It seems like California has skipped Spring and jumped right into Summer. I thought it would be fun to head into the High Sierra this weekend and see if any snow was left. Kaiser Pass just opened and it seemed like the route I was looking for. Kaiser Pass is east of Fresno on Highway 168, just past Huntington Lake. It quickly turns into a one-lane road that cuts through the granite that makes up most of the area. Besides a dirt road, this is exactly the kind of road the R1200GS wants to eat up. Potholes, roots and washed out sections are the norm, but it can be a great ride as long as you’re paying attention.
I saw on Huntington Lake’s Facebook page that it had snowed about a week ago. I was hoping that some of this snow would still be around, but sure enough, it was bone dry when I arrived. Every time I head east, the drought becomes more and more apparent. I camped at Huntington Lake last June and the water level was low. It looked even lower this time. Huntington Lake is at about 7,500 feet. While crossing California’s Central Valley, I went from 90 degree sunshine down to the low 60’s as I reached Huntington Lake. Ascending Kaiser Pass took me up to 9,175 feet. While at this point, a small amount of snow lingered only in the shadows, where the sun hasn’t been able to reach yet.
There are several small alpine lakes along this road. One of them is nestled beneath a massive granite wall with trees growing out of it. I fished at this lake last year and wanted to stop here because of how impressive it is. One of my favorite parts of heading into the Sierras is the cool mountain air and the smell of the trees. I have visited a family cabin in the Sierras near Yosemite every summer since I was in junior high school, so it always has a very nostalgic effect on me.
After I reached the lake, I decided to turn around and head back home. I saw a few cars, but for the most part it was just me, my bike and the quiet of the forest. I really enjoy riding by myself; it gives me the freedom to stop where I want and go in any direction I please. There was a lot more here that I would have liked to explore, including an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) area, but I am always a little reluctant to go too far off the main road when I’m on my own.
The ride back was long and I managed to get home just as the sun was setting. If you ride in California and haven’t been on Kaiser Pass, I’d highly recommend it. One day really wasn’t enough to explore all that’s up there, so I look forward to going back soon. The Yosemite valley gets really crowded in the summer, so this is a nice option with similar views but fewer people.