Tag: grover hot springs

Debris Flow Dancing Here in Markleeville – Another Challenge for Alpine County

OUR wild ride started about ten (10) days ago here in California Alps Cycling country. Things have been in disarray since, made all the better (not!) by some extended travel time, and other challenges, and so my apologies for not getting this report out a bit sooner.

NONETHELESS…

‘TWAS Wednesday, August 3rd, about 3:00 p.m. That’s when the skies opened up, and within hours the waves of mud and debris came tumblin’ down Markleeville’s Main Street (aka Hwy. 89).

THERE I was, sitting on said Hwy. 89 just north of town, at the temporary light constructed by Caltrans, just after giving blood (1 gallon milestone, by the way!) in Minden, NV. Another car was coming up the hill in the one lane that was available for travel – hence the light – and I was surprised at how much, and how fast, that puddle it just passed through, was growing. Then I noticed the mini-boulders on the road.

AND then I looked up and saw the water, rocks and mud beginning to flow from the scarp above me. “This isn’t good,” I said aloud. Then I began yelling at the light to change (there were no more cars stopped opposite me). Also aloud, and with some, as you might imagine, colorful language.

IT didn’t change fast enough (that detritus above was getting chunkier) and there were no cars coming up, so off I went. Just over a mile and home I was. The rain was just getting started as it turns out. I learned a little later that Mom came in ahead of me. She had hitched up her wagon to go to town (Gardnerville, NV – just so. of Minden) and do some shopping at the general store, i.e., Raley’s. 😉

WE both got home about 3:30 p.m. Thunderstorm-palooza then began in earnest.

This was the scene on Friday, after much of the mud had been removed.

2.2 Inches In About An Hour!

OUR weather station’s console read “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

HERE’S a little little video to give some sense of the rain rate and intensity.
That’s Hot Springs Road between us and the fire station across the street.

Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I had seen that message before but not displayed for so long and not with so much associated ca-ca (i.e., sticks, mud, pinecones, etc.) in the run-off outside. I donned my foul weather gear (including hard hat) after awhile so I could do some cleaning and clearing in order to keep things moving the right way. My wife and I did a lot of whoa!-ing and holy-s*&t!-ing, let me tell you.

DIDN’T know how bad it was in town until the next day…

MARKLEEVILLE’S Post Office parking lot the day after – and this was after much of the mud was cleared away. Still, needed my muck boots to pick up yesterday’s mail. We were shocked when we got into town. We had some idea that it was going to be a mess, but this? Not on our radar…

“WHAT can I do to help?”

I heard that. Thanks so much for asking. Here’s a link to the Markleeville Business Reslience Fund.

SO many have been so generous already and if you too can help out, please do. Our little county doesn’t have much of a tax base (1100 people in the entire county) so grants, donations and the like are so very helpful.

MAKE a donation of $50.00 or more and I’ll send you a t-shirt as a small token of appreciation. Go big ($200 or more) and I’ll send you a windvest. Just send me an email with a screenshot and I’ll follow up with ya!

WE are grieving (again) but we are NOT wallowing so please don’t feel sorry for us. We, like so many communities throughout the world, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

OKAY, so back to the story…

THURSDAY afternoon it was. I found myself filling sandbags with so many of my friends. Everyone had rallied at the fire station so bags could be positioned in town to protect the buildings from what was supposed to be the next wave. Thankfully it didn’t come. It might, however, this week, and if not, IMHO it’s likely to occur before summer’s end. We’re resilient though if nothing else, and more importantly there are a lot of skilled, Sierra-forged individuals – with heavy equipment 😉 – in the area.

Deep mud, and silt, and debris. Pretty much everywhere.

WE needed all the help we could get. And that help also came in the form of two (2) bay area fire departments making the trip to Markleeville and spending several days helping us dig out.

THANK YOU Menlo Park F.D. and Oakland F.D!

What’s Next?

ABOUT another week of going over Monitor Pass to get to Nevada or South Lake Tahoe, for one. We’ve all been doing that since the 3rd, but the temporary bridge over the ~20 foot gap on northbound Hwy. 89 should be in place by the 22nd. Just this past Friday the sheriff’s escort started, though, so we can get in and out via a side-road constructed just for that purpose. Twice a day only, between 7-730 a.m. and 6-630 p.m.

Otherwise it’s a southbound trip down Hwy. 89 then east up and over Monitor Pass and then north on Hwy. 395 only to turn west in Gardernerville and head up Hwy. 88 to Luther Pass where it’s north again to Big Blue.

SO, what is usually about a 40′ trip to So. Lake Tahoe takes about two (2) hours! No fun. Especially when at the 1.25 hour mark you end up at Woodfords Junction, six (6) miles north of Markleeville.

RECOVERY is also on the agenda.

Events continue, lives go on.

GROVER Hot Spring’s waterfall beckons (and the campground is open)…

I did a mountain bike ride up to and around the park, followed with about a 1/2 mile hike up to the falls.
A special treat it was to dunk my head under one of those “little drips.” From town it’s only three (3) miles or so up to the park. There’s a nice spur trail too, to get you into the park – Charity Valley East. Check it out!

EBBETT’S Pass is still rideable…

Was a beautiful ride last weekend for my 19th ascent up the south/east side.

Like I Said, Grieving, Not Wallowing

ALPINE County is still one of the most beautiful places in the Sierra.

AS the saying goes, one (1) person per square mile (it’s actually .6754 persons), and you!

DON’T give up on us. We’re not going anywhere and we’re looking forward to seeing you again soon.

AFTER all Hwy. 89 into Markleeville will be open next Monday! You can buy me a beer. I’ll pick up the second round.

And…

LET’S KICK SOME PASSES’ ASSES!

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!

Fat Tire Fun, Some Mug Shots and a Special Sighting

WHILE we were hoping that the storm of a couple weeks ago was going to open that storm door, alas that has yet to happen. We’ve gotten a drizzle here and there (a whopping .01 inches of rain yesterday) and some snivelings of snow, but the “big white” has yet to materialize.

THERE is, however, a glimmer of hope. We’ve got a system coming in tomorrow, and last week, on one of my usual rides – the cattle guard just below the 7000′ mark – there was still a bit of snow on Highway 4. The gate at Wolf Creek Road was closed (and Ebbett’s Pass remains closed as well).

A few of us, including a silver-haired stud-muffin who was coming up as I was headed down, took advantage though, and enjoyed that car-free zone.

Fat Tire Fun on the Middle Fork

FARLEY was a happy camper, as was his rider, during our little jaunt up to Grover Hot Springs State Park and requisite trek back towards the village, this time though via the banks of Hot Springs Creek. Formerly known, at least that’s the local lore – I’ve got to look that up – as the middle-fork of the Carson River, it’s a sweet little burbling brook of a stream.

Nice ride, that fire-tire bike… So forgiving on just about anything. Trek isn’t kidding IMO about it being the mountain bikers fat-bike. Very nimble. Light action, too, and as for mud…What mud?

WHAT I think would have been an issue, certainly on the gravel bike and perhaps even on the MTB, (see this “peanut butter post”) was nuffin’ for those puffy tires on Farley.

I can’t wait to get him out on the snow. Perhaps you’d like to join me? Hit me up and let’s make a plan!

Markleeville Mug Shots

WE pulled these just today from the wildlife camera behind the chalet.

THIS hambone we’ve named “Little Blackie” (after the heroine’s horse in True Grit – either version); that image in the left frame helps me cast my mind back to that Louis Gossett, Jr. line in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

Stop eyeballing me, bear!

A Special Sighting

OUR resilient river (or creek, depending…) never stops surprising us. We get special sightings almost every day. A Great-Blue Heron cruises us regularly, a Belted-Kingfisher, too. And just last week it appeared to be more of a boiling caldron of black goo. Okay, maybe a little hyperbole but not too far off, really.

OTTERS, though? That one I wasn’t expecting. Okay, full disclosure…only one otter, but still, it really was a river otter! Right there. On our river. Of course I didn’t have a camera, or a phone, and it was too far away to get captured on the wildlife cam.

otter drifting on log on river
Photo by David Selbert on Pexels.com

THAT’s not my picture, no. Was definitely one of those, though. No, it was not a beaver, Mom. I can say so without any qualm.

SHE’S such a skeptic.

IT was a wild week indeed, here in the California Alps.

Here’s hoping you had a wild one too (in a good way), and that the coming week brings you many pleasant surprises.

Thinking About Kicking Some Alpine Co. Roads’ or Trails’ Asses? Here’s a Quick Update

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!

Road Cycling

Carson Pass

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.

Ebbett’s Pass

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 Pass

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.

Monitor Pass

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.”

It’s Another Springtime Thang Here in Markleeville

WE’VE been in denial here at California Alps Cycling HQ, aka Chalet Schwartz. Well, at least we were. Not anymore, though. Reality has set in and so has spring!

WHILE we had hoped for a miracle March, unfortunately we had no such luck, and so we’ll just have to accept the fact that spring has come to the California Alps (and elsewhere). It’s a tough thing, enduring spring here in the heart of the Sierra but we’ll just have to persevere.

The Birds are Back in Town!

IT all starting hitting home, so to speak, last Thursday evening as our local coyote – we named it Wiley of course – made its way along Hot Springs Creek and our meadow, without having to trudge through the ice and snow that recently finished its ritual thaw.

FRIDAY brought in our resident pair of California quail and on the same day we saw the chickens. No, not wild chickens. They belong to our neighbors (Linda & Gordy) just west of us and they let the girls out to scratch around the meadow. It seems though that they’re doing it just a bit more gleefully than usual.

THAT same day, the hummers showed up. Anna’s first, as is the norm, but soon the Rufous’ and Calliopes will be here.

THE Mallards too, have arrived. Mrs. Mallard is just out of the frame as Drake Mallard stands guard.

ROBINS, crows and Steller’s jays are all gathering nesting material and the chipmunks and ground squirrels have recently come out of hibernation, too. No bears yet but I’m sure that will change soon enough. And, we’ve got flickers, turkeys, herons, vultures and dippers as well!

YUP, in case you didn’t know before, you do now. This is a great place to do a bit of birding.

Ahh, Riding With Less Layering

MY gravel bike ride up Hwy. 4 (towards Monitor Pass) to, and a bit up Leviathan Mine Road on Sunday was glorious! There were a few other riders taking advantage of the closed road, too. I did have a chance to connect with one rider who had just come down from the pass. Clear all the way to the top, he said.

Whispy clouds over the Carson-Iceberg, and Hwy. 89, as seen from just above Heenan Lake.

THE gate will soon be open (saw those gigantic snow blowers on the side of the road Sunday) and then it’s just a matter of time before Ebbetts (and other Sierra passes) opens too.

YESTERDAY I partook of my second gravel ride of the spring season – a short but sweet trip up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park.

AS you can see, the sky was as blue as my jersey and both Roscoe and I were very happy to be gravelin’.

Can You Say Fishing?

FISHMAS starts April 24th but that hasn’t prevented people from fishing now. The river is a bit chocolately (another sign of spring) but it should soon be its clear, cool, self. Click here for a few more particulars courtesy of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

ALPINE county will soon be opening up to the public I’ve heard and we’re all excited to welcome you!

SOCIAL distancing and masking is still required inside our businesses but it’s pretty easy to deal with when outside, and there’s lots of outside here in Alpine Co.

OOPS, I almost forgot to mention the spring wildflowers that will soon be popping. Don’t miss that either!

BE safe, stay healthy, travel respectfully, and we hope to see you soon.

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Il Finito

SO it was that about two (2) weeks after I returned from my trip to Markleeville, my wife and I found ourselves en route to “my town” so she could see the house and property in-person for the first time.

WE decided that we would let it happen, or not, depending on how things felt once she saw the place, and met Pat and Rich. We also thought it prudent to look at other properties in the area just to be sure and so we asked Sarah to set up some walk-thrus. This was August 11th, 2016.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

MY wife fell in love with the place, the town and the people right away. Just like I did. The other homes we looked at were nice but none of them were “it” like the house on Hot Springs Road. Yup, ’twas yet another sign.

WE told Sarah (our realtor) “yes” and headed home right away. We had both taken just the one day off; we didn’t want to lose the house and we knew there was another offer on the table. On our way home, thanks to technology and our fast moving realtor, we signed the offer from the side of the road, on the Hwy 99/4 cloverleaf, as it turns out. Things were moving very quickly indeed!

SELLING OUR HOME IN SAN JOSE

MY Mom, who now lives on the property with us in her own little home, lived in San Diego at the time. She dabbled in the real estate business down in Sandy Eggo, as she sometimes called it, and had made some connections in the Bay Area when she lived there for a bit several years prior.

SHE reached out to her connections and found us a realtor that we hoped would help us sell our home. You see, Clara Lee, who did in fact become our realtor wasn’t sure she wanted to take on new clients at the time. She had just wrapped up an arduous deal with some folks who, shall we say, weren’t the nicest to work with and she was feeling pretty beat up.

MOM, however, can be pretty persuasive and convinced her to at least meet us. I kid you not, when we got home that day, Clara was waiting for us. It was an instant connection and Clara took us under her wing. She walked through the house and gave us advice (some of which we didn’t like) as to how to move forward. Nonetheless, we listened to her and we had the house painted, prepped, staged and ready within a few weeks.

THERE was a broker’s tour on August 31st and about two (2) weeks or so later we held an open house and received a whole shitload (love that word – it always takes me back to that scene in Blazing Saddles) of offers. Needless to say, we took the best one and began the closing process.

OUR SAGA CONTINUES…

WE made several trips back and forth to Markleeville in the interim. We also bought a Subaru, and named it Clara, in homage to our Clara. And we purchased a little trailer for Clara (the car, not the realtor), too.

OF COURSE there was still a lot more to do! We got the movers set up, took care of more (endless?) paperwork and packed. And packed. And packed. And cleaned. And scrubbed. And buffed. For those of you who’ve gone through this process, you know what I’m talking about.

ON October 13th, my birthday as it turns out, I picked up the new Outback, and that night we had a celebratory dinner with Clara (the realtor, not the car). She gave us this little sign (uh huh, another one) at that dinner that hangs in our garage today.

ON October 19th we made our way up to Markleeville. The deal had closed! Not without a whole lot of last minute drama (title company style), some of which took place on the trip east. It was a wild ride in many ways…

The next day, I took my first ride up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park – October 20th, 2016.

A RAINY DAY MOVE

IT was pouring rain when we loaded up Clara (again, the car, not the realtor) and her trailer with the little things that the movers weren’t going to take, and our three (3) cats, Ditty, Louie and Tina, and drove to our new home. This was Friday, October 28th. I remember it well for many reasons but mostly because it happened to be on my Grandmother’s birthday. See what I mean about all these friggin’ signs. Uncanny!

I dropped off mi esposa and the bambinos and made my way back to San Jose, arriving around 9:00 p.m. or so. I had the last minute clean up to do; we just couldn’t get it all done in enough time for me to not have to make this last trip and gawd was I tired!

CAREFUL what you wish for, right?

HOME Depot was a necessary stop before heading back to our soon to be former home. I needed a few more boxes, tape and shrink wrap. I slept on the floor that night and in the a.m. I began the cleaning, and packed the car to the gills, spending most of that Saturday to get ‘er done. I left Silicon Valley for our new home just before 5:00 p.m. (that’s when I took that pic above of the Subie in the driveway).

I got in so late that night that we postponed the real celebration until the next day, October 30th and we did so in style. My dear departed friend, Joe Karotkin, turned us on to this “100 year old” orange liqueur a bunch of years back and we decided we wanted to break tradition and go with it, instead of some champagne.

SO, there you have it, our story of whoa!

Definitely not “woe.” Okay there were some “woes” in there but they were soon forgotten as we began our new life in the California Alps.

IT takes some work to live here. There’s snow and cold and ice and bears and mountain lions and small town politics and so on but we wouldn’t trade it for ’nuffin.

WE earned major kudos from the locals, now our neighbors and friends, by the way, for making it through that first winter (2016-2017 was the drought breaker as you may recall) without incident but with quite a bit of help.

After all, we were greenhorns. Not anymore though. We’re now Markleevillians!

Have a VERY Merry Christmas!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part One

‘TWAS a warm (ok, hot) summer day in July of 2016 when I packed up my bike and other necessessities, and headed for Alpine county, for a week (almost) at the Carson River Resort.

QUICK pause before I get into the meat of the story so I can give a shout out to my fellow blogger (I don’t know his actual name I realize) at Half Fast Cycling Club for prompting me, in his recent “Pandemic Tree post” of just two days ago, to write this story. He’s done the Deathride before and we were looking forward to meeting at this year’s ride but, well, you know how that ended.

Anyway…the story begins

IT had been a very stressful few weeks work-wise and between that, and the noise of the city, I was in desperate need of a mountain hit. Having grown up in San Jose I was used to heading to our local hills, or the Santa Cruz mountains on most occassions, but every year or so, like many Californians (or Nevadans for that matter) I suspect, I was privileged to be able to head to the Sierra.

THIS particular level of tensity warranted those big mountains but knowing what I knew about the summer season I feared I would find no accomodations. Camping would have been preferred but I had no vacation time so my compromise was to bring the necessary tech and work during the day and ride in the a.m., p.m. or during lunch. First, though, where to go?

Caples Lake as seen on my first trip to Markleeville.

YOSEMITE was my first choice. It is my wife, Patricia’s, and my, happy place. Well, it was. Now we live in our happy place. Not that Yosemite still isn’t…

AS you might have guessed, though, there were no rooms anywhere in the park.

MY next option was Mammoth. I had always wanted to go there so I did some searching and found a couple possibilities, but none of them had kitchens (or even “ettes”) and that wasn’t going to work. I wanted to cook my own meals.

HEY, I thought, how about Markleeville?

Before I continue with my saga, let me take you back a bunch of years, to my elementary school days (daze?), which is when I first learned of Markleeville.

MY grandparents on Mom’s side had a cabin in Arnold, CA (Lakemont Pines to be specific). We spent quite a bit of time there, both in the summer and the winter. During the winter we would often head up towards Lake Alpine for a bit of tubing and tobagganing. Traveling up Highway 4 towards Ebbetts Pass we would pass the mileage sign which showed the distance to Markleeville.

OF course being a young’n I said things to myself like “that town has my name” or “that town was named after me.” I remember thinking (did I ask? I don’t remember) it would be cool to see my town. I really don’t recall much more than that but knowing what I know now we couldn’t have gone to Markleeville very easily as Hwy. 4 would have been closed. So, we never made it and until this trip, I had never seen Markleeville before.

Back to present day, or 2016 to be more precise

I did some googling and called both the Creekside Lodge (no dice) and the Carson River Resort. When I asked the dude who answered the phone if they had anything available, especially on the river, he sort of chuckled and I sighed. No luck here either. Shit! But then he said: “Wait a minute…It looks like we have a cancellation. The river cabin is available but only this Sunday through next Thursday.” I’ll take it, I said!

AS it turns out, that was the first sign – from nothing anywhere to something in Markleeville. My town! 🙂

SO I packed up my gear, my bike, some food, of course some tequila and cerveza. I also brought some “nice clothes” as I planned on visiting the Alpine County Superior Court (building and maintaining relationships with courts throughout the state, country really, was part of my job description at the time) while I was there. I also loaded up the laptop and two monitors so I could fulfill my other employment-related duties.

A Sunday afternoon arrival

AFTER an uneventful, but longer trip than I expected (Markleeville, it could be said, is in B.F.E.), I arrived at my destination. The cabin however, was not ready, and Angel (the owner at the time) was very apologetic. No worries, I told her, I’ll just go for a ride up to that park in Markleeville that I saw the sign for – Grover Hot Springs.

BACK towards town I rode and I hung a left at Montgomery Street. At the fork in the road I stayed right and that put me on Hot Springs Road. As I headed towards the park I noticed a house (more like a cabin) for sale and made a mental note to pull the flyer and check it out on the way back, just to satisfy my curiosity.

THE park was pretty sweet. I made another mental note to check out the hot springs before I left town and back down towards town I went. I stopped at the house and pulled the flyer. Being born and raised in San Jose I was blown away. That’s all? Seriously? I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t going for two to three times that! It sat on just under 1/2 an acre and there was a creek (Hot Springs Creek, formerly known as the Middle Fork of the Carson River) in the backyard. My wife and I had talked for years about having a little place in the mountains, on a lake or river, when we retired.

THIS was that place! Now we weren’t ready to retire yet but it got me thinking, is this another sign?

APOLOGIES but I’m going to have to stop here and leave you hanging. My saga, as it turns out, is just too long for one blog post.

NEXT week, part two.

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!

Here and There in the California Alps – Part Deaux

Lots of things to talk about in this post: The Christmas Faire is coming; Grover Hot Springs has a new boardwalk; we’ve got some serious birding energy here including a first-time sighting; an amazing sushi bar in South Lake Tahoe; a patriotic visit with Snowshoe Thompson; a little bit of snow earlier in the week and a Deathride resurgence. Let’s get to it!

The Magical Markleeville Christmas Faire is this weekend!

A yearly tradition here in Markleeville but with an added twist this year: the Faire will be in the County Administration building so we all don’t freeze our hineys off like we have in the past. Things start with a pancake breakfast and there’ll be crafters, cookie decorating for the kids and Santa will be making an appearance too. Check out the Faire’s Facebook page for more information.

Grover Hot Spring’s New Boardwalk

I got out for a hike last week and did part of the Charity Valley Trail (from Hot Springs Road to Grover Hot Springs State Park), trekked around the park’s meadow and then took the boardwalk back the way I came. The park is always a great place to visit, especially the hot springs and now with the new boardwalk there’s one more thing to check out!

Birds, birds and more birds

It all started with the sighting of a rare bird in these parts – the Yellow Browed Warbler. Our little town of Markleeville was invaded by birders from throughout the state – they were hoping to add the bird to their lists. The Record Courier (Minden, Gardnerville and Carson City, NV) did a little write up. Click here to take a look.

A few weeks ago, we spotted an Osprey here at HQ (click here to read that post) and there have been visits from other birds since, including the Evening Grosbeak. Having been here three (3) years this was the first time we had seen these happy birds – a flock of about 20-30 tweeted their way across the meadow, perhaps enjoying the morning sun. And our regular herd of turkeys is back, too.

It’s not [always] about the beer

That’s not to say I didn’t have any when my wife and I visited The Naked Fish in South Lake but the beer definitely WAS NOT the highlight of the meal. Yes, beer can be a meal but I often like it as an accompaniment to food – food. In this case, some of the best, most unique sushi we’ve had. The hamachi was glorious (so buttery) and the uni was briny, kelpy, rich-flavored goodness. And that poke bowl…I’m salivating now as I recall how good that was! The way they prepare the sushi, though, is perhaps the real highlight – works of art that you almost don’t want to eat.

Flags (er, flag) flying at the ‘Shoe’s place

As many of you loyal readers and Strava followers know, Diamond Valley is one of my favorite places to ride. I did what I call the Diamond Valley Ewes (not the sheep, no, but two half-loops – but how does one write two yous, as in the letter?) which took me past Snowshoe’s place twice. The second time around I stopped to visit, as I usually do.

First snow (kinda…we had a little in Sept) of the season

It wasn’t much but it was enough to close Ebbett’s, Monitor, Sonora and Tioga Passes here in the California Alps. According to the CalTrans QuickMap app just now, they are all still closed with the exception of Monitor. It’s pretty darn cold here so it appears winter is on the way. We’d appreciate it, though, Ma Nature, if you’d give us a break or two before the big snow starts.

Deathride resurgence

The ride is under new management! The Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce owns the ride (as it has for years) but this year we’ve (I am a board member) decided to take it to a new (different) level. We’re hiring a professional ride director and are exploring things like alternate route options, or additions. We’re also looking at making it more of a Fondo and adding a bit of a retro vibe. We’re still working out some of the details so stay tuned for more information about our Ruby Anniversary Edition. It’s going to be a blast!

Well, there you have it! I told you there was lots going on here in the heart of the California Alps. Here at California Alps Cycling we count our blessings every day. Living, working and riding in such an awesome place is a privilege that we don’t take for granted. We hope to see you here for a visit soon. In the meantime, let’s kick some passes’ asses! Assuming they’re still rideable.

How About a Hike for a Change?

The Burnside Lake Trailhead sign on Hot Springs Road in Markleeville, CA
Just a couple miles up the road from
California Alps Cycling’s HQ, and only 3 miles from Markleeville, you’ll find the Burnside Lake Trailhead.

After a long day, or long week perhaps, a day off the bike can rejuvenate the spirit and rest those weary legs. And, you can take the family along, too. As someone who, like many of us cyclists I suspect, gets a little obsessive about miles, training, VO2 max, FTP and the like, I often need to force myself to do something off the bike.

Charity Valley Trail to Grover Hot Springs

The trail starts here! Just three (3) miles from California Alps Cycling HQ you can begin your trek to Grover Hot Springs State Park. It’s a nice, easy hike (with some little ups and outcrops) of about a mile into the park. From there, as you can see from the sign, you can make the hike (it’s also a nice trail run) to Burnside Lake or Charity Valley. There are other options as well once you’re in Grover. The entire Charity Valley Trail, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, is about eight (8) miles in length, with a moderate difficutly rating (per the Carson Ranger District).

We Locals Love our Parks

In the Winter 2018 print edition of Parklands, the California State Parks Foundation’s rag, there’s a little write up about Grover: “Thanks to 75 volunteers and a $5000 grant, the Native Plant Demonstration Garden underwent a number of improvements, such as irrigation and invasive weed removal. Trash pickup, raking and clearing fire rings also helped enhance the Grover Meadow area.” The locals are also supported by organizations such as the Alpine Trails Assocation and the Alpine Watershed Group.

Sign indication the border between the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Grover Hot Springs.
Crossing over from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest into Grover Hot Springs. This photo was taken December 21, 2018.

Taking Some Time Off the Bike

Make a picnic lunch, grab the family and head out for a rest day (or a least a day off the bike). My wife and I did just that last month. In fact, it was our 22nd anniversary! We made some hot soup, loaded up the thermos and did the two-mile round trip to the park and back in the middle of my work day. Click here to watch a short video of our trek, complete with a “Gomer Pyle shot” of yours truly.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certainly more ambitious options if you’re not looking to get a lot of rest; the Burnside Lake Trail to Grover is just the start. From the park there are myriad hiking and, as you might have guessed from the park’s name, soaking options too. Well, okay, just one soaking option really unless you’re a polar bear. Still, that pool with its 103 degree mineral springs is an awesome way to finish a day, whether that be after your hike, after a ride or as many snow sports enthusiasts know, after a day on the slopes or in the backcountry.

Soak well my friends and remember that rest days are just as important as intervals and hill repeats!