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.

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