On Saturday, I got to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. A ride up into the Carson Range, starting from Carson City. I’ve done all the pieces of this trek, but never all together in one ride. I was tired of hearing about how great it is from friends, and decided to go see for myself.
Scott R and I left Carson City from my front door at 8:45 AM. We met up with Lester on the west side, and then picked up Ryan and Christine at the Kings Canyon trailhead.
I really haven’t done many longer rides this year, usually only riding for one to two hour durations. I was wondering how I’d do on the long ride. By spinning a low gear and taking our time, I found that the hills went by quite nicely. I would’ve been cooked early on at our usual pace.
Kings Canyon gains a lot of elevation up front, but then provides a pretty gentle ride for several miles after that. The views along the road are outstanding, and it is safe to stare off into the distance while riding. Well mostly…just about all of us washed out in the sand at one point or another while gawking at the scenery.
Getting to the top of Kings Canyon was a mental milestone for me. Once at the top of Spooner Summit, I felt good and knew I could do the rest of the climb. This was probably the scariest part of the ride, as we had to ride along the shoulder of HWY 50 for about a mile. The roadside construction cones pushed us a little too close to traffic. I can’t imagine doing an around the Lake tour. It was a relief to get off the road and enter Spooner Lake State Park.
We stopped off at Flume Trail Bikes at Spooner Lake State Park for some cold beverages, and topped off all the Camelbaks and water bottles before leaving for North Canyon.
The higher we climbed, the more lush the vegetation got. North Canyon was a stark contrast to the lower elevations we had climbed from. Down below, the greenery is starting to fade, but things up here seemed to be just getting started. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature were sublime.
When we regrouped at the top of North Canyon, we talked about the route that we’d finish the ride on. As we did this, it started to rain a little bit. The Flume Trail seemed like a bad idea, none of us wanting to be stuck on a cliff wall during thunder and lightening! We chose to head towards Hobart via Sunflower Hill.
The road along Marlette Lake took us through an Aspen Grove. This was one of the most peaceful sections of trail. A couple riders commented that it felt like they were back East.
The peacefulness ended, and it was time to climb again! And quite steeply. Everyone was back down to the granny gear for the climb up to the saddle beneath Marlette Peak.
We finally reached the highest point of our ride for the day, somewhere around 8,500 feet above sea level. We took a break on the granite boulders, and enjoyed the view of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe below.
We ran into construction as we neared Sunflower Hill. There was a big sign on the side of the road that read, “NO SMOKING”. It seemed wildly out of place for where we were at. Big trucks have been using the road, so it was freshly graded, and pretty silty. Not the best for riding.
After descending through a dark and dusty section of the woods, we came out upon the area known as Sunflower Hill. The “sunflowers” are actually Mule’s Ear, and grow all over the eastern Sierra; however, this hillside has a high concentration of them. The scene stopped us dead in our tracks, and we all had to get the cameras out.
After descending a few switchbacks through the Mule’s Ear, we came to an intersection that gave us the choice of a downhill to Lakeview or more climbing to Hobart and Ash Canyon. We chose more climbing!
There were lots of large trucks and other heavy equipment parked around the area. A big sign advertised the “Marlette Gas Project”. There were more “NO SMOKING” signs here too. Ahh…explosive vapors. The signs made more sense, although none of us were sure why there was a gas line being put in.
We stopped for an extended break at Hobart Reservoir near a nice little campground and restroom. Since you can drive up Ash Canyon to within a relatively easy walking distance to the reservoir, there were quite a few fisherman and other visitors here. It was strangely noisy. Not what you would expect from such a secluded spot.
After a nice break, we continued to climb to get to Ash Canyon. We were all getting pretty tired at this point, and were all looking forward to some downhill. Just when we thought it was time to descend, another little hill would be presented to us.
Normally I would go down Lakeview, but I haven’t seen the top of Ash Canyon for over a decade. I remember it being terribly steep, and even remember crashing on it. Still, I wanted to get an updated visual of the area, since we ride the lower areas of Ash Canyon daily.
We had another jaw dropping moment when we came out of the woods and saw Carson City below. Wow! We had done a lot of climbing!
Once we were done soaking in the view, we began the final descent down Ash Canyon. This road is probably one of the steepest roads I’ve ever been down. Even with disk brakes, my arms required rest breaks at a few points during the descent. Lester and I both experienced rear brake fade. The lever was spongy, and you could pull it all the way back to the bars! Boiled brake fluid? Not sure…
It was almost a bummer to drop elevation so quickly. After so much climbing, a more relaxing descent would have been nice. Next time we will take the Lakeview route for sure!
We finished off the ride with a trip down the Creek Trail. We were all pretty fatigued, and took it much slower than normal. I felt like a pinball.
After saying farewell to the other riders, Scott R and I made it back to my house around 4:15. What a day we had had, and what a great feeling to have done such a great ride without the use of a car for a shuttle. I can’t wait to do it again!
More pictures of this ride can be viewed on our Flickr site by clicking HERE.