After some failed negotiations with the park ranger, we had to relocate our camp to one of the regular spots that just freed up, so we were all set for the weekend. Equipped with a guide book and maps written by a couple of local riders, we drove eleven miles down to deep redwoods surrounding the Mendocino Woodlands camps. Yes, down, from a coast, where you think you would be at the sea level, the drive to the trails was mostly downhill on a fire road that got quite muddy overnight. Our first ride went through fantastic redwood groves along Marsh creek towards Camp 2. From the deep valley, the only ways out always point sharply upwards and our first big climb was a mix of singletrack and jeep road to a ridge trail.
After Big Tree, the trail becomes a narrow track cut into a very steep slope, so steep, that any obstacle on the hill side forces you (if you have the new norm 760mm or wider handlebars) to the ravine edge of the trail. Good bike leaning and balance practice for sure.
This first loop took us back to where we parked and we continued on the camp road to Manly Gulch trail. I remembered Manly Gulch to be a grueling climb, so we had lunch first, which really paid off especially towards the top portion of this climb. But it was so nice! Technical singletrack, all rideable uphill and very tempting to ride down as well. But our planned route took us west onto Rd 408 close to area called Jiro's Playground. The goal for the day was to ride series of single track trails with names such as Gas Tank - Gas Cap - Fury II and Boiler, some of the best trails in the area. But first we had to find our way through an area marked on the map as "Total Confusion". If you look at a detailed map of the area, you will see why: there are at least three paved or gravel roads all named "Little Lake Rd", and many single track trails parallel these roads and cross them in unexpected angles. We tried to look at our map held upside down, turned 90 degrees left or right, but every decision to go LEFT or RIGHT seemed equally probable. Finally, with the aid of phone OSM maps (cleverly downloaded for offline use by yours truly), we found ourselves on the correct trails. But until then, we rode tons of very fun twisty, rooty and loamy trails while being quite lost and not minding a bit.
|Pavel in awe. Boiler Trail|
These trails along Rd 720 were the gems of the area. Steep, technical, then flowy with many short uphills and retrogrades to keep the fun factor high.
We finished our day soaking wet (it continued to drizzle for most of the day in the woods), but after a hot (!) shower in the camp, we were ready to explore the north coast and the North Coast Brewery.
|Cabrillo lighthouse sunset.|
We exited the green jungle and rode on Rd 408 for a short stretch to connect to Ames Lodge trail, a single track that passed through at least three completely different micro environments: starting under redwoods on trail deeply carpeted with tree needles, then coasting on sandy trail through a Pygmy forest and finally a fast downhill through rocky and mossy lush greenery towards the river.
After the ride, we lied down on a fine sand beach at the mouth of Big River, ate leftover pizzas and drank what remaining beers we had. At this point, I really did not feel like getting behind a wheel and driving 200 miles home. What would happen if we just stayed and camped and rode our bikes forever? To make the finale of our trip more interesting, we drove down the coast on highway 1 to Jenner, me enjoying the sharp turns of the road and Pavel enjoying the views.
|Sonoma coast near Russian River. There is a completely naked guy running on the beach.|