Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I'm home from my "consolation ride" up to Tioga Pass, which is the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, last Saturday. Pictures are at: http://www.pbase.com/davewyman/tioga_pass

My wife Kathy and I spent the evening in June Lake at the Oh! Ridge campground with several friends from our UCLA Sierra Club days. I left Saturday morning on my bike ahead of everyone else, and rode the mostly downhill 14 miles north, to the town of Lee Vining - it was a good warm-up. Highway 395 offered a wide paved shoulder, and I was able to ignore the occassional passing traffic and concentrate on the riding and the spectacular views of the High Sierra to the west.

I made a left turn onto Highway 120, and began the 12 mile climb to the entrance station at Tioga Pass. As I made my way toward the towering peaks, the road seemed to dip - but my inclinometer indicated a 1-2% grade! I tried coasting - and rolled slowly to a stop. Somehow, the massive mountains must have helped create an optical illusion that I was headed downhill.

The views opened as I ascended Lee Vining Canyon, and the road was decorated on both sides with vivid displays of wildflowers. I danced on the knife edge between aerobic and anerobic exercise until I caught up with Allen and Margina, a married couple from Bishop, the resort town about 60 miles south of Lee Vining. They were riding at a much more relaxed pace, and I fell in happily with them. Suddenly the ride was much easier and I enjoyed hearing "local" stories from my new friends how have hiked and skied and biked extensively along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. We stopped a few times for pictures, with the backdrop of Lee Vining Canyon fa below us as the awesome backdrop.

We rounded a bend and the grade, which had pushed 8% much of the way, suddenly eased, and we cruised past a few artificially dammed lakes, before making a final easy climb to the pass. From there, it was another dozen miles or so to Tuloumne Meadow. It was all downhill and I hardly had time to enjoy the scenery - Mt. Dana to the south, more wildflowers, small alpine lakes, foaming creeks, and the pines - before reaching our campground.

The ride wasn't the Climb to Kaiser, which I'd been pointing toward. But the 32 miles and 3000+ feet of climbing, most of it above 7000 feet, was a worthy challange.

It was time to rest from bike riding for the next few days. When we returned to Tioga Pass and made the descent back into Lee Vining Canyon, I drove our car and my bike was comfortably ensconced on the hitch rack.

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