How the Fordyce Trail kicked my A$$

This was my 5th Trek. The last time I did Trek and the Fordyce, it was the toughest trail I had ever done. This year, new rig with an automatic, selectable lockers, fuel injection, etc.; I was bringing more rig this year, so I figured I was good. Wrong. Over the years, due to weather, use and abuse, the trail had deteriorated to being tougher than ever.

We set up our camp at Meadow Lake Wednesday night. We then drove to Tahoe for the night. Our family cabin at Tahoe was a better night’s sleep than a tent. But it was a short night. The alarm went off at 4:30, out the door before 5am and arrived at staging 6:15. We were the last to arrive.


Driver’s meeting at 6:30 and at 7am we were moving. Let me cut to the chase. We made main camp at 8pm. That was not a typo, 8pm. It was a 13-hour day to drive the Fordyce Trail.

Approach to 1st creek crossing
1st creek crossing

The trail is 12 miles long. The first six miles were your typical rock crawling trail. We made good time as only two and a half hours had gone by. The Trek guys had broken us in to groups. Our group was small at five rigs. All 4-door JKs, except me in my 2-door TJ. We all figured we’d have minimal issues. Our leader was in a new to him JK that could have used a little more lift or a little more tire or both.

I passed on Winch Hill One.

That’s how our issues started to pile up. Overall, our leader had more hang-ups than anyone in the group. But we stepped up and played rock rollers and spotter as needed. The problem was when one of us needed help, he wasn’t too fast to return the favor. Maybe that wasn’t in his agreement with Trek as this is advertised as an unsupported run.

The bigger issue was the difficulty of the trail. My honest opinion is that the trail is currently too difficult to run this type of event. The Thursday group was a 13-hour drive. The Friday event was a 15-hour drive. There were medical issues both days which didn’t help.

The other issue that didn’t help was the guy who wouldn’t pull over. One individual on the run lost his starter somewhere after winch hill two and wouldn’t pull over to let others pass him. He and his buddies winched and dragged this guy all the way through the trail without letting others pass. Why not park the rig, let people by, keep the event running, run to camp and get a starter out of another LS rig and run back down the trail and install it?

This guy knew better. He was asked, and as I understand it, harsh words were exchanged. This guy is a Cal4 member. He’s worked as a volunteer on Sierra Trek before. The word is that he even chaired Sierra Trek for two years. How is it that someone who knows better can be such jerk to so many other wheelers?

Honestly, our group didn’t encounter this guy until winch hill five. The trail was so tough, we were going stupid slow anyway. We were having our own issues along the way. Although there are five winch hills one through five, we found winch hills 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, that could easily be added to the list of winch hills and staffed with spotters to keep rigs moving at a normal pace.

I had been boasting how nice it was to have a short wheelbase, compared to the 4-doors, most of the day. Bad Karma. The rain had started, things got slippery. At the beginning of a climb, my rig slipped right and the passenger side hardtop window came to rest on a rock, mid window. Not good. I turned left to get the glass away from the rock but I knew I was doomed. As soon as the rig moved, the window shattered. But that was just the beginning.

With the rock inside the rig about three inches, I couldn’t go forward. I couldn’t go backwards because I was up against a rock. My group had to winch me sideways so I could back up. Karma came back to bite me for boasting earlier.

After being winched sideways and backing up.

The window was no big deal. Not stupid expensive to replace. I was more bummed out that my group had to step up and work, in the rain, to get me out of my situation. And I was stuck in the driver’s seat and couldn’t help. Thanks again guys!

I think this was the third crossing?

The group idea is great. Many runs use it. At Trek, there were two guys going pretty slow in front of our group. They were so slow, they dropped away from their group and we took them in to ours. How did the group in front of us lose two rigs and not stop to make sure they were okay? That’s the point of grouping rigs.

We all know not to lose sight of the rig behind us in case they have an issue. We should also know to keep up the pace with the rig in front of us without riding them too close. These guys dropped off our group a few times but we tried to make sure they were at least still rolling along. Ham radios were key to that.

Although Sierra Trek is a great event, well run, great food, scenic views and gets you across a few rivers that are usually running too high to safely cross, I won’t be doing it again until the trail is repaired to prevent another 13 hour drive. I’ll probably be back with my club and just five rigs to do it again.

Not the line I ended up taking

Trail maintenance for the Fordyce Trail falls on the Tahoe National Forest. There are many clubs that have stepped up and helped the Forest Service in maintaining the trail: Friends of Fordyce comes to mind but there are others.

Winter storms and heavy snowfall changes the trail. But users who don’t Tread Lightly also contribute to the deterioration of the trail. There was erosion in many places. One of the iconic winch hills could no longer be run because the terrain had changed so much. The bypass was now the trail.

Winch Hill 2?

Main camp was a party as usual. Good food and plenty of it. The vendors were out on Saturday. The showers were warm and very welcoming after 13 hours on the trail.

I hope the trail can get some seriously needed maintenance and repair over the next few years.


Rubicon Ronin

Tires, tires, tires…

They wear out. They need to be checked with every trail ride. We air them down and then we air them back up. We abuse them on the trail, then scream down the freeway at 60mph.

It’s arguable that they are THE single most key component on our rigs.

I’ve had a bad run with tires this summer. But it started last summer. Below is the flat I got on the Rubicon.

Being a little cheap, I did not buy four new tires. I bought two in 2020 and figured I’d buy two new tires to match in 2021; spreading out the pain a bit.

Then, early this year, while washing my rig, it took out a valve stem and had to use my Colby Valve Stem to repair it.

So, in March of 2021, I went shopping for two more tires. BFG was backordered or not available until July. I said order them up, let me know when they’re in. I called in June and the tire shop said they were out until September. Not good as I was planning to run Sierra Trek (Fordyce Trail) in August.

I found a set of (5) used BFG mud terrains (KM2) online. They were priced fair, so I checked them out. Four were great, one had some sun cracking but it would be the spare. $700 later, they were mine. $125 later, they were mounted and balanced.

One trip down and back up Cadillac and one of the sidewalls had split and was leaking.

I got out and home on the sun cracked spare. Nobody repairs sidewalls. I never really trusted the spare. Now I don’t trust any of the three remaining ‘good’ tires.

My advice, be very weary about buying a used set of tires. Check the date code. Check for damage; any cracks and the entire set of tires should be avoided. Don’t even consider tires with uneven wear.

Time to bite the bullet, step up and buy four new tires. I’m serious about rock crawling so I went for the Goodyear MTRs. Great traction, but wears out quicker than others. Not in stock in my size. Pivot to Pro-Comp tires as they have like a 40,000 mile guarantee. Again, my size was not in stock. Let’s change the question, what tire do you have in my size?

Meet the Cooper Discoverer STT:

So, days before Sierra Trek, I got a new set of tires (4). Never before had I wheeled this tire. I’ve run Coopers on my pick-up for years, so I had high hopes. I barely had a chance to get them up to speed on the freeway, let alone trail test them, before I headed to Meadow Lake to set up camp.

Sierra Trek is THE hardest trail I’ve run and this year it was even harder. And I was doing it with a tire I wasn’t familiar with. Look for a report on Trek in a few days. Spoiler alert: the tires did awesome.

Bottom line, take our sport seriously. When you know you need tires, don’t delay, buy a set of four.


Rubicon Ronin

Region Five closes all northern CA forests

Let me try this again…

Now Region Five is jumping on the close everything bandwagon.

LTBMU goes overboard

RUBCION TRAIL CLOSED within Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

I get there are fires across the west but that is no reason to close public lands tens of miles away.

As far as I know, and I just checked, the Tahoe National Forest has not been closed. And that’s in between the Eldorado and the Basin.

No photo description available.
May be an image of map and text that says 'Exhibit C: West Shore Area, Road, & Trail Closure 15N35 Granite Chief Wilderne 03 15N38 15N38 Lake Tahoe Û PACIFIC 2021 BACKCOUNTRY & WILDERNESS CLOSURE USDA Forest Order No. 19-21-05 Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Closure 0.5 Stream/River: Perennial Waterbody LTBMU Miles Boundary Forest System Map August LTBMU'

I’m going to reach out to local authorities to challenge this decision.


Rubicon Ronin

Caldor Fire threatens Rubicon Trail

Here’s the deal, the Caldor Fire has closed Highway 50 and forced evacuation in the area, such as Pollock Pines. I’m just dumping a bunch of links to help get you information. I’ve heard yesterday 6500 acres, then 22,000 acres, now 30,000 acres. 0% contained as of 10pm 8-17-21.


Update 8-18-21, 11am

Size: 53,722 acres

Containment: 0%

Caldor Fire Information Line: (530) 303-2455

El Dorado County has officially closed the Rubicon Trail:

Vickie Sassman Sanders: “El Dorado County has closed the Rubicon Trail. We have posted it on the Parks website.”

Here’s the El Dorado County link:


Please avoid the area. Emergency crews need access, not traffic from tourists.


Another good mapping source. You can turn on the layers like Fire Active and Fire History:,-120.1355&z=10&b=mbt&a=modis_mp

The Eldorado National Forest is closed!

  U.S. Forest Service  Eldorado National Forest  100 Forni Road  Placerville, CA 95667  530-303-2412 News Release For Immediate Release August 17, 2021 Media Contact: Jennifer Chapman, 530-957-9660 Twitter:@EldoradoNF   Caldor Fire Prompts Emergency Closure of the Eldorado National Forest   PLACERVILLE, Calif. – In response to the extreme fire behavior demonstrated by the Caldor Fire, and risks to public and firefighter safety, Forest Supervisor Jeff Marsolais has issued an emergency forest closure of all National Forest System lands, roads, and trails within the Eldorado National Forest. The forest-wide closure — Forest Order No. 03-21-14 – will be in effect August 17, 2021, through September 30, 2021 to facilitate unimpeded ingress and egress for evacuations, emergency response, and property access. The closure will also limit the public’s exposure to fire danger and impaired visibility due to smoke.   In less than three days, the Caldor Fire has grown to over 30,000 acres, and California Governor Gavin Newsom has proclaimed a State of Emergency to exist in El Dorado County as a result of the fire. The Caldor Fire has already burned numerous structures and caused at least two people to be hospitalized with injuries. Because the fire is not controlled and is actively burning, there is a high risk of flare ups or uncontrolled runs within the Forest.   The closure Order prohibits the use of areas, roads and trails on the Eldorado National Forest seven days per week, 24 hours per day. Conditions will be assessed daily to determine if it is safe to lift the closure.     The following persons are exempt from this Order:   1.    Persons with Forest Service Permit No. FS-7700-48 (Permit for Use of Roads, Trails, or Areas Restricted by Regulation or Order), specifically exempting them from this Order.   2.    Any Federal, State, or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty.   A violation of the Order is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.    ###   The U.S.D.A Forest Service is an equal opportunity employer. The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

General fire info:

Smoke conditions:

NBC News, old:

Rubicon Gazette Facebook page:

CalFire website:


Rubicon Ronin