Ghost Trails

Nothing beats a warm fire and hot meal after a long, cold ride. Eric Porter and Kurt Gensheimer pedal out of a September snowstorm, eager to arrive at the evening’s accommodations.

Ghost Trails Reclamation and Revival in Northern California

Looking through the hand-blown glass window, the world outside the old mining cabin appeared wavy and distorted.

It snowed relentlessly for hours, turning the meadow surrounding the cabin into a blanket of white; an odd contrast to the neighboring aspen grove still sporting bright green leaves.

It was a freak late-September snowstorm, the first snowfall of the season in California’s Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Across the warm cabin sat Eric Porter, my partner for this week-long adventure into the “Lost Sierra,” a section of the range between the towns of Downieville and Quincy. We were on a mission: to hunt down and ride as many of the area’s “ghost trails” as possible.

The moniker is deserved, as these primitive ribbons of dirt weren’t built for recreation. They were originally carved during the Gold Rush of 1849, when tens of thousands of prospectors combed the rugged Sierra Nevada terrain in hopes of striking it rich. For these men, “recreation” meant drinking whiskey at the saloon after a soul-crushing day of work, and the trails were a means of survival, to transport tools, horses and ore from their remote mines. For us, they represent a means of escape from the mass of humanity and the daily grind, a therapeutic release to connect with the environment. If we could find them.

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