Ride Report: Gravel follow-ups 2018

Jones Valley and Babbitt Peak

Just past Stampede Dam Rd on Henness Pass Rd is this turn-off onto County Route S860

I saw these areas to the east of Sardine Valley and saw posted turn-offs from County Rd S860 and Smithneck Rd. I thought they would be worth checking out. Brandon mentioned he saw them on posted rides and they looked like a way to increase the mileage and elevation of a ride. But he didn’t say by how much… nor did I bother look.

I always snap a pic of Dog Valley from Henness Pass Rd

I decided to ride from the house, through Verdi, over Summits One and Two and onto County Rd S860 on the east side of Sardine Valley. So far a pretty standard ride. There was a switch back turn-off signed Jammer Chair Flat, this was one destination I had in mind. The road climbed to a fork, my Garmin offered little help, so I went left with the idea that this was taking me in the general direction I wanted to go. With hindsight after looking at maps and talking to a local ranger, the “right” would have led me to Jammer Chair, but the area in general was referred to as Jammer Chair.

Crossing Jones Valley looking into the Bald Mountain Range

After a chat with the local ranger supervisor he guided me to Jones Flat and Babbitt Peak. He and other rangers were on alert to find potential “sleeper” fires started in the last night’s thunderstorm. Luckily the 1.5″ inches of rain that accompanied the lightening helped suppress said “sleepers”. But they were taking no chances, they were using eyes on the ground, at the look outs and even from aircraft. I thanked him for his info, and climbed on. The roads were in fantastic shape, moderately pitched 4-12%, but you climb to 8700′.

Babbitt Peak Look Out

The rewards are fantastic! 360 degree views into 3 national forests, lakes, peaks, valleys, and the greater Reno area are all in view. I learned the process of spotting and calling in fires and the Sardine Peak look out is rentable. At 8100′ how cool of an alpine bungalow would that be? Sardine Peak was on my list of places to visit today but I decided I best not push the stamina in my legs.

Through the haze, Cold Springs and Lemmon Valleys, and Peavine Peak

The descent by gravel bike was fast, the road was a little rocky to just let it rip. Interestingly Babbitt Rd is featured in dangerousroads.org but I think mostly for its scenic backroad qualities as opposed to its inherent risks. I highly recommend this side trip, out and back it adds about 12 miles and 2500′ of climbing on quality forest service roads.

A hazy view of Reno from Babbitt Peak look out

Mt Lola – White Rock Lake – Webber Lake Loop

Brandon Anderson and I continued on Henness Pass Rd where we last turned off to visit Independence Lake. For whatever reason we were riding hardtails today, Brandon on his Motobecane Ti 29’r and I was on my carbon KHS 650b with dirt drop bars – our other gravel bikes. Which was great because we were tempted by the sign – Mt Lola Trail.

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Tempted by this sign, our day suddenly changed

The trail proved to be a real adventure on single track and dirt roads. The forested terrain was diverse. We followed Cold Stream and passed Cold Stream Meadow before the major climb to the ridge that leads to Mt. Lola. On its north facing slopes at 9000′ there was still snow.  The final push to the summit was just that, a short section of hike-a-bike at 25+% grade.

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Cold Stream
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Cold Stream Meadow

The views from Mt Lola were obscured by the smoke and haze. We were hoping to escape the worst of the valley smoke but I think we had to overly convince ourselves that we were doing so. I was feeling a bit ill and I attributed it to the smoke.

A bit of a push at 9000′
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Rocky alpine lake basins
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Summit shot, still a lot of smoke

The descent off Lola was more of a hike than a ride. The trail was steep, narrow, rocky, and loose. What more could you ask for? We had views of rocky lake basins and lush wild flowers to entertain us on the descent. White Rock Lake was in view and we were planning a swim.

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First view of White Rock Lake
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Thin trail

White Rock Lake is remote, or at least in its feeling. While the roads to the lake are pretty good dirt roads the roads around the lake require 4 wheel drive with extra clearance. Brandon had visited this spot on a rock climbing trip a lifetime ago. The only other folks we saw were a father and son fishing from a small boat. The swim was fantastic! It was totally worth bringing trunks and a towel to swim in this clear cool alpine lake.

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Dam and boat launch at far end
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Our swim spot

The roads between White Rock and Webber Lakes were in good shape, downhill, and fast. There was a bit of navigating but eventually our route was confirmed by signs to Webber Lake and Jackson Meadows Rd. The last 8 miles were on paved Jackson Meadows Rd.

After studying the maps around this loop I have a much greater appreciation for the area. Mt Lola is one ride to the west of Independence Lake. Fordyce and Meadow Lakes are only short adventures away. I have be warned against Warren Lake Trail. Inside the loop is Perazzo Canyon and Meadows with their host of roads to explore.

Between Lake Davis and Frenchman Lake

After riding between Lake Davis and Antelope Lake and exploring around Frenchman Lake my thoughts lead me to doing a tour in a big triangle between the three or even a diamond from Bocca/Stampede Reservoirs. Thus I was inspired to check out a route primarily on Dixie Valley Rd between Lake Davis and Frenchman Lake.

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Residential Dixie Valley

Brandon and I made a loop out of this route from CA Highway 70 in Sierra Valley. We climbed Beckworth-Genessee Rd through Crocker Meadow to Red Clover Meadow. There appears to be alternate routes going up the east side of Dotta Canyon. We followed Dixie Creek to Dixie Valley and Dixie Valley Rd. Surprisingly this area is well populated with a wide variety of homes. As a result Dixie Valley Rd is well maintained.

Descent to Frenchman Lake

Once we were in sight of Frenchman Lake the navigation got a little tricky. We made our way to Dotta-Guidici-Trocci Rd which lead us though a private bird hunting club. While we were not there to hunt or bother any birds we quickly made our way to Harrison Ranch Rd and onto the Feather River Highway. The Plumas National Forest has a lot to offer the gravel grinder/adventure cyclist/bikepacker.

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Beautiful Plumas National Forest


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