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…

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