Archives for category: — California
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 6

The Big Sluice

The run through the Big sluice was going to be our “short and easy” day. It was Erik’s birthday and he was spending it on the trail. Pretty cool. I cooked a birthday breakfast frittata, overland-style: baby potatoes, sweet onions, bacon, eggs, and cheese in a Snow Peak cast iron pan, on my Partner Steel folding stove. I was so happy that we were finally getting this done. What a privilege, what an experience!

So we got off to a lazy start, not really expecting much trail resistance, though I’m not clear why. I think we figured we had seen the worst of it until Cadillac Hill, which we’d hit the following day.

Most of the research I had done about the route, talks about Cadillac as being pretty stressful, but really doesn’t show many pictures or video. The blog “Last Great Road Trip,” sort of apologizes for not having many pictures. “With no room to negotiate, other rigs on my heals, and the thought of tumbling down the hill buried deep within my subconscious, pictures are a bit scarce of Cadillac Hill.”

I knew that the “Hill” is polished slick rock in some critical places, deep and narrow in others. I’d also heard two pieces of relevant wisdom: “Better stay left,”  and “Don’t do it when it’s wet.”

Today we weren’t expecting much, just an easy day to relax at Rubicon Springs, go for a swim, grill some birthday steaks, watch a movie, and enjoy the last night of our adventure. Low pressure, no stress.

I felt extremely blessed. We had been challenged beyond what we had expected but hadn’t gotten stuck or broken anything. Sure, my skids and sliders had paid the price, but that’s what they’re there for: peace-of-mind. Erik’s Jeep had performed well beyond his expectations. He had done a great job preparing it. I was very impressed. He was driving well beyond his experience, and didn’t realize that he had the ability. He would understand better by the end of the next day. My brother is a natural. Read the rest of this entry »

The center of the Milky WayForest Wander from Cross Lanes, USA
Photo: Forest Wander from Cross Lanes, USA, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. 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 5

Midnight Buggies at Martini Tree

Later on that evening, after an wonderful, restoring swim in Buck Island Lake, a dinner of hot-links with sliced tomatoes and onions on hoagie rolls (with sweet mustard), and a beer or so, we decided to walk down the hill, towards the Big Sluice Box. A challenge that we would not be able to by-pass. It was twilight, so we took flashlights to explore what we would be forced to drive the next day.

Turning around, at this point, was out of the question. We did not have the appetite to return the way we had come—that wasn’t going to happen. That would also be admitting defeat and wasn’t going to happen either.

We had walked just past the second switchback, when we began to see lights flashing up through the tunnel of trees, way down the trail below us. Soon, we heard music and then we could hear voices. It sounded like a party, except that it was moving up the hill towards us rather quickly. Read the rest of this entry »

Rookies on the Rubicon, Part 4 • 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 4

Buck Island Lake to Martini Tree

So far we had stuck to the plan we had agreed to before the trip:

  1. We will always discuss the safest way to accomplish the task and not act impulsively.
  2. We will walk ANY questionable trail and discuss the best line.
  3. We will stack rocks, discuss other recovery options—and rehearse them prior to execution—whenever there is a question of vehicle damage.
  4. We will bypass riskier sections whenever possible.
  5. We will not succumb to pressure, personal or outside.
  6. We will not rush the trail.

This is our first time on the Rubicon we can come back later and take the toughest line, but only if we are successful this time—there is no honor in stupid luck!

Preserve our people—protect our rigs. Good driving makes all the difference, and good driving is the result of good planning, and executing that plan.

This will be fun, we will take our time and the outcome will be awesome!

(Sorry for the repeat, but this became very important as we progressed—it kept getting tougher.) Read the rest of this entry »

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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Here’s a video about a guy who builds a camper shell on the back of his Jeep Comanche to go off surfing in bigfoot country… and then escape. That’s part 2, which is after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The first WCXC Meet & Greet started off with a bit of a hitch. I’d scouted the the first location, the half-abandoned Navy shipyard, Mare Island, by Google Maps, instead of with tires on the ground. When we rolled up to the vacant bit of land I’d picked as a meeting point, we were confronted with signs everywhere threatening arrest for trespassing and a security guard, hot on our tail, telling us to move on. So we went and found a better spot with trees and benches; I updated our location; and everyone found us.

After that it was off to the Warehouse Cafe in Port Costa, on the other side of the Delta for beers, and posing next to the huge, taxidermy polar bear. It was so great to meet everyone, to share stories, and, of course, check out each others vehicles. It was a lot of fun.

Below, are a few photos of the trucks people brought to the event.

Thank you all for coming out! Read the rest of this entry »

Snow Mountain Wilderness • WCXC
Photo: Gregory MacDonald

A couple of weeks ago my friend Greg, from gadmachine, and I went on a quick trip up to the Mendocino National Forest, south of the Snow Mountain Wilderness. While there, we made some seriously good camp fires. We also set up an interesting camp, that I thought I’d share with you.

We set up two 10′ x 20′ tarps in a roughly A-frame shape. The open ends were parallel with the small valley we were in, so that the breeze could flow through. The top was open so that smoke from the fire could easily escape.  We put the tents in the eaves of the tarps so they were protected from rain. The main thing though was that the tarps reflected the heat of the fire and kept any breezes from blowing in behind us. This made for a comfortable, warm camp even with the temperature around 26˚F (-3˚C).

There was hardly any snow. There’s been precipitation since, so call the ranger’s station if you’re planning to head up there. The campsite, which Greg had scouted years earlier, was a very nice one: flat ground with trees in a nice little valley.

An image gallery and a map with our campsite near Bear Creek pinpointed, can be found after the jump.

Related Links:
Fire Skills: The Elevated Long Fire

Four Essential Campfire Tools for About $30

Read the rest of this entry »

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In a couple of weeks we’ll be having our first West County Explorers Club Meet & Greet. Come down, meet me & Natalie. Meet each other. Hang out. Show off your truck. Have a nice time.

It’ll be Saturday, Feb. 22nd. I thought we could do a two-part deal:

Part 1: 3pm

Meet & Greet and Truck Show & Tell at Bay Area historical relic, Mare Island.
Here’s the location: 38.112815, -122.280988 (+38° 6′ 46.13″, -122° 16′ 51.56”)
Follow the green arrow if you use the link.

Part 2: 5pm

Meet & Greet and Eat & Drink at Bay Area historical bar, Warehouse Cafe in Port Costa, just over the Carquinez Bridge.
Here’s the location for that: 38.046597, -122.182931 (+38° 2′ 47.75″, -122° 10′ 58.55”)

If you can make, let me know through the About page.

See you there!