Category: Off the bike fun

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…

A Day Trip to Wolf Creek Meadow

It seems to me that since I’ve lived in Markleeville, Wolf Creek Road has been closed. That’s not to say I haven’t been back there (shhhh…). I have. I’ve taken a few rides in and a done a few hikes as well. There was a massive slide during the winter of 2016/2017 and so access by car was not possible. Frankly, there were times that it didn’t seem it was wise to access it by bike either – too much mud, rocks and run-off. Nonetheless, I tried, but alas, getting to the Meadow was not even possible. So, after weeks of dirt-haulers coming in and out, I was encouraged. And then recently, bam! the gate was opened and so I was able to ride “that segment” with impunity. However, about 2 miles or so past the gate, the road was just too rough to continue on the bike, so I made a mental note to come back, with the wife ideally, and explore. Last weekend, I did just that! Loaded up the chairs, the cooler, the fishing gear and most importantly, my wife, Patricia, and off we went for an afternoon recon.

wolf creek road map
Access Wolf Creek Road from Hwy. 4, about 8 miles south of Markleeville.

On the way out we spent quite a bit of time checking fishing spots and trying to figure out the best way to get to them but in the end, decided to just keep on truckin’ to the Meadow and then work our way back. It was a bit smokey in some areas due to the Ferguson fire near Yosemite but as you can see, the meadow is an amazing place.

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Happy Cows in Wolf Creek Meadow

We also explored some of the spur roads in the area that lead to various trailheads in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Something else to do in the future – backpacking!

Once we got to the end of the road, literally, we stopped and enjoyed the Creek. I did a bit of fishing (no catching unfortunately) and “momma” read her book and took a little nap. We stopped and hit a few other holes on the way back to Hwy. 4 but again, no catching.

Still, if you’re looking for a little day trip, close to Markleeville, this is one I highly recommend, especially once the smoke clears.

I’ll leave you with a couple pix from one of “those 2016/2017 winter hikes” I mentioned earlier in this post. Take a trip out there! You won’t regret it.

 

A Bit O’ Litter Collecting Near Markleeville

Yesterday I took a walk from town to Camp Markleeville and back and thought I’d pick up some litter along the way. Thankfully, the road conditions “litter-wise” were nothing like the image below!

pexels-photo-128421.jpeg

Here’s my tally:

  • 4 beer cans
  • A couple bottles
  • About 5 of those plastic tabs used on roads before they are paved
  • A two-foot piece of frayed plastic rope
  • A small piece of styrofoam-like plastic wrap
  • A large Taco Bell cup.

What I didn’t see:

  • No Gu “wrappers”
  • No Powerbar or similar wrappers
  • No accidently discarded cycling water bottles
  • No banana peels
  • Basically, nothing that a cyclist would drop (either intentionally, or not).

So all in all not too bad (especially compared to Bay Area roads) but I was especially impressed with my fellow cyclists.

No cycling related garbage at all! Well done cyclists and thank you for keeping the area clean of debris. You rock!