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Rookies on the Rubicon• WCXC
Photos: Caleb Knight and Jeremy Knight. Story editing: Nik Schulz

This is an multi-part post written by Jeremy Knight about his 2013 adventure on the Rubicon as a first-timer.

Rookies on the Rubicon, Part 3

Little Sluice

The beer is done. The greetings are over. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Erik, my younger brother by seven years, but it’s time to drive trail. When I lived in the Bay Area, we used to do quite a bit together, mainly backpacking and fly fishing in the Sierras. Then in 1994, I moved my family to Bellingham, Washington for a job (lousy reason to move, but good place to live). Erik and I met at Mount Shasta a few times, until we finally succeeded in climbing it and then things kind of petered out. He has his family; I have mine; we had to “get on with it.”

In January of 2009, I bought a used FJ Trail Teams (out of nostalgia for an FJ-40 our father owned) from a really cool guy in Pittsburgh, PA. I took a Jet Blue red-eye out of Seattle (so that I could sleep on the plane and save on a hotel). After a few hours at the dealership, the paperwork was done. I headed west in the dead of winter with my new prize. That trip was an adventure in itself.

Later, Erik purchased his Jeep JK. “This was going to be our reconnect,” I told myself. Fast-forward to August and here we are: Rubicon Reconnect. Rookies on the Rubicon. Time to drive. Read the rest of this entry »

Rookies on the Rubicon• WCXC
Loon Lake trailhead and amazing overflow sluice (trail starts beyond the shack) Photos: Caleb Knight and Jeremy Knight. Story editing: Nik Schulz

This is an multi-part post written by Jeremy Knight about his first time on the Rubicon.

Rookies on the Rubicon, Part 2

Loon Lake Trailhead

As the day grew closer, I continued my internet research and Erik sent me YouTube clips. I could tell that he was having second thoughts. Some of the video was daunting: people breaking things, people rolling over and doing major vehicle damage, people getting hopelessly stuck. What were we thinking? Did we really have any business doing this sort of thing? Or would we be like hikers on Everest, wearing tennis shoes and looking really foolish while begging for a piggyback ride to safety?

One thing I noticed in the videos was that nobody was driving an FJ. They were all Jeeps, mostly modified Rubicon’s, or buggies, but no FJs. Well, there was one video in which a guy in an FJ tried to clear a nasty rock shelf and ripped his entire rear bumper off. I tried to ignore that one, it almost looked deliberate. I finally found a blog called Last Great Road Trip that told a story of a group of FJs that successfully went through during the 2013 Rubithon event, a sort of Jamboree for Toyotas. Unfortunately they were all highly-modified with long-travel kits, 35s, and re-geared axles. To top it off, they were guided by some guy named “Woodie” who apparently knew all of the trail’s rocks by name. Only one of them escaped without body damage. Read the rest of this entry »

Rookies on the Rubicon • WCXC
All photos: Caleb Knight, Jeremy Knight. Story editing: Nik Schulz

The off-road section of the Rubicon, the famous 4×4 trail in California’s Sierra Nevada, west of Lake Tahoe, is packed with 12 miles of boulders and almost non-stop obstacles. On the 1 to 10 difficultly scale that we, and others, use, the Rubicon is a 10. The trails don’t get much tougher than this.

What’s it like to tackle this grandaddy of the off-road world for the first time? Well, Jeremy Knight, an overlander from Washington State, will tell you. His account, first published in the Expedition Portal forums, is offered here with his permission.

Rookies on the Rubicon, Part 1

The Ground Rules

There were times in my life when, had I known how hard something was going to be beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have tried it in the first place. Caution would rule and I would be content reading about other people, more capable or better equipped, grinding it out. It’s almost always good that I don’t know in advance about the degree of difficulty, challenge, or stress involved in the endeavor, since life is much duller lived within my comfort zone. For me, attempting the Rubicon Trail in a relatively stock FJ Cruiser, with my brother, who has never spent much time off-road, was one of those times. Read the rest of this entry »

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Photo: Josh Ashcroft

For some reason Portland still has dirt roads within its city limits. Some of them are actually drivable only by 4-wheel-drive vehicles. So someone had the brilliant idea to get a bunch of overlanders together and drive them. The resulting event is called the Portland Urban Safari. They have fun with it. People get dressed up in safari gear. They had Camel Trophy-style number plates made. One team put an inflatable tiger in the bed of their Syncro.

Portland is currently discussing what to do about its unpaved roads. How great to have an urban venue in which to showcase overlanding though. I hope they leave them as is.

There’s an image gallery after the jump. Or check out the Northwest Overland site. You can check out the route map at the Portland Urban Safari site.

Thanks to Josh in Portland for telling about this and providing most of the photos!

Links:
Portland Urban Safari
Northwest Overland Read the rest of this entry »

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All photos: Josh Ashcroft

We’d been planning to visit the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on our way home from our summer sailing trip. Then in Portland we had the good fortune to run into someone that had actually been there. Amazingly, he recognized our truck from this blog and flagged us down to say hello. To make the most of the chance meeting, we got together for a coffee and swapped travel stories. He said he’d been to the dunes not two weeks before and that they were definitely worth a visit. And he bought us coffee. Thanks again, Josh!

It turns out that the Oregon Dunes are largest coastal sand dunes in North America. They stretch along 40 miles of coast, cover 5,900 acres, and crest to 500 ft. You can camp there. What’s more you can get out and explore this coastal park in your 4×4, motorcycle, or ATV. And we wanted to do just that.

A couple of days later we were in Florence, Oregon, at the northern end of the dunes. (Coos Bay marks the southern end.) We had our orange flag mounted and we were ready to hit the sand. And this is where it becomes a Reader Rides story because, despite my airing down the tires, the truck was packed to the gills and just too heavy to make it up any of the inclines without getting bogged down. Rather than get stuck a half hour before sunset with our summer’s worth of supplies, we packed it in and headed to Coos Bay for the night.

So let me tell you about Josh’s trip. It was hosted by Northwest Overland and featured training by 4×4 veteran, Bill Burke. They covered driving skills, tackling inclines, winch and Pull Pall recovery, and field repair by the looks of it. A lifted Tacoma snapped both its CV joints. But it also looks like they had a great time.

And Josh was kind enough to provide these fantastic photos, more of which, after the jump.

Links:
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area site
General map including camping, parking, trailheads, etc. (pdf)
Detailed map of riding areas and campsites (pdf)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Titus Canyon, all photos: Gus M.

Bay Area WCXC reader Gus M. sent in these excellent photos of a ride he, his wife, and some friends took to through Furnace Creek in Death Valley. He reports that there’s a little more going on than in nearby Stovepipe Wells, including few restaurant options, gas station, post office and even a swimming pool and cell service.

See the rest of the photos, and an area map, after the link. Thanks, Gus! Read the rest of this entry »