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October Country (part 2)

posted Oct 31, 2015, 7:10 PM by Tony Burgess
What a difference a couple months can make.  Two and a half weeks off in September followed by 3 weeks off in October...

It may sound like a brag, but no, life still carries plenty of challenges even with plenty of time away from work.

Speaking of which, well, maybe save that for later.

Looking back to summer I realize my article on mountain biking was short sighted, since then I've ridden many more mountain bike trails that are incredible compared to the trails in and around the Town of Mammoth Lakes.  Secret single tracks?  You bet!  Plenty of public ones too.  Below are some of my new favorites, and I won't expose too much.

Like the next person, I like going online to find information on really good mountain bike trails.  The fat tire club in Mammoth has a pretty good menu, but then they fall short on some real area gems.   I can't blame them, it's hard enough to find the time to ride and then take plenty of pictures for a write up later -- that's real work!! 

For those that are looking the trails are there.  Some have been pioneered by dirt bikers and then forgotten about, others are just maintained quietly by area locals with thoughtful segments and connectors being worked on daily.  And before any forest advocates get their panties in a bunch on the notion of new trail building keep in mind that the 395 corridor is not just USFS lands.  It's also LADWP, BLM, and a bunch of private land in the mix.

Uptown trail all the way to the Minaret Vista with a return on the Mountain View trail and Downtown trail - 12 miles
85% single track
We were invited to challenge ourselves on an uphill MTB ride to the Main Lodge and indulge in a free breakfast buffet, European style.  (The bike park was closed, and the Euros know how to eat!)  Uptown Trail is tough but after doing the 5 miles in little over an hour it was a great idea to push ahead to the Minaret vista and ride Mountain View back.  Probably did 10 miles of single track, great stuff.

Lower Rock Creek - 5 miles
50% single track
This trail is all over the web for good reason.  The top couple miles are really fun and flow perfectly next to Rock Creek.  It's mostly all down hill so when you are done it is time to pedal back up.  We parked at the bottom and rode the pavement up for about 2+ miles, jumped on the trail and ended back at the truck - that's why it was only a 50% single track ride.

Convict Lake to Hilton Creek - 8 miles (one way, get dropped off)
44% single track
Start this ride at the Convict Lake store and buy some Guinness and chips.  I explained to my wife that Guinness is not just beer but nutritionally complete with minerals and body, like a breakfast burrito.  Take the only dirt road leading down from the resort and soon you'll be on some secret single track.  Don't go to far before you cross the paved road and a hidden cattle bridge followed by a couple more miles of flowing single track that ends near the Mt. Morrison cemetery.  From there work your way over to the Long Valley neighborhood with even more single track.  The final 3 miles are various dirt roads, we ducked some barbed wire and cut across a huge DWP pasture.

A word on cross country (aka off trail) mountain biking:  a Mammoth forest ranger told me I can ride anywhere I want - it's open forest for mountain bikes,  different than OHV.  He also mentioned that I can't build trail or improve things.  I've been noticing a lot of new trails, it's not that they are being built but rather rode over and over to the point of them burning in.  At what point does that become illegal?  I'll ask him the next time we cross paths.

Another thing you may notice is that these MTB trails can all be connected to one another with some creativity.  That's one of the things I miss with dirt biking in years past.  We've lost a lot of motorized connectivity.  But grab a mountain bike and all of a sudden you aren't riding illegally.  Refreshing.

And one last thing to know before I continue on.

All of these mentioned trails (above and below) I've ridden with a motor except for the Rock Creek trail.  Never had a desire to take a dirt bike down that trail because it has always been a mountain bike trail and I've respected that.  BLM lands offer plenty of motorized single track that is shared with other users, it's only the USFS (in Inyo) that restricts and/or closes motorized use on single tracks.  Although hardly of these single tracks made it past travel management they are multi use, if that makes sense.

Crowley Lake ball field single track network - 4 miles
75% single track
This stuff is great, you can find it near the baseball field down in Crowley, but you'll have to look.  Small loops and big loops, the dirt roads are optional but also good.  The one exception here is that it is very sunny and hot, sandy and loose.  Best times are during rain and morning freezes and the ground really sets up.  Single tracks are playful, up and down in elevation, and carve their way around some fantastic rock formations.  Make a wrong turn and you may end up at Tom's Place.  Bring cash.

McGee trail head to Hilton Creek trail head - 4 miles (one way)
75% single track
Part of this is old horse trail followed by trail runner's single track.  This trail has some obstacles so bikes will have to be carried once in a while.  Hint for finding it - get dropped off up at the McGee Creek trail head and ride down, looking for a turnout past the pack station.  Pick up the first segment over a moraine that drops quickly to the Nevabe Ridge avalanche run out zone.  Then there is a new solar well array for the BLM Crowley Lake campground, and that's where the next single track section climbs gradually across another moraine and down to Hilton Creek trail head.  If you sniff out some local single tracks leading to the Crowley Store, watch out for Hilton Creekers (MTB punks), they are known for bad trail etiquette, especially that big white furry one.

Mountain bike signage -- expect none at all just like how the Inyo used to be for motorized.  I was always under the opinion of just signing the bare minimum and let the public find routes for themselves.  With travel management things changed almost overnight with every last little bit of dirt route being signed.  We now have OHV loops that are turning into washboard and dust from overuse.  The roads less traveled are closed down, and even dead ends are signed.  So much for adventure!  At least on a MTB you are pretty much on your own, love that.

The Eastside becomes a paradise when there are multi-use single tracks connecting all the communities together.  And guess what?  We are slowly getting there but don't expect any sign posts.

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Latin Market "Taco Stand"  -- a review!

"That would set my asshole on fire..." a grizzled man explained with a nod to my plate.

Note to self: 

If this is the kind of idle chit chat I experience at the Latin Market salsa bar then a couple things must be evident.

1.  I must be fairly grizzled myself.
2.  The amount of grilled serranos on my plate just became a safety issue.

Here's the deal with the Latin Market, I've never had a bad meal there.  Anything negative resulting from the Latin Market was my own fault.  Like the one time I ordered a $7 chorizo burrito (that was as thick as my forearm) and I wolfed down many hot peppers, maybe a baker's dozen.  Later that night, while umping a softball game at Shady, my stomach did a double take and almost sent me sliding past home and into the restroom.  The lesson here is eat less peppers or at least spoon out the seeds.

Try the Latin Market for yourself.  If you arrive on two wheels it will feel like you have been transported  to a far-off Baja taco stand.  All their meats are fabulous and the biggest decision is taco(s) versus burrito.  With tacos you can spoon on all the salsas and condiments onto your plate which is a Styrofoam container with huge sides allowing you to turn tacos into a taco salad.  The savvy burrito owner will also see that the huge container can turn any burrito into a wet burrito.  It's a sucker's game to fill those thimble containers which barely allow a sample of the fresh salsas and condiments, plus you hold up the show for everyone else.

Last tip is to try the corn.  Arrive early as it sells out, and order it with everything.

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State of motorized dirt - 10 years too late

Now it's time to get to the dirt bike trails.  I actually did a lot of riding (while on holiday) and conducted my first unsolicited tour for a couple second home owners from Orange County.  Before we started I told them that they were 10 years too late, most of the prime motorized single tracks are now closed courtesy the Friends of the Inyo.  Don't get me wrong, it is still fun but I miss the trails.

As I mentioned earlier we have a lot of signs now and loops that visitors grind into a fine whooped out dusty horrorshow.  Some of the old favorite roads are now sporting UTV washboard.  If you spend enough time up here you can learn to avoid the mess, it isn't easy.

For my efforts I was treated to a tasty margarita (marg), burger, and a fat $50 tip!  Then it was back to Shady to catch the end of the Joe Stapp memorial soccer tourney.  And in case anyone is wondering, the high trail to the Woah Nellie Deli has been fenced off.  This is good to know for those looking for food or for the way over to the Log Cabin Gold mine high above Lee Vining.  Take the 395 or cross over to the Mono Lake side for dirt access.

The Mammoth ranger in charge of OHV told me that the Geothermal single track is being looked at very closely and will likely open soon.  He thought it was a nice twist of fate that the forest paid so much to have it closed, and now it will likely cost more to re-open.

I told him that the MammothMC would be available for a work party, because that's the kind of trail work we need around here.  I've said it before, the geothermal single track is a local asset, you could call it a crown jewel.  Last time I rode it I'd say it was 7-8 miles long with something for all abilities.

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Reno comps and GSR

We have received so many comps to the Grand Sierra this fall that I wouldn't be surprised if a property tax bill gets mailed out by the end of October.  They have the best free rooms, no strings attached. 

Inyo and Mono county residents are well taken care of if you sign up for their player's club card -- the GSR likes our California zip codes, must be the affluent demographics.  Ask for a free upgrade to the 25th floor, you won't regret it.

Sign up at the casino, looked for an online link but found nothing.

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Mono Lake elbow

"How do you have tennis elbow if you don't play tennis?"  It was a good question the roofer asked me.  He was hired to help me shingle a shed after I couldn't swing the framing hammer anymore.

Well, it's kind of a long story...

I told him about getting thrown around for miles in deep sand that buffers Mono Lake.  Golden State Cycle sold me a brand new pizza cutter tire for my expedition to Hawthorne, NV.  Never have I had such a wild ride and ended up sideways in a large Great Basin Sage.  After white elbowing it for several miles the tendons started giving out.

"You have Mono Lake elbow", he said and was rather pleased with his diagnosis.

"That's right!" At least I could still cut starter courses, "Ready for another?"

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The worst is saved for last, going to the top?

Growing up in Los Angeles I saw it all, and experienced the horrors of population density through close friends.  You name it, no stone was left untouched.

The force that drove me out of that hell hole was incredibly strong.  Small town community is the safe alternative and anyone can make it happen.  Little did I know. 

So mid September 2015, I learn that Joe "Walking Dead" had a brief stint of groping our daughter while she practiced Mammoth Middle School cross country skiing.  It happened a few times (Joe as volunteer coach) and she would hit him with her ski poles, the last time she apparently gouged him pretty good and he stopped.  Soon after he's serving time in jail and another prominent doctor commits suicide. 

Worst stuff.

Told my brother, he replied:  "We could go fuck him up."

And while that sounds just fine, it also could end up badly.  You've seen the movies -- ultra violence, lives ripped asunder, for what?

Instead keep an eye on old Joe, but if you want to caress his behind in the gondi, do it with tenderness and match his smile with a knowing gaze.