oct 1 - oct 15 tour - Sierra cascades section 5, or suggestions?
I've got two weeks in which I can do a tour in October - pretty much oct 1-15. I live in San Francisco, and will be flying to Europe afterwards, so I'm trying to keep the distance down. Also, I can see places like Big Sur, Monterey, Mendocino, Tahoe and Yosemite at the weekend (it's pretty awesome living here), so while they might rank high on someone's list, I'd rather go see things further afield. I'm only looking at about 500mi/800km max for two weeks - I hike a lot too and I'm not that fast. I'm not scared of mountains though, I'd rather big climbs and big downhills than constant up-and-down.
I'd also like to use trains if possible, rather than planes, as it saves on complicated packing. At first I thought I'd take a train up north towards Oregon, then make my way either back down to SF along the coast, or to Truckee along the Sierra Cascades route. I was told however that it would be too late already - Oregon and the coast of Norther California would be very rainy, and places like Lassen and Shasta could be cold and have first snows.
So then I shifted my focus south - since I've been wanting to explore California's deserts anyway. I'm now thinking, taking a train to San Diego, then through a mix of the southern tier route and the Sierra Cascades section 5 route, I'd make my way up north, to Bakersfield hopefully (offers a train to SF that doesn't require bike packing). I know south to north is sort of backwards considering the season, but the train to San Diego requires packing, so I'd rather do it first rather than last. Also, the area around San Diego (Anza-borrego, Joshua Tree, Salton Sea) is what I'm most interested in - the further north, the more optional in my mind. So if I end up not going that far at all, I can grab a train to LA and then on back to SF. Something like this: http://goo.gl/1HBSt I know that's a bit more than the distance I said I'd do but I can maybe hitch a ride if I'm slow...
Can anyone see something wrong with this plan? Will it be way too hot in Anza-Borrego and around San Diego? I'm not a big fan of heat.
Also, I know the coastal winds are primarily northerly, but is that true of inland? From what I've read, not necessarily, and if anything, they can be quite southerly.
I've also made a detour to the hippy area around Salton Sea - the "salvation mountain" and Slab city - but not sure those are that interesting? Or even safe for a girl touring alone?
What about Angeles national forest, is it worth the detour, or would I be better off riding more of the Sierra foothills instead?
Would you recommend another area altogether? I was pondering about the eastern Sierras, but again, I wonder if I'm too late in the season? Or perhaps going further to Arizona or New Mexico? I worry those places are so vast that 500mi isn't much at all.
Do you agree that early October is too late for Oregon/Shasta/Lassen?
Any advice would be very welcome!
PS: for background, I've toured the south island of NZ for two months in 2008 (2700km in 8 weeks), and Tasmania for one month earlier this year (1300 km in 4 weeks). So this wouldn't be my first tour, although I suspect this would be the more remote one in terms of services. I'd make sure to manage my water appropriately in the deserts. I carry a tent regardless of weather cos I'm not a fan of bugs. I'll be tempted to try some dirt roads and wilderness camping but it probably wouldn't be the bulk of it. I have a Surly LHT that can handle probably more than I can
...At first I thought I'd take a train up north towards Oregon, then make my way either back down to SF along the coast, or to Truckee along the Sierra Cascades route. I was told however that it would be too late already - Oregon and the coast of Norther California would be very rainy, and places like Lassen and Shasta could be cold and have first snows...
I rode down the coast from Astoria to San Francisco last year over three weeks from Sept 25 to Oct 15. It only rained on the very first day and then was perfect for the rest. I know that I was lucky to get such good weather, but I don't think that one should avoid it just because you are likely to get some rain. That ride was absolutely spectacular! Most of the campgrounds will still be open (you won't have to worry about them being full at this time), and a lot of hotel rates are cut 30% to 50% from summer rates. Good time to go in my opinion.
I think the Oregon/California coast could be hit and miss. You could have most of the two weeks without rain and only and occasional shower - or you could end up with half the days with rain and a larger storm mixed in. It is still beautiful with some rain, but if I had the same choice, I'd probably also pick going over the mountains from San Diego and into the deserts. I haven't ridden all areas you mentioned but have done both Southern Tier and the annual HI-AYH ride that go through that area including the Salton Sea.
The other choice if you were to follow Amtrak a little further east would be to get off in San Antonio and then ride south Texas and the hill country...
Personally I wouldn't bother with Bakersfield to Palmdale part. I also would not organize the trip around not-boxing-the-bike. Just box it or rent a one way car or hitch hike or get a ride on craigslist, or drive your car to San Diego and make it a loop instead - from JTree cut back across the i-10 corridor or (better) over the mountains again at Palm Desert to Hemet, then back roads to Hemet, Temecula (via Sage Rd), Fallbook (via De Luz canyon) and then back over to the coast and back to SD.
Thanks all for the advice! The hit and miss aspect of the Oregon weather is what I worry about. I don't mind a little rain - I've had hail on a tour before - but if I can plan for decent weather, I might as well, especially for 2 short weeks. valygrl - your route seems to follow a lot of the roads for the hi-hya christmas ride, so that confirms them as quite good!
I like the idea of the train from SF to San Diego, but the train ride from Bakersfield is definitely more optional. One way car rentals were an option in the back of my mind but I assumed they'd be too expensive, and only offered from big cities. However I just looked on vroomvroomvroom and lots of little cities will give me a car for 1 day back to SF for under $100 - San Bernardino, Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Barstow.... so I think that's a really good way for me to have flexibility in terms of how fast I want to go - I want to hike all those parks too! I might just book a few cars and cancel them closer to the time depending on which town I feel I'll end up on. I don't own a car.
Do you think Slab city / salvation mountain would be unsafe? I read something about an artist wanting to spend the night in Slab city as part of a tv show, who went back to the hotel with the crew instead through fear for his safety. Sounds a bit over the top, but just wondering...
Good to know the time of the year is good! Looking at climates, it looks like valley floors are likely to be quite hot (yet cold at night), and up in the hills should be really nice - and could even have snow under exceptional circumstances!
Ok, now that I realize how plentiful and cheap one-way car rentals are, it's opened a few more options.... Another area I've been wanting to explore is the Eastern sierras - Mono lake, Bodie, Bishop, etc. It's actually within reach for a weekend from San Francisco but you've got to put up with lots of driving. I thought perhaps early October was too late, but actually, is it not about ideal for the eastern Sierras at least? I'm thinking a route like this: http://goo.gl/j3bwU or even just following the Sierra Cascades route, section 4: http://www.adventurecycling.org/rout...?pg=detail&s=4
I realize this would be a LOT of climbing. So probably less distance. I guess I'd bail towards the nearest big town with one-way car rentals depending on my progress.
My main concern is weather: would it be exceptional for it to snow then? Would I be better off sticking to the east side (my suggested route) rather than going over and west towards Sequioa and Kings Canyon (sierra cascades section 4), as the west tends to be wetter/colder?
valygrl: I don't know you but you have participated on threads I've started before And I've never done the christmas ride but good friends here do it often, so I thought to check their itinerary for scenic/quiet roads, especially out of San Diego and around the Salton Sea.
Ok, now that I realize how plentiful and cheap one-way car rentals are, it's opened a few more options....
One additional nice thing about car rentals is you can often make them without paying up front, and can cancel them without penalty as well. What I've done one some previous touring trips where there was uncertainty due to either (a) weather or (b) how far I might travel - is make two one-way car rentals in advance and then cancel the one that didn't make sense when I was underway with the trip.
You can look up the climate averages to figure out how likely snow might be - but then use the car rental option to adjust the plans based on a specific storm that does/doesn't happen when you are touring since those often have a few days warning (even if the predicted vs. actual magnitude can vary).
Yes I'm a big fan of vroomvroomvroom.com for that reason. No strings attached whatsoever, a bunch of rental agencies. I'll definitely book a number of one-way rentals, depending on the route I choose. I'm leaning towards a one way rental to Mammoth lakes, cycling up towards Mono lake, then across Tioga road (ouch!) and down towards lake Isabella through Sequioa and Kings Canyon. Those could offer the extra backup plan of the train line going through the central valley (fresno, bakersfield etc).
It looks like Tioga road is rarely ever closed before oct 15 so I should be in luck. It might be chilly but I'm sure the hills would keep me warm
My main concern is weather: would it be exceptional for it to snow then?
I've been snowed on in October while hiking (at altitude) in the eastern Sierra. Can't remember if it was the first half of the month or the last half... The snow level was down to around 7000 feet, IIRC. There was only a light dusting of snow, but enough that it made driving down out of the mountains after I abandoned my hike a white-knuckle proposition. At lower elevations, the snow turned to slush then rain.
Weather in October can be highly variable, so you'll want to check the weather forecast daily, if possible.