It’s 5:00 PM on a Friday evening. Amazingly I’m sitting with the wife and ask her what we’re doing this weekend. She says we’re doing nothing, and I should go riding. So I did. I had already mapped out my failed attempt to connect the two major highways via dirt (not failed, just abandoned when SPOT wasn’t working) so that was easy!
This time I planned to head up Hwy 50 and starting just outside Pollock Pines I would head north on Ice House Road. This road will take you to the west end of the Rubicon (Loon Lake) but I had mapped getting off that much earlier. For the trip back I planned on connecting to Henness Pass Rd and do that route back down to Grass Valley, Hwy 49 to 80 and and then home.
There were high hopes on my map as I had identified a couple of forest roads in Gaia that would get me off road and closer to the point I had abandoned the week before.
Once I got up into the forest sections near Union Valley Reservoir, I started looking for my turns. Unfortunately, as I found each one of them, they were either permanently blocked off, temporarily closed for forest service work or had a gate. The one with the gate was the orange line on my map and it was easy to ride around. I considered it for a minute but since I was flying solo, I decided against it. If I was with anyone else I would have gone for it.
I ended up taking paved roads and made it right to the point I chose to abandon the week before (due to a SPOT malfunction). I stopped there and took a few pictures. As I was doing so, a group of 20+ ADV riders rode by heading east from Georgetown into the foothills. Not sure who or what group but I was sincerely tempted to get on the bike and ride with them.
YET ANOTHER SPOT MALFUNCTION
As I was stopped here, I took off the jacket, got a drink, and also sent an “OK” message from SPOT. That email goes to both Tomm and the wife. I was there for around 10 minutes and then headed back on the road towards French Meadows.
Little did I know that SPOT and the tracking map showed me as digitally “staying” there for the next 4 hours! Ugh! I had no cell service so that was all the information they had to go by.
Worried about my non movement, Tomm called the nearby bar, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and asked if there were any motorcycle accidents near and recently. The bartender (Leslie) said she had not heard of any AND offered to drive to the corner to see if I was still there. I wasn’t and had gone up the road hours ago, but how nice was that? I only found out about this when I got cell reception and called the wife while getting gas as I had planned.
I motored up the road towards French Meadows and took a detour to go check out Hell Hole Reservoir.
It had steeper banks and the campgrounds were away from the water on the other side of the ridge. Campsites were empty but ok and so I made a mental bookmark that in a pinch this was a good campsite option.
Back on the main road I continued up to French Meadows Campground where I found Michael (the camp host). I asked him about the road at the end of the lake that said “To Soda Springs“. Michael said that the road did indeed go all the way to Soda Springs (the town) and was gravel all the way. He said somewhere up the road I had to take a left turn.
I thanked him and headed that way. I wanted to stay on what was called Forrest Service Road #96. The gravel starts right at the end of the lake and I found a bunch more campsites along this part of the road (French Meadows Road). It was Ahart Campground (so there’s yet another place to camp). I found the left turn. It was called Mosquito Ridge Rd on the map.
Mosquito Ridge Rd got a little more technical in spots but was still relatively an easy road to get up. You can see on the UFSFS map exactly where the road goes from easy to a little harder when the line goes from bold to dashed. That was the more fun part.
At one point I came around a turn and found a couple of forest workers taking a break in their truck. I stopped and asked if this was the way to Soda Springs and they said yes but there was a right turn to make somewhere up the road.
I found the right turn. On my map it was where Mosquito Ridge Rd, intersects with Foresthill Rd and Soda Springs Rd.
The funniest part was I was mentally turned around as my map was set to show the road before me as directly straight up (just like a Google Map will do when you are using it for directions). I couldn’t make sense of why it was a right and not a left but then I turned the map to show north as north and I verified I was correct in going right. That wasn’t the funniest part though. I was just saying to myself that I had never been here when it hit me that I had and I had just come from the other way. I even caught my stupidity on camera at 9:08 in. Here’s a link https://youtu.be/x04mLG_u8Y8?t=548. At least I figured it out.
From there on I knew the route. I had been there just the week before. I stopped to take a few pics along the way but overall I just cruised along.
How pretty is that?
I looked down after taking this pic and realized I was standing in poop. Bear? Coyote? Who knows for sure. It wasn’t dog and it was pretty big.
The road got just a little more civilized (but still dirt) before it started to get to civilization. Near Soda Springs (the town) there’s a bunch of cabins built along side this road. Some are what you might expect, but some are McMansions tucked just off the trail.
I pulled into Truckee and stopped to get gas. While filling up I called the wife and that’s when I learned that I was off grid to them via SPOT and that the person at Tom’s Cabin had gone out to check on me. She was relieved, I was hungry. It was 3:30 or so and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I also texted Tomm to let him know. I headed into downtown Truckee to get lunch and then go find a place to stay the night.
Old Town Truckee has a burger place that’s pretty good just as you get into town. I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s the first place on the left. I circled the entire downtown area looking for a parking place for at least half an hour. Too many tourists!
I made the decision to head to The BridgeTender in Tahoe City for lunch/dinner. It’s 30 minutes away but I pulled right into the parking lot and parked right next to the outdoor hostess stand. They had a 30 minute wait but I could also order at the bar so that’s where I went. They too were overcrowded with tourists. Most of them looked like they had just come from a outdoor wedding reception. When did Tahoe go from rugged outdoor minded people to nicely dressed yuppies? Side note: Yuppie isn’t the right word as that would be my generation. Either way, I stood out but I didn’t care. I was on an adventure!
After food it was time to find a camp spot. I started with the campground just north of Tahoe City right on the lake. It was full. I did stop and talk to a guy who had a KLR in his campsite. He suggested looking at places in Martis Valley or Prosser Lake. That’s exactly where I was heading. Next up it was the campsite near Truckee Airport. Martis Creek Lake Campground.
I did find a few spots open but there was no camp host and the online reservation system wouldn’t accept the same day reservation. Technology sucks sometimes. Onward!
Just across Hwy 80 was Prosser Creek Reservoir. It showed a few campsites on the map.
When I got there Donner turned out to be a day use picnic site and the Prosser and Lakeside spots all seemed to be full. I noticed that in this campground there were quite a few families with kids and dirt bikes. There’s a Prosser OHV park across the road. I decided to continue north.
Just a mile or so up from Prosser I saw a turn off for a forest service road. My map also showed a bunch of trails heading out that way. I took a look. I found a fork in the road and headed to the right. It looked like it was staying somewhat along the Hwy but was off the road a bit.
It was now just starting to get dark and I figured there was nobody that would be venturing out this way until morning.
I found this perfect little meadow and a perfect little camp site tucked just out of view of the trail behind some trees. I parked the bike and started setting up camp. It was whisper quiet out there and the only thing I could hear was an occasional car going down the Hwy but that was 1/2 mile away.
Opening my saddle bag I was dismayed to find out my beer, in my brand new 64 ounce hydroflask had leaked. It had soaked everything in that side with Calicraft Oaktown. My puffy jacket, my toiletry bag, my food bag, all soaked in warm sticky beer.
I started to wring the jacket out but stopped short. If I did the wringing I would certainly damage the down. Also if I did manage to dry it out the down would also be matted with beer residue and not work either so I decided to zip it up in a ziplock and keep it moist. Weird, right? I would deal with it at home.
I spent a good 30 minutes with a damp cloth, wiping off as much beer from all of the other items. I finally dumped half of my 1 gallon of water into my saddlebag and sloshed it around. I let it hand and drip dry from my handlebars overnight. I did a half-assed bear bag with everything that had beer on it, plus my beer clothes and the beer scented food bag. If I did get a bear visitor, I wasn’t worried about losing all the food, I was more worried about making sure that was quite a few yards away from my tent. If I didn’t get a bear I just wanted to keep all the critters out of it.
Finally ready to settle and just a few minutes before darkness, I wash clothed all the dirt of the day off me and sat in my own personal meadow air drying.
I grabbed the SPOT and pressed the “Custom Message” button. We had decided that I would do that when I stopped for the night or when I started in the morning. I then walked into the clearing away from trees and let it do it’s thing.
I poured a cup of my Oaktown and it was delightfully still cool and fizzy. I sat in my chair with nothing but shorts and flip flops on and read a few chapters from my kindle. At some point it became fully dark and strangely silent. No crickets, frogs, or any of the typical night time sounds you would expect to hear. Every now and then I would hear a car on the highway go by but they were few and far enough away that that it was even hard to hear that.
I decided it was time for bed. I retrieved my SPOT and popped on my headlight, clicked the button and nothing. Ugh! Not really needing light I crawled into the tent only to find my sleeping pad was flat. I know I had blown it up nice and full. Ugh, Ugh again.
That was all the bad and actually not all that bad. The headlight was probably a battery and the sleeping pad wasn’t really needed as I was in a very soft bed of pine needles.
The night was quiet, no wind, no visitors and I slept pretty well. I woke up at 6:00 am. and the morning scene was incredible!
I layed there listening to the birds for a while then decided to get up and going. It was a little cool and a non beer soaked puffy jacket would have been perfect. Instead I had to put on my riding gear to be comfy. I broke down the tent and sleeping bag first, then started water for coffee and oatmeal. While that was cooking I repacked the bike and bags. I had my breakfast, cleaned and loaded the final stuff up and was back on the bike.
I had done about 65 miles since last gas and with Truckee just a few miles down the road it made sense to backtrack into town and fill up with gas before heading out for Henness Pass Rd. While at gas I called and checked in with the wife and refilled my water.
I zipped back up past my campsite to the start of where I believe Henness crosses Hwy 89. That’s where this video starts.
Before I started off road I wanted to get the exact gpx of where I went. I can do this a few different ways. I can start the record function on my Bad Elf GPS Pro, or right in Gaia Maps I can hit the record button (which is what I did). I noticed right away that the map had my location and the route lagging just a bit behind. So if you watch the video you’ll see quite a few times where I stop and wait for the map to catch up. It never took more than a few seconds.
Henness Pass was lovely. It started out simple and tree lined. I saw a few large deer, one perfectly sitting behind a “Private Property” sign. You can see his buddy’s butt on the left. I stopped and took a picture of them.
The route came close to Independence Lake. I came to a 3 way intersection and thought about going down to see the lake but decided to stay on course as it was early and I wasn’t sure what lay ahead. Next time.
After Independence, the trail went through some larger open areas and meadows. There were signs on the road warning of pedestrian traffic as someone had a wedding in one of the large meadows the day before. I think I saw a bunch of them off the trail a bit camping. It was also a ranching area with signs for open range (meaning you might see cattle on the road) and a few places for herding into pens.
As I came up to an intersection with Hwy 7 (paved) I heard a weird sound from the back. Looking down, my sleeping bag had fallen off and was dragging along the gravel road. Luckily, the drawstring was tied to the tent’s drawstring and that was under the strap. No harm done, I stopped and fixed everything.
It was also hear that the route turned left and went along Webber Lake for a bit before coming back to Hwy 7. Either way it would have worked as both led to Jackson Meadows Reservoir. This is also a crossing point for the Pacific Crest Trail but I saw no thru hikers.
Jackson Meadows was pretty large and had some buildings and structures along with camping and boating facilities. I made my way to the end and naturally crossed the large dam. I was starting my up the road on the other side of the dam when I noticed on my map I was off course. Easy fix, I turned around and zipped back across the dam. On the other side I was to turn left and that route looked like it followed way down into the valley.
The next body of water I came across was a much smaller but very pretty Milton Reservoir. I was on a dirt road now but there were plenty of people / families camped alongside the lake with tow behind RVs.
Just past Milton the trail started to climb up and then along a ridge. This part had good shade and the pines were gradually getting smaller and more open. I think it was at Kingstone Gap where the I took a break. I was at the top of the ridge and could look to the left or to the right down into the different valleys below.
Continuing on, I had to be a little careful which road to take as this was an intersection of a few trails. You can see on my tracking that I started up the wrong one (the little snippet of green was me).
I was thoroughly enjoying this ride. I found myself just smiling or over and over again saying just how beautiful this or that was.
Henness Pass Road continued for a while and at some point I started seeing mileage posts for Hwy 49. I wasn’t paying close attention to the map once that happened and I should have. At some point near Bald Mountain I veered off my intended course and didn’t notice.
By the time I noticed I was about 10 miles down the road. I could have retraced my steps but I really didn’t want to. I was now on Ridge Road. I know exactly where it happened. It was 39.50774, -120.81962 and while the road went straight and changed names, I should have turned right.
The bottom half of Ridge Road as it got closer to Hwy 49 was steeper and had great curves. I got to the end of the road, turned up Hwy 49 just to see how far off I was had I gone all the way down Henness Pass Road which would have dropped my out in the town of Compton.
I turned around and headed south towards Auburn on Hwy 49. A few hours later (it seemed like) I was in Auburn where I stopped for a burger at Ikeda’s. It was crowded as it always is. I ate, gassed up and then headed down Hwy 80 and home. Most of 80 was traffic so there was a lot of lane splitting.
Driveway to Driveway I did 578 miles. No crashes, no mishaps other than the beer and my sleeping pad. I’m working on patching the sleeping and as for the beer – it was a full 64 ounces, laying on it’s side, fully carbonated, bouncing around for a full day, in the heat. I think the fix is to just buy 2 cans or bottles of what I want right before heading to camp for the night and store it upright in the saddle bag. I’ll try that next time.
It also certainly was a better experience to eat a late lunch/early dinner so there was no meal prep at night. My boredom of last time was fixed by arriving later towards the end of the day to camp. If I’m wild camping there’s no reason to not ride close till then anyways. I saw quite a few wild camping places along the way.
The rear tire worked great (Tusk) and I have ordered a new Tusk for the front. The old TKC-80 I had on the rear lasted 3,235 miles. I only get about 2,k miles on those with the 950 ADV. The front after this trip has almost 4,000 miles on it, but it’s done.