Recently, the four foot plus berm was removed from the entrance to the Rubicon. Let’s ignore the fact that most of that snow was dumped there illegally. Was it right to remove the ‘gatekeeper’ to allow easy access for those not prepared/equipped to go snow wheeling?
Over the years, some have commented that ‘gatekeepers’ keeps the unprepared out and that only well-built rigs will proceed. This has been said over many trails and conditions. Others say there should be unfiltered access to our OHV opportunities.
Personally, I think a ramped increase in difficulty is the best way to go. The newbie needs to be able to get out there a little bit to get a taste of what wheeling is all about. They should only go as far as is safe or their rig and driving ability is able, but they sometimes go a little too far. It’s up to those of us with more experience to educate those newer to the sport with what it takes to go out in those conditions.
Once, we were that beginner. I remember driving my 1947 CJ2A, completely stock up the Rubicon. I got as far as the Potato Patch and I said “nope”, and turned around to go home and build a better rig. But if every trail were like Barrett, every wheeler would have to build quite a rig to go wheeling for the very first time.
Getting specific about snow wheeling on the Tahoe side, what better place to start? Early in the season, there is minimal snow and the trail is over asphalt for the first 1.5 miles. Even with more snowfall, it’s near a residential area (and help), there are plenty of trees to winch from (unlike the Bowl on the Eldorado side). It’s a gentle grade offering a slowly increasing challenge for newbies and honestly, it’s the only legal snow wheeling for ‘wheeled’ vehicles I know of in the Lake Tahoe area. There is a decent grade further in with turns for more of a challenge. If they do make the staging area, the newbies aren’t going much further as the climb out of the staging area to the entrance to the Buck Lake Trail is an honest gatekeeper in the snow. And the entire area is covered by a ham radio repeater system.
Sure, the newbies might get stuck and we (meaning those of you who snow wheel) might have to go around them (without going off trail) or help them get unstuck. I’d love to educate everyone who goes out on any OHV trail as to what they should take every time they go out. That’s one reason I built this website.
Back to the berm; the berm itself will only stop the less driven. A beginner with huge motivation to get on the Rubicon will take down the berm and drive in. On the other hand, a group with well-built rigs might get to the trailhead, see the berm and decide they don’t want to work that hard for a day on snow wheeling.
It’s a topic that will be discussed forever. Both sides have good points. Let’s just get out there and enjoy our public lands.
“This is the Trail. Tahoma, CA. I work here…I’m a volunteer. The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changes to protect the innocent.
On January 27th, me, Wheeler “A” and Wheeler “B”, arrived at the entrance to the Rubicon Trail. Wheeler “A” had brought a piece of commercial snow removal equipment. The objective: Remove The Berm.
The berm had gone up over the course of the winter season. It’s appeared every season for years. Dumping snow anywhere but from the lot it came from is illegal. The berm is illegal.
We thought Placer was doing it. I’d heard several second hand accounts from witnesses who saw Placer dump and pushing snow at the trailhead. Nothing first hand.
Placer denies dump or pushing snow at the entrance. We’re now thinking it’s a local snow removal contractor. We don’t need to catch him and charge him, we just want the dumping to stop. But if it doesn’t stop, we will catch him and get the county to fine him.
It was time to take action in to our own hands.
Wheeler “A” unloaded his rig and got to work. I stood on the berm, off to the side, and made sure anyone coming off the trail didn’t get a snow shower. Wheeler “B” stood in the street and talked with anyone walking by.
Wheeler “B” approached one neighbor who came out and took pictures but she ignored him and went back inside. Later, a Placer County sheriff stopped by after a complaint had been filed by someone in the area.
The sheriff had no issue about what we were doing after we explained that Placer County had given us permission to clear the entrance.
It didn’t take long before Wheeler “A” had cleared the entrance to the Rubicon Trail. We figured three hours, including travel time.
Not five minutes after heading to our rigs to leave, a stock Toyota Tacoma and F150 pulled up to the entrance. It was in 2wd and didn’t make the small rolling dip left at the entrance.
That gave me time to walk up and talk to him. I encouraged him not to try the trail without a winch and a better equipped rig. He said he wouldn’t go too far. I gave him two of my trail brochures with a map and wished him well. He put it in 4wd and headed in.
Please remember that there is no street parking this time of year.
For those of you too young to catch the wording of the intro, it’s from Dragnet, an old cop show from the 60’s. You Tube the opening scene for every show.
For years, I’ve reached out to Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery and her staff regarding the piling of snow in front of the Rubicon Trail on the Tahoma side.
At first, Placer County denied they had anything to do with the snow pile and accused local snow removal contractors. After many meetings, photos and emails, Placer admitted their plows were pushing/piling snow from that intersection in front of the Rubicon Trail.
Last year, a fieldtrip was made to the Rubicon entrance with Lindsey, Montgomery’s assistant, and John Briggs to look at the situation first hand.
At that fieldtrip, it was agreed that piling snow well to the left of the Rubicon Trail entrance was a simple, easy, no hassle, no cost solution to the problem. At a subsequent meeting, Montgomery agreed to pass along this solution to those who control the plow drivers.
Just last week, we finally got a decent dumping of snow that I ventured out to see how the plowing issue was going. I was disappointed that it was not going the way we had solved it.
Although it’s not a lot of snow, their is more snow piled between the stop sign on the left and the road signs on the right, than outside that area. Bottom line, Placer still blocking the Rubicon Trail.
So, I fired off a letter to Montgomery’s office…
This past month, I have monitored the snow conditions in Tahoma. Last week I was frustrated to find snow piled in front of the Rubicon Trail, specifically on McKinney-Rubicon Road. This situation is past being a just a nuisance or inconvenience to Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) users.
For more than three years I have tried to use the official system to voice my concerns to the supervisor about past instances of snow being piled at the Rubicon. You and I even did a fieldtrip to the site and agreed there was a simple, no cost, no hassle solution. We agreed that pushing or piling the snow from the intersection to the left of the road would keep the Rubicon clear and not be an inconvenience to the plow drivers.
Somewhere along the lines of communication, the solution we came to was dropped and never reached the drivers of the snow plows. It appears that the snow plow drivers are still intentionally piling the snow specifically on the Rubicon Trail, as the snow piles are centered on the road, not evenly spaced along the snow berm. I do not know where the breakdown occurred but it needs to be discovered and fixed.
Piling snow on a roadway is a criminal act. It needs to stop. The excess snow currently piled on the Rubicon, although minimal, needs to be removed. We have a full week of storms coming in this week. The plow drivers need to be informed that the Rubicon Trail entrance needs to be treated like any other street in that neighborhood or a driveway in that neighborhood. Although the Rubicon does not get plowed, it should not be intentionally blocked. That information needs to be passed along TODAY, not next week, not at the next supervisors meeting, not the next time the supervisor bumps in to the right department head, TODAY.
Attached are photographs of the situation I found on Thursday, January 10, 2019. Although small, it is clear that there is excess snow piled on the road, not to either side of where the Rubicon Trail starts from the residential area. In the wide view shot, you can see the difference in the snow levels. You can see the stop sign further to the left of where the road is and the old signage further to the right. In the other photos, my two snow skis outline where the road lies and off to the sides you can see less of a snow berm.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the next coffee day with the Supervisor. I am hoping that John Briggs will be able to attend.
Please keep me informed as to the progress of solving this situation.
Lindsey did get back to me quickly regarding my email. She said she had forwarded my email to Montgomery and the head of Public Works and that they would be discussing it yesterday afternoon. I have yet to hear back from anyone after that meeting.
With the increased ability of off highway vehicles, I will continue to fight for our year ’round access to the Rubicon Trail. It doesn’t help that people got out unequipped for the conditions.
Although winter does not officially start until December 21st, snow has fallen on the west shore and put a white blanket on the trail.
The report I got was a fine sugary type of snow. The group made it to the turn for the Buck Lake Trail. That first climb out of the staging area can be a tough one.
Placer County has agreed to NOT pile snow at the entrance to the trail. If you see snow piled there, not just pushed to the side of the road like the rest of the residential area, please send me a picture and the date you found it.
As always, if you go, please be safe. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Never go alone. Bring proper supplies to spend the night, just in case.
The last few years have seen rigs abandoned on the trail in the middle of winter. One guy was prepared but had a string of bad luck. The other rig should never have been on the trail. Don’t be that guy this winter.
Way back in 2011, 42 OHV routes within the Eldorado National Forest were closed because someone filed a lawsuit claiming they were damaging near by meadows.
A few years later, 18 of those routes were reopened after it was determined that they NEVER were damaging near by meadows. Yes, it took years.
The Deer Valley Trail, although cleared of damaging near by meadows, took longer to reopen due to endangered species concerns.
Well, the ENF has finally finished repairs to all of the routes in questions and all of the once closed routes have now been reopened. Of course, most of those are approaching their seasonal closures so check for the status before you head out.
Here is a link to the Forest Service news release:
What I would ask all of you to learn from this is you need to need to develop a very close relationship with your local FS representatives.
What should have happen in this case was local OHV clubs keeping an eye on these trails to do maintenance in certain places to prevent damage to near by meadows. Now it’s hard for the basic Jeeper to know when that type of damage is being done but a few of these trails were obvious issues.
The Richardson Lake Trail was one case. For a few years I had notices a section that literally went through a meadow and it was looking bad. I had a plan in the back of my head to move small boulders to eliminate the mud by harden the crossing, but I never acted on it. My bad, the route was closed for years.
With a close relationship with your local FS rep, maybe there could be an immediate field trip to each meadow to evaluate, in a very public way, the condition of each trail and to develop a plan to repair each trail rather than close it.
The anti-OHV people will do anything to close our trails, we need to do everything to keep them open.