Oh, the weather outside is frightful and, as of this writing, the Sierra Nevada is currently experiencing blizzard conditions, which helps explain why the snowpack throughout California is 160% of average. Don’t get me wrong, California needs this precipitation badly, so I’m not complaining, but this weather has definitely put a damper on riding outdoors lately, which is why I’m circling back to a sunnier time in the Sierras in the hopes that sharing a past two-wheeled adventure will get you excited to do some summertime explorations in a zone that is currently buried in feet of snow. So sit back by the fireplace, grab some popcorn, let it snow or rain, and dig into the tale of the Connected Communities Trail Project and enjoy the video that captured my adventure.
Greg Williams is the Johnny Appleseed of the Lost Sierra, a mythical frontiersman who has spent the majority of his life “planting” seeds of trail advocacy and spreading visions of communities linked together by rocky ribbons of dirt. As a lifetime Lost Sierra resident, founder of the Sierra Buttes Trails Stewardship, curator and wizard of the Downieville Classic bike race for the past 25 years or so, father of two, and the main visionary behind the Connected Communities Trail Project, it goes without saying that Greg’s legacy will positively impact these communities forever. What is this project? The Connected Communities Trail is a collective effort spearheaded by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship to link together fifteen Sierra Valley towns via existing dirt roads and trails in the hopes that ecotourism will be the new Gold Rush to help buoy their struggling economies. When it is complete, this trail network will span more than 400 miles, linking towns like Chester and Susanville in the north to Portola and Truckee in the south.
I’m not sure who’s Redford and who’s Newman, but I can tell you that my adventure partner has had a few monikers over the years but currently goes by The Trail Whisperer, or his god given name, Kurt Gensheimer. Like Butch and the Sundance Kid, we’ve shared many colorful adventures over the past decade, on steel and carbon two-wheeled steeds, and as mighty as he is on the single speed, his pen speaks louder than his pedal strokes. He’s also a historian, a geologist, a drummer, and a bloodhound when it comes to finding forgotten historical routes and hidden logging and mining trails in the Sierra Valley, a high alpine region spanning hundreds of miles north of Truckee,CA.
What makes the Sierra Valley special? Well, for one thing, it’s the largest valley above five thousand feet in North America and before settlers arrived it was home to thousands of Northern Maidu and Washoe Indians who thrived due to ideal hunting grounds, an abundance of oak, fir, and pine trees, plenty of water, and a temperate climate. It’s also got hundreds of miles of relatively empty dirt roads and singletrack, which make it the perfect place to explore by bike. Our four-day Sierra sojourn took us from Verdi, NV, to Taylorsville and back, not once riding the same road, and only scratched the surface of the adventure potential that this connected trail system represents.
One of Greg Williams’ goals with the Lost Sierra Connected Communities project is to “support severely disadvantaged communities through recreation based economic growth, and to have a trail system that connects to Main Street.”
Our two-wheeled adventure through this remote and pristine region of the Sierra Valley helped fill our hearts with an experience that encompassed all aspects of being connected: physically, geographically, spiritually, emotionally, economically, and socially. One of Greg Williams’ goals with the Lost Sierra Connected Communities project is to “support severely disadvantaged communities through recreation based economic growth, and to have a trail system that connects to Main Street.” Our four day journey was an embodiment of this vision, which saw us connect with local businesses like the Drifter’s Table in Loyalton and The Adventure Outpost in Portola or with friends we hadn’t seen since the pandemic, a testament to the impact that a project like this can have on the fifteen towns that will eventually be linked together by this world-class, multi-use trail system. You know what folks? Thar’s gravel gold in them thar hills, so get out there and start exploring!