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BigMike's 2016 Tacoma Trip & Trail Log

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BigMike's 2016 Tacoma Trip & Trail Log

Old 01-25-2018, 08:44 PM
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We picked up a party member at Ellis Creek who was having some steering issues, so we stopped to get it fixed.



No problem at all packing my gear with the bed bobbed. What's especially nice and new-to-me is putting my sleeping bag/pillow/duffel bag in the Access Cab. This Tacoma is really nice.



Climbing up Walker Hill



I think I had the tires aired down to 5 PSI and these KRAWLER tires were working good but because so many things were so new to me it was difficult to say how good systems were working. It was a lot of focus for the trail with poor visibility of the humongous Tacoma hood and body lines plus having to rush to move the group through the trail quickly with minimal stops.



Continuing up Walker Hill...



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Old 01-25-2018, 08:45 PM
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This is a spot I really enjoy in my 1981 Hilux, especially on the way back out the trail. If you take it to the right then you can encounter a deceivingly difficult section where you often see trucks walk right through it and others really, really hung up. It's all about proper tire placement and is extra challenging because you approach it in a small climb resulting in zero visibility over the crest.



I wanted to play here but as you can see even stopping for a picture caused the group to catch up to me.



Stopping for the group to catch up again after the long-since-closed famous 'Thousand Dollar Hill' where Marlin engaged the World's first Triple Transfer Case on a very steep and dangerous descent for the very first time back in 1996.





Approaching the famous Little Sluice!

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Old 01-25-2018, 08:47 PM
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The first time a 3rd gen Tacoma tackles the Little Sluice? Maybe!





Picture sequence for your viewing delight


(2.28MB gif)
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Old 01-25-2018, 08:49 PM
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Another sequence. BIG THANKS to Amanda, the official TLCA event photographer, for these awesome pictures!!


(3.29MB gif)

Made easy work of the Sluice Box! Of course nowadays the Sluice is only a shadow of it's former difficult glory. You can still get crossed up in here but it is far easier than it was in the hay days of the early 2000s.



(RE the Lil Sluice: It's a long story but at the turn of the century people were winching and rolling large boulders into the trail to make it harder and nearly impassable for anything less than a Truggy. To keep this short, it basically turned into a real party spot. With continued roll overs raising increased concern of soil contamination the Rubicon Trail Foundation worked with the El Dorado National Forest to dynamite the boulders and make the trail passable again for most vehicles. It wouldn't have been such a problem if not for the fact that this is the actual trail; Not a bypass. A difficult bypass is maybe okay, but when the right-of-way to the trail begins causing so much issues and attracting environmentalists, that's red-flag enough that something needs to be done before we lose the entire trail altogether. Welcome to California.)
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Old 01-25-2018, 08:50 PM
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I stopped on the backside of the Little Sluice area to make sure we all made it through the Sluice Box.



Nice flex shot. Front tires pushing the fenders up. That's not good.



Rear tire is doing some self-clearancing back there hahaha Nice

As mentioned in my build thread, I wasn't too concerned about this because I'll be doing a lot of trimming at the end of the season.

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Old 01-25-2018, 08:52 PM
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Get'n my feet wet











The section in the photo below is one of my favorite places on the Rubicon. I can chat about it for a while. I built my Hilux to the same width as an FJ80 Land Cruiser (even wider in the front @ 67" WMS) and have never been able to take the direct/straight path along the right side due to being so wide that it pitches my cab into the huge boulder on the driver' side. So I always go up the left. This section is both deceptively easy and hard. There are times when I walk right through it and other times when I get super hung up and have to stack rocks. I've spotted dozens of rigs through here. Pickups, 4Runners, FJ40s, Wagons, Truggys and Formula Toyotas. It is really fun.

Now for the Tacoma.... Oh man. Oh man. The Tacoma is even bigger than my Hilux so I took my normal line up the left and this was the first time I really noticed how awful the ground clearance is on this truck. I got hung up and had to back up a few times. Never got stuck but certainly could not take the same lines I'm used. It was a lot of mental adjusting. At the far end there is a sharp crest with a sizeable drop-off through which you must crank it hard driver to clear the side of the hill which makes the drop-off even worse. I must have slid down the full length of my All Pro EX Sliders. On my Hilux - with the same 37" size tires - I do not even contact my sliders here. The 9" ground clearance difference despite being on the same size tires truly hurts the Tacoma's off-road performance (discussed in my build thread).

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Old 01-25-2018, 08:55 PM
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After this there are a few tough exposed ledges and then the fun descent down the slabs begins

We came up to a couple of our long time customers, one of which was "83 TOY" who grabbed some simple footage of me in action:


I did this with the transmission in 1st gear (3.98:1), the Transfer Case in 4WD High Range (1.00:1), and our TacoBox in Low Range (4.70:1). With my 4.88:1 R&P, this results in a 91.29:1 final drive ratio. With this low of a ratio regardless if it's an automatic or stick shift setup, the engine compression braking is multiplied so much that on terrain like this the truck has no trouble holding itself back without having to use any brakes. All you gotta do is point-and-shoot with full driver control. Any tire slip or loss of traction is actually safer than using brakes because the tire never stops: It is continuously very slowly rotating even while undergoing slip, which, *drum roll* is the same principle behind ABS brakes (kinetic > static friction).

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Old 01-25-2018, 08:59 PM
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I stopped to chat and catch-up with good friends and took a walk around the truck. Not trimming enough was taking its toll but I wasn't too worried about it





This, however, I do not like. Once the fender is trimmed nearly to the door this should straighten out some



Flare separation due to the bed side being pushed under. This will make the flares easier to remove later



Plastic parts not so happy



I can take this stuff lightly because I have a strong and clear vision for the truck. Please do not mistake this for carelessness. One step at a time!
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Old 01-25-2018, 09:00 PM
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Once down the slabs there are a few more tricky sections before Buck Island Lake but nothing the DUAL CASE TACOMA cannot handle!





Stopping to regroup and take a quick lunch at Buck Island Campground



From there I pushed and didn't stop to regroup until about a quarter down the Big Sluice



Regrouped and doing good!



Here is the famous picture that made it on the 16th Annual Marlin Crawler Round Up Shirt!!

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:02 PM
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And that's it for the Big Sluice!

Ok guys, I have to comment on something I definitely remember about my experience with the Tacoma and the Big Sluice.

Because we barely stopped on our way through, none of the pictures illustrate this, but when one of our employees asked me how the Big Sluice was I said, "I imagine it was like giving birth to a full size Saint Bernard". Seriously. This truck is freak'n huge compared to my Hilux. I took all my normal lines and had to use Dual Ultimate 1st gear multiple times to avoid body damage. I'm definitely looking forward to more practice on the Big Sluice because that was a lot of work. I'll need to adjust many of my usual lines through there. I didn't need a spotter and never got stuck or had to get out, it was just a lot of finessing. I haven't worked that hard to get through that section of the 'Con in a long, long time.
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Old 01-25-2018, 09:05 PM
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Continuing towards the Rubicon River







This spot is now becoming one of the hardest parts of the entire trail. Just when you think you're off the hill you get hit with this section which seems to get harder and harder every year. There are a few tight sections that make it impossible to pass, so if someone breaks down in the road that's it, full-on traffic jam.

Tight, technical obstacles like this are also done without using any brakes thanks to how slow and how much control the Marlin Crawler TacoBox provides.


(3.66MB gif)

Got through without a scratch!

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:06 PM
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Sweet shot with a glimpse of the red TacoBox



Finally made it to the Green Bridge (which Marlin helped build back in the 1980s!)





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Old 01-25-2018, 09:07 PM
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One more fun spot before the Springs Campground


(2.24MB gif)

And we made it! This was a smooth day for us, didn't have to stop to repair any Land Cruisers!







Home away from home!

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:08 PM
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The next day during the main event I was asked if I'd like to park my Tacoma between the kitchen and the stage which was really awesome! Thank you Toyota Land Cruiser Association!





And check this out! I got my first award for having the newest rig! Maybe I'll win it again next year

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:09 PM
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Sunday morning

Because we run the trail on Friday and have multiple rigs in our group who tow, we always head out the same way we came in on Sunday to get back to everyone's tow rigs.

But not me. Not only do I not tow, but I was on a mission. I had to become the first 3rd gen to complete the Rubicon! So I continued on by myself to complete the trail up Cadillac Hill and through to Lake Tahoe.

Here I am warming the truck up early Sunday morning before others had woke up



I had Trevor (one of our sales guys) ride shotgun with me in case I needed help and we didn't stop even once almost to the very top of Cadillac Hill.

Here is a sequence climbing up and around Morris Rock


(2.32MB gif)
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Old 01-25-2018, 09:12 PM
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Before I discuss what happened next, TLCA chapter clubs across the country (mostly from CA) volunteer to help with spotting of difficult sections throughout this 6-day Rubithon event. Spotters on Sunday morning are very important because the event has 150+ rigs all trying to get out of the Springs Campground and any delays can add hours to your Sunday travel back home. So it is awesome that people volunteer to spot.

Like every year there were spotters at the bottom and at the top of Cadillac Hill that morning. Usually when spotters see a rig from our Marlin Crawler group they crack jokes and ask us if we even know where the ignition key goes and so on, but on days like this these volunteers are tasked with getting dozens and dozens of rigs up Cadillac Hill as smoothly as possible so it's all business here.

The #1 golden rule is always watch and follow your spotter. Their job is to direct you and your job is to put away distractions and listen to them. Yes, there is a limit to which you should know your own and truck's ability, and you can freely request to not be spotted, but on large events like this when people just want to get home proper trail etiquette is to mind the spotters and don't show off.

But... This guy...



At the last hard spot of the day... Eating his morning bundt cake...



Decided to direct me here



WHEN THERE IS A MILE OF ROAD TO MY RIGHT SIDE >_<



To make it worse, the guy was asking me to also go over the above rock at this location which would only pitch my body deeper into the driver's side rock.

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:17 PM
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He even did the same to the guy in front of me (who is a customer of ours, what's up Jon!) but that guy isn't driving a truck as large as a 1st gen Tundra like I am so I got into a huge mess!

Tons and tons of room to the right but for some reason he is directing everyone very close to the rocks at the left



About the spotter: It is hard for me to complain. The sun hadn't even come up yet, the poor guy hadn't even had breakfast yet, and after all he was a volunteer. It is great that spotters exist. I've had some bad spotting in my days and in my opinion you just do what you can and make the most out of it. I don't blame him for this; Probably he has never tried spotting a vehicle almost 20% wider than a 1960s Land Cruiser. It didn't help that I cannot see jackcrap out of the cab of the Tacoma due to how huge the dang thing is and had no clue myself that there was a smooth runway 3-feet wide to the passenger's side...

Here is the pickle he directed me into. Millimeters away from disaster:



That was it. My perfect, flawless virgin Rubicon trip had come to an end: I had got stuck and now required help and wasn't sure if I'd make it without body damage.

I held up traffic so more hands showed up to help. I couldn't move forward or rearward without taking damage and had to remain hard on my brakes. Most people were just standing around watching when a second volunteer spotter came running up from the bottom and wow that guy really took charge and organized everyone to start helping. He was a real go-getter unlike Mr Redshirt McMuffin Breakfast eater over there.

After a few carefully positioned Hi-Lift jacks the eager guy who ran up to help asked, "Can you try to go as slow as possible?" to which I replied, "Sure, I've got 28 gears, how slow would you like me to go?" haha That was classic!

I fired the engine up in 1st gear Dual Ultimate, slowly pivoted over two hi-lift jacks, and I was clear scot-free!! I sure wished I could have shook the hands of that guy who ran up to help. That guy was a real leader when it comes to vehicle recovery and I'd love to thank him for getting me out of that mess dent free!

My goals for this trip were (1) to be the first 3rd gen through the Rubicon, (2) without getting stuck, (3) without requiring any spotting, and (4) without taking any body damage. I ALMOST accomplished all goals except for the very last hard spot of the trail which could have ended so much worse. I was so happy to get my 14-month old Tacoma through without jacking my cab and freshly re-painted/bobbed bed sides. WHEW.

Here is a final pic while idling forward in Dual Ultimate 1st gear, slowly moving away from disaster:


Last edited by BigMike; 01-27-2018 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 01-25-2018, 09:21 PM
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Fortunately, against the spotters advice, I had seen the impending doom and had stopped in time. Without the added reaction time from the Marlin Crawler, I would have tagged that rock pretty good.

Getting the hell outta that section has never felt so good


(1.96MB gif)

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:31 PM
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And we're done! Made it to the top unscathed and before the sunlight!





"I LOVE WHAT YOU DO FOR ME, MARLIN CRAWLER!"



Cool shot in the sunlight before exiting the trail



And finally, a good 8 hours later, drove back to Fresno & parked outside Rock Crawling World Headquarters

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Old 01-25-2018, 09:39 PM
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The First 3rd Gen Tacoma through the Rubicon Trail?

So, did I make it as the First 3rd Gen Tacoma to complete the Rubicon trail? This is sure what I thought when I
with these pictures to our Marlin Crawler Facebook Page back on 7/19/2016 and even got a
for the accomplishment

Reasons why I thought I was the first:
1. Before the trip I had asked prominent magazine editors if anyone had submitted an article about this and none had.
and
2. The Rubicon trail itself had only been open for less than a week before we got there so this meant someone would have had to run the trail last year when fewer aftermarket parts were available for the new Tacoma.

A few days after posting my trip report to Facebook someone commented if a popular YouTuber hadn't already done the Rubicon trail in his 3rd gen Tacoma. I was quite surprised. Then someone posted a photo of a white 3rd gen Tacoma illegally driven backwards about three truck lengths into McKinney Lake. Horrible, horrible thing to do and just one more bad-apple example as to why "us off-roaders are destroying the planet". But McKinney Lake is NOT part of the Rubicon Trail and can be accessed with a 3-cylinder Geo Metro. So that is no proof it was done.

I spent some time searching around and discovered that in fact the YouTuber and former Disney Channel star Jake Paul did in fact get his 2016 Tacoma through the Rubicon, or at least his dad did it for him, before me. Yes, Jake Paul, the brother of Japanese people-hater and Japanese society-hater Logan Paul (Search YouTube for video ID: JNlOVdTQEIM) who profited from finding an actual dead body hanging in Japan's very sad "suicide forest" and then made a bunch of jokes at the dead body. My wife, my family in southern Japan, all our Japanese friends are outraged over this. Yes, that guy's brother's truck was the first 3rd gen to get through the Rubicon. Unbelievable.

I found pictures of his white 3rd gen TRD Off Road at the new Loon Lake Rubicon sign, parked at the Springs Campground, and another of it on the trail with his Dad driving and a caption thanking his Dad for how much work and effort it was getting his truck through the trail. His truck is on 35s with full body armor and they did it one week after our Round Up event last September. Conveniently that is after thousands of trucks had the trail paved easy with stacked rocks galore. Arrgggg. Sucks because I was scheduled to take mine one week before him to last year's Round Up event, but as discussed in my build thread (reply #254) that never happened. After learning this I remember thinking of all the people to beat me to it, why-oh-why did it have to be that guy...

BUT! Get this! About a month later a friend reminded me that technically neither of us completed the Rubicon trail: We both entered from Loon Lake which is not the official entrance to the trail! That's right! There is still an opportunity to become the first 3rd gen through the official, full Rubicon trail which on all forest service maps starts at Wentworth Springs, and this is something I plan to do soon!

So who then is the first 3rd gen Taco to make it through the Official Rubicon Trail? We'll have to wait to find out!!

Last edited by BigMike; 01-25-2018 at 10:40 PM.
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