When I received a message to hit up Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Lake Tahoe’s premiere mountain bike trail, a rush of thoughts came through my mind. “What a fantastic name for a bike trail. Why was it called that? Was I ready?” Still very new to mountain biking, my skills would make me a strong beginner/timid intermediate. I was reassured by Matt Palacio that the crew we’d be going with understood that it would be a chill ride and not a back-breaker. With a bit of coaxing, I gave in and said “Yes!”
Meet J Thaddeus Toad AKA Matt Palacio
I still remember vividly the cartoon about the wealthy J Thaddeus Toad. Once he saw a motorcar zoom past him for the first time, it was over. He was hooked. Mr. Toad and his close friends Mole, Rat and Angus MacBadger go on a wacky wonderful ride. Hearing Matt coax me into this adventure, I felt like Mr. Mole happily joining the crew for this journey… slow but willing to go for a whirl. While there were four in the original story, our group was five deep – myself, Matt Palacio, David Orr, Darin Haworth & Kamyar Samimi.
The Early Bird Gets the Toad
On Saturday morning, we met up at 7 am in the (former) Lira’s parking lot in Meyers. Still a little groggy from getting up this early, we packed all the bikes into the trucks and headed up to Luther Pass. The air was cool and still a bit damp from the morning. It was perfect for a bike ride. Throwing on our backpacks, we began our long ascent to the top.
Rocks, Boulders, Twigs… Oh My!
Immediately, the trail is filled with all kinds of obstacles making the slog up a bit more challenging. Switching between pedaling and hike-a-bike, we slowly inch our way upwards. As we hit the summit, we turn around and look back. Our jaws drop at the scenery!
Winter Fear Leads To Summer Confidence
Right smack dab in front of us is Powder House, the peak where I experienced backcountry skiing for the first time. It was an adventure that was terrifying yet invigorating at the same time. Suddenly, it dawned on me and a big grin came on my face. Here I was now, mentally freaking out about Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in the same mind-set as I was on top of that peak. It was EXACTLY the same thing all over again except of the two-wheeled variety and no snow. Pushing off onto my pedals heading towards the trail, a sense of calm came over me. Just like backcountry skiing, I just need to take it slowly and everything will be fine.
Pad ‘em up if you got ‘em
After a bit more climbing, we finally make it to the beginning of the trail. Those that have knee pads throw them on, increasing my anxiety. “What have I gotten myself into?” David drops in first and we all begin our descent. The single-track flows easily at first, winding its way through the forest. Just a few roots here and there and a couple of rocks to roll over. Slowly the volume begins to turn up. Rocks and roots become bigger boulders and then suddenly we stop.
David let’s us know that this is the beginning of the long area called “The waterfall”. It looks exactly like a waterfall except no water. Instead, it’s massive boulders stacked on each other cascading all the way down the slope. They increase in size until an enormous one that has a large face appears. WHOA! Now I understand why this is so well known.
One Word: Intense
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As we pass over this region, we get into lesser sized rock gardens. Still intense but manageable if you’re a strong intermediate. While other trails like Cold Creek have one or two intense sections, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride just won’t give up. Miles upon miles of technical terrain to navigate keep coming at us. One memorable section is called “The steps”. It’s a zone filled with railroad ties connected with wire that flow down the mountainside like a staircase. While it might feel like we’re almost done… we aren’t. The rock gardens continue for another long duration with a few respites.
Over The Creek & Through The Woods
Nearing the end, the rock gardens are replaced with a nice flowing single-track. The trail carves its way down the mountain. Surrounded by mule deer and lush vegetation, we cross a few creeks and ride under a HUGE downed pine tree. Even this segment, while less intense, still brings a sense of uniqueness to it.
The END…Or Is It?
Pulling up to the end of the trail, we slap high fives. Matt says, “So?” My response, “WOW! Now I know what I need to train for.” I may have walked half the trail, but I now know what I’m practicing for. This is the BIG BOYS & GIRLS run. I will get better and I will be back. Until then…. It’s beer o’clock time.