Tag: featured

Another Successful Adopt-a-Highway Event in the California Alps

Success on an Adopt-a-Highway day is a mixed bag, no pun intended. It’s great to be able to give back to the community but I wish we didn’t have to pick up trash in the first place. It’s mind-boggling to me that people still litter at all!

Bailey, Henry, Pat, Mark & January with the day’s haul from Saturday’s clean up.

Now to be sure, some of the littering was likely accidental – for example the Kenworth branded mudflap we found, or the socket wrench, with a couple sockets, likely left there by a distracted, or perhaps hurried, repair-maker (there’s not a whole lot of shoulder on that particular chunk of Highway 89 where this stuff was found).

Other than those “special” items, we found the typical beer cans (mostly Coors light and Chelada), numerous cigarette butts (seriously?), a filled (ew!) baby diaper, one-half of a plastic Easter egg, numerous plastic bags, various plastic car parts (headlight lenses, pieces of wind deflectors, taillight lenses, etc.), myriad bottles, including a few Sierra Nevada Summerfest, and other “fun” items.

The California Alps Cycling crew was joined this time by two folks from Sparks, NV: Henry and Bailey. They reached out to us after seeing our last blog post advertising the event. Chris (legacy member, Chris Schull) and I met them a couple months ago. We chatted a bit in town (Markleeville) as we were coming back from a ride and they were heading out. Henry and Bailey felt that it was important to give back to the community where they ride quite often and we can’t agree more. That’s one big reason we do it.

One of the other reasons we do it is to help keep our watersheds clean.

“As an interconnected system, an impact to any part of the watershed affects the rest of the system downstream.”

Did you know Alpine County includes the headwaters of five (5) watersheds?

Yup! The American, Carson, Mokelumne, Stanislaus and Truckee Rivers all get their start here and so it’s that much more important to prevent garbage and other nasties from getting into these rivers.

And, we aren’t the only ones that take this seriously. The Alpine Watershed Group does too. As their tagline reads, they are: “Working to preserve and enhance the natural system functions in Alpine County’s watersheds for future generations through collaboration, education, and proactively implementing stewardship projects.” We’ve donated to the AWG before and today we became a sustaining member. Perhaps you can help out, too? Just go to their website and donate, or volunteer, or both. They, and we, would love to have you!

Speaking of healthy watersheds…We have been frequented here at CA Alps Cycling HQ recently by an osprey! We saw it fly over town a couple days ago and then noticed it on Sunday, perched on a branch here, eating a snake.

“Our osprey” checking out the scene.

Was that a thank you? We’d like to think so.

New Bike Day, Adopt-a-Highway Day and Deathride News

New Bike Day!

It’s always a good day when we can get a new bike, right? I picked up my new Trek Emonda a couple weeks ago and due to my schedule, had to wait a couple days before I took it for a spin. So, on Saturday the 7th I had my chance.

It’s a BEAUTIFUL machine, my first with Di2, and what an amazing ride – so fast! I ordered it via Project One and Big Daddy’s Bike & Brew, in Gardnerville, NV, did the final assembly. Keith (Big Daddy) and Jay, master mechanic, helped me with the fit. No tweaks necessary. Nice!

I had planned to head up to Raymond Meadow Creek (RMC), which is almost exactly 13 miles from HQ here in Markleeville. The key word in that sentence is “had.” As you sharp eyed readers may have noticed, there’s no saddle bag. Yup, forgot that. And in it of course were my Co2 cartridges along with my patch kit and a spare tube. Luckily I’ve learned to carry another tube in my jersey, along with my pump/Co2 unit.

So, first thing in the morning, after changing out the stock Bontrager tires to my favorite, Continental 4000s IIs, I was ready to rock. Had a nice dance with my new baby before I left and off I went. At about mile 8 I got that squishy feeling as I stood up to climb a little bump. No way! A flat!? Oh well, at least it was the front tire so that will make it easier. I’ll just grab the kit from the saddle bag and patch it on up and continue on my way. Then I realized I had no bag. And I had no patch kit. And I had no Co2. Doh!

Long story a bit shorter…Changed out the tube and pumped, and pumped, and pumped that tire until it was good enough to ride. At that point, since I had no other tube, or patch kit, I knew I couldn’t continue on. Here in the California Alps you don’t want to be riding without your necessaries and there was no way I was calling for a rescue if I got another flat. So, I turned around and headed back down the mountain and as soon as I got back I got that bag out so I wouldn’t forget next time. The problem was that next time would have to wait another week as I was off to New Orleans the next day for a combo bus./pleasure trip. And to make my story of woe a little more woeful, I picked up a nice cough on my last day in the Big Easy and so I’ve been off the bike since. I was better enough for a short ride today, though. Inside. Still a little too compromised to go outside, and guess what? It was 28 degrees here this a.m.! C’mon, man! Winter can wait a little longer, can’t it?

Adopt-a-Highway Event on October 5th

If you’re so inclined, we’d love to have you join our merry band of troublemakers.

We “own” a three-mile stretch of Highway 89 from Turtle Rock Park to Camp Markleeville and we’ll be out doing our thing on Saturday the 5th, starting at 9:00 a.m. Perhaps we’ll do a ride afterwards? Email me at mschwartz@californiaalpscycling.bike if you’d like to join us. There is some orientation needed prior (CalTrans says so).

Deathride 2020

In case you were not aware, 2020 is the 40th anniversary of the Tour of the California Alps, aka the Deathride. And, the ride is under new management! The former director is no longer with the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor and owner of the ride. The Board of Directors of the Chamber, to which I was recently elected, and Chamber staff, is working hard to fulfill outstanding orders from this year’s ride and more importantly, is already planning next year’s ride. We are examining every aspect of the event, getting feedback from past riders and local experts and clubs and are looking to shake things up for the 40th edition.

We anticipate this milestone anniversary ride to sell out quickly so watch for the registration opening in December and act fast so you can be a part of the festivities. 

On a more personal note…I myself am honored to be a part of the team that will make 2020 the best Deathride ever (that’s our goal) and here at California Alps Cycling we are excited to be a part of this amazing event for another year and are looking forward to providing bag drop services again.

Stay tuned for more information and please, pass it on! And, most importantly, if you have any suggestions, criticism or feedback, let me know!

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!

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…

Mt. Rose Snowshoe

Well, as our tagline: “Cycling, and more, in the Heart of the Sierra” implies, we don’t just cycle here at “CAC.” There’s so much more to do in the California Alps it would be criminal to focus strictly on cycling.

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share this little missive about an outing I had outside of Reno, in the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area, just last Saturday.

My friends Chris and Shyanne Schull, along with another recruit, Sam (the man, of course) and I took off from the parking lot at the Mt. Rose Summit/Tahoe Rim Trailhead about 10:30 a.m. I now know this was a bit late for the distance we had planned to cover as our leader (Chris) gave us approximately 1.5 minutes to wolf down our lunch before we had to head back.

Chris having lunch with Kona and Java - Mt. Rose
Our fearless leader, Chris, eats his lunch under the watchful eyes of Java and Kona

Okay, I digress…

So, off we go with all of our gear and puppies in tow, and head up the trail a bit to put on our snowshoes. That in itself was a bit dicey for this first-timer, let me tell ya! All those straps and shit…While trying to keep my balance. In snowy ice. Or is that icey snow?

Alrighty, then…Shoes on. Check. Pack hoisted. Check. Poles in hand. Check. Oh, wait, gloves. Okay, gloves. Check. And now I have to pee. Pack off. Check. Up the hill to the trees while my companions wait patiently. Check. Download. Check. Gloves and jacket. Check. Pack back on. Check. Now, off we go. Finally!

 

As a lifelong mountain lover, but a city livver (sorry, “liver” just didn’t feel right) I have had many of those “OMFG this is so beautiful moments” but had never experienced ‘shoein’, or skiing or anything that would take me miles into the wilderness on my own two feet. I was really looking forward to this. I was in great shape and had done a lot of hiking and backpacking so I was prepared for what I knew was going to be a hard day “out of the saddle.” Wrong! Not prepared. Not by a long shot. Showshoeing is hard I learned. Some of that was the trail we chose (I whined to Chris a lot. I mean a lot. Sorry, Chris), some of it was technique (or lack thereof) and some of it was just being a greenhorn. In any case, once I got out of my own way (and the trail got easier) I got into the Zen of it all: the rhythm of my breathing, the crunch of the snow, the outrageous blue sky and the crystalline snow (reminded me of the mirrors of my youth if you get my drift). Ooh, good pun!

img_1821.jpg
One of the benefits of being the lantern rouge – good photos like this. Shyanne, Kona, Java, Chris and Sam ahead of me in the meadow just to the west of Tamarack Peak.

Alright, I’ll put that flashback away and get on with the story. Bullet points:

  • Hard work side-mountaining and cutting trail in showshoes…
  • Harder still when cross-country skiers are swooshing by you at an irritatingly fast clip,
  • and harder still when it goes on for several hours longer than you think.
  • Crap, was that another whine?

What I learned:

  1. Good, waterproof, boots are key.
  2. Snowshoes that are better at shedding snow are better because they don’t form ice-balls under the shoe. When that happens, it makes it really hard to walk.
  3. Snowshoeing takes a lot longer than you think.
  4. You sweat a lot so having good, lightweight, breathable gear makes life a whole lot better when “doin the ‘shoe.”
  5. It’s frickin’ awesome being out (like really far out, man) there, in snow country. It looks so much different.
  6. You’re right, compared to someone like let’s say a snow surveyor, I wasn’t even out there. Still..frickin’ awesome!
  7. Doing something other than cycling, when it’s too cold and icy to be outside so I’d be on the trainer, anyway. Oh, boy!
  8. Did I tell you that it was frickin’ awesome?

Mark snowshoeing in Mt. Rose. Lake Tahoe in the background.
Oh, yeah! What a day! Yours truly heading back to the barn and yup, that’s Lake Tahoe in the background.

Oh, if you want more data that matta, click here and check out my strava activity post.

My lawyer told me I need to tell you this too: Please check to make sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set. CAC is not responsible for any injuries.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.