Out of towner caught in surprise snowfall

I just heard a funny story. It’s only funny because no one got hurt. The story could have had a very different outcome.

So, a guy and his wife are traveling across country in their modified Sprinter van. The wife has something to do all day and will be staying with a friend that night. So, the husband decides to camp at Tahoe for the night.

He drives up Blackwood Canyon, a paved road, and sets up camp only a half mile from the summit. It’s cloudy, it’s raining a bit but he’s in his Sprinter van that he and his wife have been living out of for weeks on the road.

It starts to rain.

He goes to sleep.

He wakes up with three feet of snow all around his van.

He’s wearing shorts and sandals.

He thinks he’s screwed.

He has one bar of cell coverage on his phone. He calls his wife. She calls the Sheriff. Placer County Search & Rescue rolls out their snow cat and goes up to rescue him. He asks about getting his Sprinter van out. They tell him it might be there until spring. They take him down the hill without his van.

He calls around and gets Nick of the Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s. Nick has a rescue service when he’s not engineering something or racing the Baja 100, literally. Nick was instrumental in recovering “Glacier Girl” which was buried under eight feet of snow some years ago.

The guy thought he was prepared. He had the traction block, tracks, boards things. The problem was that they were mounted UNDER the rig. Hard to get to with three feet of snow all around.

Nick was the hero again. It took some work. The Sprinter is only 4wd if the rear axle starts to slip. Nick had to literally pull the van DOWN the hill the snow was so thick even after it was packed down by the snow cat.

This should be a lesson to everyone. Check the weather before you travel.

Be safe, don’t be this guy.

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Rubicon Ronin


LTBMU reads my blog, opens the Rubicon!

Okay, I really don’t know if anyone at the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit reads my blog, but they did reopen the Rubicon just two days after my latest post.

Forest Service lifts Lake Tahoe backcountry closure early

Release Date: Oct 15, 2021

Contact(s): Public Affairs, Lisa Herron 530-721-3898

[Image]: United States Forest Service Shield.SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif., Oct. 15, 2021 – The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) Backcountry Closure Order (19-21-07), which temporarily closed Desolation Wilderness, Meiss Country and focused access corridors along the West Shore during the Caldor Fire, is lifted effective today, Oct. 15, 2021.

The Caldor Fire Emergency Closure Order (19-21-06) remains in effect through Dec. 31, 2021, for National Forest lands within and surrounding the fire perimeter. The closure order and map can be viewed on the LTBMU home page at www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu. The public is advised that significant hazards remain within the Caldor Fire area including ongoing restoration activities, use of fire vehicles and heavy equipment, crew and aircraft activity, fire weakened trees and smoldering pockets of fuel. Please use the closure order description and map to stay out of the fire closure area. View the closure order and map at https://go.usa.gov/xM9Jy

The following Desolation Wilderness trailheads that access south side areas within the Caldor Fire closure are still closed to public use for both overnight and day use access. Those trailheads are Rockbound, Twin Lakes, Lyons, Pyramid Creek/Horsetail Falls, Ralston, and Echo Lakes. 

As a reminder, enhanced fire restrictions remain in effect for all National Forest lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin through Nov. 30, 2021. The Fire Restriction Forest Order can be viewed on the Forest Order webpage at go.usa.gov/xMXYK. Propane appliances with an on/off switch are permitted with a valid CA Campfire Permit.

In addition, closures on the Eldorado National Forest have been reduced, but many areas remain closed due to the Caldor Fire. For more information about the Eldorado National Forest, visit their website at www.fs.usda.gov/eldorado

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My apologies for not realizing this sooner. It took the latest Caldor Fire Update, not including the LTBMU Back County closure, for me to get the information.

Here’ the twist. With the announcement that the LTBMU was extending the closure, the McKinney Rubicon Road was prominently mentioned in the brief heading for the closure. In the reopening press release, the McKinney Rubicon Trail is not mentioned in the preview paragraph or the main body of the order. I truly believe that the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is anti-OHV and specifically anti-Rubicon.

The Eldorado National Forest sends of emails with OHV important information. I received an email when the Caldor closed the Eldorado and our other national forests. The LTBMU does not send out such emails. This should change. Our National Forest partners (?) should make an effort to keep the users and the general public informed. How hard would it be to notify RTF, Cl4, Blue Ribbon, local clubs? They already are part of an email group that discusses nothing but Rubicon issues. And yet they didn’t get the information out.

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Rubicon Ronin


Rubicon Trail Still Closed

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management (LTBMU) Unit still has the Rubicon Trail closed until October 20th.

  • The Caldor Fire is 98% contained.
  • There has been rain and snow over the entire area.
  • Temperatures are ranging from the 20’s to the 60’s.
  • The Rubicon Trail is open in Eldorado National Forest
  • The Rubicon Trail is open in the Tahoe National Forest
  • There are no strong winds forecast

Why is the Rubicon still closed?

Where is the Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF)?

  • RTF’s mission statement: “To Enhance the Future Health and Use of the Rubicon Trail, while Ensuring Responsible Motorized Year-Round Access.”

Why is RTF not ensuring our “year-round access”?

Does anyone fight for the Rubicon anymore? Is this the future of the Rubicon, seasonal closures due to possible fire conditions? If someone doesn’t push back, we will lose our trail during future summers as we’ve lost it this past summer.

FYI, if you go up to check out the trail status first hand, the bathrooms at the staging area are closed.

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Rubicon Ronin


RANT warning: “My lack of confidence in the Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF)”

A quick timeline of events:

8/14   Caldor fire starts in the Eldorado National Forest

8/17   The Eldorado National Forest is closed

8/18   El Dorado County closes the Rubicon Trail

8/19   The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) closes the west shore

8/19 I email RTF, asking what the “heck”? The fire is 12 miles away!

8/19   An hour later Region-5 closes all northern California forests

9/15 – Region-5 reopens the forests, two days earlier than expected

9/15 El Dorado County opens the Rubicon for day use only

9/20 – The LTBMU re-closes the west shore, the Rubicon Trail and wilderness areas

9/21 – I post about the re-closure on my website, linking to the LTBMU page

9/21 I post on the RTF Facebook page about the closure

9/21 Minutes later, RTF removes my post and about the closure

9/21 I emailed the entire RTF board asking why my post was removed and why they are not getting the closure info out to the users

9/21 RTF informed me they got yelled out for lack of complete information so they’re waiting until they have all the information. We’re still waiting, more than a week later.

Bottom line, RTF is not only holding back critical information from the users, they are actively suppressing information about the Rubicon Trail being closed.

I guess the big question is why would RTF suppress this information? RTF claims they wanted ALL the correct information before posting. I say, post the facts you can prove. Link to the LTBMU website and post the actual Forest Service (FS) documents and answer questions as they come in. To date, RTF has NOT posted about the Basin closure that runs through Oct 20th.

The Rubicon Trail Foundation mission statement: “To enhance the future health and use of the Rubicon trail, while ensuring responsible, motorized, year-round trail access.”

My personal assumption is that RTF doesn’t want to be seen as unable to keep the trail open “for year-round trail access” as their mission statement claims, so they just ignoring the closure.

Back when I emailed RTF about the early (8/19) LTBMU west shore closure, I wanted someone to push back on the LTBMU jumping the gun with an over-reaction and unnecessary closure. My feelings are that if these closures don’t get pushback, the FS will continue to put these closures in place, earlier and longer. I’ll point to campfire restrictions as my example. Think about full forest closures following the same closure dates as campfires.

Now, after Region-5 re-opens all northern California forests except the Eldorado. The LTBMU places a closure order on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, including the Rubicon Trail. Why?

Recognize that the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) has not closed the portion of their forest that lies between the Eldorado and the LTBMU! The Rubicon is open from Miller Lake to Miller Creek; the Hobbit Trail is open; Ellis Peak and many other trails are open but land locked by closures and restrictions.

The Rubicon Trail is still a county road within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the TNF. Does the Forest Service really have the authority to close a county road, with no “emergency” at hand? Remember the Caldor Fire is now 76% contained fire is 10-12 miles away.

Today’s FS press release scales down the Eldorado closure and reopens part of the Eldorado closure but the LTBMU closure documents are included without change. The Rubicon remains closed. Ironically, the Noonchester Mine Road is open off the Rubicon because the ‘closure’ is listed as “backcountry”.

So, the TNF is open, the Eldorado is starting to re-open but the west shore of the LTBMU remains closed!

The Basin has overreacted and needs to be told exactly that. RTF and others need to push back on the current closure and fight to keep the Rubicon Trail open for “motorized, year-round trail access”.

FYI, the toilets at the Tahoma staging area were closed this morning, so those going to check conditions or not knowing of the closure have nowhere but the forest along McKinney Creek to ‘go’ when visiting the staging area. Not good.

Staying with Tahoe side issues:

No word on where we stand with the snow wall at the Tahoma entrance. Last I heard, Placer County was going to continue to ‘prioritize clearing the residential streets over keeping the Rubicon entrance clear of snow’. (not a true quote, but close)

One RTF board member said he thought that meeting went well! How is that “ensuring responsible, motorized, year-round trail access”?

Lahontan Water Authority issued a “Cease & Desist” when a small group of trail users used commercial snow removal equipment to clear the Tahoma entrance of snow piled there by Placer County.

When asked what RTF was going to do about that order, another RTF board member said that it was not their fight. How is that “ensuring responsible, motorized, year-round trail access”?

RTF supported the reroute around “the mud hole”. They worked with the Tahoe National Forest, built a berm to control the water flow of the seasonal creek crossing, cut down trees, blocked the original trail, placed fencing & rock down to create the current bypass.

The reroute is much narrower and has tighter turns. It’s also a dust mess. Lots of erosion. I’d like to know what that reroute does to a possible future RS2477 legal challenge. Since it’s not the original county road route, can the FS seasonally close it?

Early this year, there was literally no water in the old mud hole, while the rest of the Tahoe side was a wet mess. The berm did an excellent job and the reroute is actually no longer needed as long as the berm is maintained. Are we going to go back to the original route?

As the title of this rant says, I have lost confidence in RTF to do the right thing for the users and for the trail. There is the possibility that RTF is working in the background to get things done but following the list of to-do’s mentioned above, and the length of time those issues have been active, I’m not hearing that the RTF has been successful.

I’ll even put my real name to this one…

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Doug Barr


Rubicon CLOSED within LTBMU!

I don’t understand it, but I’m passing along the information.

Several closure documents can be found on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) website linked below:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu

Here is the Rubicon specific document from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit website. You can scroll down to the last map but I’ll help you out. OHV trails on the west shore are closed until Oct 20th!

I added the “Rubicon Trail – 14N34” name as the LTBMU probably doesn’t want to admit to closing the Rubicon. 14N34A is Noonchester Mine Road & 14N40 is the Buck Lake Trail.

Although the rest of Region 5 was opened two days early, the Basin thinks they know better and have closed the west shore, including the wilderness areas and the OHV trails.

It won’t do any good but we need to let our representative and the forest know this is not acceptable.

Call or email the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Rubicon Trail Foundation, NOW!

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Rubicon Ronin