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Preparing for the Sierra Cascades Route

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Preparing for the Sierra Cascades Route

Old 12-04-15, 04:23 PM
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gauvins
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Preparing for the Sierra Cascades Route

Yesterday at dinner, sensing some kind of "Europe fatigue" on the part of our pre-teen, I let slip "US West instead?". Received with considerable enthusiasm

So -- what's the best way to figure out convenient stops at "reasonable intervals" (one pre-teen, one 6 yo in tow, so we'd plan on 30-40 mpd with a few zero days added for side trips. (We camp + the occasional roof)

Familiar with the ACA maps, but not with the info that they contain, and reviews are not always great. So we might rely on Google maps.

We'll fly into LAX and ride north. Counting on 60 days. Probably returning from Seattle. Depending on what we learn in the meantime.

ps. we are used to such plans. we tend to learn as much as we can, and plan B, C, D etc. so we do not feel pressured if things turn out to be different from what we had anticipated.

ps2. not that familiar with the US West. During the past decade or so, we summered in parts of the world where we didn't really have to worry much about the weather. I'll appreciate feedback on what to expect while riding the Cascade range.
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Old 12-04-15, 05:30 PM
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Not any help here, but just saying hello and ask that you say high when you pass (or I pass). I'm planning on the same trip starting in Joshua Tree area in late April.
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Old 12-04-15, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
So -- what's the best way to figure out convenient stops at "reasonable intervals" (one pre-teen, one 6 yo in tow, so we'd plan on 30-40 mpd with a few zero days added for side trips. (We camp + the occasional roof)
The SC is exceedingly difficult so expect even shortish days to be hard compared to most other routes. Services can be pretty far apart, so it may be hard to do short days in many places. Not saying you can't do it, but I know that I was pretty much at my limit even packing very light. No way I could manage that route with young kids in tow. You may be fitter and tougher than I am/was.

Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Familiar with the ACA maps, but not with the info that they contain, and reviews are not always great. So we might rely on Google maps.
Reviews not great? I haven't heard anyone who actually used them really complain about them. If they go where you want to go they are great IMO. They contain a lot of information. You will be without a signal a lot so make sure you are not relying on a 3G connection for navigation. I'd suggest using the ACA maps and supplement them with google searches if you want. One exception is if you think you will wander far off of the ACA route since they are narrow strip maps. Another is if you want to take some easier options than the SC uses. It seems to always take the most difficult option.
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Old 12-04-15, 07:29 PM
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Facebook group Sierra Cascades Route

Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Yesterday at dinner, sensing some kind of "Europe fatigue" on the part of our pre-teen, I let slip "US West instead?". Received with considerable enthusiasm

So -- what's the best way to figure out convenient stops at "reasonable intervals" (one pre-teen, one 6 yo in tow, so we'd plan on 30-40 mpd with a few zero days added for side trips. (We camp + the occasional roof)

Familiar with the ACA maps, but not with the info that they contain, and reviews are not always great. So we might rely on Google maps.

We'll fly into LAX and ride north. Counting on 60 days. Probably returning from Seattle. Depending on what we learn in the meantime.

ps. we are used to such plans. we tend to learn as much as we can, and plan B, C, D etc. so we do not feel pressured if things turn out to be different from what we had anticipated.

ps2. not that familiar with the US West. During the past decade or so, we summered in parts of the world where we didn't really have to worry much about the weather. I'll appreciate feedback on what to expect while riding the Cascade range.

http://www.facebook.com/groups/SierraCascadesRoute/
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Old 12-04-15, 09:22 PM
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I wouldn't recommend the Sierra Cascades Route for anyone who wasn't in phenomenal physical condition. As Staehph1 mentions, services are far apart and the route is exceedingly difficult. The amount of climbing involved is extensive. It's epic, but more than likely too harsh for all but the most conditioned cyclist. The Oregon and Washington section is a bit easier than the Sierra's, but it's still tough.

There are other great ways to enjoy the US West and the Sierra Nevada's are worth seeing. Since you are in the initial planning stages, I'd encourage you to continue your research and see what you can figure out. The Pacific Coast is a much less rigorous trip, but the highway is also a bit busy and narrow at times. There's certainly other options such as a loop incorporating the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes or some other less rigorous route.

If I was planning a cycle tour on the west coast with a pre-teen, I'd plan a combination of activities. Maybe some backpacking of the Sierra Nevada's, bicycle touring of the San Juan Islands in Washington and some short trips in some other locales, and a stop to Six Flags amusement park and Disneyland in Anaheim.
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Old 12-04-15, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
snip . . .

Familiar with the ACA maps, but not with the info that they contain, and reviews are not always great. So we might rely on Google maps.

snip . . .

The ones I've used have all been first rate.
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Old 12-04-15, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
I wouldn't recommend the Sierra Cascades Route for anyone who wasn't in phenomenal physical condition. As Staehph1 mentions, services are far apart and the route is exceedingly difficult. The amount of climbing involved is extensive. It's epic, but more than likely too harsh for all but the most conditioned cyclist. The Oregon and Washington section is a bit easier than the Sierra's, but it's still tough.

There are other great ways to enjoy the US West and the Sierra Nevada's are worth seeing. Since you are in the initial planning stages, I'd encourage you to continue your research and see what you can figure out. The Pacific Coast is a much less rigorous trip, but the highway is also a bit busy and narrow at times. There's certainly other options such as a loop incorporating the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes or some other less rigorous route.

If I was planning a cycle tour on the west coast with a pre-teen, I'd plan a combination of activities. Maybe some backpacking of the Sierra Nevada's, bicycle touring of the San Juan Islands in Washington and some short trips in some other locales, and a stop to Six Flags amusement park and Disneyland in Anaheim.
mtnbud I have read many opinions about the fitness level needed for this route. Phenomenal physical condition sounds as though many will be screened out. Do you agree? I'm trying to gauge if I am up for it.
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Old 12-04-15, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
The ones I've used have all been first rate.
Looks like I might have offended some members of this community. I came across a comment/review (which I haven't noted and can't retrieve at the moment) saying that the routing was not always optimal. Wasn't so much about the maps per se, but about the choice of roads. I've also read that sections were redesigned a few years ago, to try an mitigate such issues.

---

The complete gpx tracks can be found here

Last edited by gauvins; 12-04-15 at 11:23 PM. Reason: found gpx
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Old 12-05-15, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
mtnbud I have read many opinions about the fitness level needed for this route. Phenomenal physical condition sounds as though many will be screened out. Do you agree? I'm trying to gauge if I am up for it.
PM sent - I'm certainly not meaning to discourage you out of your trip.
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Old 12-05-15, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
mtnbud I have read many opinions about the fitness level needed for this route. Phenomenal physical condition sounds as though many will be screened out. Do you agree? I'm trying to gauge if I am up for it.
I wasn't in phenomenal condition when I did the southern half, but was in pretty good shape. I was trail running daily at the time, but didn't have a lot of bike miles in. I was packing light, but not ultralight. I was riding with a stronger rider who was kind enough to carry the tent. I managed to do it, but found it very difficult.

One other thing to consider is that picking a time with decent weather when Tioga Pass is open can be very tricky. You will likely to have to deal with both heat and cold. We went pretty early in the season (early enough that no services were open in Yosemite except in the Valley) and still had 110+ F heat as well as cold some nights. We had 110 F and 32 F in the same 48 hour period. I love the cold but the heat was difficult for me.

The rewards are great too though you will ride through some amazingly beautiful country if you do this route.

I was especially concerned that the OP know what the route is like since he will have kids in tow. That is something I can't imagine myself doing even if I trained really hard.
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Old 12-05-15, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Looks like I might have offended some members of this community. I came across a comment/review (which I haven't noted and can't retrieve at the moment) saying that the routing was not always optimal. Wasn't so much about the maps per se, but about the choice of roads. I've also read that sections were redesigned a few years ago, to try an mitigate such issues.
I do sometimes second guess their choices of route and even deviate from it fairly often, but to be fair there really is no way that they can make everyone completely happy with their choices. Sections that I have heard others say they didn't like were often ones I thought were fine and ones I didn't care for were someone else's favorite.

The info on the maps is great IMO. So is the fact that I can just buy the map and start riding with pretty much no planning. Much of the time I don't or barely look at the maps (other that the elevation contours) before the trip and on the trip I usually look at the maps only a few days ahead.
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Old 12-05-15, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I wasn't in phenomenal condition when I did the southern half, but was in pretty good shape. I was trail running daily at the time, but didn't have a lot of bike miles in. I was packing light, but not ultralight. I was riding with a stronger rider who was kind enough to carry the tent. I managed to do it, but found it very difficult.

One other thing to consider is that picking a time with decent weather when Tioga Pass is open can be very tricky. You will likely to have to deal with both heat and cold. We went pretty early in the season (early enough that no services were open in Yosemite except in the Valley) and still had 110+ F heat as well as cold some nights. We had 110 F and 32 F in the same 48 hour period. I love the cold but the heat was difficult for me.

The rewards are great too though you will ride through some amazingly beautiful country if you do this route.

I was especially concerned that the OP know what the route is like since he will have kids in tow. That is something I can't imagine myself doing even if I trained really hard.
staehpj1:

Thank you for the feedback. I read some of your CGOAB posts to try and gauge some of the difficulty out West. I know you had some injuries that were not helping you on some of the riding in elevation, but it sounded as though it was still worth it. My thinking is if it is a normal season I'll be right behind the melting snow and hope I don't see anything approaching hot (110 degrees sounds really hot). Of course you are from Tallahassee so you know what that feels like!

I really want to be immersed in beautiful country and I cannot imagine a much better place to ride to be in it. It helps that I will be in Joshua Tree for the 3rd week in April too. Nice to launch from there to the southern part of the route, although at this point I do not think I will ride down the grade from JT towards Palm Springs, and back up that steep mountain to Big Bear Lake. Rather, maybe I'll skip that part of the route, stay down in the desert and head northwest (instead of due west) But I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I just don't think that would be a good first two days for this guy who at the time of this typing is probable about 20 feet above sea level.
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Old 12-05-15, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
My thinking is if it is a normal season I'll be right behind the melting snow and hope I don't see anything approaching hot (110 degrees sounds really hot). Of course you are from Tallahassee so you know what that feels like!
It will vary pretty widely each year but a July opening for Tioga Pass is not unusual. We started June 4th and still saw snow on the roadside that hadn't yet melted. There is probably a way to skip Tioga Pass if it isn't open, but I think it would require missing Tuolumne Meadows, which would be a shame. Just for calibration, I'll say that at the time I was a moderately fit 60 year old.

I do highly recommend the route to those up to the challenge. The scenery is pretty amazing.

The heat we experienced was probably unusual for that early in the season, but not unheard of.

This is one route that I do recommend carrying a water filter. There are a lot of cold mountain streams and cold water can be pretty great. There are also some very dry stretches and even one or more towns where there is no water available unless some kind local shares their bottled water. We would have been in bad shape if someone in Caliente had not given us 4 bottles.

BTW, I just moved to Tallahassee this year after living most of my life in Maryland.
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Old 12-05-15, 06:13 PM
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With the exception of Monitor Pass, Yosemite and points south have the hottest, steepest, most shadeless climbs on the route. There's a big difference between doing a 4000 ft. hill in hot barren semidesert versus the same climb through a pine forest along a mountain stream. If you start from the north, at least the hills are easier so you can ride into shape by the time you hit the really tough parts, and it's easier to bail out if need be by heading into the Central Valley and catching Amtrak.

Perhaps taking Amtrak from LAX to Yosemite and heading north from the Valley would work.

I've not seen the ACA maps, but I get the impression they miss some really nice campsites that are within a few miles of the route, such as hike and bike sites at Donner Lake and Grover Hot Springs.

It would be nice to head N along the Coast Route from LA to SF, then inland to the Sierra, but then that would involve hitting nasty headwinds the entire way to SF.
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Old 12-05-15, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Yesterday at dinner, sensing some kind of "Europe fatigue" on the part of our pre-teen, I let slip "US West instead?". Received with considerable enthusiasm

So -- what's the best way to figure out convenient stops at "reasonable intervals" (one pre-teen, one 6 yo in tow, so we'd plan on 30-40 mpd with a few zero days added for side trips. (We camp + the occasional roof)

Familiar with the ACA maps, but not with the info that they contain, and reviews are not always great. So we might rely on Google maps.

We'll fly into LAX and ride north. Counting on 60 days. Probably returning from Seattle. Depending on what we learn in the meantime.

ps. we are used to such plans. we tend to learn as much as we can, and plan B, C, D etc. so we do not feel pressured if things turn out to be different from what we had anticipated.

ps2. not that familiar with the US West. During the past decade or so, we summered in parts of the world where we didn't really have to worry much about the weather. I'll appreciate feedback on what to expect while riding the Cascade range.
You will need to worry about the weather. The first part of that trip is through the Mojave desert. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE the desert. It
WILL kill you. It takes most people a couple weeks to acclimate to the heat. I don't think this is a great idea for a family trip. The terrain and weather is brutal, and that route is in a sparsely populated area with few services. When you get into the mountains it can get very cold.

I agree with the other poster that suggested starting from the north and working your way down. IMO heading west from around Yosemite and coming south down the coastal range is a better idea than going through lancaster. Actually, going the whole way down the coastal range would work out better I suspect.

Also, just getting from LAX across Los Angeles by bicycle is going to be very difficult to do safely. Consider Burbank airport if possible.

Last edited by Salamandrine; 12-05-15 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 12-06-15, 02:28 AM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser View Post
With the exception of Monitor Pass, Yosemite and points south have the hottest, steepest, most shadeless climbs on the route. There's a big difference between doing a 4000 ft. hill in hot barren semidesert versus the same climb through a pine forest along a mountain stream. If you start from the north, at least the hills are easier so you can ride into shape by the time you hit the really tough parts, and it's easier to bail out if need be by heading into the Central Valley and catching Amtrak.

Perhaps taking Amtrak from LAX to Yosemite and heading north from the Valley would work.

I've not seen the ACA maps, but I get the impression they miss some really nice campsites that are within a few miles of the route, such as hike and bike sites at Donner Lake and Grover Hot Springs.

It would be nice to head N along the Coast Route from LA to SF, then inland to the Sierra, but then that would involve hitting nasty headwinds the entire way to SF.
Can you or anyone else recommend resources that would show the various hiker-biker sites?
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Old 12-06-15, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser View Post
I've not seen the ACA maps, but I get the impression they miss some really nice campsites that are within a few miles of the route, such as hike and bike sites at Donner Lake and Grover Hot Springs.
Not sure what they missed on this route, but will say this... they constantly maintain the addendum for each route and list additions and changes on them. So two things... First, mail, email, or call them where info is wrong or missing so they can put it in the addendum. Second, download the latest addendum to the map and take it with you. Maybe even log in once or twice during a long trip to check for new info.

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Old 12-06-15, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
Can you or anyone else recommend resources that would show the various hiker-biker sites?
Google Earth, look for campgrounds where you'd like to stay, and research them. You can call state parks to make certain they have the sites. Most fairgrounds also have campsites, such as the one in Quincy, CA.
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Old 12-06-15, 08:05 PM
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Good idea - thanks.
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