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  1. #1
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    TR - Sierras exploring

    Headed up to the Sierras for Labor day weekend. Will turn this into an ongoing TR thread as I have a bunch of other recent and older sierrras trips that could be of interest. Any omissions of ride locations is intentional!


    Labor Day weekend 2019:

    As usual had a list of way too many rides I wanted to do, and even toward the end of the drive up had still not decided which ones to hit or in what order. Finally pulled off the highway and had to flip a proverbial coin.

    Downieville would be up first.


    Had left after work so it was now late at night. Needed to find a campsite as well and there is not much right around Downieville. Also wasn't sure if the road I'd be going up next day was even driveable - Trailforks listed it as 4wd road, so figured I'd drive up a ways and check it out, and hopefully find a campsite. Turned out the road was great but not many good campsites. Next thing you know I'm at the top and there was a nice flat pullout, so I crashed out there. In the morning stashed the bike away and drove back to town to set up the self shuttle.


    Dropping my truck at the river. 8am and already warming up, was tempted to go for a swim




    Moto shuttle back to the top. Best part about doing a moto shuttle is the shuttle part is like another bike ride.




    Great views right off the bat




    There was a bit of a doubletrack traverse to start with some steep climbs and descents. When I stopped to get a photo here I could hear something huffing in the bushes below the trail. Never saw the bear but he wasn't pleased I was there....




    Wasn't sure what Chimney Rock would be like. It is moto trail and follows a ridge top so was expecting steep in places, but mostly it was pretty good rideable grades




    Some turns were armored. I loved the toothy rock edges to keep riders from cutting the corners




    Climbing higher views really opened up




    Looking back




    I guess this is the Chimney rock




    Had to break my no-selfie rule for this sweet pair of shades I found. Not being cool enough to pull these off, I left them trailside.




    Trail got good beyond Chimney Rock




    Most of the climb was good and the views were outstanding. After some more traversing and a pretty stout climb I came to the turnoff for Empire Creek trail. Empire was 100% descending, once again on moto trail. Nothing mind blowing, just a fun decent. Lots of small stream crossings and paver sections. Would not want to climb it (under my own power!)




    The singletrack portion of the descent was around 5 miles, ending with a wider stream crossing that I barely cleaned without getting feet wet. A couple miners were camped there and watched hoping I got wet. Sorry to disappoint! Then there was a couple miles road descent before being dumped onto the Downieville DH route above First divide. Got my fill of the DH route back into town and then got my fill with a burger, after going for a swim. I definitely liked the route. Fun as the descent was the highlight for me is the traverse on Chimney Rock with its amazing views and ridge top riding. You don't hear of many people riding it which is a shame. But of course, the shuttles don't go there so what do you expect.....




    After retrieving the moto I decided to head over and check out Mt Hough near Quincy. Its a ride I've wanted to do for a few years but never got around to, being a haul from Downieville. This time dropped the moto at the bottom and headed up the hill.




    Got to the top just in time for a golden hour descent. Saw a few motos headed down the road while I was nearing the top, otherwise had the place to myself.




    Super fun flowy trail. All the trail sanitizers in Socal need to go up and ride this trail, as it is their holy grail of strava-hero buffness. Maybe they'd get it out of their system and stop pulling rocks out of every trail in socal. /rant




    This marked the end of the trail




    Sunset on the moto ride back to the truck. Super silty/dusty...glad there was no other traffic




    Lots of other trails nearby, looks like I have a reason to come back. The shuttle is pretty short time-wise, so these other trails would turn it into a full day adventure. Would do Mt Hough again for sure... Great day on the bike!


  2. #2
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    Nice! I enjoy TRís, because being a ride from home kinda guy, I see the same trails everyday.

  3. #3
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    Nice TR. Need to get up to that area, Thanks for sharing.

  4. #4
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    Many years ago my first ride in downieville was this one. I remember a ride description from Coyote adventures the precursor to Yuba. After climbing a up a long ass way on that fireroad out of town it said make sure you go right at some intersection or else you will end up in 6 toed hillbilly country 🤣

    Thereís lots of ways to turn that shuttle up to packer saddle into an epic ride

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by evdog View Post
    Had to break my no-selfie rule for this sweet pair of shades I found. Not being cool enough to pull these off, I left them trailside.
    That was a mistake, those things were rad as hell.

  6. #6
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    Looks like a great trip evdog. Envious. Nice catch and release on the vipers too!

  7. #7
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    Day 2

    Following the ride on day 1 I spent a few minutes going over my ride list and trailforks as I still hadn't decided what to ride the next day. Given the distance back to Downieville, that area was out. I've been wanting to ride Donner Lake Rim Trail for ages and that was pretty close by. There is also the new-ish Big Chief trail above Truckee that is supposed to be fun. And...DLRT ends close to the start of Hole in the Ground. Could I combine those three into one big ride? Looked promising! So I started driving down towards Truckee, and eventually found a forest road off the highway where I could crash for the night.


    In the morning I dropped my moto off at the end of HITG, and made the drive up to Big Chief




    First rock feature




    Second one. Noticed the high line as I rode through and had to go back and ride it.




    Nice view!




    Impressive sidewalk building.

    Didn't take many photos after this. Big Chief was kinda fun. A bit of an odd trail though. Like it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a flow trail or a rock garden with tech features, and in the end didn't do a great job of either. I'm sure I'd have more fun if I could ride it a bunch of times to figure out the flow better. But on my one and only lap it seemed too pedally and too rocky to get the speed you wanted to carry to really have fun.




    After finishing that part of the ride out on Sawtooth Trail and a few blocks of pavement through Truckee, it was on to a paved bike path that led up the hill right to DLRT




    A bit of climbing through the forest soon led to this view over Donner Lake




    I'd been expecting miles of techly granite and slickrock on DLRT. What I got instead was miles of contouring climbing.




    Back into the trees




    Still climbing. I was now approaching what would be the high point




    Almost there. Still on flowy contouring trail




    A fun switchback descent later and I was back climbing again




    Finally, here's my granite!




    The last mile and a half from Summit lake was rocky goodness. It was also where I saw the most hikers. Fun riding, just wish there had been more of it. It was also painfully obvious by this point I had ridden DLRT the wrong direction as it mostly climbed up from Truckee. That was hard to see on trailforks since this trail is split into 3-4 segments. I hadn't thought it would matter having assumed lots of tech riding but I won't be doing this one in that direction again.




    Done with DLRT and motoring right on to Norcal's BEST trail according to MTBR, Hole in the Ground




    Jumbo fungi




    Forgot how rocky this trail was in places, interspersed with nice buff sections




    So inviting....this was one of the few sections of HITG I remembered from riding it years ago. It's a fun trail, but the ending on dirt road and the stair step trail kind of ruins it.




    Finished not long before dark, stashed the MTB and hopped on the moto to go retrieve the truck. Took the scenic route.... Grabbed the truck and made it back down into Truckee in time to get dinner at Firty Fifty brewing.


  8. #8
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    Nice!

  9. #9
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    Day 3

    After some more hemming and hawing I decided on rides to round out the trip. I have an insatiable urge to explore new stuff, especially off the beaten track trails, but these are not always the easiest rides to pull off. Sometimes on trips you have to put them off for a later day. The rides I'd done so far had been put off numerous times, as had the others I now planned to hit. This trip was turning into a mission to knock long-standing bucket list rides off my list!

    Wanted a shorter ride for day 3, and opted for some lines on a map I'd been staring at for some time that could be worth it...or not. Never seen much attention given to these trails. Only one way to find out!


    The only certain thing was a steep price of admission




    Steep, about to get steeper




    Views opening up after some world class hike a bike. This was seriously some of the harder hike a bike I've done, and I've done plenty




    But totally worth it for this view alone




    About to cash those HAB chips in




    Second impression, what looked amazing was surprisingly difficult to ride because the trail was so loose and slippery




    More hike a bike coming up. Trail would go straight up and over the north peak




    Lookin' back




    Dropping off the peak was super steep and loose, then it mellowed out as I traversed around back to the south. Every time it got nice there'd be a stream crossing, rocky chute, or something else to keep you on your toes. Great backcountry riding....




    Nice view down into a lower basin




    Lots of streams flowing




    And lots of flowers growing




    There was a super steep descent down to the bottom of this basin, and then an equally steep push back up. Views were great the whole way so I didn't mind the slow pace. Was getting a bit toasty though.




    I've been wanting to head to Colorado in July to see the wildflowers, now I don't need to.




    The reward for doing the super steep HAB first was a fun descent down a less steep, but chunky and fully rideable trail, to exit the area. Then some crappy pavement riding to close the loop. Great day on the bike and turned out better than I could have hoped.


    Headed down toward Lake Tahoe. Since I had plenty of time, thought I could drive up Tunnel Creek Rd and do an easy out and back on the Flume Trail. But late afternoon, and the road was blocked by a closed gate with private property signs and cameras??? Did I just miss closing hours or is this road not open to the public? WTF. Had to settle for some lake views from the highway. Of course being Labor day weekend the whole place was a shitshow of cars parked everywhere. Oh well.... Still got in a great sunset.


  10. #10
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    You can't drive up Tunnel Creek, at least not very far. The ride up to the flume trail is sandy and unfun - there are much better ways to go see the flume trail - either from Mt Rose meadows or from Spooner Summit.

    I've never ridden the Donner Lake rim trail. Which direction did you go? (so I'll know that the opposite direction would be more fun)

    Great TR!
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  11. #11
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    You can't drive up Tunnel Creek, at least not very far. The ride up to the flume trail is sandy and unfun - there are much better ways to go see the flume trail - either from Mt Rose meadows or from Spooner Summit.
    Yeah I've done the flume many times from Tahoe meadows and once riding up from Spooner. Had no desire to do that climb again, and it was an odd# day so Tahoe meadows not open to bikes. Didn't really have enough time for those options or Incline flume anyways. Just wanted to drive up to Flume and do an out and back stopping for a beer to watch sunset. Had no idea the road wasn't open to the public to drive. Thought I had seen private vehicles up there before....

    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    I've never ridden the Donner Lake rim trail. Which direction did you go? (so I'll know that the opposite direction would be more fun)
    Haha. True. I did end up riding it the wrong way, went from Truckee up to HITG. I didn't think it would matter much as I was expecting lots of granite riding, but in the end the whole trail from Truckee to Summit lake is normal dirt singletrack. Going the other way you'd have a half mile fire road climb, then a mile and half rolling granite goodness to Summit lake, then mostly downhill except for a 700ft switchback climb from Negro canyon up to the hut. I think it would actually make for a really good ride to tack clockwise HITG onto that as well.

  13. #13
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    Day 4

    Had to start mega early as I had a long ass drive in front of me to get home.


    This would be another ride I'd been wanting to hit for ages. On the trail just after sunrise




    Impressive tree




    Trail was nice so far and continued to look promising




    Post ride swim looking was promising as well




    A bit of hike a bike never hurt anyone. This part would be fun coming down - a bunch of it later would be a hike downhill too




    Some fun tech riding followed




    Had to choose between 3-4 options up top. Went right to do the outermost loop, thinking I'd come back again and do the inner loop next. Nice trail here....




    The trail dropped me down to a lake. I'd already seen on satellite there would be a short bushwack over to where an old road ended, and I was not disappointed




    Lake looks inviting. Swimming would have to wait though




    Outflow of the lake




    The road wound through this canyon above the stream




    After a wet crossing there was a bit of a climb then a long dry stretch to the far end of the valley




    Another wet crossing. It was hot out by this point so I left shoes on to help keep me cool




    Took a chance on another line on a map which turned out to be some tough but scenic singletrack to close the loop. Great ride. Decided it was too hot out to do lap #2, so it was time for a swim.




    Since I finished early I decided later I'd have time for a lap on Lower rock creek near Mammoth. Had been a few years since I rode that. Ditch the mtb at the top and drove down to run the shuttle.


    Visitor at the lower TH




    I thought the place would be packed being Labor Day but maybe it was just too late in the day already?




    I always look forward to this grove of pine trees lower down




    Got rained on briefly but it held off




    Still a ways to go. I don't ride this trail often enough to remember everything so got hung up on a few rocky turns. Went back and cleaned them. Such a fun trail.




    Cool view on the drive back up





    I'd made great time so far and got back on the road. This would be a world record for me, drive back from Tahoe area and get in 2 rides, and not be home at 3am.

    Until... traffic comes to a dead stop south of Lone Pine. Of course this was just out of cell service so I couldn't tell how far traffic was stopped. Moved maybe 500ft in 15min. The caravan of overlanders ahead crossed the median and turned back north to get onto the LA aquaduct road. Seeing them moving prompted lots of other drivers to do the same. I'd heard of drivers being turned back on the aquaduct road trying to bypass traffic jams but I saw on my garmin there was a separate powerline road that went for quite a ways. Some people were on that too. Time for some XC!




    Stopped traffic far as the eye could see. Some passenger cars had to go return to 395 as the dirt was too rough for them in places. At one point saw vehicles on the aquaduct road heading back north too, so maybe they did get turned back.




    Eventually had to turn onto an old rail grade which eventually brought me back to 395. Pretty good victory passing miles and miles of slow traffic. The highway was back to 1 lane each way, and when I got a bit of coverage could see the slowdown ended in a mile or two at Olancha. Given the short distance I stayed on 395 rather than jump on another dirt road up to the aquaduct like some other drivers. Looks like the whole slowdown was due to lanes reducing from 2 to 1, and made longer by drivers taking Hwy 136 to 190 to bypass but then having to merge back in anyways.
    #winning, I guess. Arggghhhh...... So much for getting home early. Is 395 usually like this? Guess I don't see it since I usually come through much later.

    Awesome trip regardless!


    Speed sign says it all....


  14. #14
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    Great write up!

  15. #15
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    Really cool write up, thanks and great work!

  16. #16
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    Late Oct 2019:

    I took a couple days off at the end of October. Had some more stuff I wanted to check out near Shaver Lake. I'd gone up there twice last summer and did some exploring, but had some more specific targets this time around.

    Part of the reason for going up there is to help scout a new bikepacking route to connect the Baja Divide and the Oregon Timber Trail all the way to Canada. We have a pretty good route from the US/Mex border to Lake Tahoe, but still needs some refinement to get the route off of fire roads where possible.

    I'd seen some open granite slabs in one area and wanted to check them out. You can see jeep tracks on the slabs in satellite imagery so I figured the moto would be the best option to explore.



    I had stopped at this spot last summer on a hot day. The road across was in bad shape and not passable, and I didn't want to take the 2wd truck through the stream anyways as I was alone. Great swimming hole just above here though. On this trip I came up from below. A massive rock slide that blocked the lower part of the road was gone and the road was cleaned up and now passable. I got some new wheels a couple months ago that had no problem crossing the stream.

    New wheels




    It was not much above freezing, too cold for a swim, so I scouted some other road connections til it warmed up. Looking south from a ridge top.




    Came across some fire retardent and a burn area. Guessing this was the source of the fire.




    There is a network of fire roads in the area on some hillsides with OHV trails crossing between them. Checking the first one out.




    Found a second one that was steep but smooth, moto had no issues




    View at the top




    Some of the trails weren't great for MTB but a few weren't as steep and should work nicely. A surprising amount of forest roads up there are paved so it is nice when you can get off of them.




    Checking out some other trails I was getting toward the limit of my moto skills. Was able to ride up this slab as it only had one step up, but the next one had several and I wasn't going to try it on my own.




    There is a road up the side from this quarry but it was too gnarly to ride. Cool view though




    From the bottom. It's steeper and rockier than it looks.




    Put in about 50 miles in 4 hours. With the short days it was starting to cool off noticeably so I headed back to the truck. I noticed there is a ton of logging going on. Not raking the forest, but real logging. As a result some of the forest roads that were in bad shape last summer have been improved. I drove up a back way into Shaver Lake that was very narrow with tight switchbacks last year. Logging was done all the way up, and it was no problem getting through this year. It will make for a good bikepack route along with the OHV trails I found that will connect to some singletrack that circles Shaver Lake.

  17. #17
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    The main reason for this trip was to check out the Dusy-Ershim OHV trail. It's a 32mile jeep trail that runs between wilderness areas. The John Muir Wilderness is to the east and the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness to the west with only a narrow corridor for the OHV route separating them. With good weather holding I figured this could be the last chance to check this out without waiting another year. It doesn't open until August each year due to snow pack.

    I'd start down at the south end and head north having dropped the moto off at the north end the previous night to provide a shuttle back.


    View of Courtwright Reservoir. The OHV route crosses the shoulder of a couple of the granite domes on the far side of the lake.




    Driving around that dome will put me at the trailhead, with wilderness all the way to Mammoth on one side, and the OHV trail heading due north




    Another view looking up the reservoir. Pretty quiet out there, being end of the season.




    Starting point.




    I'd seen images of huge open slabs like this, and soon found what I was looking for




    It was also very quickly confirmed that this wasn't an ideal route for MTBs. I pretty much figured that would be the case based on vids I'd seen of motos and jeeps running the trail. This gateway feature being a great example, with a jumble of loose rock at the bottom of a steep rock wall. This was a tough push up.




    Once up top there was some nice riding for a while on the granite




    But every time it dropped into the trees any steep section turned rocky. Very rocky. Unridable up, and marginally ridable down. Think beach balls over basketballs over soccerballs over baseballs over 8 inches of silt.




    It made for a love-hate relationship with the trail as there were some nice sections and great views, too




    Ridgetop traverse




    There was a solid 5 mile section that slowly climbed up a canyon. Lots of buff forest riding but it was frequently interrupted by short steep climbs or descents that were always a rock garden.

    At the top of that, it got crazy. Yes, this was the trail. It was like this on and off for a couple miles and 1,000ft gain. Gnarly. I would have loved to see jeeps tackle this.




    Things got nicer up top. Lots of climbing and descent but not as steep, so it was much more rideable. It had taken me about 4 hours to cover the first 12 miles, and I still had 6 to go to my turnaround point with only 3 hours of daylight left.




    One of the nicer sections




    And a sample of nice buff forest road




    This all led to a big meadow on a flat plateau.




    A main destination for today was Ershim Lake. After 20 miles, finally got there. Everything off the side of the trail corridor is Wilderness, with the obligatory sign




    Ershim Lake. Nice spot for a snack...




    Hadn't seen a soul all day but it turns out I wasn't alone. Fresh tracks...




    The trail continued on as it had before with some open sandy spots and some nice trail in the trees, interrupted by frequent rock gardens at every steeper spot.




    One thing that did impress me was there were frequent camp sites, most of which had an outhouse. And they were clean!




    Finishing in the dark, I missed sunset while climbing up trail through the forest. I had been told there were some great views right at the north high point of the trail so I climbed back up in the morning from my campsite to check those out. Highly worth while.


    Looking north-west, you can see Thomas Edison Reservoir in the distance




    Looking north




    Looking west over Hungtington Reservoir




    I'm glad I did the ride, but not sure I would do it again. It was tough going with all the short steep climbs and descents. With all the loose rock, plenty of descents were downhill hike a bike too. Not a lot of payoff. The route also didn't have as much granite slab riding or as many good views as I had hoped. Of course trip reports only show the cool stuff, not the miles and miles of slogging through forested jeep trail which most of this route was.

    I love the idea of 30+ miles through the wilderness and this had been under consideration for inclusion in the big bikepacking route. But considering how difficult this was on an unloaded bike and given the seasonal restrictions this won't work for our bikepacking route. It is out there for anyone that wants to try it, though. Might try to include it in a more local bikepacking route around the Shaver Lake area.

    If doing this as its own point to point route I'd go north to south next time. The 1,000ft descent will be mostly downhill hike a bike but the rest of it tends to trend a bit more downhill this way. Be warned, there is lots of pushing either direction though...

  18. #18
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    Cool stuff. I've ridden some of those slabs near Courtwright. When I was like 14 my family met up with relatives from SoCal and camped out at Courtwright for a week. One day my dad and I grabbed our rigid 21-speeds and rode some singletrack to the reservoir inlet, then made a spontaneous decision to jump on the jeep road to make a loop back to camp. We had no idea what we were in for but it was a blast and those slabs were very memorable and I still remember them very clearly. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  19. #19
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    Awesome... there is a singletrack trail that goes around the north side of Courtwright down to a trailhead on the west side, but it's all in Wilderness now so only horses are allowed to destroy the trails.
    Last edited by evdog; 12-29-2019 at 02:38 PM.

  20. #20
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    I'd been looking at Thomas Edison Reservoir on maps for a couple years. It is not far as a crow flies from Hungtington Lake, but looked like it could take 90 mins to drive. I decided I could drive up there in the dark, check out the place in the morning, and still have time to do a short ride. The drive would take me up past Kaiser pass and down the other side. It was kind of a crazy in the dark. Not only were there cliffs and dropoffs but the road got even narrower, and twisted and turned, and climbed and dropped endlessly like a roller coaster across miles of terrain. Fortunately I had the road all to myself at night.


    I camped not far from the reservoir. In the morning, headed over to check it out.




    Not much left to launch a boat into but it made for a cool backdrop




    Made a drive up to the High Sierra pack station. Seems like there are roads that go even further off as well. Lots to explore, and that's not counting all the hiking trails that depart from this area.


    Started the drive back to Kaiser Pass area.




    While the road didn't seem as crazy in daytime it was probably more dangerous as you couldn't see headlights of oncoming vehicles as a warning. With the lake, numerous campgrounds, Mono Hot springs, and hiker trailheads this place must be hopping with people in the summer. I can't imagine driving that road when it is busy. I just about got run off the road by a couple fast moving vehicles as it was.




    Definitely didn't want to run into one of these




    Troll house?




    Great views from higher sections of the road







    I eventually made it back down. I had already dropped the moto off at Huntington Lake before I headed up to Thomas Edison, so all I had to to is ride. The trail was actually marked on some maps as California Riding and Hiking Trail.




    It was a pretty nice climb up to the Kaiser Wilderness boundary where I would split off and take another trail down to Huntington Lake.




    Looking north over the Kaiser Wilderness




    Starting the descent




    Trail must see some bike traffic as there were a couple rollers built




    The trail continued on down through some meadows, then got hard to follow as a number of social trails popped up.




    I followed what I thought was the correct one but it soon dumped me out into a neighborhood unexpectedly




    Rather than retrace my steps I dropped down into Hungtinton Lake and picked up a trail along the lake. It seemed to be there mostly for powerline access and had nice views but wasn't great riding, so I turned back to go pick up the truck.




    Good trip. There is a ton of potential up there but sadly not a lot of good trails. Some trails that exist on maps no longer exist on the ground. Wish it were closer so I could go up there more often!

  21. #21
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    I really enjoyed this TR Thank You for taking the time to put this together and share
    The Sierra is my home, the place I grew up. And still you showed me places I have never been.
    Own your fail. ~Jer~

  22. #22
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    Oh dang. Shaver is pretty much my backyard. I live in Clovis. For whatever strange reason, all of the good moto and mountain bike singletrack is in the bass lake area and everything off 168 is of the jeep variety. Aside from the really crappy Shaver Lake perimeter trail and the trail you rode up to Potter Pass.

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