Saturday, April 26, 2014

Reconnecting

Moving back to the Bay Area also means visiting favorite places and trails, which I haven't seen in almost two years. When I ran trails in Connecticut a few weeks ago, I was very surprised how exact my memory was about specific places on trails. Perhaps my muscle memory is better than my grey matter memory. So I looked forward to bike and run as many old and new places here as soon as possible. But in between the new job, business travel, two and half hours spent each day commuting to and from work, and essentially living out of a suitcase, I did not find enough time for whole day outings. I also lack the endurance now to go long, although I feel like I can output some decent power on shorter rides. Those Cascade hills are stored somewhere.

The first place I visited for a run was Huddart Park in Woodside. I was pretty shocked by the number of people, mainly roadies, in the center of Woodside, there were lot fewer people on Huddart trails and once I hit Mt. Redondo and Lonely trails, I had the woods for myself.


After a long grueling climb to the Skyline Ridge, this bench advises to take it easy. I continued further up without sitting down, enjoying the grace of the forest around.



A day later, my friend invited me for a mellow mountain bike ride at Skeggs. I remember rides at Skeggs being about twice as hard as anywhere else and I used to ride there on my full suspension bike. Now equipped only with the 29er hardtail, I was a little apprehensive about the ride. We rode a classic shorter 10 mile loop and I enjoyed the ride a lot. The bike big wheels rolled over chunky stuff and I wondered why I ever thought of Skeggs as a technical place to ride. This is a prime hardtail terrain, I will save the full sus bike for Tahoe and Downieville. 


Mid week, after work, I went to explore the basic lay of land at the Pleasanton Ridge, which will likely become my new backyard ride. The hills around Sunol and Pleasanton are emerald green now and knowing that the color will change in matter of weeks, I was curious about the views. Trails he are mostly steep fire roads, I would even call them fire freeways, at least until you reach the ridge. Steep, very steep. 


There is also lot of single track and although probably not strictly legal, it looks like it is ridden a lot and since the trails are already there, I think it may be better that mountain bikers leave the fire roads to hikers and equestrians. Fun, roller coaster trails, with super steep pitches. The views really did not disappoint.


Although not technical in the traditional mountain biking sense, these trails demand skills and control of the bike, especially on loose ball bearings over hard pack and gravel and sand at very high speeds. To me, this type of riding is actually scarier than hopping and manualing over wet roots and rocks. 


Looking north towards Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore. Morgan Territory in the back, another please with fond memories of brutal climbing in the middle of nowhere. 
Gps track: 
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/487684219

Finally today, I rode the very universal 29 inch bike on back roads of Santa Cruz mountains in the neighborhood. The ride had two goals: check out the Loma Prieta winery, where we plan to have Marketa's graduation picnic, and see whether I could find a missing link between the Aldercroft Heights road and Wright Station, a connection that would allow me to ride a loop including Old Santa Cruz Hwy, Highland etc, without riding the same roads twice. This area has some interesting places, like the remnants of the Holy City, lots of small wineries that grow in popularity, some local produce ranches and lots of weirdos living in the woods.


The first goal was easily attainable, it just required a long and steep climb on Loma Prieta Avenue, which eventually turned into a dirt road. But there were amazing views of the Monterey Bay so that made the climb less painful. At the winery, I was invited to taste the wines, but opted for a water refill and a Power bar instead, and prepared for a long descend back. 


The search for trail connection through the San Jose water utilities land included a plunge down Wright station, all the way to the Los Gatos creek, about 800 vertical feet. I needed to see the gate from this end - I already know that the gate at Aldercroft is easy to walk around. This gate proved to be the real deal: barbed wire, fences extending to thick poison oak growth, I would not be surprised if it had electricity running through it. After all, the creek is on the water supply cascade of lakes. Oh well, some places are not worth the potential trouble. There are tons of small mountain roads, as well as the Demo forest and trails down to the coast. All I need to do is to make my legs and lungs get used to 7 hour rides. For now, these 2 hour intense exercises will have to do, until our life stabilizes again.







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