The third annual Ebbetts Pass Century was held on Saturday 29 August 2009 in the Bear Valley area of scenic HWY 4 southwest of Lake Tahoe. Why make the trip north again? I have never ridden west of Hermit Valley, the base of the fourth pass of the Death Ride, so this was an opportunity to explore new ground- at a slow pace. Entry also guaranteed a spot in the 2010 Death Ride out of nearby Markleeville. Over the years, I have heard quite a bit of talk about Pacific Grade with its steep pitches, and the Ebbetts Pass Century featured this climb. Finally, my friend Jennie was leading the local cycling club, Alta Alpina, on a loop on very lightly travelled roads through the Eldorado National Forest on the following day. Why not join in with them too? Plenty of reasons to make the drive north.
I arrived Thursday afternoon at the Bear Valley Lodge where a large grizzly greets you at the turnoff. Bear Valley was where the last wild California grizzly bear was spotted- probably just before it was shot.
LAKE ALPINE and MOSQUITO LAKE
I have seen pictures of Lake Alpine and Mosquito Lake, and it was great to finally lay my own eyes on them. Smoke from the Big Meadow fire in Yosemite National Park drifted into the area creating a bit of haze, but the views were spectacular nonetheless. I visited Lake Alpine at sunset and awoke early the next morning to visit Mosquito Lake atop Pacific Grade to savor the serenity. Being a Friday, I figured that I would have the lake to myself for a few hours.
While walking around the lake, I heard a rustling in the trees and the "whoosh whoosh" of some big ol' wings flapping in the still air- the first bald eagle I have ever seen in flight. In my excitement I completely forgot that I was holding a camera; however, the image will remain in my mind's eye forever.
The shadow of a pine centered on the side of the cabin caught my eye.
Well, I guess I did not have the lake to myself afterall.
CALAVERAS BIG TREES STATE PARK
After breakfast in Arnold, CA, I spent several hours wandering around the North Grove of Big Trees State Park where giant sequoias abound. Another first- I have never seen these trees up close. I'm talking huge. The North Grove Trail is about 1.5 miles in length while that of the South Grove is 5 miles. The two tallest trees in the park are in the South Grove. I'll have to see them another time. The ones in the North Grove were plenty big. Benches line the path allowing ample opportunity to sit and ponder the wonders around you. While seated on one of the benches, a high school group came through. Two students sat beside me clearly agitated. Their conversation was:
"All these trees look the same."
"Uggghh, I know. Why can't we just go online and look?"
Told you the trees were big. Heck, it's in the name of the park!
The roots of upended trees were interesting to look at.
Finally, I found a tree over which I could tower.
Not so with this one! This place is tough on your neck.
I thought I'd be slick and run around to the other side for this picture. Too bad I goofed on the exposure.
I enjoy seeing shards of sunlight illuminating an area. I think they just add something to an image so I could not pass up this beam from above.
I must have spent three or four hours in the North Grove. By mid-afternoon it was time for lunch so I headed a little further west on HWY 4 to Angels Camp, the setting for Mark Twain's Calaveras Jumping Frog tale.
EBBETTS PASS CENTURY
Enough already, time to get down to business. Saturday arrived with crystal clear skies- a great day to ride. The Ebbetts Pass Century covers 100 miles with nearly 11000 feet of climbing. The route is very simple:
- west on HWY 4 down to Dorrington
- turn around at the bar
- east on HWY 4 to Spicer Meadow Road
- south to Spicer Meadow Reservoir
- turn around at the reservoir
- back to HWY 4 and lunch at Bear Valley
- east on HWY 4 to Ebbetts Pass
- turn around at the top
- west on HWY 4 up Pacific Grade
- continue west on HWY 4
- north to Bear Valley Ski Area
- turn around at the ski lifts
- west on HWY 4 to finish at Bear Valley
Aaron and Kimi Johnson of Mountain Adventure Seminars are the organizers of the ride. With over 100 riders on the course, they had their hands full and pulled off a great event. All went smoothly.
Most riders set out at 0700 hrs from Bear Valley. This was the first time that I have stayed at the start/finish of an event- very convenient to be able to sleep in and not have to drive anywhere. It sure beats a 0400 hrs Death Ride start.
The first rest stop was the Lube Room Liquor Emporium at the historic Dorrington Hotel. San Clemente Renegade riders may just call it a day here.
The sun was filtering through the trees as I began the ascent back on HWY 4 to the turnoff for Spicer Meadow Reservoir.
Hell's Kitchen is an area known for its boulders. There were plenty of those around.
I thought I'd get artsy here and turn the background into black & white.
Who knew this was here? Once turning onto Spicer Meadow Road, it's about a 9-mile jaunt to Spicer Meadow Reservoir on fabulous pavement. The road features climbs in either direction, and the surface is like that of Blue Lakes Road in Hope Valley, for those who know that climb. The second rest stop was at the reservoir- a jewel in the Sierras.
Lunch was back at the Bear Valley Adventure Company. This was around mile 60 of 100.
Just east down the road from Bear Valley, Caltrans alerts you to what lies ahead at Pacific Grade. The 2-mile descent will be fun, but the ascent?
I stopped to get an image of Mosquito Lake in the bright sunlight prior to descending Pacific Grade.
The Dardenelles are visible from the summit. Somewhere over there is Sonora Pass- I have to ride that someday.
Now we're talking! The switchbacks of Pacific Grade are why I am here. Upon returning to Hermit Valley from Ebbetts Pass, riders are greeted with this 2-mile stretch of leg- and lung-busting pavement. In the many years I have ridden in the area, I have never ventured west of Hermit Valley and up this pitch of pain. The suitcase of courage is packed. I gave it a go and made it. For those not wanting to give it a shot, Aaron and Kimi arranged transportation to the top.
Once at Pacific Grade Summit, I went into noodle mode. The run west on HWY 4 from Mosquito Lake to Lake Alpine is a kick in the pants- lots of twists, turns, and drops. The final climb to the ski area of Bear Valley was annoying but not so bad. From the edge of the parking lot at the lifts, the vast Mokelumne Wilderness area unfolds before you. It is one of the most unspoiled areas of California.
A little over 8 hours in the saddle and I am pooped. It was all worth it.
EBBETTS PASS CENTURY DATA
Here is a link to an animation of the ride provided by GARMIN. The data were acquired with my GARMIN Edge 705 cycle computer. The animation is best viewed in full-screen mode. Elevation, speed, heart rate, power, and cadence data can be examined using the scroll bars in the upper right. The PLAY button is in the upper left.
JENNIEs MORMON EMIGRANT TRAIL LOOP
OK, this was the REAL reason I drove 500 miles to ride a bike. Jennie led several Alta Alpina members, of which I am one, on the rarely-ridden Mormon Emigrant Trail Loop on Sunday 30 August 2009. The loop runs through the heart of the Eldorado National Forest between HWY 88 and HWY 50 just west of Silver Lake. What's another 70 miles and nearly 7000 feet of climbing?
I did not think I'd be able to make it, but Sunday dawned to once again beautiful skies. There was just enough time for the 2-hour drive from Bear Valley to make the start at 1000 hrs, so I went for it. There is no direct way to get to the Iron Mountain Sno-Park from Bear Valley- you either have to make a big loop east or west. I went east, for I know those roads, stopping at the general store in Woodfords for a sandwich.
The loop travels more or less unused Forest Service roads. We rode for hours without seeing another person let alone a vehicle. The distance was 70 miles. At the halfway point, we stopped at Capps Crossing(?) for a break to refill our water bottles, for this is the only water available on the ride. I still felt OK until my legs went KABLAMMO with 25 miles to go on one of the steady climbs. Once again, I went into noodle mode, and Robert rode the last climb with me just to make sure I would not get lost. A wrong turn in the forest would not be fun.
While heading back to Iron Mountain, I dug deep and averaged 60+ mph over the final 2 miles. The data show it. Well, Credence offered me a lift with 2 miles to go. How could I turn that down?
A fantastic ride.
JENNIEs MET LOOP DATA
Below is a link for the GARMIN animation of this ride. Again, the animation is best viewed in full-screen mode. Elevation, speed, heart rate, power, and cadence data can be examined using the scroll bars in the upper right. The PLAY button is in the upper left.
Thanks to Jennie, Ellen, Twain, Steve, Robert, Credence, Rick, Raj, and Steve & Trevor for allowing me to join you on such a great ride.