Category: weather

Current Road Conditions in the Heart of the California Alps

One of my Strava friends recently asked on one of my posted rides if the gates for Monitor and Ebbett’s Pass were open. That question made me realize I hadn’t posted an update on the local road conditions lately. So, here’s one!

Four recent rides

Since last Sunday I’ve toured the area around Markleeville and ridden in or to Diamond Valley (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Woodfords), Wolf Creek Road (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Monitor Pass and Hwy. 4 from Monitor Pass up a portion of Ebbett’s Pass) and Crystal Springs Road (Hwy. 88 from Woodfords up a small bit of Carson Pass) and have this to report:

  • Diamond Valley – Snow on the sides of the roads but no ice on the roads themselves. Lots of “snow plow dirt” and other detritis on the shoulders though.
  • Wolf Creek – Ditto – heading up Ebbett’s to Wolf Creek you’ll see some small slides, with assorted rocks and boulders, though. Not too “bouldery” on the roads themselves but certainly some. On one ride earlier this week I heard, and then saw, some rock coming down one of the hills onto Hwy. 4. A bit disconcerting…
  • Wolf Creek Road itself is gated/closed.
  • Crystal Springs – Easy going on Hwy. 88 with only the plow detritus on the shoulders. No ice on Crystal Springs Road.
  • Monitor Pass is closed for the winter. The gates at Hwy. 395 and at Hwy. 4/89 are closed.
  • Ebbett’s Pass is closed for the winter. The gate at the Hwy. 4/89 junction is open, and the sign nearby reads the road is closed seven (7) miles ahead (Raymond Meadow Creek), HOWEVER, the road is actually closed 2.5 miles from the junction (at Wolf Creek Road). It’s likely that the gate will be closed at the junction at some point in the near future though, as more snow is forecast for this weekend.
  • Carson Pass is open.
  • Luther Pass is open.

Pix of some of those roads

The lucky shot

Sam (could be Samuel or Samantha) the bald eagle (as we’ve named it) posing for a pic near the Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 junction.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! More snow is on the way so please remember to ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

The disclaimer

The information and content on this page, as well as any other California Alps Cycling (CAC) page or materials, is general in nature and must be used with an understanding of your capabilities and expertise. Please be sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set as CAC is not responsible for any injuries to you, your companions or your equipment.  Additionally, while we strive to provide accurate, timely and complete information, it is subject to change and therefore CAC is not responsible for the accuracy thereof.   

Winter Cycling in the California Alps

I’ll try not to whine too much as I write this post. After all, I get to live and work in the heart of the California Alps. Still, the winter can be tough up here in terms of cycling. The roads, even though most are plowed, have a tendency to ice up a bit (or more than a bit), especially after a decent snow, and that can make things a bit difficult on any bike, let alone a road bike.

A crisp, cool and icy Diamond Valley afternoon.

Over the last several weeks it’s been so icy most of the time that riding outside was not really safe. Thankfully, there are options. For example, a bluetooth trainer helps lessen the boredom and makes a virtual ride more engaging. I use a CycleOps Magnus with Zwift. The trainer syncs with Zwift and so as the grade increases on the screen, the resistence increases on the trainer. It’s not climbing per se but it certainly feels more realistic than mashing a bigger gear to simulate a climb. With this set up I can spin at a high cadence when I climb in the house just like I would when I’m on the road.

Last weekend, I took another step forward. I mounted a flat screen in my workout room and hooked it up to an old Apple TV. I did have one problem, though: the Zwift app. was kinda janky and running it with the Apple TV remote was problematic. So, I went with Airplay instead. That actually turned out to be a better set up. I put my laptop on a tripod (you can get a special tray on online to attach to any tripod), placed it by my side, opposite the stool I have for my water bottle, phone, towel, etc. and man, it felt like Mission Control! And that larger screen (46″) made for a much more immersive experience than what I had used previously – just the Mac in front of me on that tripod. Since the beginning of the month I’ve put in about 214 miles, with 172 of those on Zwift. I cast my mind back to the winter of ’16-17 when I rode 600 miles during one period, all indoors!

Yeah, I here ya! I need to find something else to do perhaps. A bit of snowshoeing maybe? Time to learn how to ski? How about a hike? Yup, I need to do some of that too. I do have a sweet little gym set up (little being the operative word) so I can do some core work, keep the upper body strong and work on those hammies and glutes a bit too. But, I agree, some other outdoor activities are warranted.

With that said, I did get a little break in the weather, or ice I should say, and got outside for a couple hours last Sunday. I was able to ride up Highway 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) a bit. The snow, and requisite gate, however, stopped me at Wolf Creek but I did get a glimpse of a bald eagle and I startled a coyote (doing it’s “business” on the side of the road). It’s the little things…

Snow and ice behind the gate at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Road.

It was a great day, made even more special by the fact that I was outside. Yet another perk of riding inside: the rides outside are just a bit more enjoyable. If you’d like to do a bit of winter riding in one of the most beautiful places in the world, come on up, the weather’s fine…for now.

Snow on the sides of the road but not on it! Made all that much sweeter by that bright, shiny orb in the sky.

It’s Often Windy Here in the California Alps – Why is That?

As a San Jose native, I was very familiar with the wind patterns. I lived in South San Jose for many years and could plan my rides knowing pretty well how the wind would blow: Go out early and get the tailwind on the way home. Go out later in the afternoon and get the headwind on the way home. Certainly this did depend on the direction of my ride but for the most part I could easily predict the patterns.

So, what’s the deal here? Well, thanks to “A Sierra Club Naturlist’s Guide” by Stephen Whitney I’ve found some answers. 

Mountain winds: “Winds and breezes passing over a rugged mountain range such as the Sierra follow tortuous courses over and around ridges, up and down canyons, through gaps in the crest. Eddies set up by the irregular terrain blow here and there in vigorous gusts that rattle trees and shrubs one minute only to abruptly die down the next. In the protection of a large boulder or grove of trees there may be scarcely any wind at all, while just a few yards away, in a more exposed area, it howls furiously.”

Wind-driven clouds in the CA Alps

Okay, so that makes sense. It’s somewhat analogous to the flow of a river. Rocks = rapids. Eddies are often downstream of those big rocks and flat water can bee seen where there aren’t any big rocks to interrupt the water’s flow.

Let’s dive a little deeper, though. Why is it that I can head up Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) with a headwind and then not get that tailwind on the way back? Okay, sometimes I do get the tailwind but it’s not consisent like it was in Silicon Valley. Well, Mr.Whitney has a bit more information in that regard. It’s about mountain breezes, valley breezes and the mountain ranges “intrusion” into the tropopause

“On a warm summer morning the air next to the ground surface is heated and rises. Cooler air nearby moves in to replace it and rises in turn. This movement is felt during the day as an upslope breeze.” Typically, he writes, this starts about three hours after sunrise and reaches its peak during the hottest hours of the day and then it tapers off again around dusk. This is a valley breeze.  “At night, cool air flows downslope, creating the mountain breeze.”

Dust off those cobwebs and cast your mind back (thanks Paul Sherwin) to those high school science days (daze?); here’s some additional data: “Wind speed increases over mountain crests and through canyons and passes because air – like any fluid – accelerates when forced through a narrow passage. As a volume of air moves upslope, it is increasingly squeezed between the mountains and the tropopause, the inversion layer acting as a lid on the lower atmosphere. Since the volume of air remains the same as it squeezes over the mountain crest, it becomes elongated.” Okay so that means it picks up speed. Makes sense. He goes on to write that “air forced to squeeze through a canyon or mountain pass is accelerated in much the same way.”

So, there we have it! Mountain winds, mountain breezes and valley breezes combined with the myriad canyons, crests, passes and that ol’ tropopause challenge those of us who cycle in the California Alps. It’s a rare day when we have no wind and due to the topography you can’t count on consistency. If you ride here then you, grasshopper, like I, need to learn to embrace the wind. 

Ride safe out there and let’s kick some passes asses!™ Even the windy ones…

Fall Colors and Blue Lakes – A Great Birthday Present!

Last Saturday, my bud and fellow member Chris joined me for my “55 on my 55th” ride out to Blue Lakes. My wife and I had driven part of the road but when we were there the gate was closed so we couldn’t make it back to the actual lakes. So, when Chris suggested we do something different for my b-day, I thought “yeah, Blue Lakes would be good.

It was one of those rare days when the stars align and everything comes together. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part any day on the bike is a good day. This day, however, was particulary awesome. The sky was clear and oh so blue, the fall colors

Self-portait in Hope Valley - Blue Lakes Road.
Beauty fall day on Blue Lakes Road.

were a colorin’ (yeah, could have used some more reds, I agree), the wind wasn’t bad, and the temperature wasn’t too cold. We did wait until for dust-off until 10 a.m. to give things a chance to warm up. Low 20’s at HQ early in the morn’ but by the time we left we had a balmy 40 degrees or so.

We started the day climbing out of Markleeville — which is the usual for me since either direction I choose is “up” — north towards Woodfords. From there, it was up Carson Pass and into Hope Valley and then a left turn put us on Blue Lakes Road. Traffic was the usual up Carson but once we got to Blue Lakes Road it died out significantly. It was at that point that the day turned from good to amazing.

Yellow and orange aspens seem to glow in the sunlight.
The fall colors were rocking. The wind was just a bit of a breeze. The cars had taken a hiatus and it was just a picture perfect day.

We did intermission at Lower Blue Lake 1d8wt4c9QayssZaX1U5z4g(just about 28 miles from our starting point) and from there it was just a couple of minor bumps before the long downhill to Woodfords. We were so looking forward to lunch at Sorenson’s Resort (and beer…maybe a couple of beers) but they were packed so no dice there. Tried Hope Valley Cafe but it was cookies only (even with beer that didn’t quite do it for us). The third try was the charm, though and we landed at Mad Dog Cafe in Woodfords for some beers and paninis (The Pioneer for Chris and the Turkey Pesto for me). Lip-smackin’ good those paninis were. And the beer was cold and well…it was beer so happy we were. There is no try, there is only do…Sorry, I have a place in my mind where I go time to time (great Tom Petty song, that one).

Anyway, those six (6) miles from Woodfords to Markleeville were made just that much more pleasant because of our full stomachs (burp) and those IPAs (belch). Okay, I hear those of you who have ridden those bumps before groaning now but really, it WAS much more pleasant!

I’ll leave you with a few stats and a link to my Relive video.

Distance: 55.4 miles
Elevation gain: 4511 feet
Time on the bike: 4:00:35
Average speed: 13.8 mph
Eleven (11) Cat 4s and two (2) Cat 2s
Relive video: Click here.

Hamming it up in Hope Valley
Not sure what I was doing here. Just high from from those endorphins I guess.

For those of you on Strava, login and check out the full ride here.  Make the trek soon or you’ll miss what’s left of the colors and the not too chilly weather.

Remember, you can check out the weather and air quality here in the heart of the California Alps right on this site.

See you soon and feel free to contact me if you’d like any suggestions or need any help.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes Asses!™

 

 

 

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!

A Little Update on Recent California Alps Cycling Activities

Welcome new members! We’re so pleased to add the following active members to our merry band of troublemakers:

  1. Scott Anderson
  2. Karrie Baker
  3. Mario Carmona
  4. Roy Franz
  5. Greg Hanson
  6. Richard Harvey
  7. Joe Watkins

Thank you all for joining. We look forward to our upcoming adventures together!

We’ve adopted a stretch of Highway 89 (from Camp Markleeville to Turtle Rock)!

As part of our mission, we help the communities in which we live, work and ride and so are very pleased to be able to help keep our local roads clean. We’ll be out doing a bit of litter pick-up later this week. Stay tuned for an after-action report.

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Yup, that’s us, we’ve adopted this stretch of Hwy. 89

Thunderstorms have been a daily ‘thang…

The weather here has been pretty crazy lately with a daily dose of thunderstorms. You can pretty much set your clock by them as they’ve been starting about 2:00 p.m. Yesterday’s storm dumped over a 1/2 an inch in just a few minutes with our weather station showing a rain rate at that time of about 3.84 inches per hour! Be sure to check out our Weather Conditions page regularly for real-time updates.

Jerseys, bibs and shorts will soon be arriving!

Thanks to many of you for your pre-orders. We’re working with Castelli now on finalizing our order and so we’ll soon have your stuff here. Once it’s arrived we’ll reach out to those that have ordered schwag and make final preparations for launch, (okay, shipping but I just liked how that sounded). Oh, and a bit of a surprise…wind vests! Check ’em out:

california alps cycling, cycling, sierra cycling, cycling in the wind
Our new windvest will supplement your cycling wardrobe nicely, we think.

Lastly, the road conditions, photo gallery and video pages have been updated. Take a look!

We wish you a wonderful week of cycling, mountain biking, hiking or just hanging out. Whatever floats your boat, eh? Be safe out there!