Big Sur

Photo Credit: Cindy Steele

Photo Credit: Cindy Steele
Photo Credit: Cindy Steele

Big Sur is a spectacular coastal region from Malpaso Creek to San Carpoforo Creek in California. The area is accessed via the Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) which was completed in 1937. Known for the bluffs and beaches, there are many recreational opportunities in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range which lies just inland. The region sees over four million visitors annually. The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, approved in 1986, protects the region from excessive development. Sixty percent of Big Sur is publicly or privately owned by agencies who will not allow development.

If looking for a hike, the region includes Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Limekiln State Park, US Forest Service Pfeiffer Beach, Garrapata State Park, Point Sur State Historic Park & Point Sur Lightstation, Los Padres National Forest, and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Once, I spent New Year’s Eve on the Pine Ridge Trail in Los Padres National Forest with a friend visiting from Oregon. It was a rather warm and dry winter. The hike was a popular route near Sykes Hot Springs. One of my favorite trail memories is that we each packed in a bottle of champagne to celebrate the new year. After a long day hiking, we posted up in our sleeping bags next to a long and bottoms up! We each fell asleep quickly after finishing our drinks, surely before midnight. After all, it was probably getting dark around four o’clock. Even though we had set up our tent, we spent the night on the forest floor. One of my least favorite trail memories is that the next morning, I woke up with a palm sized millipede snoozing on my belly. That was likely the most exciting way I ever have and ever will wake up on the first of the year. I was lucky to have experienced this trail, as it is currently closed indefinitely, and may have to be realigned before it can reopen. The cause of the closure was the Soberanes Fire in 2016 followed by the landslides of 2017.

The Soberanes Fire of 2016 burned 132,127-acres. There was one casualty, a bulldozer driver named Robert Regan. 68 structures were destroyed in the fire. The cause of the fire has been identified as an unattended illegal wildfire in Garrapata State Park. At the time, it was the most expensive fire to suppress in the country.

In May of 2017, Mud Creek Mountain slid onto the Pacific Coast Highway, leaving over one million tons of dirt and rocks on the road. The highway was closed for months.

After these natural disasters affected the area, and shortly after the highway was reopened, I met a friend from Los Angeles to spend the weekend camping in Big Sur. We enjoyed a moderate hike in the hills and a day at the beach. Our campsite at Big Sur Campground and Cabins was in a shady spot adjacent to Big Sur River. I have enjoyed all of my time at Big Sur and look forward to returning, hopefully one day being able to explore the Los Padres National Forest once again.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!


Running Around Lake Tahoe

Photo Credit: Lefrak Photography
Photo Credit: Lumos & Associates, Inc.

I have run on a variety of teams as well as individually since I was in Middle School. In High School, I ran short-distance track in the spring and cross country in the fall (to stay in shape for track in the spring). Portland to Coast was my first experience on a long-distance relay in 2010, which was the “High School Challenge” version of the Hood to Coast race. Since living in the Reno/Tahoe area, I have had a few opportunities to run around the lake including the Reno Tahoe Odyssey and the Emerald Bay Trail Run.

The Reno Tahoe Odyssey is a 178-mile race that loops from Reno, around the west side of Lake Tahoe, and back. Typical teams have 12 runners which spend up to thirty hours in two vans to complete the race. Each van (of six runners) takes three turns completing their legs of the race over the course of the weekend. I have participated in this event four times, running once in the first van and otherwise in the second van (leg 12). The route passes through Reno, Truckee, Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe, Genoa, Carson City, and Virginia City. The course is primarily along roadside shoulders, with some shared-use paths.

As the anchor-leg runner, my legs were from Tahoe City to Homewood, from Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Station to Topsy Lane in Carson City, and from Bartley Regional Park to Idlewild Park in Reno. As runner twelve, my first leg is my favorite. Leg 12 is primarily on the Truckee River Bike Trail, off the road. This run is usually in the late afternoon/evening, and in years past I have seen the sun set over Lake Tahoe as I ran into Homewood. Leg 24 is typically in the middle of the night. For this, I have made a light-up tutu to stay safe on the narrow shoulder. Leg 36 is the last leg, usually in the heat of the day, through developed parts of Reno. During this leg, I am primarily running on sidewalks. Though tough, the neighborhoods will provide refreshing blasts from their hoses or squirt guns. In total, runner 12 runs less than most, but about 15 miles in total. Other runners may run over 20 miles.

Another race that I have participated in at Lake Tahoe is the Emerald Bay Trail Run 10K. This event starts at Eagle Point Campground and ends at D.L. Bliss State Park. The race course starts up a paved road and veers off quickly and sharply to a dirt trail. The rest of the race is on a dirt single track trail that overlooks Lake Tahoe. The course ends on the beach with refreshments. This was my first 10K race, which I finished slower than most but it was a great day.

D.L. Bliss State Park is a great place for a picnic and a hike as well. With two beaches and three trails, visitors can spend the day sunbathing or wandering. Lester Beach and Calawee Cove are good beaches. Rubicon Trail, Lighthouse Trail, and Balancing Rock Trail are good places to go walking. There are also rocks that you can swim out to for a sunbathe or a jump. If you want to bring your furry friend along, you will have to stay in the campground and picnic areas, and away from the beaches and trails.

Other races around the lake include Truckee Running Festival, Squaw Valley Half Marathon, Run to Squaw 8 Miler, Burton Creek Trail Run, Run to the Beach, Big Chief 50K, Truckee Half Marathon and 5K, Marlette 50K and 10 Miler, XTERRA Lake Tahoe 5K and 10K, Lederhosen 5K, and Great Trail Race 30K by Tahoe Trail Running.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Envision Donner Pass Road

Photo Credit: Google Earth
Photo Credit: Sierra College Press

The Town of Truckee has a long and positive history installing roundabouts. The first roundabout installed on Caltrans right-of-way was made possible by the Town in 1998 and has continued to be used as an example of good implementation. There are currently eight roundabouts in Truckee, with more being planned every year. A goal outlined in the Town of Truckee General Plan is to convert all signalized intersections into roundabouts. Modern roundabouts were standardized in the United Kingdom in 1966. Modern roundabouts reached the United States in 1990 thanks to a residential subdivision in Las Vegas.

There are many benefits of roundabouts. Key benefits include traffic flow and safety, pedestrian safety, maintenance, and aesthetics. Roundabouts improve traffic flow by reducing queuing lengths which occur from typical signalized intersections. Instead of waiting for a green light, drivers can enter a roundabout when there is space. Traffic safety is improved because roundabouts act as a traffic calming device. Whereas on a typical signalized intersection, drivers speeding to miss a red light may enter an intersection at higher speeds, the geometric design of roundabouts forces drivers to slow down. Additionally, roundabouts provide a safe opportunity for a U-turn.

Pedestrian safety is improved because of the slower speeds of vehicles and refuge islands, but also because there are less potential conflict points between drivers and pedestrians as compared to a typical signalized intersection. Additionally, pedestrians only have to be concerned with traffic coming from one direction, instead of multiple. Another key benefit of roundabouts is that they require no electrical components and as such less maintenance cost. The last key benefit of roundabouts is that they look better. Without poles obstructing the view, they also provide an opportunity for exceptional landscaping.

One Town project which will implement roundabouts is Envision Donner Pass Road (DPR). Envision DPR was dreamed up by engineers and planners at the Town with a goal of defining the community needs throughout the corridor. Historically, Donner Pass Road was a highway through town, before it was replaced by a different alignment along I80 in 1964. During the planning and design phases of Envision DPR, the intention was to first rethink what the corridor should look like as its use has changed. Until now, Donner Pass Road had never been envisioned as a local road.

Envision DPR will be completed in three phases. Phase 1 is underway and almost completed. Phase 1 included undergrounding utilities. Phase 2 will be started this summer. Phase 2 includes pedestrian improvements. Phase 3 is scheduled for next summer. Phase 3 will be construction of a roundabout at Donner Pass Road and Northwoods Boulevard. Pedestrian improvements include wider sidewalks and refuge islands.

Public input for the project was collected at five public meetings from 2015 to 2018. In addition, the Town published a survey that residents could submit online. Various other outreach methods were used, primarily with positive feedback. As the primary goal of the project is to benefit the community, inputs from residents is very valuable to the planning and design process.

One consideration that the project does not address is traffic volume. Residents and tourists alike have become familiar with crowded roads on holiday weekends. While roundabouts typically make these situations flow more smoothly with less accidents, they cannot change the volume of vehicles on the road. Other traffic mitigation measures exist, like encouraging alternative transportation or widening roads. However, residents also value the “small-town feel” of Truckee, which is addressed as a goal in the Town of Truckee General Plan by setting a goal to keep all roads single-lane. This creates a paradox for leaders when answering to traffic congestion and community culture. Fortunately, roundabouts don’t negatively impact either of those things.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Camino del Choro

Photo Credit: Cindy Steele
Photo Credit: Cindy Steele
Photo Credit: Cindy Steele

In the Fall of 2011, I initiated a gap-year-or-so of which the last three months were spent in South America. Most of my time was in Argentina, a weekend in Uruguay, and a couple of weeks in Bolivia. My favorite memory from my time abroad was a backpacking trip on the Camino del Choro.

The Camino del Choro includes remnants of a pre-Columbian, and potentially pre-Incan trail through the Yungas of Bolivia. The modern-day route starts at a bus station in La Paz and ends in the city square of Coroico. With another female friend, I took a bus to the end of the line out of La Paz and caught a ride by hitchhiking to “La Cumbre” (The summit). At the summit of the road is a statue of Jesus and a ranger station. We were picked up by a kind family who asked us about travelling without a guide. They were concerned about how we would eat and that it was snowing outside when they dropped us off. Insisting for photos with me (and my rather tall friend) was all they asked in return for the ride.

Once on the trail, though concerned with the snow, we pressed on knowing that the trail dropped a about 1,500-feet in elevation over about 30-miles from start to end. The trail starts in the Andes, through the Yungas, and into the Jungle. I have never seen such a dramatic change of climate and habitat as on this adventure. We started in the mountains, walked through sheep and llama grazing areas, and crossed path with a wild monkey swinging over the trail. The monkey was most curious of all, he locked gaze with me even as he was swinging away.

Most travelers complete the trail in three days, two nights. My friend and I are not most travelers. With plenty of food and ourselves as our guides, we were in no hurry to get out “on-time”. Within the 30-miles from La Cumbre to Chairo there are four villages. At some villages there is a small tole to pass through, others there is a tole to sleep in a resident’s garden. Along the way we met a wandering pup, a baby without a name, and a few other travelers. We took our time and enjoyed the views.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Three Sisters Wilderness

Photo Credit: Cindy Steele
Photo Credit: Cindy Steele
Photo Credit: Cindy Steele

Three Sisters Wilderness was established by the United States Congress in 1964 as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Spanning the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests in Oregon, this wilderness area includes four of the peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range. The Three Sisters, Hope, Faith, and Charity, as well as Broken Top are included within this designation. The Three Sisters Wilderness (281,190-acres) is the second largest wilderness area in the state, second to Eagle Cap Wilderness (359,991-acres). South Sister Mountain (10,358-feet) is the third tallest peak in the state, third to Mount Hood (11,250-feet) and Mount Jefferson (10,495-feet).

Of the four Cascade Mountains within the Three Sisters Wilderness, I have hiked two. The summit of North Sister is not accessible by trail alone, requiring gear and additional experience. Along the trail to the summit of Broken Top is a feature called Tam McArthur Rim, to which I have hiked. On multiple occasions I have summited South Sister, and once Middle Sister. On each trip I have camped overnight in the wilderness part of the way up the trail, never having summited the peaks in a single day.

Luckily, on either journey there are lovely alpine lakes at which to camp overnight. In my past experience, it was as easy as showing up and hitting the trail. In years to come, the wilderness area will be on a permit and quota system. The South Sister Trail from Devil’s Lake Trailhead is about 11-miles out and back with 4,880-feet of elevation gain. The Middle Sister Trail from Pole Creek Trailhead is about 16-miles out and back with 4,757-feet of elevation gain. The view from the top of either summit is spectacular. On a clear day, hikers can see Mt. Rainer to the north in Washington and Mt. Shasta to the south in California.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Tilikum Crossing

Photo Credit: TriMet

Tilikum Crossing is a Bridge in Portland, Oregon that opened in September of 2015. This bridge is unique because it is the longest carless bridge in the nation. Uses of the “Bridge of the People” include transit, pedestrians, and cyclists. In a community where 45% of people commute by bike or transit, this project shows a true commitment by community leaders to promote and provide more sustainable transportation options.

The design and construction of the project was performed by Donald McDonald (Architect of the Bay Bridge), T.Y. Lin International (Engineering), and Kiewit infrastructure West (General Contractor) as a design-build contract on behalf of Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (TriMet, Owner). The purpose of the project included connecting the Portland-Milwuakie Light Rail Project, extending a transit line, and improving access to museums and universities. The exclusion of cars was not in the seeds of the idea, but was born out of the needs of the community. Excluding cars allowed the bridge to be smaller, have a more flexible tie-in to existing infrastructure, and made sense for the rebirth of a historically industrial district amidst a transformation into a mixed-use urban center.

Other interesting facts about the bridge include that it was Portland’s first bridge over the Willamette since 1973 and that the nighttime lighting on the bridge reacts to the river’s temperature, depth, and speed. The bridge project was completed under its budget of $135 million at $127 million. The cost of the total transit project was $1.49 billion. Construction took about four years and included 34 permits. Some unique challenges included that the project boundaries encroached on an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site as well as sensitive salmon migration habitat, which required construction to occur during a special “Fish window”

This bridge is a benefit to the community in more ways than one, without producing increased car congestion. I would be very happy to commute on it’s 14-foot wide shared-use path or new transit line.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Ride the Rim

Photo Credit: National Parks Service

Ride the Rim is an event held at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon every Fall. Last September, I rode the 25-miles of East Rim Drive with about 3,500-feet in elevation gain. While cyclists are always welcome on the roads within the National Park, for a few Saturdays a year, over three quarters of Rim Drive is closed to cars. The last 8 miles of Rim Drive can be completed, but riders will have to share the road. This year, I intend to ride the entire loop.

If you haven’t been to Crater Lake, you should go. For the folks reading in the Reno area, Crater Lake National Park is actually closer than Great Basin National Park (by about an hour). Being born and raised in Oregon, one of my greatest shames was not having been to Crater Lake until last summer when I was 26 and living in Nevada. Lucky for me, I have a strong connection to the state thanks to some good friends still living the Douglas-Fir-State life.

After a five-hour drive, my partner and I stayed in one of the cabins within the park. Late that night, some friends joined us, and we all got up early the next morning to prepare for our ride. Some of us were on new bikes, others decided to run the 8-mile shared-road section before starting the cycle, and still others were meeting friends on the road. There were five rest stops along the way, with a generous supply of snacks and water. Once, there were homemade cookie bars by one of the volunteers and it made my day.

Generally, the ride can be completed in around four hours. As we had a large group that didn’t’ start together with plans to meet along the ride, it took my partner and I closer to five hours with a few long stops at aid stations and notes left behind in the guestbooks. Next year, we hope to ride straight through the entire rim.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!