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Ultimate Adventure 2016 - Day 6 Recap #UA2016

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2016 on June 28, 2016
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Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

In yet another twist of Ultimate Adventure, Day 6 was a camp night. Normally the UA spends the first and last two nights in a hotel and camps for the four days in between, but this year, due to the longer trails out West, the group spent a night on the Rubicon and another iconic trail: Fordyce Creek. Though perhaps not quite as famous as the Rubicon, Fordyce is another very well-known trail that has been around for decades. In fact, frequent contributor and gifted photographer Harry Wagner told a story of going over Fordyce for the first time in the back of an FJ-40 at six month old nearly 40 years prior. Originally created for gold mining, the trail has roots back to the original gold rush days and there is ample evidence of early mining efforts with trailside mining equipment throughout its length. In short, if the Rubicon is on your bucket list, you better go ahead and add Fordyce as well, and they’re only about 45 miles apart from one another.

Our intrepid UA group left Truckee minus one of our own. Reader Ben Mahin had made huge efforts to keep his Grand Cherokee working after swapping in a junkyard-fresh tranny after the original in his WJ failed, but even that transmission apparently didn’t like the rigors of the Rubicon and gave up the ghost as they turned into the parking lot for the hotel in Truckee. With the tranny and several other issues pending, Ben and his co-driver decided to throw in the towel. One short but not forgotten, the rest of the group went past Donner Lake and over the Donner Pass, which is so beautiful it’s hard to imagine the tragedy that occurred there nearly 170 years prior. After topping off fuel at a truck stop, the group made their way to the trailhead for Fordyce Creek. While the scenery for Fordyce can be roughly compared to the Rubicon, it is immediately apparent that Fordyce is much harder. The trail climbs and descends several times and there are frequent water crossings that are both deep and much longer than normal. In fact, the creek crossings are often a concern, as the flow of Fordyce Creek is controlled by a dam further upstream, and daily flow rates are available online. 300 cubic feet per second is generally regarded as the maximum to allow for safe crossings of the creek, which must be crossed multiple times on the trail. On the day that the UA crossed, the flow rates were about 120 cubic feet, and even that managed to swallow 37- to 39-inch tires. Aside from the water crossings, there were multiple obstacles on tap which demanded attention, skill, and often a winch line when things went sideways. The first obstacle was Driveline Hill, a technical climb with a big rock at the top that had to be driven over. It was the first indication to the group that Fordyce was no joke. From there Sunrise Hill, Winch Hill .5, and Winch Hill 1 all represented challenges to the entire UA group. Fordyce is a trail where vehicle characteristics that help on one obstacle hurt on the next one; sometimes narrow and short-wheelbase rigs rule, and other times longer wheelbase, wider rigs were the perfect combination. But Fordyce proved that no vehicle is the perfect combination, as everyone struggled at one time or another on the challenging terrain. The granite is abundant on the trail, and granite plus water makes for exceptionally slick conditions as a whole. After a long day and negotiating Winch Hills 1 and 2, the group found a camp site just as the light was starting to fade for the night and set up camp for the night. The last camp night for the trip was also the last night for Ultimate Adventure as a whole, but the UA was only halfway through the trail. What happened next? Check out the Day 7 recap for all the details.

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