Bizz Johnson Trail, Eastern California

Joyce on Bizz Johnson

Joyce on Bizz Johnson

This trail is one of my favorite trails, primarily because it runs through an isolated pine forest area in the northern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at the edge of the Cascade Mountain range, and thus it is truly a western trail to me. We started at Mason Station, just north of Westwood, and ended at the old Susanville train station and museum, about 26 miles. The terrain was pretty flat because we were not only in the mountains but also in the Great Basin area that stretches into western Utah and on the Modoc Plateau (according to the brochure).   It seemed somewhat similar to the relatively flat places in the Uintah Mountains east of Salt Lake City. Actual dirt roads crossed the trail occasionally, for timber work and for campers, hikers, fishers, and picnicking. The trail was a mixture of packed dirt and crushed gravel, some places a lot more dirt than gravel, which made it seem more like mountain biking than rail-to-trail biking even though the trail was wider than most single-track mountain biking trails.   At some places the dirt was softer and so a little more difficult to ride through, and also at some places the effects of storms could be seen with several pine trees down across the trail, but in all except one place the trees had been cut and removed to the side of the trail. This means that people are keeping up the trail, which is good.

Susan River

Susan River

The immediate scenery was also enhanced with the accompanying Susan River flowing to the side, sometimes right next to us but usually about 25-50 feet below the trail in the Susan River canyon, where it had cut through the ground. We never did figure out where the mint greenish tint to the water came from, but it was pleasant to watch the river (sometimes more like a creek because of the dry weather patterns) flowing along beside us. In one short stretch in particular, the trail suddenly had green grass growing in the middle and along the sides, probably because we were closer to the water level there. I guess they were Cottonwood trees that were growing all along the river throughout its course, which made nice scenery.

Volcanic Rock from Mt. Lassen

Volcanic Rock from Mt. Lassen

The other interesting sight was all the volcanic rock, both huge and small, along the trail. These had been left from earlier eruptions and from the 1914/1915 eruption of nearby Mt. Lassen. Some rocks were gray and others black, and in the smaller rocks we could see the holes indicating the volcanic origin of the rock. We didn’t see any deer or any other animal, even though we kept looking for some because it looked like moose country.

Joyce Exploring Mining Shack

Joyce Exploring Mining Shack

At the intersection with dirt Goumaz Road there was a clean porta-potty, which was convenient. A campsite was indicated on the trail map and so that was where we intended to have our picnic lunch, but we never did see it, so we finally stopped near the river overlook where we saw a bench and had our late lunch. At one place we had to go down a fairly steep embankment and then walk up the other switch-back side in order to cross a main highway. That was near the long trestle bridge. We also rode across four or five shorter wooden bridges. Two tunnels gave us a good deviation from the trail and even though we had our headlights, we didn’t stop to put them on because we could see the light at the end as we entered the tunnels. In the second tunnel, quite a bit longer than the first, we should have put them on because it was an uneven surface and these long white poles with reflectors stuck out from the walls, supposedly to protect us, but they were also a bit hazardous because we each almost ran into them as we went along. We should have stopped at the beginning of the tunnel to give our eyes time to adjust to the darkness, but we didn’t. Ed had gone through ahead of us and got a good photo of Martha, Ron, and me coming out of the tunnel.

As Martha mentioned, our bike rental source and shuttle, Kimberly of Howling Dogs Bicycles, who met us at Hallelujah Junction, CA, to guide us to the trail, was a real stress releaser and time saver. Without her, we would have had to have two rental vehicles for shuttling from one end to the other and it would have taken an extra two hours at least. All four of us rode this trail, and Ron and Ed seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. Except for twice crossing the trail with Kimberly, who decided to take advantage of the opportunity of waiting on us to ride the trail herself (and who by the way put us to shame with how fast she was riding), we didn’t meet any other bikers on the trail, so we were isolated with nature the entire four to five hours we were riding. The weather turned out to be fantastic, and we had a great ride.

 

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Southwest Trip – Day 5

Kimberly from Howling Dogs

Kimberly from Howling Dogs

After a short night’s sleep, Ed and I dressed for our bike ride on the Bizz Johnson – a Hall of Fame trail located in northeastern California just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We ate a big breakfast (lots of carbs for energy) and met Joyce and Ron at the Enterprise Car Rental, which was conveniently located in the Silver Legacy lobby. The agent took us up to the 10th floor parking deck where we loaded our rental car. We drove about 30 minutes north to Hallelujah Junction where we met Kimberly Kaznowski, the owner of Howling Dogs Bike & Ski in Graegle, California. I contacted Kimberly a few months ago to make arrangements for renting bikes because the two shops closest to “The Bizz” were closed (one is not open on Mondays and the other does not open until after Memorial Day). Although her shop was more than hour from the trail, she offered to bring the bikes to us AND to shuttle us from one end of the trail to the other, at a very reasonable price.

Mason Station – Ready to Ride!

When we met Kimberly in Hallelujah Junction, we caravanned to Susanville, purchased Subway sandwiches, and parked our rental car at the Train Museum that marks the eastern terminus of the Bizz Johnson. Kimberly transported us to Mason Station, the western terminus, where we unloaded the bikes and prepared for our ride. The mountain bikes which Kimberly brought for us to ride were brand new for this season and were top of the line! My 27” bike had dual suspension, an automatic seat drop, and an incredibly smooth gear system. Needless to say, I was anxious to get this bike on the trail! Kimberly patiently answered all of our questions and gave us a brief maintenance lesson on the bikes before we started our ride.

Mule’s Ear Flowers

We embarked on the trail at noon and estimated that the 25 mile trip would take about 4 hours, including a picnic lunch and several photo stops. About 2 miles into the gravel trail, we stopped to take pictures of the Mule’s Ear wildflowers and to remove a layer of clothes. Although the temperature was only in the 50s when we reached Susanville, the bright sunny day and the slight uphill grade of the trail made it feel much warmer.

Forest-Lined Trail

The trail begins at an elevation of 5500 feet, and the first seven miles pass through a heavily wooded forest. We saw numerous Ponderosa pine and a few fir trees adjacent to the trail. Most of the fallen trees from this past winter’s storms had recently been cleared from the trail. In fact, we only had to climb over one tree during the entire length of our ride.

Volcanic Rock

Amidst the conifers, we spotted dark igneous rock formations that were a result of lava flows over a million years ago. There were also smaller volcanic rocks from Mt. Lassen’s most recent eruptions (early 1900s) scattered throughout the forest.

Tunnel on “The Bizz”

The remaining 18 miles of the trail descended at a 3% grade through the Susan River canyon. We crossed 12 bridges and went through two tunnels during this scenic portion of the trail. Our first glimpses of the river were that of small, boggy areas, which seemed ideal for moose. As we pedaled down the rugged canyon, the river increased in size and visibility. The greenish-blue tint of the water reminded me of Canadian glacial pools.

Susan River

Susan River

We took several breaks to snack and take photos, giving our husbands an opportunity to rest and stretch their legs. About halfway down the trail, we met Kimberly, our host, pedaling uphill. Her agility and stamina put us to shame! She warned us about some loose gravel and an uphill climb out of Devils Corral ahead on the trail. While stopping to marvel at the steel trestle bridge spanning the river below, Kimberly caught up to us again on her descent back to Susanville. Leaving Devils Corral, we decided to push our bikes up the steep embankment; however, Kimberly pedaled all the way to the top.

Martha Riding “The Bizz”

According to the map, there was supposed to be a small campground along the river’s edge where we planned to eat our picnic lunch. Hungry and only five miles from the end of the trail, we realized that we must have missed the campground. We decided to eat our lunch at a small wooden bench overlooking the flowing river below. Rejuvenated by our sandwiches, we biked down to the trail’s end in less than 30 minutes. Kimberly was waiting for us, and we helped her load the bikes before browsing the train museum.

Martha Playing Slots

Martha Playing Slots

On our drive back to Reno, we treated ourselves to an ice cream sundae at McDonalds. Returning to Circus, Circus, we parked the rental car and headed upstairs to our rooms to take showers and change clothes. We wanted to buy tickets to the comedy club but found out that there are no shows on Monday nights. After a late dinner at the Brew Boys restaurant in the Silver Legacy Casino, we purchased some bakery-fresh Danish rolls for breakfast and watched people playing slots & gambling in the Eldorado Casino. Ellen’s video slots were my favorite; when you won a spin, she danced or told jokes. If you were not doing well, she ridiculed you using her humor to entertain you even though you were losing. Ed and I played a few rounds of penny slots and then took the elevator back to our room. I was asleep within 15 minutes of crawling into bed!