Everyone had read about the famous Rubicon Trail. Many of them had seen photographs, but this was an opportunity for them to smell the dirt and actually drive on thegranddadd of all the four-wheel drive trails in the country.
The recent Rubicon Trail Media Ride, hosted by the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs, and the California Off Road Vehicle Association, attracted automotive and outdoor journalists from throughout the Golden State.
Crawling at "record speeds" of about 3 m.p.h., the contingent arrived at the granite slab where Carl Brandt, a member of the Lost Coast 4X4s, who made the trip from Eureka, became the trais first casualty. "I broke an axle and m really disappointed that I cat continue the trip," Brandt said. Anyone who has made many trips across the Rubicon Trail knows that many rigs have faltered in this same spot year-in and year-out.
Gary Voet, who has been an outdoor writer for the Sacramento Bee for more than 30 years, was impressed with the volunteer drivers. "I think the one item that really stuck with me during the trip was the eagerness and willingness of one four-wheeler to help out another four-wheeler," he said. "In just my limited experience with four-wheelers on the ride, I doubt if a fellow four-wheeler in trouble has ever been ignored."
About 4 p.m. that afternoon, the last rig pulled into Spider Lake and many of the drivers and reporters were searching for their fishing poles while Jim and Shirley Bramham were busy preparing steaks and baked potatoes for the trail-weary guests
How can two people with a small supporting cast, buy and cook food for more than 75 people for three days with none of the modern conveniences from home? "Well, it does take a lot of time planning and shopping and we really enjoy the cooking," said Shirley Bramham, as she races from one field kitchen area to another. "We have been doing this for association events for many years and we have developed a pretty good system."
Four-Wheelers Aid Accident Victim
About an hour later, when everyone seemed to be kicking back, an ATV rider came roaring into camp asking for help for a buddy who was seriously injured.
Volunteer driver Jeff Tatro, a California Highway Patrolman and member of the Joaquin Jeepers, scrambled for his emergency medical treatment kit while Carrol Bryant, a member of the Sierra Treasure Hunters, headed for higher ground where his cellular telephone might reach a local search and rescue unit. Bryans club buddy, Chris Collard, immediately jumped into his Toyota pickup and headed to the scene to see if he could help.
It couldt have worked out any better if it had been rehearsed. With the victim suffering a broken ankle, Tatro immediately stabilized the ankle with air-inflated splints and Collard was transporting the victim back to camp when he spotted the helicopter a few hundred yards away. Bryant had gotten through and the helicopter crew lifted the victim in and headed for the hospital.
Watching the rescue operation, Bob Jones of the Carmichael Times, remarked, "I am impressed with the camaraderie and the cooperation of these drivers. They are very quick to help each other and to help others."
Big Sluice Box And Cadillac Hill Still To Come
The journalists were told that if they thought the first day of the trip was challenging, just wait until they experience the next two days down past Buck Island Lake, through the Big Sluice Box and up Cadillac Hill on day three.
On a beautiful, warm morning at Loon Lake, located east of Placerville in the El Dorado National Forest, Jim Bramham, trail boss for the three-day adventure, told the reporters that they were about to embark on a trip that they would talk about for the rest of their lives.
"This trip affords us an opportunity to not only show off the trail and our rigs, but more important, it provides the press with a complete understanding of our passion for the sport and how OHV recreation is managed for everyone," Bramham said.
Hitting the Trail
After brief introductions and an overview of the trail, Bramham led 42 volunteer drivers and 25 reporters through several narrow sections with rocks and trees on both sides. Passage was difficult at one spot with an opening of slightly more than 7 feet. An excellent place to lose a fender guard if you didt approach the spot at a 45-degree angle.
Today, the Rubicon Trail is one of the most written about and photographed four-wheel drive trails in the United States. The narrow passages, rocky climbs and occasional mud holes keep this trail rated as MOST DIFFICULT.
Sid Weiss, a reporter for Peterses Real Edge Magazine, was clearly having the time of his life. "I have heard Disney World is the happiest place on earth," Weiss was telling a friend, "but obviously none of those people have ever been on the Rubicon Trail."
Most of the volunteer drivers proudly showed off the scars on their rigs from previous trips through the Big Sluice Box, described by some as a "mildly suicidal descent that makes a dangerous 45-degree turn soon after a rig enters it."
Precision driving is required here. "Our drivers would frequently discuss alin through difficult passages such as the Big Sluice," Jones said. "To the uninitiated thislin was invisible, or worse, disastrous. But they made it every time, working together like a column of ants."
Everyone made it safely into Rubicon Springs, where they would take a dip, tell stories,and once again partake from the Bramham menu. This is private property owned by 20 people who purchased it in 1985 to ensure that it remains open for all outdoor enthusiasts.
On day three,Cadillac Hill lived up to its billing. This is a true test of man and woman and machine. It is named for an abandoned old car first thought to be a Cadillac, but as this author found out seven years ago writing his first article about the famous trail, the chassis proved to be an old LaSalle - sister to the Cadillac.
Everyone got through the V-Rock, had a great view of where they had been at the observation point, and finally, onto the blacktop at the off-highway vehicle staging area near Lake Tahoe.
Mark Polomik, a reporter for Chek-Chart Publications, summed up his three-day trip: "I can't thank you enough and the other volunteers for a perfect 10 four-wheel drive experience on a 10-rated trail," he said.