2012 Jeep Wrangler on the Rubicon Trail, July 8-9, 2011


"Put your wheel right on the rock!"

Here are a few of my previously unshared pictures from last summer’s adventure in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Automobile Magazine assigned me to participate in the “long-lead” press preview of the 2012 Wrangler, which received a new engine and transmission for the model year. Jeep flew in writers from 4 Wheel & Off Road, Autoweek, Car and Driver, Four Wheeler, Popular Mechanics, and Road & Track. On July 7, everybody arrived in Reno and shuttled up to Squaw Valley. The next morning we drove Wrangler Saharas from Squaw along the northwestern shore of Lake Tahoe before turning west into the Eldorado National Forest and finding the trailhead at Airport Flat (seen, right). There were a few campers and lots of interesting trail rigs. At this point, we climbed into Wrangler Rubicons for the traversal. The Saharas were driven back to Squaw by Jeep’s support staff members.

As mentioned in my Times story, winter had hung on a long time in the Sierra, and the trail only opened recently. In fact, we were told snow remained on the upper part, which we wouldn’t even attempt because it meant doing very technical four-wheeling and there wasn’t  time allotted for this. Besides, think of the mess! So we would camp at Rubicon Springs the first night and fly out from Observation Point next morning. Meantime, there was quite a lot of traffic on the trail as various clubs and groups took advantage of the season’s first opportunity, which was only a few days after the July 4 weekend. Trail workers said they’d never seen conditions so challenging, with lots of rocks and water obstacles. And the mechanical breakdowns of some of the more experimental rigs held up everybody.

This eye-catcher happened to be fitted with a four-wheel steering system. You can see the rear wheel is bending in. But I think there was a mechanical problem that needed to be addressed because he laid by the side of the trail after clearing this obstacle.
The all-stock Wrangler Rubicons in our press fleet handled everything on the trail.
Well, yes, the strap did come out once.
Darkness had fallen when we finally got into camp at Rubicon Springs. The piano player jangled away everybody's fatigue, though. There was a late steak dinner, and then we went to bed.
And I'll be damned if the piano player wasn't back again at about 5.30 a.m., tickling those ivories and waking us in our individual tents.
The morning's first trail challenge was Cadillac Hill. (Jeep conquers Cadillac!) During the climb, ace photographer A.J. Mueller got a cheesecake shot of Sourdough Hill.
Soon after Cadillac Hill, we arrived at Observation Point, and the chopper took us back to Squaw Valley, three reporters at a time.
Back to Squaw Valley and the hotel, which is tucked away in the trees.
Jon Yanca, of Car and Driver, used my camera to snap this portrait of me at Observation Point.