This was my 5th Bike Your Park Day for Adventure Cycling Association. Adventure Cycling has two member-led trips a year, Bike Travel Weekend and Bike Your Park. They harness the enthusiasm of their members to the power of their website and staff to promote travel by bike across America and around the world. They have a tried and true portal through their website to register rides and locate rides in your area. They have grassroot tips for locally promoting your ride as well as preparation tips that can be shared through social media. Then there are opportunities to share the energy of your trip through their Facebook page and hashtag, #bikeyourpark.
This year I chose to highlight our local Washoe Lake State Park. If you are not already a fan you might be familiar with it by driving past on US 395 and think, “What a mud hole.” But if you take the time to explore this park I think your opinion will change. I have used this park as a beach/swim/picnic day, I have ducked in from a really stormy road ride, I have pack rafted and stand-up paddle boarded, and enjoyed great wildlife viewing. It has been a hot spot for windsurfing, fishing, and hunting. The hiking and equestrian trails are diverse. And it is so close to Reno. So close it is easy to overlook.
The route was one I had done some years ago. It climbs Jumbo Grade, the historic mule train route from Washoe City to Virginia City. At the intersection with Ophir Grade we headed south toward Carson City with views of Washoe Lake and the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada. Sadly the vistas were obscured by the smoke coming from South Lake Tahoe’s Caldor Fire. Nick Jensen (@manzanitacycles) joined us from a S24O at Washoe Lake State Park and reported it had been a clear night. To start the ride I met Shay Daylami (@shaydaylami) and Alan Kaplan (@alkcomics) at the Jumbo Grade OHV staging area and Nick rolled up to us there. The route closes the loop by descending single track to Eastlake Boulevard. My cognitive map had smoothed out the terrain with time, but this is a Bikepacking Northern Nevada adventure route, I wouldn’t want to disappoint my companions.
The start of Jumbo Grade Road is very straight forward, but quickly there are diverging and reconnecting roads. While most of the time I recognized exactly where I was we eventually summitted via a steep road south of the one I normally take. Jumbo Grade/ Ophir Grade is one of my favorite local rides to share for historic value, natural beauty, and the physical challenge. About two miles in, we had been following a flowing spring, we passed the Jumbo site. It is difficult to imagine this small mining camp with stamp mill, post office, saloons, and hotels. But there it was!
At the cross-roads above Virginia City and Gold Hill I pointed out the options for future rides. To the north you can climb to some of the highest points in Storey County, Mt. Davidson 7864′, Ophir Hill 7782′ and Mt. Bullion 7682′. To the east, Ophir Grade wraps it way into Virginia City. We took the road south to 5-Mile Reservoir, the aqueduct, and siphon which are all components of Virginia City Water Company which famously provides Virginia City and Gold Hill with water from Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir high in the Carson Range and has been since 1873. This route has no lack of history.
The route’s elevation profile took on the shape of dragon’s teeth. Although I had forgotten this when planning this ride the memories of the steep descents on my drop bar Salsa Fargo all came back to me very quickly. Today I was riding my very-stable Meriwether long-tailed fatbike but I was still cautious in the steepest and loosest sections. My companions were ok with the hike-a-bike. It added to the adventure and feeling of wildness even though we were only 6.5 miles into the ride. We passed some remarkable rock outcroppings that I thought might make a fun little top-roping rock climbing crag. At the top of the siphon we were near a crossroads with Goni Road which dips into Carson City. We continued around the Washoe Boulders bouldering site before descending Deadman’s Overlook Trail to Eastlake Boulevard.
We popped into Washoe Lake State Park for a quick spin. Unfortunately the park is primarily developed for hiking, equestrian, and water sports, not biking. We exited onto to Eastlake Blvd to finish the day’s 16 mile lap. We parted from Nick at Jumbo Grade Road. He was pedaling home. Shay and Alan and I returned to the OHV staging area. It was a treat to share this close-to-home adventure ride with my friends all in the name of celebrating our public lands. Next year we will ride the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge.