Major 14N39 trail work by ENF

So, I headed out to the Rubicon to place more carsonite trail markers, and came across a large “Road work ahead” sign at the staging area. I was meeting John Briggs, the Friends of the Rubicon Tahoe side lead. We moved markers at a few of the campsites and later placed markers at the intersection of Forest Road 03 (Barker Pass Road) and 03-04.



After getting our volunteer commitments done, we headed up the Richardson Lake Trail (14N39) to see what was actually going on. We knew that the last ‘meadow’ was scheduled for work but wanted to see for ourselves.

On our way up the Rubicon earlier, we came across a HUGE dump truck. It was a Volvo 725. I believe that means a 25 yard bed. I had earlier asked the size of the hauler (before seeing it) and he said it could do 20 tons. This is a similar machine to the ones Placer used to haul so much material last summer. I think it was the same contractor.


We drove up 14N39 to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), where the trail temporarily ends and walked the short distance from there. There we met Tim Merten. He is a Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) civil engineer on loan to the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) to deal with the “42 Meadow Route Closures”.

At the ‘meadow’, there was a very large excavator working the section of trail that goes through the ‘meadow’. The plan calls for digging down almost two feet, laying cloth that will prevent the rock from sinking but allow water to pass, placing rip-rap about the size of a football, smaller rock on top of that and finally 3/4 crushed rock as ‘drain rock’. The final product should be able three inches above the grade of the ‘meadow’.



I was told they planned on three weeks to complete the work and I wondered if they were going to place each rock by hand.

What I later learned was the plan also calls for rebuilding twenty five (25) rolling dips along the trail as they work their way out.

With any luck, we’ll be driving to the top of Sourdough by the 20th!


14N39 work party

We’re still working out the details but there is a work party scheduled for this weekend on the Richardson Lake Trail.

The basic plan is to harden the rolling dips made by heavy equipment last week by covering them and a few sections of trail with a gravel/dirt mix. We will also make at least one rolling dip and spread debris in an open area to slow storm runoff.

Volunteers are need and if you have a trailer, bring it. The FS will provide a front loader to load the trailers. RTF is making their trailers available for use and they have a dump bed which was discussed in an earlier post. RTF Trailer

Please join us at the Tahoma trailhead on this weekend Saturday the 12th and/or Sunday the 13th.

A discussion can be followed on




Working with the Eldorado National Forest?

As the only pro-OHV appellant from the east side of the Sierras, I have taken a personal interest in getting the Richardson Lake Trail, 14N39, reopened. One of my clubs, The North Tahoe Trail Dusters, often would organize a mid-week after work run to the top of Sourdough Peak for a BBQ and to watch the sunset. We’d then wheel down in the dark.

Trying to work ‘with’ the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) to get this trail reopened has been a challenge. My fallback line to them has been “Partnership Not Pushback” but it seems I get more pushback than partnership.

Early on, before the Record of Decision (ROD), I had organized a tour of 14N39. Scheduled to be there were all the right people from the ENF and the users to drive them. The day before the tour the head ENF ranger, Lawrence Crabtree, pulled the hydrologist to another project. We went anyway and documented the ‘meadow’ issues and how each could be fixed.

The ENF later changed the rules and claimed that no planning could be done on any fixes until the forest hydrologist could visit the trail and get eyes on the issue. They couldn’t read our notes and draft something; they couldn’t look at our photographs and draft something; they couldn’t work from the first hydrologist’s notes and draft something.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

But the hydrologist was not available later on to make it to the trail. Then the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit tried to help by sending their hydrologist to look at the trail. But an early snow flurry covered the trail the day before the scheduled tour. Let’s not discuss the fact that it didn’t snow again for months.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

So the winter went by with the ENF not willing to talk about possible fixes, not willing to talk about possible reroutes, not willing to talk about possible temporary fixes to the last meadow, not willing to talk about any possible maintenance, basically not willing to do anything that move this project forward. Pushback not partnership.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

Over the winter, I’m thinking about possible fixes to both the minor water issues and the last meadow reroute. I email a few questions to the ENF and don’t hear back. I finally email the boss of my ENF contact and I hear back from my contact. They snapped back about other things going on and being short staffed, etc. Pushback not partnership. They never did answered my questions.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

Spring arrives. I’ve already drafted a plan for the inevitable tour with the ENF and this time the hydrologist. Its three pages long: goals, objectives, list of possible attendees, communications plan, medical plan, timeline, etc. So, I contact the ENF to lay the groundwork for this tour that is still a month away due to snow.

I receive an email basically telling me that the ENF will send a group to tour the trail and then put out a plan of what the fixes will be. A second tour could be scheduled if needed for the appellants. Then there would be a comment period.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

There were so many ‘issues’ in this one email from the ENF that I contacted them and later drove over the hill to meet with them in person.

At the end of the meeting, I had still not got my way but had made a little ground. The ENF would still send out a team without users or appellants and would schedule a second tour with appellants, within a week, prior to drafting and publishing a plan. This would allow input from individuals outside the FS to comment prior to the ENF coming to a decision on how to fix any issues.

There are still many issues to ‘discuss’ with the ENF. The primary one being to start working on possible ways to temporarily ‘fix’ the last meadow issues to allow users to drive to the summit while the years long reroute gets completed.

Don’t worry, I’m still pushing. I’m aiming for a partnership but I’ll take anything as long as I can keep things moving forward.


Good news, bad news.

The good news is…

On April 1st, the Eldorado National Forest will allow the scheduled opening of its OHV trails that were closed for the “wet” season. The forest has the option of extending the seasonal closure if they feel the trails are still too wet.

Link to the ENF press release

The bad news is…

The only ENF trail that is near the Rubicon on the Tahoe side, 14N39 The Richardson Lake Trail, remains closed due to four sections of the trail not meeting “Standard & Guideline 100” for meadows.


My goal is to work with the ENF and Reno/Tahoe volunteers to get at least the first three ‘meadow’ issues fixed. Optimistically, I’d love to see them open for Memorial Weekend; Fourth of July at the latest. As for the last ‘meadow’, I’d love to see a temporary fix in place before the end of the season. That section will require a reroute and that will take YEARS to finish.



For some time, there has been a fight going on over 42 trails within the Eldorado National Forest (ENF). Right now, 24 of those trails have been opened.  The remaining 18 trails need some kind of fix, from simply putting down gravel to rerouting a ½ mile of trail.

One of these trails is the Richardson Lake Trail, 14N39. The Richardson Lake Trail turns south off the Rubicon Trail just west of Miller Lake.  It runs past the Sierra Club’s Ludlow Hut on the way to the summit of Sourdough Peak.

The trail does not offer much challenge to OHV users but provides an awesome view from the top.  At the top, looking west, you look down on Desolation Wilderness, Loon Lake and the Rubicon Trail.  The summit offers some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Although the ENF has been slow to work with the users to form and implement a plan to repair the four ‘meadow’ issues on the trail, they have closed the trail.  The following signs now grace the Richardson Lake Trail just south of Miller Creek.

Signs & post

I am currently trying to work with the ENF to get a plan developed this winter, so we can hit the trail early next spring to repair and re-open the trail. Getting access to Richardson Lake should be straight forward. Use of the trail for the next mile or so is also doable. But user access to the summit might require a reroute and lots of NEPA, EIS and other studies.

Stay tuned.