Long Lake, California

Lakes Basin is a tough place to ride a bike. Yes, the trails are steep and they are also rocky, as in boulders and ledges. It takes effort to ride up and down around here but the satisfaction is like none other. Kicking it like an enormous bear, Mt. Elwell sits prominently in the landscape among the lakes, ridges, and peaks. And there’s a trail running right over it…

The classic route involves ascending from the south and descending the north. I started at the Trailhead for Long Lake Trail and Smith Lake Trail near the Grayeagle Lodge. From there Long Lake Trail climbs up appropriately to Long Lake.

While I’d rather not disclose the precise number of times I got off my bike along Long Lake’s north shore, I will admit the approach wasn’t all riding.  At the southern end of the lake, the trail climbs a scree and boulder field.  At this point questions start forming. Soon enough, the scramble gets back to a ridable tread as the route gains a saddle at the base of Mt. Elwell proper.

The trail up yonder saddle

Climbing from the saddle is steep as all getout yet grindable to whatever your heart rate can deal with. At the top things get technical approaching and passing the summit block. The summit has a few remnants of an old lookout and a nice place for a snack on a pleasant day.

Top of the bear

Now things get exciting. The trail drops abruptly to the north from the summit area. Succumbing to gravity and finding or improvising lines through rocks and over ledges  seems to work well here. The section rides sporty and the violence feels more akin to sparring than cycling.

After this rowdy little downhill session, the pitch slacks a bit but the surface remains a mix of loose and solid. At the same time, speed picks up a bit as turns drift by and little fucked up sections amount to focus or die scenarios. Aside from crashing, destroying tires are a concern. Better be running heavy casings and high air pressure.