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.