Flume Trail Mountain Bikes officially opened for business on May 12th this year. The light winter snowfall has nearly melted off the lower trails, giving access to Marlette Lake and the Flume Trail. A few of us rode the Flume on Saturday, May 12th to go check it out.
We started off the ride in a mostly empty parking lot at Spooner Lake. The temperature was surprisingly warm, about the same as the valley below. I unpacked the extra arm warmers and wind vest I knew I wouldn’t be needing. It was definitely a shorts and t-shirt type of day. Maybe I should have packed a swimsuit instead!
The North Canyon climb always seems to come too fast with very little warm-up time, and this ride was no exception. I don’t have too many climbing miles in this year, and I gave up trying to be a hero pretty quickly where the road pitches up at the end of the canyon. There is no shame in walking sometimes. Especially when nobody is watching. Just like the leafless aspen trees in North Canyon, my muscles were still waking up.
Many years, Memorial Day weekend is the target date for riding the Flume Trail. Last year the deep snow didn’t melt until June. Just two weeks into May this year though, and we didn’t see much snow left anywhere. There were only a few snow patches left to navigate; a little on the north side of the saddle above Marlette Lake, and a bit on the west side of the lake, just north of the fish ladders.
Once past the last snow bank, it was easy cruising along the west side of Marlette Lake. When we reached the dam, we were stopped by high water covering the trail. There were two riders stopped there grinning at us as we approached, wondering which of us was going to try it first. I paused to scan the water, looking for the best route to get the least wet. Before I could open my mouth to voice my opinion, Kristy was in the water, pedaling and splashing all the way to the other side. Mary and Tammy were quick to follow, all leaving me standing there on the bank. It was clear we were going to get our feet wet, so in I went.
With squishy shoes, we pedaled past the dam and down to the Flume Trail. When we got to bridge, I was surprised to see that the bridge supports were cracked! It appears to still be plenty safe though, and didn’t flex at all under the weight of the riders. It does make me wonder how it broke though. Maybe trail machinery hauling heavy boulders?
Once out on the Flume Trail, we were treated to a beautiful view of the Tahoe Basin. It’s a view that never gets old, and one that you miss all winter. A wide-open, unobstructed view of the lake in all directions. The snow-capped mountains on the west shore really topped off the scenery on this Spring day.
Riding above Sand Harbor is always a special moment, and you really have to stop riding to safely take in the view. There are a few good spots to perch on rocks above and get photos of your riding buddies as they pass below you. Perfect postcard quality shots to make your friends back home jealous!
One new trail feature, and hopefully one that won’t be there too long, is a new boulder near the landslide area. This big chunk of granite fractured from the main rock above, slid down the face, then plopped itself right in the middle of the trail. Removing it may be no easy task. You can’t simply push it over the edge. With its cube-like shape, this boulder might just roll all the way down to the highway below!
We ate a quick lunch at the Tunnel Creek intersection, and then made our way back along the Flume Trail for more great scenery. The trail certainly has a different feel with the exposure on your right side, and all new views are to be had when riding to the south.
On the way back, the girls were stopped by the Tahoe Mountain Bike Patrol for speeding. Ok, not really. Mary knew the rider, so we just stopped to say hello and see what the patrol was up to.
Before reaching the Marlette Lake Dam, we practiced our climbing skills on the rocky switchback. It’s one of those turns that looks worse than it really is. Closer examination of the rock pattern revealed a nice line over the rocks in the middle, so we took turns riding up and down the corner. Rear suspension definitely makes this turn easier when climbing!
It’s been over a week now since we rode the trail. By next weekend, the snow we encountered on our ride should all be gone, and it won’t be long before the upper trails on the Tahoe Rim Trail are clear. Follow Flume Trail Mountain Bikes on Facebook for the latest updates on trail conditions. TAMBA also has a helpful trail conditions page on their website.
More photos of this ride can be found on the Bike Carson Flickr Page.