Category: safety

Winter is Afoot in the California Alps – Here’s a Snowy Update!

Finally. Some snow. So good to see the white stuff coming down this past weekend. It wasn’t a piddly amount either – we received about 8” here at California Alps Cycling HQ and so we had to break out the snowblower!

Riding Behind Those Gates

CalTrans closed the gates at Monitor Junction last Friday in anticipation of the coming storm and so access to Monitor Pass and Ebbetts Pass, and as it turns out, Sonora Pass, was restricted.

The above image, at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Road, was taken earlier this year and I post it up here to point out the difference between the simple “Road Closed” signs and the extra “Pedestrians, Bicycles, Motor-Driven Cycles Prohibited” signage. The former is what we cyclists, hikers, fisherpersons like – it means no cars to worry about and so it’s generally safe to do your thing. When that extra sign is posted though, it’s an indicator that there is heavy equipment, road repairs, snowblowing, etc. going on and it’s NOT SAFE to go behind the gates. This I learned in speaking with CalTrans.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there is no vehicular extraction if you have a mechanical once you’ve gone over to the other side. I personally have done a bit of walking over the last several years, once when I had a chain break and once when I double flatted and so I learned this lesson the hard way.

Curt Prater, one of our FB followers, gets credit for this part of our update by the way. He and I struck up a conversation after he saw our post on the closure. He loves riding behind those gates and he reminded me that I do too.

Just be prepared and be safe about it, okay? It does come with some risk.

Some Sobering News…

Unfortunatley, there’s been a Covid-19 outbreak here in Alpine County. As of this morning the total number of cases is 26, with one (1) hospitalization and thankfully, no deaths. Up until last month we only had three (3) but we, like many other counties in CA, are now ticking up. It’s an important reminder that even though we’re all growing tired of the virus, it is not growing tired of us. On the contrary, I fear it’s taking advantage of that fatigue. With the holidays approaching it’s up to all of us to keep up the good fight. Please wear a mask and stay safe.

Snow covers the rocks of Hot Springs Creek and if you look closely you can see those squirrel prints to the left of the frame.

Switching Tacks…

Let’s talk about food and suds for a minute. One of my colleagues on the Chamber Board is Patrick Sarni, owner of the 7800 Bar & Grill in Kirkwood. He’s opening on December 1st in anticipation of the December 4th opening of Kirkwood. Patrick, like most small business owners, especially those in the food service industry, has put everything he has into his business so let’s help him, and others like him, have a successful opening, and season, safely!

Ditto for the Out West Cafe here in Markleeville. Joey and Danelle Daly, who also own DollFace Cheesecakes, have recently opened in the former Alps Haus Cafe location. I overheard a patron raving about the cheesecake and will be ordering one for Thanksgiving.

Snow covered rocks and icy waters of Hot Springs Creek.

The Mad Dog Cafe at Woodfords Station also has good grub (and cerveza) and I heard from a reliable source (Jennifer Quillici, owner) yesterday that they will be the ONLY snow-park permit vendor in Alpine County this season. She said they should have the permits in about a week.

And definitely don’t forget about the J. Marklee Toll Station and the Cutthroat Brewing Company. The latter, as you may know, just opened this past summer.

A small pool in Hot Springs Creek. Ice skating coming soon!

While it’s not about food and suds, it’s also worth noting that The Bear Valley Adventure Company has posted on its website a projected XC Ski and Snowshoe opening of November 27th! We’re looking forward to some ‘shoe’n and I’m hoping to get in some cross-country skiing, too. First, I need some lessons though. 😉

Should be an interesting season with Covid-19 in play but as long as we all keep up with those best practices we can make it a safe one. As it turns out I just saw an email from our County Health Officer, Rick Johnson, in which he advises to BOLO for an update next week after the state releases its tier assignment. Like I said, interesting season…

Some New FulGaz Rides are in the Works

I’ve noticed quite a few riders tackling some of the rides I filmed earlier this year. Yesterday I did the Ebbetts South Ascent, the shortest of the Deathride climbs, as a quick warm-up for some core work, and saw that 52 riders have ridden it since it went live. Cool!

What’s even better is this email I received from a FulGaz subscriber last week. Froylan wrote: “I wanted to thank you for the wonderful job you did to film the climbs of the Deathride. I have participated in that event for a number of years and of course I miss not riding the event this year, but thanks to you and Fulgaz (love the app for rides) I can re-live the event at home.” He made my day and also asked about Kingsbury Grade, which is on my list, but not yet filmed.

I have, however, recently filmed three (3) rides around Big Blue (aka Lake Tahoe) as well as one from Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake (with some fall colors). I’m processing them now and should get the files to FulGaz by the end of the week for their processing. Stay tuned as you’ll soon have a chance to partake on those rides too, along with Froylan!

Closing Things Out With a Couple Nature Videos

A turkey social in the snow
An early a.m. (this morning) visitor – a gray fox.

And on this Veteran’s Day I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to all the veterans (including my Grandpa who served in WWII), their families and those currently serving. Thank you SO MUCH for your service and sacrifice!

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses! Whether that be by bike, snowshoe, ski or snowmobile.

Using Satellite in the Sierra Could Save a Life – Perhaps Even Your Own

Yesterday while riding Leviathan Mine Road on my MTB I was out of cell service and needed to contact my wife. In this case it was not an emergency, but what if it was?

Would I have been able to get help?

As you may recall, I published a post earlier in the year, “Climbing Mountain Passes – Five Things You Should Know” and in that post I referenced the Garmin inReach Mini that I’ve used for several years. While that unit is not technically a PLB (read on to learn about that distinction) “you can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.”

So instead of rescue authorities coming to look for me because I haven’t checked in with my person(s) I instead was able to message my wife and mom that I was okay, just taking longer than expected on the ride.

Had I had an emergency I could have triggered that SOS feature and been able to get help. That’s what PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), and their brethren, do okay? They allow you to get assistance in those areas where you can’t call 911.

As for PLBs…What are those?

Rick Wallace, of Tackle Village, reached out to me last week about a guide Tackle Village had recently produced entitled “How a PLB Can Save Your Life” and we struck up an email convo. about how we can each help other spread the word about these technologies.

As Rick wrote in his email to me: “To promote outdoor safety, we have put together this comprehensive and easy to read guide [that’s the link in the above paragraph]. We wrote this because many people who hike, fish, ski, camp or climb (including some of our friends) don’t realise the need to carry a PLB, and this causes unnecessary deaths every year. Personal Locator Beacons have saved an estimated 35,000 lives.”

I replied “I use a Garmin inReach, which I think is a PLB. Is it? It does have an activate-able SOS feature and allows me to send text messages to family and friends when my cell has no service,” and Rick responded:

“I think the Garmin inReach is a satellite phone as opposed to a PLB – slightly different. The PLB can only send a distress signal encoded with GPS co-ordinates – no text, no voice. Its advantage is in the longevity of the battery and the toughness of it and waterproofing.”

Ah, there’s that distinction. One allows for two-way communication while the other sends only an encoded distress signal.

Now I’m not sure just how long the battery life is on a KTI PLB but I can tell you that the battery life on the inReach is pretty good too.

For cycling, the inReach, or something small and compact like it, makes sense because it fits in a jersey pocket (along with other items). For hiking, backpacking and perhaps even skiing or snowshoeing I can see where a PLB would be a good alternative or compliment, though.

Wait, what about an avalanche beacon?

Good catch! That’s a different animal since it’s not a standalone unit; others with a similar device must be nearby to receive the signal it transmits and then find the location of that transmitting beacon via triangulation.

Fodder for a future post, I’m thinking, as I plan on taking up cross-country skiing this winter and having an avalance beacon could be a key piece of equipment for some of those endeavors.

Whatever you decide, cover your bases!

It’s especially important during these days of Covid-19.

Law enforcement, rescue authorities, you name it, are a bit pre-occupied nowadays so I’m sure that anything we can do to lessen their load would be appreciated.

Having a portable, satellite-enabled device, such as the inReach, or KTI’s PLB, could save searchers a whole lot of time if they have to come a lookin’, and in the case of an inReach or something similar, could prevent them from even having to be dispatched at all!

I know the volunteer firefighters, search & rescue, and paramedics here in Alpine Co. would be grateful for that!