NOPE, they’re not hear yet; at least not in force like they were in the featured image above (taken at the Alpine/Mono Co. border in June of 2019), but they’re coming!
THE flowers are just starting to raise their heads and fingers crossed we’ll get a good pop soon. My guess is that within the next several weeks we’ll start to see more color than we are today. We’ve got lots of yellows, some purples and a few reds but it’s certainly not yet what it can be.
MY wife, my Mom and I were just on Monitor Pass last weekend and were hoping to see some mountain iris, mules ears, lupine and such, but alas, we were disappointed (with the lack of color but not with the view – see below).
AS I’ve alluded to before in many posts, there is a lot more to do here in the heart of the California Alps than ride bikes. Birding, hiking, leaf-peeping, and posey-sniffing are just a few of those other options.
IN fact, in case you missed it, check out this post from last month.
WELL it’s that time of year when many of us are waiting for things to clear snow-wise so we can get to training, whether on the bike or on foot.
SO, here’s a quick update!
I’VE warned you before but I’ll say it again: this pass is for the seasoned rider. The vehicle traffic is heavy, moves fast, and includes lots of hay trucks. Add to that the hairy, approximately five-mile section from Woodfords to Hope Valley and this ride will get your blood pumping (and not just from the climbing).
Still, it’s an iconic climb so I have to mention it.
I talked to a rider in Markleeville last Sunday who had just come down from the pass. The gate was still closed at Raymond Meadow Creek (7000′) but he had, as well as many other riders, jumped the gate and went on up. The road was clear of snow and Caltrans was clearing debris and filling some holes. He mentioned that he talked to riders who had come up from the Bear Valley side and they said the same thing: the western side is almost ready, too.
I have it from a very reliable source that it should be open by the end of the week.
LUTHER has not closed all winter (as is the usual unless it’s really nasty) and I’ve taken several trips over by car in the last few days.
THE road looks good and there is no snow.
BOTH the eastern side and the western side are open so no issues there. Go get you some!
Blue Lakes Road
AS of yesterday, Blue Lakes was open to the third gate so you can’t quite get to the actual lakes unless you jump the last two (2) gates. Not sure of the conditions past gate #3 so enter at your own risk (which is good advice ANYTIME you jump a gate). And you’re right, astute reader, Blue Lakes is not technically a pass but it’s a good climb (and a rip-roaring descent) for certain.
BE sure to have a back-up plan if you get a mechanical and extraction by vehicle is not an option!
Mountain Biking, Gravel Riding and Hiking
THERE are many, many trails here in Alpine County so I’m just going to mention three (3) of my favorites and let you do your homework if you wish to partake of any others. Check out AllTrails for some ideas.
Charity Valley Trail
IT’S a fantastic trail, best done IMHO from Blue Lakes Road DOWN to Grover Hot Springs State Park. Certainly for you hard core “gravelers” the up-direction is an option, but it’s some tough sledding so be sure to set your expectations properly and bring plenty of water and other necessary gear.
Thornburg Canyon Trail
ANOTHER trail that connects to Blue Lakes Road and as you might imagine, coming down is the easier option. It’s an approximately 14 mile out and back with 3600′ of climbing. I’ve not hiked nor biked the entire length of the trail but as you can see, it’s pretty. The above image was taken just a little ways from the Markleeville entrance. You can drive, walk or ride up Saw Mill Road to the trailhead.
THE Alpine Trails Association just met and we discussed the conditions of the trails. Suffice it to say there are still lots of downed branches and trees and other detritus on the trails, and likely still some winter ruts so be wary. The crews have begun work on getting the trails summer-ready but as far as I know we have not gotten to either Charity Valley nor Thornburg.
Wolf Creek Road
THE above photo of Wolf Creek Valley was taken in August of 2018, when it was a bit smoky here due to the wildfires that year, but I’ve heard the road is in pretty good shape and it is a great option for a gravel ride.
It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden the entire road but I do know that the first mile or so (from Hwy. 4) is paved, and then, as I recall, it’s about 5-6 miles of fire road from there over to the valley. There are some sections of rutted, boulder-strewn dirt so keep that in mind.
REMEMBER, activities such as these can be inherently dangerous (my lawyerly sub-conscience reminded me to tell you this) so take part in these adventures at your own risk.
Resources and Grinds
HERE’s a link to the Alpine Co. Road Dept. where you can get more info. on county road conditions here.
BEER? The Cutthroat Brewing Company is now open 7 days a week and you can partake of delictable eats like the Deathride Pizza.
THE J. Markee Toll Station is another wonderful option with a nice lawn where you can spread out and do some people watching. Don’t let the “hole-in-the-wall” appearance fool you; Sandy (chef and owner) and her son Tanner are excellent hosts. We were just there last weekend and and the food and service was awesome!
LAST, but certainly not least, is the Out West Cafe. This place is only open for breakfast and lunch but Joey (chef/owner) always has some unique dishes and his wife bakes the most amazing cheesecakes.
WE’RE still masking up here when appropriate but with so many outdoor options it shouldn’t be too challenging to follow those best practices.
LET me know if you’re coming to town. Perhaps we can get a ride or hike in!
OH and by the way…if you’d like to check out some of these climbs (and other local rides, including some Tahoe rides) from the pleasure of your pain-cave then check us out on FulGaz. Just login and search “Schwartz.”
Fall is giving way to colder temperatures, including some sub-freezing readings here lately, and so I’m working hard to get some of those special rides in, film some fall colors for FulGaz, and knock off some more of those honey-do list items before our epic winter (putting out those Game of Thrones vibes, if you get my drift) sets in.
As you may recall I published a post late last month about riding around Lake Tahoe (aka Big Blue), and one of our loyal readers, Roy Franz, urged me to try the ride again, this time on a weekday and taking the clockwise direction.
And so it was that yesterday I found myself in Stateline, NV, on a fairly brisk morning (about 45 fahrenheit), gearing up to do just that.
Prepping for the Shoot
Yesterday morning I was up at o’dark thirty so that I could prep. my gear and the bike and get the GoPro mounted and ready. There is a little bit of work involved to make sure the camera angle is good, the battery back-up is charged and the top-tube pack that holds the back-up, cable and tool is not flopping around. A bit of “tape-work” is also needed in order to secure the cable to the bike, and to keep the GoPro’s battery and cable connection secure as well.
Before I headed out I used the very cool preview feature to make sure that the horizon was where it should be on the camera and I also double checked the settings too, or so I thought.
The plan was to record the entire ride in three (3) manageable sections, each approximately 1.5 hours long.
Stateline to Meek’s Bay
Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
Incline Village back to Stateline
All geared up. Settings good. Camera angle good. Power button pushed. Requisite beep heard. Hand waved in front of camera to signal the start for FulGaz’s engineers. Off I went.
Switching tacks for just a moment; let’s talk biology. There are a few times during the year that for whatever reason I seem to lose a lot of water weight. Typically a few days after hard efforts or too much mexican food. That salt, you know? I wasn’t expecting this day to be one of those but that’s the way the water works I guess, especially when you have (as my friend Mike would say) a bladder the size of a peanut.
A bit more context…If you do stop while filming a ride for FulGaz (FG) then you just go back about 20 yards from where you stopped and start again. I make a mental note of those instances so I can pass that info. on to FG. The team then edits that section out and for the most part you don’t even notice.
So, after about five (5) stops in the first 30 minutes, I was getting frustrated. Really bladder? Now? Today? Seriously? I kept doing my thing, and re-starting and apologizing to Klaus (their lead-dawg engineer), by commenting during the video. Finally, Mr. Bladder had gotten rid of the excess fluid and I was able to get to Meek’s Bay without another stop.
Beep. Upon my arrival I pushed the button and heard that comforting sound that acknowedged I had in fact stopped recording. I also stopped the ride on my Wahoo and saved it as well; the .fit file then syncs up nicely with the video. It’s also important to toggle off auto-pause or things get a little screwy, and to my credit I did do that. What I didn’t do, though, was look at the camera before I took off from Stateline.
Had I done that I would have noticed that I was in photo mode instead of video mode!
Yup, that’s what the FUBAR portion of this post’s title is all about. After all of that prepping, nature-breaking and riding from Stateline to Meek’s Bay I had NOTHING! Zippo! Nada! Oh well, I thought, at least it was an amazing day so far and I did have a section of this section recorded (when Chris and I did the counter-clockwise route in late September) so I’ll just use that. Still…shit! Or FUBAR! You pick.
Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
I planned on redeeming myself on this portion of the ride and what a BEAUTIFUL segment it was! Not too much climbing and a lot of the course was really close to the water so it should be a really pretty video. I made it to Incline without another bio-break and had a nice encounter (seriously) on the way with a Placer Co. deputy sheriff who pulled up next to me to remind me that two (2) ear buds is not better than one (1) when on a bicycle.
Frankly I’m a bit anxious to look at the clips for fear of another SNAFU (see “FUBAR-link” above) but based on what I saw on the GoPro’s screen (fingers crossed) I got this one so on to the next.
Incline to Stateline – The Finish
There’s a bit of climbing to get up and out of Incline so it was somewhat of a taxing finish but I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to come from such a beautiful place to Stateline with its casinos and such. However, just after I went throught the tunnel at Cave Rock I heard a telltale series of beeps from the camera that indicated that either the battery had died or the media was full. Shit, again. And again, the oh well…If nothing else the FG ride will be Incline to Cave Rock. We shall see. Still not brave enough to look.
The Moral of the Story
Roy was oh so right. What a day of riding in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Clockwise, on a weekday that isn’t a Friday is definitely the ticket. There was much less traffic, the view from the lake side of the road is much better (there are some drop-offs but nothing too scary) and there were fewer tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I like tourists. I realize some don’t right now and I get that, too. IMHO they infuse the area with much needed ducats, yet it seems that sometimes they leave their brain at home, especially when confronted with such amazing scenery.
As for the FulGaz Faux Pas’, what can I say? Apparently I left my brain at home too. I’ve never (add saracastic tone here) done that when I’m doing the tourist thing.
The beauty of it, though, is that I can head back anytime before winter rears its oh so wonderful head and take another whack (or two or three) at it. Looking forward to that!
It’s definitely that time of year…the aspens are glowing here in the California Alps! While some areas have a bit more color than others you really can’t go wrong right now with the blue, almost purple sky, the clean air, the great fishing and for you leaf-peepers, those “poppin’ trees!
Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass
I snapped this image yesterday on my way up Highway 4; right in our back yard here at California Alps Cycling! This photo was taken but a few miles outside of town and as you can see, there is still some room for improvement.
The next 1-2 weeks should do it! Farther up the mountain there were more splashes of color, including some oranges and reds and there were quite a few “wow-moments” on Sunday when CAC members Greg Hanson, Rich Harvey and I took a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek.
Blue Lakes Road
I did cheat a little bit here…this image was actually captured in October of 2018. I did ride up Blue Lakes Road from Hope Valley just last Thursday expecting to see more of the same but alas, just little patches here and there. I was disappointed because I had rigged up the GoPro for a FulGaz shoot; I ‘spect we’ll see sigificant progress in the next week or so, however, and am planning on taking another shot at it. But even if I do, you need to check it out for your fine-self!
Speaking of Hope Valley, the colors at or close to Sorensen’s, now known as Wylder, are AMAZING; one reason I started the session I mentioned above in Hope Valley. But with just a few exceptions there just wasn’t a lot of there, there. Give it a few more days…
Hwy. 89/Monitor Pass
This photo was taken on Monday, October 5th, while we were road trippin’ on Loope Canyon Road. The road is just off Highway 89 on the way up to the eastern side of Monitor Pass and there was just a smidge of color then. I haven’t had a chance to make my way back up but knowing what I know about the area there are, or will be, some nice patches of glow above Heenan Lake, as well as a bit farther up around the 8000′ mark.
And thanks to our friend Mario Carmona (that’s him on the left), who rode up there last Friday, here are a couple of photos that do the area some justice.
Now since we’re in MarkleevilleI am partial to this particular area, BUT no post on fall colors would be complete without mentioning our brothers and sisters to the south, specifically Mono County.
I had the opportunity last October to ride the June Lake Loop and it was a great ride. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you should and you should do it NOW according to what I read on Mono County’s fall color report (of Oct. 6th). Jeff Simpson, by the way, gets credit for the above photo, which was taken off (on?) Lodbell Lake Road. You’ll see his gallery on the link I’ve provided. It’s definitley worth a look!
So Get Out There and Get You Some!
While seeing them via car is fun, riding through colors like this is sicknasty.
Of course you could hike or walk (or ride a horse – I bet that would be sweet!) through them too but IMHO nothing beats doin’ the fall colors by bike, whether that be on the road, on the gravel or on the trails.
The fishing right now here on the East Fork of the Carson is kick-ass by the way. I talked to our Fish & Game Chairman, Todd Sodaro, last week and he let me know they have just planted a whole bunch of whales, one was over 10 pounds! I’m going to see about getting some fish in the freezer here soon.
And, as for grub…The Cutthroat is fully open and has both outdoor and indoor dining going on. Try the Deathride pizza if you can as I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll be looking for the smoke coming out of your ears!
In a couple more weeks we’ll have a new place for munchies too – the Out West Cafe. It will be in the same location where the Alps Haus once was and should be opening by the end of the month.
So come on up, down, over or whatever and get you and your family some fall color karma, some leaf-peepin’ miles, some good grub and maybe a trout or two for the grill. Please remember, though, to do it safely, with the appropriate masking, hand-washing and distancing (i.e. follow those best practices).
See you soon?
Ps. California Alps Cycling is not responsible for you loosing your brain in all of Mother Nature’s splendor. You’re assuming all the risk when it comes to activities such as these and we’d hate to see your trip cut short, or worse, because you bit off more than you could chew or forgot to pay attention. Thanks, my lawyer said he feels better now.