Pine Nuts Pedaler Project; Crowd Source Mapping the Pine Nut Mountains

Pine Nuts Pedaler Project

Marc and I were riding the Mt Seigle loop last April and I wondered out loud, “How could we see all the routes we ride in an area in a single view? Wouldn’t that be cool for an area as popular as the Pine Nuts?”

How did I get here? Where do I go from here?

Marc didn’t give it a second thought, “I can do that. People can submit their routes to me and I can put them on a map.” From there the Pine Nuts Pedaler Project was born. But there is always more to the story.

Will this information get me there? There aren’t many of these kiosks

There needs to be a way of getting the word out. Mitch Ison started a local bikepacking group on Facebook, BurritoPackingNV, which proved to be a great vehicle for this idea. Mitch is out of Carson City and the Pine Nut Mountains run the eastern edge Carson City, Minden and Gardnerville, from Dayton in the north to Topaz Lake in the south. The range is about 30 miles long, 11 miles wide, and rises above the Carson Valley from 4,800′ to above 9,400′. This is all local grassroots!

BurritoPackers one and all!

There needs to be a demand for this sort of map. The demand came from two groups of riders, gravel riders who were looking to explore local dirt roads and bikepackers who were looking for local mountain routes. Another local Facebook group, The Reno Gravel/Cyclocross Contingent showed interest in and contributed to this idea.

Spots like these are a needle in a hay stack when considering a mountain range

The result has been fantastic! Now we have most of the primary roads mapped and ridden by bicycle riders. All this information existed but based on ATV/moto/4×4 users, not strictly bicycles.

Do you really want to ride this for miles?

What is the use of this map? From personal experience I look at the map and plan my rides based on how to fill in or connect the loops. For example I wanted to demonstrate access from Fort Churchill State Park. So Marc and I went out and rode a loop through Adrian and Churchill Canyons.

Dean checking out the wildlife at Churchill Station Spring
Dean Magnuson and I rode this “dumb bell” out of Fort Churchill

Dean and I had ridden through part of Adrian Valley and the Churchill Narrows a few years back. But Marc and I went further, and paid particular attention to water sources en route. Where our route crossed Julian Road out of Wabuska, we crossed into Churchill Canyon. We made a short dog-leg between the Buckskin and Singatse Ranges before completing our loop through Clifton Flat to the Carson River. This section was brutally rocky! I would think twice before repeating this section of the ride. Yet the solitude and views were its redeeming qualities.

Marc waiting for high water in Churchill Canyon
Marc and I made this “loop + dog leg” out of Buckland Station

Putting this route on the map expanded the contribution Dean and I made but it didn’t quite connect the routes to the main loops on the map. So I made a return trip to loop the Buckskin Range from Julian Lane out of Wabuska. This route connected our dog-leg to Como and Sunrise Pass Roads. Perfect!

Sharing a drink with the cows, south end of Buckskin Range
I made this “lariat” around the Buckskin Range from Julian Ln and Alt US 95

Now when I look at the map I want to fill in a route from Carson City to Dayton and Dayton to Fort Churchill. Beyond that riders are asking questions about routes on minor roads now that they know the major loops through the range. The current map represents at least 15 contributions, and growing. It would be neat to see how many hundreds of miles of road/trail this represents.

Out bound on familiar and new roads

I wanted to lead an overnight trip, so I consulted the map. I wanted to start and end at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden. I wanted to connect Lone Pine Canyon and Sunrise Pass Roads. After putting out my first route iteration, Carlo Luri shared some valuable route suggestions: climb Sunrise and descend Lone Pine, much better grades. Get out of town on Stockyard route, better roads than I had picked. These were great suggestions. Overall the loop added a couple of short sections to the map, and added a ton of new-to-me roads. We camped at a prominent spring, and could recommend this route to anyone.

Connecting Sunrise Pass Rd to Lone Pine Canyon Rd was an eye-opener

It was a surprisingly warm morning, above freezing. I figured we could ride during the coldest hours over frozen ground to avoid the mud. It didn’t work out to plan but the mud we encountered didn’t slow us down. It was a relief to arrive at the signage for the Lone Pine Canyon turn off. I remembered the sign from our first visit and now I know how it connects to the road system. It wasn’t how I was imagining. Similarly our journey north from the bottom of Lone Pine Canyon wasn’t what I imagined. I was thinking there were opportunities for S24O’s low on the western slopes of the Pine Nuts.

Here are the confirmed water sources on an overlay of 1893 USGS Topos, for fun!
A great water source in an otherwise dusty dry desert

What other questions could be asked of such a map? What are the road conditions like in any spot; rocky, sandy, washboard, or well grated? This would take more input from riders as well as require more programming by the map administrator. What is the relative grade of any section? This might help determine the direction of a given route. The map also gives a bigger picture for creating 2-3 day routes. Marc has been focusing on water sources for this reason as well. Ideally this type of map could be useful to land managers looking to develop/maintain the Pine Nuts for mountain bike adventure riding.

Meeting Mitch at Dry Valley Ridge, September 26

A bit more about Mitch! He has been hooked on bikepacking since his inaugural trip in the Steens Mountains in 2018. This trip was a 200 mile loop pulling a BOB trailer with his full suspension mountain bike. He has taken trips in the eastern Sierra, out of Bishop, and northern Sierra, out of Susanville. But the Pine Nuts are an all-time favorite. BurritoPacking came from Mitch’s repeated pre- post- and during trip provisioning with foil wrapped burritos from a local taqueria. Check out the crowd sourced guide to the Loneliest Burrito! Mitch was inspired to form BurritoPackingNV by Cass Gilbert’s article Camp Local : Building a Bikepacking Community. A community of new and experienced bikepackers who don’t take themselves or bikepacking too seriously is central to BurittoPackingNV. From the group’s About section, ” it’s also about the cool things that go along with it, like eating burritos and drinking whiskey out of a flask. It’s about wasting time that would be better spent working in your yard. It’s about going slow and never really giving a shit where you end up. And maybe hooking up with other likeminded folks for pointless rides someday. Share what it is that you love about bikepacking in Nevada or wherever. Tell us your favorite whiskey. What gear do you love? Because let’s admit it, the gear is at least half the fun.” Mitch’s words say it best! The group has over 114 members and is only 9 months into its infancy. I think the success of the group comes from Mitch’s diligence to personally welcome its members. Maybe one of these days we will have an outing where we get to meet Mitch’s cat, Marmalade!

2 thoughts on “Pine Nuts Pedaler Project; Crowd Source Mapping the Pine Nut Mountains

  1. Conor Phelan

    This is great stuff! If you like, I would be more than happy to make a static map of all the routes. All I would need is the kml/gpx/shp data!

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