Month: September 2022

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. πŸ˜‰

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…