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.
No pictures but I just got word about the Tahoe end of the trail. That word is ICE.
The paved road to the staging area is not too steep but in the few places where it has slope, it’s icy. If you make it to the staging area, considerate it an accomplishment.
Just past the staging area is the first good slope of the trail. The report is it’s all ice. You might start the climb but before you reach the top, you will lose traction and then experience an “Oh Shit” moment as you slide backwards, out of control.
John Briggs of FOTR was there the other day and witnessed a few people try and fail on the climb. Luckily, the sliding rigs came to a safe stop without injury or damage.
Those dedicated to getting up it will surely make it, with a few winch evolutions.
Weather is predicted for the coming weekend. It might add the snow needed for traction or it might just hide the ice underneath. Be cautious.
It has been a slow start to our winter. Only 30% so far. This might make the Rubicon accessible to more people, except for the ice. But please remember the side roads are now all closed for the season. The ENF was last with a Jan 1st closure date.
Please go prepared, with others, a ham radio and drive safe. Let someone know where you are gong and when you plan on returning.
It’s been a long winter. We all want to get out on our trails. Feel free to do so but travel with caution. Although the trail below looks inviting, look closer at the tree across the trail 100 yards out.
The picture below is why I really stopped here. This is the Middle Fork Trail up Blackwood Canyon. It parallels the paved Forest road 03 to Barker Pass. I’ve actually asked the FS to close the trail until repairs can be done.
My fear is someone not paying attention, more likely at night, might drive off the road,
Back to the pictured tree across the trail. There is evidence that people are going off trail to get around the tree. My motto: “Turn Around, Don’t Go Around”. If you come across such an obstacle, use your winch or a strap to clear the problem. If you can’t stay on the trail and clear the obstacle, turn around.
On upper Barker Pass Road, there is still a little snow wheeling to be done.
I didn’t take picture of all the downed trees I came across. Most were smaller or not blocking the entire trail. On a motorcycle, it’s much easier to get around a tree in the trail without doing resource damage.
There are plans in the works to get out to all the side trails off the Rubicon to clear the obstacles. We’ll leave the snow for you though.
Basically, winter seems to be hanging around.
There is still a ton of water on and around the trails. Snow drifts will be found in the shade. Mud in other places. Please Tread Lightly!
Here is the pond at the Ellis Peak Trail intersection. This was taken on June 19th, so most of this is probably gone, but it’s a heck of a lot of snow for June!
The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has a list of closed trails on their website. Those trails include, but are not limited to Noonchester, Buck Lake, Middle Fork, Forest Road 03, Twin Peaks, 16E16, etc. It is the users responsibility to know what trails are open or closed regardless of trail and gate conditions.
Although the Tahoe National Forest has not published a list of closed roads, be aware that most of the TNF trails in the Rubicon area will have deep snow drifts for some time.
There are a lot of snags in the forest right now. John Briggs and I spent five hours on June 19th cutting back downed trees along the Rubicon. And that was only between the staging area and the turn for the Ellis Peak Trail at the pond. Be prepared to remove trees from the trail both on the way in and on the way out. Trees could fall after you’ve past and you’ll need a way to get out.
We were able to pull down this snag by hand and cut it up and throw it off the trail. There is plenty of firewood to be had. Go to the Tahoe National Forest office in Truckee for the permit.
Do not drive around downed trees. The motto of this website is: “Turn Around, Don’t Go Around”. That means don’t drive off trail to get around an obstacle be it snow, a tree or just a tough section of trail. The anti-OHV people will use such incidents against us to get our trails closed.
There is a report of a HUGE boulder on the trail below Morris Rock. It would be great to split it up and harden the trail with a few smaller obstacles. Until that boulder is moved or reduced in size, Cadillac Hill will be very tough to get up.
Another report had Miller Creek flowing at 48″ deep. I find this hard to believe but if it’s anywhere near true, it will be tough to cross. The section west of there will be VERY wet and very deep in places. Check the depth before you charge in to any water holes.
There was a report of four rigs stuck on the trail, two with blown motors. One of those was in that wet section described above. I’m hoping work has been done to start the removal of those rigs. The two snow bound rigs were removed earlier and both driven out under their own power.
I believe that this one had a blown motor. If you look closely, the trail is up on the snow bank. But the snow bank is a little off camber and thus the heightened pucker factor. The rig it technically off trail. Remember, “Turn Around, Don’t Go Around”.
Just received from Vickie Sander of El Dorado County:
Sun, May 21 2017 2:35 PM
Condition exist on the Rubicon Trail that warrant closure. The monitoring protocols have been met. I am sending this to the ROC email list to get the information out as soon as possible and will post to the County website tomorrow. Loon Lake to the Intertie is not effected by this closure. With the upcoming holiday it is important that we get this information out.
My understanding is that this is a water running on the trail issue. With the warm temperatures, the excessive snow melt over runs the rolling dips and water bars. There are certain spots that get measured on a regular basis during the melt and it the water is deeper than allowed, motor vehicle traffic is temporarily suspended.
Hopefully these ‘trouble’ spots are documented and better features are placed on the trail to prevent future closures.
This only effects the Wentworth Springs section of the trail. I assume Airport Flat to the Ellis Creek (Loon Lake) intertie.
Vickie will email users when the conditions change and the trail is reopened.