'll give us a great chance to see my mom and the rest of my family.

I will definitely have as large a set of tires as I can fit. I'm going to do some minor wheel well modifications and I'd like to run 35's. At least 34's, every bit helps. The KM2's I have now measure 32”, that's not enough to be comfortable, I want as much ground clearance as I can get and not harm the core function of my vehicle. My tires will be bigger.

Sliders#1.jpg
Needs welding

Sliders#2.jpg
Granite re-machining


I will bob my mud-flaps and try to get rid of the plastic rear bumper, I was supposed to lose most of, before I arrived at Rubicon Springs. I am going to weld my sliders directly to my frame, it's only a matter of time before the bolts start breaking and then a major part of my trail defense will be heavily compromised.


Skids.jpg
Working the IFS



On IFS

The FJ took quite a beating on this trip, but shows no permanent ill-effects. On the way home, going straight, required that the steering wheel needed to be at 9:45, but an alignment took care of that. Erik also had similar alignment problems. I really like this rig and it's reliability, I have built nice “systems” for storing things and sleeping and facilitating life on the road and I am pleased that it performs as well as it does under heavy trail use. I know that IFS is not as capable on the heavy trails as a solid axle setup, but I am willing to accept that. It is more comfortable to drive on long trips than my wife's Audi, and quieter too, even with mud tires. I will learn to compensate for IFS's shortcomings to accept it's strengths for on-highway, dirt road and overland use; which is why I bought my truck in the first place. When I get into heavy situations, I understand that my skills will be tested at a higher level, and that will make me a more skillful driver in the long run.



People

The crew was awesome! We had fun, we truly enjoyed each other's company and we did a very cool thing. We constantly met great people on the trail from Marlin the Trailkeeper to Dave the Rubicon Springs Caretaker and everyone in between, the Trail is filled with some first-class characters; we didn't meet any mean people.


I am so glad that My oldest son Josh, decided to come along. He was a tireless route-finder and is a natural spotter. He keeps it simple. I guess that's just his nature and he does it well, especially when calling trail. He was great to have along, even though he kept mocking our anxiety and then telling us to cut out the negative talk. He doesn't understand that sometimes you have to express your anxiety, even though it shows a lack of faith.

MGE.jpg
Brothers

Erik heard me say that I would be willing to give the Rubicon a try, several years ago and I'm glad that he did. He planned and prepared his JK exceptionally well and executed first quality craftsmanship in transforming it from a relatively tame family Jeep into a very capable trail rig. He drove extremely well, with very few mistakes, he drove in the front, most of the time, giving me an additional “read” on the trail ahead.

We used to do a lot of fly fishing up in High Sierras. We had wonderful adventures, hiking cross-country, chasing down “secret” places to fish, but we haven't done much in the way of adventure in recent years. I'm sincerely hopeful that this trip will create a change and that we make this an annual event, that ultimately outlives us.


Caleb took most of the pictures that you enjoyed in this series. He is mature, well beyond his years and he helped us through quite a tough challenge and managed to take some great pictures that we will enjoy for many years. He also did a fair amount of trail calling and I think that he enjoyed it!

There are times in my life that I am really glad that I didn't know how hard something was going to be in advance. And the RubiconTrail is definitely one of them. But I'm looking forward to giving it another try, it won't be in a relatively stock FJ cruiser, it will be in a well modified one.

I hope that our story has provoked some of you to adventure beyond requiring all of the answers beforehand, and risking something you cannot completely control, and then find yourselves wanting to do it again.
 
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rickashay

Explorer
Enjoyed your cliff notes from the trip. Again, well written and interesting perspective after the dust has settled.

Dusy Ershim?! It's my understanding that the Dusy is more difficult than the Rubicon. A group of fellow CT4WD'ers (Canada Toyota 4WD Association) hit it last year. Vehicles were a 2nd Gen. Tacoma (Long Travel, 35's, armored, locked), a 1st Gen Tacoma (armored, locked, 33's), and a TT FJ (similar to yours... Locked, 33's, armored, Magnolia RTT) and they said it was extremely difficult. Either all 3, or 2 of 3 received a small amount of body damage... and 2 of them ran out of fuel, leaving the LT Tacoma on 35's to run on a rescue trip for fuel. They said there was just so much idle time that they under-calculated the amount of fuel required. Take that FWIW and I'm certainly not trying to discourage your trip, just thought I'd share.
 

jeremyk

Adventurer
Enjoyed your cliff notes from the trip. Again, well written and interesting perspective after the dust has settled.

Dusy Ershim?! It's my understanding that the Dusy is more difficult than the Rubicon. A group of fellow CT4WD'ers (Canada Toyota 4WD Association) hit it last year. Vehicles were a 2nd Gen. Tacoma (Long Travel, 35's, armored, locked), a 1st Gen Tacoma (armored, locked, 33's), and a TT FJ (similar to yours... Locked, 33's, armored, Magnolia RTT) and they said it was extremely difficult. Either all 3, or 2 of 3 received a small amount of body damage... and 2 of them ran out of fuel, leaving the LT Tacoma on 35's to run on a rescue trip for fuel. They said there was just so much idle time that they under-calculated the amount of fuel required. Take that FWIW and I'm certainly not trying to discourage your trip, just thought I'd share.
Ha! How do you like that? My brother's setting me up again...

That's funny about the TT w/the Maggiolina! He's set up just like me, but I'm not rising to the bait; no more RTT for me on these kind of trails. Did he have a front locker? Is there a trip report?

Thank's for the info, I'll do better research this next time. I've got two tanks - it's an overland thing..
 
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