Monday 16 March 2015

M+J+L's Forest Adventure Playground, Riding Yosemite

We had an awesome weekend visiting M+J+L at their house just outside of Yosemite.

Best view in the house. The impact of the 2013 Yosemite Rim fire is visible everywhere. 

Ridiculously awesome rope swing. E insisted on going from the highest point (in a full body harness) after seeing her friend L do it with no fuss.  Of course L has worked up to that over many months/years.  E went white and was so scared she couldn't even scream....For adults, riding the swing in the dark is even more fun :)
We headed into the valley in the afternoon, parked at the small Sentinel Bridge parking lot, and got on the bikes after some crying about both kids wanting to go on mum's bike...It was the perfect time to ride the valley: technically winter so not too many people, but beautifully warm.

Foreground: first Yosemite climb.  Background: future Yosemite climb (Half Dome).

There's a great paved bike loop at the top (East) end of the valley that's marked on the map. We took it to the furthest Eastern point, which is at Mirror Lake.  This was a fantastic way to get the kids around the valley, we covered much much more ground than we could have on foot.  You can rent bikes and kid trailers if you didn't bring your own.  Bring a lock, a number of places have bike parking, and there's a short walk you can do at Mirror Lake.

Back at the house: the fire and subsequent tree clearing has left no shortage of firewood.
The next day we hung out at the house, took the kids to see the Salamanders in the creek, and helped out with some of the never-ending post-fire cleanup.

Also found some time to ascend a tree like a rockclimber/lumberjack.  The property should probably be called "M+J+L's forest adventure playground".

Before heading home we went back to the valley to get a bit more riding in.  I'm including some info below for others who might want to ride Yosemite valley with kids.

Starting from the same (but now deserted because it was a weekday) Sentinel Bridge carpark we crossed the river and rode the less-traveled path West towards El Cap.  There's a path that's marked as "Other trail" on the valley map that's dirt with some bumps, but not enough to make the kids complain too much.  It's probably unsuitable for road bikes, but anything else is fine.  There's a small number of narrow parts (like where the photo below was taken near the river) that would be tricky for a bike trailer, but it's probably do-able with some short portage.  You have to wind your way through Camp 4 a little, and there's a small creek crossing there.

Our plan was to cut over to Bridalveil at Cathedral Beach, but we ran into a "no bikes" sign on the short connecting trail after crossing the road.  This is the only bike prohibition sign we saw.  The kids couldn't handle us doing the full loop down to Pohono Bridge, so we rode back on the road.  There's no shoulder but it's a double lane one-way road so cars can easily pass.

Looking back at north dome

Not your everyday bike ride scenery...

Our lunch spot with a perfect log seat and view of climbers on El Cap

Yosemite falls from Swinging Bridge

Sunday 8 March 2015

Tahoe: ski, ski, hike, mountain bike

This year's winter adventure!  First, a day of Alpine downhill at Squaw, Lake Tahoe.

View from the lobby at Squaw Creek Resort.  This place was amazing.
View from our room. Yes, that's a heated swimming pool and a number of hot tubs.  They were excellent, thanks for asking.  Did I mention there's a ski run and a chairlift that ends practically at the bar?
It was a terrible, terrible year for snow, but recent falls meant the skiing was still decent.
IIRC this is the top of the Siberia Run
That was the easy bit, next we took an "Intro to Backcountry Skiing" course with ASI. We got an intro to all of the gear in the outdoors shop (which is an amazing store BTW): bindings, skis, skins, beacon, probe, and shovel.  Then we drove to Sugarbowl, practiced with beacons, and skinned our way up Mt. Judah.  The whole left side of Sugarbowl was closed due to lack of snow, so we had it to ourselves, and once we got high enough the snow was fine.

Approaching the summit of Mt. Judah
View of Castle Peak from Mt. Judah

This ridgeline is the start of the classic Sugarbowl to Squaw route.
Looking SW from Mt. Judah

Looking NW from Mt. Judah, we dropped off this side to ski out.  Only the north faces of the mountains had any snow left, and it was mostly very crusty and sun-affected :(

Rather scary icy drop (basically a cliff) off the summit.  Easily the scariest thing I've attempted to go down on skis.
To our guide's credit, we got a few good turns in powder, but that was all we managed for the effort of climbing to the top.  Such were the conditions.
We grabbed dinner at the excellent 50-50 brew pub in Truckee, then drove out to the Donner Summit California State Sno-Park.  We parked the car there (permits required) and hiked under the freeway and up the road on the other side.  The Sno-Park map says that road (i.e. the one that turns into the ski trail) is drop-off only, but we saw lots of daytrippers parked there over the weekend, and some overnight cars too.  We parked overnight on the Saturday without getting a ticket.  YMMV, especially if the road needs to be plowed...After a short walk in from the trailhead there was an open area in front of a large meadow next to Upper Castle Creek that was perfect for camping.

Cooking up breakfast the next morning
Our campsite, with Castle Peak in the background
 Since the snow was so bad we gave up on the idea of skiing and decided to hike up Castle Peak instead.  We had boot chains which we figured would be enough to get us to the summit in the current conditions.

Castle Pass, Castle Peak in the background.

View from the summit.  Getting up the last bit was tricky, and would have been a lot easier with crampons and an ice axe.  The people coming up behind us had exactly that :)

View from Castle Peak summit

View from Castle Peak summit

After coming back down we had some daylight left so we headed up Donner Pass and watched some people rock climbing.

Donner Lake from Donner Pass

Beautiful warm day on Donner Lake.  Every jetty was occupied with people picnicking, drinking beer, or doing yoga :)
Another cold night, this one with lots of frost: 17F (-8.3 C)

The next day we opted for something completely different: mountain biking on ridiculously fat tires.  On the advice of the back country store we took the Jackass trail, riding right from the shop.

Snow more than about 10cm deep beat me, but with some more practice I could probably ride it.  Most of the trail was free of snow but there were some reasonably deep sections on the fire road ascent.
The Jackass trail is amazing single track.  Beautiful banked berms on lots of the turns, awesome jumps off rocks.  Amazing amount of trail work.

It was kinda muddy, but with the ultra fat tires meant we weren't trenching the trail or doing much damage.