Dust off those legs and hit the road … to Big Meadow
The road to Big Meadow is paved with bodies of 40-year-old mountain bikers. Most of them are still alive, but wheezing, having not realized that a) it doesn’t matter how expensive your bike is, it’s still a helluva climb, or b) they aren’t 25 any more.
It’s mid-June and that’s where we are as the snow in the high country around the Lake Tahoe Basin finally starts to clear, and the bikes – even the $2,000 bikes – have been taken off the hook in the garage and given a healthy once over with Tri-Flow. It seems no matter how many miles you do in “spin class,” you’re legs aren’t ready until you do a few full runs on Big Meadow, or the Flume Trail or Corral Loop, etc.
After two rides up to the meadow … at least a couple thousand feet of vertical gain with a rare patch of flat … my legs are finally talking to me again. They’re still in their snowboarding mode (my left thigh and right calf are in great shape), and upset by the change of season. In December after a few runs at Heavenly, they’ll be upset again. Temperamental legs!
Over two weeks time, the trail running high above the basin from the Cold Creek trailhead off Pioneer Trail, to Star Lake and the base of Freel Peak has improved markedly. Deep ruts that were filled with water and still soggy with snowmelt runoff have dried. And Forest Service trucks have driven over them a bunch and flattened them out.
The patches of snow that previously prevented a final run up to Star Lake have melted enough to be bicycle passable. Yet, even on Sunday there was not another soul out, at least not that high up the trail. And by this weekend, it would be surprising to see much snow on the trail … but of course we’re up for a summer storm pretty soon.
I half expected the trails to be decimated – including the portion near the meadow that runs under the power lines – by the extreme rain we had at the end of winter. Although clearly damaged in some places, the roads, and even the single-track areas, are surprisingly healthy. In some areas, including the single-track running along Cold Creek, some trail work has been done (thanks), and some still needs to be done to clear fallen logs and washed out track. But all-in-all, you can still blaze down the trail without worrying about suddenly being pitched off a five-foot cliff.
With all the snow in the high country, the creek is raging, and the areas you could cross on your bike at this time last year are too swift this year. There are log bridges adjacent to the crossings – sometimes difficult to navigate in cleats while carrying a bike, but preferable to a whitewater ride.
The soil is fairly compact, but won’t last long as summer invites more riders, so Big Meadow is worth getting to now, before half of it is a sand pit, and the 40-year-old bodies become a nuisance … by mid-July your legs will thank you.