Adopt – a – trail (water bar)

The Rubicon Trail Foundation has recently released information about the ability to ‘adopt’ a section of the Rubicon Trail within El Dorado County:


Okay, you’re asking, “I thought this website was about the Tahoe side of the Rubicon Trail?” Well, it is. Let me twist the story a little bit.

RTF has again stepped up to better organize getting maintenance done on the Rubicon Trail.  They have worked out a plan with El Dorado County to have different clubs/groups/organizations to adopt a section of the world famous Rubicon Trail.  Basic, routine maintenance and clean-up will be done by club members.  Any major projects that come up will be led by the club but put out to FOTR for additional support as needed.

So, the Tahoe side twist is this, what about an “Adopt-a-water bar” program?

There were 28 ‘rolling dips’ (we all refer to them as water bars) built on the Rubicon Trail within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) in 2001.  Over the years they have received some annual maintenance but they could use a little more love. This summer, Placer County will use OHMVR funds to create more rolling dips and drains (like 35 of them) along the Rubicon Trail between Miller Lake and the turn at Barker Pass Road (Forest Road 03).

Why not ask OHV clubs to ‘adopt’ one water feature, be it a water bar, a rolling dip or a drain?  All that would be asked of these clubs would be to do maintenance on their one water feature once a year.

Dozens of clubs, from all over the western United States, organize an annual club run to the Rubicon Trail.  It would be a simple addition to that trek to stop at the clubs’ one “Adopt-a-water bar” and spend an hour or so clearing the drain, digging out any sediment and re-covering any bare spots with rock.

As FOTR steps up to help Placer with labor and thus ‘matching finds’ for the OHMVR grant, the clubs involved could volunteer to adopt whatever water feature they were working on.  This would establish ‘ownership’ from the beginning and instil pride in creating and maintaining each feature.

There would be some details to work out, namely, a Tahoe side local might be needed to scout the water feature to determine if any materials would be needed for any maintenance effort each year and then get those materials dropped off prior to the maintenance effort but easily overcome.

The Story of the Snow Gate

ImageOnce upon a time, like 1999-2000, some very anti-OHV people tried to close the Rubicon Trail.  They argued that Jeeps crossing seasonal creeks caused erosion and released sediment which found its way to Lake Tahoe. The only solution they saw was to close the trail.

In 2000, FOTR was formed.  In 2001, 1800 cubic yards of crushed rock was placed at 28 newly built rolling dips at each seasonal creek crossing on the Rubicon Trail. This was not enough for the anti-OHV people. They argued that the rest of the trail was still wet and they wanted a gate to close the trail after the first rain of the fall that was to be opened only after the trail had completely dried out.

The private property owners said they would have to have a key to that gate and that after receiving that key they would make copies for their 10,000 closest friends.  The county needed another solution.

A snow-gate was proposed. The snow removed from the neighborhood streets would be piled at the entrance to the Rubicon throughout the winter, thus creating a “snow” gate and preventing winter use of the Rubicon Trail. Come springtime, once the HUGE pile of snow had melted, the assumption was that the trail would be dry enough for wheeled use.

More than a dozen years later, equipment improvements have allowed wheelers to use the Rubicon year-round.  The trail never officially closes.  Wheeling over the snow is probably the most ecologically friendly type of wheeling as you’re leaving tracks on several feet of snow that once it melts, you’ll never know anyone was there.

Snow is still piled at the entrance but if you have a capable enough rig, you can legally drive over the ‘snow-gate’ and access the Rubicon Trail.


John Arenz, of RTF, has compiled a list of things to carry with you while winter wheeling:

  • SIGNALLING PANEL, Ultra High Visibility, two color 24” x 69” heavy duty nylon (1)
  • SLEEPING BAG, mummy style w/compression stuff sack (1 for each person)
  • TENT, 6 person (1)
  • SLEEPING PADS, insulated (1 for each person on board
  • WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS, germicidal, (25 quart )
  • HAM RADIO, dual band, w/ clamshell battery and spare AAA’s
  • GPS, portable
  • SNOW SHOES (1 pair for each person)
  • COMPLETEOUTDOOR CLOTHING (for each person)

–       Full gore-tex shell

–       Full inner layer

–       Spare socks

–       Snow boots

–       Insulated gloves (2 pair)

–       Snow hat

–       Ski goggles

–       Day pack

–       Water bottle

  • BUTANE LIGHTER, visible reservoir without childproof lock
  • STROBE, red, emergency signaling w/industrial ‘D’ cell battery
  • CHAIN SAW, minimum 24” bar, w/ spare fuel and chain
  • FOLDING SAW, portable
  • SIGNALING MIRROR, Unbreakable
  • SHELTER TARP, polyethylene reinforced/grommeted 16’ by 20’
  • SUNSCREEN, SPF 30 or better
  • SIGNAL FLARE GUN, w/ 12 flares
  • MEAL, READY TO EAT, Assorted Menu (6 Each)
  • HI CALORIE DRINKS, powder (6 quarts)
  • STOVE, portable camp
  • POT, portable camp
  • FLARES, 15 minute for fire starting and/or signaling (6)
  • COMPASS, Lensatic
  • REPAIR WIRE, four-spool stainless
  • LOW TEMPERATURE BLACK TAPE, ¾” x 66’ Roll (2)
  • SURVIVAL WHISTLE, Dual Chamber with Hypothermia Lip Guard
  • LOW TEMPERATURE RED “100 MPH” TAPE, 2” x 20 Yards
  • STORMPROOF MATCHES, With Sealed Striker (Box Of 25)
  • SPACE BLANKETS, silver 54” x 84” (4 each)
  • PARALINE CORD, 650#, 100 feet
  • POLYETHYLENE BAG , orange, multiple use, 38” x 38” 2.5 Mil (6)
  • AXE, one piece
  • DUFFEL BAG, High Visibility
  • WELDER (underhood, Premier, with cables, hood, and tools)

Those anti-OHV people still monitor what happens on the Rubicon Trail.  If you go during the winter, Tread Lightly!  Cross country travel is only allowed by factory tracked vehicles. Don’t spin your tires as you transition from water crossings to snow.  Winch more frequently than you think you should.

Let someone know where you are going and when you plan on returning.  Carry all of the stuff listed above and more, like tools and spare parts. Never wheel alone or as a single vehicle.

And my personal favorite and this website’s motto: Turnaround, don’t go around.

LEOs on the Rubicon Trail

Last May, I organized a meeting of different law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction over the Rubicon Trail: Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Tahoe National Forest, CA State Parks and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

What I wanted to avoid was the lack of communication and the inconsistency of enforcement that plagued the El Dorado side of the trail when law enforcement started patrolling there years ago. The goal of the meeting was to do a face to face meeting of the different agencies and officers who would be patrolling the trail.  We weren’t trying to solve issues or plan out the 2013 season but just get everyone in the same room.

The Rubicon Trail runs within Placer County and the county recognizes the trail as a public right of way, therefore, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction on the trail. The Sheriff has put in for and was awarded OHMVR grant money to buy a side-by-side capable of getting anywhere on the Rubicon.  The Rubicon will not be the only place the sheriff will use the side-by-side. Any OHV trail within Placer County can be considered the jurisdiction of the Placer County Sheriff.

The Tahoe National Forest has also received OHMVR grant money. They share law enforcement officers with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.  The TNF also has an awesome ‘OHV Recreation Specialist’ that is a pleasure to work with. She and the TNF understand that motorized recreation is a legitimate use of our public lands. She also has access to the TNF’s newly built up Jeep Rubicon to patrol OHV trails within the forest.  The Jeep currently lives in the Auburn area but can be requested for use in the Truckee/Tahoe area when needed.

The CA State Parks LEOs have been on the Rubicon Trail for years, but only on the El Dorado side.  For 2013, things changed. The park service decided that El Dorado sheriffs and the ENF could handle the west end of the trail (This was before the county removed the ability of the FS to cite for county laws.) and so they moved their operation to the Tahoe side. The plan is to store a side-by-side at the nearby Sugar Pine State park and trailer it to the trailhead to use.  They also have an officer who drives the state’s Jeep Rubicon, that is quite capable, and he loves to get it out on the trail. They are working to store equipment at Rubicon Springs so they can patrol on the way in, spend a night or two and then patrol on the way out.  Again, the state parks LEO can patrol any OHV trail, so they are not limited to the Rubicon.

The meeting went well and all who attended were glad for the opportunity to put faces to the names of those officers in their sister agencies.

For 2014, I look forward to working with the different LEO agencies to maintain the safety of the OHV trails and public lands on the Tahoe side of the world famous Rubicon Trail.