Paradise Lost – Tahoe Riding

A magical kingdom on the edge of a great blue lake, Tahoe riding was the culmination of dreamy views swirled together in a cocktail of almost unreal flow that surpassed my wildest expectations of the perfect ride. The initial climb up the Tunnel Creek Road to reach the Flume Trail made a horrible first impression with shuttled riders flying down the 3 mile fire road climb often flirting with an almost Killington Ski Area on Presidents’ Day feeling where the hoards blend together in a steady stream of out of control overworked New Yorkers letting loose on a party weekend. With the strong sun sending my Garmin to read 118 F in the direct rays, struggling to keep spinning in the deep sand, and pedaling against the tide, those first 45 minutes were so discouraging, I almost gave up the ride. Once at the junction of the Flume Trail, the crowds disappeared and the awe inspiring view took hold with a burst of energy.


View from the Flume Trail


Feeling exhausted from driving 8 hours and the trip in general, I pedaled Flume out and back instead of looping around to the meadows. At mile 12, the fun factor of rolling the perfect flow without the rocks and roots of trails back east left me with legs to spare for another 10 miles, so I crossed Tunnel Creek and headed north on Incline Flume. A bit more woodsy, cooler, and winding through the pines, Incline Flume crossed the Diamond Peak Ski area before meeting up with one of the most fun downhills of the ride, the Tyrolean DH Trail.

Diamond Peak Ski Area

Being on a hardtail, the idea of a “DH Trail” might have raised enough skepticism or pucker factor to discourage me from even giving the trail a go, but the magic of Tahoe erased those trepidations that come with age and instead sent me flying down like a fearless teen. The black diamond rating and DH labeling on Trailforks were misnomers in the sense of technical requirements for what turn out to be a trail without surprises as continuous fast flow and berms guided outlined  the route right down to the lake without any pucker factor. Elsewhere in the country, the Tyrolean Trail would be a solid intermediate trail with the difficulty arising only from maintaining control at speed. Between the views on Flume, the alpine feel of Incline Flume, and the smile inducing flow of Tyrolean, my little Tahoe adventure satisfied a longing for picture perfect cross country.

While I was on an adventure in paradise, Nici explored Incline Village looking for scenic views and of course a beach opportunity. To her dismay, the Incline Village waterfront was a hodge podge of private beaches for residents, private beaches for resort guests, and private beeches for those who require an even more private beach. Driving around the lake to South Tahoe City unfortunately offered little improvement of finding a nice quiet secluded spot on the water as beach after beach was either private or closed due to capacity restrictions. Traffic jams of expensive sports cars and outrageously priced homes define the waterfront landscape with South Tahoe epitomizing honky tonk through an offering of burger joints, fast food culture, and casinos.

Driving over the Rose Mountain Pass and looking down at Lake Tahoe is as impressive as entering most national parks including the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake. Protecting the natural wonders of the lake and developing a waterfront befitting in grandeur was sadly a lost opportunity buried under greed and entitlement. For future adventures in Tahoe, I will simply plan my ride and when finished head back to the lodge, hotel, or campsite. Tahoe is truly Paradise Lost and a tragic lesson in the importance of preserving our natural wonders for future generations.

Ancient Pines

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