Crossing The Sierra Via Sherman Pass
June 7th --Leaving our home in Exeter at 5 am, we arrived at the start of our tour - Nine Mile Canyon road / Highway 395 - at 8:30 am, thanks to our son John who was on his way to Arizona and gave us a ride to here. After unloading our bikes and gear we assembled same and posed for the obligatory photos before bidding John adeau.
Our plan was to cycle home - a distance of about 150 miles - taking about six leisurely days. Our original idea was to camp the first night at Kennedy Meadows, then near Sherman Pass, then on Lloyd Mdws. road, next at Peppermint campground, and lastly Coy Flat campground. This would give us a distance of about 25 miles each day - last one being slightly longer - with plenty of time to enjoy being in the Sierras. Due to unexpected weather conditions, we actually did the trip in three days! This shows the value of careful planning!
As we began our ride up Nine Mile Canyon, through high desert, the road gradually steepened, until it became quite steep as we reached a more Sierra like area at Chimney Peak fire station. After leaving the fire station at the ten mile point we stopped for a quick lunch beside the road before continuing on towards Kennedy Meadows fourteen miles ahead. From this point on, we were riding through the burnt forests caused by the McNally fire of 2002 . Near Kennedy Mdws. we came across some interesting sights. Finally ariving at Kennedy Meadows store, we stopped for a drink and bite to eat as well as for a rest break. While here we talked with several PCT hikers held up by this year's heavy snowpack. Many were restarting their hikes from Canada because of less snow, and walking south to finish at Kennedy, while some had decided to continue north in spite of deep snow and dangerous river crossings. I don't envy them!
Finally leaving the store we rode on towards Kennedy Mdws. campground, passing many fire safe areas enroute. We found a site that had good hammock hanging trees available and made camp at around eight pm. After a quick supper we climbed into our Hennessy hammocks for a blissful, although rather chilly, night's sleep. Today's ride had been a lot harder than expected!
June 9th -- Arising early this morning, we ate a quick breakfast and packed our panniers, to begin another day of climbing. Today's ride (as planned) would take us to Bonita Mdws. at about 8500 ft. where we intended to camp. Shortly passing Kennedy Mdws. store we crossed the south fork Kern river, running much fuller then expected. After leaving the river we began climbing in earnest through increasingly scenic areas, passing several good camping places. About thirteen miles from Kennedy Mdws. we arrived at a four way junction - Blackrock station to our right, Beach Mdw. ahead, and Sherman Pass to the left. Due to snow, all routes except the way we came were closed to auto traffic.
After a short detour to Blackrock station for water we headed towards Sherman Pass, sixteen miles ahead. On the way to the pass we met a pair of rangers checking on replanting the area devastated by the McNally fire. Also, many logging trucks clearing out fire damaged trees passed by. Soon arriving at the turnoff to Bonita Mdws. we were forced to reconsider our camping options as it was becoming quite cold due to close proximity of snow. We decided to continue on, hoping to find a warmer campsite on the other side of Sherman Pass. After a bit we found ourselves riding through more and more snow, soon getting quite a bit of snow melt slush. Just before the pass, I saw a very large mama bear sitting under a tree calling her cubs down to her. Topping the pass we noticed that the weather seemed to be deteriorating, so we decided to head for a lower elevation campsite.
Leaving the pass, the first couple of miles remained very slushy, leading to rapid brake wear. As we dropped in elevation we got back into more fire damage although new growth is beginning to show up. Arriving at 5800 ft.we came to a closed gate which we had to crawl under - lifting our unloaded bikes over first. At this point the Big Mdws. road leads into some beautiful backpacking and mountain biking country. Continuing on, we soon arrived at the Kern River where we started climbing again. Soon passing South Fork Falls, we climbed steeply on, soon arriving at Durrwood Lodge where I had a flat - naturally since we still had miles to go to camp and it was almost dark. Luckily the owner was a very nice guy and volunteered his electric pump, saving much time. He also refilled our water bottles with his own spring water - delicious!
After fixing my flat, we rode on to Lloyd Mdws. road ( after a short side trip into Johnsondale for info. on campsites ) where we camped at camp 1. This camp is down a very steep, rutted, rough road that we walked about a half mile on to arrive at very pleasant campsites. Setting up our hammocks in the dark, I crawled in immediately, too tired to eat.
June 10th - Arising early, we ate a large breakfast and slowly packed our gear. Climbing up the steep dirt camp road wasn't easy but at least it was short. On pavement again we retraced our route back to the main road where we turned towards the Western Divide Highway seven miles away. Climbing steadily, sometimes steeply, we passed views of Johnsondale to our left. Soon arriving at the Western Divide Highway we turned onto it and started our final climb to Ponderosa Lodge thirteen miles ahead where climbing ended for good. From here to Ponderosa is one of my favorite rides, being not too steep, very quiet, the beautiful scenery, and little traffic. About two miles from Ponderosa we passed Dome Rock on our right. Arriving at the lodge we ate an excellent meal before heading down to Pierpoint Springs. When we left Ponderosa the weather, which was threatening, finnaly inundated us! For the next ten miles the rain never let up! We couldn't see more than fifteen ft. in front of us, the road was very slippery, gravel and dirt washed down the road under us, and it was quite foggy! On the way down my brakes gave out completely, and Llona's almost as much - a scary ride.
Luckily arriving at Pierpoint Springs safely, we were able to get a ride down to Springville with a wonderful woman, since my brakes would no longer stop me. Springville is 3700 ft. lower than Pierpoint Springs and a very steep ride - impossible for my bike without new brake pads! Arriving at Springville we unloaded our bikes from the Good Samaritans car, thanked her again, and road home to Exeter - thirty two flat miles away - ending a very memorable tour.