Rubicon Management :-(

Starting at the end of last season, management of the Rubicon Trail was changing. Placer County had officially backed out. The Tahoe National Forest (TNF) officially stepped in. A ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ was signed by six agencies.

Then the Tahoe National Forest went out on their own and built rolling dips with heavy equipment in late November.

Over the winter, El Dorado County organized an effort to fly rock to Cadillac Hill and Observation Point to save Cadillac from slipping off the mountain and to harden the rolling dips from November. The TNF told El Dorado County to cancel the project as there was more paperwork needed between the agencies before any work could be done.

CA State Parks stepped in and rock was flow until the weather shut down the operation. The Cadillac work was done, the rolling dips were not.

Just recently, and I’m talking days ago, the TNF presented El Dorado County with a stack of forms that need to be filled out. Unfortunately, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors need to approve those forms once they are filled out before El Dorado County can work on the Rubicon. We’re talking MONTHS.

Vickie Sanders posted this on ‘The Rubicon Gazette” Facebook page. It’s a pretty good source of Rubicon info:

County Update:

Placer County Side:

There has been a recent change that I want to communicate with you. In February El Dorado County, Placer County, California State Parks Off-Highway Division, Eldorado National Forest, Tahoe National Forest and The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for the Rubicon Trail. This agreement was to provide a seamless experience on the Rubicon and enable El Dorado County to assist with project on the Placer County side. El Dorado County cannot assist until we complete one more Forest Service agreement. I am working on that agreement but it will take a few months to execute.

So in the meantime, if you have any projects, questions, or volunteer efforts for the portion of trail within the Tahoe National Forest please contact Joe Chavez- Trails/Recreation Specialist at the Tahoe National Forest at, phone 530-478-6158. This would be 5.3 miles from the El Dorado/Placer County line heading to Tahoma.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) manages 1.9 miles of trail which includes the staging area in Tahoma. If you have any projects, questions, or volunteer efforts in this portion please call me Vickie Sanders at 530-621-7538 or email at I will coordinate with LTBMU.

El Dorado County Side:

On the El Dorado County side of the trail, I am looking for frequent Rubicon Trail users that would like to volunteer to stock the restrooms on the trail with toilet paper. We keep the back of the units stocked with TP. We are out once a week cleaning, stocking and pumping but it has come to our attention that mid-trail staff will not be assisting with stocking of the restrooms. If you are interested in assisting, please let us know and we will get you a key. Any assistance is appreciated. You can contact Justin Williams at 530-621-5554.


Just received an email from Rubicon Trail Foundation that mid-trail will assist when they can. Thank you RTF.

Thank you

So, in typical government fashion, one step forward, two steps back. I’m trying to stay positive and think long term. Maybe in a few years they’ll get it figured out.

Over the last few days, an effort has been made to get all of the agencies who signed the MOU, property owners along the Rubicon and users groups to start communicating. Everybody now has everyone else’s contact information at their fingertips. Hopefully, things will happen faster.

On a different note, The TNF is going out on the trail to look at water issues within the TNF. Hopefully, they’ll get something going to start fixing the issues. I know that one deep, thick mud hole is high on their list.

Stay tuned and be ready to support Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR) when they ask for volunteers.


Rubicon Ronin

Spider Excavator Work on Cadillac Hill by TNF

Here we go..

Last week, El Dorado County voted to approve an MOU regarding maintenance and management of the Rubicon Trail. The Tahoe National Forest also signed on. I do not know the date the TNF signed on.

In that Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), all the agencies agreed to:

A. Coordinate in the planning and management related to the Rubicon Trail.
B. Coordinate efforts to provide maintenance, interpretive, educational, and outreach programs with consistent messaging to the public and recreational users on the Rubicon Trail.

On Monday, just days after this MOU was signed, Joe Chavez, of the Tahoe National Forest, contracted a Spider Excavator to go out to Cadillac Hill to perform trail maintenance.

The Tahoe National Forest did not coordinate their planning with the other agencies in the MOU. The TNF did not coordinate that maintenance and did not do outreach to the public before starting this work.

Days in to this agreement and Joe Chavez, the head of the TNF is already breaking the rules!

Even thought Joe Chavez asked for and was given my contact information to get my input or cooperation, he never contacted me about this work. Fortunately, I was made aware of the work and decided to show up and watch the “show” as this is an extraordinary piece of equipment. Bob Sweeney of Jeepers Jamboree was also on hand Monday.

The work started just above Morris Rock as there wasn’t time to get the equipment down to the ‘swamp’ area west of Miller Creek. And that’s a good thing. Here’s the before shot:

The TNF directed the Spider to dig up hardened dirt to create a loose dirt berm to prevent erosion. Bob and I were not on board with what the TNF was doing.

Unfortunately, the work done I in the shade and hard to see, but it’s a berm of loose dirt that will get pushed down the trail with vehicle traffic and rainfall/snowmelt.

Although the lower creek crossing was deepened, the berm was not hardened.

Loose rock was placed at the upper hairpin and a drain was created off to the lower left of the photo. This material will end up down the trail, maybe all the way to the lower creek crossing.

This was typical of the rolling dips installed by the FS. I was able to talk Joe out of a few of these claiming there wasn’t a lot of running water on the trail. But he snuck in an extra in a few places he hadn’t planned.

If I weren’t there, the FS would have started moving the boulders around above this creek crossing! The crossing was deepened. The two logs were left in place below that dirt berm so even if the soil washes away, the logs will stay.

Another rolling dip/drain with loose soil.

You can see another rolling dip in the far distance. Joe is shown rolling a rock off the trail. A side trail was obliterated here (before I showed up Tuesday morning) as Joe wants to eliminate all side trails. I was able to talk him out of obliterating several longer sections but he wants to revisit those closings in the spring.

This rock was sticking up out (about a foot) of the middle of the trail enough to scare drivers to go around it, thus widening the trail. Joe wants to narrow the trail where he can. He left a hole in the middle of the trail that will grow and grow.

Some good work was done. The Spider moved around and half way buried a few of the larger rocks here to harden this section and to make it more appealing to users. I think the go around will stay but I know Joe doesn’t like it.

A decent place for a rolling dip but again loose soil and not hardened. Below Observation.

The before just west of Barker Meadow OHV Trail and east of Hummer Bend, looking east:

Looking west after blocking the very short side trail.

I was able to talk Joe in to 4-5 drains to get standing spring water off the trail. He was unaware of these issues on the Placer side. So there were some wins.

Potato Patch, before. The plan was to make this step a little easier, moving some of the stray boulders out of the center and create a ramp:

I think it worked pretty well but it won’t hold for more than 100 rigs. More rock needs to be placed to lock in the larger boulders.

The before on the hard line at Potato Patch. Many DEEP holes:

Some of the boulder from the ‘center’ were place in the holes of this section. It’s better. At least doable by more built rigs but will need more work in the spring.

That was the last work done by the spider. I skipped over many, many more things it did: questionable rolling dips, closures and really good drainages.

Obviously, we had a little snow moving in on us around noon.

Not all of the agencies are on board with this work. There will be some heated discussions moving forward regarding what gets done, how it’s decided and who leads the charge.

I will do everything I can to get in to those rooms and I will keep you informed.


Rubicon Ronin, aka Doug Barr