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Barrett Lake
Sept 11-15

Trip Report: Rubicon Trail '04

July 2-5, 2004
Trip report by Robin Down

See Robin's Pictures
See Rick's Pictures
See Dan's Pictures
Read Dan's Writeup
See Eli's Pics

The trip started at Loon Lake on Friday about noon. Some of the group had taken a wrong turn on the way and got there a little late, but nobody seemed to mind. Our group included Eli and Judi, Johnny and his dad Willy, Chris and his son Tyler, Mike who is Chris' brother from Tahoe, Tony and Alex, and Robin and Terry. Just as we began to leave, the rain started. We quickly prepped our vehicles for rain and were on our way. Luckily the rain stopped after a half hour or so, and though we had some scattered sprinkles throughout the afternoon we really didn't see any more rain the rest of the weekend.

We spent over an hour waiting for rigs to clear the Gatekeeper section, and we were able to get through that without any major difficulty. The granite bowl proved to be a little more difficult for some, as both Tony in his Samurai and Robin in the Bronco broke drivetrain components. Tony had noticed a clicking sound in his front diff - which we guessed to be a broken tooth on his ring gear. That left him with little choice but to continue in rear-wheel drive only. Luckily he has a locker in the rear which really helped him through. Robin had tried to climb up some stair steps on the bowl and with little more than a slight hop the rear drivers' side axle snapped. Now, Robin was carrying a spare (the drivers side by coincidence) but decided not to try and change it then but would continue on in 3-wheel drive.

So we continued without incident to the Little Sluice, where we stopped and watched somebody trying to take a Samurai through the rock-strewn gully. Lots of onlookers cheering and jeering and provided plenty of amusement but not much help. Robin saw some other Broncos and had to go over and talk about all things Bronco with his bretheren. After a short while we decided to press on toward our intended destination of Buck Island Lake.

We had some tough spots along the way, and several other groups of rigs either passed us or were passed by us as we trekked up toward toward the lake. We made it to Buck Island Lake just after sundown and we quickly scouted for a suitable spot to spend the night. Robin and Terry blazed the way along the shore of the lake and found a great site right on the edge of the lake with a large firepit and enough room for our 6 rigs and tents, although it was a bit cozy. A little dinner and some time for fishing and then it was off to bed for an early night.

The next morning after breakfast Robin enjoyed a swim in the cold lake and soon we heard James over the CB saying he was on his way to our location. He had driven up from Loon the previous night and ended up at Spider Lake, where it was pretty crowded and roudy. James and Cherie had woke up early and made it to Buck Island by the time we were ready to leave - so we continued on down the Big Sluice together. At the bottom of Big Sluice we met up with Rick and Caroline, and Brian and Lael who had been camped at Rubicon Springs the previous 2 nights. We waited for what seemed like hours while first a group of 8 jeeps and then about 20 'Pirates of the Rubicon' buggys went up the Sluice.

After they had passed we headed down toward Rubicon Springs. A few of us tried the more difficult obstacle just before the springs (Heckler's Rock). Eli and Judi made it up and over with a little coaxing and Tony and Alex tried to make it over with the Samurai but needed a pull. Robin tried it with the 3-wheel Bronco but after several valiant attempts had to be pulled the last 2 feet over the edge.

Making our way down to the Springs we ended up getting split at the campground. Some stayed close to the top, some ventured farther down and camped on the rocks. We were all within a quick walk of eachother's campsites so it was not too bad. Several of the group went on a firewood gathering mission and came back with a huge pile of deadwood which we stacked by the firepit for later that night. Out came the stoves and grills and soon everyone was enjoying their dinners and drinks. A few decided to hit the sack early, while the rest of us sat around the fire and told stories of the days travels and other past exploits.

The next morning was Sunday and some of the group had to leave for home. Rick and Caroline, Brian and Lael, Chris and Tyler, and Mike left about 9 for the trek up Cadillac hill and the rest of us stayed at the Springs and enjoyed a relaxing day of eating, drinking, swimming, drinking, eating and drinking. We also enjoyed the tree swing that hangs over the small 'lake' at Rubicon Springs. What a blast - each person to try the swing got higher and farther out over the water before splasing down. Of course this fun was not without some peril as the nearby branches, tree trunks and the rocks below the water took their toll on the 'swingers' as they took turns. Robin and Terry leisurly floated down the river on inner tubes they had brought, as Alex and Tony floated on their air mattresses. Robin had to do some patchwork on one of the tubes as it had gotten punctured early, and this proved to be no small feat as each patch applied to the tube seemed only to persuade the hole to move a little farther away from the patch. Finally with some trusty duct-tape Robin was able to cover the elusive hole and ended up with an over-inflated tube that closely resembled Dolly Parton...

That night after dinner we needed to go looking for more firewood - no easy task in the dark with the whole area pretty well picked-clean. But we managed to find an old dead tree and gathered enough to keep the fire going for a few more hours. Robin provided some 4th of July inspired entertainment with a handfull of sparklers and small ground flowers, as well as a strobelight march across the rocks in search of the bottle of Brandy left at James's campsite.

The next morning we cooked up the rest of our breakfast food and packed up our rigs for the ride out. We left the Springs at 8:30 and started up Cadillac hill. Robin fell in behind James and only needed a couple pulls to get up and out. Tony in the Samurai hooked up behind Johnny's Jeep Rubicon and pretty much had to be dragged up the entire hill - but it only counts as 1 pull right? ;-). Adding to Tony's difficulties was a broken rear axle he suffered at the Vise near the top of the hill. Now he was in 1-wheel drive for the rest of the ride out. Needless to say Tony owed Johnny a big thanks when he finally got to the top.

The last part of the trip to the upper staging area was easy and beautiful, and when we arrived at the parking lot we split up to get to our trailers and air up for the ride home. Robin, Terry, Tony and Alex went out on Hwy 80 from Truckee, while the rest of the group went down Hwy 50. Eli and Judi had some troubles with their front disc brakes locking up, but were able to replace the caliper when they got to Placerville and made it home safely with the rest.

This was my third trip on the Rubicon with the club and I can say it was by far the best trip I've been on yet. I can't wait for next year!!

Robin Down

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