Willows overpower Winnemucca wildflower area

BY SAM BAUMAN

Hikers Robin and David Rittenhouse of South Lake Tahoe report that willows are taking over the wildflowers at Winnemucca Lake, spoiling the once colorful panoramic view. They entered the area through Frog Lake, below the Ranger station, where the flowers were better, but then were disappointed where the hillside that was once a blanket color is muddled by the willow growth. David, incidentally, is recovering from surgery to re-attach a snapped Achilles tendon two months ago. He still managed to do the four-mile trip up to Round Lake and back. Hope to be able to do that myself one of these days as the new knee gets stronger almost daily.

NORTHSTAR BIKING GROWS

Northstar-at-Tahoe is on its way to becoming a major center for mountain bike riding. The resort has been upgraded over recent years until is now a two-level affair, complete with ice rink and tree rope riding. If you haven't been there for a few years, go and be amazed a all the changes.

Northstar has reported the opening of a new downhill mountain bike trail geared toward those interested in getting started in the sport of downhill biking, as well as a new jump park designed for riders who want to upgrade skills.

A new beginner trail, named Easy Rider, is nearly 1 3/4 miles in length, maintains an average width of four to six feet and an average grade of five percent. The trail begins at mid-mountain, near the top of the Gondola Express, and ends in the Village.

Designed to give beginners and families interested in riding together suitable terrain, Easy Rider is a an addition to the bike park and brings Northstar's beginner mountain bike trail count to five. With this addition, the resort is also offering a new beginner package that includes an afternoon lift ticket " valid beginning at 1 p.m. and providing access to the Gondola Express lift " and a rental bike. The cost is $49 for ages 13 and up, and $29 for children ages 9-12. Not a bad deal for some very well organized bike trails.

Northstar's trail crew developed the jump park, named 2six Jump Park, with small, medium and large lines, inviting riders to improve skills. The three lines contain table tops, doubles and large doubles, and, positioned together, will allow riders to transition between lines. The 2six Jump Park is off of Village Run, near the Lower Mineshaft area. Sounds inviting.

"Our trail crew has been working hard to improve the trail offering in the bike park and not only give those interested in getting into the sport more terrain to learn on, but to give families an opportunity to ride together on terrain that is suitable for varying ability levels," said Kyle Crezee, Northstar Bike Park manager.

New this summer, Northstar is also offering lessons for those interested in getting into the sport or improving their skills. Private lessons should be made 48 hours in advance at (800) GONORTH.

Women interested in learning or improving their mountain biking or road riding skills are invited to participate in the Giant For Women's 2008 Ride & Retreat at Northstar Aug. 22-24. Geared toward beginner and intermediate riders, the retreat will offer morning yoga, riding and skills lessons with professional riders. Participation is $400 for the weekend and includes two nights lodging, food, bike rental, group activities and mountain bike park lift ticket. E-mail to hello@giantforwomen.com.

Northstar Resort is also offering a guided road ride on Saturdays at 5 p.m. that departs from Plaza Bikes in the Village at Northstar for intermediate and advanced cyclists. The ride ventures through the resort on the course recently used for the professional Tour de Nez cycling event. Other upcoming road events hosted at Northstar Resort include the annual Multiple Sclerosis Bike Ride taking place Sept. 13-14.

Northstar sponsors public Downhill and Cross country Mountain Bike Race Series throughout the season. See www.NorthstarAtTahoe.com. The bike park is open daily through Labor Day, and then on weekends through Oct. 5. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

MAMMOTH EVENTS

13th Annual Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapaloozac take place Aug. 1-2. There's going to be blues acts with over 50 microbreweries. The Blues BBQ will be on Friday along with the grand tasting and Bluesapalooza on Saturday. See www.mammothbluesbrewsfest.com.

That event is followed by the annual Mammoth Festival Aug. 15-17 when blues, jazz, and folk musical groups Robben Ford, Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band and Laurence Juber with Guitar Noir featuring Jeff Stern and Domenic Genova headline the second Festival. There will be live outdoor concerts, wine tasting from a variety of world-class vintners, food from local restaurants, and an expo from local and regional artists. The fest takes place in the Village at Mammoth and at the Wood site.

Plenty to do for the outdoors person, including hiking and taking the gondola up to 10,000-plus feet for a demanding downhill trek (downhill is always harder on the knees that going uphill).

The Mammoth Adventure Center offers scenic gondola rides, Bike Park access, Climbing Wall, Kids Zip Line and Mammoth Geocaching Adventures.

The Mammoth Mountain Bike Park offers rocks and dirt for a hungry biking appetite. It includes 100-plus miles of dirt single-track trail; descends 3,000 feet from Mammoth's summit; offers expansive vistas to pine tree corridors; and seven new free ride trails built in the last two seasons. The Scenic Gondola provides uphill access for mountain bikers, along with the Bike Park shuttle, which begins its route at the Village at Mammoth.

A bonus for the inquisitive: Three miles south of Mammoth Junction on U.S. 395 and three miles east of the airport (the last 1.5 miles is unpaved) is Hot Creek, a phenomenon of live hot springs and fumaroles (gas vents) which heat a cold mountain stream. Parking lot and restrooms are available. Open sunrise to sunset; no charge. Hot Creek is closed to swimming, due to varying temperatures of the water but you can wade in the warm waters. Best time for this is, of course, after a day or skiing or snowboarding at Mammoth's ski area. See www.mammoth.com.

- Contact Sam Bauman at Sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.

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