The Tahoe National Forest (TNF) finally released the latest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). The forest had been without one for years. It had released and then retracted one previously.
There are ten maps for the four different districts within the Tahoe National Forest. The Rubicon Trail is documented on the Truckee District -south map. Hard copies of these maps are available for free at any of the TNF offices.
The Rubicon is listed as 16N75. Although the Rubicon is listed on and has been given a Forest Service (FS) number, it is still a county right of way. The FS gave it a number as the trail needed to be listed to have the rest of the area trails make sense.
New in this version of the MVUM, Observation Point (16E78) is officially recognized by the FS as being a 163 foot long ‘trail’. Previously undocumented, the turn out has always been allowed by the FS.
Also new are four camp sites:
3013-026 is an elevated area from the Rubicon before the old water hole. The FS documented this ‘road’ as 64 feet long.
3013-24 is at the east end of Miller Lake just past the old water hole. The FS documented this ‘road’ as 29 feet long.
3013-22 is at the west end of Miller Lake and is truly lake front. The FS documented this ‘road’ as 62 feet. It’s more of a turn out.
16E77 is just east of Observation. It’s know as Bear Camp and in the early spring is under six inches of water. It’s 50 feet long or deep, depending on how the FS measured it. It is documented as a ‘trail’.
And for the first new OHV trail in a long time on the TNF, the Long Lake Trail, previously known as TKS-11, is now officially 16E12.
I want to thank the TNF for getting this out to the public. It took a lot of hard work to get this right. The last map was actually printed but because there were so many flaws the forest decided not to release it and to make the needed corrections. It’s worth the wait.
Now get out there and try a trail you’ve never been on before!
I’ve been asked why I chose such a dividing title for my website. I don’t think it’s as dividing as it is accurate. So much is written and talked about on the El Dorado side of the trail that I thought the Placer side deserved a little attention. In a perfect world, there would be one website with everything anyone would ever need to know about the Rubicon Trail. I started that site years ago for RTF but after handing it off and after RTF changed the format, interest waned and the site is sort of stale.
Today, I came across the perfect example of what I claim above. I visited the Wikipedia page for the Rubicon Trail. There is an introductory sentence then a description about the Rubicon. This is how it read, before I changed it a little bit:
“The maintained portion of the route is called the Wentworth Springs Road; it begins in Georgetown, California, a hamlet in California’s Gold Country. The road continues from its intersection with State Route 193 towards Wentworth Springs, where the trailhead for the unmaintained portion of the route exists adjacent to Loon Lake. The trail portion of the route is about 12 miles (19 km) long and passes in part through the El Dorado National Forest.”
It seems normal and accurate enough, right? What about after it passes through Eldorado National Forest? So, I added a little bit and left the incorrect spelling of El Dorado National Forest. The County is El Dorado while the Forest is Eldorado.
The new paragraph, underlined words added:
“The maintained portion of the route is called the Wentworth Springs Road; it begins in Georgetown, California, a hamlet in California’s Gold Country. The road continues from its intersection with State Route 193 towards Wentworth Springs, where the trailhead for the unmaintained portion of the route exists adjacent to Loon Lake. The trail portion of the route is about 12 miles (19 km) long and passes in part through the El Dorado National Forest .
And now the red headed step child side of the trail has been represented.
On Sunday, after calling my mother and wishing her a happy Mother’s Day, a few of us headed up the Rubicon Trail.
Eric Agee, the new FOTR Placer side lead, wanted a quick tour of the Tahoe side. Two rigs and three people headed out of the staging area around 9:30am. Eric drove his Cruiser as I rode shotgun and talked about the trail. Paul followed in his CJ-7, just to have two rigs on the trip. Ham radios on a simplex frequency kept us in touch.
We stopped a lot along the way discussing different needs of the trail, which agency was responsible for what and what FOTR could do while Placer County did the proposed grant work.
The trail is still VERY wet and soft. I would encourage anyone thinking about driving it to put off your trip for a week or two. There were a few snow drifts along the way and we only went as far as the old mud hole that FOTR drained and filled in years ago, just west of the Potato Patch.
With the snow fall from the day before, there was running water where the seasonal creeks cross the Rubicon. This allowed us to get a good idea of what was working well and what would need a tune-up.
Yeah, that snow storm. I was up helping the Hi-Lo’s do some maintenance work on the Twin Peaks Trail in South Tahoe on Saturday. I decided to take the scenic route home up the west shore. Once I got to Tahoma, the snow started falling. By the time I got to Tahoe City it was a full blow snow storm. Unfortunately, my Jeep was only sporting a soft top with metal half doors and no uppers! And the back window was off. Needless to say I had a cold ride home. The snow finally stopped at stateline on 80 but it did turn to rain. I was having to wipe down the INSIDE of my windshield.
The ‘weekly photo’ is from inside my Jeep when I pulled in to the Shell gas station in Tahoe City.
On the way out, Paul heard a strange clunking sound coming from underneath his rig. We stopped and checked it out and the rear spring hanger on the right front leaf spring had been ripped off the frame. Eric suggested using the winch cable to wrap around the frame and actually through the spring hanger. It worked.
You never know what going to happen on the Rubicon.
The winter of 2013/14 was a dud. The governor of California declared a drought for California in January. Mid-summer fire conditions existed in January and continue to get worse. The fire danger on the Rubicon and other trails this coming season will be extreme and fire restrictions will come very early. Unless we get a huge late snowfall, it could be a short wheeling season.
In 2007, the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) declared extreme fire danger and with a July 2nd forest order closed the entire forest to internal combustion engines. That closure included chainsaws, motorcycles and jeeps. This closure rekindled my interest in building an electric Jeep, but that’s a topic for another article.
Due to continued hot, dry, and windy weather, fire restrictions in the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) will be increased beginning Monday, July 2, 2007…the restrictions will affect several activities:
* Fireworks – Absolutely no fireworks are permitted in the National Forest.
* Campfires – Only permitted in those campgrounds that have water systems, metal campfire rings, fire engine accessibility and regular patrols by campground hosts. Visitors can contact any TNF office for a list of campgrounds where campfires are permitted.
* Portable Stoves and Lanterns – Permitted in all campgrounds and the backcountry with a valid campfire permit.
* Woodcutting – Check the woodcutting hotlines each day to determine if chainsaws are
* Off-Highway Vehicle Use – Only permitted on designated roads; the Prosser Pit area near Truckee; and the Sugar Pine OHV area north of Foresthill. (Not permitted on trails other than the areas mentioned.)
* Smoking – Limited to vehicles, buildings, and in a 3-foot cleared area.
* Contract/Permittee Operations – Any operation or permittee that uses internal combustion engines or fire, must have an approved fire plan.
Thankfully, in 2006, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted to recognize the Rubicon Trail as a “public trail”. That vote transferred control of the Rubicon Trail from the forest service to Placer County. Both forests involved were okay with Placer County claiming the Rubicon Trail as a public trail and thus controlling management of the trail.
WHEREAS the “McKinney Rubicon Trail” is a world renowned off-highway vehicle trail
that is partially located on federal lands within Placer County; and
WHEREAS the Trail has been in public use for at least 150 years; and
WHEREAS the Trail provides valued recreational asset for the citizens of Placer
because of the technically advanced driving conditions that exist in the open space
environment for off-road vehicle enthusiasts; and
WHEREAS the County desires that the Trail continue to be available for public use into
BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Placer, State
of California, that this Board recognizes the “McKinney Rubicon Trail” as a public trail;
AND HEREBY states its intent to use all reasonable measures available to it to ensure
continued public access.
If Placer County had not voted in favor of the “public trail”, the Rubicon would have been closed in 2007 to vehicular traffic, including both Jeepers Jamborees.
A similar order in 2014, by any one of the three forests along the Rubicon, could close some of the side trails off the Rubicon. So, if you have any intention of wheeling any of these routes, do it early. Fire restrictions are progressive, they start with banning camp fires, then move to ban any open flames (including cigarettes) and progress until they ban all internal combustion engines.
Components of Stages
There are two fire restriction stages: Stage I and Stage II. There is one closure stage: Stage III. To reduce confusion and standardize the restrictions, the following conditions, by stage, should be used in all restriction documents. Additional elements may be added as conditions dictate.
The following acts are prohibited:
- Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire except within a developed recreation site, or improved site. 36 CFR 261.52(a).
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials. 36 CFR 261.52(d).
- Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained, and in effective working order meeting either the USDA Forest Service Standard 5100-1a (as amended), or appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practice J335(b) and J350(a) (36 CFR 261.52(j)).
The following acts are prohibited, in addition to the prohibitions of Stage I:
- Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire. 36 CFR 261.52(a)
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building. 36 CFR 261.52(c)
- Possessing, discharging, or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device.
36 CFR 261.52(f)
- Using an explosive. 36 CFR 261.52(b)
- Operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine between 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. 36 CFR 261.52(h).
- Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order meeting
- USDA Forest Service Standard 5100-1a (as amended); or
- Appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended practice
J335 (b) and J350 (a). 36 CFR § 261.52(j) and 43 CFR § 9212.1(h);
- Welding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame. 36 CFR 261.52(i)
- Possess or use a motor vehicle off: Forest System Roads (36 CFR 261.56) Except when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway; and except for parking overnight in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.
The area is closed to all entry (36 CFR 261.52(e)) other than as follows:
- Persons with a written fire entry and activity permit that specifically authorizes the otherwise prohibited act. This may include such persons as grazing-permit holders when entry is needed to gather, move, or otherwise manage their permitted livestock, special-use authorization holders when access is needed to maintain emergency or other communications operations, and others.
- Any federal, state, or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.
- Resident owners and lessees of land within the closed area.
Dates for fire restrictions being put in place on the TNF over the last decade or so range from June 1st to August 18th and in in 2011 I don’t think they EVER had fire restrictions due to the huge and late winter. Dates for lifting the ban on camp fires range from September 1st to October 23rd.
So, get out early this season. Make sure you rig is good to go now so you can take advantage of the early opening dates of the trails in the Sierras. Don’t wait for the waters and air temperatures to warm up because by the time things warm up, they might be closed.
Bring extra layers to wear instead of starting a camp fire every night even if they are still allowed. Eat sandwiches instead of steaks and cereal instead of bacon and eggs. Or have a contest with your buddies to see who can build the better solar cooker for your next camp out.
Yesterday, I took part in one of the Sierra Cascade Dialogs outside of Sacramento. It was a very well run meeting, trying to get input from all types of forest users in order to help FS leadership make decisions. We were not overwhelmed with questions and each table had a trained facilitator to assist the table with coming to conclusions. The FS was trying very hard to get our input and we (OHV users) need to participate but I wonder how much our voices were or will be heard.
I came away with two things standing out in my mind. The first was that the anti-OHV groups don’t like the word “access” because it delivers a negative connotation that there are “restrictions” on the general public from the forest. They wanted to twist or turn the conversation as to why there were closures. As if educating the users as to why they can’t drive down a road they’ve used for decades would make it okay.
From this point on, I will use the word “access” as much as possible.
The second thing that struck me was right at the end. The lady who opened the meeting, and facilitated one of the tables, gave some closing statements. She brought up two lists of words, one that the ‘tables’ had used in answering questions put to them asking what they wanted. The second list was words used by the “Line Officers” of the three forests representatives during their statements and while answering questions.
She then circled the words common to both lists. Although every table used the word “access” at some point during the day during their presentations and answers, at no time did the “Line Officers” use the word “access”.
That says so much to me.