Summers offer magical lazy days, fireworks, myriad centuries, and this year — Family Bike Camp? Yes, this annual event takes place at Oakland Feather River Camp Aug. 7-13, 2017.
Located in the Plumas National Forest outside of Quincy, the camp sits where Sierra meet the Cascade mountains and offers riding as well as other camp activities for families to get their mojo on.
The area where the camp sits also is known as the Lost Sierra, a place where mountain bikers have access to quality singletrack and flow trails in the Plumas National Forest and parts of the Tahoe National Forest. For the skinny-tire set, the offerings include smooth, quiet backcountry roads through the forests.
Because camp is all about families and members of families usually have different interests, Oakland Feather River Camp offers activities for people of different ages and interests, according to Mike Moran, the board chair of Camps in Common, the organization that runs the camp for the city of Oakland.
"It"s a traditional family camp," he said, "with activities during the morning for children" which enables the adults to get away and ride their bikes or just relax or even, sleep in. After lunch they are encouraged to do things together as a family, for example, floating down Spanish Creek in innertubes, hiking, biking, exploring the area, just being together.
The camp offers an enriching, magical experience for its participants, sometimes in surprising ways. Lisa Thorne, who yearly brings her family to the camp, knows this. She has watched her now teenaged son come out of his shell in part because of his experience at Feather River Camp. "When we first started coming up there, he was shy and cautious," about bike riding, preferring to leave that activity to his friends.
Eventually, as he worked on his bike skills with some of the camp leaders, he really took to riding. Thorne credits the positive experience her son received over the years at the camp with his increased confidence on and off the bike. Now he brings his bike and mixes it up with his friends on the trails.
The camp typically does theme weeks, for example, this year there's a Science, Space & Sky Week to welcome the summer solstice and a trial Dog Lover's Week (because this is a trial, there is a limit on the number of dogs allowed). There are also several others offered over the summer.
As one of the theme weeks, Bike Week's activities will also include rides for all levels of experience, guided rides, both day and evening rides, a bike movie night, perhaps a clinic or two. For younger riders, there’s in-camp riding up and down Spanish creek for them to learn new skills and riding.
Although, Mark Olson executive director for Camps in Common points out, "Participants in more and more of our other theme weeks include avid bike enthusiasts." In other words, you can bring a bike to experience riding in Plumas County and learn to tie dye or have fun during Music Week or any one of many other theme weeks.
In addition to the on-bike activities, "We also do our standard programming like morning childcare, regular games and hikes, arts and crafts, horseback trail rides, swimming, casino and line dancing nights," explains Moran.
If mountain bikers don't want to ride a half hour to a trailhead, they can put their knobbies down on the trails of the South Park Trail Project right outside their tents. This project has 20 miles of singletrack, with more to come in the future.
For trails riding further afield, riders have access to shuttles that can take them out to Mt. Hough's sweet downhill that ends back at the camp or south to the Mills Peak trail outside of Graeagle.
There are also shuttles that will take mountain bikers to the trailhead for Mills Peak Trail outside of Graeagle or over to Downieville (home of the long-lived Downieville Classic), "just over the hill," said Moran.
Moran credits all the new singletrack in the area to the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship which "has been working on an amazing system and network of trails. I wish we could take credit for it [the trail system], but it’s all Sierra Buttes Stewardship." The organization's mission is dedicated to the restoration and enhancement of recreational trails in Tahoe and Plumas National Forests.
Also outside of Graeagle, about a half hour away from Oakland Feather River Camp via shuttle, is the playground that is the Lakes Basin Recreational Area and a loop road ride runs through it. The approximately 43 mile loop along Gold Lake Highway rises and undulates until it tops out at 6,709 foot high Yuba Pass.
The route circles an area called the Lakes Basin, and links a chain of about 20 glacial lakes sparkling like sapphires in the sun. The Sierra Buttes stand above the treeline overlooking the basin, a stark reminder of nature’s majesty. Enroute, riders pass Gold Lake, at 6,400 feet, the largest of the lakes in this alpine valley. Although the Gold Lake loop is fairly short, it does reward the hard-core road rider with some fantastic climbing.
Closer to the camp, there is riding along the quiet roads around Quincy. Or, try another alpine road ride: the classic loop to Buck's Lake, a favorite of local road riders. (Buck's Lake also has some sweet mountain biking as well.)
Off their bikes, families can get together for the activities, or take off and do things on their own: Swim in Spanish Creek, ride the trails, horseback ride, or just hang out and relax. As with most summer camps, the evenings are also packed with activities as well: Story telling time, eating smores around the campfire, and sing-alongs.
Moran also notes there will be amazing entertainment from some of the region's top storytellers for the whole family.
Exploring the Lost Sierra
Feather River Family camp can also be your jumping off point for exploring more of the Lost Sierra. The area has all types of events that happen in the summertime: century rides, runs, triathlons, as well as winter activities such as winter sports such as alpine skiing at the historic Johnsville Ski Bowl, snow shoeing and cross country skiing.