Fire Restrictions in Place!

As of this writing, the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) has implemented fire restrictions regarding the use of fire, stoves and tools within their forest.

The owners at Rubicon Springs have also implemented a no campfire rule for the rest of the summer.

No word yet from the Tahoe National Forest but I’m sure it’s coming soon.

Please be fire safe any time you’re out enjoying our national forests.


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!


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.


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.


Rubicon Ronin

Still a lot of deep snow!

A small group of dedicated wheelers headed out on the Tahoe side of the Rubicon on the 28th of April. They encountered a lot more deep snow than they expected.

This is probably just before where the Rubicon crosses the Pacific Crest Trail, lots of tall trees shading the trail, preventing the snow from melting.

As in my last post, if you go out, be prepared for anything and everything. Bring food, drink, shelter, extra clothing, extra recovery gear, ham radio, winter boots, etc.

I’m sure the snow will be melting fast but right now, even in the open sun the snow is still deep.

My guess for this location is before Observation? But I’m really not sure. Please note the amount of snow still out there. The vehicle track just above the rear view mirror tells you it’s still deep.

Personally, I’m going to wait a while for more snow to melt. I enjoy snow wheeling but don’t need to make it a multi-day slug fest. I’ll enjoy a snow run when the snow is more just a long drift here and there and the daytime temperatures are warmer.

Please always Tread Lightly! Stay on the trail, “Turn Around, Don’t Go Around.”


Rubicon Ronin