#J E E P - I R C
Internet Jeepers Association
1st Annual Rubicon Challenge
Three days of four-wheeling
July 18th, 19th and 20th
Well, this year was the first annual #JEEP Rubicon Challenge. I won't start out by finishing the report in the first few lines, which I know is a popular thing to do. People start off trip reports with, "It was a great success and we …" I'll start from the beginning. And now, after much ado about nothing….
Day One: The Gathering, July 17th, 1997
Well, I'll not go into very serious details here, basically we all met up in the Placerville Denny's over the period of what I think was actually close to 3 hours. As the night progressed, we slowly rolled in until everyone that was a confirmed attendee was present. We stopped for food and gas, then headed off to the trailhead.
That sounds like a good way to start the trip doesn't it? Well it was, up until I started the trip by being the first casualty. You see, when we stopped for gas, I left my gas cap on my brake light, and well of course once we hit freeway speed, it promptly shot off the Jeep. I didn't really know what the sound was, I thought I ran over something. Anyway, at one point we stopped and Lance (a.k.a. Bigtoe) pointed out that I had been leaking gas on every turn. (Let me note here, he tried to warn me, but I couldn't hear him on the CB) Anyway, this turned out to be quite a dilemma, how could I run the Rubicon if I was going to dump half my tank every time I got off camber? The stores we found were closed so it was up to the MacGuyver in each of us to figure out what to do. I decided against a rag because the image of a Moltov cocktail Jeep just didn't seem appealing. So I got a potato and corkscrewed it in there. A little duct tape to make sure it stayed in, and everything was peachy again.
So back to the trailhunt. In spite of Stiegl's idea (a.k.a. Matt) to just camp at the side of the road, we opted to find a campground. We found one close to where we were and made camp.
Day Two: The Challenge Begins, July 18th, 1997
After a chilling night's sleep, we all awoke to a light and quick breakfast, as everyone was eager to see what lay in store for us at the Rubicon. After a quick stop for supplies and a little trial and error we eventually discovered the trailhead. We pulled up onto a rather large granite slab with a small 10deg off camber to it. We noticed that there were a lot of vehicles that had collected up there and we proceeded to join them and air down. Among the misc. four wheelers, we noticed there was an awfully large number of somewhat modified TJ's, we learned that this was a guided group of people that had shelled out $1,500.00 a piece to see if they wanted to by a TJ or not. None appeared to have any prior four wheeling experience and it sure did show. Of course, I can't forget to mention that we got a little show from a helicopter that was picking up and dropping off gear for the Jeep group of potential TJ buyers.
So we aired down and hit the trail. Of course, we promptly got lost since we had no idea where we were supposed to be headed and ended up taking a left instead of a right and following a pretty simple trail in a small circle. During that time the pack of TJ's went racing on by us. So we got in line behind them, and came upon our first obstacle. This was essentially a whole bunch of large boulders just waiting to eat your diffs. With careful negotiation, all made it through, some with minimal undercarriage scraping.
Then there was the second obstacle, it was basically three or so large boulders protruding out of the ground. It was definitely a rocker panel test. Stiegl in his 3.5" lifted YJ with 31" tires managed to get through without hitting his rocker panels by giving it enough gas to bounce up out of the rut that would otherwise have crushed his rocker panels. Hose's TJ with 31" tires and Off Your Rocker panels was next to go. In an effort to four wheel lightly, and not to break anything, everyone else that went through that smacked our rocker panels into a rock on our left as we tried to drive around the rock. (We later learned that we could probably have driven on it, we just didn't really consider driving over such large rocks a possibility, yet) Both the TJ and myself managed to smack our rocker panels pretty hard with no damage thanks to those Off Your Rocker Panels we had installed. Unlike the lucky, Bigtoe didn't happen to have rocker guards and managed to redo some of his rocker panel bodywork.
The next obstacle was minor, it was basically a steep drop and turn, nothing really, however, I note it as it managed to shear the front trackbar bolt right off on Bigtoe's YJ. We tied it up with a bungee cord, and proceeded. As the day progressed we came upon many challenging obstacles and tough spots that required a lot of finesse and work to get through. Somewhere between obstacles was a neat hill that did some substantial rocker damage to Stiegl's rockers in spite of his decorative aluminum rocker guards. Toe just managed to squeeze through, while Hose and I both bashed our indestructible Off Your Rocker panels. I got to a point with those panels where I could actually purposefully press them against rocks and use them to slide around them. Anyway, we pressed on up the hill and through a few other obstacles.
At the top of one large hill (not sure which one since we went up and down so many) there was an area with a bunch of large rocks that I had trouble with. My long shackles posed quite a problem. Stiegl drove his lifted YJ through without much trouble. He somehow managed to bounce through all the difficult obstacles with a fair amount of speed and amazingly no breakage. What kills me is that I'm creeping through stuff, yet this happened. I was bumping my long shackles into the boulders and had to change the angle of approach, unfortunately, with my tall 3.53 gears, I can't creep too well so a good deal of clutchwork was involved. The problem there was that I kept hopping off of this one large rock and smacking my right front shackle hanger.
Once I eventually got through, I pulled over to realize that the little crack it used to have, had turned into more than a large one. Large enough in fact that the inside part of the hanger broke off, and the outside part was all busted up. Well, I fashioned a makeshift swaybar connector using a closed end box wrench, hoping that it would help take enough of the stress off the broken hanger. I didn't really think it would hold up that well. Anyway, as people came up and drove by, we just kept asking if anyone had an onboard welder. 3-4 Jeeps later, a super decked out red CJ with a pirate flag came along who said he had a welder and would be glad to help. 20-30 minutes later, the shackle hanger was welded back on and in one solid piece thanks to one of the Pirates of the Rubicon. After that little hang-up (no pun intended), we pressed on, and on, and on. The Rubicon can be easily described as a very large wooded area that is comprised of one field of boulders after another.
There was a small water crossing, with a neat crack we drove in, and a variety of other fun things. I believe it was shortly after the water crossing that I did some damage to my TrackLock locking differential. There was a very large boulder to the left, some diff catchers in the middle and a slope leaning down towards the boulder, I tried to straddle the rock and slope, however, my wet mud terrain's didn't quite grab like the wet All Terrain's and I slid off the rock dropping about 2 ft with my tires spinning. I don't think that in itself was the breaking point for my TracLock, but it was damaging. I bent a shock mount pretty good with that fall. Anyway, I was pissed off and decided to not try again and got pulled out of the hole.
As the evening progressed we came upon a large granite valley and started to descend some rocky trails with some very steep drops on it. We came across a few other our wheelers and realized that we had gone the wrong way to get to the Little Sluice and Spider lake. Once we realized that (the 100th time in one day that we had been lost) we turned around and headed back the way we came, only maybe 1-1.5 miles of moderate-slightly challenging four wheeling. This was the point at which we had a dilemma and which I bent my drag link. (the rod that the bar that attaches to the pitman arm is attached to) Anyway, we came across a problem. To get to spider lake there we two hills, we had to try to get up, one was not possible for our vehicles as it was a 90deg 3ft straight wall to climb. The other side was a slope that had my tilt-o-meter pinged at 30deg the whole way up, and it was slick rock. Which no one thought we could get up since it was getting dark and the sun was right on the horizon (hence, we were blind) The only other option was to go into an area marked dead end, that appeared to lead in Spider Lake's general direction.
Well Stiegl decided to ditch the group and give it a shot through the dead end area on his own, while the rest of us decided what we were going to do. Anyway, after some consideration, we decided to try the area marked dead end. BTW: We had been trying to hail Stiegl on the CB the whole time with no response. I lead with Hose, then Toe following behind me. Well, the entrance to the dead end area was an slightly difficult challenge. It took a while to pick the right line, but once we made it through there we seemed OK. The stock TJ made it through, but it appeared as though the stock YJ was going to have troubles. There wasn't enough lift or articulation, one of the two, for him to get through. HoseHead in his TJ strapped him out.
The next major obstacle was a two part rocky step that entailed some finesse for me to get up, but I did so with no major problems other than some minor skid plate scraping, however I had more clearance than the two vehicles behind me. The first to get high centered was Toe's stock YJ. I had to back down and strap him out. This is where I think I did some damage to my TracLock. There wasn't a whole lot I could do, other than drive straight up a slick rocky slope while pulling the stuck vehicle with a relative amount of force. I could smell my clutch burning, but what was I to do? Anyway, I think it cracked some of the TracLock teeth due to the massive amount of stress and slipping and catching which was unavoidable but happened anyway. I had to undergo the same stress as I pulled the second high centered Jeep too. After that was a neat little spot that pitched the Jeeps up in the air a bit, and slightly off camber. Then we were up and onto the large granite slab area at Spider lake. We made camp, drank our beer, ate our dinners and hit the sack. Of course, no one really got a very decent night's sleep, as there were four wheelers coming into camp all night long, and none were in the any way quiet. Apparently from a tent camper's point of view (/me slept under the stars) it was quite an experience to feel as though you are to be run over while the headlights and rumbling engines go by. Anyway, that concluded day one of our 3 day adventure.
Day Three: The Humbling, July 19th, 1997
Bright and early. In spite of all having awoken real early in the morning, we didn't really end up breaking camp until 10AM or so, which was fine, because the day before we hadn't really hit the trails until sometime between 10:30-11:00AM. Stiegl was all jazzed to do the Little Sluice and decided to see if he could get an audience. Off he went, from one campsite to another telling people about what he was to attempt. Sure enough, a rather large crowd gathered and we all followed his Jeep, they on foot, us in our Jeeps, at least up to the first obstacle. Stiegl having open differentials front and rear had himself up a pretty decent challenge. It was basically two rock steps that were a total of about 6-7ft tall, and quite vertical. He didn't have the gearing to crawl it, so with some very aired down (i.e. 6-7psi) tires, and a lot of cheering and pushing, he blasted his way up the obstacle with minor difficulties.
So it was on to the next major obstacle on his way to the sluice, time was about 10:45AM or so, I think. Anyway, he starts to attempt this challenging hill, lots of large rock formations, it looked tough. Anyway, he couldn't creep it, so again, with a lot of cheering he blasted his way to the top. Unfortunately, he was bouncing his way to the top, and once he reached the top, here is what happened: his front end bounced up, letting his tires swing back, and pulling his shackles back, his left tire didn't catch too much air and its shackle swung back normally, the right side however had problems, the shackle went back and got pressed up against the frame and well, when he came down like that the shackle of course couldn't pivot forward as it should have, and his spring got a nice hard angled 30-40 degree bend in it. When those cheering him on saw the damage, they all left. There were some problems here, we couldn't pry his shackle out because of the bend, and his front drive shaft was smashed up against his transfer case because of the bend.
Soooo… to fix the problem, the spring was removed from the Jeep, heated up in a campfire, then cooled down real fast in cold water after it was bent back into place. Sounds simple, but the whole procedure, including airing back up took until about 2PM. There was one other thing though, for him to get the Jeep jacked up, we had to get a Hi-Lift jack to him. No one wanted to carry one of those beasts for a mile or however far away it was, so we opted to walk back, then drive back. So Toe and I decided to go back. Hose had left his Jeep and was with Stiegl. We got in our Jeeps and headed back out. Well, the way back was challenging. We were OK until we got to the place where we couldn't go up the night before. Well, I had to try, so I started creeping up the slab of granite. I watched my tilt-o-meter ping a 30deg incline. I seemed to be doing OK until I hit ¾ of the way up. The I broke traction and started sliding sideways to the left. That was a little scary, but then I noticed. how close my unscathed Jeep body had gotten to the rock wall on the left. I was literally 1" away from resting my corner and side panel on the rock wall. The worst part was, the rock curved around the back of the Jeep 6 or so inches, so I couldn't slide back without crushing that panel.
There was a Jeep at the top with a winch who kindly winched me up to the top of the hill, where I promptly hi-centered myself. At that point, I had to get help from a lot of four wheelers until one experienced guy came up and told me that the emergency brake being in a few clicks doesn't help TracLock as I had been told by other four wheelers, and as I had read in Peterson's. I disengaged it and drove right off. (with some help of course) An hour later, now 2:30PM or so, we turned around and headed back down that same hill. (I played the Mission Impossible theme on my way down)
We worked our way through one field of rocks to another, hill of boulders after hill of boulders, when we finally came across something that makes you glad to be alive. We found a beautiful creek with smooth flat rocks in it, and cool clear water. The whole scene looked like it was right out of the Garden of Eden to our sore and dirty souls. Like children that had just discovered the joy of snow we pranced from our parked Jeeps and bounded into the water splashing and frolicking. And then out came the soap and shampoo. There was much bathing, and we were glad. After much rejoicing we pushed on. Past a manmade dam, up a rocky hill, past a camp full of drunk youths heckling those that went by, and up a rocky hill. There were some minor difficulties, a few stuck spots, but we pushed on.
At the top of the hill was a moderately tricky section, but it sure was giving Stiegl a hell of a time. After some head scratching, it was determined that his front drive shaft was turning, but his tires were not. Then we realized that he did not reconnect the 4WD vacuums hoses when he put the spring back on, and had been in 2WDL all day!! He reconnected it, and then popped right through followed shortly thereafter by the rest of our motley crew.
Hose led the pack at this point, with me second, Stiegl third, and Toe bringing up the rear. We started a pretty drastic decent down some steep hills when we came to a wide turn with large, large boulders in it. Hose's girlfriend got out of the Jeep, traversed rocky ground to get a view of what we were up against, and exclaimed something to the effect of "no way", or "that's impossible."
We all got out of our Jeeps to see what she was exclaiming about, and once we saw it, realized what the commotion was about. We had stumbled across Big Sluice. Now, it was late in the day, the sun was setting, and none of us had the rock crawling experience or rigs setup to just take a shot at the Big Sluice without some assistance. So with the aid of spotters we made it all the way through, albeit a challenge, unscathed. We started by walking the main part of the sluice and spotting the areas that appeared hard. At first we took the vehicles through, one by one, making sure we were doing it OK. Then we realized a better method, was to have people setup at certain tough locations and we devised a system of handoffs. This worked out really well and we were able to negotiate the Big Sluice with little or no trouble at all. Some might say this was not challenging. I would retort with this, we were tired, hungry, it was getting dark, and we were not in search of an extra challenge. Besides that, there were still some close calls. There was one interesting section towards the top where we had to ride up a wall and come down off of some tall rocks, those with good articulation, got a little air under the let front tire, however, Toe's stock YJ with relatively limited wheel travel got lots of air. I can't wait to see those pictures!!
Towards the bottom of the sluice was the last major obstacle, a rocky section that looked impassable, but ended up being only slightly challenging with a 30deg off camber near a ledge. Incidentally, my TracLock was not popping at this point, but was off and on before we had gotten to the sluice. Anyway, we made it to a bridge which we easily crossed, discovered a great campsite, and made camp right there. At this point we had reached Rubicon Springs, and were all pretty excited to have made it so far. We feasted well that night, and so did the mosquitoes.
Day Four: The Challenge Concludes Itself (yet takes its toll), July 20th, 1997
Well, after another meager and slightly rushed breakfast we were once again on our way through Rubicon Springs. There were a few minor obstacles but nothing we had not already faced. My TracLock had started to bang real loud off and on at this point, and was beginning to scare me and those around the rear-end of my Jeep. Anyway, there was one neat section with a 30deg off camber than ended up being a close call for me. I was off camber with a rock wall on the right which I ended up barely scraping by with my gas can. After that was another rock hill, that was somewhat of a challenge. Stiegl made it up, then me, then Hose's TJ, then Toe got stuck. At this point Hose had no body damage, but a drunken tree drove right into his rear corner panel on the right side, and left a pretty nasty body mod when he was backing up to strap Toe out. That sucked, but we pushed on anyway.
There were many rock obstacles between where we were and when we came across Cadillac Hill, however, at this point we had become accustomed to the rock crawling style (at least somewhat) And then we reached the bottom of the climb up Cadillac hill. The hill was not bad at the bottom, some tricky areas with diff catchers, but careful line picking was the key. Anyway, we made it up another section of the hill to an obstacle by a tree that threw me real off camber and gave me some trouble getting up. I got pretty close to nailing my body at that point as well. We made it through there, and up a little further but were delayed by problems with the Jeep crew ahead of us.
Apparently one of the Jeeps was carburated and kept getting flooded out since the hill was so steep. (thankfully, we were an injected group J ) While waiting, a large group or four wheel atvers came through attempting to get by us on the 2ft wider than a Jeep trail. What they were thinking I know not, but apparently one of those idiots flipped his ATV into the side of a recently repainted CJ that was in fact the vehicle right in front of mine. Needless to say, the CJ owner was mildly irritated, and was not at all happy about it. The ATVers proceeded down the hill and of course wanted to get around my Jeep, so they being the friendly idiots they are guided me and my front diff into a rock so they could get around me. I was of course saying the whole time, "I can't see", "move, or at least tell me if I'm going to hit anything." They of course kept saying I was fine. Needless to say, I hate ATV drivers on 4WD trails. Oh, and the worst were the dirt bikers, those guys were real pricks, but I'll save that for some other story.
Anyway, the CJ that was flooding out was fixed and we pushed on. A few off camber spots with a great view down the side of the mountain, slightly hairy for those who hate heights, but otherwise not terribly bad. Anyway, around the bend we came to a spot where there were two lines of water running right down the trail where people put their tires. Anyway, that was somewhat slippery, but it was the rock waterfall that was a little challenging. Slow speed, correct tire placement, and we went right up it. There were a few other little spots but the hill only had maybe 4-5 obstacles that took some finesse.
Once we got up off the top there was a dirt/rock trail that was pretty easy that led up to a super scenic view of the whole area. Then a very long 15 miles at 5-10mph, dirt/rock trail/road and we made it out. Oh, and at the end we met up with Paqratt who couldn't make it for the trip, but met us at the end of it. BTW: Thanks for tailing me out Paq and Toe, I may not have made it otherwise! J
It was a great trip and we all survived, we had a great time and we all became good friends. For the most part.
DAMAGE LIST: (Bolded Items are Rubicon inflicted damages)
Cmplxviri: 1995 Wrangler 4.0L, 3.5" lift, 31"s, other stuff
Broke right shackle hanger (fixed on trail)
Bent drag link
Bent/deformed both rear shock mounts on axle housing
Got a minor transmission oil leak
Blew out axle seal in front axle on my way home
Broke TracLock, 3 or more teeth were missing
Lost gas cap (fixed on trail)
Serpentine belt frayed pretty good
I MADE IT HOME THOUGH!! J
BigToE: 1995 Wrangler, 30" tires
Sheared off Track bar bolt
Left and Right side rocker damage
HoSeHeaD: 1997 TJ, 31"s
Dented right rear corner panel
Stiegl: 1995 Wrangler, 3.5" lift, 15x8 chrome wheels, 31"s
Severely bent leaf spring (fixed on trail)
Right rear corner dent
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