There were no signs for the Stanford Rock Loop … none.
We had a great night’s sleep in our 1968 Terry travel trailer and pulled out of Camp Richardson ready to hit the trail. I was going to do a trail called Stanford Rock and Cindy was going to visit some historic site in Tahoe City, then hike along the Truckee River.
Biking and Hiking
Length: 14.2 miles
We were following the directions given to me by a rider I met at the top of Armstrong Pass. He had said to go up Ward Creek Road a mile or so (from highway 89) and the trailhead would be on the left.
The first problem we had was finding Ward Creek Road. My map showed that Ward Creek Road was supposed to be quite large and come before Tahoe City and right after the Tahoe State Recreational Area. We drove up and down Highway 89 three times before we decided there was no sign. As it turned out, we should have looked for PINELAND painted on a 20 foot high, 3 foot square mass of wood standing next to the highway. We (almost) could have spotted that sign from our trailer in Camp Richardson!
The next chore was to locate the trailhead. The first prospect was just a widening of the shoulder on the left side of Ward Creek Road. I slowed, but when we saw no kiosk (or any other type of sign) I headed farther up the road. We also figured there would have been some parked cars if it was, indeed, a trailhead.
The Tundra crept farther up the road where we found a couple of other possible trailhead locations marked by other shoulder widenings … but none of those spots had anything that looked like a sign, either. After another half mile of searching we decided to go back to the original spot because it was the closest to the correct distance and was also the widest pullout.
After parking the Tundra I began to walk toward the thick brush that obviously lined a creek or river … most likely … Ward Creek. Just as I ventured into a green tunnel of vegetation a huge dog appeared at the other end. I could tell this dog didn’t like me as it was barking, snarling, and showing its large fangs. I froze, and just stared. I knew if I turned and ran I would most likely not make it back into the truck before losing a chunk of my riding shorts and, more importantly, what was under them. My oldest daughter, Nicole, would have just walked up to the animal and petted it … but I don’t think I share her lion tamer genes. So I just stood and stared … and the dog continued to bark, but did not advance.
After what seemed like and hour (probably only a minute, or maybe 30 seconds) a very attractive young lady appeared next to the beast. With a couple of words she calmed the animal and told me I was safe to come. I advanced slowly and was surprised to find she was correct. The dog followed her back toward the running water and paid me no more attention.
When I reached the water I was astounded to find another girl that looked exactly like the first one … so I said, “You guys must be twins, right?” The one who had led the dog back said, “No, but we are sisters.”
I then asked them if the Stanford Rock Trail was anywhere around there. They told me yes, that it was just on the other side, through the brush lining the opposite side of the creek. One of them added, “Just ride across those boards and then go up the bank. I looked at the boards and where they led and still had a few doubts. I said, “Are you sure?” recollecting how many times I’d lost a trail near fishing creeks because there always seemed to be a million paths leading to water.” The other one said, “Oh sure, we hiked up there a ways this morning.”
I figured the girls must have lived in PINELAND, for I saw no vehicle of any type. So, I took their word on the trail. I went back and told Cindy I was going to try riding here and if I didn’t return in 5 minutes then;
- I had ended up dead, or
- I had actually found the trail.
In either case, don’t come looking for me.
The map below shows all the parts to this 14.2 mile mountain bike and hike on Stanford Rock and Twin Peaks.
Please enjoy this interactive trail map. Click the icons for information on land-marks, both general and personal to this ride on the Stanford Rock Loop. The car icon marks the trailhead.
I am not sure anyone rode across the boards that were laying there. As a matter of fact, a thought flashed through my brain that these girls were hanging around to see me attempt to do it.
If I was about 20 years younger (or just stupid) I might have tried to impress them. Now … I just walked on the boards.
The Stanford Rock Trail did begin after climbing out of the creek bed, and it was a beautiful trail at that. Mostly straight and slightly inclined, the trail passed through a thick forest. After a mile or so the trail got steeper and the trees thinned a little, allowing glimpses of the bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe. It passed through a couple of grassy meadows, where I found the contrast of the light brown grasses and the dark green trees lining them quite pleasing. The trail never was extremely inclined, but I had to walk some of the steeper parts due to loose patches of rock.
About 4 miles on the Stanford Rock Trail I came upon two young guys just getting on their bikes at a clearing in front of a 4 foot high boulder.
As I greeted them I jumped up on the boulder and was astonished by the view. I looked off at several towering alpine peaks and asked the guys which one was Stanford Rock. They chuckled, and then one of them said, “You are standing on it.” In shock and also quite embarrassed, I said, “What! I haven’t ridden far enough yet to be here!” Then one of them said, “Maybe you just lost track of time.” I had the feeling the comment was directed at my age, senility? I thought of a Jackson Browne song verse where he sings, “And the veterans … dream of the fight, fast asleep at the traffic light …”
The young guys wished me well and I started to mess with my Contour video camera, trying to figure out why it suddenly shut off and would not restart (which it never did).
I took my last glimpse of Twin Peaks (where I would be heading next) and was getting on my bike when another rider came up from where I’d come. He told me he was from the north end of the lake and hadn’t ridden this trail in a few years. A local! So I asked him if he could tell me some of the best trails up there (as I had only sampled rides on the east, south, and west). He told me he liked to ride around Brockway Summit.
He also said many of the best trails in Tahoe were blocked by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). (The PCT runs from Canada to Mexico and allows NO BIKES). He said the best mountain biking in the northwest part of Tahoe was on the PCT.
I told him I had crisscrossed a lot of prime PCT trail in San Diego County and never have seen anyone using it … no hikers, no backpackers, and no horses. I informed him I had always respected the NO BIKING signs, even though the rule seemed stupid. He said the Tahoe area PCT gets a lot of traffic in the summer so his buddies rode it during the off season.
When I asked him if I could take his photo to put in the website he hesitated, but said, “Yes.” When I asked if I could put his name on my site he hesitated again, then said, “Ya, my name is Paco.” I thought it odd for a guy with reddish-brown hair, and white “Irish” skin to be named Paco, but I asked no more questions.
Paco said the remainder of the Stanford Rock Loop was quite rocky and rough, but he was looking forward to the ride because he was now on a fully suspended bike (the last time he had been on a hardtail). Paco headed out while I was still trying to get my Contour video camera to turn on. I had hardly used it yet it acted like the battery was dead.
I left Stanford Rock and shot down to the trail junction which lay in the saddle just below. The signpost said “T.R.T. Ward Canyon” … right turn, and “T.R.T. Twin Peaks” straight ahead. I went straight.
The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is a 163 mile path that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, with most of it open to biking. As the name indicates, this incredible trail weaves its way through the tallest mountains that surround the lake. I had already ridden major parts of the trail on my previous two treks earlier in the week (see Tahoe Meadows and Stagecoach).
My plan was to ride the TRT until it intersected the Pacific Crest Trail. There I would have to stop (since no bikes were allowed on the PCT). Despite a little bit of climbing and some pretty rocky patches I made quick work of the trail as it skirted the shoulder of Twin Peaks.
Suddenly the dreaded NO BIKES sign appeared on the side of the trail. I took out my map, which showed the TRT and the PCT meeting right about where I was, so I turned around and rode back the way I’d come, looking for the PCT. I figured it must have joined the TRT and I hadn’t noticed (daydreaming?) But after a quarter mile of backtracking I still saw no PCT junction … so, I turned around and rode back to the sign.
I had no problem obeying the sign as it put me right at the base of Twin Peaks. I hid my bike in some trees and headed up the mountain.
At times like that I am so glad I had purchased Lake mx 165 biking shoes. Although somewhat heavier that other brands, these shoes have a thick vibram sole, just like a hiking boot. Most cyclists would laugh at me wanting these shoes. But many times I have been biking and then came across something I would like to hike to, like a waterfall, cave, or mountaintop … like I had standing right above me. I could hardly wait to be at the top, looking in all directions.
Please click Twin Peaks to read about the second part of this trip.