Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bikepacking near Truckee

Earlier this summer, Chad and I had a free weekend while the teenager was off learning to be a camp counselor.  Naturally, we took it as an excuse to enjoy and adventure weekend that was likely to be more hard-core than the kid would want to tackle.  (The adults are still tougher, at least for a little while...)

My original plan was to explore part of the Stanislaus National Forest up near Yosemite, as I've wanted to ride the Old Coulterville-Yosemite Road for a while.  This was the original road into Yosemite, but exists today as a dirt road through National Forest land.  One nice feature of said National Forest land is that one can camp pretty much wherever one wants, without needing reservations and without having other people camped next to you.  Helpful when one wants to escape civilization and isn't sure how far one will ride any given day.  I stared at maps for weeks, making sure I had a set of good route possibilities in my head, knew where the water sources were, and lined up a place to park the car near a ranger's house.

However, this was July.  As the weekend approached, I looked at the weather forecast for the area.  Forecast highs were up above 100 degrees.  Not what you want to see when you are planning a ride with a bunch of climbing on dirt on a bike loaded with camping gear.  I also had this weird niggle in my brain about fire season, as that area had been exceptionally hot and dry for weeks.

What to do, what to do... I decided that going up to higher elevation was the solution to high temperatures across the state, so we picked up a map for the Tahoe National Forest and headed up towards Truckee, with the loose plan of parking the truck at Stephan's cabin and riding up into the hills from there to circumnavigate Stampede Reservoir.   It was only going to be about 90 degrees up there -- much more manageable.

The first part of the ride was along a mellow paved bike trail along the Truckee River, but the views were awfully good for all that we were still within civilization.

After a few miles, we headed north across the river and followed the road just east of Boca Reservoir.

There were still cars on that road, so we turned onto Forest Road 72, which started out as a perfectly nice dirt road heading up the ridge.  I always like to see the "cars not recommended" sign when on this kind of trip; it means there won't be much traffic :)

Of course, in this case, it also meant that the road, which for the record was a solid rather than dotted line on the map, gradually degraded until it seemed more like an OHV trail than an actual road.  The upper sections of the climb were steep and rocky and loose, and perhaps a little challenging on a bike loaded with camping gear.  These things always seem to happen...

Oh, and the first two drainages I was hoping to get water at were dry.  Ugh.  At this point, it was near 90 degrees, the day was getting a bit long in the tooth, and we had fought our way a couple thousand feet up a fairly brutal climb.  Fortunately, the drainage at Worm Mill Canyon had water.

Shortly after that, I declared myself done for the day, and we set up camp on an old log landing.

Chad hung the bag of food before it got dark (see if you can spot it).  Yay!  This is so much easier to do while it is still light (trust me, I've had to do it in the dark too many times).

As the light waned, I wandered about taking pictures of the sunset,

while Chad hid from mosquitoes and potential chilly night breezes in the cozy tent.

A few clouds led to a glorious sunset,

after which we settled down for a well-deserved recovery sleep.

The next morning, we discovered that we had camped almost exactly on the high point along the 72 road.  A fortuitous thing, as the road went mostly downhill to the vicinity of the reservoir, so we knew it wouldn't be too bad a ride to get more water (our last reserves were used for breakfast).

Fairly rough riding downhill, in spots.  Perhaps this is why the road is not recommended for cars.

But look -- water!  And just around the bend, Chad found a full bottle of water that must have bounced out of someone's ATV.

One of the better sections of road.  Standard excellent view.

Once we made it down off of that ridge and hit a road junction, we decided to take a side loop over into Dog Valley, as Chad had heard it was pretty back there and might lend itself to some pleasant riding.

It did.  And there were occasional creeks in which to refill the water bottles.  (Can you tell I was mentally scarred from the previous unexpectedly dry day?)

On finishing the side loop, we rejoined Henness Pass Road and circled around the north side of Stampede Reservoir.  I expected this section to be relatively easy riding based on what the section of this road over near Downieville is like, and it didn't disappoint.

The bridge was out on the side road I wanted to take.  Why do these things always happen at the end of the day when one is getting tired??

After looking at the Little Truckee River where the bridge was out and deciding that we didn't want to ford it there without a bridge, we rode out to the paved road and rolled down to an actual campground with a walk-in-site available.  It was pretty, despite the fact that there were other people camped there.  And there was an actual water spigot.   Water, water, water.  Drop a strawberry lemonade Nuun tablet in and call it "the finest rose".  I think we might have been a wee bit tired by that point.

The third and last day brought us some singletrack.  First of all, I convinced Chad that it was a good idea to hare off the main highway the campground had been on onto an OHV trail, even though the connection from that trail to the trail we really wanted to be on didn't exist on one map, and was a mere ghost of a dotted line on the other map.

The OHV trail was quite rideable -- much better than good old Forest Road 72.

However, the Side Spur of Unknown Existence to connect us to the maze of OHV trails leading to our desired route along the Commemorative Overland Emigrant trail proved to be quite skinny.  See the little gap beween the bushes over Chad's right shoulder?

It got skinnier, and perhaps a bit overgrown.

Still, the views were expansive, and we had a lot of fun picking our way down.

One has to enjoy a well-placed bench in the shade near the reservoir.

Shortly after this, we hit the absolutely enjoyable singletrack section that rolled up and down toward Truckee.  At one point, I made us take a shortcut across a creek.  That cool water felt so good!

Along the way, we ran into several other mountain bikers, who generally looked at us on our loaded bikes on the hilly terrain like we were crazy -- except for those cool few who looked faintly jealous on hearing about our adventure weekend route.  As well they should.  What's not to like about this?

As for our original plan?  The actual high temperature that weekend in the forest up near Yosemite was 112, and the Ferguson Fire, which has now burned almost 100,000 acres, sparked in that area just a few days later.  We made a good choice to go somewhere else this time; those maps will keep for a later trip.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Shortly after we got home, it was time for the SF Pride Parade.  The kiddo wanted to go be part of the NASA contingent, so we signed up and took the train to the city that morning.

Cat wanted to come along too, so we had two teens to shepherd amidst the crowds.

As we arrived.

Waiting for our group's turn to march.

Acquiring more color.

Kid saw rainbow squid hat on person Chad knows from work.  Couldn't resist.  Yet more color.

Actually marching.  We were in one of the more tame tech contingents (as opposed to the more flamboyant groups one traditionally expects at Pride), but the energy on the streets was pretty cool -- very inclusive and positive.

Both kids got to pass out cool NASA pictures to the crowd.

Tired train ride home, proving that we can still wear them out!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Last but not least

Finally, the last day of riding!

I had sort of figured the last day of riding might feel like a slog, as much of it was on roads cutting across the state from the coast inland to Raymond.  This was also forecast to be the hottest day of the trip, with temperatures approaching 9 and humidity at levels that we denizens of the West Coast are not used to.

Still, it ended up being a most enjoyable day of riding.

Nim contemplating the East Coast Greenway.

We did ride on quite a number of delightful little country roads, but one also has to appreciate the route instructions to "Turn onto Abandoned Railway".  Clearly another patch of delightful dirt :)

Given the heat, we stopped mid-day for a cold beverage.  Nim and I were amused that even Chad succumbed to an icy slushy frozen coffee beverage, given that he is usually such an espresso purist.  Granted, this was a not-overly-sweetened icy slushy frozen coffee beverage from a shop more independent than the usual ubiquitous Starbucks.

All in all, we rode some 350 miles.  Good job to the teenager!  Now I just need to plot the next trip.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Happy Father's Day!

For Father's Day, we enjoyed a relaxed, extra-scenic day mostly riding up the Maine coast.  Hmmm...could that have been planned?

We started with a short visit to Fort Constitution near Portsmouth. This site is on an active Coast Guard facility, so we had to carefully follow the blue line on the pavement out to the old fort (you can just see the line in the background of the first picture).

We enjoyed the scenic views from the island this fort is on.

Note the lighthouse; you'll see it again later.

Nim ran around and explored, as she is wont to do.

It was yet again a warm day, so we gravitated toward shady nooks.

After we finished at that fort, it was time to head across the bridge from New Hampshire to Maine.  Nim doubted my judgment in taking a picture while riding on the bridge, but there was a big bike lane so it was no problem.

Shortly after crossing the bridge, it became clear that the kiddo was hungry, so we decided to stop at Fort McClary near Kittery, just across the river mouth from the other fort.  

I fed her saltwater taffy.

It turned out to be not just a day for free entrance into Maine state parks, but also part of the weekend for French and Indian War reenactments at the park.  Naturally, we decided to hang around for an hour for the next battle.  While we waited, we explored the site and all the encampments the reenactors had set up.

Notice the lighthouse we had just been at across the water in the background.

Shaggy kid on a rock.  There was some talk of why a haircut hadn't happened before the trip.

As we waited, costumed people roamed around the site.  Eventually, shots started in the woods, and the battle was on.  It was sort of entertaining wandering about the site to follow the action.

Post battle, it was time to get back on the road and head north.  When lunchtime rolled around, we found an absurdly photogenic hut that sold lobster rolls.

It had delicious root beer

and provided many places to lounge.

Later in the afternoon, for variety from ice cream, we got iced coffee and pastries.  Nim had way too much fun with the snack detritus. (Note that the middle cup is only balanced on one of the other cups -- not both of them.)

 We found dinner in an old mill building next to the river in Kennebunk, a short walk from the hotel for the night.

The usual view of the teen at dinner when a phone signal was available.

Just one day of riding left, and we can declare victory!