Author Topic: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route  (Read 3534 times)

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Offline BikeFreak

A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« on: November 17, 2023, 06:58:43 pm »
This summer i did the Sierra Cascades Routes North to South.

Three things I would like to mention:

1. The route takes you through 5 National Parks where tent camping is impossible unless you have made reservations 6 mo in advance online on www.recreation.gov and paid with a credit card. EVERY single campsite spot in the National Parks is booked out. You have no chance. You cannot go to an office and talk to a camp host, beg for mercy and pay in cash. There is no walk-in, no hiker biker site. Nothing. It's all bear country and the majority of motorists with their tents don't obey the bear safety rules since they leave coolers outside their trucks, do barbecue grilling etc etc. In Lassen National Park I had to beg for mercy by randomly asking other campers if I could set up my tent on their plot. I got lucky but told myself - never ever again. Oh, and lastly you have to pay 30 dollars to enter EACH park - same price if you come on a bicycle or a 60000 lbs Winnebago RV. PS: Yes I know about the 80 dollar annual pass, but still.

2. Food in the USA was twice as expensive as food in Europe where I'm from. 100% up!!!!

3. Due to the problem with the National Parks I had to come up with my own route finalizing the trip. But also finding a more flat route avoiding all the mountains. Here is what I did: In Lee Vining I stayed on US395 all the way to Adelanto in the Mojave desert. This highway is actually very nice. Wide shoulders and no crazy traffic - I felt safe all the way. However as soon as you reach Bishop it gets REALLY hot. But then the pleasantries ended. I wanted to go from Adelanto East through Victorville, Yucca Valley, Palm Springs, Salton City and El Centro. I met a motorist North of Adelanto who stopped on the highway to give me some water (it was maybe 110 degF). I asked if he knew a camping spot but instead he gave me 20 USD so that I could find a motel: He told me Adelanto and Victorville have high crime rates and serious drug problems. When I reached Adelanto 20 mi later most cars were banged up and the vibe was very bad - nothing I have ever experienced in USA before. I went to the gas station to get a drink and eat some food outside: After 5 min I was told to leave since I was LOITERING!!! I stayed in a Motel6 with night guards and people actively asking me for tobacco when outside my room. Anyhow, next day I left for Yucca Valley and Palm Springs on US18. That piece of highway was the most dangerous piece of highway I have biked in my entire life. I felt extremely unsafe and feared for my life. When I reached Lucerne Valley I was mentally so crushed that I decided to change my plans entirely and do a 5000 ft climb to Big Bear and rejoin the ACA route. As soon as I left the main highway everything became calm and peaceful again and I stayed on the ACA route all the way to the border and sucked up all the crazy climbs again :-).

I want to compliment the ACA mapping department for being fantastic at finding routes across the USA letting us cyclists stay away from problems. For me, I cannot imagine how people ride across the USA just using Google Maps: It must be extremely dangerous.

However, I wish that ACA could reach out to the NPS and negotiate a deal for cyclists and PCT hikers. The solution with www.recreation.gov is a disaster and kills the pleasure for cyclists to experience the parks.

Lucas
« Last Edit: November 17, 2023, 07:04:23 pm by BikeFreak »

Offline John Nettles

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Re: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2023, 07:31:45 pm »
However, I wish that ACA could reach out to the NPS and negotiate a deal for cyclists and PCT hikers. The solution with www.recreation.gov is a disaster and kills the pleasure for cyclists to experience the parks.

Lucas
I have wanted this for years!  However, our NPS is not necessarily the brightest.  For instance, in Zion NP in Utah, they closed one of two campgrounds so they could a) determine how it need to be renovated THEN b) close it for the renovation. Why the heck do you need to close a functioning CG (which is in very high demand) while you PLAN the renovation?!?  Then as you say, they have no hiker/biker sites at many NPs and the nearest legal CG may be a 4 hour ride away.  ACA does a remarkably good job of mapping but I must say, they seem to leave some of their muscle/power on the floor when dealing with lobbying with the NPS. 

Offline zzzz

Re: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2023, 12:16:05 pm »
Hi Lucas:

Wow! Sorry to hear that! In 2015 I did this route and I loved it! I cc’d so camping issues didn’t affect me but that sucks that the NP doesn’t have a “don’t turn away” policy for cyclists.

I can’t remember exactly what I paid to get in each of the NPs but if it was $30 ea I would have remembered it, I pretty sure it was $10-15 tops. And 8 years can be a long time but Victorville felt okay when I was there.

And if I understand you right, staying on 395 south from Lee Vining to Victorville means you skipped Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Giant Sequoia?! I remember clearly what a beat down the ride was as I went from 700 miles the first week to 600 to 500 to 400 the last week. and we all need to make these decisions for ourselves, but what a shame you missed those 3 parks. They were right at the top of the best places to ride through on that route.

I know from previous posts you’ve made over the years that you must be a really strong rider so it’s especially a disappointing to hear you had a bad experience with it. Previously, if someone asked me what the best of the ACA rides was, if I thought they could handle the climbing, I would have told them the SC.

Pete

Offline BikeFreak

Re: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2023, 02:59:28 pm »
Hi Lucas:

Wow! Sorry to hear that! In 2015 I did this route and I loved it! I cc’d so camping issues didn’t affect me but that sucks that the NP doesn’t have a “don’t turn away” policy for cyclists.

I can’t remember exactly what I paid to get in each of the NPs but if it was $30 ea I would have remembered it, I pretty sure it was $10-15 tops. And 8 years can be a long time but Victorville felt okay when I was there.

And if I understand you right, staying on 395 south from Lee Vining to Victorville means you skipped Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Giant Sequoia?! I remember clearly what a beat down the ride was as I went from 700 miles the first week to 600 to 500 to 400 the last week. and we all need to make these decisions for ourselves, but what a shame you missed those 3 parks. They were right at the top of the best places to ride through on that route.

I know from previous posts you’ve made over the years that you must be a really strong rider so it’s especially a disappointing to hear you had a bad experience with it. Previously, if someone asked me what the best of the ACA rides was, if I thought they could handle the climbing, I would have told them the SC.

Pete

Hi Pete,

1. I also met a German female cyclist doing the SC. She also skipped a number of NPs due to the campground issues. I was told that recreation.gov was introduced 1-2 years ago and since then motorists secure camp sites just like rock star concert tickets.

2. Victorville: Locals told me things went really bad about 2 years ago during covid when lots of drug addicts moved to rural areas. For instance in Mt Shasta I spoke to the guys in the local bike shop: 2-4 years ago they never had to lock their cars and homes. 2023 those times have gone. I was shocked when a young girl stopped me on the highway in the middle of nowhere between Ashland and Mt Shasta asking for water and 5 seconds later asked for crystal meth. She looked like a ghost just like in a horror movie.

3. The SC was beautiful - don't get me wrong. For instance the back road between Ellensburg and Yakima along the river - how beautiful and picturesque. I came down from Deadhorse, Alaska and had biked already 4000 kms before reaching the SC route in northern Washington. I would do the SC any day again with a car. But Deadhorse to Washington - never ever again. That was a Google Maps route and not so fun also with VERY dangerous sections in some parts of BC. Canada and Alaska is rough country, the US is cozy compared to :-).
« Last Edit: November 18, 2023, 03:01:47 pm by BikeFreak »

Offline zzzz

Re: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2023, 04:01:20 pm »
F*cking drugs, I'm no puritan but people who fall into that trap trash their own lives, their surrounding families lives, and the society we all live in. I'm 65 yo and when I was in school there was a LOT of recreational drug use and I participated in it. But one thing you absolutely took a pass on for even one time was heroin because you did not want to end up being a junkie. No one dreams of living like that. I have no idea what could be going thru peoples heads the first time they try meth or opioids. Shasta was a really nice town when I passed thru it. That's a shame.

That road along the river to Yakima was sweet (just pulled up a picture of it!), and then the next day came White's Pass and that was a stunning climb, and then the next day came all those NF roads that you ride almost to the Oregon border. I thought the SC was one good day after another.

Rather then have too much thread drift, you can PM me for your answer to this question: I'd be interested in hearing your route down from alaska (Cassier Hywy?). In 2017 I rode from Banff to Fairbanks. I took a circuitous route from Banff to Dawsons Creek and then took the Alaska Hywy all the way to Delta Junction and then on to Fairbanks. There was definitely some stuff that made the trip tough, lots of road work which caused up to 40k stretches of gravel, chip seal, and lots of afternoon rains, but overall it was a good ride and I never felt in danger. I know the road to Dead Horse has a legendary set of problems, but what else did you run into?

Pete

Offline BikeFreak

Re: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2023, 04:33:08 pm »
I just want to add something slightly off topic:

The Sierra Cascades Route runs more or less parallel to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Whereas I met 1 cyclist doing the Sierra Cascades I met maybe 100 PCT hikers. I actually envied the hikers: They had such a great companionship. Once in a while I stayed in the same campground as them (for instance Cascade Locks) and the vibe was SO great with maybe 50 hiker tents in one spot. Riding the SC felt lonely but whenever I saw a PCT hiker I stopped to chat with them - it was always fun and enjoyable. I also met a huge group on White Pass resting behind the store and inside the owners had arranged washers and dryers for them - which a cyclist of course could use as well.

I know the PCT is extremely tough but seeing how these people socialized made me want to do this hike as well.

Offline PeteJack

Re: A few notes on the Sierra Cascades route
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2023, 01:33:15 pm »
I'm sorry you had such a grim time on the SC I did it in 2011 and had a blast. It seems things have gone very much downhill since then, particularly the camping scene. Mind you I was lucky. I fell in with a couple who had booked a site in Yosemite. We ended up riding 500 miles together. The biggest challenge I came across was the pass to the Columbia that was blocked by snow in June! I had to make a detour and was told later I couldn't have picked a worse route.