Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Gold Rush Randonnée - a Thumbnail Sketch

June 24-28 is the fourth edition Davis Bike Club's Gold Rush Randonnée. The GRR is the second oldest US 1200k, after Boston-Montreal-Boston, and a few months older than the Colorado Last Chance.  It has the largest ridership of current US 1200k's.
The GRR could be called a "classic" 1200k in that it's a quadrennial, out-and-back event with deluxe support and communal sleeping facilities.
But it's also a "Western" 1200k - like the Cascade, Colorado High Country, and Last Chance - as it ventures into sparsely settled country and open, exposed landscapes.
The GRR has 26,000 ft. of climbing (less than PBP or BMB) ... but 98% of it is in the middle 900km.
The first and final century have 285 ft. of climbing each, following the Sacramento River valley between Davis and Oroville.  It's a good chance to ride together, if you can find a congenial group.

The course monitoring and staff presence along the route are very good. 
As daylight fades, Lee Mitchell's famed Bike Van is stationed to provide water after what tends to be a toasty evening start.

Riders climb the scenic Feather River Canyon at night, perhaps accompanied by trains, empty logging trucks, and the moon overhead.

Checkpoint facilities are well-staffed and well-provisioned, such as the rustic Tobin Resort in Feather River Canyon.
There are a number of gradual climbs such as Feather River Canyon, and some stiff ones such as to Antelope Lake, as well the attention-grabbing Janesville Grade (19% max).
The GRR tops out at 6,034 ft., above Janesville Grade, succeeded by other climbs such as Antelope Summit, and altitudes in the 4,500 - 5,000 ft. range on the high plateau towards the north end of the route.

While temps in the Sacramento Valley can easily reach the 90's, it can get pretty chilly at night at the higher elevations.  That space blanket could come in handy!
Outposts such as Grasshopper, between Susanville and Aiden, provide much-needed water in this sparsely-settled country.  Here Lois Springsteen and Bill Bryant (RUSA #8 and #7, respectively), welcome a rider.

Some characterize the GRR as a good first 1200k, because of the fine organization and supportive staff.  That doesn't make it any less challenging, however, and certainly memorable!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Brainard Lake Breeze - The High Country Awaits!

Last Saturday I rode the Brainard Lake Breeze permanent populaire: up Super-James to Brainard Lake and down Lefthand Canyon, thirty miles of coasting.  Here's the report from that great ride ...
Spring is (finally?) in the air!  The birds are singing, the trees are bursting with fresh leaves, Lefthand Creek is gushing ...
... and they've plowed the Brainard Lake Road past the barricade and around the lake.  (Remember all the snow we got down here in April?  They got some up there, too.)

It's true the Brainard "extra-credit" roads, up to Long Lake and Mitchell Lake trailheads, are not plowed.  What's the point?  The trails won't be footworthy for some time.

But they're certainly ski- and snowshoe worthy, as you see a collection of mountain bikes parked at the verge of snow, where riders have secured them and donned snowfaring equipment. 
Whether it's AT skiing down Mt. Toll or snowshoeing the Little Raven Trail, plenty of late-season fun to be had.

It will be a while, however, before hiking boots head up the Niwot Cutoff (one of our favorites) ... or we have to heed the mountain lion and bear warnings.

It was a brilliant, sunny day.  Time for a bit of attire adjustment for the initial descent, while a sandwich is consumed in this realm of nature.

The Indian Peaks have plenty of snow.  Most of Brainard Lake is still iced over, but a few anglers were already plying their hobby.  Whether biking, fishing, or skiing, all great excuses to  be up here!

This is a wonderful time to get into the High Country, with its pristine views, and the profound quietude before the summer crowds arrive.  Think about working a mountain permanent into your late-spring plans!