It was the most exciting newspaper story I’d read in a long time—a group of outdoor enthusiasts had gathered sufficient capital and government support to begin carving 600 miles of multi-use, single-track trails through the Lost Sierra.
To me, this was catnip.
I already had a friend connected to a dude ranch in the area. I’d also driven through years before and planned to come back. A friend and I quickly assembled a team, designed a route, and gathered the necessary gear.
Our plan was to travel by pavement to the town of Quincy, CA, about 90 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe. We’d then use asphalt, gravel, and dirt roads to visit the towns that make up the Lost Sierra.
Our goal was to follow routes set up by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, the group cutting all that single-track, as a way to experience their Connected Communities concept of bringing new life to old Lost Sierra towns.
We met at the Halfway House Cafe, north of Los Angeles, and fortified ourselves with carbs and coffee. Our destination was Bishop, CA, 250 miles north, but we weren’t in any hurry to get there.
Motorcycles & Gear
Along the way, we visited Vasquez Rocks, a stony outcropping familiar to anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Star Trek, F Troop or The A Team. We then stopped for cold drinks at the Mad Max-like Jawbone Canyon Store, which anyone who’s ever run a dirt bike, dune buggy, or side-by-side through the Jawbone, Dove Springs, or Wagon Wheel OHV areas knows.
But the highlight, which I was delighted to learn my three friends had never visited before, was the Reward Mine. Once a massive source of gold, silver, copper, and lead, worked from the 1870s until 1959, Reward is now a series of abandoned tunnels large enough to explore by motorcycle or Jeep. We rode deep into its creepy depths, photographing the graffiti-covered walls and trying not to think about things like earthquakes, floods, and bike breakdowns.
Making Plans in the Cold
We made Bishop by nightfall, and the following morning began with a chilly run to Quincy, altering our route away from mountain passes that had been closed that morning due to snow and ice. Everywhere were the signs of impending winter—aspens turning yellow and gold, a herd of sheep headed to lower pastures, and dustings of fresh powder on the peaks above us.