Forest Health Here in the California Alps Is Scary – What Can We Do About It?

JUST last week Blue and I went on of our favorite rides – up to Raymond Meadow Creek, or more aptly where Raymond Meadow Creek crosses under Hwy. 4 (on the north side of Ebbetts Pass). We also hit up Wolf Creek Road (and got a 9th place cup on Strava!), another of our favorites.

I’VE ridden the first long segment of this particular ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 times. Similarly, I’ve ridden much of the area’s segments (thanks Strava for capturing that data) dozens and also in some cases, hundreds of times.

  • Ebbett’s north, nineteen (19) times.
  • Kingsbury Grade, nine (9) times.
  • Luther Pass, only four (4) times (on my bike). In the car I’ve done it hundreds of times – it’s the primary route to S. Lake Tahoe.
Before and after…pre-Tamarack Fire (when Roscoe was a road bike) on the left; post-Tamarack Fire on the right.
It’s important to note, too, the apparent healthy forest on the left, really isn’t. Too much understory and too crowded (among other things). Two big reasons that many of our forests, as well as so many others around the globe, have burned with the ferocity and intensity they have.

MRS. California Alps and I have been here almost six (6) years – October 28th is our six-year anniversary. We’ve seen much of the area over many different seasons, as you can imagine. Editors note: I must give a shout out to Mama (mine) California Alps – who’s been here since the summer of 2018.

My Point?

WELL, you’re probably with me already…Our forests are in trouble. We’ve known this for a long-time I suppose but these last couple of years it’s been even more apparent, or more aptly put (at least for us) it’s become outright scary.

The year before we came here it was the Washington Fire. That’s Colorado Hill, near Monitor Junction. It was burned in that fire and seven years later it still looks like this.

LAST year it was the Tamarack and the Caldor. And I’m only talking about the local fires. We’ve all seen it. It’s happening all over the world.

Climate Change Certainly Hasn’t Helped, Either

NOW I’m no academic. Some college but definitely no forestry-related education. I can’t talk to the trees. Okay I do but they don’t talk back. I do hug them, though. The rub here however, is that there are fewer of them to hug. Or in some rare instances, too many of them to hug.

The forests are not happy.
I have thousands of miles of riding around and in them to know it.
To feel it. To see it.
It’s changing.

AND so I found myself, after reading the NY Times guest essay “Yvon Chouinard Is the Founder of Patagonia. He’s Also My ‘Dirtbag’ Friend” thinking that Yvon Chouinard was way more than a mountain-stud, he was a gift to humanity for putting those buckets of Patagonia ducats where his boca is, as he has done for most of his life. When he announced that he was donating Patagonia’s ownership to a trust with profits earmarked to address climate change, I was touched. That, I thought, will make a difference.

HERE at California Alps Cycling we’re not quite as flush as Patagonia but we do what we can. I asked my myself could we do more though? We’ve given many a dollar to local non-profits, Calbike, USA Cycling, the California State Parks Foundation, and others. I suspect you’ve done much the same. Thank you, by the way.

LET’S be clear, however, “not quite as flush” means we make slightly more than zippo from our CAC Shop. It’s a labor of love and a way to spread the gospel of cycling and of the CA Alps. I still need, and truly love, my day job. Made even more special because I get to do it from here. It’s that job and Mrs. California Alp’s part-timer that sustains our Chalet.

HENCE my argument to Mrs. California Alps:

“This cause is a righteous one honey and since we really don’t make enough money from CAC to make a huge difference in our day-to-day, why not donate what we do make to the forest?”

MY biggest supporter, pictured above doing her turn at the booth earlier this year, agreed.

And so forests are going to be our cause.
Our local forests.
The H-T (Humboldt-Toiyabe); the Stanislaus, the El Dorado.
And perhaps others.

WE’VE set up a new page for that reason: Contribute to the Cause. You may have seen it on our navigation menu at the top of our website. Editor’s note: Stripe, the payment processor we use to take donations, is putting a percentage of their dough to climate change, so just a little more goes a little further.

TAKE a peak and if you can help, please do. Please spread the word, too, if you don’t mind. Whether it’s this cause or another, or perhaps a good article or book, or just to inform a friend or colleague.

SWEAT equity will remain a big part of what we’re about. Cleaning highways, building trails, volunteering our riding time for various causes and boards…Giving back to the communities where we live, work and ride. We’ll keep doing those things.

AND from now on, with your help, we’ll also spread a little more green to organizations and individuals that help that green.

STAY tuned for more information, and future reports on our efforts.

IN the meantime, if you want to learn more, please check out our friends at the Alpine Biomass Collaborative. They do more to educate us locals about forest health than anyone else, and their recent presentation by Dr. Malcolm North was another catalyst of the cause. They will be one of the new beneficiaries of our ours.

HOW about you? Ready to follow Yvon’s lead?

Descending the Charity Valley Trail – With a Mountain Biker’s Eye

‘TWAS the last Saturday of July when members of the Alpine Trails Association (ATA) joined members of the Tahoe Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) for a trails work day on the Charity Valley Trail, one of the prettiest trails in the California Alps.

I was looking forward to finally getting to use my back (most work days fall on a weekday and so my bizdev hat, rather than the hardhat, must be worn) and my new McLeod, and as the officer-at-large (some might say large officer) of the ATA I was excited about our first opportunity to look at one of the most popular trails here in Alpine Co. from the perspective of mountain bike trail-builders (call them trail building mountain bikers if you wish).

WE were also eager (anxious is a better word) to see what damage the Tamarack Fire had wrought on our beloved trail. None of the team had been down the east face of the trail since then.

Here’s what we saw. So much devastation yet we were encouraged by the green carpet of ferns and other flora.

OUR group was certainly diverse. Four old guys (at 58 I was the youngest) from Markleeville and Woodfords, and nine young dudes (including a father and son, with mountain bikes), some of whom hailed from the bay area, some of whom from the Tahoe area and one (our co-leader, Gabe Tiller) joined us from up Oregon way, although he was a bay area boy prior as I recall.

IT’S definitely worth mentioning that among other things Gabe is a director of the Orogenesis Collective (“a new way on old ground”), an ambitious endeavor to connect 7300 km of bikepacking trails, from the Cascades Trail, to the Baja Divide. A big reason he was in the area…Alpine County is/could be a part of that system and this event was one of several stewardship camps that Gabe and team set up towards that end.

After intros all around it was a tool and safety orientation. This was after all, a full blown, USFS sanctioned event, which meant that full on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) was required.

A few members of the team, including co-leaders Gabe (2nd from right) and Andy (far right), as we were getting oriented.

That involves wearing shoes that cover the feet (boots for many of us, including yours truly), long pants, long shirts, and gloves, and donning hard hats and safety glasses.

IT was a hot mofo that day! In the nineties… 90ish in the Sierra is like 100ish in the city. The air here is so dry and you’re a bit closer to ol’ Sol as well. As such, we carried lots of H20, and our other co-leader, Andy, had a filter, too. There were myriad tools to carry: from McLeods to Pulaskis, loppers to handsaws, one pole saw and two battery powered hedge trimmers, one with a big ol’ backpack battery-pack.

CHRIS, who joined us at the falls, was the maninal that carried that. Was a very cool rig and it was obvious to this trail-building neophyte, if it wasn’t already, that this crew was serious.

Here’s a video I took of a chunk of the trail and it includes a glimpse of Chris and his unit. 😉

IT was a long day, too. We didn’t really cut ourselves any slack because of the heat. Hey! We had a mission and any day in the Sierra after all…

STILL, our PPE definitely made things more challenging, yet I could certainly see the value of said gear. We were handling sharp instruments and some big rocks, and consistently dodging over-hanging branches and under-hanging shrubbery.

YOU can get a sense of what it was like by taking a gander at the little video below. It’s us beginning to transform a “hiker’s line” to a “biker’s line.”

AND several other images of the crew at work…

ABOUT 1/2 way through the day we found ourselves at the falls, or pools (both really), for a break and for some, a dip. (Photo on the right courtesy of Jeff Glass, of TAMBA).

WE arrived back in Grover Hot Springs State Park about 3:30 p.m. and found our shuttles waiting. We had dropped some vehicles there in the a.m. for our return trip back to the trailhead at Blue Lakes Road, and we had a couple volunteers (Mrs. California Alps Cycling and Momma California Alps Cycling) augment our caravan as well.

MY legs were sore! Frankly, pretty much all of me was. It’s one thing riding a bunch of miles on the road and certainly another hiking, mcleoding, bouldering, cutting, trimming and digging trail.

STILL, what an awesome trek! We all learned something and we made some new friends, too. Such a deal.

I’LL leave you with a bunch more pix from the day.

FOR even more snapshots, including OROGENESIS PROJECT’S Charity Valley Stewardship Campout 2022 Flickr album, click here. You can donate to the Bikepacking Roots cause here, by the way.

A big shout out to Gabe for helping lead the event, and for teaching us newbies and experienced trail builders alike to look at those lines differently.

NOW if I could just learn to ride some of ’em…

Debris Flow Dancing Here in Markleeville – Another Challenge for Alpine County

OUR wild ride started about ten (10) days ago here in California Alps Cycling country. Things have been in disarray since, made all the better (not!) by some extended travel time, and other challenges, and so my apologies for not getting this report out a bit sooner.

NONETHELESS…

‘TWAS Wednesday, August 3rd, about 3:00 p.m. That’s when the skies opened up, and within hours the waves of mud and debris came tumblin’ down Markleeville’s Main Street (aka Hwy. 89).

THERE I was, sitting on said Hwy. 89 just north of town, at the temporary light constructed by Caltrans, just after giving blood (1 gallon milestone, by the way!) in Minden, NV. Another car was coming up the hill in the one lane that was available for travel – hence the light – and I was surprised at how much, and how fast, that puddle it just passed through, was growing. Then I noticed the mini-boulders on the road.

AND then I looked up and saw the water, rocks and mud beginning to flow from the scarp above me. “This isn’t good,” I said aloud. Then I began yelling at the light to change (there were no more cars stopped opposite me). Also aloud, and with some, as you might imagine, colorful language.

IT didn’t change fast enough (that detritus above was getting chunkier) and there were no cars coming up, so off I went. Just over a mile and home I was. The rain was just getting started as it turns out. I learned a little later that Mom came in ahead of me. She had hitched up her wagon to go to town (Gardnerville, NV – just so. of Minden) and do some shopping at the general store, i.e., Raley’s. 😉

WE both got home about 3:30 p.m. Thunderstorm-palooza then began in earnest.

This was the scene on Friday, after much of the mud had been removed.

2.2 Inches In About An Hour!

OUR weather station’s console read “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

HERE’S a little little video to give some sense of the rain rate and intensity.
That’s Hot Springs Road between us and the fire station across the street.

Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I had seen that message before but not displayed for so long and not with so much associated ca-ca (i.e., sticks, mud, pinecones, etc.) in the run-off outside. I donned my foul weather gear (including hard hat) after awhile so I could do some cleaning and clearing in order to keep things moving the right way. My wife and I did a lot of whoa!-ing and holy-s*&t!-ing, let me tell you.

DIDN’T know how bad it was in town until the next day…

MARKLEEVILLE’S Post Office parking lot the day after – and this was after much of the mud was cleared away. Still, needed my muck boots to pick up yesterday’s mail. We were shocked when we got into town. We had some idea that it was going to be a mess, but this? Not on our radar…

“WHAT can I do to help?”

I heard that. Thanks so much for asking. Here’s a link to the Markleeville Business Reslience Fund.

SO many have been so generous already and if you too can help out, please do. Our little county doesn’t have much of a tax base (1100 people in the entire county) so grants, donations and the like are so very helpful.

MAKE a donation of $50.00 or more and I’ll send you a t-shirt as a small token of appreciation. Go big ($200 or more) and I’ll send you a windvest. Just send me an email with a screenshot and I’ll follow up with ya!

WE are grieving (again) but we are NOT wallowing so please don’t feel sorry for us. We, like so many communities throughout the world, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

OKAY, so back to the story…

THURSDAY afternoon it was. I found myself filling sandbags with so many of my friends. Everyone had rallied at the fire station so bags could be positioned in town to protect the buildings from what was supposed to be the next wave. Thankfully it didn’t come. It might, however, this week, and if not, IMHO it’s likely to occur before summer’s end. We’re resilient though if nothing else, and more importantly there are a lot of skilled, Sierra-forged individuals – with heavy equipment 😉 – in the area.

Deep mud, and silt, and debris. Pretty much everywhere.

WE needed all the help we could get. And that help also came in the form of two (2) bay area fire departments making the trip to Markleeville and spending several days helping us dig out.

THANK YOU Menlo Park F.D. and Oakland F.D!

What’s Next?

ABOUT another week of going over Monitor Pass to get to Nevada or South Lake Tahoe, for one. We’ve all been doing that since the 3rd, but the temporary bridge over the ~20 foot gap on northbound Hwy. 89 should be in place by the 22nd. Just this past Friday the sheriff’s escort started, though, so we can get in and out via a side-road constructed just for that purpose. Twice a day only, between 7-730 a.m. and 6-630 p.m.

Otherwise it’s a southbound trip down Hwy. 89 then east up and over Monitor Pass and then north on Hwy. 395 only to turn west in Gardernerville and head up Hwy. 88 to Luther Pass where it’s north again to Big Blue.

SO, what is usually about a 40′ trip to So. Lake Tahoe takes about two (2) hours! No fun. Especially when at the 1.25 hour mark you end up at Woodfords Junction, six (6) miles north of Markleeville.

RECOVERY is also on the agenda.

Events continue, lives go on.

GROVER Hot Spring’s waterfall beckons (and the campground is open)…

I did a mountain bike ride up to and around the park, followed with about a 1/2 mile hike up to the falls.
A special treat it was to dunk my head under one of those “little drips.” From town it’s only three (3) miles or so up to the park. There’s a nice spur trail too, to get you into the park – Charity Valley East. Check it out!

EBBETT’S Pass is still rideable…

Was a beautiful ride last weekend for my 19th ascent up the south/east side.

Like I Said, Grieving, Not Wallowing

ALPINE County is still one of the most beautiful places in the Sierra.

AS the saying goes, one (1) person per square mile (it’s actually .6754 persons), and you!

DON’T give up on us. We’re not going anywhere and we’re looking forward to seeing you again soon.

AFTER all Hwy. 89 into Markleeville will be open next Monday! You can buy me a beer. I’ll pick up the second round.

And…

LET’S KICK SOME PASSES’ ASSES!

Deathride 2022 – Il Finito

AFTER a two-year hiatus we finally pulled it off. Deathride 2022, with the new course into the Lake Alpine area, with Pacific Grade x2 added, was a MASSIVE success!

YOURS truly was not fit enough to attempt what Peter Stetina says is one of the hardest century-rides in the country, but I did spend this morning doing a bit of “ambassador-ing” on part of the course. I hit Hwy. 4 about the time the fastest riders were coming down from Monitor Pass and heading up to Ebbett’s Pass.

EVEN though those two HC climbs are challenging, and the sunshine and blue sky was brilliant, the smiles of the riders still lit up the road. After days of smoke-filled skies we were blessed by Ma Nature with clear air yesterday and today. Yeah, it’s hot (over 90 degrees fahrenheit today) but it wouldn’t be the Deathride without some sort of weather “event,” right?

THE riders I talked to while on the road today, and yesterday during the Expo., were so appreciative of the opportunity to attempt the ride yet again.

THAT included my friend John K. from Chula Vista.

SO far the rider from London takes the cake for distance. All the way across the pond! Seriously? As I write this post from the Expo I’m waiting for him to stop by the booth so he can pick up his free California Alps Cycling cap. He’s definitely earned it. I also talked to riders from Colorado Springs, Maryland and Idaho. So many more came from so many places…How cool is that?

AND the volunteers…What a truly amazing and inspiring bunch of folks. From rest-stops to water-stops; from radio comms. to medical; from litter picker-uppers to booth staffers and registration signer-uppers…everyone was on their game and so welcoming of the ride and riders.

THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!

THE first finishers started coming in around 11:30 a.m. or so and the first woman rider came in about 12:30. That’s FAST! Way faster than anything I’ve ever done, or will do, that’s for certain. It’s now 3:30 or so and riders are still coming in. Sweat-stained jerseys and bibs, white coated from sunscreen in some cases, many of them a bit disheveled for sure, and yet such a sense of pride. As it should be.

Deathriders making their way up Hwy. 4 towards Ebbetts Pass. After they’ve done Monitor x 2. Video taken at Scossa Cow Camp. If you look closely you can see the “Scossa ladies” setting up a viking skit for the rider’s entertainment.

HUGE thanks to the sponsors of the Deathride, too. Talk about resilience! About twenty (20) came out, including us of course. We had coffee, schwag, beer and more thanks to their efforts.

A special tip ‘o the hat to Tamo and Nikki, founders/owners of ATAQ fuel, and one of our marquee sponsors. If you haven’t tried ATAQ’s products, by the way, you should. I’ve been using it since last year and I really like it. No gut issues and a plant-based product to boot!

SIERRA Nevada deserves special mention, too. They have supported the ride for years and continue to do so. And their beer is the best! Ahhh…

DID I mention that it’s hot? I guess I did but I’ll say it again. It’s toasty today. I can’t help but marvel at the attitudes of the riders. Yeah, you have to be fit but in the end, as my brother-from-another-mother would say, the Deathride is really a state of mind. We are truly blessed to have such support from riders all over the world.

THERE are still some riders on the course so those final data points are still TBD.

IF you were one of the many, whether you be a rider, volunteer, spouse or partner of a rider, you name it, a heartfelt thanks from the Alpine County community. We couldn’t have done it without you and we are so very grateful for the support.

RIDE on! See you next year!

Twelve Days of Being Alpine – A Photo & Video Diary

IT all started in Woodfords on Friday, June 17th, with the Annual Diamond Valley School Bike-a-thon (and bike-rodeo). That “annual part” has been missing until this year but thanks to the hard work of many individuals, much cat-herding by one of them (not me), and major contributions from local businesses, non-profits, bike shops and bike clubs, the event was a huge success.

YOURS truly, and many others, including Michael from Alta Alpina (thanks Michael – couldn’t have done it without you!), worked for several nights prior to the big event, tuning up the kids bikes and getting the donated bikes ready, too.

New bikes ready for a new home. These were all donated by locals, businesses and non-profits. Over 30 of them going to new homes!
The kids getting ready to head out to Diamond Valley Road. Firefighter Paul will keep them out of trouble.

GIVING back to the community, especially to the kids, is one of our primary missions here at California Alps Cycling. I was especially pleased to find some whitewalls for Nick’s old Electra, and to see him ready to rumble, with a big ol’ smile, was oh so cool!

WRENCHING on these bikes was a great trip down memory lane, too, to the days when I was a youngster and worked on my own bikes with crescent wrenches, end-wrenches, cone-wrenches and such. No hydraulic brakes, discs, ceramic bearings, or carbon frames here!

GROVER Hot Springs State Park, you ask…Here’s a quick video of a gravel ride I took last weekend. I started at the pool, which unfortunately is not yet open due to damage from the Tamarack Fire. You’ll notice other damage as you peruse the video. Apologies for the video quality…I had to save it as 720p because after one hour plus of trying to upload the “1080 version” I received this response from WordPress: “Unexpected response from the server. The file may have been uploaded successfully. Check in the Media Library or reload the page.”

WELL, it didn’t, upload successfully that is, and so 720 it is/was. Let’s just say our internet here in Markleeville isn’t the fastest. 😉

The band Ismay, just one of the many great bands that entertained us last weekend.

Made all the more fun due to the fact that the guitarist and singer-songriter/lead vocalist are locals who have put their ducats where their bocas are and have already started helping us recover, and obviously feel strongly about giving back to our community.

Thank you Andy and Avery!

LET’s wrap it up with some fishing news…

It’s been good and it’s bound to get even better! The state planted some fish Monday and the County planted some last week.

A buddy of mine fished Hope Valley and over by Monitor Pass just this morning. He caught 16!

NOTHING finer than fresh-grilled trout, let me tell you. Come wet a line here in one of our many lakes, streams and rivers and fire up that grill!

HAVE an awesome Independence Day weekend, whatever you decide to do!

BE safe, and sane, and remember, the Deathride is in just over two (2) weeks. We’ll be out at the Expo on Friday and Saturday so be sure to stop by and say hi if you’re going to partake in the Tour of the California Alps. 103 miles and over 14000 feet of climbing. Type 2 fun for sure!

Markleeville Rising – Or…What’s Here And What’s Not

HAPPILY there’s much more of the “what’s here” than the “what’s not” but based on what we’ve heard anecdotally, there are some who think there’s more of “the not” and that’s just not the case. Sure, parts of Alpine Co., especially those hit hardest by the Tamarack Fire, are still grieving, but there’s NO WALLOWING here in the heart of the California Alps.

CERTAINLY, we lost many trees, that’s true. Many of them have been removed, mulched; or repositioned to mitigate erosion. Some of them still stand.

IT’S important to note though, that in terms of what’s visible from the highways, the damage is primarily isolated to areas of Hwy. 88, east of Hope Valley, and the section of Hwy. 4 between Woodfords and Monitor Junction. And as Mrs. CA Alps has so optimistically noted, in some places the views are indeed better.

Markleeville is still here! So is Bear Valley and so is Kirkwood. Blue Lakes Road was spared and Luther Pass took minimal damage (on the El Dorado Co. side). We are not a blackened county!

BUT, you can get some of that at the Cutthroat Brewing Company. Fish, that is. And beer, and the best burgers for miles. One of today’s specials (salivating) was stuffed poblanos, and I’m talking with elk sausage and jalapeno cheddar.

THERE’S pickleball, tennis, paddleboarding and more courtesy of Bear Valley Adventure Company.

OUR friends at Outwest Cafe have opened a weekend (all summer long) pop-up taco stand (Tres Amiga Locas) next to the Toll Station – which is again open on weekends (for beverages only) and soon will be for meals I’ve heard – so you can grind on some outrageous tacos and wash them down with some uber-cold cerveza. Ahhh.

WHAT about Kirkwood, you ask. Good to go there, too. Discwood is open and the stargazing has been amazing.

AND Wylder (formerly Sorensen’s) in Hope Valley? No worries. Still throwing some good hash out of the cafe and hosting live music regularly. Did I mention their cabins? They’re cool, keen, phat and plush.

Ed. Note: For a comprehensive list of upcoming Alpine County events, look no further than the Chamber’s events page and click here to download a copy of our Visitor’s Guide.

West Fork of the Carson near Blue Lakes Road on the western side of Hope Valley.

WILDFLOWERS and grasses are beginning to carpet the forest floors that were once just ash; and the rivers, creeks and lakes are flowing and there’s some good fishing to be had. Catch ’em if you can! 🤓

Why Am I Telling You All of This?

WELL, last week several of my colleagues at the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and I were theorizing (“commiserating” works, too) as to why the registration numbers for the Deathride – The Tour of the California Alps were lower than expected, especially compared to the usual count just under two months out from the big day.

PANDEMIC related “recurring-cancelations-of-events-fatigue” perhaps? Yeah, there’s some of that. Many of us can personally speak to that dynamic: postponing registration, or not registering at all, for events that we would have in the past, for fear of them being cancelled yet again.

CONCERN over riding in potentially smoke-filled air, with yet another fire season looming? Another valid reason. And you’re right, climate change has made it so there’s almost no fire season anymore.

‘TWAS you, oh adventurer that caused me to tell this tale.

YOU let it slip that you thought we were a burned-out shell of our former self so I thought I’d try and set the record straight.

There is still a great atmosphere here – day and night.

Ed. Note: Captured this sunbow yesterday afternoon.

Safety note: I used selfie mode; the sun was the subject and I cropped out the part of my forehead that tried to photobomb Ol’ Sol.

The Challenge, And The Plea

SO, register for the Deathride. Don’t waffle. Tick that bad boy off your list. You know you have it in you.

OUR community needs you now more than ever (the ride provides the majority of our operating expenses by far). We’ve earned the good karma (we all have, right?) and as I wrote last fall, and as we all know so well, THE THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM.

WE’RE not as big as Emporia and our ride doesn’t get quite as many riders as that big ol’ gravel race they just had, but we’re just as friendly and welcoming and we have a little something extra.

Blue skies like you don’t often see, riding on some of the most iconic routes in the country; and mountains. Lots and lots of mountains.

COME on up and Be Alpine with us. Drown some powerbait. Get your paddleboard groove going on one of our many alpine lakes. Do some birding.

LIKE the image at the top of this post suggests…PARK IT (the car) AND RIDE IT (le’ bike)!

AND do us one more favor…Two actually.

Join our Strava Club, and tell your friends

that Alpine County is still here and

that they need to beat feet.

Raccoon feet photo undisputed proof that it was a local

Rocky hitting the hummingbird feeder. Remedied that…

The feeder comes in at night, like we know it should. 😬

Can Stronger Shoulders Make You a Better Rider? – Here’s What I’ve Learned

SHORT answer = YES! Powerful shoulders, and while we’re at it, a strong core, and good flexibility, are all beneficial when it comes to riding bikes.

AS you can imagine, there are other advantages to having “jacked scaps,” a concrete core and malleable muscles, some of which include:

  • Better bike handling
  • Fewer injuries
  • Less soreness
  • Faster recovery
  • Higher FTP
  • Greater endurance.

ESPECIALLY when standing and pedaling! We probably don’t give it much thought but that rocking motion when “dancing on the pedals” takes a good bit of upper body strength, and if you’re riding a course (like Stetina’s Paydirt – 9 days and counting!) that requires a lot of humping up (and flying down, too) rocky hills, it calls for even more muscle.

Chris says: “Yup, strong shoulders are helpful out here in the Pinenuts!”

THIS brings me to me. 😉 You may remember this post about shoulder pain that I published in February. Well, I’m happy (ecstatic, really) to tell you that my “shoulder-life” is much, much better nowadays.

THAT’S not to say it was easy, nor am I done; the work and focus must continue, as it should, especially for us older riders. After twenty-one sessions of physical therapy, though, and because I’ve put in the work, I’m pretty much pain-free.

THE biggest benefit(s)? Stronger shoulders and core; less fatigue in the upper body during, and post-ride; and better control of my mountain and gravel steeds. And some ROI realized on the road bike, too.

WHAT exactly, can you do, you ask. Here’s a few suggestions (tested by yours truly on a regular basis):

  • Regular (at least three times a week) shoulder and core work. The Crossover Symmetry bands are fantastic and give me a great all-around workout.
  • Fitball, Bosu ball and medicine ball exercises.
  • Stretching. So often neglected by many athletes…at their peril. Trust me, this is one of THE MOST important things you can do. There is no doubt in my mind that if I wasn’t as flexible as I am I would have been seriously injured many times over the years. Just look at professional athletes…
  • Don’t neglect the hammies and lower back. Squats, btw, work wonders for these often over-looked muscle groups.
  • Sprint intervals. Yesterday, for example, I hit Zwift Yorkshire and did about 10 laps of the Duchy Estate course. One ~20″ sprint on each lap produced a nice, all-around soreness today.
  • REST. It’s in CAPS for a reason and admittedly it’s something I still have trouble doing. Easier to just ride and hammer, you know? Today, though, no exercise at all. Read this post for some specific insight on that rest ‘thang.

BE sure to get input from your coach, personal trainer, doctor, what have you, though, k? Every body is different.

I’D hate it if you injured yourself trying to get stronger or more flexible.

I hope this article was helpful. Feel free to pass on any tips you might have, too. We’d love to share ’em.

TAKE care, be safe and go kick those shoulders’ asses!

Markleeville Musings – Here and There on Hump Day

BLUE and I were on a ride just last week where I took this image of him goofing off a bit near Monitor Junction. ‘Twas a beautiful spring day and the excitement of getting outside took over so he made the leap up and hung out for a bit. 😉

A Bit Of Easter Anyone?

IT was wonderful to get together with family over the Easter holiday. First time the crew has made it up here to the heart of the California Alps since that virus reared its ugly head.

Exact opposite of ugly…

Our two Grand Nieces post-egg hunt. Was an awesome weekend of eats, walks, laughs and eggs. Hope you and yours had loads of bunny-fun, too!

Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC)

The goals of the D10 BPAC align with Caltrans’ core values: Engagement, Equity, Innovation, Integrity, and Pride, as well as Caltrans’ three foundational principles: Safety, Equity and Climate Action.

Bob Highfill – Public Information Officer, Caltrans District 10

CALTRANS District 10 hosted the second meeting of this groundbreaking committee on April 13th and yours truly did a presentation for the group about the Tamarack and Caldor Fires recovery efforts happening here in Alpine County.

BASED on comments in the chat (yup, was a virtual meeting), the presentation was an eye-opener for those who had not seen the damage, and was well received. Lots to do still, but lots has been done already, including some tree planting, seeding and of course dead tree 🙁 removal.

SPEAKING of tree planting…I’ll be joining a bunch of other volunteers this Sunday, May 1st, for another round of seedling sowing.

CONGRATS by the way to Charles Carroll, Associate Transportation Planner at District 10, on being elected Chair of the committee. Applause as well to Rob Williams, of the Motherlode Bicycle Coaltion, on being elected Vice-Chair.

CALTRANS’ Carson Transportation Management Systems Project

Speaking of Caltrans…It held a virual public meeting last week about this project, which “proposes to install traffic management systems and roadside safety improvements in and around the Kirkwood and Carson Pass area at 13 various locations in Amador, El Dorado, and Alpine Counties on State Routes 88, 89, and 4. The scope of work includes changeable message signs, streetlights, vehicle detection systems, closed-circuit television camera systems, roadway weather information systems, highway advisory radios, extinguishable message signs, and maintenance vehicle pullouts.”

SPEAKING of eye-opening…PUBLIC comment was vociferous, especially regarding the signage and the impact those signs would have on areas such as Hope Valley and Markleeville.

COMMENTS are due by May 2nd so if you have something to say about it, let Caltrans know.

Ebbetts And Monitor Passes

ON my ride last week (the same one that I snagged those pix of Blue playing hangbike) the gates were closed at Monitor Junction so no cars could make their way over the passes. Bikes on the other hand…

LET’S just say that I can understand why Hwy. 4 is still closed.

Levels of sediment and rocks showing on Hwy. 4, likely from the Carson as it cut its way through thousands of years ago. Rocks and boulders have come down and can be seen along the side of the highway.

Quite a bit of rockfall (the boulder detritus on the road is just out of frame in the pic. above) and some trees down on the road as well. Since we received some weather here recently I’m guessing there is still some snow up there to be cleared, too.

MRS. California Alps just got back from S. Lake Tahoe and she let me know that signage there indicates Monitor Pass is open. My bet is that Ebbetts will also open soon, perhaps this weekend.

Speaking Of Weather

I caught these quail sheltering from the snow last week. Can you say “hunkered down?”

Last But Not Least

IN yet another sign of spring we spotted this bruin heading towards town on Monday.

Looking pretty porky so early in the season I must say, but hey, that’s how I felt after Easter. Burp.

MY uncle and I spotted this violet springing forth from the ash while on a hike Easter Sunday near HQ.

Happy hump day to you! Have a great backslide into the weekend, and an even better weekend!

An Ode to Mrs. California Alps Cycling – On Her Birthday

MY wife Patricia has been my greatest supporter, my rock-steady soigneur, since we first got together over 30 years ago.

WHETHER it be helping out at the Ride & Walk 4 Art just last month, or at the Deathride, or at the myriad other events I’ve attended, she’s always there with a word of encouragement, a bit of decorating advice or just a smooch.

MY girl doesn’t miss a beat, nor does she fall asleep, when I regale her with my V02 max or power numbers.

SHE doesn’t mind either, hosting a big ol’ party for a bunch of California Alps Cycling members, and listening to our watt woes, and hearing about our hill-climbing prowess (or not).

Neither does she turn a deaf ear when we loudly articulate every inch of our death-defying (kinda) descents.

She’s always willing, too, to cheerfully drink Bloody Mary’s with me; even on a freezing-ass cold, super-windy, Monterey Bay day. You can’t see ’em but there must have been five (5) heaters around our table that day.

She puts up with my goofiness and boy-child behavior, and even giggles (sometimes) when I guffaw at my gas-passing.

WATCHING every day and every hour of the Tour de France with me? Yup, she does that. Replays of cross races on Flobikes? She’s there! Stealing my issues of Velonews and Bicycling? Totally.

TOLERATING my incessant, and admittedly irritating, coaching when she’s on the bike in the paincave and just wanting to watch Pachinko? That’s my uber-patient wife.

HANGOUT with me while I race, and cheer me on at the finish? Yup.

BE my support crew while I film rides for Fulgaz? You betcha! Editors note: On the Carson Pass ascent (east side) her leapfrogging me was particularly welcome, and at one point there’s a special pic. of her as she closely examines some plant life with PictureThis, a very cool plant identifider app.

She too can be a bit whacky and frankly I think she rocks the goggles.

AND she also warms my cockles. Easy now, I hear your snickers.

THE best part? She’s mine and I’m hers.


IT’S your day today, my wonderful wife, so feel free to peruse every aisle of Costco without me cracking the whip or complaining about how slowly people sometimes move.

GO ahead, stop at Jack in the Box for that fish sandwich. I won’t give you a hard time about the fat or sodium content. Cross my heart.

THANK you for being you, my sweet.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CUPCAKE!

chocolate cupcake with white and red toppings
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

An Inspirational Deathride Video – and Other Alpine County News

101 days and counting until the Tour of the California Alps, menacingly, yet lovingly referred to as the Deathride. When you’re on the course, especially on climbs 5 or 6 – this year there are six of those bad boys – you might feel like you are close to death, but thankfully no one has ever died on the Deathride.

The tertiary try is the charm we hope! 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic. 2021 “flamed out” because of the Tamarack Fire. Let’s go 2022!

THE Alpine County Chamber of Commerce has just issued a press release and an amazing and inspirational (we think) promotional video. We’ve never done anything like this before (at least that I’m aware of) regarding our beloved “DR” so it’s yet another first from the Deathride team.

HUGE kudos to Becky DeForest, Exec. Director of the Chamber, for herding the necessary cats to get it done.

GET’S me fired up when I watch it and I’m certainly honored that several California Alps Cycling members, including yours truly, are in it!

LET me know what you think. If you were waffling, did it change your mind? If you had never considered riding it, are you now? Will you perhaps share it on your social media channels to get others excited?

Some Tree Planting and a Community Clean-up

THE above images are courtesy of the Markleeville Water Company. They show some members of CalFire and the California Conservation Corps doing the “seedling shuffle.” 😉

READ their post for some more information on this planting, which took place just over two (2) weeks ago. It also has some links to register for the tree plantings that will take place on April 9th (this Saturday) and May 1st, so if any of you have some spare time and would like to help us with our restoration efforts please do sign up. We’ve love to have you!

MARKLEEVILLE’S Enhancement Club (MEC) has scheduled its Spring Clean-up for Saturday, May 14th. This all-volunteer beautification committee will be doing some work in and around town, picking up trash and biomass, trimming trees and bushes, picking up litter on two (2) Adopt-a-Highways stretches of Highway 89 (California Alps Cycling’s section from Turtle Rock Park to Camp Markleeville and Alpine Watershed Group’s section from Camp Markleeville to Monitor Junction), and doing a bit of landscaping and such at Al’s Got Gas (our local fuel depot).

RIDE here? Hike here? Boulder here? Here’s yet another chance to give back. Email me if you’re interested and I’ll add you to the list.

Other Upcoming Events

WE’VE got a few other things in the works this year, on both the East Slope (east of the Sierra crest – Hope Valley, Markleeville, Woodfords) and the West Slope (west of the Sierra crest – Bear Valley, Kirkwood).

HERE are some ideas:

  • Live Music at Cutthroat Brewing Company – Fridays 6 – 8 p.m., Markleeville
  • Women’s Fly Fishing Retreat – May 13th -> 15th at Wylder Hope Valley
  • High Sierra Archery Shoot – June 11th -> 12th at Bear Valley Resort
  • Ebbetts Fest – June 12th – Benefiting the Ebbett Pass Scenic Byway Asssocation
  • Music in the Park – Starting June 25th, Alpine Co. Library, Markleeville
  • Bear Valley Music Festival – July 22nd, Bear Valley
  • Stargazing – August 27th, Alpine Co. Airport, Markleeville

FOR specific details on these events, and to peruse other options, go to the Events Page of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.

Last But Not Least – Our Local Passes

MONITOR Pass is open!

Ebbett’s Pass should be soon based on the Caltrans activity I noticed on a lunchtime ride yesterday; a beauty day here in the California Alps. That’s me in front of Raymond Meadow Creek (RMC), at the 7000′ mark of Highway 4, just below Silver Creek Campground, on the Ebbett’s Pass Highway.

I chatted for a few minutes with a trio of mountain athletes from Sacramento before I turned around and headed back down the mountain. These dudes had just come back from behind the “7000′ gate” and were hanging out basking in the glory of their day’s adventures. They told me the road was just plowed but they didn’t get all the way to the top so not sure how far up the snow was removed. It was cool to see some skis, a mountain bike and a gravel bike nearby. Talk about being Alpine!

COME and get some! And remember to check our local weather and air conditions page for current weather and air quality before you head up, down, in or over.

SEE you soon!