Not sleepy. My head's still stuck 8 hours back, 10 degrees warmer and several thousand miles west, so if you're interested, here's a few more words and pics now that I've got access to a laptop.
Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe - Part 1, the climb to Lake Marlette
4th of July. America's favourite public holiday? Probably - a long weekend of beer, barbeque and friends. We've got the friends part sorted (staying with them up in their 'cabin' near Lake Tahoe), and the beer and barbeque will wait until later. I have at my disposal a 10 (ish) year old Giant XTC, and a recommendation from a hardcore roadie / occasional mountain biker to try the Flume Trail
: I chose to ride on the 4th to a) give me a couple of days to get used to the altitude, and b) some of the trails I was hoping to ride (rim trail) can only be ridden on even numbered days
So it's 8.30am, I've crammed the bike into the rental car, borrowed a helmet, bought a cheap Camelbak-lookee-likee, filled it with water, sweets and an extra water bottle. And sun-screen (that makes a change). The lycra is mine (of course!) as are the gloves. On a promise of 'should hopefully be done by 3', I hit the road for the 45 minute drive to Spooner Lake State Park.
It's already getting busy with folk heading to Lake Tahoe to grab the best spots on the shore (or even the lake - quite a few boats getting towed), but I also spot die-hards doing a fun-run before the day begins to heat up. I cross the border into Nevada after about 30 minutes (hallo tacky Casinos), and it's not long till I get to the park entrance, where there's a wee queue waiting for entry, including a couple of horse-riders (yeehaw).
Spooner Lak - Whaur's the wee mountain biking man on the sign?
Spot the cyclist, the horse riders and the walkers waiting to get in
The park was either $10 or $12 to get in, which seemed pretty reasonable to me. I could of course have done the Scottish thing and parked on the highway and cycled in for just $2, but 'when in Rome' as they say... For your money you get a nice map from the friendly park ranger (not quite laminated, but much tougher than just plain paper), plus some advice - ' the trail is rideable, but there's a bit of snow at higher elevations that you'll have to walk through'. Thank you ma'am.
Snow? In July? Yup, Lake Tahoe's at 1900m elevation, they had a beast of a winter and my route started at 2100m, with the highest point at just under 2500m. We'd been up here for 2 days already, and the day before I'd went out for a quick couple of hours on some very sweet singletrack near to the cabin just to make sure my lungs could take it. They did. Just.
My friend's Giant XTC - Incidently this was the first bike I tried with disc brakes when it was new - sent me straight over the bloody handlebars
So I knew from looking at the elevation profile
, that the first 4 miles of the ride were all uphill with just under 400m of climbing. So bike assembled, I set out in the still relatively cool morning weather, following the signs for the North Canyon Road. It started out fine, a dusty brown fire road trail spread occasionally with familiar pine needles, and I began to claim my first scalps - reeling in daytrippers on shiney hired Stumpies as well as a few other groups of what looked like more hardcore folks (lycra and lots of it!). My pace soon slowed though as I got higher - the trail was getting steeper, and probably by about 30 minutes I was down to granny gear. The terrain around me was also changing, from dense pine forest to a more open alpine feel - the trees became more sparse, the hillsides became steeper and boulder strewn. Eventually that gave way to green meadow on the right as the ridgeline receded. The track itself changed too, a few brief sections were very sandy (that came as a bit of a surprise), and as I got higher it hardened up to a lighter brown, firm, gravelly trail. An occasional shallow run off of water also crossed the trail. By 45 minutes though I'd blown up, admitted defeat and was walking, sweat stinging my eyes and cursing this as the hardest bloody climb I'd ever done...And still no end in sight. Where was the summit? How far had I come? At this point I was worried whether I'd even have any energy left for the rest of the ride. A couple of guys passed me just as I crested the final hill and bend, me still walking. Next time!
The top of the North Canyon Road climb - a nice wee bit of information to read while you stop breathing out your arse...
Below me at the bottom of a 3/4 mile fire track descent lay Marlette Lake, which I believe was man-made when it was dammed to provide water for the log flume that was built to carry the logs required by the mine workings below. The remains of the flume were dismantled and replaced by aluminium pipe at some point early last century to supply water - I think the land was eventually bought by a defense contractor for some reason in the fifties, and they hauled most of the pipe out for recycling (although you can still see some of the bits they missed). At some point the land was finally bought by the State and became part of the State Park, then in the '90s a local MB racer (whose name escapes me) got permission to develop the trail specifically for MTB.
So... refreshed, rested and map consulted, it was back on the bike for a quick descent down to Marlette Lake. It began well, with a nice big snow bank across the track after the first corner
Failing to crest that I walked over it and ripped down the track to the lake. Fast, simple fire road, with an occasional crest to pump for a wee bit of air. At this point, I was enjoying the views immensely, but wondering when I'd get onto something that resembled singletrack. I wouldn't have to wait long.
It's really rather nice
After a wrong turn and short dead-end, I found the shaded track that skirted the lake and would take me north towards the flume trail proper. More rocky hillsides to the left, lake to the right.
Half arsed bike / scenery / arty shot
After another 1.5 miles of fire track and a couple of snow banks (one of which I actually cleared), the trail petered out at the waters edge. Confused, I double-backed and looked for the turn off - finding none, I consulted the map and seeing none there either, I returned again to the water for a closer look... Sure enough, about 15 metres along the water's edge, I could see the dam and the start of the Flume trail proper. I'm still not sure if the lake was unusually high due to all the snow this year, or if this was a feature - either way, I took the plunge, plowed through the water (definitely above the axles/BB) and made it back onto the trail. Brrrrr, cold.
Start of the Flume Trail proper - Note Shuttle Service for those who enjoy cycling in only one direction