Sierra East Side Tour---June 2015
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Day one: Monday, June 8, 2015
Sweat pours from my skin only to instantly evaporate in the high, dry air that hardly moves. I grind upward, mostly moving at less than 4 mph. Behind me, the Owen’s Valley begins to bake, simmer, and boil, the first hot days of summer moving in. Vast, dry mountain walls shoulder massively into the blue sky, rising 10,000 feet above the valley floor. To the east, the White Mountains are, surprisingly, white, still shedding the gift of a heavy May storm, the mantle of snow quickly retreating up slope. My left hip aches, my feet burn, salty sweat stings my eyes. For some strange reason, I am happy. I grin through the discomfort, happy at my labors. The mighty Sierras are fringed in snow, the enormous pyramid of Mt. Tom dominating much of the view to the south. Up high to the north, our direction of travel, pinyon pines and volcanic boulders flank the nearly deserted road. Danny, my partner for this torture, is out of sight somewhere above.
We arrived in Bishop, Ca, mid-morning—too late for such a climb, but there you have it. We finally starting rolling at 10:20AM, reaching the base of the big climb at Noon sharp, the sun high and glaring down with full intensity. Now we are bound for Tom’s Place, maybe Mammoth. Given how this climb is kicking our asses, I’ll be happy with Tom’s. The mileage for the day won’t be impressive, but we’re hauling full loads, and the climb is a full 3,300 ft. On the way to the base of the giant climb, we come upon one of those weird denizens of the road, a solitary figure with a small, terrier-ish dog trotting along beside him. The man, on the other side of fifty at least, is hauling a heavy duty dolly with fat tires, the rig stacked high with fat duffle bags. He marches, head down, in the growing heat. I stop to ask him what is up. He answers in a heavy German accent.
“I am heading north. I have a message vom Got I need to share.”
I ask him if I can take his picture.
“No, I…no, I don’t tink dat would be a good idea.”
Alright then. Too bad. He was quite the character. Unwilling to hang around for the sermon, with a devil of a climb heating up, we roll on down the road.
In the heat of battle, I take a break and let Danny extend his lead. I’ve got to cool off and let my burning feet take a break. Hot climbs take it out of most body parts. I snap a couple of shots, the obligatory selfie, and saddle up for more hijinks. Shortly I join Danny, who’s standing in the shade of the only tree around. I join him amidst the scraggly branches of a pinyon pine really too small for a decent shade tree, but it offers some relief. After too many years of these games, I know well that mountains do not submit to idleness. Only a solid work ethic gets the job done, so back at it boys. Lunch down by the creek, okay?
We crack the false summit, plunge too quickly down to Rock Creek, and slip into some blessed shade by the water, the little creek chortling merrily across our naked feet. Not bad, mate, not bad. After lunch, more climbing. Near the top, I come up to Danny who’s standing bent over, his face looking not good. “Hey, man, what’s up?”
“Cramps,” he groans. The sun, heat and sweat are taking their toll. Danny throws some electrolyte powder into his water, chugs hard, and staggers painfully around the side of the road, trying to shake off the cramps. After some slow riding, we limp into Tom’s Place and cold drinks in the shade. Camping just above will be just fine, thank you, even with the $22 rip-off fee.
We make camp, procure adult malt beverage recovery drinks and all is fine. The early evening sun glows on the snowy mantle of the Whites, a cool breeze cuts through the pinyons, we joke and tell lies around the picnic table. It’s a good life if you can get it.
Day 2: Tues. June 9th:
After yesterday’s grinding 3,300 ft. of climbing, today comes down to less than 2,000 ft. and only 40 miles of perfect cycle touring—fat, generally smooth shoulders, building clouds shading the sun, rolling climbs and breezes in the Jeffery pines. I grin and whoop and holler and wish Jodi were here to dig this groove. Before noon, we roll into Lee Vining, showers, and camp.
As I type these words at almost 2:30pm, clouds are covering the sky—blessed cooling but leading to a 40% chance of showers tonight and 80% tomorrow. Things could get pretty interesting for the big climbs. Oh well. I’ve got rain gear, and it looks like I’ll need it. After tomorrow, odds for rain back way off for the monster climb over Monitor Pass. Then we get a rest day, which we will definitely need.
Some pics of the shizzle: : (