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ATV and snowmobile tours break the silence—and barriers

I’m a total junkie. It started when I was no more than 6 and blossomed into full-blown addiction by the time I turned 10. Trail riding is my drug.

I hadn’t been able to hit the trail for a couple years. I blew up my motorcycle and had to sell its carcass. I’d almost forgotten what that high was like.

A quick trip to the Pine Nut Mountains on one of Lake Tahoe Adventures’ all-terrain vehicle tours brought it all back.

The ATV tour, which costs $107 without supplemental insurance or $142 with insurance, lasted about two hours and wound through beautiful, rugged country.

The Pine Nut Mountains themselves jut dramatically out of a flat, expansive plain. Sagebrush and desert grasses co-exist with evergreens in these rocky hills. It’s the sort of harsh environment that reminds thoughtful riders that Mother Nature is still boss.

While Lake Tahoe Adventures also offers tours in Hummer SUVs, Jeeps, or dune buggies, it’s hard to match the purity of an open-air, single-seat vehicle like an ATV (unless you’re on something with less horsepower). It’s true that dirt will work its way into eyes, ears, nostrils and other orifices, but that’s a huge part of the charm. You won’t have that problem once the snow flies.

Lake Tahoe Adventures runs the Pine Nut Mountains tours cleanly and efficiently. My group, which consisted of one giddy journalist (me) and about 15 contractors on a business retreat, was provided not only with nice new ATVs—we were also given gloves, helmets, a bandanna to wrap across the nose and mouth, and some goggles I couldn’t see out of. As a result, we all looked like combination bank robbers/chemists.

Randy Garret, a project manager on his business retreat, was glowing after we finished the tour.

‘It was a lot more than I thought it would be,” he said. ‘I liked that they let us open up the throttle.”

And did they ever let us open up the throttles. While some groups are tentative or unsure of their trail-busting skills and just putt along, my group was entirely composed of testosterone-addled manly types. I, naturally, was not above doing oafish things like burn-outs up hills or power-sliding around every corner.

As such, the pace was brisk. Not fast enough to be really dangerous, but definitely quick enough to get my pulse racing. This excitement, combined with the scenery, clears the mind and sharpens the senses. When else would you notice how good the mountain air tastes?

David Avalos, trail boss for Lake Tahoe Adventures, said he’s been trail riding for more than 30 years.

‘I love it,” he said. ‘The Sierra Nevada Mountains are my office.”

While the guides do go through a safety orientation and a familiarization routine before hitting the trails, ATV accidents do happen.

‘It doesn’t take much to roll those machines,” Avalos said.

He noted that most rollovers are caused by people freezing up when they go into deep ruts or hit obstacles.

Avalos said he and the other guides at Lake Tahoe Adventures also lead expeditions on snowmobiles when the snow finally comes. For the really adventurous, he said Lake Tahoe Adventures also offers trips down the notoriously difficult and technical Rubicon Trail. Avalos said that Lake Tahoe Adventures runs snowmobile tours in much the same manner as its ATV tours. The guides lead their groups through the local mountains at a pace suited to the riders’ skill level. However, he said Lake Tahoe Adventures offers the snowmobile tours in two flavors—a groomed trail ‘Summit” ride and a powder snow ‘Ultimate” tour.

Trail busting is an absolute hoot. Go forth and enjoy, but realize it’s only a little less addictive than drugs.

Close to home

Glende Polaris
2838 Highway 32, Chico
(530) 345-2886

Glende Polaris Yamaha holds once-a-month ATV fun rides all over the North State. No charge for all-day group rides; check the Web site or contact Mike Sechrist at Glende Polaris for more info.

Mount Lassen

Plumas Pines Resort
3000 Almanor Drive West, West Shore, Lake Almanor
(530) 259-4343

Guided family snowmobile tours commence after Christmas (snow permitting. Cost: $125/two hours (per snowmobile, 1 or 2 riders).

Mount Shasta

The Fun Factory at Deer Mountain Snowmobile Park
I-5 North to Highway 97 North toward Klamath Falls for 16.2 miles; turn right on Deer Mountain Snowmobile Park Road and continue four miles to the park

Along with snowmobile rentals, the shop offers snowmobile guides and an online trail map. Snowmobile rentals: $50/hour; $150/four-hour; $200/full-day; plus $300 to $500 deposit (depending on level of machine). Fuel costs not included. Snowmobile guides: $30/two hours; $50/four hours; $80/eight hours. Snowmobile trail map:

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Adventures
3071 Emerald Bay Road (Hwy 50), South Shore (Meyers Area) (530) 577-2940
9980 Highway 28, Crystal Bay (in front of the Cal-Neva Resort)

(530) 546-4280

Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours
2500 Emerald Bay Road (Highway 50), South Shore (at Lake Tahoe Golf Course) (530) 541-4869

Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Center
Four miles north of Stateline on Highway 50 (775) 588-3833

SR 267 at Northstar Drive, Truckee (530) 562-2475 or 562-1010

The Ski Barn
8445 N. Lake Blvd., Kings Beach (530) 546-8774

205 River Road, Tahoe City (530) 581-3906

Jason Cassidy contributed to this story.