Going Just Because: Three Months of the Sierra Nevada
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
Every year fall rolls around and the itch hits me. I know the days of many of the high mountain passes throughout California’s Sierra Nevada mountains are numbered. If we’re lucky they’d be buried in feet of snow for almost half of the year. It turned out this year was yet another unlucky one, but still I feel that push to go and explore the roads in my favorite mountain range while I know I can…
Whether it’s a day trip or a week long venture. Rolling with a group of fourteen through Yosemite high country, or navigating the Southern Sierra backroads with only myself and my bike, I can say honestly that I have yet to be dissuaded from working these trips into my schedule whenever I possibly can. Sometimes it’s well planned out, with specific routes mapped out precisely for specific days. Coordinating groups of people weeks in advance. Other times it’s so last minute that I just start driving north with no idea of a destination.
Yet every crack-of-dawn (or earlier) alarm clock blast and following 2-5 hour drive up ends in a payoff that is unlike anything I get doing the local routes that I’ve done enough times to memorize every little bend and nuance. Don’t get me wrong, we’re pretty spoiled in LA, tucked between the Santa Monica Mountains, Verdugos, and San Gabriels, but there’s something about being somewhere unfamiliar… A place you don’t go by on your way to work every day.
These photos represent seven different trips to various parts of the Sierras over the course of three months during fall of 2014. Finding new routes or expanding on old ones. Turning down that side road that looked so inviting the last time to find out where it leads.
One particularly memorable day was riding down into Kings Canyon just on the edge of winter. With the road having just closed to cars for the season due to high rockfall risk during the cold months, I dropped down the long, steep road into the canyon surrounded by sheer rock walls in every direction before gently climbing alongside the Kings River deeper into canyon. Eventually the canyon opens up into an alpine meadow surrounded by granite cliffs that are only rivaled in Yosemite National Park. Now I was 60 miles deep into the mountains and 30 miles from any other human in my own personal national park, and kicking back in the historic Knapp’s cabin like I own the place.
These are the moments that make riding so unique and interesting to me, and what has kept me constantly seeking out new roads and trails beyond my local favorites.
Here are a few of my favorite routes from these trips: