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Winter Run on the Rubicon Trail
December, 1999

by Lance Clifford

Ahhh the winter run.... One of my all-time personal favorites. It's the only time that the Rubicon is a true test for the hard-core four wheel drive. Or maybe it's the true test of the hard core four wheeler... Man and machine vs. Mother Nature.

We have been doing our winter run as an annual event for years. We have had some memorable ones, like getting two feet of snow overnight and driving out in whiteout/blizzard conditions, and hoping like hell we are gonna make it out! Sound like your idea of fun? Well it does to us!

I planned to meet up with Dimitri at Loon Lake Friday night after work. I had rigged up a soft top for my Land Cruiser, because I had anticipated a cold weekend. I'm glad I did! When I arrived at the first dam, the wind was blowing so hard I thought it was going to blow my Land Cruiser right off the dam! Of course the road was covered with snow, so I had to stop right on the dam and lock my hubs in!

On I went (alone) to the second dam. The wind was REALLY kicking up, and it was cold as hell. Once in four wheel drive, I was able to haul ass to the second dam. I drove down to the spillway, and aired down. Dimitri wasn't there yet, and I was hoping he would get there soon! I was ready to wheel! I aired my Boggers down to about 2½-3 psi, and waited. Oh man, I was so glad I put that top on! While I didn't have a heater in the truest sense, I did bring a little propane heater I bought at Payless last year. I bungee corded it to the roll cage, and it actually kept me halfway warm! After about an hour, Dimitri came rolling across the dam. Yeah baby! It was time to ROCK!!!! Dimitri rolled down to where I was, aired down, and we hauled ass.... Our goal was to hit Spider Lake. Maniac, Vince, Troy, Lane, Dan, Mike, and crew were already at Spider waiting for us.

The snow was nice and powdery, and very fresh... There wasn't much, only about a foot. We cruised down the slabs without incident, but Dimitri really had to light it up the other side of the slab to make it up, since he was open front and rear. Sure, he's open front and rear, but for an open rig, that little TJ does excellent! (and no, it ain't the driver! ;)

Once we got to the top of the slabs, we shifted into high gear and blazed through the trees... Unfortunately, Dimitri undercalculated through a tight spot, and clipped a stump with his driver's tire. He promptly lost his steering, due to a broken tie rod end. BUMMER!

We decided that it would be best if I made the journey to Spider Lake alone, so that I could call Jeff or Ron, to bring in a tie rod end the following morning.

So I took off, and headed for Spider. The Cruiser was running great, and it was kicking butt in the low traction conditions. I made it to Walker hill in a matter of minutes (4th gear ;) and that's were the carnage began.....

I hit the base of Walker, and all four tires just spun hopelessly. There was a nice sheet of ice to make Walker very interesting. I made several futile attempts at low speed, and soon realized that this was going to require some small block 400 juice, if I planned on making it. Since my winch was sitting on the garage floor at home and I was alone, this was my only option!

I backed up about 20 feet, threw her into 3rd gear, and hit it hard. The 400 roared to life, the wheels began to spin like mad, and momentum was quickly gained. But not quite enough momentum! I slid sideways and into a big boulder, and blew my passenger STUPIDwinch locking hub!

Great, since my spare hubs were sitting right next to my winch (on the garage floor!) I was gonna have to do something! I tried to make it with the broken hub, but I couldn't even get over the first little rock. I needed to have power to my front passenger tire, not the driver's tire. So I hopped out and yanked the good hub off the driver's side, and installed it on the passenger side.

Ok, now I was realllly gonna have to hit it with some mo-jo since I'm down the 3 wheel drive! ;)

I backed up as far as I could, and hit it with all I had.... I made it about as far as I did the first time, and did the exact same thing I did the first time! But instead of breaking a hub, I busted a brand new "Super Duty" alloy u-joint! I saw it shoot about 20 feet in my headlights! Come awn!!!!!

Well now I was looking rather crippled. A broken hub, and a broken u-joint... I was now in 2 wheel drive since the good hub was on the broken u-joint side. I decided to turn around and motor back to where Dimitri was and call it a night. I hauled ass back in 2 wheel drive without incident. Man, what a night of carnage! I was pretty bummed about it all, but what can one expect when they are getting it on as hard as I was? I was totally my fault since I didn't remember to bring my spare parts (hubs.)

It was a c-c-c-c-olllld night that night, so I attemped to sleep in my rig. I froze my ass off, while that bastard Dimitri slept in his heated TJ. Of course the next day I discover that there was enough room for me in his Jeep, and I didn't have to freeze. Oh well. LOL

The next morning Dimi and I took apart our rigs, and waited for the rest of the boys to motor in. We knew that Ron had his Link Arc welder, and could fix Dimi's tie rod end no problem. Sean or someone would most likely have a u-joint and hub for me.

We walked to the top of the slabs and waited for the gang to show up. Man, I was suprised at the turnout! Lots of rigs! They slowly made their way to us, slipping and sliding up the icy slabs.

We all cruised back to the injured rigs, and promptly began repair procedures. When I tried to put a new u-joint into the Warn axle, it wouldn't fit. After close inspection, it was found that the Warn axle was actually twisted! Yikes, I guess I really was getting it awn!

Sean had a complete spare axle, so I used it instead. While it was a little shorter than mine, it was long enough to work. 30 minutes later, she was ready to rock...

Ron and Dimitri had patched up the TJ in about the same time, so it was time to hit the trail. We now had a huge caravan of rigs, about 10 or so, I would guess. We all motored without incident, till we arrived at Walker Hill. While everyone gave it a valiant effort, Walker Hill won in the end. Not one person was able to make it without winching.... That is, until Billy Bob arrived on the scene Saturday night. His Jeep made short work of Walker Hill's zero traction conditions. Of course his V8 and 39.5" Boggers didn't hurt either!

We all rolled into camp which was in the trees about 2 minutes before Little Sluice. I quickly unloaded my rig, and then headed straight for Little Sluice! It was time to play!!!

Gary and Steve were in front of me, and Steve was trying to get over the first big rock in the Sluice. He was having difficulty due to the severely slippery icy conditions. All four tires were begging for traction, but there was none to be found. After a several good tries, he pulled out the winch cable and winched over the rock. He then tried to get through the second part, but was having difficulty there as well. Again, the winch cable came out.

Gary was next, and he too was having trouble finding traction. While Gary was attempting the Sluice, all the bystanders began a snowball fight. I had to pay attention to my surroundings, to avoid getting nailed in the face with a snowball! It wasn't looking good for Gary. He gave it a few more shots, and then pulled off to the side to let me give it a shot. Realizing the lack of traction, I knew that I was going to have to hit it just right, and with a lot of speed! ;)

I backed up about 15 feet, and hit it in 3rd gear. I aimed for Toyota rock, and figured I would go big, and do the high line. It was either gonna work, or it wasn't! The Cruiser bounced right up the first rock, and right up the high line. In a matter of seconds, I was through the whole sluice box! Now that HAD to be the fastest run period all year! Who else can say they have done Little Sluice in 3rd gear, at about 4500 rpms? hahahaha

Steve and I blazed up onto the Slabs, and played around in the fresh powder. We had a great time racing up and down the slabs since all of the rocks were covered with snow. We scooted up to Spider Lake to see if it was frozen, and low and behold, it was. Steve threw a cantaloupe sized rock onto the ice, and it bounced. Pretty solid!

We motored back on down to the action in the Sluice, and Ron and Sean had managed to haul ass through the box as well. I was able to witness Sean's run through, and he pretty much got it AWN! He laughed at it in 3rd gear like I did! We would be the only 3 to make it all weekend without a winch.

Steve drove down Toyota rock and I was right behind him. Since we were driving through virgin snow, we didn't slide much. But from what I hear, the rest of the guys had a nice sled ride down Toyota rock! We headed back to camp, and found a nice fire to warm us up. I decided to find a good place to sleep, when I eyed Troy's camp spot. He had his truck and Lane's truck parked about 10 feet apart, with a tarp ceiling, and walls, and a WOODSTOVE inside! I did some negotiating, and was able to secure a spot right next to the woodstove for the night. Come awn!!!

That night we all partied around the campfire, and rocked out to Vince's and Dimtri's stereos. Billy Bob, Jeff, and Timbo rolled in, in the evening to join the party. Billy Bob was the only one to make it up Walker Hill, and apparently it was a sight to behold.

The next morning, we all packed up, and headed out. Lots of people had trouble getting right out of camp, as the hill was severely iced up.

One by one everyone made it, and we were all on our way. I figured the slabs were going to be very interesting, and was kicking around going out Wentworth Springs with Gary and Steve. They had planned on going out that way so they could dance with some icebergs.

I decided that the slabs would be a lot of fun, so I went with the rest of the group out Loon Lake. Sure enough, the first few people to hit the base of the slabs, spun their tires hopelessly. Once again, momentum and power was key! I hit the slabs in 4th gear full throttle, and made it to the top nooo problem. I got out, climbed up on my hood, and yelled, "COME AWWWWWN!!" to everyone. Ron was next, and he had the pedal to the metal! He was making that 6 cylinder earn it's paycheck! He made it to the top, and we watched the rest of the group. The rigs with power and lockers front and rear were able to make it without much trouble, while the ones lacking the aforementioned features had lots of trouble. After a good hour, everyone was to the top, and we were on our way. It turned out to be a great weekend of fun, although I was disappointed in my carnage count.

I am really looking forward to our next snow run, but I'm hoping to see a little more snow this time!

- Lance, Club Webmaster