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Dedicated to conservation and multiple use of public lands for recreation opportunities.

Edited by: John Stewart

Rubicon Trail
Pirates' Spider Lake Cleanup 2000

Author: Randy Burleson
Photographs: Randy Burleson and Vance Anderson

POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson
Even the smaller cleanup volunteers pitched in, like Timmy Bibelheimer.
Randy Burleson

Every year since 1997, the Pirates of the Rubicon have organized a cleanup weekend focusing on the most heavily used section of the venerable Rubicon Trail, the section between Loon Lake and Spider Lake. Tens of thousands of enthusiasts 'wheel this Sierra trail every year, and though many exercise Tread Lightly principles, there are always a few in any crowd who fail to clean up after themselves. Add this up with the evidence of other trail users -- on any given weekend, you'll also see hikers, horse riders, mountain bikers, motorcyclists, all terrain vehicle riders, dune buggy drivers, etc. -- and this area benefits greatly from the cleanup.

POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson
Not even frigid temperatures or the early hour could keep cleanup volunteers away from the Loon Lake staging area.
Randy Burleson

The Pirates of the Rubicon club members hail from the greater Sacramento/Tahoe area, but their organizational efforts welcome any and all folks who are willing to pitch in. CA4WDC and US4WDA volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder with Pirate club members and their friends, all with cooperation from the Forest Service and its rangers.

The cleanup efforts began in earnest Saturday morning, as three separate groups of volunteers converged on Spider Lake. A handful of rigs started working their way back from Buck Island towards main camp at Spider Lake, picking up litter ad they came. A larger contingent of volunteers had driven into Spider Lake earlier; they scoured the area around the lake and Little Sluice for trash and... well... other evidence of human traffic. The largest group of volunteers departed from Loon Lake in stages, focusing their efforts on cleaning up as they converged on Spider Lake.


POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson
Moving massive boulders required elaborate multi-line pulls from multiple winches at a time.
Randy Burleson
...and final positioning often required a concerted group effort in addition to the winches.
Randy Burleson
The end result, though is a Forest Service-approved blockade that should help keep traffic where it belongs.
Randy Burleson

Subgroups of volunteers worked on Forest Service-flagged areas to block off unapproved bypasses. Not every enthusiast that visits the Rubicon Trail is prepared for the challenges of the high Sierra terrain. Too frequently, this results in bypasses blazed around the very challenges that these enthusiasts came for in the first place. These bypasses are made by many different recreational users, whether they straddle a horse, a mountain bike, or an ATV, or whether they roll on four wheels. Repeated traffic on these bypasses, even if done only with shoe leather, can tear up the countryside and its scenery. Blocking these bypasses helps keep the traffic on the trails, where it belongs, where impact can be minimized.

One of the biggest impacts of recreational use in this area comes from a shortage of indoor plumbing. The vault toilets at Loon Lake are often the closest facilities for miles around, even though outhouses do occasionally get brought in. Forest Service policy forbids installation of permanent unmaintained structures, and many enthusiasts are just too lazy to clean up after themselves. The Pirates take pride in their cleanup of all evidence of recreational overuse... even shoveling up the piles from other users. It's a nasty job, but someone has to do it.

POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Randy Burleson
You can help, even if you didn't make the cleanup. Next time you see a puddle like this, the rangers suggest digging drainage. Dry trails stand up better to motorized traffic, and keep hikers and horsemen from bypassing off-trail.
Randy Burleson

The different cleanup crews all pickup as they travel towards Spider, which becomes ground zero for the cleanup celebration. After spending a cold day cleaning and repairing the trail, theres always fun to be had in Little Sluice. This year Thrasher magazine taped one of their posters high on the cliff wall and attached twenty and fifty dollar bills along it, as reward for the 'wheelers who could reach a wheel high enough onto the wall to pull down currency. With this challenge thrown down, the sluicebox was the center of attention.

POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Vance Anderson POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Vance Anderson POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Vance Anderson
As always, Little Sluice was the center of the action. The normal route through was just as fun as usual, but the real crowd-pleaser was the dollar-studded Thrasher poster, luring enthusiasts up... and sometimes over onto their lids.
Vance Anderson

POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Vance Anderson
Not even the steady drizzle, and howling wind were enough to cancel the raffle.
Vance Anderson

The Pirates raffled off rewards and prizes to cleanup volunteers. Local merchants and vendors pitched in to this raffle, standing behind the efforts of the cleanup volunteers.

POR Spider Lake Cleanup 2000, Photo by Vance Anderson
Ya just gotta dig a 4x4 Pinto.
Vance Anderson

Celebrations wound down pretty early, silenced by the howling winds and frigid temperatures, but the best part of the event was already finished -- the trail was clean and in good repair.

Click here for more coverage and other cleanup pictures.


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