I’m back from my spectacular tour that took me south to Big Sur and east to Lake Tahoe! It was a beautiful adventure. Every morning, I woke up early and set an intention for myself – like self acceptance, recognizing fear, and gratitude for the journey.
Some highlights were seeing dolphins in the ocean, the breathtaking views on southbound Hwy 1 after Carmel, and running into a black bear in Tahoe.
It was tough, but it was awesome. Hope you enjoy my notes and photos!
A few things changed from my gear pic. What I didn’t bring: flip flops, Platypus gravity filter, cable for bike locking, hair powder, chamois cream. What I added: tights, extra t-shirt, and homemade trail mix. The U-Lock was the single heaviest item I had to carry, and it ended up in my hip pack holster for most of the ride. Food also ended up being like sandbags in my panniers.
I was pretty happy with the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent. It was roomy for one, but not freestanding and a little difficult to tension the guy lines correctly sometimes. My Mountain Hardwear Lamina 20 sleeping bag was pretty heavy at 2 lbs 15 oz, but it was just the right size. I was grateful for the synthetic material which kept me warm despite condensation from the temp drop at Andrew Molera State Park. For a pillow, I’d fill the compression sack with my clothes. Underneath, I used the Thermarest Prolite XS pad from shoulder to hip. It was super light and super small…pretty nifty!
As for technology, I brought one emergency battery for my smartphone, a point-and-shoot digital camera with one extra battery, and a Krebs Cycle paper map and some good old-fashioned handwritten turn-by-turn directions. When I got to a service zone, I would pre-cache map areas and map route guides by starring “My Places.” Then, I’d go Airplane Mode and selectively turn on GPS.
Itinerary and route notes
Day 1 – Big Basin Redwoods State Park – 72 miles
S Butano Fire Road was 10.1 miles of steep uphill gravel road. I hiked almost all of it, pushing my skinny road wheels along. Thankfully, Big Basin Hwy was the smoothest and most beautiful 9 mile downhill I ever saw!
Day 2 – Big Basin Redwoods State Park – Berry Creek Falls Hike
Day 3 – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park – 20 miles
Stop in Felton, CA for supplies. Enter from Graham Hill Road. Hike to the lookout tower. It’s worth it! Lots of families and kids at this site.
Day 4 – Santa Cruz (rest day) – 5 miles
The Buttery has amazing vegetarian sandwiches and outdoor seating. It’s really close to an enormous Whole Foods where you can stock up on those bourgeois raw snacks.
Day 5 – Santa Cruz to Big Sur – 72 miles
The road to Monterey/Carmel was tough because of strong headwinds and unreasonably steep smalltown grades. Once I pushed through to Hwy 1, it was ocean views and smooth sailing. Andrew Molera State Park was an awesome campsite – can’t wait to go back there again and try the hike to the ocean!
Day 6 – Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park – Pine Ridge Trail Hike
Here, I checked out some of the terrain on the way to Sykes Hot Springs. I turned around when I got too hot and ran out of water, but definitely need to go back and spend an extra day or two backpacking up the mountain.
Day 7 – MST to San Jose, Amtrak to Sacramento
MST operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day with bike racks on the front. It is relatively reliable and makes additional stops that are not listed on the website. It’s fancy, but expensive!
Day 8 – Grass Valley – 64 miles
Hardest ride of the whole trip – steep urban uphills, hot unrelenting sun, shared roads with 18 wheelers, and incessant smoke from wildfires. Annie Horan’s Bed & Breakfast was beautiful and fabulous. I took a bath, rinsed my clothes off, and got a good night’s sleep and hearty breakfast!
Day 9 – Indian Springs Campground – 35 miles
The last portion of I-80 was supposed to bikeable but there was no shoulder due to construction. Scary! This was a whole day of uphill with almost no plateaus or downhills. Tons of road-sharing with trucks and big cars. Indian Springs Campground does not have hiker-biker camping. I will probably camp in the National Forest next time around.
Day 10 – Lake Tahoe – 40 miles
Easy end to a big trip. Wilderness hikes, pebble beaches, and deep blue lake await!
I ate a mostly raw food diet of nuts and dried fruits, which I supplemented with some restaurant and grocery store meals. Occasionally, I’d carry a fresh fruit with me or stop for some yogurt to eat with my açai granola. The high fiber, high protein diet did really well for my stomach!
If I go on a non-solo trip, I will probably carry some cooking gear. For one person, though, I felt it simply wasn’t worth the weight of a stove, fuel, and pot.
On Going Solo
One is never alone. Although I ventured out by myself, I made some rad friends and shared campsites with some cool people along the way.
Shoutouts to backpackers Arturo, Andy, and Dave at Big Basin – Tomas and the L.A. couple at Andrew Molera – Bernie, the French Canadians, Patrick, Peter, Danon and Reuben at Big Sur – Jeannine and Harvey in Grass Valley – and all my friends who met me at Santa Cruz and Lake Tahoe.