This is an open letter to the Jeep/Chrysler Corporation regarding the recent running of the Rubicon Trail by the newest Trailhawk, the “Trail Rated” badge Jeep has been using for years and their lack of support to the Rubicon Trail and those who work so hard to keep it open and accessible year round for all types of users:
1000 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hills, Michigan
September 17, 2016
The story goes that Jeep drove two brand new, absolutely stock, Grand Cherokee Trailhawks through the world famous Rubicon Trail this past summer:
What an accomplishment! I only wish I had a Subaru Forester handy to follow you down the trail to show how easy your crew made the trail. As rumor has it, you had a bunch of professional Jeepers Jamboree ‘rock rollers’ ensuring that the Cherokee never had more than a four inch obstacle in its path.
Having been involved in Rubicon trail maintenance for more than 15 years, this year I noticed a change in the east end of the Rubicon Trail, specifically Cadillac Hill, after your Grand Cherokees drove the trail. In my 31 years of Jeep ownership and experience on Cadillac Hill, I’ve never experienced Cadillac Hill so easy.
Now, I understand that some rock stacking takes place during a trip through the Rubicon Trail. I even threw a few rocks for myself on the Fordyce Trail this summer during Sierra Trek. But when your crew literally throws the larger rocks off the trail and over the cliff that changes the trail for everyone forever as those rocks are never going to be replaced.
It’s sad enough that Jeep has used the Rubicon name for years and has never done anything to support the maintenance efforts on the Rubicon Trail. But the complete opposite has now happened; you came to the Rubicon Trail and literally paved it for an advertisement plug and walked away from any responsibility of not having followed the time honored and respected motto of Tread Lightly!
As far as I’m concerned, you have lost credibility in the OHV world with your vehicle, by your actions on the Rubicon Trail and your inactions in regards to maintaining the Rubicon Trail.
Would you like to see Jeep as an actual player in the OHV world? Would you like to see current OHV users talk positively of the Jeep/Chrysler Corporation? Would you like to start Jeep back on a path to the glory days that Bantam and Willys started? Yes? Good! Here’s some advice:
Work with the clubs, groups, organizations, individuals and agencies that have been working for decades to ensure year round access to the Rubicon Trail for all types of OHV users.
Build a model without the wood insets and automatic climate controls and with a solid front axle under it, even if it’s just a limited run of a special “Rubicon” edition with $1000 of each sale going to the maintenance and future preservation of the Rubicon Trail.
If you aren’t willing to make those changes, contract a ‘builder’ in the Reno or Sacramento area to build 500 Rubicon Editions by taking a stock Grand Cherokee and letting the builder modify the vehicle to really make it honestly “Trail Rated” with a solid front axle, lift kit, larger tires, etc. Detroit did a lot of this back in the 60’s and 70’s with muscle cars. Again, I would expect a donation with the sale of each vehicle to go to the Rubicon Trail.
Bottom line, it’s time Jeep steps up and does something to payback for what Jeep has benefitted from regarding the Rubicon Trail and those who built, drove and loved the Jeep product for decades.
Currently owned Jeeps: ’85 CJ-7, ’84 CJ-7, ’47 CJ-2A
Previously owned Jeeps: ’87 Wrangler, ’52 Willys PU, ’83 CJ-5, ’89 Cherokee, ’98 Cherokee
So, I was out with the Hi-Lo’s on the Rubicon and Long Lake Trail Labor Day weekend. We went in from Tahoe Friday morning early, 7:30am at the staging area. It was nice having the trail to ourselves.
We made camp on the Long Lake Trail at the campsite along the Rubicon River.
I didn’t have to look too hard to see my first issue of the weekend. My hitch had bent pretty good. This is the second time the Great Lakes Forge hitch has bent like this. I didn’t try and bend it back, I just prayed it would make it home. It did.
After a two days of trail maintenance, we broke camp Sunday morning around 8am and headed out. Along the flat portion of the Long Lake Trail, I noticed a ‘clunk’ from under my rig. So, before turning on to the Rubicon, I climbed under the rig to find out what it was making that noise.
Now, I had done the Fordyce Trail during Sierra Trek a month earlier. After that, I felt a very slight vibration but couldn’t find the source. Two weeks later I drove in to the Springs and back out with no issues. And up to this point, this weekend, I had driven down Cadillac and out the Long Lake Trail with no catastrophe. Thankfully.
There it was, I had lost all the needle bearings out of the rear u-joint on the rear driveshaft. It looked like it had been banging around for sometime. But no problem, I had a spare u-joint with me. After dropping the drive shaft, I had the bright idea of driving in to the Springs to use a large vise I’m sure they had in the mechanics shed. A Hi-Lo was sitting in as caretaker for the week and I knew he’d let me use it.
It’s a different feeling being a passenger on the Rubicon. No steering wheel to hang on to and you had to guess which route the driver will take. But we made in to the Springs no problem.
Unfortunately, the caretaker was running out to Observation Point for parts for his Toyota and his wife didn’t know the combination to the lock. Out came the hand tools (big hammer and a few sockets) and I swapped out the u-joint there in the mechanics area.
Back on the road to my Jeep, just out of main camp, here comes the caretaker back in to camp. Too late, I was done and headed out.
I threw the driveshaft back on the Jeep, now eager to get going after a short delay. Before I climbed out from under the Jeep, I looked around. Good thing, but bad news. My leaf spring and perch were not tight against each other. Sure enough, one of my u-bolts had broken.
No problem, I have one of those. Actually, I carry three because there are three different sizes on my Jeep: AMC 20 has one size but the Dana 30 front has two sizes.
I told my buddy to get out his lawn chair and I climbed back under the Jeep. It was a pretty straight forward replacement and we were soon on the road.
I don’t know if it was my blog about V-Rock becoming U-Rock but the revenge of the U-problems hit me pretty good; a u-joint and a u-bolt at the same time.
The Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s have adopted the Long Lake Trail (16E12) since it was officially recognized by the USFS in 2014. Since 2011, we have been working with the USFS by bringing FS personnel out there and doing trail maintenance to the point they would accept it, including removing an outhouse and hardening a seasonal creek crossing.
There is a campsite off the trail about halfway down the trail. It is a sharp U-turn to the left and brings you right down along the Rubicon River. This campsite is great for larger groups and offers a quiet change of pace from Rubicon Springs.
Here is the hard left U-turn:
Looking down the campsite, the Rubicon River on the right:
Unfortunately, some people have tried to make this a drive through site by driving off trail, down a granite slab and through a marsh (in spring time). The Forest Service will not allow this ‘through route’.
This was one of three turns off the Long Lake Trail in to the back of the campsite:
This is the ‘backdoor’ in the campsite that in the spring time is a wet muddy marsh:
The Hi-Lo’s have now blocked the ‘through route’ several times. This time we added 4×4 posts with signage explaining the campsite boundary and the possible consequences if the off trail driving continues.
There is now no mistaking this as a possible route to the campsite:
Within the campsite, we added some educational materials to the 4×4 posts:
Having the campsite as a one way in/out is much nicer than a through route. I wouldn’t want anyone driving through my camp at 1am trying to figure out where the actual trail runs.
Also, please note that the trail is only 0.91 miles long. It ends before a 90 degree right turn, an extremely steep climb up a granite slab and another 90 degree left turn; which leads to a boulders strewn seasonal waterfall.
Driving past the recognized end of the trail could result in fines.
Although I do not promote or support driving off trail, the Long Lake Trail is not well defined past the campsite. There are easy routes and extreme routes to get to the end of the trail.
When driving the Long Lake Trail at night, please be extremely cautious. There are steep drops all along the trail. It’s best to have someone walk the trail in front of your rig in order to prevent accidents.
Link to a Photo Journal of the Long Lake Trail.
All I ask is that you always Tread Lightly!
- Don’t drive over bushes
- Don’t leave oil spills on the granite
- Use a WAG bag when camping on granite slabs
- Don’t spin your tires so much you leave marks on the granite
- Leave a clean camp
- Make sure your fire is out cold (Have fires only when restrictions lifted)
- Keep the music down after 10pm
- Pack-it-in, pack-it-out
- Respect other campers
This trail has something for everyone. As long as we respect the trail and each other, we will all be able to enjoy it.