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Part two of the weekend that is taking longer to recount than it took in real life; or, I'm really tired of wildfire smoke

We awoke Sunday morning in Markleeville to a scene that has become all too familiar this summer. The hint of smoke I detected Saturday night was a full-on blanket of stinky gray haze. I'm assuming the smoke came from the Yosemite fire. We didn't want to do anything in that bad air, certainly not ride our bikes, so we loaded up the car and hit the road.

Markleeville in the smoke

Highway 4 stretches from 89, near the Nevada border, all the way to the Bay Area, where it meets I-80. For a while I've wondered what it would be like to drive it from end to end. And that's what we did.

Smoky Sierras

Having driven over Ebbets Pass, I now know that you Death Ride finishers are completely insane. And yet, I am intrigued, and am already wondering if I could handle it next year. Could I ride my bike 129 miles with 15,000 feet of climbing? The road up to Ebbets Pass was as twisty, steep and narrow as any I have ever seen in my life. Supposedly the grade is 25% in places. It rivals the roads winding through the French Alps that we watch, mesmerized, in helicopter shots during the Tour de France coverage every year. What amazing scenery! This is one of the things I love about California. Seriously, this stuff is just a few hours from home.

Near Ebbets Pass

After driving down from the pass, we stopped at Lake Alpine and hiked for a couple of hours. Note to self: buy some of that Bullfrog sunblock with mosquito repellent.

Hiking near Lake Alpine

Then I took a dip in the lake. That's something I inherited from my Grandma -- I never pass up an opportunity to swim, even just to flop around in a cool mountain lake and take photos of my feet.

We got lunch in Arnold and then headed the rest of the way down Highway 4. It trickled down through the foothills and the gold-rush towns and across the Central Valley. We drove through Stockton and wound around the levee roads in the delta.

From there the drive got decidedly less scenic, and by that time I was about ready to be done. I realized that I love living near the ocean, and I love visiting the mountains, but why does there have to be so much stuff between them? And then of course we hit the fog, and the temperature dropped about thirty degrees outside the car.

But you won't hear me complain. We drove from awe-inspiring mountaintops to the edge of the continent in just a few hours. I love living here.

July 29, 2008 5:20 PM


dooood, we were in the same area this past weekend, I went caving in Angels Camp/Murphy's - it was smoky but nothing like your pictures. BUT looking at your photos - Donner Lake Tri weekend was worse, if you can imagine. Unfortunately, the weekend after, Donner lake was clear - wonder why they couldnt ask the city of Truckee to extend pass to them to extend the dates... anyway, glad that you had a wonderful weekend away - I should write about caving... sadly no photos :(

PS i totally want to do the death ride now. :)