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Thread: TRANSFORMATION of the RUBICON : Before & After Photos 5 Years in the Making

  1. #1
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Post TRANSFORMATION of the RUBICON : Before & After Photos 5 Years in the Making

    When word got out that the Little Sluice was going to be altered from the state it had been in for almost 20 years, people were in an uproar. And, truth be told, I can't say I was exactly thrilled by the news either. However, while the recent transformation of the Little Sluice was big news, it was only significant because it was an iconic obstacle on the Rubicon Trail. The sad thing is, there have been work crews on the Rubicon quietly filling in rock gardens with crushed rocks, removing massive boulders, chopping down trees and closing off obstacles from end to end for quite some time now. Many of these changes have occured in just the last 5 years and surprisingly, with little to no resistance. While I understand these changes are being made with good intensions, it sure has been a tough pill to swallow. Looking through some of our old photos, I was surprised to see just how much has changed and thought that some of you might be interested in seeing them as well.

    The Gatekeeper
    Up until about 2005, the very first 100 yards or so of the Rubicon Trail's Loon Lake entrance was strewn with large boulders and was given the name, The Gatekeeper. As the name implies, if you couldn't get through this first section of trail, it'd be in your best interest to turn around and head back home. Even after the biggest rocks were cleared, the Gatekeeper still offered some challenge up unti about 2010. After that time, work crews came in to crack up more of the big boulders and fill in the rest of the voids with crushed rock.

    Gatekeeper Before (2010)


    Gatekeeper After (2011)


    The Trough
    There used to be a length of trail just past Ellis Creek that split off in two with one side requiring you to climb a large granite boulder to the left, and the other having you work your way through a boulder and log strewn trench to the right. I don't know if this lower section of trail had an official name but, we always referred to it as "The Trough". As of 2011, this lower section has been permanently closed off.

    The Trough Before (2009)


    The Trough After
    Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of what it looks like now as it has been closed.

    Quarter Panel Rock
    Up until about 2009, there used to be a large boulder that was situated about half way between Ellis Creek and the Soup Bowl. In a small, short wheel base Jeep like a TJ or CJ, it was easy enough to get around but, doing it in a wide and long 4-door JK did take some effort. Well, that is, assuming you didn't want to take out your driver side rear quarter panel anyway. Unfortunately, this obstacle has been completely removed.

    Quarter Panel Rock Before (2009)
    To get by in a 4-door JK, you had to come up high on the passenger side rock wall...




    Quarter Panel Rock After (2012)
    Here you can see that the boulder is completely missing and the trail is now super wide here...


    Snorkel Eater
    Just past Quarter Panel Rock, there used to be a significantly off camber length of trail that wasn't actually scary to traverse as the most that would happen is that you'd tip your passenger side windshield header into a rock and earthen wall. Moving through this obstacle slowly, that was easy enough to do but, if you had a snorkel, the odds of you taking it out here were pretty good. Sometime before the summer of 2011, sky cranes dropped large boulders into the trench effectively eliminating it.

    Snorkel Eater Before (2010)




    Snorkel Eater After (2012)




    Cell Phone Rock
    Just past Walker Hill, there used to be a large boulder on the exposed side of a shelf section of trail and, it was here that AT&T users could get one last hit of 3G phone service - hence, why we always called it Cell Phone Rock. Honestly, why this boulder was removed is beyond me but, as of the summer of 2012, it was no longer there.

    Cell Phone Rock Before


    Cell Phone Rock After (2012)


    Soup Bowl
    The Soup Bowl was always one of those big enough and crazy enough obstacles that most would drive by and not even realize it was something people took on. Back in the day, there used to be a big boulder that made starting your approach difficult. The best you could do is wiggle your way in a bit and then back right into the rock to get yourself lined up. For a lot of rigs, this meant smashing a tail light and there was always plenty of evidence of that. Unfortunately, that rock has since been removed and, while it's still a challenging obstacle to climb, it's just not the same without that menacing tail light crusher in the way.

    Soup Bowl Before (2010)


    Soup Bowl After (2012)


    Little Sluice
    Of course, what would a before and after photo essay on the Rubicon Trail be without a few shots of the Little Sluice. I should note that the before shots represent what the Little Sluice looked like since about 1994. I've been told by well respected old timers that before then, it was just another 100 feet along the Rubicon Trail. Even after it's recent transformation, they've assured me that it's still a lot harder than it was.

    Little Sluice Before


    Little Sluice After (Oct 2012)


    Little Sluice Before


    Little Sluice After (Oct 2012)


    Little Sluice Before


    Little Sluice After (Oct 2012)


    Thousand Dollar Hill
    Just past the Little Sluice, there used to be a rocky descent called Thousand Dollar Hill. As the saying went, "it'd cost you a thousand dollars everytime you went down it" or, something to that extent. It's been my recent understanding that this section of trail actually crossed over private property and because of it, has since been closed. As of the summer of 2012, you can no longer access it.

    Thousand Dollar Hill Before


    Thousand Dollar Hill After
    Being that this section of trail is closed, I do not have a current photo of what it looks like now.

    Thousand Dollar Hill - Alternate Route
    While this alternate route down Thousand Dollar Hill may have at one time been a bypass for the main descent, years of harsh winters did a good job of chewing it up and, in my opinion, made it a lot more technical and challenging. With the main route closed off, this alternate route has been cleared of it's boulders and level to the point where no challenge is present today.

    Thousand Dollar Hill - Alternate Route Before


    Thousand Dollar Hill - Alternate Route After (Oct 2012)


    The Big Sluice
    Unlike the Little Sluice, the Big Sluice was a section of trail that couldn't be bypassed. Coming down and around the switchback, most people had to stop regardless of how built up their rig was just so that they could size up the boulders and pick a good line through them. More times than not, lesser rigs would end up getting high centered here and required a strap or a winch off the rocks and, there have even been a few people who've put their rigs on their lid here. While there had been some minor modification made to the top of the Big Sluice in recent years, as 2012, it's become a super highway complete with retaining walls. Of all changes made on the Rubicon, this one is at top of the list of being is a real disappointment.

    The Big Sluice Before


    The Big Sluice After (Oct 2012)


    The Big Sluice Before


    The Big Sluice After (Oct 2012)


    The Big Sluice Before


    The Big Sluice After (Oct 2012)


    The Off Camber Squeeze
    Being as tough as it was and, being something that pretty much everyone had to do, the Off Camber Squeeze was probably one of the most well known obstacle on the entire Rubicon Trail. Located about half way down the Big Sluice, this obstacle was essentially a big rock, split in half by a tree growing out of it and, one that was planted right in the middle of the trail. While you could go around on either side of this rock, the most common side forced you to climb very high on a parallel slab and lean you dangerously close to it. While certain death was far from eminent, taking out a mirror, busting out a window or, laying some deep scratches in your body was always a real possibility. As of September 2012, this obstacle has been removed.

    The Off Camber Squeeze Before


    The Off Camber Squeeze After (Oct 2012)


    The Tree Squeeze
    Immediately after the Off Camber Squeeze, there used to be another rock planted squarely in the middle of the trail and, if you had the articulation and clearance, you could go around it to the left. For everyone else, going around it on the right was simple enough and only required that you carefully squeeze between it and two small trees. As of September 2012, those two trees have been removed.

    The Tree Squeeze Before


    The Tree Squeeze After (Oct 2012)


    Cadillac Hill Boulder Squeeze
    Named after an old Cadilla that sat for years abandoned at the top of this rocky climb, this last stretch of trail connecting Rubicon Springs to Lake Tahoe has always been known for breaking down rigs. On a busy weekend, it's not uncommon to be stuck for hours waiting for a rig to get fixed and or pulled to a point where others can pass. One of the toughest spots along the way used to be soon after leaving Rubicon Springs and just past the first switchback. At this point, there used to be two large boulders that sat just wide enough apart that you could wiggle a small TJ though in between them but, in a much wider and longer 4-door JK, you had to really put your rocker guards to the test. As of the summer of 2012, one of the two boulders has been removed and this is no longer an obstacle.

    Cadillac Hill Boulder Squeeze Before


    Cadillac Hill Boulder Squeeze After (2012)


    While there have been plenty of other changes made to the trail, these are the only ones that I had photos of. With any luck, an update to this thread will not be necessary in the future.

  2. #2
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Please note that I just added a couple more photos to the thread and they show a before and after comparison of the Soup Bowl. If you've already looked at all the pics, you might want to hit refresh and give it another look.

  3. #3
    Hooked matt1171's Avatar
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    This is still on my Off-Road bucket list. Since I've never been on the Rubicon before it will still be an adventure for me.

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    Hooked Blonda's Avatar
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    Wow, I agree with you, the Big Sluice looks like the biggest disappointment of all

  5. #5
    Old Timer RockyJk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt1171
    This is still on my Off-Road bucket list. Since I've never been on the Rubicon before it will still be an adventure for me.
    Same here its a shame that all those changes have been done but its a trail i gotta do before i die hahaha

  6. #6
    Knows a Thing or Two metalic's Avatar
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    Are they changing the name to The X/Sport Trail? lol

    I will never have a rig to take on the old obstacles it's still sickening to see money wasted on destroying nature.

  7. #7
    Nothing but a Thing rinkishjk's Avatar
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    Wow your comparison pics really tell a story.. I remember watching your maple run with the canucks and u guys going down big sluice, and from ur pics I saw it looks nothing like it did on the video.
    I still jam to volbeat and that song when he pops his spare on the wag bag I think it's called. One of my favorite videos u guys made!

  8. #8
    Old Timer JKAnimal's Avatar
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    WOW those are great before and after pics! It is amazing how much "damage" the county can to to a trail!! What ever happened to keeping it "natural"?

    Hopefully they won't keep dumming it down. There are alot of us out here who would like to have a turn at some really challenging trails!

  9. #9
    Caught the Bug PlenaBarba's Avatar
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    Wow, that is quite a change. Still on the bucket list for sure, but I think I better get there sooner rather than later. . .

  10. #10
    Administrator wayoflife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blonda View Post
    Wow, I agree with you, the Big Sluice looks like the biggest disappointment of all
    what we've always liked about the big sluice was that there were no bypasses on it. on some years, it was the one section of trail that took the longest to get through and really, that's where some of the best experiences occured. there are still lines that you can take that are tough but now, they are optional.

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