Monday, August 08, 2011

Stretching It Out

Yesterday I completed my longest ride of the year so far in Tahoe at 30 miles. It had been many years since I used the traditional Flume Ride route, so I decided to give it a go. However, that ride would only get me about 21 miles, so I added a bit to it.

I started with the short but fun trail right across the street from the condo and then used various roads to climb up through Incline Village, eventually popping out on Highway 431. After four miles of climbing I turned onto the Trail With No Name.

This is the trail I spoke of in a previous post that is definitely an old flume. It is quickly becoming one of my favorites, although it appears on no map. I have scoured many maps and it doesn't seem to exist. When I first found this trail many years ago it was overgrown and about 25 trees had fallen across it. At one point there was a closed gate with a no trespassing sign. It took me about two hours to traverse the six miles. I marked it off my list.

Fast forward to this summer and I gave it another try. I'm glad I did, because it's an incredible trail. Someone has put a lot of love into it, and I am grateful. Until I figure out what the name is, I'll call it the Diamond Peak Flume.

Towards the beginning of the Diamond Peak Flume. Unfortunately this picture doesn't adequately capture all the colors I saw in person. (Click to enlarge.)

As is typical of most flume trails I have been on, there is little elevation change. Occasional deviations from the original route of the flume are evident, and in these places there are some climbs and descents.

A mistake on this sketchy, off-camber downhill corner would send you cartwheeling down the mountain.

The last time I rode the trail my arms and knuckles took a beating from the trees and shrubs. This time I wore long sleeves and full-fingered gloves and came out fine.

Chairlift down to the Diamond Peak ski area.

The trail ends about halfway up the Tunnel Creek climb, which is nice; you avoid the steep and sandy part at the bottom which isn't that enjoyable.

After finishing off the Tunnel Creek climb, you descend down a steep, loose hill made up of equal parts deep sand and chunky rocks. I didn't like it when I first did it in 1985 and I don't like it now.

After getting that out of the way, the Red House Flume starts. It includes both wide road and singletrack, and varies from OK to boring.

Red House Flume trail. I hopped over about 10 downed trees.

At the end of the Red House Flume you cross a dam and then the tough climb up Sunflower Hill starts.

Franktown Creek crossing. It's not that high or narrow, but I still don't like crossing it very much.

In 1985 my friends and I did the Great Flume Race. Up to that point I had experienced some extended climbing in a couple races, but nothing as steep as Sunflower Hill and not at high elevation. It hurt in 1985 and it still hurts now.

Taken from halfway up the climb where the flowers fade away and the forest begins. Again, the picture doesn't do justice to the scene.

The climb tops out overlooking Marlette Lake at about 8300 feet. Marlette Lake itself sits at 7800 feet and Lake Tahoe at 6200 feet. The three elevation differences make for a unique view.

Marlette Lake with Lake Tahoe in the background.

As I bombed down the hill I took a drink of water and realized my 100-ounce Camelbak had run dry a little over two-thirds of the way through the ride. Luckily all that was left was flat trail and a downhill to finish it off.

After descending down to lake level, you circle around Marlette toward the Flume Trail.

The west side of Marlette Lake.

Once on the Flume Trail it's clear why the trail is so famous and popular. Although it is relatively flat and straight, the view is simply spectacular.

Sand Harbor.

About halfway through the Flume Trail my legs started cramping. I put away the camera and got down to business. Without water, stopping all the time for photo opportunities would only make it worse.

Flume Trail

I fought through the cramps and finished off the Flume. The descent down Tunnel Creek was fun as always, and I especially enjoyed passing a number of guys on full suspension bikes.

I was glad I did the old Flume Ride. So many places along the route trigger powerful memories from years gone by, and it's great to relive them. Still, there are much better routes in the area, so I think it will be a few years before I do it again.


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