Once in a while, I ride Tobacco Flats. I always manage to stare up at the crazy zig zag line that carves its way up McGee Mountain and think about what the views must be like up there. As I stare at said zig zaggy line, I always think about when my buddy Jeremy McGhee (no relation) told me about how he almost drove his Forerunner off that dicey doubletrack road. So yeah, it’s been on the list to explore up there. I figured it would be kinda like the Laurel Lakes climb.
So… how was it? Taxing and invigorating. You can drive up to the switchbacks, but I prefer to park by Mt. Morrison Rd and ride up through Tobacco Flats to add some mileage and a nice warmup on my stubborn legs. I took the Gnarvester with 29+ wheels and 3″ tires, and it was definitely the right tool for the job. It also has a 1×10 drivetrain, so I was super spoiled with the 32×36 granny gear!! Still, there was mucho hike-a-bike. But I never mind hiking – it works different muscle groups, gives my heart and lungs a rest, and slows you down so you’re forced to check out the views. Otherwise, I’d be so focused on the rocky, sketchy trail ahead of me, that I might not stop to smell the roses – which by the way, the purple wild flowers and strong scent of sage accompanied me on much of the ride – fantastic!!
As you get towards the top of the switcheroos, it gets steeper, and harder. Rock gardens and baby head graveyards make for some tedious sections. But the rewards that greet you around each bend make the suffering palatable. Views to the Glass Mountains, Convict Lake, Crowley Lake. Even the Minarets come into view. FANTASTIC!
Finally, the switchbacks end, and it opens up on a big plateau where the climbing up to the Wilderness Boundary is cake compared to what you already handled. Yes, you do hit Wilderness and it’s the cue to turn back. The descent is a blur and before you know it, you’re back at your car. You’ll never gawk at McGee Mountain the same. Not for everyone, but if you’re up for an adventure – give it a go!