Category: off the bike fun

A Tale of Two Trails – Both in the California Alps

Charity Valley Trail

This trail, maintained by the Alpine Trails Association (ATA), of which I’m a proud, and rookie, member, traverses approximately 7-8 miles between Blue Lakes Rd. (off Hwy. 88 in Hope Valley) and Hot Springs Road, in Markleeville. On this particular day (Sunday, July 28th), the ATA hosted the hike in order to show members, residents and guests what they did and how and where they did it. Like I said, I’m a new member so it was my first chance to see first hand what I’d gotten myself into! With that said, I must disclose that workdays (i.e. trail-building, tool-sharpening, etc.) are currently on Tuesdays and since I’m gainfully employed, I’m not available. After this hike, I must admit, I’m a bit grateful.

And so the day began…

…at the trailhead on Blue Lakes Rd. Well, we actually met at the opposite end of the trail, on Hot Springs Rd. where we left some vehicles, as we needed to shuttle up to Blue Lakes. This was NOT the day to do the entire out and back! Anyway…some 411: While this is a public trail, it begins in private land and so the only marker is a rock cairn 6.2 miles from the turnoff at Blue Lakes and 88. There is a small parking area across from the trailhead. We did some orientation and sign-up stuff at the HSR trailhead and then we got a lesson in tools and such at the BLR trailhead.

Off we went…

at a gentle, posey sniffing, pace. The plan was to take our time, stop and smell, or at least photograph, the wildflowers, as well as learn about trail-building techniques. We were also regaled with stories about the local history of the trail and surrounds.

The trail was amazing! Wildflowers and such for the first couple of miles, waterfalls, pools, an old beaver pond, shaded forest; cool, big-ass trees (a lot of the area was not logged and so we were privileged to see some old-growth firs and pines), granite and some amazing views throughout.

That lily-pond, though, was the highlight of the day. A lili-pond in the heart of the California Alps?! I had never seen such a thing. Yet another hidden gem on this fantastic trail.

Admittedly, it wasn’t all fun & games; there were some fairly technical sections of the trail with rocky switchbacks, granite “steps” and other such obstacles. I ride 5000-6000 miles a year so I figured 7.5 miles (advertised distance) would be no problem whatsoever. Wrong! All that downhill, and the distance itself, took a toll on those gams. I was pretty sore for a couple days and realized that I’ve got to put a bit more core, including Bosu and Swiss-ball work, into my routines. Too much cycling makes Mark a dull boy. Well, at least that’s how my legs felt. Still, an awe-inspiring day filled with sights, sounds, conversation and laughter. And a shared sense of experience that one gets when doing such an adventure with a dozen others. What a day! Thank you ATA!

Frog Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail

I had snowshoeed the PCT to Winnemucca Lake last winter but this was the first time I had actually seen the trail itself. As I told Mom, who joined me for this short and relatively easy hike, it all looked so different without the snow. In some ways it was harder as the snow had flattened out many of the obstacles we hiked over on this day, which by the way, was a week ago Sunday, August 4th.

All Trails shows this section that we hiked as part of its Lake Winnemucca from Carson Pass via Pacific Crest Trail so take a look and if you’re so inclined, definitely head up to Winnemucca Lake – so worth it. Mom and I didn’t have the time so we went with the shorter out and back to Frog Lake.

Frog Lake is that first lake you pass on the trail towards Winnemucca Lake.

Parking can be a challenge…

but there is overflow parking about 300 yards east of the main trailhead and we were able to find parking there. Keep in mind there is a $5.00 charge to park in the overflow lot. You can also park at the trailhead on other side of Hwy. 88, about 100 yards west, if that. There are restrooms at both parking lots and at the southern lot, where the trailhead we took starts, there’s a visitor center with helpful rangers and docents. Be sure to stop by there if you do the hike; the folks in the center are eager to answer your questions and point you to some great resources.

Wildflowers Abound!

We had heard that the wildflowers were popping just a couple weeks prior so were hopeful that we’d get to see our share. We were not disappointed!

There was one point on the trail where, as we turned to head east, we were greeted by this amazing field of color (that’s me in the middle of it and Mom is on the trail). Most of the pix you see above were taken there but there was lots of flora on other parts of the trail too. And, the butterflies were very happy. So many flying about – between the flowers and the ‘flies it was crazy pretty.

The lake itself…

was like an infinity pool. There was a field of wild iris nearby although there were starting to wilt so we were just a tad late for that show. Next year we’ll have to go a bit earlier. Fields of purple iris’ are wondrous. Saw some on Monitor Pass, along with Wyethia (Mule Ears) and White Lupine, earlier in the summer and it was quite the contrast.

A lone Wild Iris on the trail. Imagine a field of these!

Speaking of the lake…The entire hike, including a trip around Frog Lake itself, was about 3.3 miles. We did it a pretty slow pace so we could take in all the scenery; we were out on the trail for 2.5 hours. Here’s a few shots of the lake – see what I mean about the infinity pool?

Great views to be had!

At the other (northern) side of the lake there was a nice outcrop and we could look down to see Red Lake, which thanks to a massive algae bloom was (still is) actually green, and Hope Valley. All of this just 30 minutes from Markleeville, or just down the road from Kirkwood!

Well, there you have it! Two cool hikes in two weeks – one somewhat epic for you hardcore hikers and the other much more user-friendly. Be sure to come on up to the Sierra and experience some of the amazing trails before the summer ends or wait until the fall, when you won’t see the wildflowers but you will see the aspens in “full-bloom.”

Have some hikes or other adventures you’d like to share with fellow readers? Give us the data that matta by commenting on this post!

Givin’, Fixin’, Ridin’, and Spectatin’ in the California Alps

The last several weeks have been a lot of work, but with lots of fun times, too. I haven’t had much time to blog but I finally came up for air so here’s a run-down of our recent activities here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

Markleeville Spring Clean-up and Cinco de Mayo Celebration

It all started on the anniversary of that famous (infamous?) day, which commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It is not a celebration of Mexican independence, as some mistakenly think. Okay, there’s your history lesson for today. Thanks Wikipedia!

Here in Markleeville, it was our chance to do our first clean up of the year and do a bit of commemoratin’ ourselves (after the work was done, of course). Eighteen (18) intrepid volunteers, including your truly, my wife and California Alps Cycling co-founder, Patricia, joined us, as did our club mother (and my Mom), January. In fact Mom gets the kudos for the excellent salsa and guacamole that we munched on post-work day. I brought the cerveza, though.

We mowed, weed-whacked, lopped, trimmed, picked-up and well, you get the idea. We tackled Markleeville Park (as we have affectionately named a vacant lot in town), Coyan Park, and Heritage Park. We picked up a bunch of limbs, branches and such that had accumulated by one of our welcome signs and we picked up trash – on the section of highway we’ve adopted between Turtle Rock Park and Camp Markleeville, which includes town.

Several bags of trash, a bike helmet and a totally thrashed mile-marker (snow blower got it I think) were part of the haul. We made about three to four trips to the local bio-mass pile, too. Lots of mass to bio, if you will. A shout out to Karrie and John Baker, of Alps Haus and Al’s Got Gas, Bait & Tackle, here in town for their support (as always). Quick plug – We have some CA Alps Cycling schwag for sale (it’s a consignment ‘thang) at Al’s so stop on by and grab some (and get some gas and tackle while you’re at it)!

Washoe Earth Day Celebration

The following Saturday (last weekend, May 11th), Chris (Schull, legacy member) and I met at the Hung a Lel Ti gym as we had lots of bikes to repair. The day had been a long time coming with the associated planning that comes with such big events. Susan Jamerson and team did a bang up job getting ready for the event, with a bicycling focus added to the day. Part of that included a repair station so that kids could get their bikes fixed up for the races that were to come. I spent the previous week or so gathering donations (prizes for the race winners) from local merchants and friends as well as prepping and packing the gear, tools, stands, tables etc. that we’d need for the repair center.

Chris & I arrived about 8:30 a.m. and we already had some repair candidates waiting. Hung A Lel Ti Chairman Irvin Jim met us upon arrival and he and a few of the riders helped us unload and then we set to work. Was quite the trip down memory lane as the bikes we worked on were not what we were used to riding, at least now that we were old (er). These were bikes we rode as kids! Too fun. We mostly fixed flats and such but there were other repairs needed too – from brakes to derailleur hangers and many points in between. We figured we wrenched on about 12-15 bikes and we got them all done in time for the races, which started at 10:00 a.m. It was great watching the kids race and we basked in the knowledge that we helped them be able to do that.

What an awesome place to ride

After our hard, but oh so rewarding day acting like bike mechanics, it was time for some us time! We headed up Ebbett’s Pass to Raymond Meadow Creek for a “chat n’ ride” as I call it. Nary a car was seen so we were able to yak and take in the scenery without much trouble.

Then, on Monday (just a few days ago), we took it one step further and rode Monitor Pass; my second trip up the mountain since the Friday before. It’s a hard climb but we figured it would be a good way to start the day because we planned on finishing it by watching the Amgen Tour of California come into So. Lake Tahoe for the finish. Get it? We suffer in the a.m. and then drink beer and eat while we watch the pros suffer in the afternoon!

The Amgen Tour of California

Off to Tahoe we went. We kicked things off with some suds and sammies at Artemis; we hung out at the bar and enjoyed the vibe before we walked a couple miles up to Heavenly to avoid the crowds, or so we thought. Fortunately for us (and other race-watchers) there wasn’t much of that. Unfortunately, if you get my drift, there wasn’t much of that. Too bad – seeing these athletes do their thing is an amazing experience. Anyway, compared to last year it was a piece of cake. In fact, we realized about 2/3 of the way there that we could have just driven on up and parked near the start/finish/festival. By then, though, it was too late. We were committed!

We got to the start/finish in plenty of time to have a brew (see above) and check out the vendors and schwag. The weather was perfect and I don’t think there’s a better place to watch a bike race. You still have some time to check out some of the race, yourself. The women’s race starts today which means you can watch two races! And, of course, there’s the Giro happening too! And, on top of all the wonderful cycling coverage, there’s basketball and hockey playoffs for those so inclined. I’m into the Warriors but have yet to watch the Sharks play. I will though; I have to represent since I’m a San Jose native. Exciting times for sure! At least for some of us, right?

Check us out on Facebook!

That’s right, we finally got our arses in gear and set up our FB page! We also have a Twitter feed and have begun setting up our Instagram page. It’s not easy trying to find the time and I appreciate your patience, loyal reader, as we continue to build and “social-ize.”

Thanks for reading, especially this post. I know it’s a bit long-winded.

We’d love to know about your adventures! Comment on this post so other followers can partake and perhaps live vicariously through you.

Be safe out there

In closing, just a little reminder to be safe in whatever outdoor activities you do. Have the right gear, get the right training, do the right research and you’ll have the right fun! Ride on!?

Snowshoeing – Lessons Learned on the California Alps

Last week was so cold and icy that I accomplished my entire weekly cycling goal of 100 miles, on Zwift. So, when Chris (Schull, one of California Alps Cycling’s Legacy Members) and his wife Shyanne (and their two pups, Kona and Java) offered to take me on a ‘shoe trip to Winnemucca Lake last Saturday I was all over it.

A map of the trail from Highway 88 at Carson Pass and Winnemucca Lake.
The trail from Highway 88 (Carson Pass) to Winnemucca Lake.

Lots to learn

Now I’ve done a lot of hiking, some backpacking, lots of camping and quite a bit of hunting in my day, including an elk hunt in the snow many years ago. Still, I was unprepared for our little adventure – this was only my 2nd snowshoe trip afterall. Click here if you’d like to read the post about my first snowshoe adventure, by the way.

My gloves were too small. They worked great on the property but add a little sweat and they were too hard to get on and off, and they didn’t have the fingertip sensor so I couldn’t snap photos without taking them off. Lesson 1. Lesson 2 – my pants. I had a great weather proof pair of Arcteryx snow pants, however, they didn’t stay put due to a drawstring that kept loosening. Suspenders would have helped greatly! Handwarmers were another item I could have used. One of my fingers went numb and into pre-frostbite because I had trouble putting on my snowshoes with my gloves and so had to take them (the gloves, not the shoes) off. It was a hard, kinda lumpy (with white patches starting to appear) digit until Chris gave me one of his handwarmers and showed me how to put it in my glove and wrap that finger around it. Lesson 3 and a big one. The biggest lesson I took away, though, was not to rush the preparations. I was a bit cocky and so figured I could just get all my gear together the morning of the hike. Big mistake. It wasn’t just a hike and more preparation and time was warranted.

On with the adventure

Once I got through (or we got through) my “greenhorn issues” (thank you Chris for having my back and thank you Shyanne, Kona and Java for waiting on my sorry ass) we were able to make some tracks. It was a beauty (albeit chilly) day on the pass. About 20 degrees or so. The day was fairly clear, though and until we reached the lake, there wasn’t much wind. It took us about an hour to get to the lake (we averaged 2 mph for the entire hike) where we found some shelter from the wind and had our lunch. Oh, and I learned another lesson here…bring something to sit on. Shyanne used a plastic garbage bag – light, easily packable and cheap.

Chris, Shyanne and Kona and Java taking a lunch break near Winnemucca Lake.
Lunch stop at Winnemucca Lake (the actual lake is to our left). Notice that Shyanne is comfortably seated?

We took a few minutes for some lunch and some spiked hot-chocolate (oh, so good!) and the goilz (Kona and Java) enjoyed nibbling kibble nuggets that Chris had thrown out on the snow. It wasn’t quite a bluebird day (there was some clouds as you can see) but it was damn close. There is something about being in the mountains with snow all around. It magnifies the beauty ten-fold, maybe more. For those of you who ski or do other winter sports I know you know what I mean.

Back to the barn, er truck

Now that we had put my wardrobe (and other malfunctions behind me) and had some much needed sustenance and cockle-warming we were able to put the pedal to the metal as it were and make good time heading back to the vehicle. Oh, I should mention that you need a Sno-Park permit to park at the trailhead. We forgot ours and so had to head back to Sorensen’s to get it or risk a $94.50 fine. Thankfully, not too much of a delay. Anyway, the trip back was uneventful and we made good time. We covered just over 4 miles with 1:47 of moving time and about 2 1/2 hours elapsed time and when we got back to CA Alps Cycling HQ we had a warm fire, cold beers and some good company with whom we could share our adventure. Here’s a few more pix from the day.

I wish you well on your next adventure. Why not head here to Markleeville for it? We’ve got some good eats and cold beer, a nice hot spring and more snow is on the way. I hope to see you soon and remember not to rush the preparations and most importantly be safe and kick some passes asses!

How About a Hike for a Change?

The Burnside Lake Trailhead sign on Hot Springs Road in Markleeville, CA
Just a couple miles up the road from
California Alps Cycling’s HQ, and only 3 miles from Markleeville, you’ll find the Burnside Lake Trailhead.

After a long day, or long week perhaps, a day off the bike can rejuvenate the spirit and rest those weary legs. And, you can take the family along, too. As someone who, like many of us cyclists I suspect, gets a little obsessive about miles, training, VO2 max, FTP and the like, I often need to force myself to do something off the bike.

Charity Valley Trail to Grover Hot Springs

The trail starts here! Just three (3) miles from California Alps Cycling HQ you can begin your trek to Grover Hot Springs State Park. It’s a nice, easy hike (with some little ups and outcrops) of about a mile into the park. From there, as you can see from the sign, you can make the hike (it’s also a nice trail run) to Burnside Lake or Charity Valley. There are other options as well once you’re in Grover. The entire Charity Valley Trail, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, is about eight (8) miles in length, with a moderate difficutly rating (per the Carson Ranger District).

We Locals Love our Parks

In the Winter 2018 print edition of Parklands, the California State Parks Foundation’s rag, there’s a little write up about Grover: “Thanks to 75 volunteers and a $5000 grant, the Native Plant Demonstration Garden underwent a number of improvements, such as irrigation and invasive weed removal. Trash pickup, raking and clearing fire rings also helped enhance the Grover Meadow area.” The locals are also supported by organizations such as the Alpine Trails Assocation and the Alpine Watershed Group.

Sign indication the border between the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Grover Hot Springs.
Crossing over from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest into Grover Hot Springs. This photo was taken December 21, 2018.

Taking Some Time Off the Bike

Make a picnic lunch, grab the family and head out for a rest day (or a least a day off the bike). My wife and I did just that last month. In fact, it was our 22nd anniversary! We made some hot soup, loaded up the thermos and did the two-mile round trip to the park and back in the middle of my work day. Click here to watch a short video of our trek, complete with a “Gomer Pyle shot” of yours truly.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certainly more ambitious options if you’re not looking to get a lot of rest; the Burnside Lake Trail to Grover is just the start. From the park there are myriad hiking and, as you might have guessed from the park’s name, soaking options too. Well, okay, just one soaking option really unless you’re a polar bear. Still, that pool with its 103 degree mineral springs is an awesome way to finish a day, whether that be after your hike, after a ride or as many snow sports enthusiasts know, after a day on the slopes or in the backcountry.

Soak well my friends and remember that rest days are just as important as intervals and hill repeats!


Etiquette and Statutes – California Alps Cycling Style

Last weekend we set up our booth, as did a bunch of “Christmas Crafters,” at the Magicial Markleeville Christmas Faire. The plan originally was for all of us to set up around town but due to the nasty weather we ended up at Turtle Rock Park instead. No worries…it was a wonderfully cozy time and the pancake breakfast (thanks firefighters) was excellent!

California Alps Cycling's booth at the 2018 Magicial Markleeville Christmas Faire.
Ready to enlighten, educate and advocate!
Looking through a bike wheel across a room of crafters.
The view across the room.

The Faire went from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and while it wasn’t as well attended as it might have been had the weather been more cooperative I was able to have many conversations with both locals and out-of-towners about cycling, cycling equipment and more. I also took the opportunity to put together a little informational piece that I hoped would enlighten non-cyclists on why we do what we do out there. It also addressed several statutes that I felt should be socialized a bit.


Would love to hear what you think about it. Does it need more? Less?

Let me know by either commenting on this page or email me at mschwartz@californiaalpscycling.bike if you’d prefer to get more into the weeds.  Would really appreciate it!

From outside the Faire after the snow stopped.

Ride safe and remember to: “Kick Some Passes’ Asses!” whether that be on the bike, skis, snowshoes, running shoes or boots! 

Winter is Coming to the California Alps

This past weekend I finally had to ditch the shorts. I’ve been in denial for a few weeks and kept countering those cold morning legs with layering up top but last Friday I gave it up and put on the sweats. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t get a few more fall opportunities to bare those gams, perhaps even later this week, but for now, the word of the day is “chilly.” 26 degrees here in Markleeville this morning! Last week we had just under .10 inches of rain but this week is expected to be clear. So, if you’re thinking about a visit to the Sierra you’ve still got some time to get one in! The fall foliage is here and is outrageous in some areas; Mammoth and Hope Vally to name just a couple.

What do do, what to do?

The California Alps cover a lot of real estate so from Mammoth to Lake Tahoe you’ve got many choices. Hiking, hunting, fishing (rivers and streams are open until next month), mountain biking and of course, cycling.  There’s also major opportunties for picture taking or other artistic endeavors. The Los Angeles Times pubished an article last month about our little town of Markleeville, and it had some good suggestions as well. Click here to check it out.

Other info. that may whet your appetite:

Mammoth Fall Colors

Alpine Chamber of Commerce “2 people per square mile…and you!”

Tahoe.com

Speaking of Lake Tahoe, here’s a pic of member Chris Schull enjoying a beauty day at the lake a couple weeks ago.

A cycling enjoying the day at Lake Tahoe.

Last week I decided to get off the trainer and get outside even though we had some rain slicked roads. I was sticking with the trainer because I just didn’t want to wash the bike, but among other things I really needed that feeling of the wind rushing through my helmet vents (no hair, other than my beard, for it to rush through). I thought I may catch a break and get back before the rain came but alas, no such luck. That will teach me to not wear those rain boots! No worries, though. Quick rinse and re-lube of the bike (Roscoe is his name), some newspaper stuffed in the Sidis, a hot shower and we were good to go.

These pix were taken about 10 miles up Ebbett’s Pass (from Markleeville) and you can just see some of those fall colors staring to pop.

Real time weather and air quality available

Remember, you can always get real time weather conditions here in the heart of the California Alps. We’ve got a weather station right here at HQ and just recently we’ve added an AQI unit so you can get that information as well. Go to our “Weather Conditions” page and check it out!

Whatever you decide, we hope to see you soon and remind you to be safe out there and don’t do anything outside your capabilities. You still have time, though, to Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™ and then enjoy some of the myriad other things that these California Alps have to offer!

California Alps Cycling Members Hit the Slopes of Mammoth

Last Saturday, a few of us rode the Mammoth Gran Fondo out of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Members Mario Carmona and Chris Schull, along with yours truly (check out our Strava profiles on the CAC Membership page), rode from one of the southern points of the California Alps, still in the heart of the Sierra Nevada though, into the Owens Valley, and back.

An image of the route taken by a rider on the Mammoth Gran Fondo
Map of my “Medio route” at the Mammoth Gran Fondo.

Mario went for the Gran Fondo distance (i.e. the century) and Chris and I decided to do one of the shorter (the Medio, 70 miles) rides so we could drink more beer on Friday night. I had never been to Mammoth and so was pretty stoked to get a glimpse into what the place was all about. Unfortunately, due to my crazy schedule, we were only able to experience the vibe for a short time. Nonetheless, we made the best of it!

Chris and I arrived just in time for “beertails” and after meeting Mario at our hotel to give him his CA Alps Cycling jersey (yes, they’re in – if you pre-ordered one I’ll be in touch soon), we headed to Mammoth Brewing. Had some good beer and fine grub (those chicken tacos on naan were lip-smacking good) and then decided to make one more stop for a “beerpertif.” Yeah, I know, I’m taking some liberties with the english language here…Can’t help myself!

Okay, enough about the night life, which after all of our talk, really wasn’t much. We’re in our fifties (well Chris isn’t quite there yet but will be in a couple weeks) ya know and we did have a ride to do tomorrow. So, in the end, we were responsible adults and went back to the hotel fairly early so we could prep. our bikes for the next day.

We had brought plenty of cold-weather gear for the start, but as it turned out, the day was a bit balmier than normal. About 45-50 at the start with bright sun, as you can see from the pix below.

The blue in our jerseys works nicely with the sky, don’t you think?

After a short climb out of town we had a nice, long twenty (20) mile descent or so and then it was back the way we came, into the Owens Valley, back out to Hwy. 395 and then back into town. Here’s a few shots I took while on the bike:

And here’s a bunch more from the Owens Valley, including a couple rest stop pix.

As you can see, it was an amazing day. I still can’t get over the color of the sky in these images. Sometimes it looks almost purple. It’s that color that inspired us on the design of our kits.

I should mention that the organizers did a great job. The rest stops were well-staffed and stocked, and that made to order turkey and cheese sandwich really hit the spot. Thanks!

What else can I say? Another great day on the bike. Kudos to Mario (yup, he finished) and Chris (he had a rough day on the bike but perserved nonetheless) and hey, what the heck, I’ll give myself kudos too. Anyday on the bike…