Author Topic: Sierra Cascades  (Read 2384 times)

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Offline bobchauncey

Sierra Cascades
« on: November 16, 2021, 01:14:19 pm »
I'm planning to ride as much of this route as possible within a 30 day window. Can start anywhere between June and October of 2022. Flexible as to starting point and direction. Prefer credit card touring, but can do self-contained or sag. Have done southern tier -- self contained. Any suggestions? Possible companions?

Offline zzzz

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2021, 08:46:30 pm »
Oh! I feel super qualified to answer this one!

On September 1,2015 I started in Bellingham Wa, rode the the 35+- miles up to the official start at the Canadian border and then south to LA over the next 28 days. I  CC toured the entire trip except 1 night when I camped in a campground when I was caught in a storm going up a pass in Washington. But there’s some places on route that are pretty far apart between hotels and the route can grind you down. I did 700 miles the first week, 600 the second week/ 500 the third week, and 400 the forth week. That’s a little misleading because there was some things that took away from my riding time the last 2 weeks but still, I couldn’t keep up the mileage of the first 2 weeks.

I have started all of my tours as late in the year as is reasonable which September is for the SC route. On the plus side I dealt w very little extreme heat. The argument against this is that it’s the heart of the wildfire season.  And I did deal w some smoke along the way but I mostly threaded the needle. There’s no guarantees on this.

There’s a lot of climbing on this route so make sure you’re in really good shape before you start. This is not a tour you want to ride yourself into shape.

 As for specific suggestions:

1)if I was to do do it again I would take the day off at Chelan and take the boat ride to Stehelkin. It’s written up in the “Field Notes” on your maps, I skipped it and I’m sorry I did.

2) At the very beginning of SC 2/ map #17 you’ll come to an an intersection of Forrest Rds (FR 25 & 26) and a sign will say Mt. St. Helens 17 miles. I looked at that sign and thought I can’t add 34 miles to my day and kept riding on the route. BIGGEST MISTAKE IVE EVER MADE ON TOUR. it turns out if you just go around the corner you can see the blow down from the eruption. Do not make the same mistake!

3) On map #24 I made a detour off route at 20 then down to 242 and went up and over Mackenzie Pass. It added 40 miles to the day but it was well worth it. Most cyclists will argue it’s the nicest pass to ride in the country or maybe #2 after Logan Pass at Glacier NP.

4)the rim road at Crater Lake is worth it but after the tough climb up to the lake and the up and down of the rim rd you’ll be pretty beat. Then you have a giant descent. In the town of Prospect it shows a sign for Cyclist Only camping. The couple who own that ranch/farm also put in a apartment at the 2nd floor of their barn. If you don’t want to camp you can rent that for the night pretty cheap.

5) I lucked out on this one, w/o any specific planning I left Mt. Shasta on a Saturday morning and stopped Sunday night about 30 miles short of Quincy. The reason this was lucky was because there is a tremendous amount of lumber truck traffic on 89 during the week heading to a mill in Quincy so I missed most of it though I did get a sample of it for a couple of hours Monday morning. The road is narrow and windy w a limited shoulder and the trucks are loaded. I will say the driver were courteous.

6) I assume a big reason why you want to do this ride is because of the triple treat of Yosemite/Kings Canyon/ Giant Sequoia and they alone would be worth the ride. In particular I felt incredibly moved seeing the big trees. The tip I can give you here is some 100 miles south of seeing the General Grant and Sherman and taking in their magesty while surrounded by a couple hundred tourists there is a place called the Grove of a Hundred Giants. It’s not marked on the SC map, but it’s on the route about 3 miles south of Johnsondale (see map #57). I was the only person there among a grove of a 100 of the big trees. I just wondered around for a couple of hours taking it in. I did see it was hit by fire this year, I hope the big trees are okay.

7) Tehachapi Pass is one of the 7 wonders of the railroad world. When you’re climbing up to Tahachipi (map #60) you will see at least 1 train come thru (it’s a very busy set of tracks) , get off your bike and take a look at what they had to do with those tracks to get a train up that grade.

Okay, I’m tired of typing, feel free to PM me w specific questions or if the question are more general you can obviously ask them here on the forum.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2021, 08:29:47 am »
My comments apply only to the southern half of the route.  We started from San Diego and flew home from Reno.  So I only saw the portion in between those points.

After reading zzzz's answer I am hesitant to post mine.  I would have said it was next to impossible to credit card tour the Sierra Cascades route, but zzzz apparently managed to do just that.  I am surprised to hear that.  I found that in places any services, even water, were pretty far apart and the terrain was exceedingly difficult with many LONG STEEP climbs so long mileage days would not be easy.  I found it difficult to make the distance between ant kind of stops without trying to find lodging.

I started in San Diego on June 4 when it should have still been cool and there was an early heat wave. The amount of climbing was insane.  Between the heat and the climbing it was easily the most difficult tour I have done.

Taking the CC approach would make the climbing a bit easier than a fully loaded approach, if you can manage to find places to get a room like zzzz did.

It is not a tour to be taken lightly.  Make sure you are in good shape and ready to do a lot of steep climbing.

That said it was through some beautiful country.

Btw, if you haven't been and won't get again soon, it is worth taking some time in the Yosemite Valley.  We stayed the max allowable time in Camp 4 to hike and sightsee.  I don't usually take days off, but the valley was worth it.   It might be hard to get a room there unless you book way ahead.  Camp 4 is first come first served after one night in the staging camp for backcountry hikers, but I guess not an option for you.

Offline zzzz

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2021, 07:11:55 pm »
You will notice that staehpj1 and my post line up fairly well about what’s in store for you, extraordinary route, a lot of climbing. We disagree a bit about the CC touring part. While going uphill has always been the one thing I’ve been pretty good at on a bike, and that was helpful for me, it is more possible to CC tour a large portion of this route then Pete believes.

Kelly Iniguez is a woman who goes on several significant tours a year. Her riding style is slow and steady on her recumbent, a 70 mile day is a really big day for her, most days are 40-50 miles. When she’s on tour w her husband he absolutely will not camp a single night. More then anything, when I have read her journals I have been taken w how well she plans her trips  and how that allows her and Jacinto to spend about 1/3 the money I spend a day on my tours.

She and Jacinto started the SC in Sumas (the Canadian border start) and ended in Truckee for 1386 miles in 30 days and slept in a bed every night. Because I’m a moron about all technical things I can’t link you directly to her journal from my iPad but if you type in: Kelly Iniguez The Granny Panties Tour Cycleblaze into google her journal will come up and you will find lots of useful information.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2021, 07:49:41 pm »
zzzz, to be clear, I believe you I am just surprised.  I am sure you managed fine cc touring the route.  FWIW, I suspect  I would be unable to manage the distances required to get between lodging in that terrrain, but have no doubt that you did or that someone younger and fitter may be able to.

I wasn't particularly looking for where lodging was available, so there is that.

I wonder, did you often need to go off route to find lodging?

Offline zzzz

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2021, 08:49:06 pm »
Pete, I’ve been reading your posts for a long time, since I took my first tour in 2012 and your information sharing was a lodestar for me when I first started touring. I can honestly say that I never would have started touring (despite a lifetime of riding) if there wasn’t your guidance on how you can travel w 15-20lbs. And i did not think you were casting doubt on my honesty.

It occurs to me we literally had 2 different and opposite perspectives, I had to wrap up in LA 200 miles from the end in Mexico and you started at the Mexico end. I had only one afternoon where I was really suffering from the heat, it was at the beginning to the mid point of Monitor Pass and it is burned into my memory just how awful I felt until the elevation gain broke the heat. I suspect the heat you ran into from the start colored your perspective. As for Kelly’s journal, they ended their tour going south exactly where you ended yours going north.

I never did go off route for a room except 1 night I went 10 miles off route to South Lake Tahoe. It wasn’t intentional, I just made the turn and thought there has to be a hotel around here somewhere…..? and 10 miles later I was in SLT. It was actually a pretty lame side trip on my part. That said, there were some long tough days to get a room. I got to Winthrop after climbing Washington/Rainy Pass w over 100 miles for the day and every hotel was booked. I had to go another 10 miles to Twisp riding in the dark to get a room. The day that I referred to on my first post where I missed the Mt. St. Helens blowdown because I thought a 34 mile round trip was required, was another day where over a 100 miles was required to get a hotel room. And there were several days that I could have stopped at 45 or 55 miles at a town that was at the bottom of a really tough climb that was between me and the next town  30-50 miles down the road but I always seemed to elect to keep going rather then stop at 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

The ride was a beat down, certainly the way I did it, I loved it anyway. That was what was interesting to me about Kelly’s tour and her journal. She was not looking to challenge herself more then was required, she just wanted to do the route. I think she did have to go off route 3 or 5 miles to find more regularly spaced lodging. That was the reward for all her research, I was a slave to the sleeping guy icon on the ACA map.

Offline bobchauncey

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2021, 09:18:26 am »
Wow! Thanks zzzz and Pete for your detailed comments. I have just received the map set from AC and will spend a while sorting out all this info. Oh, and thanks for the suggestion to look for Kelly's journal! My early sense of things is that I will have time to get as far as Fresno, which looks to be the nearest airport after heading south about 2K miles from the start. Another thought: I have a Surly LHT for self contained touring, and an old Specialized Allez for CC touring. I carry about 13-15 pounds on a rack attached to the seat post. Given all the climbing, I'd go with the latter. One problem -- 700 x 28 tires is the max. Now I could get a modern "endurance" or "gravel" bike, but (a) I'm cheap and (b) it would be like abandoning an old friend. Sooo, how are the roads in general? Looks like some crushed gravel in spots. Otherwise, OK. Your thoughts? And yes, I'm a rookie when it comes to using this  forum. How to contact you directly if/when more detailed questions occur? Jeez, I sound needy  :-[

Offline zzzz

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2021, 10:22:42 am »
Hi Bob:

I tour w a regular road bike that maxes out w 28mm tires. If I was to do it again I would have gotten a bike that accepts a little wider tire but it's been okay on all my tours. The road surface was for the most part fine w some short exceptions. Do not take the alternate route to Crater Lake. I do not have first hand knowledge but it's really for mountain bikes w very wide tires.

You say you're looking at Fresno and that should still allow you to take in Giant Sequoia, to me that was the last "can't miss" thing on the tour.

If you look at a persons post where their name is, the words Personal Message are there. Click on that and write your message.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Sierra Cascades
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2021, 10:26:37 am »
One problem -- 700 x 28 tires is the max. Now I could get a modern "endurance" or "gravel" bike, but (a) I'm cheap and (b) it would be like abandoning an old friend. Sooo, how are the roads in general?
My memory is hazy since it was 11 years ago, but the only really poor surface I remember is a long stretch of road construction that I'd expect would be done long ago and even there we managed okay.  I think my daughter probably was running 28mm tires even though on a bike that would accomodate much wider tires.  Not sure if I was running 28mm or 32mm, but in either case i'd have considered them fine.  Others may not have.  Just as a frame of reference I started the Southern Tier on 23mm tires because I wanted to wear them out and put 25mm tires on halfway when they were showing cord.  I actually enjoyed riding my old 1990 Cannondale Crit bike although the 23mm did buzz quite a bit on the Texas chipseal.  I'd take that bike again with 25mm tires, but 28mm would probably be a smarter choice.  I am probably an outlier in my willingness to run such skinny tires.

You mention carrying 13-15 pounds.  A few pounds may or may not make a big difference.  If you choose an entirely different bike or tire size because of how you pack it may be a pretty big deal, so I'll ask...

Is that including water and food?  Carry what you want/need, but if you want to, that could certainly be trimmed especially if it doesn't include food and water.  I have camped and cooked with a base under the lower number in that range and could camp and cook and include two full water bottles and a day of food and still be under that range if I wanted to or needed to.  My current gear favorites the base gear totals is 8.5-9 pounds (add almost a pound if taking a the Whisperlite or SVEA instead of the pop can stove).

I know that I could easily get down to 4-5 pounds of gear and bags for CC touring even for contitions where I might get below freezing overnight temps and need some clothing for fairly cold weather (that would include clothing as warm as what I carried on the SC and on a winter Southern Tier).

A lot of how acceptable those choices would be may have to do with what you do with your off bike time.  I pretty much ride, eat, rest, sleep, or do outdoor activities like hike.  I never feel the need to dress up and don't mind being in riding clothes most of the time.  Slippng on a wind shirt or a tech tee and running shorts off bike is about as dressed up as I get.  If it is cooler maybe tights and a kayaking sweater, possibly with an UL windshell over them.

If you want/need to dress up more my approach probably won't work.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 10:29:17 am by staehpj1 »