Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The "Free Wheelin'" Tour WEEK ONE

Snow, Bugs, Snakes and Gapers.

While spending our first week on the road trying to avoid all these pesky little things, we were led to some purely awesome places in Northern California.  We allotted ourselves just over a week to get from the Lake Tahoe area to Quincy, California, where we currently find ourselves gearing up to head into the High Sierra Music Festival early Thursday morning.

After I finished the race I met back up with Kali and her Mom, who was visiting from Ohio.  Thankful for a shower and a bed to recover in, I spent the night in a hotel with them on the North side of Lake Tahoe.  The next day we moved into Mama and found a nice spot to park her on top of Brockway Summit, overlooking Lake Tahoe.  From here we had access to some of the best trails and road biking I'm aware of.  We spent the day doing just that.  Kali running trails and me road biking, trying desperately to stretch my legs and get loose from the punishing previous day.

Because most of the forest service access roads were still gated, due to snow, we found it hard to escape the onslaught of people gaping at the wonderful big blue lake.  Yes, people, it is beautiful, but you still have to follow the rules of the road and look both ways before crossing the street.  Jesus.  Anyway, we decided to hike into the woods to get away from the crowds.

real estate with a lake view

We hopped on the Tahoe Rim Trail heading north from Brockway summit.  We were only able to get five or six miles in before losing the trail to snow.  No worries, however.  We picked out a beautiful spot overlooking Lake Tahoe and spent a nice peaceful evening with it all to ourselves.  Lovely.  We returned to our car and the crowds in the morning and decided to head for lower grounds so we could go on longer hikes without the snow.

After stopping in one of my old homes of Truckee, California and passing by another (Rainbow Lodge), we headed towards Nevada City.  After spending the night on a forest service road, we headed into town the next day, did our errands, ran in the colorful Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley, then made our way down the South Yuba River Canyon.

sweet view of a bend in the South Yuba River from the trail

The next day we set out on the Upper South Yuba trail that left from the campground.  I was just not feeling it on this run.  It wasn't working for me.  We were only planning on a short out and back totaling seven scenic miles.  I decided to just keep walking out as to not abandon Kali in mountain lion country.  After she made the turn around and found me I tried to keep up with her until we got to the viewpoint the above picture was taken at.  We paused here to take some pictures and suck in the awesome sights.  I turned around to see what the sound I heard was and saw the biggest, most bad-ass snake I have ever seen.  Anyone who knows me, knows my relationship with snakes (I can hardly write about it).  I took off running and screaming the most deathly high-pitched scream you have ever heard.  After that I had no trouble running and ran the fastest lightest three miles I have done in months.  Ehhhhhh.  

After that incident I wanted to flee, so we scrapped our plans of backpacking down into the canyon on the same trail the next day and left the next morning.  After a few more errands we started heading north on 49, a new route for both of us.  We found a sweet little secluded pull-off among the many gapered-out campgrounds along the North Yuba River.  One problem...mosquitos.  Not kidding, they were unbearable.  Despite the heat and the beautiful spot, we had to confine ourselves to the van with the windows up for the evening.  They were eating us alive.  We quickly left there the next morning, heading back for higher ground, deciding we'd trade the snow back for the bugs. 

As it was the weekend, we couldn't escape Gape-City, so we made the best of it, picnicking among them, before finally finding a coveted free campground, where the crowds were already gone for the week.  It was nice and high (6,600ft) and on a lake.  The bugs were bad, but much more manageable.  We planned a trail run for next day and went to bed early after a nice swim in the lake.

the Sierra Buttes

We rode our bikes a couple miles to the start of our planned lollipop loop.  The photocopied map we got from a visitors bureau didn't have the distances but we were planning on a ten-ish mile day.  We quickly hit snow, but were able to keep on the trail.  We met up with the Pacific Crest Trail, just as we got high enough to see the greatness of the area we were in.  High alpine lakes, giant redwood trees and Sierra Buttes were our entertainment for the day...that and me taking crazy falls on the snow (my shoes just don't seem to work on snow).

 pure niceness...Upper Salmon Lake

It took us quite a long time to go a few miles through the snow.  After much poking around, we were able to follow it all the way around and hook up with the Deer Lake Trail to complete the loop.  That trail was clear of snow and runnable.  We skiied down the stick of our lollipop and made it back to our bikes and was back at our campsite a few up-hill miles later, quite happy with the stunning landscape we were lucky enough to be in all day.

After another lovely evening at the same campground, we headed into Quincy, giving ourselves two days to check-off a list of errands, before the madness of our festival run begins early Thursday morning.  As I finish this post, we have somehow managed to do everything in one day, leaving us all day tomorrow to find some adventure in the hills surrounding Quincy.  WOO HOO!

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