Sunday, July 20, 2008

Henry Coe State Park

Recently, I've been dismayed by the attitude shown towards mountain bikers by the local open space folks. It's really hard to enjoy a ride or the outdoors when you don't know if ranger rick is out there to ticket you. I've even been out on rides and greeted rangers only to be sneered at in return. Henry Coe is unlike any of these local rides. It's remote and extremely challenging, both technically and physically. What surprised me even more was the warm welcome I got from the ranger at the headquarters. He kept going on about the amazing riding and how much I was going to enjoy the ride that I was afraid that I was going to run out of sunlight. He actually addressed this by saying that they never close, and riding by moonlight is wonderful within the park. Try to do this in any local park and you literally get points on your license, and if you're speeding (they have radar guns) even more dings and money out of the pocket.

Anyway, the ride was incredible. I went down the Middle Ridge Trail and was pleasantly surprised with techy bits that, gasp, I had to get behind the saddle on. This doesn't even happen in Skegg's! Mucho steep climbing followed, then another descent into China Hole. The climb out is actually a good way to end the day, because it's not technical and rolls really well. I was rolling so well, in fact, that I nearly smacked into a mountain lion! I turned a corner on the climb and was about 15 yards in front of me. He jumped around in a circle, raised his huge tail and went running off into the woods. Needless to say, I think we were both freaked out a bit. For the next mile, I let out a periodic scream to let the beast know I was there, then climbed into the sunset back to the car. I have never seen a cougar outside of a zoo, so this was a pleasant surprise, though I would have preferred more distance between us as I contemplated how I should make myself look bigger in lycra.

It was really cold at the end of the ride, which is incredibly unusual for this part of the state in July. I shivered as I put my bike away in the car, but before, I grabbed one photo of myself.

Although the total climbing amount wasn't huge, it sure did a number on my legs. If you look closely at that chart, there are a few section with >20% grades. At one point, I saw 35% for ~20-30 seconds. Ouch. Great anaerobic workout, and a lot of fun in between the sets.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sierra Passes

Climbing in the Sierra Nevada is amazing, at least for California. I haven't ever climbed in Europe, but that looks even better. For now, the Sierras are going to have to pass as a climbing mecca. The whole trip was really relaxing and well worth the time. I stayed at the J Marklee and had trouble getting to sleep the first night due to the complete silence of the place. We got to eat pasta at a small villa on a really Germanesque hillside while watching the sunset and grilled Salmon for an outside dinner the third night. Breakfasts were hearty, too much so for my fragile stomach, so I suffered on the early climbs each day, but did really enjoy the food.

The first day, we climbed Ebbetts pass and the Pacific Grade. The latter climb is short but sweet, with stairsteps, switchbacks and great views of the valley. The descent past Alpine Lake was fun, then I turned around and did everything in reverse.

The next day was Monitor Pass and a shuttle over to Sonora Pass from the east side. This climb is brutally steep at the bottom and end, but fairly easy in between. It's also beautiful and goes past a bunch of gurgling streams and through conifer forests. It smells totally different up there; here in the Bay there's a distinct lack of smell, like it has been scrubbed of everything organic. Up in the Sierras, the I swear you can smell the rocks as well as all of the different plants. The descent off of Sonora is definitely fun, but something you have to be very alert for since the curves are all on the steepest parts of the road.

The last day, we rode to Blue Lakes along a beautiful stretch of new pavement. Finally, I rode up to Carson Pass. That's something I've done before on the Death Ride, and this time was no more fun that last. It's heavily traveled, and the views pale in comparison to the other passes over the weekend.

All in all, I think I rode around 200 miles and feel completely rejuvenated. Now that I'm back at sea level, I feel stronger than ever, too. Maybe I'll go ahead and race this weekend!

The folks that went on this trip were a fairly diverse mix of people, though we were all engineers/lawyers/doctors. It's hard to get people to climb this much, but these guys and gals just attacked everything like it was something they did everyday, then at night the conversation was always animated and interesting. The company really put the final touches to make the weekend special.