Tahoe Meadows … Where It All Starts
The entire trip would start at Tahoe Meadows and end at the Heavenly Valley Village … more than 42 mils away. For this experience I was going to have Steve “The Wherewolf” Wolf as my guide. The majority of the ride was to take place on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
After leaving Denny’s, we got in the car and followed Steve’s Honda Element to the bottom of what he called Van Sickle. I was surprised when Steve pulled his bike out of his car.
Number one, I didn’t think that small looking car could hold any full sized bike without removing the front wheel … and second, the bike he pulled out was a 29 inch Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works! These bikes are made of carbon fiber and retail for about $8-$9,000. In addition, I noticed Steve had a hydraulic seat post, the latest innovation for mountain bikers.
Length: 41.7 miles
I guess I was a little amazed that a 63-year old guy with two knee replacements would be riding this type of bike. These would be just a couple of surprises Steve Wolf had in store for me that day.
- Below you will find a map for Tahoe Meadows.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
I tied his bike next to mine in the back of the Tundra and hit the road toward Mount Rose, where we were going to jump onto the Tahoe Rim Trail. Steve was riding shotgun with Cindy in the back seat. At this time Steve chose to share some other very interesting things about himself. He told us he was a professor at Stanislaus University (which I already knew) but that he was going to retire after the upcoming year (which I didn’t already know). Steve shared that he was extremely afraid of heights and had terrible balance. He also added that he doesn’t do switchbacks or any kind of drop. I can’t exactly remember everything he talked about because he just kept talking. Steve Wolf knows a lot of information about a lot of things. I listened and learned.
The Wherewolf knew exactly how to get to the Tahoe Meadows trailhead as he had ridden this part of Tahoe Rim Trail many times. Steve had wanted to start early since he knew we would see a lot of foot and bike traffic. This part of the Tahoe Rim Trail was very popular… and it was a Saturday. Even though Steve had warned me, I was still a little surprised at how many bikers were already at the trailhead by 7:30 … especially on a cold, overcast morning.
The breeze was chilling as we pushed open the Tundra’s doors and the sky was mostly gray with clouds. Steve and I immediately headed for the bathrooms while Cindy went over to read all the materials on the trailhead kiosk.
I was thankful there were some nice weather proof bathrooms at the trailhead since I had eaten and drank so much at the Denny’s. I normally just eat a bowl of multi-grain cereal before a ride, and I never drink coffee like I did that morning. Plus the completely enclosed stalls provided some warmth to my already freezing thighs and butt, clad only in my Lycra shorts.
As we got our packs on and prepped the bikes, Steve stopped, lifted up his jersey, and pointed to the skin just above his hip. He said, “See that lump?” I nodded as I looked upon a rectangular object lifting up from under his skin about the size of a cell phone battery. He continued, “This thing sends electronic stimuli to the lower part of my legs. If I should crash and you find me lying flat with my legs straight, make sure you turn the device off.”
I replied with an unsure “okay”… but then began to worry about being able to recognize whether he needed help… and then I began to wonder if that meant he would not be conscious during that time. Why wouldn’t he just tell me what to do when it was happening? I decided I would worry about that if and when the time came.
I gave Cindy my standard “goodbye” kiss and she gave me her standard “be careful” warning and we set off along the side of the meadow, following the Tahoe Rim Trail. Three small streams cut across Tahoe Meadows, converging into one larger creek down below. The Tahoe Rim Trail cuts across all three of these streams.
Steve stopped just a hundred yards or so down the trail, at the edge of one of these very small creeks, with stones the size of partially deflated footballs. As I cruised up beside him he said, “I usually walk across these streams, I don’t want to fall here at the start … I have seen people do endos trying to ride over them.” Then he added, “Why don’t you ride ahead, you probably can ride across them.” I did take that opportunity to go ahead, where I stayed until we came to some long climbs (I’ll talk more about that later).
Tahoe Rim Trail
Upon leaving the meadow the Tahoe Rim Trail took us up a small mountain. Following the small climb we spent the next few miles riding along the crests of several small hills, dropping and climbing a little where one hill connected to the next. This portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail was fast and fun, rising, falling, twisting, turning around trees and over rock. Forty miles of this … that would be heaven!
Since we were challenged with many tricky obstacles (and because there was very little steep uphill) I stayed ahead of Steve (later in the ride, during our 5-mile climb, he took the lead).
Lake Tahoe Below
As we rode on we started to get some glimpses of Lake Tahoe through the trees. Although still breathtaking, the lake did not look it’s usual picture-postcard bright blue as it did on my next two rides. On this day the water appeared as a dull gray, due mostly to the overcast skies.
At one point Steve asked me to stop so he could get a photo of me at a particular spot. He had always wanted to get a picture at this one particular spot so it would look like the rider would cruise down the Tahoe Rim Trail and go right off into the lake below. I let him take a photo of me there, but he wouldn’t allow me to get one of him. He didn’t want a photo of his backside to show up on the internet. After posing, I let him lead out down the trail … then snapped a photo.
I think we were coming down a steep set of switchbacks at the end of this stretch of the Tahoe Rim Trail when the Coach in me came out and I tried to help Steve with his struggles on switchbacks. He had adamantly declared he didn’t ride switchbacks, an absolute statement suggesting he never will. There are many parts to my riding I do not feel very confident about, but I consider my skills as always evolving, always in a state of flux. If I am having trouble with switchbacks, then I work on those skills. I watch others on film and in person, I ask for advice, and I look for suggestions in the forums. So I decided to give a few “coaching” suggestions to Steve.
29’er the Problem?
I think it was at this point that I began to mull over the idea that riding the 29’er might be at the root of some of Steve’s phobias. He had said he had terrible balance. Most riders I have asked have told me that loss of balance was one of the drawbacks of riding the 29’er (as opposed to the 26″ wheel most riders preferred). Getting through tight switchbacks was another challenge for most riders on a 29 inch bike (the larger wheels hard to get sharply turned due to their size). He had stated he did not ride over any drops. I couldn’t help but wonder if part of his reluctance might be the combined result of his fear of heights, exaggerated by the higher center of gravity riding on the taller bike.
I know I am wary looking at a steep drop from the top. I can imagine drops look much more threatening when you are 6’3″ tall and sitting on a bike that is 3″ taller.
Shortly after finishing the switchbacks we cruised into a clearing and found 5-6 young riders resting, eating, gulping exercise drinks, and laughing. Steve said this was where we would leave the Tahoe Rim Trail for a while. He made a right, and headed west down Tunnel Creek Road toward Lake Tahoe. Five minutes later we were on the world famous Flume Trail.
Click Tahoe Mountain Biking to see an overview of all the rides in this area.