I secretly hoped that the presumed National Forest Ranger (or, at least, some salaried government employee) in his pickup truck with, supposed, air condition and a cold drink in the middle console cupholder would stop and ask me if I wanted a ride.

I was about six and a half hours from my starting point in Tahoe National Forest, on a seven-mile-climb on Bear Valley Road in 100-degree temperatures, fully exposed to the saddle at 6,500 feet. As I had hoped, he slowly and respectfully passed me with so much effort as applying slight pressure to the gas pedal of his truck. Before long, he had disappeared around a corner further up the road. I guess I just had to do this myself.

This overnight adventure started at Hobart Mills, a former settlement and sight of a lumber mill in the early 20th century, about five miles north of Truckee. The first roughly eight miles were spent on the easy-flowing and well-maintained Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail, running from Tahoe Donner Campground to Stampede Reservoir, winding through sagebrush and pine forest.

I could have lingered at the reservoir for a while, the liquid expanse with a couple of boats puttering along on its surface, exuding a calm and serene atmosphere.

I moved along its eastern shore before disappearing into the forest again, cruising through Sardine and Jones Valley. Badenough Canyon Road first took me up to 6,500 feet before taking me back down to about 5,200 feet via a very rocky and rough dirt road that made me wish for a full-suspension mountain bike (as opposed to my Trek gravel bike).

The climb up Bear Valley Road was arduous, and the descent on the other side towards Sierraville was bumpy and plain hell for arms, wrists, and triceps. Old Truckee Road, running parallel to Hwy 89, brought me back onto pavement and into Sierraville, where I enjoyed the amenities (as well as a shower, a bed, and great food at adjacent Philosophers Cafe) at Sierra Hot Springs, just outside of town.

Early mornings are for climbing. After breakfast at The Farmhouse, an eleven-mile trek to 7,700 feet on wide and well-groomed National Forest Road #15 needed to be tackled. The shade from the 100-foot-tall pine trees and the cooler temperatures in the early morning made this less arduous of an endeavor than I had feared. Still, it took me over two hours until I reached the ridge, eagerly anticipating the downhill on the other side.

Past Webber Lake, I moved east on Henness Pass Road, finally encountering other outdoor enthusiasts, mostly on ATVs, with their RVs parked in dirt lots next to the road.

I skirted past Independence Lake before some rolling hills, and a final descent on Old Fibreboard Road brought me back to the starting point.

I am a big fan of the high alpine scenery in the Sierra Nevada and in particular around Lake Tahoe. Therefor I was on the lookout for another overnighter backpacking trip in the area, ideally on surface conditions suitable for gravel bikes.

I found a route on Ride With GPS, which I researched a bit more and annotated with possible camping and food options and points of interest.

I started the ride at Hobart Mills Trailhead, with parking available close by. The starting point is about five miles north of Truckee, just off Hwy 89.

If staying in Truckee for an extended period of time, starting the ride in Truckee itself is logistically also fairly straight forward.

When doing this ride in early season, finding refill options along the way should be no problem. I carried three 30oz cycling water bottles and was able to refill (after filtering/treating the water source) on a regular basis.

On day two, be sure to fill up in Sierraville before leaving town, since the next convenient option to refill isn’t until Webber Lake or shortly thereafter from Little Truckee River.

My choice to ride this on a gravel bike with 45c tires was overall appropriate. The descents on the first day on Badenough Canyon Road and Cottonwood Creek Road were overly rocky and bumpy and a hardtail mountain bike would have been ideal there. Looking at the full route though, a gravel bike with wider tires seems generally the right option.

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