A few weeks ago, owner Shawn Wilson called me over and asked “Do you want to ride Tahoe next Thursday?”. So there I was at 5:30am on a Thursday morning, scrambling in my garage to find and extra tube and the match to my glove. I put my day pack on my back and swung my Camelbak around my belly, hopped on my saddle and pedaled in the dark over to the Mission Street shop. To my own surprise I was the first to arrive, questioning whether I should run over to the 24 hour Ferrells, but concluded that I didn’t want to keep riding around on a mountain bike in the dark with packs on my backside and frontside. Soon enough everyone arrived and we all gathered in excitement, as we were about to drive to Lake Tahoe, ride Mr.Toads Wild Ride, a trail only the boss-man had ridden before, and return to Santa Cruz all in one day. It was sure to be an adventure. We barely hit any traffic and arrived to the trailhead some time past 10am.
First we shuttled Armstrong and Corral. It was incredible! Armstrong was a glimpse into the rocky loose terrain we would later encounter on Toads, while Corral was full of berms and tabletops. The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship built Corral a few years ago and you can tell it was built by professionals- it is the perfect example of a sustainable, fun, and accessible trail. Bravo, SBTS!
After our second lap on Armstrong and Corral, we drove to the top of Armstrong and scrambled up the climb to Toads. The climb was about 8 miles long, and I think I dismounted more on the climb than I did on the descent due to lack of momentum. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire climb. It was flowy- no steep pitches. It was mostly in the shade, too!
Once at the top we were all excited and a bit antsy for the descent. I had heard so much about Toads beforehand- that it was difficult, that I might have to walk sections. It was like sailing through a gorgeous alpine paradise, with changes in terrain and habitat with every drop in elevation. I think I laughed and cheered the entire 6 miles down. I could not stop smiling. My teeth were caked in brown, high elevation dust. It was non-stop fun, and one of the best trails I’ve ever ridden. The first half was mostly rocky sections that never seemed to end. Nothing was extremely steep, just technical. We crossed through several meadows and breathtaking vistas. Unexpectedly, near the bottom it became very flowy and loose with long, wide turns, and a few staircases. I can’t express enough just how fun it was to ride such a long descent with so much variation in discipline.
We finished riding around 6pm and headed to the lake to jump in. Magically, a reggae concert was just starting on the beach. We sat in the water, letting the waves wash over us, and looked around at each other grinning. Without saying anything at all, we knew we had just shared a day in paradise.