Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Joy of Discovery

The other day I was out in the local back canyons on the SS Monkey doing my best to avoid the mud. After working my way up to the towers, I was kinda toasted. The extra drag of the saturated soil was like riding with your brakes on and every hill was twice as hard, and with only one gear, it hurt. Which is fine, actually. A lot of the soil here is very heavy with clay. The rest is sandy, so you don't actually make a bunch of ruts, but if you are in the clay area, you just turn into a rolling gumby ball as the wheels pack up till all forward motion stops. Geared bikes are doomed. SS is the deal, but it costs ya.

I met up with a group of the boys at the towers and after a bit, we went our separate ways. Now I had planned for several hours of riding, but the ground was just too muddy to be fun in any of the normal hillclimbs that tie everything together. This area is crisscrossed with tons of roads, firebreak bulldozer cuts, doubletracks and singletracks. Between the oil drilling history of the area and who knows what, there are lots of choices to ride and there are old road cuts slowy going back to the earth on every hillside and canyon bottom.

So, once I hit the bottom of the singletrack, it was a short fireroad ride to pavement and then back home. Too soon, too soon. I had recovered from the sloggy climbs and I was kinda bummed by the shortened ride. Then I saw it. An old road cut heading off to the right. I had been on this before, but not for a long time.

It was kinda weedy, but open enough to ride and it looked like it was doable SS. I took the road less traveled. Up I went. More climbing is good. I recognized the route as something that I had ridden the other direction a few times. Then, off to the left was a spur doubletrack. Huh. Never saw that, since, traveling the other direction, you would blow right past it. Well, alright. Left turn, Clyde.

It occurred to me how much I love discovering new trails. Now this was a stones throw from routes I ride all the time so it was not like a Lewis and Clark thing. But it was new to me and it was a mystery to be unraveled one knobby print at a time. Mostly riding, sometimes pushing, I topped out at a familiar spot. Cool! I built a cairn at the tie in so I could find it in the reverse direction and considered my options. Then, I saw it...another old road cut that I had noticed the last time I was here, but had not the time to explore. Well, let's go, since we are in ramble-about-the-country mode.

In So Cal, it it kinda common to take a bulldozer and cut a swath along the crest of a ridgeline as a fire break. In time, they settle in to fine riding routes, usually dipping and rising quickly, sometimes very fast, typically lined with parallel ruts, rocks and other joys. Good fun. Want to know why we West Coasters don't like twitchy front ends on our bikes? Ride these for a while.

I could see ahead and below and there were all kinds of options and road cuts going off to both sides of the main road and dead ending...maybe. More stuff for other days, I kept dead ahead until, about 500' lower than I began, it all ended in the brush...or did it? A single track continued on between two sagebrush bushes. Well, alright!!! What followed was a twisty, narrow, all greened up for spring bit of joy that dropped me down a rutted chute with juuust enough room to thread the needle with a 29" bit of twine and then I was done, popping out in a spot that I never would have seen from the other direction. Huh! How about that?

Happily, I hit the pavement and rolled home, feeling like I got my money's worth of quality bike time. I like the road less traveled, even if it is in my backyard.

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