Tag: sierras

California Love: Holy Hail on Monitor Pass

California Love: Holy Hail on Monitor Pass

If at any point we thought the rain we’d run into on the Sonora Pass was going to be the toughest part of our day, we had another thing coming.

Heading towards Monitor Pass

We watched the lightning striking and listened to the rumble of thunder echo between the peaks of the hills towards Monitor Pass. Was this payback for us skirting around the rain a few days prior? Was it finally time to cash in our rain chips?

The higher we climbed the more threatening the clouds became. We stopped at a pullout on CA 89 weighing our options. I asked two guys who had come down the pass what the conditions were like further up the road.

One of the guys said the road was covered in hail but if we stuck to the tire tracks that were already on the road, we should be fine. He sounded pretty easy going about the whole thing so we opted to continue up. How can you not trust a guy who rides attached to a poodle?

Poodleman near Monitor Pass

As we were about to pull away, a pickup truck stopped to tell us the road was covered in ice. ::sigh:: Maybe we’re just a bunch of idiots, but we kept moving forward.

Up up and away

I proceeded cautiously. Again it was difficult to tell if the fresh shiny black pavement was just wet or if it was icy. That is until the potential hazards became obvious.

hail on Monitor pass

Riding through the hail was just as poodleman had suggested. We stuck to the open tracks and were just fine. There was no sensation of the road being anything other than wet.

wipeout on monitor pass

Apparently one of these guys didn’t do as well though. He came through before there were any tracks to ride in and wiped out. Some other riders were helping him get his bike back together to head down towards 395.

golden fields on monitor pass

The rain and lightning seemed to hang stalled over CA 4. Sadly this was one of the routes I really wanted to ride. Taking stock of the situation, we’d been served several warnings that maybe we would be pushing our luck by heading into the brunt of this storm. With one more aggressive crack of thunder and a few bolts of lightning it became clear that was time to err on the side of caution.

With the afternoon light burning and a storm that we couldn’t shake we decided to make tracks for Lake Tahoe to get a room for the night. It was the smart thing to do. CA 4 would have to wait.

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California Love: Rain on the Sonora Pass

California Love: Rain on the Sonora Pass

Hot, cold, hot, cold… that summed up the weather on our trip up to this point. As we rode higher up into the mountains on CA 108, heading towards the beautiful Sonora Pass we would finally press our luck with the rain.


View Larger Map

I pulled over on a straightaway in a valley area to snap a quick photo. While stopped, several other riders stopped to let us know that it was raining and slightly icy at the summit of the pass ahead. With an elevation of over 9,600 feet it was really no surprise. We could see in the distance that the rain was gathering over the mountains where we were headed.

Looking towards the Sonora Pass

As we milled around on the side of the road donning our rain gear another bike came down from the mountain and sputtered to a stop. We asked him if he needed help but he said he was okay. The wobbly rider had taken a spill up on the pass. He was fine and his bike ultimately came back to life and away he went.

Though we’d been warned twice, we decided to move forward anyway. Cautiously.

The Sonora Pass Sign

It was hard to really tell if parts of the road were wet or if they were icy. If those other riders had never mentioned the word “ice” it probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I just kept telling myself to go slow and steady. Even though the conditions weren’t ideal, I still wanted to appreciate the experience of riding such a fantastic road.

As we made our way over the crest of the pass, the rain began to let up. But, we had other hazards to contend with. Cows. Of course.

Cows on CA 108

As we dipped into the valley on the eastern side of CA 108, it was such a relief to see some sunshine and dry roads. We hooked into 395 and headed north, stopping for a bite to eat at Walker Burger in Coleville. We sat in the shady garden outside eating our burgers.

Walker Burger in Coleville California

The wind began to really pick up. A wall of ferocious looking clouds were hot on our heels again. It seemed like the rain wasn’t done with us yet.

Rain was coming for us

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