Grousefest brings family-friendly trail building, campouts and epic rides to Sierra
For many avid mountain bicyclists, Grouse Ridge Non-Motorized Area of Tahoe National Forest, a 30-minute drive from downtown Nevada City, is the closest thing locals can get to riding in the wilderness.
“Riding in Grouse is rugged, requiring great strength, technical skill or cheerful hike-a-biking. It’s slow motion and its own reward, offering great beauty,” said Jane Ragan, Secretary of Bicyclists of Nevada County (BONC).
This weekend, Ragan will join other trail lovers from all backgrounds for BONC’s Fourth Annual Grousefest — a Celebration of Backcountry Trails and Trail Building, four days packed with family-friendly trail work, mountain campouts and epic rides.
The festival will be held at the Lindsey Lake Campground from Friday through Monday.
Some of the Sierra Nevada trails Ragan and her peers ride in the Grouse Ridge Area are nothing more than watercourses, mining paths and logging roads.
“They’re old, straight up and straight down pioneer tracks or logging skids, silting pristine streams and lakes. That’s what we’re replacing bit by bit with hand-built trail to maintain the primitive character of the place and at the same time enhance its environmental sustainability, ameliorating rather than increasing the human impact,” said Ragan.
It’s these primitive routes with iconic views that are a draw for cyclists, hikers and equestrians who see this quiet area for its great potential to become a world-class recreation destination.
“We feel that trail users of all types have barely scratched the surface of what is possible at Grouse, and we’re leading the effort to bring awareness to its beauty and majesty,” said BONC President Jamiel Fox.
With the rise in popularity of Enduro style riding — hike-a-bikes, slow climbs and technical descents — volunteers from BONC have worked for several years to improve what they view as a premier riding destination — the trail systems along the Interstate 80 and Highway 20 corridors.
“Grouse features all the beauty of Downieville, Tahoe and other high country experiences in our region, with rugged backcountry endeavors that take the outdoor enthusiast to a level of isolation that is at once accessible, and totally cut off,” said Fox.
Since 1993, the nonprofit group has worked in Nevada County and in the coming year has plans to gain a more visible presence with movie nights, beer tastings, and more, said Fox.
“We had an excellent turnout last month during our Upper Pioneer Trail workday. We are very excited with the increasing participation level,” said Fox.
BONC’s relationship with Tahoe National Forest dates back more than a decade, and the group regularly collaborates with forest personnel to achieve common goals for trails in an effort to make the Grouse area a safer, more engaging playground for all trail users.
“For the weekend, our priority is rehabbing Crooked Lakes Trail from Penner Lake to Island Lake. The current trail offers stunning beauty but the trail tread is mostly rock with some areas that are barely passable on foot or horse let alone bike. Our goal will be to take a two-mile stretch of very difficult trail and convert it to an advanced level trail while maintaining the Grouse feel,” said BONC Past President Jon Pritchett.
This weekend, camping at Lindsey Lake is free for all work volunteers. Bringing food to share is encouraged, as campers will eat communally, potluck style. Trail tools will be provided. Long pants and work boots are recommended. Bring plenty of water.
Folks can arrive anytime on Friday. A casual five-mile night ride, requiring headlamps will start at 7 p.m. up to Bullpen Lake Trail, around Loney Meadows and back to camp.
On Saturday, work crews will depart from the campground promptly at 9 a.m. in 4-Wheel Drive vehicles. Volunteers will add water drainage features to the existing Bowman Mountain Trail. The steep trail will be converted to a series of graded switchbacks. Teams will return to camp by 5 p.m. for dinner, drinks and fireside trail stories late into the night.
On Sunday, festival-goers can choose between finishing trail work or taking off for a backcountry ride. Both start promptly at 9 a.m. It is important to arrive on time for morning events. Participants will travel as a group on private lands, passing through several locked gates. Latecomers will be locked out. Plan for a 75-minute drive from Nevada City.
“Many folks come and go throughout the weekend, so those with Saturday commitments can come out Saturday night and join the fun for Sunday,” said Pritchett.
At 9 a.m. on Monday, cyclists will take part in a four-to-eight-hour backcountry group epic ride covering advanced terrain. Riders can choose from an advanced or leisurely ride.
Grousefest is for more than mountain bicyclists, say organizers. All trail lovers are invited.
“The backcountry doesn’t grow trails. They are built with sweat and muscle. Come put your personal stamp on a beautiful piece of handcrafted backcountry trail and leave Grouse a better place,” said Pritchett.