Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Flume Trail

Saturday morning ~

We got up around 8 and I went directly to my favorite spot:  the deck.  I can't explain it, but I just love that spot.  With a fruit smoothie and English muffin with almond butter, I was one happy camper.
So quiet and peaceful.
The view from the deck.  Doesn't get much better.
We eventually thew on our yoga pants, packed some snacks, and went down to the Tunnel Creek Cafe to rent bikes and get the journey going.  (We decided the night before that we wanted to bike the Flume Trail today -- and I was so excited for it I couldn't even sleep!)

Bike rentals to the right side of the building.
This was my first time on a mountain bike, and Shannon's second.  So needless to say, we were quite inexperienced in all things mountain biking.  But the young guy working was a good salesman, and assured us that if we were "somewhat fit" and worked out, we would be fine.  I was nervous.  Shannon was sold and kept telling me to stop acting like I'd never been on a bike before!

Map of the Flume Trail

Ready to go!  (I think.)

As soon as we got in to the parking lot, Shannon's phone fell out of her pocket and on to the cement.  And when she picked it up?  THIS:

I mean, at least it still worked.  But man, that sucks.  She had little shards of glass in her fingers every time she used it.  In hindsight, I'm pretty sure this was God's sign that we weren't equipped for that trail and to just give up...     Anyways, we made a couple quick phone calls to see when/where we could get it fixed, and then decided to just start heading up the mountain.

Oh wait - let me back up.  So there is a shuttle to one end of the trail that takes you up a little ways, and then you ride up on a nice fire road.  But the shuttle was another $10 and with a bunch of other people in an hour.  We're cheap and impatient, so the guy told us we could bike the trail backwards and start there and ride all the way up.  And by "all the way up" he failed to mention it was  gain of 1,500 feet in three miles of switchbacks through deep, soft sand.  

We should have known it was going to be rough when we literally couldn't even make it up the paved road right behind the building to catch the trail...

Walking already. 30 seconds in.  

The only way we could keep going was by taking breaks.  Lots of breaks.  

And with scenery like this, there was no complaining from me for those breaks! 

More pictures!

The Tunnel Creek Road literally never - NEVER - sloped even slightly down.  It was up, up and up for three solid miles.  I wanted to stab that guy at the bike shop in the neck.  For real.  I don't think we actually rode our bikes more than 2 minutes in the 2 hours it took us to get up that mountain.  We were just pushing and/or dragging them up with us.  Walking it alone was hard enough.

Long story short -- we kept plugging along (or up) and walked 90% of that *^%# trail.

We were this close  to giving up and we hadn't even  made it to the Flume trail head yet.  I kept saying, "it's just a little bit further!" , and "It's got to be just right around this next corner!"  That went on for, well, about an hour and a half, haha, so you can imagine the frustration.  We were hot, tired, sore, and had no idea where we were.

But eventually, we DID make it to the trail head at the "top" of the trail.  Needless to say, we threw our bikes down and took a long break before heading out again.

The view from that spot wasn't bad either...

Despite the numerous warning signs at the trail head, and one guy even stopping us and trying to talk us out of going (no joke) due to our inexperience and lack of helmets, we took off on our rented bikes, covered in dirt and sand.

The trail started out nice enough.  Not too hard, and views like this:

But that "nice enough" trail soon turned in to this:

Giant bolders on one side - at some spots so close to us that our shoulders brushed them - and a straight drop-off cliff on the other side.  Ummm...yikes.

But the views!!  I insisted we keep going, as they just kept getting better and better around every corner.

The trail was single track, so anytime someone else came along coming at us -- which happened a lot since we not so brilliantly decided to do the trail backwards and the harder way -- we had to find a spot with enough of a "shoulder" to get out of the way.  At one spot, we ran in to 4 nice older men out biking with all of their fancy, expensive equipment, and they offered to take some pictures for us.

And off we went again, along the narrow and at times, quite treacherous path.

At one spot, (or three, actually, now that I think about it) bolders had fallen and covered the track, so we had to try and figure out how to get ourselves and our bikes over those without falling down the side of the mountain.  That was fun.  (Not really.)

This is what you fall down if you hit a rock wrong, slide in the thick sand, or don't make it over the boulder:

Straight down with nothing to stop you.

We really kept a pretty decent pace going (for us) on the way out to Marlette Lake - or goal destination.  Shannon limited my stops for pictures taking, and we mostly just stopped for water and snack breaks.  

Oh, and that guy who told us to grab "a bottle of water"?  He's crazy.  We went through one bottle before we even made it up that awful 3 mile Tunnel Creek trail!

Anyways, after numerous attempts by Shannon to get me to turn around, I somehow convinced her that we needed to keep going, and we finally made it to Marlette Lake...which was quite disappointing, haha.  I mean, it's hard to beat Tahoe and the views along that trail, so when we rode up to this, I was like, "What?  This is it?"  Shannon could have killed me. ;)

We weren't there long at all.  Just a quick breather and then we turned around and headed back down the trail -- the way all the other riders were going.  

But this time around, Shannon let me stop for a lot more pictures. :)

The trail was just as hard going as it was coming, of course, and we had to push our bikes over numerous spots that were just too much (or too risky) for us newbies.

I mean, look at this trail (below)!  There's hardly enough room on the sand for the he bike tire without hitting the rocks!

But really, it was totally worth it to get to see my favorite lake from above.

When we got closer to the end, I felt this kind of picture was totally necessary and warranted after what we had just gone through.

Believe it or not, as bad as that first three miles were in Tunnel Creek Trail, they were almost (almost)  as bad going down!  Trying to control your speed and not hit any rocks in that thick sand was not easy feat, and our arms were so sore from gripping the handlebars so hard!  At least it was a wider path, but still, not fun.

One of the flatter parts of Tunnel Creek Trail
I've never been so happy to get off a mountain - and a mountain bike - as I was when we finally reached the rental shop.  And I marched right up to that guy who sold us the bikes and told him what I thought of him and the Flume Trail.  I was only partially kidding about it all, but when I realized how awful he felt, I told him I was just joking with him to make him feel better.  (But for the record, he should feel bad!  That was WAY harder than he let on!)

Getting a drink after we ditched the bikes at the bottom.

**Just for a little re-cap of why we are total idiots for not taking the shuttle, see below for a map of the Flume Trail.  Most people take the shuttle, which dropps you off up past the Spooner Lake Parking, and then you ride up to Marlette (the peak) on a nice, wide fire road, and then down (to the right).  We, however, brilliantly decided to start at Tunnel Creek Station (on the right) and rode aaalllll the way UP to Marlette...and then turned around and bike it back down.  Word to the wise, pay the $10 for the shuttle to take you to the other side.  For real.**

It didn't take us long to get out of there.  It took us over 5 hours to do that out and back, and we were past the point of hungry.  We were so far gone actually, that neither of us could decide what or where to eat.  I could hardly even sit up in the car I was so exhausted!  I think the let down from the constant adrenaline pumping and tense bike gripping did me in.  

Shannon eventually just whipped her car in to a little ice cream spot and we both slammed down some frozen yogurt.  That gave us each a little breathe of life and got us through the drive to Jason's Grill in Kings Beach, where we each enjoyed a big greasy hamburger.  Totally okay with that after the calories we had just burned biking for 5 hours.

Our view from our lunch spot at Jason's
We were totally feeling human again after lunch, and decided to walk along the beach (which was packed) and check out a little arts and crafts fair going on.

The only cool booth we were interested in was a lady who makes all kind of interesting things out of antique spoons!  I don't mean just rings or bracelets...she made vases and business card holders and everything!  Shannon and I settled on some cool rings.  I bought hers for her as her "Marlette Lake Push Gift" - haha - for pushing through and following me all the way to Marlette Lake when she really didn't want to. :)

(Her's has an F on it for her last time!  So cool!)

We found on more little shop across the street that we wanted to check out, and low and behold, I found the perfect Christmas Tree ornament in there.  A BIKE!  Such a good reminder for this trip!

As we were walking back to the car, I found one more shop I just had to peek in.  And of course I found one more hoodie that I really thought I needed.  I absolutely LOVE TahoeMade Attire and couldn't pass this super soft one up.  Turned out Shannon couldn't either!  (We got matching rings and matching hoodies in a span of about 30 minutes!)

                                                                     (The view from the shop.  Not a bad place to work!)

Before heading back to the house, we decided to stop by Radio Shack to see if they could A) Fix Shannon's phone and/or B) hook us up with a working wireless router.  They couldn't fix the phone, and the router they sold us didn't work.  So after a shower, it was back to the store we went (to return it) and then back to house to finally sit down and relax!

I couldn't stand the anticipation of the birthday gifts sitting on the counter, so Shannon let me open another one.  ANOTHER SCARF!  She knows me too well, haha.  I love love LOVE this one -- my colors and it has a MAP on it!  Scarves and maps = two of my favorites.  

Shannon wrapped both of my presents in BirchBox boxes...which was funny because that's what I got her for her birthday in February: a year long subscription to Birchbox!

We were both exhausted by 8pm, and neither of us wanted dinner, so we just went down to Sand Harbor and snuck out tot he edge of a boat launch dock to watch the sunset.  I was hoping for one of the amazing sunsets Tahoe gets once in awhile, but it was just average.  No clouds, but still pretty.  I never can figure out how yellow and orange can fade in to the blue so seamlessly... 

Since we didn't have a real dinner, we decided it was okay to eat chips while we laid in bed and chatted before falling asleep.  

And sleep we did.  Like a baby.

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