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.