We ended the ride worn out, beat down, tired, but with huge smiles on our faces. There are times in life when you truly are living in the moment, when all the energies of the universe are aligned, flowing through your being.
The route we took was this: Long Lake Trail > Grassy Lake Trail > singletrack in the direction of Gold Lake Lodge > Bear Lakes Trail > Mud Lake Trail > Singletrack connector into Mt. Elwell Trail > Up and over Mt. Elwell > Down to Smith Creek Trail, over the footbridge > Smith Lake Trail back to the car
That loop, for me, is mountain biking at its best. It is rocky, technical, slow-going, strenuous, and with views of water that simply fill you with awe and wonder. Bear Lakes Trail offered jewels like few trails can, in the form of impossibly blue subalpine lakes.
Pushing the bikes up the final stretches of 7,818 feet Mt. Elwell was grueling, but resulted in satisfaction that only comes with sweat and labor. Dropping off was fear and joy wrapped in one, requiring me to get off the bike two times; better to dismount so as to ride another day than take a hard fall! But that descent beyond the steep stuff … it went on and on, a never-ending dream, it seemed, of fast, wandering flow with some minor tech here and there. Outstanding!
If you’ve not been to the Lost Sierra, put it on your list. The Lakes Basin trails will chew you up and spit you out, but you’ll be all the better for it. As the guy at Yuba in Downieville said when I asked about approximate mileage, “They’re dog miles.” I got it right away, as it’s often how rides are measured back East at places like Michaux and Pisgah. Miles don’t matter. Ask around for a ride based on how many hours you have to spend on the bike. That’ll be a better barometer. Expect it to hurt, most likely.
One final note before the pictures: a few times on the trail, despite that we got off of our bikes and moved aside to let them pass, groups of hikers passed unkind comments our way and/or gave us the silent treatment when we wished them a good day. Remember: kill their attitudes with kindness, and pedal on! (I hike and backpack too!)