Let me start by thanking my friends who are getting out on the Rubicon Trail much more than I am. They keep me informed of trail conditions and occasionally pass along a good story. Here is the latest story.
So, last week my good friend got with one of his friends and they headed out for a day of snow wheeling on the Rubicon. My friend is on 38’s with lockers front and rear. I’m sure his friend was running something similar. I do need to teach them to take pictures.
They came across another guy at the Rubicon trailhead they didn’t know who was thinking about heading out on the trail. This guy was less equipped but they dragged him along anyway.
I guess it got interesting when they got to the intersection of the Rubicon and Forest Road 03-04. That’s the road to Barker Pass. As my friend and his buddy turned left down the Rubicon, they turned the lesser rig around and sent him back to the staging area.
Their thought was not to let this guy wheel downhill as it would be too difficult to get him back up that hill later in the day as the snow melts and gets really slick.
My friend, and his buddy, wheeled past the narrow section that looks down on Miller Creek and then another maybe ¼ mile. It was getting late, no reason to take chances, so they both turned around.
They reached the intersection where they turned around the lesser rig and headed to the staging area. Just a few hundred yards from the intersection, there was the lesser equipped rig they had turned around. While my friend and his buddy had wheeled about a mile out and another mile back, this guy had only gone a few hundred yards.
With one rig in front, again breaking trail and occasionally using his tow strap, of the lesser rig and the other behind (not easily done in the snow), they headed out to pavement.
Near the turn for Richardson Lake, they came across a few rigs also out to play in the snow. They had no shovels, no winches, no tow straps, no gear to spend the night. And they were stuck.
What should have been a quick drive out, turned into quite the exodus. Again, there is no room to maneuver one rig around the other to be able to pull rigs through tough spots but these guys made it happen. Five hours after my friend thought he’d be home in his warm house, he finally got there.
The question is, how do we educate these people about the seriousness of the conditions when you go snow wheeling? The unequipped rigs did well to get in as far as they did but it’s a four mile hike out from the Richardson Lake Trail. In deep snow, with out snowshoes, if they had tried to walk out, someone might have died or lost toes or feet to frost bite.
So I have a thought. What about yet another sign…
I don’t know what it will take to get this sign out there but I’m going to try. Even if I turn one rig around who isn’t equipped, it would be worth it.
For those of you who also own a 2wd vehicle along with you 4wd rig, or for those looking to play in the snow with your trail rig, have I got a deal for you.
I just picked up a pair of tire chains for my daily driver, yes, it’s 4wd, but just in case. The beauty of this pair of chains is that they will also fit the tires on the project Jeep, which oddly enough is 2wd right now. A story for another time. The truck has 265/75R18 and the project jeep is 33×10.5R15. One set fits both sizes.
The guys name is Dave and lives near the south east corner of McCarran in Reno. He owns a Jeep (stock) but he’s in to old Harleys. Retired big rig driver who drove Donner Pass most of his career. Cool dude. He has an ad on Craigslist:
He finds big rig chains on the highway (free material) and resizes them to what you need. Since he doesn’t really have material costs, he only charges for his time. He claims it doesn’t take any more time to build chains for a set of 35″ tires than it does for 31″ tires, so the cost is the same. About $60.
He leaves the cam tighteners in place and for me included a homemade tool to work them. You can see from the pictures the cross links are not worn but there is surface rust. I guess if you wanted to you could clean them up and paint them.
I bet if you wanted a custom set with double the number of cross links and wider to drape down the sidewalls, he could build them.
Anyway, I just thought someone out there might need a deal on chains. I think CA law states you need to carry chains during conditions that might require chains. It doesn’t say they have to fit. But why not be prepared with a set that will fit your oversized tires?
Be safe and don’t be ‘that’ guy.
We just got through a series of major storms. Honestly, the biggest of the season. The summits got more than six feet of snow. The Homewood Mountain Resort claims about five feet over the last the last week. That means the Rubicon is buried.
So, I drove past Monday (March 5th) and took a few pictures of the entrance. I was up there just before the storms and took some to compare:
Last Monday the 26th: really no berm to speak of…
Again, this was before the storm just 100 yards up the trail:
After the latest storms: now the neighborhood probably got two feet of snow but notice the snow is piled higher than my six foot tall truck.
Compare that to berms around the neighborhood, maybe three feet tall. I have already sent an email to Placer County letting them know this is unacceptable (dumping snow on a county right of way) and that although the County probably didn’t do it, they need to remove it as they would a load of rock dropped on any county road. Don’t hold your breath.
Looking over the berm, where no motor vehicle has driven, yet; it looks like a good place for a fun day of snow play.
The berm will need to be taken down. Right now you could get a quad or snowmobile through the slot but not much else.
Let me get on my safety soap box…
I can’t say it enough but travel prepared. Figure something will go wrong and you have to spend the night, or two. Have food, water, clothing and shelter for multiple people and many nights.
Believe it or not, some people still don’t get it.
(Photo stolen from a post on Pirate4x4 by “The Fixxer”.)
This rig has been stuck on the trail for a few weeks now. It’s just east of Miller Lake at the water hole. There was room to go around but not much. Now think about this with 4-5 feet of snow burying it.
You might be wheeling along just fine and not realize the rig is underneath you. Honestly, it’s probably still visible but there is a greater chance of sliding in to it if you try and go around.
Some fellow Hi-Lo’s are reaching out to the authorities and the owner to see if we can help get the rig out or at least off to the side for the safe passage of others.
I’ll keep you posted.
So it’s been a mild winter. No where near what we all experienced last winter.
Yesterday, I ventured out to the staging area. The residential area has yet to have enough snow to bring any plowing issues but I’m keeping an eye on it.
The road in is both icy and down to the pavement depending on tree cover. Here is a shot of the bridge over McKinney Creek just before the staging area. Not enough snow so that you’d slip off the bridge.
Here is the view from the bottom of the first climb just past the staging area. It looks innocent enough. Hard packed snow with no signs of ice.
But just up around the corner, there is ice under the thin layer of snow. I was in my pick-up, alone, without a winch, sliding all over the place. So, I very carefully backed down the hill. With better tires and friends to encourage me I think I could have made it.
Last week, John Briggs and Dean Anderson (both of the Tahoe Donner 4wd Club) made it out to Observation. Here is a shot of Miller Lake.
Here is a shot of one of the last climbs before getting to Observation. It’s got a good west facing slope so the snow wasn’t too bad.
The unusual poser shot at Observation (looking the wrong way).
And the traditional poser shot at Observation, with the sun behind them washing out the shot.
Snow is forecast for Sunday and Monday (18th and 19t). Only five inches or so but should be enough to eliminate the ice issue and make for a nice day of wheeling on Tuesday. More snow next Friday so the weekends might not be the best time to go play.
Remember to go prepared. Bring enough gear to spend the night if something goes wrong: think food, water, shelter, heat, communications, etc, Always carry some kind of saw. Even if you wheel out without issue, you might encounter a tree across the trail on your way back. That’s where my “Turn Around, Don’t Go Around” catch phrase doesn’t really work. You’ll need to get home. A hand saw and a winch can move big trees, especially on the snow.
Please remember that at this time, all side trails off the Rubicon are seasonally closed. Just because there is not a gate does not mean the trail is open.
The first side trail to open is the Richardson Lake Trail on April 1st.
On my way to the annual Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s Christmas Party, I drove by the Rubicon trailhead. It was a little sloppy at the staging area with more than eight inches of slop.
Rain is expected over the next few days, so it’s going to get worse. Imagine this mess freezing up. The temperatures will drop below freezing over night this week but they warm up to the 40’s during the day.
Next weekend the temperatures drop dramatically. We’re talking single digits. Go prepared. And don’t go alone.
The deepest spot was over the bridge, maybe ten inches. With no ground warming, it just doesn’t melt. Be careful crossing the bridge as the ‘sides’ are only eight inches tall. If there is a crown to the snow, you may slide off the side. If you’re concerned about sliding sideways, dig two grooves/ruts to prevent sliding.
If you’re feeling like it’s too sloppy, you’re being a whimp. Theses two vehicle were parked along the trail and should have no problem getting out.
Weather conditions can change quickly. Always be prepared to spend the night in case of a breakdown. Tent, sleeping bags, winter clothing, water, food, change of clothes, warm snow boots, etc. Prepare for the worst case. You don’t want to be that guy.
The ham repeater system is in place year round. (Thank you RTF and Dennis Mayer!) Carry a radio in case of trouble as cell phones do not work out there. Tell several people where you are going and when you will return.
The side trails in the Eldorado and the Basin are closed. The Tahoe side trails close January 1st. I would suggest staying on the Rubicon at this time of year. That is because the side trails are narrow and off-camber and you could windup in the trees in the blink of an eye. Trust me, you’ll have plenty of fun on the main trail.
Please stay on the trail. Over the snow travel is not permitted for wheeled vehicles. Snowmobiles can go over the snow but don’t follow their tracks in your 4×4.
Get out there and do some snow wheeling but Tread Lightly! and be safe.