Can My Rig Make It?

I get this question quite often and recently ran in to it on another website. Let me do my best to answer that question. The problem is there is no easy answer. Driver skill is a huge factor in whether or not you can make it, or more specifically, make it without damage.

Here it is, the last piece of pavement before hitting the trail.

Just a very short drive up the trail, 0.3 miles to be specific, there is what some refer to as a “gatekeeper”. But it’s not. It is a very easy example of what your rig should be able to drive over if you want to run the Rubicon Trail. In the picture below, I stayed on the trail but went around the ‘gatekeeper’.

Further up the trail, here is an example of what a lot of the first four miles look like on the Tahoe side. Most of these rocks are more of an inconvenience than a challenge to any high clearance vehicle.

The trail is off and on rocky. After the gatekeeper, this is one of the trickier sections on the way to Miller Lake.

Typically, there are just enough rocks in the trail to prevent users from driving too fast.

Currently, there are many wet sections within the Tahoe National Forest. There is often standing water in this area. Some of the puddles are deep but most of them rocky bottom.

Just over four miles from the staging area is the turn at the “Y”. At the “Y” is mile marker 11.5, that marks 11.5 miles to Loon Lake. Going straight will take you to Barker Pass on Forest Road 03-04. Turning left keeps you on the Rubicon Trail (16E75). (FYI, it wasn’t placer until 2018). The temperament of the trail changes once you make this turn, to harder.

It’s not until you get to what I call the “Potato Patch” at the 5.4-mile mark, that things get serious. This section changes almost weekly. One trip the best line is left and two weeks later the better line is right.

The trail retains this difficulty, on and off, mostly off, until you get on Cadillac Hill and to “The Steps” or “Morris Rock” at mile 8.2, again from the staging area. The next half mile is the most exciting section on your way to Rubicon Springs! At this point, if you have to ask if your rig can make it, don’t try it.

For those wanting to get out in this area, but aren’t sure if they can make it, try it! If you think you can’t make it or just don’t want to try it, turn around. Remember, Turn Around, Don’t Go Around.

A very nice drive in the area is the loop from the Rubicon Trail staging area up and around to Barker Pass. The trail gets easier as you get further away from the Rubicon Trail. I have yet to run that road this season, so I can’t be 100% sure of that.

The Hobbit Trail (16E76) has the difficulty of the Potato Patch. The trick to that trail is to do it without using reverse. It turns left, right, left, through the whole trail, a lot of fun. The (old) Red Cabin Trail (16E79), is more of a dirt road and takes you to Barker Pass proper. From Barker Pass, the Middle Fork Trail (15N38) is on the mild side but pay attention. There is also a paved road down to Highway 89 from Barker Pass.

For the record, my odometer reads high, almost 10%. So, take the measurements as a guide.

Happy Trails!

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Rubicon Ronin


Turn Around, Don’t Go Around!

This is the theme of this website but I need to promote it more often.

If you come across an obstacle you can not get over while staying on the trail, turn around and go home, do not drive off the trail to go around the obstacle. It could be a tree, a huge snow drift, a rock garden, whatever. Turn Around, Don’t Go Around!

This past Father’s Day weekend, I was out on our trails and found many, many trees down across our trails. More than a few of these trees had been driven by many vehicles.

I had my electric chainsaw with me, not to do trail work and clear trees but just in case something fell while I was in and had to get out. Well, I did as much tree clearing as the one battery I had with me would allow. I did go back the next day with a freshly charged battery and did what I could.

Here is a tree down across the Hobbit Trail (16E76). A few rigs had already driven around this tree.

This one required a snatch block to get the right angle to get the tree off the trail once cut.

I figured that would be it as at this point of the season many rigs should have driven this trail. But not too far down the same trail was another. This one was also driven around.

It could be dragged a little further to the right but it is clear of the trail.

There were more trees but I didn’t get pictures of all of them. I also left many trees across the trail that were easily driven over and not causing vehicles to go around. The tree below was on the Middle Fork Trail in Blackwood Canyon. The blue & pink tags were for an 200 mile endurance run taking place.

Again, I didn’t get all the photos, before and after, for each and every tree.

Before only…

No saw required, just grab and drag. With the rig, not by hand!

I’ll contact the Forest Service to get someone out to block off the side trail created here.

Before only, this on is dangerous, so I dragged it down.

Most of that was Saturday the 18th. Long story but I had to go back in on Sunday the 19th. On the way out, I did some work on the Rubicon that I passed on doing on Saturday. This is just after the turn at Forest Road 03-04.

My Kobalt 80-volt electric saw worked wonders. Especially after putting a fresh chain on it. I was working the two smaller trees and then the bigger one, going back and forth. After cutting trees on the Hobbit Trail, I wasn’t sure how many cuts I had left. I was about two and a half cuts short of what I wanted to accomplish. From now on, if I bring the saw, I’ll bring both batteries!

If you’re headed in to the Springs, please cut this one back a few more feet. Thanks. Below is what my saw took off those three trees above before the battery was drained.

It ended up being a very productive weekend out on our trails.

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Rubicon Ronin


Broken axle means time to upgrade!

Here’s a story of the details of what happened on the run to check the Long Lake Trail last week.

On the way out, I heard a strange sound coming from the front driver’s side tire. Before attempting the lower hairpin on Cadillac Hill, I stopped to check it out.

It was pretty easy to find where the noise was coming from. This was taken at the staging area. When I first checked it, there was no scrapes on the yoke. It appears that the ears of the outer shaft broke first, as the u-joint is undamaged but missing both caps.

We figured it was easiest to just leave it as it was and just drive out. Luckily, with a Rubicon model TJ, I still had three-wheel drive with both lockers engaged.

As the broken ‘ears’ were slowly bent out, contact was made with the knuckle. Fortunately, the axles I was going to put in required just such an extra clearance.

Enter RCV axles! If you’re going to upgrade, go all the way.

The driver’s side inner axle had been ‘hammered’ into the axle housing. It took a few hits with a big hammer to free the axle. The proper move might have been to remove the outer shaft as soon as possible.

A 4 1/2″ angle grinder was used to clearance the knuckle for the boot of the new axle. They were then cleaned and painted.

The new axles in place. Very distinguishable with the bright orange boot. This is a fully seated boot on. Easier said than done.

The manufacturer provided a sleeve to hold the boot as you slide the axle through it. But seating it properly was a pain; theirs is on the left side below with the hood. That was for before you installed the brake shield and unit bearing.

I built the one on the right to use after the unit bearing had been installed.

With a pair of pry bars, I was able to fully seat the boot. Or so I thought. I actually had to use the manufacturer’s piece and mine together to fully seat the boot. I’ll be making a thicker unit to carry with me in case I need to reseat the boot on the trail.

If you’re doing an RCV axle installation, make sure the boot is on far enough to see the edge of the boot seat surface.

As if a broken ear on the trail at the base of Cadillac Hill wasn’t enough, when I took apart the passenger’s side, I discovered that I had thrown a u-joint cap but the joint hadn’t come apart yet.

My axle was not the only issue. A fellow traveler lost all of his power steering fluid due to a fitting coming loose. That was an easy fix: tighten and refill. Between the six rigs we had what we needed.

I will admit that I had not loaded all of my trail boxes for this trip. I loaded more for clearing trees from the Long Lake Trail and possibly spending the night than I did for repairing a broken rig. The lesson is to bring everything you can on every trip.

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Rubicon Ronin


Rubicon Trail Conditions – May 20, 2022

In short, the trail is still very wet. Lots of snow along the Tahoe National Forest from Miller Lake out to what I call Potato Patch.

Six rigs went in from the Tahoe side Friday morning at 10:30. It was a late start but we are all retired so who cares about time. At the bottom of Cadillac Hill we turned on to the Long Lake Trail to check conditions. We didn’t get back to the staging area until 7pm.

The usual tourist shot before we went down Cadillac.

Once on the Long Lake Trail, we found minimal trees down along the trail. But we did clear off most of them.

I would suggest staying off the trail until the big snow melt slows down. If you do go, please tread lightly on the wet trail.

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Rubicon Ronin


Closure dates changed, not communicated

Due to the weather over the Sierra these past few days, El Dorado County has pushed back plans to use a helicopter to fly in material to be used to maintain the Rubicon Trail. The new closure dates are May 11th through May 15th. That includes the upcoming weekend of the 14th and 15th.

A photo from a previous helicopter delivery to the Rubicon Trail:

From the El Dorado County “Parks” page:

https://www.edcgov.us/Government/Parks

Rubicon update: Due to the upcoming weather on Sunday and Monday the maintenance project has been pushed to May 11th.  Unfortunately we will need to close the Rubicon Trail through the weekend. The trail will be closed May 11th -May 15th.  We are sorry for the inconvenience, and are working diligently to get this project done before Memorial Day Weekend. Thank you for your cooperation.

Here’s my problem with this change, it was not properly communicated down to the actual users that need to know this information.

El Dorado County has a Rubicon Trail page on their website. At the time of this writing, that page has absolutely no information on the change of the closure dates. In order for the users to find the closure information, users must go to the ‘Parks’ page of El Dorado County, as quoted above.

https://www.edcgov.us/Rubicon/

For the record, it is also not posted on the website of the one Rubicon Trail specific advocacy group, the Rubicon Trail Foundation.

https://www.rubicontrailfoundation.org

Users should not have to search to learn about the current conditions of the Rubicon Trail. Major changes, such as temporary closures, and even minor pieces of information, should be sent out by the agency closing the trail, not just posted. OHV advocacy groups should latch on to those press releases and forward them to local clubs and post the information on OHV forums, let alone post them on their own website.

Every year, tens of thousands of dollars are donated to OHV advocacy groups. If those groups and agencies fail to inform you of critical information about your local trail, specifically the world-famous Rubicon Trail, are you getting your money’s worth?

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Rubicon Ronin