Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is this the trail?

I had another reasonably amusing mountain bike ride yesterday. The goal was to go up to El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve (aka Skegg's Point) and try not to get my tired legs into too much trouble. As usual, plans changed once the day got going.

As an aside, the tired legs stem from last weekend's Tour of the Unknown Coast up near Eureka. Gorgeous ride through interesting country on roads with lousy pavement and resulting scary descents. I could gloat about being the first of our party to finish, but it wouldn't be fair as it only happened because one guy had the bad luck to get not one, but FIVE, flat tires.
Plus I took a 40 mile recovery ride on Monday. Not much self control in May with the upcoming summer vacation/ all-kid-stuff-all-the-time arrest staring me in the face.

At any rate, when I drove up to the ridge yesterday morning and turned toward Skeggs, the marine layer was still pretty thick, and got thicker and darker and damper the further I went. Wet road, thermometer reading 43 degrees. Yuck. Who wants this in May??

Good sense took over, and I turned around and headed back toward Russian Ridge. It was still foggy here, but at least it was a bright fog, with the promise that it might break up, and the ground wasn't soaking wet. Plus, the wildflowers are often good this time of year.

I took off into the bright white impenetrable fog. After getting over the initial heebie-jeebies of not being able to see very far, I quite enjoyed zooming down the singletrack Hawk Trail in the fog. The bird song seemed magnified as the visibility decreased, big patches of two-toned tidytips and other blooms covered in dew periodically loomed seemingly out of nowhere, and a giant deer with big fuzzy antlers boinged over the trail right in front of me. It was a sufficiently amusing distraction from the tall grass whipping my ankles with wetness in the narrower sections. Come to think of it, that was rather jolly too.

As the trails took me further south, the visibility got much better. I actually started seeing shadows when I hit the southern end of the preserve and headed across Alpine Road into Skyline Ridge. Woo hoo.

Normally I dislike Skyline Ridge on the bike. I usually come in from the other side, after riding up from home, and there are several ugly steep ramps on the #$&$@#$@ Sunny Jim Trail (actually an ugly exposed fire road) that come too far into the ride to cause anything other than intense misery. I always look yearningly off the fire road onto the singletrack Ipiwa Trail (bikes not allowed), and rue my law-abiding tendencies. Feh. This time, however, as I came in from the north side and wasn't tired, I finally had the motivation to explore the dead end stub of the Old Page Mill Trail. It's only a mile and a half, but I hadn't ridden it before, and if you look at it on Google Maps, it looks like there might be a way to go further than what the official park map indicates. My delight in looking for the obscure route through kicked in.

Obscure this was. Punishing, it was not. Unlike many trails in this preserve, the Old Page Mill Trail is a relatively uniform old dirt road reverting back to skinny trail, with a gentle grade, through some gorgeous woods. Just what my tired legs needed. It dropped maybe 500 feet over that mile and half, getting gradually more overgrown (see picture at top), until reaching a creek.

At this point, the path had clearly been washed out at some point in the past, and it was clear from the map that I was at the "official" end. It looked possible to bushwhack across the creek and continue down the other side, but 1) I was trying to keep it mellow, 2) didn't want to turn into a mud monster and send a bunch of sediment down into the creek, and 3) the theoretical way out would involve going through some closed parts of the preserve and a tiny bit of private property (that darned law-abiding thing again...). One can only hope that the open space district's long term plans might include opening this up -- especially in a manner that would allow one to pop across Alpine Road after riding to Mindego Hill on the other side, so you could ride back up Old Page Mill on the way out.

For once, self-control and common sense won. No major epic -- just a bit of fun for the morning :) Surprised?

On the way out, I rode back into the fog, through clouds of bugs, and over Borel Hill. I need to come back here in a week or so on a day when the marine layer has broken up, as the flowers are just starting to get good!

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