We came, we saw, we shoveled!

On the morning of March 10th, a few four-wheel drive enthusiasts ventured out to the Rubicon Trail in Tahoma for a day of snow wheeling. Upon their arrival at the trailhead, they discovered a snow and ice wall more than eight feet tall. Not having enough people to tackle the job of breaking through the wall, they left. Thursday:

Saturday morning:

Forty-eight hours later, a larger group of wheelers returned to re-open wheeled access to the Rubicon Trail. Volunteers from four different clubs and three different cities drove to Tahoma to help. We had shovels, pick-axes, digging bars, fresh doughnuts and coffee.

After about an hour and a half of work, we had notched the wall down to something passable by a capable 4×4. The approach is quite steep and the snow, as always, is slick. Our intention was not to make it so easy that any four-wheel drive could get on to the trail. This time of year, travel should only be attempted by a well outfitted rig with an experienced and capable driver. And anyone going out on the trail should be prepared to spend the night with the proper clothing, food and equipment.

More than one local neighbor came over to talk to us while we were working. One said, “you’re ruining it for everyone.” I have to disagree. First off, McKinney Rubicon Springs Road is just that, a road. It is not a private winter park for the local neighborhood. The Rubicon Trail is open year-round for all types of users, including wheeled vehicles. Just because it is not maintained by Placer County during the winter does not mean it is closed.

This individual asked if we couldn’t go somewhere else. To my knowledge, this is the only place in the entire Lake Tahoe Basin where wheeled vehicles are legally allowed to travel over snow. Honestly, I can’t think of anywhere close where we would be allowed. And we have the right to travel on a county road.

Compare that to local areas where individuals can go and cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike, mountain bike, etc. Those places are literally everywhere in the Lake Tahoe Basin; e.g. Blackwood Canyon to the north and Sugar Pine Point State Park to the south. So, we not going to give up our access to the Rubicon Trail.

To address the locals concern over their ability to recreate locally, I would be willing to volunteer my time to help build a non-motorized trail alongside the Rubicon Trail from the residential area to the staging area. This trail could be used for summer and winter travel, reducing the possibility of user conflicts and to provide a better winter experience.

Part of the issue that created the snow and ice wall is how Placer County does snow removal in the area. For almost a decade, local four-wheelers have tried to work with Placer County to address that issue. So far, we have not come to a solution. Another part of the issue is the possibility that someone local is depositing snow illegally at the entrance to the Rubicon Trail. The snow depth at the entrance to the Rubicon Trail is several feet more than that of the rest of the neighborhood. That does not happen naturally.

Many snow stakes were placed at the beginning of this season to better delineate the trail. All but one had been taken down.

After clearing a ramp through the wall, four of the rigs went for a drive up the Rubicon Trail. They didn’t expect to get too far as the report is that the bridge over McKinney Creek still has a large amount of snow piled on it. Driving on a domed pile of snow, over a bridge with no guard rails is not advised.

I want to thank everyone that came out today. Without volunteers, the Rubicon Trail would have been closed decades ago. Our passion for our sport and our willingness to work to preserve it showed today.

Thank you!

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Doug Barr

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Update: I’m told the bridge wasn’t that bad. Stay on the tracks!

After being open for only two hours, the first stuck rig had to be rescued:

For the record, not one from our group!



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