Category: off the bike fun

Graveling in Great Basin – How a Short Loop Turned Into a Long OaB

MRS. California Alps Cycling and I finally got out the door last Sunday, and started our oh so overdue vacation. A two (2) week roadtrip to Great Basin National Park, Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, with other Mighty Five parks hit up as time allows.

OF course some bike riding would be involved. Initially we had planned on bringing a road bike, a gravel bike and an e-MTB but after a consultation with Momma California Alps, and a bit of good natured ribbing from same about the sheer quantity of gear we were bringing, we went with the latter two (2) only.

GETTING in fairly late to Baker, NV, and checking in to the Stargazer Inn and Bristlecone General Store with Liz and Rachel, left us no time to do anything that night, except watch our beloved Niners open a can of whoop ass on those Cowboys. A great way to start the vacay, for sure!

ON Monday the trip started in earnest (after a leisurely morning due to our late night of celebrating both the whooping, and the start of the trip) as we “excurzed” into the park and hit up one of the Lehman Cave tours – the Grand Palace.

DAY two (2) was reserved for a bit of a.m. gravel riding for me (and reading for Mrs. C.A.) and then a trip up to the bristlecone pines in the afternoon.

STRAVA had a nice route suggestion of about 13.5 miles. Head east and just outside of town I’ll turn onto National Forest Development Service Road 589 (“development“should have been my first clue), and then head up a bit towards either Rowland Ranch Road or Baker Creek Road, either of which connects to Lehman Caves Road (the main road into the park). From there a super straight Champs Elysses kind of decent, but longer, back to the main highway and the hotel.

I headed out about 8 a.m. with plans to be back by 10 a.m. so we could get up the the Wheeler Peak/Bristlecone trailhead by lunch time for a picnic before the hike.

‘TOPHER would have, and still will, have my ass. You didn’t upload the ride to your bike computer? Nope. I’m good. I’ll just follow the road(s) and signage. They’ll be marked like they are in our neck of the woods. WRONG.

MISSED the turn to NFDS 589. Not really my fault, though, there are a lot of dirt roads out in these parts.

I turned back and found the road and up I went for a blissful couple of miles, and then a bit of steep stuff, and then a fork in the road. I whipped out my phone and checked where I was – yup, that right fork is the one. Off I went.

STEEPER and rockier IT went. Definitely some hike-a-bike sections…at least for me. Some nice roads still, though, as you can see.

ROWLAND Ranch Rd. must be coming soon, I tell myself. I’ve already gained about 1000 feet after all. Hmmm, maybe I passed it? Yeah, that makes more sense. I’ll just keep going to Baker Creek Road. Off I went.

BUSHIER and more overgrown IT went. None of my maps apps had the sufficient detail, either because this was not a trail/road, or the signal wasn’t strong enough to handle all of those damn packets, or both. Then inspiration struck. I’ve got a signal and can make a call! I’ll call M.C.A., she’s got internet at the hotel, and she can tell me exactly where I am.

AFTER some frustration on both sides, either due to her lack of understanding of technology, or my lack of patience, or both, we hung up. I have an Apple Watch and a Wahoo ELEMNT Roam. If nothing else I’ll just hit “back to start”, I told her. I hate doing that though so the bushwhacking continued. Oh, and I neglected to mention to you loyal reader, that I had been pushing my bike for the last 1/2 mile or so.

HUBRIS is the word that comes to mind. Panic was another. I was rocking the first and holding back the second. I’ve got to be just below NFDS Rd. 590. I just went past both of those other roads and now I just have to bushwhack a bit farther and I’ll hit it. Again I call the Mrs. We can’t tell how close I am to 590. “Have you crossed Baker Creek yet?”, she asks. Well, I did go over a creek a bit ago. That must have been it. “Then you’re just below the road.” Off I went.

NON-EXISTENT IT went. Brush piles told me I was in an area where they were cutting up those ladder fuels for winter burning, which meant I had to be close. Now I’m carrying the bike over logs and brush, and gathering some decent scratches (battle scars, arrgghh) on the lower legs, too.

NOW I did learn a trick some time ago from a hunting-sensei, Fred Weitlauf. He taught me that most people get lost because they never look behind them as they walk. I had been doing that at least, and I had my computers, so I’m not really lost.

UNLIKE Scott or Chris, I am severely DIRECTIONALLY challenged. As such, learning to use the technology would be of utmost importance. See mistake #2.

APPLE WATCH – Yes, you can retrace your steps but you have to start it so it knows where to return you. Idiot! Me, not the watch.

WAHOO ELEMNT ROAM – Correct me if I’m wrong (please!) you technoheads out there, but one problem is this: you have to be on a route (see mistake #1) to navigate back to the start of the route.

THE other problem I’ve discerned – again, all help appreciated – is that you have to know how to use the shit. Those three (3) dots on that map screen give you options, including as I’ve just learned while writing this post, one that is “retrace to start.”

WHAT a knucklehead.

HONEY, I say as I call her to tell her I’ve made the smartest decision I’ve made all day. “I’m heading back to where I started.” I’m running out of road, er trail, and I’m no where near anything, other than those amazing views.

BACK I went, and just like my wonderful wife said, it was really fun because I could enjoy the vistas, and the ride. Some more hike-a-bike back to the road, then off I went.

AFTER those few sectors of babyheads (which for me meant walking again), down and sweet IT went.

1828 feet of stress-free (kinda) descent it was, and at last I saw that water tower and knew I was going to survive. My sould began to rise. Yeah, a bit dramatic but that Bob Seger song (Roll Me Away) came to mind so I went with it.

  • 13.6 miles
  • 2255 feet of ascent
  • 1:55 ride time
  • 3 hours elapsed time
  • 3 phone calls
  • Many WTFs
  • Several “dumbshits!”
  • Oodles of fun, nonetheless
  • Countless giggles (raging laughter, really) from M.C.A.

WE did make it to the top of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive about 1:30 p.m., give or take. This after a lovely picnic on the patio of the Stargazer.

PARTAKING of lunch in town made sense at that point because it gets cold up there (the trailhead is just under 10000’ of elevation) and due to my extra-lengthy sojourn we would likely get there too late to enjoy the mild part of the day

TURNS out I was right, on this occassion at least – it was cold and windy. 🤣

IN my defense, had there been better signage and such we would have been there sooner!

All The Rides I Did Not See

CREDIT first of all to Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See. A great read, wherever you may be.

IT’S been an interesting cycling season here in the California Alps, for me at least. I’ve ridden about 3300 miles so far this year. My goal of 6000 miles is unreachable at this point, especially since I was not able to complete any of the four (4) rides for which I registered. Four sounds like a good number so I’ll shoot for a still respectable 4000 miles.

SO, let’s have some fun and give a shout out to each of those rides of which many of you perhaps were actually able to complete.

CURTIS Fong has turned this ride over to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society after many years. A huge shout out to Curtis, Di Bolton, and many others, who opened their doors to the Deathride team last spring so we could get a glimpse into, among other things, how an efficient registration process was run. It helped us up our game and we were oh so grateful.

Another bib number that I didn’t get to rock out on the course. Oh well, at least I got my schwag.

AS for the ride, while I had hoped that I could still participate. Alas, June 4th came way too soon, and Mr. Lung was not yet up to the task. That visit from an unexpected guest – namely a sub-segmental pulmonary embolism, in May, set me too far back. Thankfully it was just a little emboli in a lower section of the lung. Could have been a much more exciting adventure. Check out this post for a bit more detail.

THE name AMBRR is apropos, by the way. For those that haven’t had a chance to ride around Big Blue you should definitely make it happen. I prefer the clockwise direction, but riding in either direction won’t disappoint. Check out one of our most popular posts, “Thinking About Riding Around Lake Tahoe – Here’s What You Should Know” for some tips. There is also a video-snippet that will give you a sense of the terrain and the views. We rode it counter-clockwise that day and IMO that’s the easier direction, both mentally and physically. Going clockwise puts you on the lake side rather than the hill side and adds the climb out of Incline Village to Spooner Lake, and so it’s a tad more challenging. The rollers will keep you honest in either direction!

ORIGINALLY scheduled for June 10th, the ride was pushed back to July 1st due to the crazy-ass winter we had here in the Sierra. This was the second year I wasn’t able to compete in this bad boy. I was optimistic that several more weeks would do it but my breathing was still compromised and the legs did not have the necessary juice.

THANKS to a deferment this year I’m signed up for next year. And since I deferred, unlike the other rides, I did not pick up my bib number nor my schwag, hence this photo instead.

LAST year ’twas Mr. Knee that decided no dice on this one. This year ’twas Mr. Lung. Oh, those body parts…

THIRD time’s the charm?

WHAT did I miss? A beauty ride (so I’m told) in the Tahoe National Forest with landmarks such as Sardine Peak, and segments with names like “Dirty Dog Section” and “Later NERRRRRDS.” The long route, which is still my target, is 76 miles with 6800 feet of climbing. Quite a few of my “Strava buds” competed and did well (congrats to them). Reports were that it was an awesome Sierra day and based on the fine weather here in Markleeville I can imagine. The heat had not set in yet like it did just two (2) weeks later.

Editors note: The clot has resolved and things seem to be getting back to normal cardio-wise. The doctors have told me that it can take up to a year to rebuild that lung fitness. I’m trying to be patient and in the interim I’ve certainly done my part to support the medical community. 🙂

BIB #1; one of the perks of being a ride director! I must admit that by the time I got my rider packet I already knew I was not going to ride any of the route, so I claimed numero uno for my scrapbook.

LET’S be honest. This is one of the toughest centuries out there and so there was no way I was going to be able to conquer the entire course anyway, with only a couple months into my recovery, but I had hoped that I could do one or two climbs.

DURING the safety and tactics meeting however, I had my comeuppance. As Curtis, Michael and Paul reminded me, as the RD I was the last line of defense, if you will, in the decision making process, and so I needed to be on site. And someone needed to call in the road closures (and subsequent openings) to CALTRANS. Since everyone else on the team was doing the heavy lifting that job went to me.

NONETHELESS, this was not a bitter pill to swallow. Why? Well…

We moved to Markleeville because of the Deathride (you can read more about that history in several posts I wrote – just search “Mark in Markleeville”). I finished all of the climbs (including Carson that year) in 2017. In 2018 I had a foot injury so was only able to complete three (3). In 2019 I picked up a nasty cough the day before the ride so bagged only four (4) that year (there were only five (5) climbs up until 2022), and had it not been for my riding companion, and brother from another mother, Mr. Keno, I probably would not have even done that.

2020 never happened due to the pandemic and in 2021 it was the Tamarack Fire that did us in. The day before the ride no less. 🙁

2022 did go off, though, the first year of the new course over the crest and into the west slope of the Sierra, and I had some fun that year doing some “ambassador-ing.” Read more about this one here.

FULL circle…From moving here due to “the DR” to being the ride director and leading the team that helped us take this ride to an entirely new level was an honor that I’ll never forget. My “scraps” are even more meaningful than had I ridden it, and I’m oh so thankful for the privilege.

CAN you say “hot?” How about “scorching?” As we jokingly say, and said, it wouldn’t be the Deathride without some sort of weather-related adversity. We’ve had heat, hail, thunderstorms and more over the forty-one previous editions. This 42nd edition was no different with its hellish heat. Check out this post for my report.

BASED on the look of many of the riders who came in, I’m kinda glad I didn’t take on that challenge. I would have been thoroughly baked, or sagged, or both.

SINCE I won’t be the ride director next year (that honor will fall to some other lucky dawg) I did sign up for 2024. Thinking I’ll tackle the Ebbett’s and Pacific Grade climbs only, though.

BY the way, registration is open in case you were not aware. The team decided to get that going on October 1st and early bird pricing is available until December 31st. And, there’s a $20.00 discount if you’ve ridden it before. Take advantage and sign up now!

SEPTEMBER 9th it was and I remember it like it was yesterday. LOL. I was still not up to snuff and so over the course of several weeks I had downgraded from the Gran Fondo (full century), to the Medio, about 70 miles, to the Piccolo (approx. 40 miles).

I was excited with the idea that I would at least ride in one (1) of the four (4) rides I had signed up for this year.

MY wife joined me and we got a hotel for the night before. I meticulously packed my gear, cleaned my bike (a clean bike is a fast bike, right?), got my nutrition nailed down and was ready to rock.

THE morning of we awoke to a decent rain. WAIT!

Puffy jump suits? WTF? These guys were heading somewhere on the morning of the MGF.

I had my cold weather gear but Mr. Meticulous forgot his rain jacket and his rain boots, or at a minimum, his shoe covers. What a knucklehead! I was feeling pretty good though, so I gave it some thought. 40 miles, 2-3 hours, wouldn’t be too bad. I could handle some soggy socks and shoes and the cold for that long, couldn’t I?

NOPE. I wussed out and we decided on a nice breakfast and a trip to Devil’s Postpile instead.

WHAT an amazing place! The wildflowers were popping, too. That was a big bonus for my other half and we posey-sniffed our way down to “the pile” and back up again, and then we hit up the June Lake Loop on our way back to the East Slope.

Howdy from the scree-pile. That’s Mrs. CA Alps and me enjoying our visit. As you can see, the storm had cleared by the time we, and another couple, took each other’s photos.

I’VE already signed up for next year and I won’t forget to pack that rain gear.

FINGERS crossed I’ve put in my time these past couple of years with medical issues and up and down fitness, and so I’m optimistic that 2024 will be the “Year of Mark.”

I’VE learned a lot about my body (and mind) over this period of angst and anxiety, and will continue to work on the recovery, both physically and mentally.

SEE you out on the gravel (and road) in 2024!

Twelve Days of Being Alpine – A Photo & Video Diary

IT all started in Woodfords on Friday, June 17th, with the Annual Diamond Valley School Bike-a-thon (and bike-rodeo). That “annual part” has been missing until this year but thanks to the hard work of many individuals, much cat-herding by one of them (not me), and major contributions from local businesses, non-profits, bike shops and bike clubs, the event was a huge success.

YOURS truly, and many others, including Michael from Alta Alpina (thanks Michael – couldn’t have done it without you!), worked for several nights prior to the big event, tuning up the kids bikes and getting the donated bikes ready, too.

New bikes ready for a new home. These were all donated by locals, businesses and non-profits. Over 30 of them going to new homes!
The kids getting ready to head out to Diamond Valley Road. Firefighter Paul will keep them out of trouble.

GIVING back to the community, especially to the kids, is one of our primary missions here at California Alps Cycling. I was especially pleased to find some whitewalls for Nick’s old Electra, and to see him ready to rumble, with a big ol’ smile, was oh so cool!

WRENCHING on these bikes was a great trip down memory lane, too, to the days when I was a youngster and worked on my own bikes with crescent wrenches, end-wrenches, cone-wrenches and such. No hydraulic brakes, discs, ceramic bearings, or carbon frames here!

GROVER Hot Springs State Park, you ask…Here’s a quick video of a gravel ride I took last weekend. I started at the pool, which unfortunately is not yet open due to damage from the Tamarack Fire. You’ll notice other damage as you peruse the video. Apologies for the video quality…I had to save it as 720p because after one hour plus of trying to upload the “1080 version” I received this response from WordPress: “Unexpected response from the server. The file may have been uploaded successfully. Check in the Media Library or reload the page.”

WELL, it didn’t, upload successfully that is, and so 720 it is/was. Let’s just say our internet here in Markleeville isn’t the fastest. 😉

The band Ismay, just one of the many great bands that entertained us last weekend.

Made all the more fun due to the fact that the guitarist and singer-songriter/lead vocalist are locals who have put their ducats where their bocas are and have already started helping us recover, and obviously feel strongly about giving back to our community.

Thank you Andy and Avery!

LET’s wrap it up with some fishing news…

It’s been good and it’s bound to get even better! The state planted some fish Monday and the County planted some last week.

A buddy of mine fished Hope Valley and over by Monitor Pass just this morning. He caught 16!

NOTHING finer than fresh-grilled trout, let me tell you. Come wet a line here in one of our many lakes, streams and rivers and fire up that grill!

HAVE an awesome Independence Day weekend, whatever you decide to do!

BE safe, and sane, and remember, the Deathride is in just over two (2) weeks. We’ll be out at the Expo on Friday and Saturday so be sure to stop by and say hi if you’re going to partake in the Tour of the California Alps. 103 miles and over 14000 feet of climbing. Type 2 fun for sure!

Markleeville Rising – Or…What’s Here And What’s Not

HAPPILY there’s much more of the “what’s here” than the “what’s not” but based on what we’ve heard anecdotally, there are some who think there’s more of “the not” and that’s just not the case. Sure, parts of Alpine Co., especially those hit hardest by the Tamarack Fire, are still grieving, but there’s NO WALLOWING here in the heart of the California Alps.

CERTAINLY, we lost many trees, that’s true. Many of them have been removed, mulched; or repositioned to mitigate erosion. Some of them still stand.

IT’S important to note though, that in terms of what’s visible from the highways, the damage is primarily isolated to areas of Hwy. 88, east of Hope Valley, and the section of Hwy. 4 between Woodfords and Monitor Junction. And as Mrs. CA Alps has so optimistically noted, in some places the views are indeed better.

Markleeville is still here! So is Bear Valley and so is Kirkwood. Blue Lakes Road was spared and Luther Pass took minimal damage (on the El Dorado Co. side). We are not a blackened county!

BUT, you can get some of that at the Cutthroat Brewing Company. Fish, that is. And beer, and the best burgers for miles. One of today’s specials (salivating) was stuffed poblanos, and I’m talking with elk sausage and jalapeno cheddar.

THERE’S pickleball, tennis, paddleboarding and more courtesy of Bear Valley Adventure Company.

OUR friends at Outwest Cafe have opened a weekend (all summer long) pop-up taco stand (Tres Amiga Locas) next to the Toll Station – which is again open on weekends (for beverages only) and soon will be for meals I’ve heard – so you can grind on some outrageous tacos and wash them down with some uber-cold cerveza. Ahhh.

WHAT about Kirkwood, you ask. Good to go there, too. Discwood is open and the stargazing has been amazing.

AND Wylder (formerly Sorensen’s) in Hope Valley? No worries. Still throwing some good hash out of the cafe and hosting live music regularly. Did I mention their cabins? They’re cool, keen, phat and plush.

Ed. Note: For a comprehensive list of upcoming Alpine County events, look no further than the Chamber’s events page and click here to download a copy of our Visitor’s Guide.

West Fork of the Carson near Blue Lakes Road on the western side of Hope Valley.

WILDFLOWERS and grasses are beginning to carpet the forest floors that were once just ash; and the rivers, creeks and lakes are flowing and there’s some good fishing to be had. Catch ’em if you can! 🤓

Why Am I Telling You All of This?

WELL, last week several of my colleagues at the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and I were theorizing (“commiserating” works, too) as to why the registration numbers for the Deathride – The Tour of the California Alps were lower than expected, especially compared to the usual count just under two months out from the big day.

PANDEMIC related “recurring-cancelations-of-events-fatigue” perhaps? Yeah, there’s some of that. Many of us can personally speak to that dynamic: postponing registration, or not registering at all, for events that we would have in the past, for fear of them being cancelled yet again.

CONCERN over riding in potentially smoke-filled air, with yet another fire season looming? Another valid reason. And you’re right, climate change has made it so there’s almost no fire season anymore.

‘TWAS you, oh adventurer that caused me to tell this tale.

YOU let it slip that you thought we were a burned-out shell of our former self so I thought I’d try and set the record straight.

There is still a great atmosphere here – day and night.

Ed. Note: Captured this sunbow yesterday afternoon.

Safety note: I used selfie mode; the sun was the subject and I cropped out the part of my forehead that tried to photobomb Ol’ Sol.

The Challenge, And The Plea

SO, register for the Deathride. Don’t waffle. Tick that bad boy off your list. You know you have it in you.

OUR community needs you now more than ever (the ride provides the majority of our operating expenses by far). We’ve earned the good karma (we all have, right?) and as I wrote last fall, and as we all know so well, THE THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM.

WE’RE not as big as Emporia and our ride doesn’t get quite as many riders as that big ol’ gravel race they just had, but we’re just as friendly and welcoming and we have a little something extra.

Blue skies like you don’t often see, riding on some of the most iconic routes in the country; and mountains. Lots and lots of mountains.

COME on up and Be Alpine with us. Drown some powerbait. Get your paddleboard groove going on one of our many alpine lakes. Do some birding.

LIKE the image at the top of this post suggests…PARK IT (the car) AND RIDE IT (le’ bike)!

AND do us one more favor…Two actually.

Join our Strava Club, and tell your friends

that Alpine County is still here and

that they need to beat feet.

Raccoon feet photo undisputed proof that it was a local

Rocky hitting the hummingbird feeder. Remedied that…

The feeder comes in at night, like we know it should. 😬

A Day on the East Carson – and a Salvage Operation

LAST Sunday, my wife and my Mom joined me for a day of fishing, picnicking and swimming on the East Fork of the Carson River, just a few miles from Markleeville.

IT was a gloriously hot day; glorious mostly because we were able to spend it on, and in, the cold Carson.

Starting the Day With a Ride

MY day began with a ride up Hwy. 4 towards Ebbett’s Pass; in this case up to the 7000′ mark at Raymond Meadow Creek. This is a great ride; a 26 mile round trip from HQ here in Markleeville, with approximately 1500′ of climbing.

I also did a bit of swimming hole recon. on the ride in preparation for our day on the river and decided on what turned out to be a great location.

WITH last week’s heat wave – thankfully we’ve got a bit of a respite before things ramp up again this weekend – I was getting my rides in during the morning hours. Yesterday, in fact, I rode part of this route (up to Silver Mountain City) starting about 6:30 a.m. and it was a sublime experience; one of those perfectly quiet (except for the river and the birds), almost car-less rides that we’re privileged to be able to pedal here in the California Alps.

I highly recommend these early a.m. forays! Below are some pix I snapped along the way. See what I mean?

At the Swimming Hole

Even though I’m not a father to any human children, thanks to my lovely wife I get a bit of fatherly spoiling on Father’s Day since I am the “Dad-cat.” This day was no exception. The Goilz had prepared a plethora of picnic items and so all I had to do was load up the truck and get us there.

UPON arrival it was straight into the river. A bit chilly at first but oh so invigorating, especially with a cold beverage in hand.

THEN, a bit of fishing, and some catching, in the same hole. That’s it in the image above – the flat water in the middle of the frame. My fishing foray was followed by a nice lunch and another cerveza.

Nothing better than sipping beer in a cool river on a hot day, right?

AT one point, as I was re-positioning upstream so I could get a better drift into a particular eddy, a shadow crossed my path. Looking up, there it was!

A bald eagle fly-over is always a good sign, and good karma, too.

THE fish were small, however, (but any day fishing…) and several of them went back from whence they came, but I did catch a decent 10″ rainbow and kept another smaller one that had been hooked badly enough that it had to be kept. Those are the little beauties below.

The Salvage Operation

BEING sated from a great lunch, and a bit buzzed from those beers, it was back in the water for one last swim before we headed back to the Chalet. I had brought a pair of swimming goggles as I was curious to see if I could catch a glimpse of a trout or two, or perhaps something else of interest.

A glint on the bottom of the pool caught my eye and after several tries (the water was flowing pretty well and the pool was over 6′ deep) I was able to snag the item – a lure it was!

I then patrolled the pool with more purpose and low and behold I found a veritable treasure-trove of lost lures.

TWO of ’em had hooks that were too badly rusted for future use but the others went into the tackle box. Hopefully they’ll bring me good luck in the future.

THE trout? They were thrown on the grill that night and included in our Father’s Day feast. El pescado era muy delicioso!

A Perfect Day

AND one I highly recommend. Yes, we are California Alps Cycling, but as I regularly tell anyone who’ll listen it’s not only about the bike. That’s just a bonus on some days.

THIS was one of them!

SO next time you come on up to Markleeville, don’t just bring the velocipede. Include that swimming apparel, some fishing poles and what the hell, a mask or some goggles.

YOU never know what kind of adventures you can have, or what you might find along the way!

What Else Can You Do in the California Alps Besides Cycling? Here are Some Ideas…

Mom’s boot gives you a sense of the size of a bear. In this case a black bear – no grizzlies (aka brown bears) here. Nonetheless, I must confess, I know not the size nor age of this bruin. If the size of the poop we found on the trail is any indication…Well, let’s just say this particular bear appeared to be eating well.

Hiking (and Posey Sniffing)

Heenan Lake

We came upon this print last year, on the trail to Heenan Lake, while checking out the fish hatchery. It’s a short, flat (except for the little hill as you leave the parking lot) walk along the lake to the hatchery, where you can see, and get splashed by, if you’re so inclined, the famous Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. We were just there again last weekend and were greeted by Doug, the “hatchery-master,” who regaled us of his recent bear (bears, actually) encounter. You’ll have to hit Doug up yourself for the complete story. In the meantime, just use your imagination. Bears and fish…Get it?

Thornburg Canyon

I did a portion of this trail just yesterday and can’t wait to do the rest. Didn’t have a lot of time and the weather was coming in so I cut it short. As you can see, though, it’s a beauty of a trail with great views – both near and far.

To say we’ve just scratched the surface on the local trail and flora seen would be quite the understatement!

So, for more on Markleeville area hiking, check out this post (from January of last year) or this one, from last fall. For more data that matta, take a look at AllTrails and if you’re looking for something you can touch and feel, we recommend the Alpine Sierra Trailblazer. And for a cool application that you can use to ID flowers, trees and other plants, check out the PictureThis – Plant Identifier on the App Store.

Birding

Wild turkeys are definitely about, although we haven’t seen them as much lately. That is typical though – they seem to follow a different pattern after hunting season ends. Go figure! Other birds we’ve seen lately include hummingbirds (Anna’s, Rufuos and Calliope), which, admittedly, are best spotted on the feeders here at HQ (or perhaps at your house!).

We’ve also seen many hawks (mostly Red-Tailed) as well as some eagles (Bald and Golden) here and there. Steller’s Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, American Goldfinches and White-Crowned Sparrows have been frequenting the area, too and just recently we’ve been visited by Black-headed Grosbeaks. Check out this post from last fall – it includes a mention of a very rare bird in these parts, a Yellow-browed Warbler, who decided to make a little stopover here in Markleeville. Here’s another post with an image of an osprey that came by for a visit in October of last year and sucked down a Garter snake.

Here Fishy, Fishy…

Whether it’s the East Carson, the West Carson, Markleeville Creek or Hot Springs Creek, you’ll likely get some action. We’ve also got a few lakes and reservoirs around. Okay, you’re right – waaaay more than a few! Check out Dave’s Sierra Fishing for the details that I just don’t have room to post. Talking with our friendly neighborhood Chamber of Commerce would be a good idea as well.

By the way, trout season just opened last Friday and as I understand it, Fish & Game did a plant already. Soon, though, a bigger plant, with bigger fish, will take place. Perhaps for the Memorial Day weekend…You’ll have to come and see for yourself!

So Much to See, Tread (on) and Catch

More and more businesses (including restaurants) are open here in Alpine County; and so are hotels and some of the campgrounds. Definitely poke around our site too for more ideas as we’ve posted quite a few missives that may whet your appetite further.

We’re not all just boring cyclists, as we hope you’ve now noticed! We encourage ourselves (and you) to take some time off the bike and do some hiking, birding, posey sniffing, fishing or whatever strikes your fancy. Do it here in the California Alps, or anywhere else. Just do it safely, with dare I say, appropriate distancing, and carefully (mountains can be dangerous places). And, if you’re in need or want of some specifics, let us know!

Checking in from Deathride Town, USA

First and foremost, all of us here at California Alps Cycling hope this post finds you and yours doing as well as possible in this new “pandemic-age.” Yup, we’ve had ’em before and we’ll have ’em again. So “says” a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News. Full disclosure: I’m from San Hoser – born and raised – so I still get “the Merc.,” the digital version of course. My wife and I came up to the Sierra in October of 2016. In any case, the article was good reminder – been there, survived that. At the same time I realize some haven’t. Or, won’t. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. And their families.

Speaking of the pandemic – Gawd, I sound like one of those characters on that Don Henley song “Dirty Laundry” – Alpine County was just added to the tally; we’ve had our first Covid-19 case here in the county. It was determined that the the disease was picked up in a distant location, not via community transmission, so that’s good. What’s MUCH better is that the patient is recovering well and did a good job of self-quarantining (and the family did too).

There is Snow in Them-thar Hills

On a lighter, weather-related note, we had some good snow up here the first couple weeks of the month – helped with the snowpack. I heard we were up to ~70% of normal. Not bad considering it was closer to 45% at the end of February. Ironic, certainly, that the ski resorts were (and still are) closed due to Covid-19. My wife, Mom and I went for a great hike last weekend (and the weekend before) at Grover Hot Springs State Park (see photos below). Note: The park is closed but hiking is still allowed, although our Sheriff’s office is recently told us all that DOES NOT MEAN BACKPACKING or other backcountry endeavors. He doesn’t want to potentially strain resources on rescues and the like. I’m definitely going to get a bit of snowshoeing in soon, though, before what’s here melts. Not sure what the lay of the land is in Carson Pass and the trails up there. I suspect they are open. Highway 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) is closed just south of Silver Mountain City (and the snowmobilers are happy) and Monitor Pass is closed (and has been, for the winter). Pssst…I heard Monitor was going to open soon but I have yet to get confirmation from Clinton the CalTrans guy.

Cycling, Hiking, Skiing or Snowshoeing and Social Distancing

Had to point it out, if for no other reason than to get the phrase in there so the search engines pick it up and rank me higher. In all seriousness though, I’ve seen some folks up here riding their bikes, enjoying the views by car, snowshoeing, hiking and snowmobiling. Great time to get outdoors, more like a necessity nowadays but I’ve been picking up mixed signals about that and so I thought I’d reach out to our County Health Officer, Dr. Richard Johnson, with a few questions.

Dr. Johnson Says…

  1. Is it okay to hike as long as we keep our distance?
    Absolutely!
  2. We’re not backpacking or anything like that – just day hikes, if not hour hikes. 
    Go for it!
  3. I am a cyclist and just yesterday went out to Diamond Valley and Emigrant Trail – I live here in Markleeville. Was about a 2 hour ride.
    Perfect.
  4. I’ve been furloughed (indeed – the courts, how I earn my living, are hurting) and so am planning on doing some longer rides here in the next few weeks. Is that cool?
    OK to sweat!
  5. I also do a cycling blog so anything you’d like me to share about cycling, mountain biking, etc. here in Alpine Co. would be great. 
  6. Should I tell folks to stay away?
    Yes.
  7. Partake but be safe?
    No.
  8. The issue we are having is visitors coming to recreate, buying up gas supplies and groceries, pooping in public because restrooms are closed. We also do not have emergency services capability to handle accidents. Therefore, we are discouraging all visitors – not residents – from coming to Alpine County for recreation. That also violates the Governor’s order to stay at home.

So, there you have it. A bit of green light, red light. Another irony, unfortunately. We like visitors. Visitors like us. There’s no one around and even less traffic than usual. Sadly, it’s just not a good idea right now and we’re all suffering for it. I’m planning on re-doubling my efforts to help with that damn curve. Flatten baby, flatten! Save lives, stay home. Or perhaps: Save lives, stay away (works both ways as far as I’m concerned – We Markleevillians, and Bear Vallians, and Woodfordsians, need to stay the heck away from you too! Hey, I’ve seen this one before…How about: Save lives, ride a bike.

I like this one best: Stay Away – BUT just for little while; looking forward to seeing you one day soon!

Deathride Update

As this point, the Deathride – Tour of the California Alps, is a GO! As many of you know, tons of cycling events, including UCI races, have been canceled or postponed. I was going to ride the Wildflower Century in April in Chico, CA but it was canceled. The Truckee Dirt Fondo, on the other hand, scheduled for June 13th, emailed me to say it was a go. I suspect, based on the recent extension of the social distancing guidelines, that it might not fly, however. It’s hard to say at this point if “the DR” is going to go for sure but we here in Alpine Co. sure hope so. It’s our mainstay event and keeps our little Chamber solvent and more importantly it puts TONS OF DUCATS into our local economy, which relies primarily on tourism. Fingers crossed; the eternal optimist…We will of course be having that conversation soon and any updates will be forthcoming. In the meantime…

Please be well and do stay healthy and let’s all kick some viruses asses!

A Walk on the Wild er…Urban Side

I do travel sometimes for my day job and most of the time when I do, I don’t take a bike. I do feel bad for leaving Blue, Bullitt or Roscoe II at home (yes, I name my bikes, don’t you?) but alas, when I’m off on a business trip, it is after all, about business. Add the fact that I often fly, and even when I don’t I’ve got, as I did on this most recent trip, several wardrobe changes, it just makes it a bit difficult to bring one of my faithful steeds and the gear that goes with it.

A good time to spend some time off the bike

But…it forces me, as I suspect it may with some of you, to focus on something else. If you’re like me, and most of my cycling/riding friends, than jumping on the bike is what we do. It’s easy, it’s familiar and most of all it’s what we love doing (almost more than anything else, I’m afraid). So, on this last trip, a pilgrimage from my home turf here in the California Alps, across the state to the North Bay, I made the best of it and partook of the local walking path near my hotel in San Rafael.

Near enough to the Pacific…

…to reap the benefits of fog, gulls — and their oh so familiar, and for me comforting, chortels, calls and caws. I grew up in the So. San Jose/Los Gatos area so gulls were always there it seemed. The smell of seaweed often hangs in the air too. Add the warmer temps, humidity and slow moving creeks or sloughs and that’s the environment where I found myself last week.

Urban yet wild

Off I went to enjoy what the locals get to enjoy every day. I was close enough to the Marin Civic Center to see the iconic spire (Frank Lloyd Wright designed the building) yet it felt like I was in the country, too. Every now and then, though, I was reminded that I was in the big city.

A SMART train makes it way through the area. Yup, I was not in Kansas, Dorothy.

Funny, after three-plus years in Markleeville I now refer to the areas where I lived as “the big city” and my family and I often joke that we’re hitching up the wagon to go into that big city.

The walk, though, was great reminder that no matter where one lives there are some wild things about and a chance to escape city-life, even when you’re in it.

Now that I’m back home, and the snow is coming tomorrow, I’m thinking snowshoe this weekend. It’s all about balance, right?

Last Weekend’s Adventures in the California Alps

After a crazy week of work, community activities and training it was great to take a day for my head and just relax a bit. The weather was about to turn cold (it has as of this a.m. – 5 degrees fahrenheit here this morning) so we wanted to take advantage of the mid-70’s we were supposed to have, (and did!) on Saturday.

Footprints tell the story…

My wife, Mom and I headed to Curtz Lake here in Markleeville for a bit of hiking and birdwatching. The former was the plan, the latter was a bonus. As you can see by the many prints on the trail (there are some deer and other animal prints in there – look closely) lots of folks take advantage of this loop trail that was built, and is maintained, by the Alpine Trails Association.

It’s a nice easy loop and good for all ages and levels of hiking, and for me personally it was a great rest/recovery day after a hard week of riding. I did mention birdwatching… Here’s a few of the birds we saw (and that I could actually identify – not a professional birder by any means) on the hike:

  1. Clark’s Nutcracker
  2. Western Bluebirds (male and female)
  3. Red-breasted AND white-breasted Nuthatch
  4. The ubiquitous Steller’s Jay

We were surprised by the amount of activity, especially the nuthatches. They were all over the place and so fun to watch with their telltale downward “walk.”

After that taxing (not!) stroll we were in need of sustenance, so off to Genoa we went. A blood mary at the Genoa Bar (Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor – founded in 1853) is always an excellent option and some good grub at the Genoa Station Bar & Grille was a nice follow up.

Amazing light and fluorescent aspens

Later that afternoon it was time for a ride. I hadn’t planned on it since it was supposed to be my rest day but the weather was glorious (mid-70s) and it was supposed to (and did) turn cold the next day, so of course I had to partake. So glad I did because the light coming through the East Carson River canyon was fantastic.

We’ve still got a bit of leaf-peeping left here in the California Alps so come on up if you’re so inclined.

We’ll be doing a bit of peeping ourselves this weekend. A few of us are doing a ride up to Ebbett’s pass Saturday (weather should be good – 65 or so by late morning or early afternoon). If you’d like to join us give me a shout!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pix and that your riding, or other planned adventures, are feeding your head, too.

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!