Archives for category: TRAIL RATINGS
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 »

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

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CBDT 763
Photo: Gregory McDonald

Read the whole post here.

Our last morning out on the CBDT found us patting ourselves on the back for finding such a great campsite. I made us a special breakfast of fresh crepes and hot Masala chai, and we soaked up the sun and the view.

While we were eating we heard some yelling from the road but thought it was hunters. Then, a few moments later, we saw a man walking through the woods towards our camp. He was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and, when he got closer, we could see he was Latino. We called out, “Hello? Hello?” and got no response. We were a little on edge when he walked out of the woods, into our small clearing and stopped. Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_3467
Back on the CBDT on Forest Road 23. Photo: Nik Schulz

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After a little target shooting and a bit of breakfast we got back on Forest Road 23 and continued up the California Backcountry Discovery Trail. We weren’t sure where we would stop for the night but since we were passing by Ruth Lake again, only this time at much higher elevation on the ridge above the lake, we thought we’d find something there.

I don’t know if it had anything to do with my totem pants — a pair of white jeans I painted in the style of Pacific Northwest native art and which seem to convey good fortune on many a situation 🙂 — but we were blown away by the beautiful spot we found.

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CBDT 601
Ruth Lake: Photo: Gregory McDonald

Read the whole post here.

On this part of our trip up the California Backcountry Discovery Trail, we spent a couple of nights at Fir Cove Campground on Ruth Lake. After leaving there we found one of the nicest remote campsites of the trip. Read the rest of this entry »

CBDT 3 - 12
Our camp at Watts Lake. Photo: Gregory McDonald

Our fourth day on the California Backcountry Discovery Trail, found us waking at Watt’s Lake. Our goal for the day was to zig-zag east to Ruth Lake. Unlike Watts Lake, Ruth Lake was bigger than a swimming pool and actually had water in it. From what we’d heard, it was quite nice.

To get there we took 1S07 and 1S11 past the Lassics Botanical Area. One of the mountains looked like a little volcano but our Forest Service stated that this wasn’t the case.

CBDT 4:5 - 02
Photo: Gregory McDonald Read the rest of this entry »

Photo: Gregory McDonald

Our goal for the third day of our trip was to reach the intersecting forks of the Van Deusen River, in the Six Rivers National Forest, southwest of Ruth Lake. I figured we might find a good campsite there. So, at about 10:30am, we broke camp and left our site at 22N63 behind. Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Gregory McDonald

Shortly after getting on the road for our second day on the California Backcountry Discovery Trail, a tiny CRV carrying a long, thin, rip-stop-nylon-clad load on its roof, came clamoring up the rocky trail behind us. In front of us a Toyota Tacoma made its way up the mountain, similarly equipped. We were way out in the forest in traffic.

Soon we figured out what all of the congestion was about. Besides the opening of deer season, people were heading up to Hull Mountain for a hang glider “fly in.” Read the rest of this entry »