From the El Dorado County website:
“The closure of the Rubicon Trail initiated with Resolution 017-2023 has been lifted effective immediately.
The County waited until the frequent heavy storms that started with the December 30, 2022 atmospheric river event were over before attempting site inspections. During the temporary closure the storms that hit the region consisted of additional atmospheric river events with heavy mixes of rain and snow. Multiple days (1/18, 1/24, and 1/27) were necessary for staff to access and assess the trail. Those assessments show that the trail is currently covered in a substantial amount of snow providing resource protection. After reviewing those assessments, the Director, in consultation with County staff, has determined that no repairs are needed at this time and that the trail is safe for ordinary use.
Be advised that the Rubicon Trail is for year-round public use but users should be prepared for adverse conditions during winter season and during storm conditions. The road may be unpassable during winter/storm conditions and rescue services may be difficult. The County encourages users be mindful of trail conditions and practice appropriate safety measures. The County will continue to monitor trail conditions for the remainder of the 2023 winter season into spring as required per the USFS easement document. If users have any questions on this notice, please feel free to contact the County at 530-621-7538 or 530-621-5554.”
Ok, it’s open but there are many questions…
So, we’re back to water quality as the reason for the closure. But I don’t believe that the County ever visited the proper, if any, sites to determine water flow conditions BEFORE the closure. El Dorado County completely ignored the agreed upon requirements in place in order to close trail. They did it just because they wanted to, and it was not based on any science.
We, the users, need to push back on what happened, how it happened and who made it happen.
Who is “The Director”? Was one single person able to close the Rubicon?
If past signed agreements can be ignored, can we trust any future agreements? If El Dorado County doesn’t play by the rules, the law, should we?
I’m not happy. And I won’t be happy until all of this is settled. I guess I won’t be happy for a long time.
Do you have questions? Call the county at the above-mentioned number. I’m sure they’d love to be swamped by calls.
As of December 30th, 2022, the Rubicon Trail is closed to any type of use within El Dorado County. The closure is for 60 days. It is not clear if the closure can be lifted before the end of February. It is not clear if the closure can be extended past the end of February. We’ll all have to wait and see.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything that happened. I’ve tried to piece the events of this story as best I can.
On December 30th, 2022, El Dorado County closed the Rubicon Trail. It’s not clear who initiated this closure. The official closure appeared on the El Dorado County website on the Parks page. It stated:
“As of December 30, 2022, the Rubicon Trail is closed for public safety in accordance with county procedures and a determination was made with the Department of Transportation, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Parks Division.”
There is debate about whether all of the departments listed were actually all in agreement about the closure.
One theory is that the closure stemmed from a group of vehicles getting stuck along Wentworth Springs Road (not yet on the Rubicon Trail), bringing in a front loader for a vehicle recovery (but not using it). For the sake of the county not wanting to rescue unprepared drivers throughout the coming storm, the county closed the trail.
But Parks can’t just close a road for safety, so the story shifted after the initial closure to high water runoff due to the impending storm. The key word being impending. With the storm coming in, expected to drop a lot of rain, not snow, there was concern about water on the trail. In order for Parks to close the Rubicon Trail, due to water, measurements at specific spots along the trail and digital photographs of those spots must be used to document the conditions. Those do not exist.
But the Department of Transportation can close the road for safety. So, the story shifted back to safety and the DOT closing the trail. It helped that El Dorado County had declared a state of emergency, due to the storms. But this is where I have a problem with the reasoning.
As I understand it, Ice House Road to Loon Lake is not and was never closed. So, to protect the people, then and now, you can’t drive on the Rubicon Trail via Wentworth, but you can drive to Loon Lake and drop on to the Ellis Creek Intertie and drive in to the bowl!
Does that make any sense? Close the Rubicon Trail but keep the road to Loon Lake and the Ellis Creek Trail open. This is a government agency, or multiple agencies, at work and demonstrates why most OHV users don’t trust the government. For the record, throughout this ordeal, the Rubicon Trail has always been open within Placer County.
So, El Dorado County closes the Rubicon Trail for the safety of the people. How many people have died on the Rubicon Trail during the months of December, January, February and March? I do not know of any deaths during those months. How many people die at Lake Tahoe every year, about six. How many people die downhill skiing each year, about 40. How many people die hiking in this country every year, 120-150. Has El Dorado County taken the appropriate steps to protect the people from those activities?
El Dorado County overreacted when people got stuck in the snow. They did something they didn’t have the authority to do. Then they changed the story. And then they changed the story again. Then the Board of Supervisors made it official on January 10th (Resolution 017-2023) and back dated the closure to December 30th in order to provide cover for the unauthorized or even illegal early closure. Here’s a link to my original story and a copy of the signed resolution: https://theotherrubicon.com/2023/01/11/rubicon-trail-closed-within-el-dorado-county-until-feb-30th/
OHV advocacy groups were able to change the county meeting about hearing the above resolution in order to allow public comment but it didn’t seem to help as the board voted 4-1 to adopt the closure. It has been reported that the board members didn’t seem to understand the closure but just took the word of the DOT and passed it.
So, the agreement from 2013 (?) that specified scientific measurements and digital photograph documentation were required to close the trail has been thrown out the window and now any one who thinks it’s unsafe can close the trial on a whim.
We do need to address this issue of winter travel. How do we educate people to prevent travelers from getting in over their heads? Can we require trail users to carry recovery equipment? The state requires that all cars carry chains when driving over a pass in winter. Can certain vehicle enhancements be required to travel during snow conditions, like mud and snow rated tires being required on the highway passes during a storm? There could be precedent there.
If this actually started with a need for a vehicle recovery, do we allow the counties to charge for rescues? Should we, as users, develop a winter rescue group? If so, there should be one at each end of the trail. Should there be a fee to use the trail? Should those from out of the county be charged to use the trail and for rescues, but not locals?
After two deaths in recent weeks, Mt Baldy, in San Bernadino County, is considering a permit system to allow people to climb the mountain. Would a Rubicon Trail permit application ask about driving skills, experience, vehicle upgrades, recovery gear and survival gear? Who would set the standards. Could this be a winter requirement moving forward?
The users need to communicate with all of the government agencies involved with managing the Rubicon Trail and our public lands in order to prevent such knee-jerk reactions. In my opinion, the problem is getting the agencies to communicate with and engage with the users before making any decisions regarding the Rubicon Trail.
-just a user
As I write this, the Seirra Mountains are getting hammered with snow. Up to four feet is expected at the Tahoma trailhead.
If you go out to play, be safe, be prepared, don’t go alone, don’t go as a single vehicle, tell someone where you’re going.
Here’s what the trailhead looked like before this current storm started. 1-13-23
I want to thank everyone that has helped out to knock down previous snow walls put up by Placer County. Although the snow is back, by previously maintaining an access point, subsequent plowing efforts do not completely block access. Everyone knows where the trail starts.
The only traffic on the trail has been on foot. It will be some time before wheeled vehicles will be back on the trail.
I do find it funny that the hikers can’t stay on the trail. The trail is clearly defined by the snow stakes, yet the hikers needed to go around the sign and off the trail.
Getting back to the big picture, it is clear that Placer County is still plowing a dip into the trailhead. Remember, the rotary will come by after the photo below was taken and create an even deeper dip. The dip piles more snow than would normally be piled by plowing.
My simple solution is to have Placer drive a slight convex route with the blade, be it a plow or grader, and then have the rotary come through and drive a slightly concave route. This would leave only natural snowfall at the actual trailhead.
I realize there are many issues facing the Rubicon Trail right now. I do not agree with many of the decisions made. Although we, as users, need to prioritize and fight as needed, we cannot let other issues fall between the cracks.
Unfortunately, there is no one place to stay up to date on the issues or status of the Rubicon Trail. There is not one governing agency. There are many OHV advocacy groups, but they don’t always communicate well with each other.
Management of the Rubicon Trail is a mess. The MOU signed by a half dozen agencies seems to be ignored as the LTBMU and the TNF do work on the trail without consulting others. Placer isn’t working with anyone. El Dorado Parks just got trumped by their own DOT. The users and volunteers are left in the dark. It’s chaos.
The Rubicon Trail needs its own website, with a ‘nothing but Rubicon’ forum. Any and all work to be performed needs to be posted. All legal documents (closures) need to be posted with a detailed explanation of why. All discussions need to be open for all to see. Maybe some forums where just the agencies can comment, but all can view, and others where users can comment and post questions. Public discussions before closures are made. Maintenance plans reviewed before work is started.
The website should be run by independent website builders, not a government agency, not an OHV advocacy group. A true neutral party. But I’m dreaming. I’m going to wake up and go shovel snow at my cabin.
How many times do we need to say it?
I needed to get out of town and so I took a drive up to the lake. Of course, I swung by the Rubicon trailhead.
Please note: I did not go out on the trail alone.
The trailhead was clear with no berm or evidence that the locals had tried to block wheeled access.
The work we all did has allowed a good deal of people to access the trail. Awesome!
There was that one guy. The guy who went alone. The guy who got stuck.
If you know the Tahoe side, he didn’t get far. And it looks like many people went around him.
He did try all the old tricks: dig out the tires, wood under the tires, floor mats under the tires, etc.
Maybe we need more aggressive signage to prevent people from being stupid.
There’s a wet storm coming soon. Maybe the snow will firm up after the storm, after it all freezes again. There is a slight off camber pitch to the trial at the trailhead. Although the trail is flat, the way the rotary plow threw the snow, the left side is higher than the right side on your way in. No idea how far people have gone in. I wasn’t going to walk it.
If you go out to play, be prepared to spend the night. Bring everything: a second vehicle, friends, winch, shovel, tow straps, recovery gear, food, shelter, clothing, water, sleeping bags, tent, ETC! You cannot be OVER prepared for winter on the Rubicon.
We came, we saw, we took it down.
I’d like to start by thanking those who showed up to help. It was a short notice event and we had people from all over. Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s, Fresno Jeep Club (not sure if they drove up today), Tahoe Donner 4-Wheelers, Facebook even brought out a few people. Thank you, Shannon for getting the word out through FOTR and Tim for posting on his Facebook page. If you haven’t visited Tim’s “Rubicon Gazette” page, go check it out.
So, this is what we saw when we showed up. Not everyone (meaning me) showed up on time due to ski traffic around the basin.
The group was already at work when I arrived. With seven rigs and nine people, it went really fast. Most of the snow was normal and undisturbed, the lower layers were a little icy but because we had been here before, the ice chipped out quickly. I think actual work time for the group was an hour and a quarter. But that’s about eight man-hours.
The goal was to dig down far enough to prevent the need for the traditional ramp. We got down to within six inches of the asphalt.
Once done, a few of the guys decided to test the trail. It was very soft snow, almost corn snow. It didn’t compact very well and the guys were literally down to their axles. Straps were deployed but I didn’t get any incriminating photos.
Even with lockers and 40″ tires, there was not much success. After a few tries going back and forth, two Jeeps finally made it in about 150 yards. You can barely see him, about to going around the corner.
There will need to be many freeze/thaw cycles before any true distance will be made up the trail. But our efforts today, and in the future, will keep the opening clear of Placer County plowed snow.
For the record, the locals did let us know that they were not in favor of our efforts. But it’s a county road, not a neighborhood winter play area.
The sheriff never showed up. I’m not sure if the locals called them or not. The close neighbor did come out late in the effort and took a bunch of photos.
A guy in a Subaru did show up and as he was about to drive up the trail, asked “how far is the parking lot?”. He and his buddies were going to snowshoe to the Ludlow Hut along the Sourdough Hill Trail. But his friend showed up and had local parking at one of the cabins.
Moving forward, this issue needs to be solved: better Placer plowing and understanding of the locals. It will take getting everyone in the same room for hours to discuss all of the issues: Placer County, Forest Service, CA State Parks, user groups (RTF, FOTR, CORVA, etc.), local clubs (Hi-Lo’s, TD 4-Wheelers, etc.) and especially the neighborhood locals. We can all sit down and be civil and find a solution. We need someone to lead that effort.
Stay tuned, we’ll be out again.