WELL it’s that time of year when many of us are waiting for things to clear snow-wise so we can get to training, whether on the bike or on foot.
SO, here’s a quick update!
I’VE warned you before but I’ll say it again: this pass is for the seasoned rider. The vehicle traffic is heavy, moves fast, and includes lots of hay trucks. Add to that the hairy, approximately five-mile section from Woodfords to Hope Valley and this ride will get your blood pumping (and not just from the climbing).
Still, it’s an iconic climb so I have to mention it.
I talked to a rider in Markleeville last Sunday who had just come down from the pass. The gate was still closed at Raymond Meadow Creek (7000′) but he had, as well as many other riders, jumped the gate and went on up. The road was clear of snow and Caltrans was clearing debris and filling some holes. He mentioned that he talked to riders who had come up from the Bear Valley side and they said the same thing: the western side is almost ready, too.
I have it from a very reliable source that it should be open by the end of the week.
LUTHER has not closed all winter (as is the usual unless it’s really nasty) and I’ve taken several trips over by car in the last few days.
THE road looks good and there is no snow.
BOTH the eastern side and the western side are open so no issues there. Go get you some!
Blue Lakes Road
AS of yesterday, Blue Lakes was open to the third gate so you can’t quite get to the actual lakes unless you jump the last two (2) gates. Not sure of the conditions past gate #3 so enter at your own risk (which is good advice ANYTIME you jump a gate). And you’re right, astute reader, Blue Lakes is not technically a pass but it’s a good climb (and a rip-roaring descent) for certain.
BE sure to have a back-up plan if you get a mechanical and extraction by vehicle is not an option!
Mountain Biking, Gravel Riding and Hiking
THERE are many, many trails here in Alpine County so I’m just going to mention three (3) of my favorites and let you do your homework if you wish to partake of any others. Check out AllTrails for some ideas.
Charity Valley Trail
IT’S a fantastic trail, best done IMHO from Blue Lakes Road DOWN to Grover Hot Springs State Park. Certainly for you hard core “gravelers” the up-direction is an option, but it’s some tough sledding so be sure to set your expectations properly and bring plenty of water and other necessary gear.
Thornburg Canyon Trail
ANOTHER trail that connects to Blue Lakes Road and as you might imagine, coming down is the easier option. It’s an approximately 14 mile out and back with 3600′ of climbing. I’ve not hiked nor biked the entire length of the trail but as you can see, it’s pretty. The above image was taken just a little ways from the Markleeville entrance. You can drive, walk or ride up Saw Mill Road to the trailhead.
THE Alpine Trails Association just met and we discussed the conditions of the trails. Suffice it to say there are still lots of downed branches and trees and other detritus on the trails, and likely still some winter ruts so be wary. The crews have begun work on getting the trails summer-ready but as far as I know we have not gotten to either Charity Valley nor Thornburg.
Wolf Creek Road
THE above photo of Wolf Creek Valley was taken in August of 2018, when it was a bit smoky here due to the wildfires that year, but I’ve heard the road is in pretty good shape and it is a great option for a gravel ride.
It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden the entire road but I do know that the first mile or so (from Hwy. 4) is paved, and then, as I recall, it’s about 5-6 miles of fire road from there over to the valley. There are some sections of rutted, boulder-strewn dirt so keep that in mind.
REMEMBER, activities such as these can be inherently dangerous (my lawyerly sub-conscience reminded me to tell you this) so take part in these adventures at your own risk.
Resources and Grinds
HERE’s a link to the Alpine Co. Road Dept. where you can get more info. on county road conditions here.
AS far as local highways…Caltrans District 10’s Twitter feed is a great resource for up-to-date info. and I’ve found that its QuickMap page (and associated app.) is pretty reliable too.
BEER? The Cutthroat Brewing Company is now open 7 days a week and you can partake of delictable eats like the Deathride Pizza.
THE J. Markee Toll Station is another wonderful option with a nice lawn where you can spread out and do some people watching. Don’t let the “hole-in-the-wall” appearance fool you; Sandy (chef and owner) and her son Tanner are excellent hosts. We were just there last weekend and and the food and service was awesome!
LAST, but certainly not least, is the Out West Cafe. This place is only open for breakfast and lunch but Joey (chef/owner) always has some unique dishes and his wife bakes the most amazing cheesecakes.
WE’RE still masking up here when appropriate but with so many outdoor options it shouldn’t be too challenging to follow those best practices.
LET me know if you’re coming to town. Perhaps we can get a ride or hike in!
OH and by the way…if you’d like to check out some of these climbs (and other local rides, including some Tahoe rides) from the pleasure of your pain-cave then check us out on FulGaz. Just login and search “Schwartz.”