North of Lake Tahoe, the spine of the Sierra Nevada mountains cuts an imposing granitic geological line, clearly dividing the forested slopes of the west from the ancient calderas and dried up alpine lake beds and deserts to the east. Known as the Lost Sierra for its relative remoteness from California’s teeming populace, this is land that appears raw and primitive; craggy peaks and stunning lakes, massive stands of red fir and cedar, vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. It is raw and majestic, but humans have come and gone aplenty here. The western slope was a hive of gold mining in the 1800s, and with the mining came hordes of humans who clear-cut massive swathes of land, dammed lakes, cut flumes into the mountainsides, and hydraulically sluiced away so much of the western Sierras that some of the first environmental protection laws on the planet were enacted to stem the rapacious destruction.
After the mining, the timber industry had almost a century of harvesting before that petered out as well, leaving Sierra and Plumas counties in an economic freefall. With already sparse populations in further decline, economic recovery seemed like a dim hope, until a slender thread of salvation began to appear in the tiny town of Downieville, in the form of mountain bikers.
It was through mountain biking that so many of us here at Roval fell in love with this area. A first visit to the spectacular and relentlessly punishing high country here is addictive. The landscape lodges itself in the mind becomes the stuff of escapist dreams. As gravel riding evolved, whole new worlds in the Lost Sierra opened up, and we were so captivated with this magic place that we decided to hold the press camp for Terra wheels here. This place is something special to us.
Greg Williams founded the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of recreational trails in the Lost Sierra, out of concern for an ecosystem and a culture that he saw threatened in some areas by overuse, in others by neglect. He’s also the founder of the Downieville Classic mountain bike race, the Lost And Found gravel grinder, and Yuba Expeditions bike shop, so he has plenty at stake. In addition to the events he brought to life, he is raising a family here, and the entire local staff of SBTS rely on their jobs to maintain their existence in this hard-to-make-a-living part of the world. Never one to sit comfortably with the status quo, despite raising the awareness of this region, Williams has been percolating an idea for several years now.
What if... he mused. What if you could tie together a baker’s dozen of these tiny mountain communities via a network of trails, and then tie them via even more trails to the bigger cities of Reno and Truckee to the south? What if these trails could then be presented on a series of easily accessible maps, showcasing opportunities for everything from wilderness hiking to singletrack riding to fly fishing to dirt road exploration? Hundreds of miles of singletrack, hundreds, maybe thousands of miles of dirt roads, dozens and dozens of alpine lakes, fire lookout towers, so much craggy granite, so many spectacular views it beggars description. Create a passport of sorts, raise awareness, bring the people to these places in a way that fosters care and respect, AND gives the businesses clinging to existence in these beautiful places a chance to grow. What, indeed?
Connected Communities is the name of this lovechild idea. Something for everyone, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We are beyond excited to see this come to life, proud to do our part to make it happen, and emphatically humbled at the scope and the heart that it represents.