The Merced River Gorge
links & resources
Another Off-Road Adventure, on the Mojave Road from Ft. Mojave to Zzyzzx.
Books & Maps:
pdf brochure and river map from El Portal to Bagby - http://www.dbw.ca.gov/BoaterInfo/BoatTrails/merced.aspx
Brief trail notes from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy - http://www.traillink.com/ViewTrail.aspx?AcctID=6132424
R2TC guide-books - (the 2009 "Rail-Trails West" doesn't include the Merced River Trail) -https://secure2.convio.net/rtt/site/Ecommerce
Amazon rail-trail guidebooks, a wider selection. "The Official Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Guidebook - California" (2001, Globe Pequot Press) tipped me off to this trail.
Railroads of the Yosemite Valley, at Amazon
$21.95 paperback, 206 pages, full of pix and histories of the railroads, mining, and logging in the Merced Gorge.
BLM page on the Merced River Trail and Briceburg - http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/folsom/mercedrivertrail.html
This 3-year flow chart from Dreamflows shows when the river may be fordable, and also shows the flash-flood effect of heavy rain from a Pacific storm on 10/13/09:
At 8,000 cubic feet per second the channel should be brimful and then some. Looks like it was about 400 cfs when I crossed 7/23/09.
Dreamflows - http://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/mon.094.php
CDEC Merced gauges - http://cdec.water.ca.gov/river/mercedStages.html - scroll down to check Briceburg, which includes the South Fork flow.
With all the information here it should be possible to do this trail as part of a 1-day loop out of Mariposa. If you do hit that town, check out the museum - it's one of the best I've seen. Walking through their door is a step back in time.
The Bike: I've been riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker for a couple of years, putting about 8,000 miles on it before I had to change anything beyond chains, tires and brake shoes. It's a tough rough-roadster built for my kind of travelling, and at an excellent price. In the pic above it's wearing 26X2.1 Ritchey knobbies for the Mojave Road trip, steel Nitto racks from Rivendell, and a Brooks leather saddle. Details at http://www.surlybikes.com/bikes/long_haul_trucker_complete/
They're distributed by Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP), and just about any bike store can order one.
I use a canvas military duffle bag for clothes and bedroll while riding. It pulls its weight when it's time to hop a plane, train, or bus - everything on the bike fits into it, secured with a TSA padlock, so the bike and touring gear go as checked baggage while I carry my shoulder-slung camera bag.
I've been using Slime™ tubes for years. If I get a flat it's because the tire's worn out.
Steam Railroading in the Sierra
The Yosemite Mountain-Sugar Pine RR - in Fish Camp, south of Wawona, with 2 Shay locomotives and miles of track in the woods - http://www.ymsprr.com/ - too bad their excellent bookstore isn't on-line, but their locomotive audio clips are cool - http://www.ymsprr.com/sightsnsounds.html
Railtown 1897 - A state park in Jamestown, this was the Sierra RR steam shop.
Station, roundhose, steam locomotives and excursion trains - definitely worth visiting - http://www.railtown1897.com/railtown/default.asp. They also have a big display of movie memorabilia from the shop's years of working with Hollywood -